Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Questions of Heaven - Gretel Ehrlich
As a practicing Buddhist, Gretel Ehrlich set out to climb Emie Shan, a sacred Buddhist mountain in China, to complete a personal spiritual quest. What she came away with was an understanding of the brutal effects of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution on China's Buddhist population, and the politics and bitter realities of the collision between modernity and monastic life. Written in a lively and thoughtful style with plenty of exciting passages, Questions of Heaven chronicles Ehrlich's journey through China and its recent turbulent history in such a personal way that it draws the reader closer to the subject. From her conversations with monks and a heartbreaking visit to a panda refuge, Ehrlich discovers that the ancient Buddhist tradition lives on, though not in the manner she anticipated. Silencing both Buddhism and Taoism changed the complexion of China in unexpected ways, and this journal exposes the subtleties of this shift from the perspective of one who is able to bridge the cultural and political differences with her spiritual attachment.