Nikolai Grozni

Turtle Feet: The Making and Unmaking of a Buddhist Monk [Riverhead Books]

Books Reviews Nikolai Grozni
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Nikolai Grozni

A riveting journey from Thelonious to monk and back

“But this is India...Things happen again and again for absolutely no reason,” laments Lodro Chosang (Nikolai Grozni).

Having fled his piano-jazz studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston for Dharamsala, India, the author is ordained as a Buddhist monk and studies at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. This book charts his journey.

Turtle Feet careens along like one of the government busses Lodro and his friends ride between Himalayan frontier towns. The narrative bounces from minutiae (shopping lists, the particulars of lighting kerosene stoves) to sermonizing (“It had also taken me a while to see if there was a truth square enough to support the sprawling edifice of a particular doctrine...”). Best are the hilarious and often disturbing romps with Tsar, a lapsed monk who seems hell-bent on getting Lodro disrobed.

Grozni’s journey and his eventual “unmaking” is an honest glimpse into Buddhism and the meaning of everything. He’s no Siddhartha, but Turtle Feet is most enlightening.