Book Review of 108 Mala Beads: A Year of Haiku
108 Mala Beads: A Year of Haiku by Bradly Jay Keller is a short book of haiku by the author. Based on his nature walks over the course of a year, they take us through the life cycle of the elements and the various beings who inhabit those realms. The first series of haiku are on the earth and cows, and then proceed to air and birds, water, wind, and then finally, on to haiku that express the author’s thoughts on nature as a whole.
The scope of the book is modest, but the author’s expectations are high. Based on his intuitive insights, the author hopes that reading the haiku help stimulate in the reader, the Original Mind (Buddha Mind) which enables any human being to experience things directly. This direct experience bypasses our normally discriminating minds, which differentiates things into mine and thine, or subjects and objects. Keller describes this clearly and succinctly, in his short introduction:
With haiku the reader can experience the lightning flash of awakening into the perfect presence, which is not different from one’s original nature. In fact, this awakening is a glimpse into the experience of Oneness. Due to the nature of Oneness this transmission of insight from the writer to the reader can occur. ~Bradly J. Keller
In his goal, the author also seeks to put into practice what he laid out discursively in his two earlier books, Taking Tea with the Buddha: The Gift of Practice and Life is Living Life: The Medicine of Awakening. Each of these books contains haiku at end of each short section of prose, and likewise attempts to stimulate the insight of Original Mind in the reader.
Rooted in the author’s experience, some of the haiku in 108 Mala Beads are more concrete and others more abstract. The haiku also lend themselves to more sustained meditation, by the reader. A few samples, from the book:
The young calves grazing,
In spring meadows.
(from “Cow Songs, February 15th”)
Hovering on high,
A hawk in perfect balance,
Above fallow land.
(from “Aves, September 25th”)
Winter’s ice is cold,
Sunlight sets the droplets free,
To silence returned.
(from “Water, February 13th”)
Within the Temple,
Of nature’s perfect beauty
The truth bell rings.
(from “Nature, November 4th”)
The book is small in format, and attractively illustrated, with a drawing of a mala bead necklace, sometimes used as a meditation aid in Buddhism. In short, 108 Mala Beads: A Year In Haiku by Bradly Jay Keller offers many worthwhile experiences to the reader. The book would also make a fine gift for a person who is interested in a meditative approach to nature.
Reviewed by Paul Dolinsky [email protected].
Paul Dolinsky is a writer, poet and philosopher living in upstate New York. His Buddhist’s views on life are as broad and clear as the heavens. He is the Editor of thegoldenlantern.com