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Turtle Feet

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  375 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Nikolai Grozni was a music prodigy, a jazz pianist training at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, when suddenly he decided to transform his life. He moved to India to become a Buddhist monk: shaving his head, learning Tibetan, and donning long traditional robes. In the Himalayas, living in a hut a stone's throw from the Dalai Lama's compound, Grozni became ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2008)
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Jul 21, 2008 Lena rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
Nikolai Grozni was a childhood piano prodigy well on his way to becoming a professional jazz musician when a sudden metaphysical crisis caused him to drop out of the Berklee College of Music and move to India to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

Turtle Feet is Grozni's articulate and thoughtful memoir about his years living in Dharamsala. Though Grozni moved to India to divest himself of his previous identity and devote himself to religious scholarship, it doesn't take long for a new life to begin
Chris Beal
A promising career as a jazz pianist wasn't enough for Nikolai Gronzi. He wanted to know what life was really about. So he threw away everything to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Dharamsala, India, home of the Tibetan exile community.

Dharamsala is a small town where Indians and Tibetans live as uneasy neighbors, where everyone is always running into everyone, where people quickly fall into stereotypes. Gronzni, originally from Bulgaria, had gone to a music conservatory in Boston, so he becam
After reading and liking Grozni's novel, "Wunderkind", I was intrigued by the path that he took from Eastern Europe to America to India and then back to his beginnings. "Turtle Feet" covers the author's time studying Buddhism, living as a monk in India.

The book is very entertaining, an anti-"Eat, Pray, Love": cynical, sarcastic, pessimistic, yet wildly romantic, with the same smart-alecky humor of his novel. It helps that Grozni was lucky in his friends and acquaintances: larger-than-life bundle
I’ve been obsessed with meaning lately. Or, more precisely, the uniquely human obsession with creating meaning from the inherently meaningless. I’m one of those people that believes that we’re just specks of stardust floating in space and that, if we want to have purpose and value in our lives, we must create it for ourselves. Who was it (Sartre?) that brilliantly reminded us that “man is nothing but what he makes of himself.”

But, as Mr. Gronzi highlights so clearly in Turtle Feet, creating mea
Kalem Wright
"Turtle Feet" is author Grozni's memoir of his existential crisis that propelled him into forsaking the world to become a Buddhist monk and his journey back to the world of desire.

Grozni's vivid language capably illustrates life in the Himalayas and their inhabitants. He lovingly conveys the magic in the mundane from cooking to learning to improvised housing. Other reviewers have echoed this, but his eye for detail is magnificent.

At the end, I was disappointed with Grozni's insight into meanin
I found the story about Nikolai Grozni odyssey into Buddhism great fun. It made me think of my younger, more carefree days in college. In some ways I found myself very envious of Nikolai's adventure. Perhaps I lived vicariously through his journey into this world. I too continue to search for meaning and a higher power.
Yet another book by Grozni that made me cry.
Really, why do I feel like I have affairs with his books...

wonderful story of life as a western buddist monk in Dharamsala
Major theme of the book: finding oneself and meaning in one's life. Who can fail to relate to that?

Moreover, Turtle Feet is a well-written memoir with a suitable ending--sounds like my ideal book. Ultimately, however, it came out to be a somewhat interesting, somewhat enlightening, and also somewhat repetitive and forgettable book. The "supporting characters" are more interesting than the narrator, and because the narrator's reactions to these characters are predictable as well as predictably to

I was intrigued by this book and its subject matter. The full title is "Turtle Feet The Making and Unmaking of a Buddhist Monk". This is an autobiography written by a young jazz musician from Bulgaria who was studying jazz piano at the Berklee College of Music in Boston when he was struck by a metaphysical malaise. This state of consciousness robbed him of his passion for music and consequently, direction in his life. Nikolai Grozni turned to meditation and Buddhism which eventually led him to t ...more
Turtle Feet is the story of a Bulgarian musical prodigy who gives up everything and moves to Dharmasala, India to become a monk. He is serious and steadfast in his studies, but the color and life of Gronzi's recollection is not in the telling of his spiritual revelations, but in his description of the sights, sounds, and smells or the world around him. Gronzi's life of poverty, amidst rats and his own starvation, is anything but idyllic enlightenment. Given the subtitle of the book, the reader k ...more
Paige Knorr
The book is less a memoir about monastic life than it is a gloriously painted portrait of everyday idiosyncratic life in a small Indian town. If you are expecting the former, you may be disappointed; shift your expectations to the latter, and you will not.

