The Buddha, Geoff and Me - A Review
The Buddha, Geoff and Me, by Edward Canfor-Dumas is one of those books which marks a turning point in your life. There are only three books that I've read more than once, Brer Rabbit, Brideshead Revisited (twice) and this. It is a book which I've dipped into many times over the five years that I've owned it; both at times of stress and at times of happiness.
The main protagonist is a guy called Ed, who has recently split up from his girlfriend, Angie and finds his life slowly beginning to unravel, when he falls out with his boss, Martin. Ed is a bit bolshy, with a big ego and is always sneering and sarcastic.
One lunchtime, after being given a warning at work, he visits the pub to drown his sorrows and there he meets Geoff, fiftyish, slightly balding and with a bit of a pot belly, who is also having a drink. There's a bit of a blockage in the gents loo, Geoff asks Ed to help him sort it out and they get talking befire going their separate ways.
Ed's life begins to fall apart; a week later he bumps into Geoff again and finds himself pouring his heart out. Geoff listens and offers to help Ed work his way through his troubles, by telling him about his Buddhist practice.
Poor Ed lurches between wanting help and pouring his heart out to Geoff one minute, treating him with sarcasm the next, and wondering if he's trying to convert him to a religious cult. But, Ed's a bit like all of us, alot of the time he's full of good intentions, trying to be a better person, then scuppering himself at the last minute and failing dismally. He resolutely resists this one avenue of hope that will change his life for the better with hilariously frustrating consequences.
Throughout it all the beleagured Geoff remains steadfast, calm and positive, despite Ed offloading all his trials and tribulations on to him. Geoff helps him find work, bails him out of a fight, helps him through the hospital and is generally an anchor for Ed's turbulent life. Quite often when things are going well for Ed, he's not bothered about contacting Geoff, then as soon as things turn sour, he's on the phone whingeing about his misfortune - don't we all have at least one friend like that?
Throughout the book, Geoff imparts Buddhist wisdom and tells Ed that he can stoke up his life force by chanting twice a day. Ed's keen to hear about the philosophies that might help him, but digs his heels in at chanting - that's too much like a religion and Ed's dead set against anything religious.
Nevertheless Ed takes on board some of the advice he hears and slowly begins to change, even beginning to tell his ex-boss about some of the Buddhist teachings, and he's absolutely amazed when he puts them into practice turning his life around, and helping Ed out in the process.
In the end, it's how Geoff and his buddhist friends live their lives as much as what they say that win Ed over. He finally changes his life for the better, but the story has a few twists and turns along the way. Poor Ed doesn't have an easy path through life.
This is a truly modern moral tale and it's a fantastic book for those of us who like to ponder what the hell life is all about. Ultimately the book is funny, thoughtful and offers hope within the whole messy, irrational business that is life.
Nichiren Buddhist Chanting
I've passed my copy of The Buddha, Geoff and Me on to many people, all of whom have said this is a fantastic book and gone out and bought a copy for themselves. Some have even changed their lives for the better as a result of reading it.
Buddhism and The Ten Worlds
The Ten Worlds relate to our life state at any one moment, but they are not exclusive, and each world contains all of the others, so our life state can change in a flash, moment to moment. They are:
For the most part they speak for themselves:
Hell state is basically where you're feeling just awful, life is rubbish and you're totally miserable.
Hunger doesn't just relate to the physical urge to eat, rather it's the continual searching or questing for something which is never satisfied, such as an alcoholic looking for the next drink, or the shopaholic the next pair of shoes.
Anger, speaks for itself in some respects, but can also mean the urge to put people down, judge them, treating life as a competition, arguing etc., basically anything to do with having a big ego.
Animality is where you're dominated by your animal desires, food, sex, sleep, survival, living life on a whim, not thinking about consequences, the dog eat dog world.
Heaven is when you're in rapture, high as a kite, everything's fantastic. In other words it's the flip side of Hell, and can change into Hell as quick as a flash.
Humanity, also speaks for itself. This is where you're calm, tranquil and treat others with respect (even those others whom you don't necessarily like.)
These six are known as the lower worlds. We can tend to flick between one and the other constantly, and be dominated by them if we're not careful. The next four are the higher worlds:
Learning, where you learn from other people (again, even the ones you don't like), or research into a topic.
Realisation, where you learn from your own experiences or observations.
Bodhisatva is altruism, helping others, which creates good in their life and benefit (spiritually speaking) in yours.
Buddhahood, basically enlightenment. Wisdom, courage and compassion; the mother of which is wisdom.
The ten worlds are an important way of thinking about Buddhism and human nature, as they mean you can become enlightened in this lifetime, rather than waiting until you die to go to Heaven. They also mean that anyone can become enlightened, women, children, homosexuals, included.
This Buddhism which Geoff is using to help Ed, is known as Nichiren Shoshu buddhism. The main practice of which is chanting a simple phrase twice a day to raise one's life state, so that you are not buffeted about so much by the lower worlds and become more resilient to life's ups and downs.
Learn More About Buddhism
Soka Gakkai Uk/USA is one of a group of organisations which teaches about the buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. They provide meeting information, books, prayer beads and many other things. their website is a good place to start.
Soka means value creation and gakkai, society.
A Buddhist Saying
When you point a finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you...
Demonstrate it for yourself.
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