By Joachim Castellano
The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography book cover
Money, power, and beautiful women, three desires of countless men throughout the ages. Imagine a man who has all three. A charmed life indeed, promising years of comfort and pleasure, yet he finds nothing but emptiness. He rejects this life to pursue one of meaning and purpose, and after great struggle, he finds true happiness and enlightenment. Of course, this is the story of no ordinary man, but that of Buddha, the legendary spiritual leader whose teachings have been passed on for thousands of years.
In The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography (Ichimannendo Publishing, Inc., $10.95) Hisashi Ota tells of Buddha’s life through manga (Japanese comics) in a 248-page softcover book filled with comic panels. Focusing on Buddha’s transformation from the wealthy Prince Siddhartha to a spiritual teacher, I found myself drawn into a world paralleling modern day pressures: opportunities to escape reality and the expectation to live a typical life set by societal norms.
I enjoyed following the story through the expressive faces of the author’s characters, and I especially felt Siddhartha’s struggle to stay true to his own chosen path of life. Chapters end with Siddhartha’s insights, seeds that later blossom into the tenets of Buddhism. It was engaging to learn about Buddhism through the progressive rhythm of a narrative story with stylized visuals instead of a dry historic text.
Hisashi Ota, author, The Story of Buddha A Graphic Biography
Ota poured feeling, action, and passion into each page. The story felt like a mirror to reflect upon modern life. Ota’s book pulses in the present, not the historic past, introducing Buddha’s teachings to audiences new and old, perhaps inspiring others to find joy and meaning in life.
I found Ota’s manga approach to Buddha’s story appealing because of the art form’s cinematic visual style. Ota, a graduate of Nagoya University’s School of Science, has been drawing manga for 20 years and his manga about Buddhism in Japan has been published regularly. Born a Buddhist, to this day Ota continues his training at the Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai Buddhist center in Toyama, Japan.
Photos: Tetsuji Yamamoto, Ichimannendo Publishing, Inc.