"The Novice" tells the true story of Stephen Schettini’s spiritual journey. He was born into a middle-class Catholic family. Yearning for something different he sets off on a journey that changes the whole course of his life. Deciding to travel to India, he becomes enmeshed in the Tibetan Buddhist culture. Along the way, he also has experiences in which he becomes heavily involved in drugs. Health problems and the drug use pull him away from his path, but they also teach him some valuable lessons. A wake-up call from a concerned friend sets him back on his way.
While involved with the Buddhist traditions, his journeys take him through various countries, and into exotic places. He also encounters some incredible teachers, namely the Dalai Lama. As he is involved with his training to become a Buddhist monk, Stephen continues to hold on to his own ideas and think for himself. His unwillingness to relinquish his individual thoughts don’t always make him popular with others, however, he stays true to himself.
After several years, Stephen begins to realize that it is time for a change and he returns to his homeland. It appears that Buddhism is like many other religions. The teachings of Buddha, as with Jesus, are valuable, however, the politics behind the religion can be dissuading. Learning to be true to his self by living with integrity and to be "real," Stephen’s life journey has taught him how to live. By writing this book, he teaches others about what is important. As with the Buddhist tradition, materialism is not important. Becoming bound to acquiring things is not the way. Happiness does not come from ownership.
"The Novice" is a memoir that everyone can learn from. While the majority of us will never set out on a path like Stephen did, being able to read his story lets the reader learn about his life lessons as an arm-chair traveler. His experiences and descriptions of the places that he has been and the hardships that he has endured are incredible. Pictures are interspersed throughout the book to help illustrate his story. I really appreciate his willingness to share what he experienced. Having been raised in a very strict Catholic upbringing, and having dabbled with other belief systems, I also have come to many of the realizations that he has about what is really involved in being content and happy. His book, however, summed up my thoughts in a way that had much more of an impact on my meandering ideas. I highly recommend this memoir, "The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit, and What I Learned" by Stephen Schettini.
The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit, and What I Learned
Greenleaf Book Group Press (2009)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (8/09)