“My wish for you is that you achieve the happiness that is yours to discover.” –Jindo Shokai*
His face glowed like solar energy as he spoke about the essence of love and how everything we do leads us to who we are and how we are all “mystically interconnected”.
From a telecommunications employee to a funeral director to a certified Dharma Teacher, southwestern Ontario resident Richard Maxell (also known as Jindo Shokai to his on-line Buddhist community) revealed that his collected experiences (some of them magical) led him to this moment of publication.
At the young age of 81, he published his memoir The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man and launched it last Thursday (June 7, 2018) at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.
The first time author attracted such a large audience that the indie bookstore staff had to set up more chairs.
His inspirational, humorous, and informative reading kept everyone riveted to their seats. He also patiently answered a myriad of questions from “What is the purpose of shaving’s one head?” (To detach from the world and egotistical possessions) to “What brought you to the Lambton County area?” (You’ll have to read my next book).
The evening ended with supporters lined up from the cash register to the table where Shokai signed each purchased book.
“Jindo Shokai has written a wonderful book,” wrote author, speaker, and workshop leader Brenda Eshin Shoshanna PhD in her preface for the second edition of the memoir. “In this work we are taken on a journey through the course of his life, watching him grow in love and awareness.”
She highly recommended Shokai’s book to all.
I also enjoyed reading about Richard’s journey.
Below is my review, written from an advance reading copy received prior to the launch:
The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man By Jindo Shokai Three Monks Division of L & R Productions, 2018 ISBN-13:978-198420636-7
Jindo Shokai writes, “I am no philosopher but I have done a lot of thinking and decided I may have sufficient talent to write a book that would allow me to succeed in the challenge of making this a better world.”
Three cheers to Shokai (also known as Richard Maxwell) for writing and sharing his debut book, his memoir The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man.
At a time when media headlines blast negative news of violence and natural disasters into our homes, Shokai’s writing invites the reader to slow down and watch for those ‘magical moments’ that transpire while sitting still.
Deep and philosophical yet light and humorous at times, this memoir unfurls black and white and shades of grey snapshots of one man’s life journey towards becoming a Novice Priest and a certified Dharma Teacher. Shokai writes with the clarity of wisdom that can only be gleamed from his 80 plus years of experience. Although he touches on the subject of death (and shared personal struggles with loss), his memoir is more a celebration: a book about living each moment to the fullest.
At one point, he states, “Perhaps, poetry is the best way to get at the crux of death.” He seeks answers and shares his discovery with his readers.
For instance, his foreword quickly pulls the reader into the book with his question “What are you searching for?” and his final response: “I am pure energy; unconditional love.”
Written in a casual, conversational style, The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man is divided into 18 chapters with each section exploring a different phase in the author’s life.
For example, in the section on his “happy” childhood in Montreal, he describes playing on the chesterfield, “I would imagine riding up in the carriage and getting out to the sound of the wind whistling through the dark sycamore trees and the dogs following behind the coach would catch up to us and lick my fingers.”
Other sections focus on: his neighborhood where kids played hockey with “a lump of frozen horse manure”; his time spend in school and Sunday school classes; his march into cadets with trips to Nova Scotia and Georgian Bay and cruises along waterways in Quebec, Ontario, and Bermuda; his first job picking up sticks and mowing the lawn; his 35 year career in the telecommunication industry; his foray into the funeral business; his explorations backstage with the Little Theatre Group; and his stay in Japan where he became “enamoured by Soto Zen Buddhism and the practice of Zazen”.
Sometimes the writer digresses “I promise not to preach or expound any further than I already have” but his desire to teach remains strong. “My hope to somehow convey the message that we are all dying and we should all be doing something concrete to spiritually prepare both ourselves and our loved ones for the eventuality is [sic] now multiplied infinitely.”
Sometimes, the writer provides too many details like in his chapters describing his work in the telecommunication industry. The reader can get wire-wrapped and short-circuited in all the technical explanations.
However, overall, this is a quick but satisfying read especially for those who are curious yet hesitant about learning more about Zazen (seated awareness) and the teachings of Buddha. The subject matter of the book is well balanced. For those wanting additional details: Shokai posts information about websites and includes biographies that explores the “Lineage of Soto Zen Buddhism as originated by Eihei Dogen-zenji in the thirteenth century as well as an explanation of Soto Zen Practice in two appendixes at the back of the book.
As a reviewer, I must disclose that this review was based on an advanced reading copy of Shokai’s book and that I know the writer. He was a regular participant and audience member at a local open mic event I co-hosted in southwestern Ontario. At the time, Shokai had a Canadian name and his quiet and kind personality would often light up the room. He rarely spoke about himself so I was thrilled to hear he was writing a memoir. In my opinion, each individual is special and it takes great courage (and dedication) to openly share one’s life and have the words published in a book.
I look forward to reading a possible sequel to his memoir.
As Shokai states in the last chapter of the book, “There is no greater miracle than a person becoming all that he or she can be!!!”
In Appendix II, under the heading “What is Solo Zen Practice?”, Shokai once again stresses, “the ability to be at rest completely, to realize the preciousness and wholeness of life in this moment is a skill we have lost in this busy world.”
Through his teachings, he has succeeded in reminding me to be still!
An in-depth story about Shokai and his book appears in the Thursday, June 7 issue of Sarnia and Lambton County This Week. Read multimedia journalist Carl Hnatyshyn’s article here.