Sage Sapien

From Karma to Dharma

Non-Fiction - Inspirational
190 Pages
Reviewed on 08/15/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite

The journey of mind/emotional, physical and spiritual healing comes in many forms, and each person has his/her own unique path to finding wholeness. Author Johnson Chong shares his healing story in his memoir Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma. Chong has detailed his amazing journey in an authentic voice, including many moments of anger and rejection and then finding his way to self-acceptance and realization of unconditional love. Being a child of Chinese immigrant parents and growing up in the hectic surroundings of New York City provided an interesting blend of cultural, belief and family systems. Add in the fact that he realized at a young age that he was gay and felt drawn to acting only made the situation more complex. But he found the courage to face life challenges head-on, immersing himself in yoga and other healing modalities and eventually transforming his life.

Anyone who faces challenging life situations but is committed to finding healing will benefit greatly from this book. By sharing his experiences, perceived by Chong to be “successful” or “a failure” at the time, the author creates a realistic portrayal of a healing path. Learning life lessons is not a straightforward road and often has detours and wrong turns along the way. Within the telling of his story, Chong includes spiritual gems for the reader. A good barometer for a solid spiritual book is this: you can reread it over and over and find new gems each time. Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma by Johnson Chong is this kind of book – it is to be savored and reread!

Jack Magnus

Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma is an inspirational nonfiction memoir written by Johnson Chong. The author is an international yogi, meditation guide and coach. He’s also a public speaker and group leader. Growing up as a gay and rebellious son of deeply conservative Chinese immigrant parents was challenging at best and left him with residual reserves of anger. His mother was a prototypical tiger mom whose expectations, rages and beatings terrorized her kids, and her own mistreatment by her husband made family life a stressful one. While their early years were spent in Brooklyn, where the family owned a small grocery store featuring live fish, they moved to Queens when Chong was 7 years old, and he felt increasingly isolated not only from his family but from the kids in school. College was a long sought-after escape from an untenable situation, but it wasn’t until nearly the end of his first year at SUNY Geneseo that the author realized he wanted to go into acting. He won a coveted place at SUNY Purchase where he would continue his studies. Acting was the beginning of a healing process as well as an awakening of his self-awareness.

Johnson Chong’s Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma is a well-written, frank and fearless account of the author’s childhood and the paths to knowledge that he’s chosen since then. I particularly enjoyed getting to know this engaging author. He’s got the ability to make a reader feel as though he’s directly communicating with them; as if they were sitting together and casually having a conversation. He’s also able to communicate quite effectively, making it easy to see his family home, understand the challenges he faced in acting class, and share in the spiritual journey he embarks upon. His story is profound and inspirational, and it gives the reader insights into life growing up as a gay Asian youth from a conservative background. Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma is highly recommended.

Gisela Dixon

Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma is a non-fiction memoir about a young Chinese gay man in America and his struggle with the polarizing influences in his life. In this book, Johnson talks about his challenges with reconciling his own sexuality with his parents’ preferred view of how they would want things to be, which is a conventional marriage and children. The book is divided into several chapters, each dealing with a specific topic, and each chapter has been titled accordingly which makes it easy to tell at a glance what topic is covered. The book then delves into Johnson’s upbringing in a traditional Chinese household in America and being a second-generation Asian American, his sexual orientation as a gay man and what it meant coming out to his parents, how and when he was drawn to spirituality and philosophy, his discovery and continuing practice of yoga and his multiple trips to India to explore more, his other journeys around the world and what he learned, and much more.

Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma by Johnson Chong especially focuses on what being gay meant in his life and his ongoing spiritual journey to discover the meaning of life. It is easy to empathize with Johnson when he describes how his parents didn’t understand him or accept his sexual orientation. He also writes in detail and in parallel about what made him interested and curious to explore more about meditation, yoga, Reiki, shamanic and other healing methods and practices. Although the story definitely covers some heavy and serious subjects, Johnson’s writing style remains witty, candid, and humorous at times. Hopefully, books like these will help parents understand their children more and accept them as they are. This is a great read!

Divine Zape

Insightful and filled with lessons of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and personal growth, Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma by Johnson Chong is a compelling and gripping autobiography that follows the journey of a first-generation Asian American gay man torn between the traditional values he’s grown up with and the inner freedom that is required to set his life free. Follow the story to learn how he transitioned from a self-loathing individual, shredding his old beliefs, to making choices that allowed him to embrace who he truly is and to forge a personality that aligns with his vision.

One immediately discerns the inner struggle in the protagonist from the insightful opening: “We are told over and over again that we are products of our environment. But I refused to become the apple that fell right under the tree. I never felt like I belonged to my tree, or to the metaphorical apple orchard itself.” He talks about his struggles growing up in NYC and the life-changing lessons he learned. There is a powerful dichotomy between the conservative eastern values of the author's parents and the freedoms of America culture, and the author allows readers to experience his frustrations and emotional turmoil as he struggles to find his own identity.

Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma is inspiring, honest, and utterly delightful and I enjoyed how the author is able to understand himself, doing great inner work that culminates in self-acceptance and freedom. As I read Johnson Chong’s story, I began to understand the challenge each of us faces when it comes to choosing who we are against what the world wants us to be. It’s a book with wonderful lessons for everyone and I highly recommend it!

Mamta Madhavan

Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma by Johnson Chong is an insightful book that takes readers into a different dimension as the author unfolds his spiritual journey beginning from his childhood. The holistic wellness background of his parents leaves an indelible mark on his growing up without him being aware of it. He speaks about how his parents' influence takes him on a journey of self-evolution. Beginning from his piano lessons to martial arts and history lessons, the author tells readers how he comes to a crossroads trying to comprehend the old regime and the new replacement. His personal journey reflects the collective unconscious patterns where the freedom to be free is denied and how habitual patterns are rooted in the five themes of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, denial, and rejection.

It is a memoir about seeking the truth, exploring spiritual practices like Reiki, meditation, yoga, and finding the purpose of life which is required to untangle everyone from the emotional baggage they carry. It will take readers to another realm where they will feel the need for self-realization and the understanding that nobody owns them. The author's emotional trauma inflicted upon him while growing up, the obstacles and hindrances he faced, and finally breaking free from the old attachments and moving towards self-actualization are empowering and encouraging for readers.

I liked the author's use of the words 'sage sapien' - this gives a radiance to the wisdom and truth everyone seeks during their lifetime and paves the way for humans to reconnect with their bodies and hearts through inner wisdom. It is a good memoir that will make everyone look into their lives and see the damage caused to them through modern consumerism, mass depletion of natural resources, the need for instant gratification, and the rise of mental health problems worldwide. It is a book for all those seeking to discover their inner selves and find their peaceful place where they are not bogged down by rules and principles laid down by others.