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Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  570 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Jack Kerouac's profound meditations on the Buddha's life and religion
In the mid-1950s, Jack Kerouac, a lifelong Catholic, became fascinated with Buddhism, an interest that had a significant impact on his ideas of spirituality and later found expression in such books as "Mexico City Blues" and "The Dharma Bums." Originally written in 1955 and now published for the first ti...more
ebook, 160 pages
Published September 18th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published August 28th 2008)
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To be completely honest, I didn't really like Kerouac's Buddha. He was far too Catholic. With every "thee" and "thou" and every "lord" and "savior" I became a little more disenchanted. His Buddha was very personal, and, for that reason, largely inaccessible.

While I feel somewhat certain that Kerouac might have considered this to be one of his greatest works, as he always seemed to be enthralled by his religious experiences, but it really wasn't. This, I think, was more of a personal reflection o...more
Liz André
This is now one of the few books I just couldn't make myself finish. I found it largely dry and uninteresting; full of varying analogies for the one idea that the world we see is an illusion, with little expansion on this point. I would not recommend it!
A keeper book. I really was not expecting that after reading Big Sur and On the Road. Truly an exceptional read as literature, history and philosophy
This small tome is Kerouac's retelling of the story of the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. As such, Kerouac acts more as an interpreter than storyteller.

Certain phrases and passages bother me. For instance the oft-repeated phrase 'the ten quarters of the universe' rubs me the wrong way -- how can there be more than four quarters? Is this pseudo-mysticism or a bad translation, or what?

However it's a small quick read, I'm over halfway through and I expect to finish it.


As it happens I got to page 135...more
Jess Kogel
Not Kerouac's best but still follows in line with his trail writing and extreme deal. Not a book i would pick up to learn about buddhism but a book i would pick up to understand the mind and thoughts of Kerouac.
Zia Laura
I couldn't even finish it... just a money-maker book using Kerouc's notes and notoriety!
I really have no idea what I just read.
Jan 08, 2010 I B is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting spin on the life of the Buddha. Although I am doubtful that he was a "golden-haired" prince.

I wish I could find poetry in the long sentences but, instead, have so far found them rambling. For example:

"In the ears of the Buddha as he thus sat in brilliant and sparkling craft of intuition, so that light like Transcendental Milk dazzled in the invisible dimness of his closed eyelids, was heard the unvarying pure hush of the sighing sea of hearing, seething, receding, as he more or l...more
Started off great, finished well but the middle part lost me. Some parts were beautifully brilliant and elegantly written but other parts came across as disappointing buddhist bunk. far from Kerouac's best but still worth a read
The one star might not be a true reflection on the writing or Kerouac's efforts to tell a story of the Buddha, but it is a reflection of my enjoyment of the book.
When I first picked up this story - about a year ago - I was intrigued about both the story of Gautama and also Kerouac's take on retelling the story of the Buddha.
When I first picked up the story I had not yet read Hesse's Siddhartha nor had I yet had an opportunity to discuss Buddhist concepts with practicing Buddhists.
Over the las...more
Impresionant, dar o stea in minus pt multitudinea sofismelor...

"Bogatia unei tari nu inseamna o vistierie mereu plina, ci ceea ce se da din mila."
"Nirvana inseamna stingere, ca si cum ai stinge o lumanare sufland in ea. Dar, deoarece nirvana lui Buddha este dincolo de existenta, si nu concepe nici existenta, nici nonexistenta luminii unei lumanari, a unui suflet nemuritor sau a oricarui alt lucru, ea nu este nici lumina lumanarii, numita samsara (lumea aceasta), nici stingerea cu o suflare a lum...more
I really have mixed feelings about this book. For the most part it was was a bumpy difficult read, but it also had bright lucid flashes of brilliance. At times it was difficult to tell if it was a biography, obviously well researched from a number of texts, and at other times it felt like a dissertation on Buddhist thought. And in a similar way it seemed to be at times an accurate English rendition of important sermons given by Buddha himself and at other times, it felt like the free-wheeling fa...more
There's no way I understood even half of this book. It was a great read if you're in the mindset, and you want buddhism broken down. But, at the same time, it didn't carry a lot of weight with me. I've never been religious, and I've barely been spiritual, so I take the real world as it is in a lot of instances. So, to me, things are obvious. I don't wonder about what things mean on a deeper level. My five sense are my five senses, and beyond that isn't a mystery. It's science. It's not a questio...more
This was Kerouac retelling the life of the Buddha and his teachings. I found the biography part to be quite interesting, the Kerouac prose made for a nice addition to the story. However, I must admit I got rather less interested when it came for the teaching of the Buddha in the last half and his explanations of how things worked to his disciple. It just reminded me of all the things that I don't like about Buddhism.
Ann Pham
I admit, I have not read much Kerouac before. I approached "Wake up" with alot of excitement as I had heard so much about him and knew of his associations with Buddhism. However, I have to admit, "Wake Up" was not life changing. I was hoping for it to be much more magnificent than what it was.

