Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dharma Brothers

Not so long ago, I was musing that there isn't much Buddhist fiction out there. And while Arthur Braverman's Dharma Brothers isn't quite fiction--it resembles Thich Nhat Hanh's narrative account of the Buddha's life in Old Path White Clouds--it reads much smoother most biographies. Dharma Brothers is perfect for readers interested in the actual lives of modern Zen masters, in this case Sawaki Kodo Roshi and Tokujoo Kato Roshi, and yet it has creative energy of a novel.

Told from each of the characters' perspectives, this historical novel traces Kodo and Tokujoo's spiritual journeys as young men, and eventually as Zen monks. They read like real people; since after all, they are. Their struggles throughout the turbulent Japanese-Russian War and imperial regime of the 1930s were fascinating and compelling.

Dharma Brothers humanizes Zen and monastic life, painting a stark portrait of two of Japan's most famous 20th-century Zen masters, throughout a particularly violent period in Japan's recent history. Braverman himself studied in Japan with Zen Master Uchiyama, Dharma heir of Sawaki Roshi, so the novel has personal relevance to him--and it shows in the writing.

By all means, if you're a student of Japanese Zen, read Dharma Brothers.


  1. You might want to read 'Meetings With the Arcangel' br Stephen Mitchell.

    The story and the book are awesome, good light reading for your time off.

  2. Thanks, I'll definitely look into it. :-)