The life of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, has, with the passing of time, been magnified to the scale of myth, turning history into the stuff of legend. Known as the First Patriarch, Bodhidharma brought Zen from South India into China in 500 CE, changing the country forever. In Tracking Bodhidharma, Andrew Ferguson recreates the path of Bodhidharma, traveling through China to the places where the First Patriarch lived and taught. This sacred trail takes Ferguson deep into ancient China, and allows him to explore the origins of Chan [Zen] Buddhism, the cultural aftermath that Bodhidharma left in his wake, and the stories of a man who shaped a civilization.
Tracking Bodhidharma offers a previously unheard perspective on the life of Zen’s most important religious leader, while simultaneously showing how that history is relevant to the rapidly developing super-power that is present-day China. By placing Zen Buddhism within the country’s political landscape, Ferguson presents the religion as a counterpoint to other Buddhist sects, a catalyst for some of the most revolutionary moments in China’s history, and as the ancient spiritual core of a country that is every day becoming more an emblem of the modern era.
What listeners say about Tracking Bodhidharma
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Excellent in every way.
Would you listen to Tracking Bodhidharma again? Why?
There is a great deal to think about in the book - too much to absorb first time around.
What other book might you compare Tracking Bodhidharma to, and why?
Not sure - I haven't come across a book quite like this before.
What about George Backman’s performance did you like?
Sensitively read - with excellent Chinese pronunciation, which counts for a lot given the serious subject matter and poems etc that are included.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Not practical really, or appropriate - but compelling anyway.
Any additional comments?
A very thoughtful and well written book, excellently read. The author can tackle serious themes, but also has a light touch when needed. The book not only told me a lot I didn't know about Zen (I knew next to nothing), but also a great deal about China - its culture, people, geography and history. You don't have to be a Buddhist or would-be Buddhist to enjoy and get a lot out of it.
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It is what it says!
I was a a bit apprehensive about getting this book at first. I was not sure exactly what it was going to entail. I was curious because I am a Zen Buddhist in the Soto tradition, and not much is written about our First Patriarch. Bodhidharma is very much apart of Chinese culture and history, so I didn't exactly want a Chinese history lesson (at this point), I wanted to know more about Bodhidharma's life.
What I got was a great mix of both. Bodhidharma and Chinese culture are inseparable; you can't tell one without the other. This book is about a journey within a journey. Andy Ferguson goes to China to track the historical Bodhidharma. He constantly switches back and forth between his trip, and Bodhidharma's life according to people he meets mostly. That way you never get too much dry history.
I was surprised with how much new information I learned about Bodhidharma and the History of Zen in this book. Zen is a tradition that has a lot of the same stories being told over and over again. Ferguson sheds some new light on them, making for an entertaining story about Zen and Ferguson. I highly recommend this book to any Zen practitioner.
I had mixed feelings about the narrator. George Backman does a very capable reading of this book. He pronounces all the Chinese words extremely well (it sounds like he speaks Mandarin fluently). He does however tend to be on the robotic side. He just has a very plain, monotone voice. Not the worst I've heard, but I feel like this story could of used more charisma.