Smell the karma

In 1955, roughly the time he was working on The Dharma Bums, our first beatnik also wrote this biography of Prince Siddartha Gotama, the Shakyamuni Buddha. Like all biographers, Kerouac filtered the narrative through his own lens, and this is a thoroughly Westernized version, addressed to potential converts. It stresses the abandonment of materialism and the search for meaning, a veritable primer of Buddhist thought. This new edition is being issued by Penguin to coincide with the release of the 50th anniversary edition of The Dharma Bums. It includes an introduction by renowned Buddhist philosopher Robert Thurman, which provides some historical context for Kerouac’s study and embrace of Buddhism, as well as placing the sutras and texts Kerouac used for the book in the context of the rest of the Buddhist canon. It will be an intriguing read for Buddhists, and will no doubt fascinate Keroumaniacs.