Deepak Chopra

Pub 2007 HarperCollins

278 pages

reviewed by  Dada Nabhaniilananda


Chopra’s novelised version of Buddha’s life is at once inspiring and frustrating. He relates the legend with fluency, yet I couldn’t help feeling that novel writing is not quite his forte.

The book in divided into three parts – the Siddhartha years describing Buddha’s life as a prince – his time as Gautama the ascetic monk and the shortest section – Buddha, after enlightenment. This is a natural division but the transitions from one phase of Buddha’s life to the next did not seem entirely natural. I had difficulty recognising Gautama the monk as the same person who had been Siddhartha the Prince, mainly because, even after reading one hundred pages, I felt that I still did not know him at all.

In contrast, the later parts of the book, where Gautama goes through his historical struggle to realise Nirvana, and where we are told of his incredible deeds after his enlightenment, is beautifully written. Here Chopra spreads his wings and the reader is uplifted. This really is Chopra’s forte, for here  he captures the spirit of Buddha’s stupendous ordeal and transformation with some memorable prose.

But right in the midst of this best part of the book leading up to Buddha’s enlightenment the writer does something inexplicable. The depiction of Buddha’s life and death struggle is absolutely griping, and it is clear that Buddha’s determination was unparalleled, yet the climax that I was waiting for was entirely missing! According to Chopra, the famous moment when Buddha took his oath to sit in meditation until he attained the truth, even if his body died and decayed and his bones turned to dust, never happened. Instead he passed through a period of directionless emptiness – and his enlightenment dawned on him in a way I found hard to understand. Maybe this is because I’m not enlightened myself, but then I do not think that Deepak Chopra is either – perhaps that is the problem.

In spite of its flaws I enjoyed this book. I loved that last section so much that I re-read it straight away.

Mr Chopra has offered us a flawed gem.