Don't get me wrong there are some wonderful moments and he composes lovely natural prose but often I felt that my expectations were frustrated. It's not "a bad book", its not as though it were not worth rea...more
Honestly, I found this book to be incredibly tedious. If it were any longer, I would have bailed on it. I am a huge Jack Kerouac fan, and although I am not Buddhist, I have tremendous respect for the religion itself. The first 25% of the book was somewhat enjoyable. But the narrative just kind of stopped, and was replaced by long-winded circular passages that could have proved the point in literally 1/10 of the time. I think Kerouac's style works when he has a lot of people and a lot of ideas fl...more
For me, reading this book was reminiscent of reading scripture: at times boring, then enlightening, then tedious, over my head, pleasing, confusing, and it took way too long to read considering its length.
Definitely not to be used as an introduction to Buddhism. This book is more of a personal sonnet to Buddha, written with great love by a great admirer.
This was the first book that I've read related to Buddhism and while I found some of the words and terms difficult to understand/comprehend, overall the book did serve to heighten my interest in the religion. It served as a good introduction to the story of Buddha, the basis of his mission, and the spirituality and belief system of this particuliar religion. The most important thing that I've taken from this read was the inspiration to learn more about Buddha and the religion of Buddhism, and I...more
i hadn't read this much about the life of Gotama Buddha until now so i learned quite a bit biographically but Kerouac's version seemed to be fairly standard in the enlightenment department. i didn't see anything extraordinary about it, thus 3 stars.
I saw this in the library, and my reaction was this: "Wait, Jack Kerouac wrote a book about Buddha?" Picking it up was a no-brainer. I think the most disappointing thing about this book was the pacing. At 146 pages, it's short, but there are no breaks to speak of. No scenes, no chapters, nothing. Just one long narrative that skips around when it's time to skip.

Much of the content is of the I-need-to-read-that-again variety. The translations of Buddha's words do a nice job of capturing the riddle...more
Kieran Kimberley
The vocabulary used in this book is impressive. Whilst I understood the concept and Kerouac's intention, I found his presentation of the ideas mind-numbing and not mind-opening, especially when the format shifted from the almost fairy-tale narrative that was the first half of the book to the endless conversation-come-sermon that ended it. The fluidity of prose that all Kerouac fans are used to is present. I'm planning on reading it again at a later date to see if it gets better with multiple rea...more
This was a tad more dense than I expected for Kerouac. Having just come off of Dharma Bums, I guess I was looking for a bit more of a beat vibe to his interpretation of Gautama Buddha's life. Instead, it's a pretty thorough (and well told/well researched) biography.

Well done, just not quite what I expected. Sorta hoping for a bit more of that 'into the mystic' wordplay that Jack is capable of, but he treated this story with a reverence that belies some of his more freestyle writing.
I disagree with various concept of this kind of old school Buddhism, as I prefer the intellectual, spiritual Zen Buddhism. Kerouac did a great job compiling these Buddhist Scriptures. I am going to come back to it after I read some more books on Buddhism, so I'll fully understand it. I highly recommend it to anyone with a hint of interest in Buddhism and curious in the Buddha's teachings (the Dharma) and principles he had.
I should start by saying I've never read anything by Kerouac that I liked. I find his writing boring. I also found this book dull and pointless. He does seem to know his Buddhism, though. If you've never read a bio of the Buddha, this is a reasonable mix of bio and teachings. There are a lot of Ananda stories--which were sort of different. I just don't get what Kerouac thought he was doing when he wrote this.
A pastiche of Buddhist scripture that is more devotional in nature than instructional. Most of the text is drawn from sources that are better read on their own; trying to weave them together takes them out of the context in which they are best understood. I actually liked Robert Thurman's lengthy intro better than most of the main text; it at least gave me an appreciation for why Kerouac was drawn to the Buddha.
Kent Winward
Kerouac's take on the Buddha's life is good, not quite as readable as Siddhartha, but a quick easy Westernized overview of the Buddha's life. More interesting to read the book in light of the Beat Generation's Eastern Religion fascination coupled with Kerouac's long lasting Catholicism.
A bit more than half of this book is composed of quotes from the Buddha, and these pretty much went over my head. It felt like they were old, stuffy translations. The other half of the book was narrative by Kerouac, and those part I enjoyed and felt I got something from. If the quotes had been updated, I believe this would have been a much better work.
Not Kerouac's best, obviously. The man is still a genius though.

Wake Up can be tedious at times yet there are sparks of brilliance which is how it earned a three star rating.

Don't make this your first Kerouac book - go read The Dharma Bums or On The Road. If you like them, then Wake Up might be down your alley.
Kerouac is my favourite writer. I have loved everything of his i have ever read. But not this. This was dull, poorly written and full of cliche. It also made me really hate Buddha; in this book that guy is a total douche. No-one is more disappointed or annoyed by my opinion of this book than me.
Melissa D'andrea
I learned I'm not a very spiritual person based on this book. Felt very catholic though about Buddha, and was not impressed with how women were treated as quite lesser. Whether this is a reflection of Kerouac's or societies push on to Buddhism I don't know.
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Born on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.
Early Life

Famed writer Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Keroua...more
More about Jack Kerouac...
On the Road The Dharma Bums Big Sur The Subterraneans Desolation Angels

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“Ele não ficou satisfeito com a ideia de Arada de um 'eu' sendo limpo e purificado para o céu. Ele não viu 'eu' na matéria. Nada a ser purificado. E viu a cobiça pelo céu como nada além de atividade em um sonho. Ele soube que, quando observadas do ponto de vista da mente verdadeira, todas as coisas eram como castelos mágicos no ar.” 1 likes
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