Title: My Buddhist Christmas
Author: Jeremy Phillips
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Limitless PublishingSummary:
It’s not surprising that sixteen year old Chris Jones has no idea where he fits in…
After all, he’s a Buddhist kid in America—during the Christmas season. Add in the fact he plays guitar in a punk rock band called The Dharma Bhumz, and his life is one giant paradox. Caught between the principles of his religion and the influence of his hard-partying bandmates, Chris is in a constant struggle for balance.
An upcoming talent show is his chance to shine—or fail spectacularly…
It’s already hard enough preparing for the show, since his friends are more interested in getting high than practicing. And now Chris has to worry about impressing pretty Mary Simpson. To make matters even worse, Mary’s parents are fundamentalist Christians, a few steps above his family on the social ladder, and they firmly believe Chris isn’t good enough for their precious daughter.
Conflicted about his friends, lying to his family, and still mourning a devastating loss, Chris wonders if being an American Buddhist guitar wizard wanna-be is worth it.
Or does any of it even matter anymore?
I take a deep breath, and make a seriously conscious effort to actually go Buddhist on this situation. I think of the first Buddhist thing that comes to mind, which happens to be the thing that seems most appropriate in this situation, as in so many other times in life:
The mind of the past is ungraspable.
The mind of the present is ungraspable.
The mind of the future is ungraspable.
This is from the Diamond Sutra, the only part of it that I actually know right off the top of my head. It’s good stuff, and all it really means is to be here now, in this moment, the moment right here in front of you, because it’s the only time that you’ll ever actually get to live in, ever, in this life. At a moment like this, sitting with a prettily smiling Mary across from me, I can see that idea so very well. This moment, this second right here and right now, is the only fragment of time that I can actually have. Once it’s past, this time will be nothing but a memory. Thinking forward into the future is the same. It’s projecting what I want or fear or imagine, into just dreaming about how things are going to be. Even the present is ungraspable, a slightly harder idea to think about maybe, until you notice that “the present” is just another concept. When does this present come into being, shifting from the future into our present view? When does this present stop being present, and slide off into becoming the past? At no time, really. So, just like the others, the present is also just a concept. There’s really only this. This now, only this eternal moment right here, that every really does exist. So—Be Here Now, I tell myself. I mean, really, come on. This is the only moment you’re ever gonna live in.
I have been a student of Eastern philosophy, and Buddhism in particular, for a long time now. But years ago when I first tried to do any reading about it, the very foreign nature of the philosophy tended to get in the way of actually understanding what I was reading. No matter what book I chose to read, no matter what school of Buddhist philosophy I was trying to understand, it was always the same:
A master teacher of some type, a person very different than myself, would be describing these very old ideas, from his very Eastern mindset. Eventually, I came to feel that what might be very helpful for a Western reader such as myself, would be a book that spoke about this stuff in an entirely different way…
When I sat down to write My Buddhist Christmas, I sat down with the idea of writing a young adult fiction story, about an American teenager who had been raised up as a Buddhist all of his life. Such a person, unlike myself who approached Buddhist philosophy with the mindset of an adult raised in the USA, would understand Buddhism as a more intimate, more essential part of how he already viewed the world. Such a kid would understand all that, while still being very much an American teenager.
So when I started to attend services at a Shin Buddhist temple in Spokane, Washington, I found myself wondering how it might be, to be one of the children exposed to that philosophy from an early age. I took my own children to this temple, and I started to wonder how the conflicts of life might go for these kids, conflicts which can be even more of a challenge during the Christmas season.
But My Buddhist Christmas is more than a just a book on Buddhist philosophy. I wanted to write a “coming of age” story, told from the perspective of a main character who was feeling very intensely some of these conflicts. During the course of the story, my narrator character can be seen experiencing a lot of the stresses that a teenager in America will experience.
He experiences the conflict of being infatuated with a pretty girl, and of falling rapidly in love for the first time. He experiences the conflict of trying to keep a group of unreliable teenagers on task, so that they can make some garage band music work out for a talent show that he’s involved with. He experiences the difficulty of peer pressure, in a variety of ways.
As he goes about his life, my narrator also shares with the reader a variety of Buddhist parables and philosophical observations, learned from his childhood. The end result of this, is that as the narrator gets to the end of his story and grows up some about how he is living, as he more fully understands his own Buddhist philosophy, the reader, too, will also gather a greater understanding.
Really, I wrote this book for people of all ages. Adults will read it, and perhaps remember how it was to be a teen, how it was to be growing up and starting to take responsibility for themselves more. Teens and pre-teens who read it, will be able to identify with some of the struggles represented in the story. Ultimately it is my hope that whoever reads it, will come away with a better understanding of what Buddhism has to say about life, while enjoying an entertaining story.
Jeremy Phillips has been interested in Buddhist philosophy for more than twenty years, and attends services at a Shin Buddhist temple in Spokane, Washington. When he isn't writing or keeping busy being a father and husband, he works as a Respiratory Therapist at several different hospitals. He lives in Spokane with his wife, children, dogs, and bonsai trees.