Old Path White Clouds
Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Drawings by Nguyen Thi Hop
This beautiful book is perhaps the best biography of the Buddha available in English. Comparisons with Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha are probably inevitable because both books employ a lyrical, literary style, but actually this book is quite different. Hesse's novel is an exploration of Siddhartha's motivations and the search that led to his enlightenment; Thich Nhat Hanh's book is a biography covering all eighty years of the Buddha's life based on Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese sources, which are assiduously notated in the book's appendix.
The story throughout is told very simply and in a tone that may be described as devotional. Chapters are short and usually illustrate a particular concept or event, and the text throughout is illustrated with many beautiful drawings. It is not a short book but its structure and style maintain the reader's interest over the course of story, and one may be tempted to say that it reads like a novel.
The length of the book is due to the fact that beyond being a history of the life of the Buddha, it is an exposition of his teachings, which are presented clearly and with increasing depth as the story of the foundation of the Sangha unfolds. Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike will benefit from this summation of the many concepts inherent in the Buddhist tradition, presented as they were to Buddha's first disciples.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story for this reader was to see clearly how the teachings of the Buddha were encapsulated from the very beginning as a monastic tradition. For Western Buddhists, who for the most part are lay practitioners, this monastic foundation is something to be clearly understood as one one tries to formulate one's own practice which is inevitably a compromise with the way of life originally presented by the Buddha.
I have read several accounts of the life of the Buddha but none like this.In Old Path ,White Clouds Thich Nhat Hanh recreates the life of the Enlightened one through the eyes of a village boy.Reading this book one is transported to another time and place.A must read for anyone who wishes to know more about the life and times of the Buddha.