Book Review: Saltwater Buddha by Jaimal Yogis

saltwater buddha

Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea

This is one of my all-time favourite books, and one of the few books that I have read more than once. I’m sure many of us dream of leaving everything behind and discovering ourselves in a new and unfamiliar environment. In many ways that is what I did when I left for Australia at the drop of a hat. Maybe because I had already read this book by then, I had the courage to do that.

This book is a memoir of self-discovery. A young Jaimal runs away from his parents house in California and find himself in Hawaii with just enough cash to buy a surfboard. The contemplative prose of this book draws the reader in to the zen felt in the barrel of a wave:

I wanted to watch the snow fall. Just see it. Breathe it. How the
flakes drifted down in a pattern. Yes, I was almost sure of it. And I’d
never noticed it in such a way. But it was—it was a pattern of falling,
too complex to decipher, and always changing. But perfectly ordered.
Every flake, placed just so, fluttering just right. And each one so
delicate, so intricate, so different. And fundamentally the same. I cried
just because. And it felt wonderful. It felt like an immeasurable burden
was lifting from my chest. I let my tears fall into the snow.

I cried for a minute, or two, or five. I don’t know. But then I sat up
and looked around. Big sea. White beach. Beige apartments.

And now it seemed okay to pick it all up. Me. To pick that up too.

Something—I wasn’t quite sure what—seemed funny, humorous. I
chuckled. Maybe it was that I was sitting in the snow in Brooklyn with a
leash attached to my ankle and I couldn’t really think of a good reason
why. Maybe it was that I was alive. Maybe I shouldn’t have been. But I
was, indeed, alive. And that was curiously funny. Yes. That was it. Even
the word seemed odd and fresh. A-l-i-v-e.

How? How was I alive? How was I assimilating it all at once, all
this form, sensation, memory, perception, consciousness? They were
coalescing into this, this thing I looked through, like a box with a few
holes in it. How had all this stardust and gas and dark matter and comets
burst and made this pattern? A pattern like a snowflake. So freakishly
unique, and yet so much like every other.

A human pattern—a story that tried desperately to make sense. But
ultimately, just fell and fell and fell, like snowflakes, like wave after
wave. This pattern’s only job was to be, perfectly, just where it was.

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