I had high hopes that "Buddhism for Bears" would be an insightful blend of two of my favorite subjects. Sadly, this nice idea is poorly executed with illustrations depicting bears as buffoons. The jacket notes tell the reader, "Like the rest of us, bears are searching for a way to fill the emptiness inside themselves." Excuse me? As one of nature's most noble beings, bears should be the object of veneration, not ridicule. Riddell's sketches, while cleverly rendered, show bears as drunken idiots, demonstrating the worst behavior of human beings. I realize the drawings are intended to portray human characteristics, but why not make them humans instead of projecting human stupidity on the gentle bear? Since Lord Buddha--who in an early incarnation sacrificed his life so that a hungry tigress and her seven cubs could eat--appreciated the dignity and spirit of animals, I had hoped this slim volume might distill Buddha's teachings through the eyes of our ursine friends. Readers seeking a lesson in the dharma would be better served buying something along the lines of "The Buddha Speaks" or Rahula's classic, "What the Buddha Taught." And any book of bear photos will show their enormous nobility and spirit.
I have a slew of Buddhist books, calendars, and whatnots. They explain everything to the nth degree and have lovely serene pictures. This book however is get to the point. This book uses bears to depict human traits. It shows the lighter side of Buddhism. If Siddhartha were here today he would say lighten up and you may learn something. It really brings to mind Dave Barry. Dave starts out sane and quiet then builds up to a roar and goes off the deep end. The captions in this book are the sane part and the illustrations are the deep end. I have two favorite pictures. The first is captioned "Vigorous body movements may evoke a feeling of wellbeing "(page 55.) The second caption is "Love other living beings as a member of the universe."(Page 19