“The Buddha’s Diamonds” is a story-telling book written in a very easy and readable language. It is a vivid description of a difficult life of a poor family in a remote village in Vietnam. The family mainly contains the parents, Tinh, a boy – the main character, and his sister. The family is extremely poor and their life depends on a bamboo boat for fishing – and the fish is used solely to buy food. This boat belongs to the father, and Tinh will own this boat in the future and take care of his family. It is interesting to notice that the family always keeps a statue of Phat Ba Quan Am, the Vietnamese Bodhisattva of Compassion, having thousand eyes looking over the earth and thousand hands to help people in pain and poverty.
At the beginning of the book, there is a monk’s saying, “The sea full of fish, the fresh winds, the breath flowing in and out of your body – all these things are beautiful diamonds in your life, shining day and night. The Buddha offers you these diamonds of true happiness…” In this book, you will see Tinh’s helpless life, his perspective on a red toy car–which he has access to by playing with his rich cousin—and his trust in Buddha while in need of food. In other words, you will see whether he has a penchant for the modern toy car or a Buddhist spirit –that is to say, overcoming any difficulties he has and be satisfied with what he has: a poor life with a “diamond boat.” As a reader and as a Vietnamese myself, I see that Viet Nam has significantly changed for the past ten years even though there are still poor regions that are in lack of rice like the village portrayed in the story. I recommend anyone who loves reading in general and who has a Buddhist spirit in particular to read this book.
“The Buddha’s Diamonds” by Carolyn Marsden & Thay Phap Niem. Candlewick Press, 2008.