Hidden Buddha opens with protagonist Lama Rinzen’s line “I am being watched,” and proceeds to ratchet up the suspense with every succeeding paragraph.
Readers who’ve tried to quiet their minds will recognize the dilemma: that meditating mind is being observed, but who is the observer?
In this case, we are never quite sure whether Rinzen is being stalked by an inner mind, by the ghost of an old teacher, or by the ever-deepening characters that swirl through the story: a mystery woman, a missing woman, a little girl who sees the truth of Rinzen and relays messages from ghosts, and a town full of people who seem to resent Rinzen, whom they’ve never met before the story opens.
Recently reborn as a doctor, Lama Rinzen is thrust into the role of hospital administrator as well as sleuth at a reputedly haunted hospital in Colorado. With a storm bearing down on the area, all but a handful of patients have been relocated; those that remain appear to the reader as menacing, meaningful, and perhaps dangerous, with a penchant for taunting Rinzen.
Rinzen doesn’t believe in ghosts, but is determined to save the child and the other patients from an inexplicable illness that precedes the sudden disappearance of one patient after another. Meanwhile the local law enforcement officers, the hospital staff, and the patients themselves appear to resist all attempts to sort through the mystery and save themselves.
Hidden Buddha draws heavily on Buddhist philosophy, particularly, in this case, the concept of Hungry Ghost Realm, in which the denizens are “ghosts so ravenous they devour themselves from the inside out….” Rinzen is stuck in the realm, desperate to learn the lesson that leads to release, yet so focused on the desire to escape and move on that she ignores what might appear obvious. Every assumption Rinzen makes reminds the reader that none of us are who we think we are. And just as we all do, Lama Rinzen assigns flawed descriptions to every experience, leading to distortion, misinterpretation, erroneous conclusions, and potentially fatal delusions.
Hidden Buddha flows with an elegant and assured writing style that pairs seamlessly with the protagonist’s world. The story itself is crafted with a keen skill that keeps the plot moving and the characters gaining more and more complexity. Just when you think you know what’s happening, a baffling yet inevitable twist turns the story in a different direction.
Hidden Buddha is not a breezy read, but rather a riveting exploration that enthralls, teaches, and reveals more than we might like. And if the reader wishes for a clearer and more straightforward resolution…well, think about that.
In Hidden Buddha Lama Rinzen finds herself reborn as a doctor into the Hungry Ghost Realm in a haunted hospital on Colorado’s eastern plains.
It’s an unfriendly place. The patients do not respect her, the staff ignores her, and there’s rumors of ghosts in the hospital.
Rinzen is afraid of ghosts. She is not even sure they truly exist. Instead she focuses on learning the Hungry Ghost Realm’s lesson about what the Buddha means when he talks about emptiness. If she can only learn that she will escape the hospital and progress along her path to enlightenment.
But nine-year-old patient Claudia says the ghosts are real, and that they are here to trap Rinzen so she might never learn and never escape the hospital. Not in this lifetime, and not in any future lifetimes either.
How can the lama learn without seeing the things she denies?
Maybe that’s what the Buddha means when he talks about emptiness. These little bits of ourselves we keep suppressed and hidden and never admit to?
Between classic scenes of deduction, complex layers of truth and reality, and skillful red herrings, Ringel freshens up the tropes of mysteries.– BookLife Reviews (Editor’s Pick)
Ringel’s prose creates a delightfully unnerving atmosphere… readers are likely to find themselves carried along by the mood and mystery alone.– Kirkus Reviews
… a most enjoyable and engaging mystery. I urge you to take this wild adventure with the seductive lama.– Roshi Gerry Shishin Wick, Spiritual Director, Great Mountain Zen Center, Berthoud, CO
About the Author
Jim Ringel is an unconventional Buddhist who writes the Lama Rinzen mysteries as part of his own spiritual path.
Each book in the series finds the lama reborn into one of the six Buddhist Realms on a search for deeper understanding along the path toward Nirvana.
Jim practices Zen, skis, hikes, bikes, and visits brew pubs throughout Colorado seeking the Buddha in everyday life.
connect with the author:
website ~ facebook ~ twitter ~ bookbub ~ goodreadsHIDDEN BUDDHA Book Tour Giveaway
Want to read more posts about books and authors? Just click here.
~You can share this post on social media or receive updates on new posts by clicking one of the buttons below~
1 thought on “Review of Hidden Buddha by Jim Ringel”
Comments are closed.