YMAA, Jun 2010, $12.95
In 507 in the capital city of Kanchipuram of the Kingdom of Pallava in India, young military academy trainee Sarili hears the words of Prajnatara the Buddhist master and begins to question whether he wants to follow in his father’s warrior footsteps of seek enlightenment. He chooses the latter and follows the sage to Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
A serious student of Buddha, Sarili becomes Bodhidharma the monk as he treks across India and teaches the Emperor; journeys over the Himalayas in Tibet and brings Ch'an Buddhism to China where he is called Da Mo. However, he is appalled by the enfeebled monks he meets so he creates the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province and places the faithful on a strict regiment including kung fu.
This is an entertaining biographical fiction that enables the reader to understand the life of the founder of the Shaolin movement; in fact the temple Bodhidharma constructed over fifteen centuries ago is still there. Although the romance elements feel forced, the era and the hero come across vividly clear. Readers who appreciate a deep ancient Asian tale will enjoy this super glimpse at a devoted sixth century legendary Buddhist monk.