Monday, September 03, 2007

Buddha, Vol. 4: The Forest of Uruvela by Osamu Tezuka

And this is the half-way point in Tezuka's occasionally Disney-ish retelling of the life of the Buddha. (I'd read Vol. 3 the previous day.) It covers about eight years, mostly focused on the Buddha's time in a community of ascetics and his problems with their religious doctrines (both about the strictures of caste and about the monks' ordeal-based asceticism). During those eight years, a major character from earlier volumes dies and the Buddha finally achieves enlightenment.

We also get a side-story about an invulnerable giant -- literally; he's twenty feet tall and heals any injury -- who comes into the service of the new prince-conqueror of Buddha's homeland and also runs up against the prejudices and established wisdom of the people there. (It's pretty clear Tezuka's main point -- and probably Buddha's as well; I'm ashamed to say I'm not well-versed in Buddhist teachings -- is that the caste system, and similar ways of classifying people, is wrong.

There's more philosophy and melodrama, and fewer cutesy little-boy figures in this volume, so I found it pretty successful and less jarring than some of the earlier ones. But it's still a quite varied mixture, so be warned.

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