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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
One delight of most Buddhist teachings is the stories masters tell to instill a kind of continuous contemplation in their students' minds regarding the practical applications of their teachings. Unique to this most non-religious practice of transcendent spirituality, such stories embellish everyday life with higher wisdom while grounding such wisdom in the arbitrary randomness of earthly living. Hugo Bernard tells just such an extended tale in his book Naked Monk, relating the mystical conundrums, real life interventions, and higher understandings of three traveling monks, one of whom is young, one who is middle-aged, and one who is old. Do not assume by this their order of attainment. Do not assume anything. Buddhist stories have a way of including several significant turns that begin with: Yes, but then.
In Naked Monk, Hugo Bernard gives us three monks suffering the uncertain and unjudgeable consequences of freeing one major god from his reincarnation and perpetual incarceration as a beetle. As no good deed goes unpunished – a more negative perception of karmic action – this god as human-once-again seems hell bent on de-monking the three holy men. Or does he? Of course he begins by sending them an irresistible young woman - guaranteed to tempt the highest resolve of any monk; young, middle-aged, or old. Using frequent transpositions of time and place, the author manages to provide biographies and histories for the principals involved: the god who was a beetle, the girl, and the three traveling monks. Told with the typical twists and turns of any good Buddhist tale, Naked Monk also serves up many wayside delicacies of wisdom to savor during this most peculiar journey we call life.