As September 11th shows, we are not one world, and these types of books can help open our mind. Dr. Z's expertise comes from who he is--an Indian who emigrated to Canada, then to the United states. So he is really capable because he is an amphibian: both Eastern and Western, Hindu and Christian.
He follows the Platonic pattern of not selling a syllogism, but designing a dialogue to illustrate an idea. This is a hypothetical qudrologue involving Jesus and Buddha as they discuss and talk with a young prostitute about why she is dying of AIDS. Hardball questions with hardball answers.
I am impressed with the amount of research Dr. Z put into this book--hours and hours of interviews with Buddhist monks in Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Singapore. That may be why so many people don't like the book: Dr, Z is discussing real Buddhism, not the watered down, Americanized Buddhism that is more a combination of Star Trek and Hallmark than anything that the Buddha ever taught.
The book is small, with an unimposing 94 pages and is 6" X 6", so it can be read in one setting. The cover and illustrations are soft and inviting, much like any "Deep thoughts" book. The binding has held up to my rough handling.
This book will not satisfy everyone, since it deals with very hard and sensitive issues, very personal issues, but I hope that quote-unquote sensitivity is not a cop out from thought and a well-meaning calm discussion. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is an odd thing not to see my religion criticized, but I have never backed down from a free and honest discussion. In fact, if religion cannot stand up to hardball and slicing questions, then it is as Gov. Jesse Ventura has said, just "a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."
I am a Kadampa Buddhist monk and teacher. A Christian woman lent me this book, and I tried to read it with an open mind. However, I found it very difficult to continue after the author's horrible mis-portrayal of both the character of Buddha Shakyamuni (the "Gautama" of the book) and his teachings on Karma. I would like to clear up some misconceptions passed on in the review by undragoned1.
1) "Buddha doesn't believe in an intellegent higher power interacting in the affairs of man, but that belief is central to Christianity."
This may be true of the Therevada Buddhists interviewed by the author, but in Mahayana Buddhism we believe that there are countless Buddhas constantly working to free us from suffering. While the concept of "Buddha" is different from the Christian concept of "God", they do interact with us every day.
2) "the Buddhist must reach his ultimate goal entirely on his own strength, whereas the Christian meets his ultimate goal (salvation) by God's Grace and God's power. It's a guanteed ticket that you didn't do for yourself in otherwords."
The idea that we can achieve enlightenment on our own is foreign to Buddhism. It requires a great deal of help: blessings from enlightened beings (very similar to Christian "grace"), guidance from teachers, and help from spiritual friends. Yes, there is also work to be done from our own side, but this is only possible with help from holy beings.
3) Buddhism *can* make the claim that Buddha Shakyamuni "is still able to be active in our lives". See above.
4) The back cover of the book claims that Buddha denies that the self even exists. This is a gross oversimplification of Buddha's teachings on emptiness, and in particular the selflessness of persons. This topic is very subtle and very deep; I cannot do it justice here. Suffice it to say that the critical question is not *whether* the self exists, but *how* it exists. The self exists, but not in the way that we think it does.
I gave this book two stars rather than one merely to give it the benefit of the doubt; I have not finished it and probably won't. I cannot recommend it to anyone. Christians reading this book will be deceived about the real nature of Buddhism, and Buddhists reading this book will see an insulting distortion of their religion.
If you want to read an authentic explanation of Buddhism, I can recommend "Introduction to Buddhism" by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Other customer reviews have referenced some good, authentic books as well.