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Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,030 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
Though raised Catholic, in the early 1950s Jack Kerouac became fascinated with Buddhism, an interest that would have a profound impact on his ideas of spirituality and their expression in his writing from Mexico City Blues to The Dharma Bums. Published for the first time in book form, Wake Up is Kerouac's retelling of the story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who as a young ...more
ebook, 160 pages
Published September 18th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published August 28th 2008)
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Jess Kogel
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-mad-ones
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.
Liz André
Jun 21, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!
I really have no idea what I just read.
Jan 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
To niby tylko historia niezwykłego człowieka, ale jest tam kilka teorii, których człowiek zachodu nie znajdzie nigdzie indziej.
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Zia Laura
May 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't even finish it... just a money-maker book using Kerouc's notes and notoriety!
May 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
there's something wrong with Buddhism too.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was this my favorite book? No. Was it enlightening? Yes. Also, I'm always appreciative of a book that I can start and finish in the same day. However, this did have more going for it than that.

There were parts toward the middle and end that I felt really struck a chord. I read them and found myself thinking, "so that's what [insert wise person] has been getting at this whole time." Everything before those moments, however, not so much... I powered through because I needed an appointment with wo
Robin Friedman
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kerouac's Biography Of The Buddha

In the early 1950s, Jack Kerouac (1922 -- 1969)became fascinated with Buddhism. In 1955, he wrote this short, highly personalized biography of the Buddha, "Wake Up". The biography was serialized in 1993 in the Buddhist magazine "Tricycle" but it has never before appeared in book form. The book was published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kerouac's most overtly Buddhist novel, "The Dharma Bums" which has also appeared in a new commemorative edition this
Jan 08, 2010 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
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious, novel
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
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
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Събуди се. Животът на Буда" на Керуак и "Сидхарта" на Хесе са може би най-добрата въвеждаща литература към будизма за Запада.
Със сигурност не е една от най-силните му книги, но просто е различна. "Бийт" генерацията кипи, Буда си е Буда, а трансценденталните възгледи са факт.
Аз имам специално място за Керуак в сърцето си и може би това влияе на оценката. Книгата се чете бързо, но поставя бомба със закъснител в ума.
За всички заинтересовани от будистката философия това е приятно четиво.
Sorin Hadârcă
Passionless as a Buddhist text should be perhaps, this biography of Buddha has one merit: it is a place to begin. In comparison to this, the fictionalized biography of Gautama by Hesse is true enlightenment. So, if you want the doctrine written up in intelligible language - that's Kerouac; if you're after satori - that's Hesse.
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
McCarthy Writes
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Only in Nirvana is there joy, providing lasting escape, for to escape from the prison, was why the prison was made." The world is so big and Jack Kerouac does his part in Wake Up to expand it even further.
For anyone looking to explore the purpose, the background, the history of Buddhism, this is the book I recommend. A forward by Robert Thurman, (that's Uma's father), chair of religious studies at Columbia University explains how Kerouac struggled with the same thing many of us Americans or We
David Rullo
Oct 10, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I used to think that even a poor Kerouac story was better than most writer's best works. I haven't felt that way in some time, and this book certainly didn't help.

If you've ready much Kerouac (and you have if you're reading this book) then the fact that this is perhaps the most Catholic Buddhist story ever written will not surprise you at all. What might shock you is the lack of substance or depth. Most of the short story is filled with surface rewrites of Buddhist tales without any sort of ana
I enjoyed it. Impressed by Kerouac’s knowledge. Having read several books on the Buddha and Buddhism I still learnt quite a few more details that presumably come from his reading earlier source material, in particular with respect to his disciple Ananda (I never realised he was Gotama’s cousin) and also how he met his father again. Has similarities to such mythological stories as Luke Skywalker bringing Anakin back to the light, and is in this father/son clash a confrontation with the Freudian O ...more
This was a bit of a hard read for me. My typical book is either SciFi (e.g. Asimov, Heinlein) or a Stephan King type of book. I recall reading Robert Thurman's Forward and thinking wow ... this is deep. This is also one of those books that I have labeled as "need to read again to deepen my understanding." I will say that I am now more interested in Buddhism than I was when I started reading the book. I do plan to go back and re-read the Forward now that I have read the full book. Maybe some of w ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
on page 95 of 146 I'm DNFing it. Can't believe it. Second book this year. But I just feel angry reading it. I was not expecting that and the fact that I can't get through the writing style combined with a weird interpretation of the story of Buddha. And I bought this book! Maybe I'll finish it someday but now - back on the shelf.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Just the story of Buddha, distilled from sources, with no critical commentary. It’s much like Siddhartha, only not so well told. Some nuggets but not great.
Cozmiuc Dana Mihaela
Kienan Aguado
Oh, Uncle JAck
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful quick read. Unlike Some of the Dharma, this shows that Kerouac's knowledge of Buddhism is just as easily transmitted in simple story as it is in complex instruction.
Kerouac wrote a book about Buddhism that serves its purpose.
May 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Book Review

Wake Up by Jack Kerouac

Penguin Classics – ISBN 978-0-141-18946-8

146 Pages - £8.99

Wake up is the Beat Generation’s Jack Kerouac’s biography of the founder of the Buddhist religion, Prince Siddhartha.

Buddhism was to have a direct impact over Kerouac’s life and work, noticeable in works such as Some of the Dharma, and Dharma Bums, but also in his lifestyle.

This work was never published in Kerouac’s life-time, but it is an important addition to his cannon, despite its brevity. At only 146
Andreea Obreja
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
Feb 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kerouac's retelling of the life of the Buddha was culled from his notes and published posthumously, so it's hard know whether he intended this to be a complete work or just his own personal sketch. The narrative traces the life of Prince Siddhartha from his early years as a wealthy aristocrat to his rejecting of the material world, his spiritual awakening, his gathering of followers, his teachings, his persecution from others attempting to discredit him, and his eventual death.

The text features
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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac 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.

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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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