That is not to say Grozni entirely fails to explore his experiences as a Buddhist monk. Just that they are more minimal in scope, and (at least for me) could have been fleshed out more. In particular, I don't feel that some of his conclusions
Turtle Feet; the making and unmaking of a Buddhist Monk gave me the feeling of wanting a bowl of hot meat filled stew and getting only broth with a few veggies swimming around. This book could have been so much more. The descriptions of India and the life of a 2o something year old monk from Bulgaria, educated at Brown University was well written, interesting and descriptive. I just wanted MORE; the author breezed over the reasons of why he became a monk much too lightly. His parents and family ...more
A good read, but a puzzling memoir-- it's mostly about the author's friend Tsar. At one point I wondered if Tsar might really be the author's alter ego. I don't think so, but it's entertaining to read the book with that thought in mind.
This book is about Nikolai's rich lifetime experience in India. Through little examples of everyday life in India, this book teaches us about friendship, how making decisions is an important part of our life, how circumstances affect our lives and what not! But one thing you need to know before reading this book is that if you are looking for a serious, religious book to get enlightened about Buddhism, then this book is not for you. It is a lighthearted, funny journey of the narrator in India, f ...more
This book has a great final sentence, a Zorba-like supporting male character, and objective storytelling by the author that is rare in memoirs. These are the high points. To be frank, I just couldn't get into the book because of the style of writing and progression of the story. I loved the frankness Grozni uses when discussing Buddhist monks, their practices, and living in India, but his frankness sometimes comes across as too concrete. This book is worth reading, but it is written in a style t ...more
was he meditating regularly? or was he just learning the tibetan language and studying texts with masters, and doing the classes and debates? I guess I wanted to know more about his actual practice - that's what I was expecting this book to be about. there were those stream-of-consciousness monologues here and there, about time and space collapsing - as if he was having a spiritual breakthrough, or on the brink of one. maybe I wanted more of that. I did love Tsar a lot. Geshe Yama Tseten was hil ...more
Lori Thorrat
What a cast if characters! For those who loved Boris in The Goldfinch Tsar is a real life foil.
Jan 01, 2009 Daniel rated it 4 of 5 stars
I've read quite a few memoirs from "counter-culture" Buddhists (that is to say, people who believe in the Buddha's truths but find it hard to live without some of the finer pleasures in life), and this one is probably one of the best. Grozni makes it abundantly clear that he isn't the most pious monk in the world, but that lack of piety allows him to look at a lot of things in proper perspective.

I mean, a monk who admires the village prostitute for both her beauty and her attitude?

I've gotten on some sort of meditation trend here: first "Eat, Pray, Love", and then "American Shaolin", and again "The year of Living Biblically" and now Turtle Feet which is kind of a combination of all of the above.
Nikolai Grozni grew up in Bosnia, moved to the US with his parents. Was a music prodigy in school in Boston when he decided to go to India and become a Buddhist monk
It took awhile but in the end I enjoyed the book. At first I didn't relate well with the author and felt he went to India on a lark rather than a true spiritual journey. By the end of the book, I enjoyed the descriptions and personalities of the various folks he encountered. I also found it interesting the texts, rules, etc. regarding Buddhism -- it is not just the one with the universe spiritual enlightenment I would have expected.
Mary Johnson
Jul 19, 2008 Mary Johnson rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: guys who want to read about Tibet and friendship
Grozni's book is both funny and charming, the quest of a young man for meaning. Ultimately, it's not so much the story of a gifted pianist who becomes a Buddhist monk as it is a story of male bonging; a book about friendship as spirituality, though this is never made explicit in the text.

