CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002
In the Buddhist monastery, the wise and worthy temple monks live a life of simplicity, often traveling around the world in search of enlightenment. Only the garden boy and an old blind monk stay at home in the monastery. Years before, finding the boy wrapped in an abandoned bundle lying next to a bare peony root, the monks adopted him and made him their temple gardener. One day as he is tending the garden, the boy hears the whisper of a man's voice.
Startled and frightened, he searches in one direction and then the other.
There is no one to be seen but the blind old monk who never speaks a word to anyone. The boy turns go leave when he hears the voice again.
"Buddha is in the garden!" says the voice.
Excitedly, the boy searches the garden for Buddha, but he is nowhere to be found. Disappointed, he goes to his favourite resting spot where he dreams of a gaunt, hollow-eyed woman holding a small bundle. On awakening, he discovers a starving kitten. As the monks cared for him, so he cares for the kitten. A second and third time the boy hears the old man speak, the words "Buddha is in the garden." Each time, the boy finds his compassion for living creatures called upon, and in the process he discovers the true nature of enlightenment.
Buddha in the Garden is the fourth book in the critically acclaimed "Chinese Legends" series written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Zhong-Yang Huang. Bouchard's simple yet eloquent rendering of this ageless story is complemented by stunningly beautiful paintings by this gifted artist. Prose and pictures perfectly capture the peace and serenity of the mountain monastery as well as the characters of the story.
In an afterword, entitled "The Story of the Buddha in the Garden," Zhong-Yang Huang points out that the story is based on the four signs of enlightenment: hunger, sickness, death and seeking enlightenment. He tells of his experience in a monastery where he went seeking artistic inspiration. "...the old, blind monk--he is real. I spent an entire day painting him. I did not ask his permission nor did we speak...The only time I heard his voice was when I stood to leave. He said, 'Thank you for spending this day with me, friend.'" Huang's comments at the end of the story will provide some assistance to non-Buddhist adults who wish to share the book with young listeners. In a day when cultural and religious diversity characterize many school populations, this simply told, beautifully illustrated volume will be valuable to teachers wishing to broaden their students' understanding of human spirituality.
teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.