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Q&A | February 20, 2014 0 comments
Describe your latest book. My new book, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, is a magical historical mystery that takes place in 1911 New York City... Continue »
Nikolai GrozniDescribe your latest project.
Turtle Feet is a memoir about the four years I spent in India as a Buddhist monk and the people I met on my journey. I went to India to study Tibetan, debate, learn the core Buddhist texts studied in the monasteries, meditate, and discover the recipe for the entry into the ultimate reality. After living for two years in Dharamsala and attending classes at the Institute of Buddhist dialectics, I realized that most of my expectations with regard to the path to enlightenment and enlightenment itself were based on preconceived stereotypes and absolutes which seemed to contradict everything that was true and real in life. Did being spiritual mean that one had to be a "good" person? Did higher knowledge require work, the way piano playing required constant practice? Was enlightenment populated by tidy, apologetic liberals who never swore, or loving monks and nuns who burst into tears at the sight of a squashed bug? Was ultimate reality a place where the dichotomies that condition our confused existence good and evil, here and there, before and after, being and non-being persisted with an amplified strength?
I found the answers of these and other questions when I befriended a crazy, truly existential Bosnian man named Tsar. He showed me that going to the other shore required a kind of genius, a spontaneous transcendence which can never be achieved from the self-deluded comfort of academics, moral righteousness, voluntary solitude, or the ego-acrobatics of mind training.
Some of my close friends, who have followed my meandering through the world of classical music, jazz, Buddhism, and writing, have interpreted this memoir as a sort of confession of my disappointment in Buddhism and of my failure to find higher meaning. And how wrong they are! While Turtle Feet should certainly be avoided by readers who believe in Santa Claus (and there are many), it in no way advances the case for a nihilistic and defeatist approach to the human condition.
Life is absurd and so is enlightenment. Life is funny and so is enlightenment. Life is larger than categories, absolutes, and dogmas. And so is enlightenment.
Stop Trying: Everything Is Already Perfect.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
How do you relax?
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Books That Can Change Your Life:
Freedom from the Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Molloy by Samuel Beckett
The Stories of Paul Bowles by Paul Bowles
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Nikolai Grozni was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and educated in the United States and India. In previous incarnations, he has been a piano prodigy, jazz musician, Buddhist monk, and, most recently, the author of three novels published in Bulgaria. Grozni holds an MFA from Brown University. Turtle Feet is his first book of nonfiction.