The stories are well-told, but Grozni doesn't delve deeply enough into the issues surrounding his life to make the stories worth their while.
Saw this in the NYT Book Review so picked it up. Good read but felt somewhat superficial. Grozni talks more about those around him that himself. I never felt I got to know him terribly well in this memoir. Some interesting and colorful characters in his travels made it a fun read. He also portrays the Buddhist monks and nuns he encounters in a rather complex way, not exactly glowing.
Todor Zed
I liked the way in which this memoir touches on some of my own views on soul-searching. I found it a pleasant surprise that it was not overly analytical or trying to forcefeed the reader a certain idea. Instead the story makes for an often amusing, matter-of-factly read combined with the author's occasional reflections upon the progress of his spiritual journey.
I was pretty disappointed- I guess I expected more philosophy and Buddhism. instead, Nikolai talks mostly about his sacriligious friend who loves sex and life. It's not a bad book-it just wasn't what I was expecting. He didn't really talk a lot about what made him become a monk, nor did he really explain why he disrobed. That would've been more interesting.
The book is described as "the making and unmaking of a Buddhist monk". In some ways it's a very iteresting book but I'm not sure I entirely liked it. It's the author's true story and he had some very interesting infomation about life as a Buddhist monk. But the rest of the story was just a bit unbelievable at times. Maybe it's all true - I want to hope it is.
Patricia Danielson
Nikolai's observations and writing are delightful and brought me back to my own travels and spiritual journey. Raw, poetic, thoughtful, real.

It left me wanting to understand more about what happened to him than what he seemed to want to share. A classic read that hasn't left me yet. I keep thinking about it - might read it again.
Joel Berry
This book is a gem, at turns laugh out loud funny as well as poignant. I often wonder at how some memoir writers are able to recreate such witty dialogue, and here is a perfect example.

A must read for anyone who has pondered what it might be like to abandon a Western life and move to Tibet-in-exile India to become a Buddhist monk.
I loved this book for many reasons. The descriptions of India are sensual. His grappling with Truth, perception, identity was quite a ride. He is honest, funny, humble, blunt. I respect his admiration for the sacred and the profane and the way he and his friends rode on the edge of both so gracefully and full of quirkiness.
Jul 20, 2008 Devon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Devon by: People Magazine
I liked it but it very different than what I thought it was going to be like. It seems to me it's much more about the relationship he had with his friend, Tsar, than his experience as a monk in India. Despite the average rating, I did enjoy reading it. The escape "plans" towards the end of the book were the best part.
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Buddhist Monk from a Westerners attempt 3 19 Aug 16, 2013 09:30PM  
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Nikolai Grozni was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He began training as a classical pianist at the age of four and won his first major award in Salerno, Italy, at the age of nine. He studied jazz at Berklee College of Music, Boston. He began writing while living in India, where he spent four years as a Buddhist monk, studying Tibetian texts at the Institute of Buddhist Dialects in Dharamsala. His first b ...more
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“Home is simply a place where your friends wait for you to come back.” 6 likes
“So in reality the one constant is existence- it changes its form, but can never be created or destroyed. And what's more important is that, just like the quantity of energy is a constant, the taste of existence is a constant, too. It can never change. You think it's going to make a difference if you're poor or rich or dying or in hell or in Nirvana, but the fact of the matter is, it never does, the universe is like this metaphysical reactor where opposites cancel each other, pleasure is canceled by pain, highs by lows, reality by emptiness, Enlightenment by inexhaustible boredom, and at the end it all adds up to zero. Heaven isn't going to be too sweet, hell can't be too bad. It's like this: the rich have everything but are desensitized, the lepers have got nothing but are closer to life- they feel every passing moment in their bones. Monks are missing one thing, laypeople are missing another. Ordinary beings are stuck on this shore, the Buddha is stuck on the shore beyond. You could say that everyone is fucked in some way, or you could say that everyone's in a state of equilibrium. It makes no difference, really.” 6 likes
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