Friday, May 06, 2016

Booknote: Nichiren

Masahiko Murakami, Nichiren. Santa Monica, CA: Middleway Press, 2015.  ISBN: 9780977924578.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: biography, Buddhism, feudal Japan
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This graphic novel is a fictionalized account of the real life of 13th century Japanese Buddhist monk Nichiren. 13th century Japan was a time of hard times, violence, natural disasters, and famine. The samurai pretty much shirk their duty to protect the people, and religious leaders are only interested in power and padding their pockets. Nichiren finds this unacceptable. After extensive research on the basics of Buddhism and doing much reflection, he begins to preach a way of service and compassion. In the process, he also criticizes civil and religious leaders for their neglect of the people and their hypocrisy. The result for Nichiren are threats, attempts on his life, and exile. But even in exile he perseveres.

This is a very captivating and inspiring story. Nichiren refuses to accept the corrupt status quo and teaches people to empower themselves and find happiness in this life. For me, another neat element is that Nichiren is a knowledgeable scholar. Before setting off on his preaching, he studies Buddhist texts extensively to learn the essence of Buddhism. He is then able to debate other Buddhist priests and do so with solid reasoning and evidence; he is able then to expose those other priests as hypocrites who barely read nor barely understand their own religion's texts.

The book offers a compelling story that draws you in. The author presents a strong and inspiring figure facing great challenges for what is right. In addition, you do learn a thing or two about Buddhism along the way. The art is also very good in this volume, bringing the characters to life. It is a book that may inspire readers to seek out further reading on Nichiren and Buddhism. This was an excellent read, and it is one I highly recommend. I would definitely buy this for my personal collection as well as order it for my library. This is definitely a good addition for libraries with graphic novels collections.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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