I understand that the Kirkus Review has referred to Snowboarding to Nirvana as a "comic masterpiece" and "one of the funniest books of the last five years." In what way and why do you use so much humor in your writing? Isn't there an inherent contradiction between the seriousness of Buddhistic study and humor?
One of the most important things that I have learned from Buddhism is to laugh at myself and the world around me. I think that many people in the West have a very limited idea of what Tantric Buddhism is really all about. People here (in the West) conceive of Buddhistic study as heavy, ponderous, and as something necessitating a personal withdrawal from worldly activities. They tend to view Buddhist monks as stoics who somehow just experience the ups and downs of life with blank expressions.
Nothing could be further from the truth! From my own personal encounters and studies with both Tantric and Zen Buddhist monks, I have found them to be humorous, warm, charming, and compassionate.
The Buddhist message is a message not of the negation of life, but one of affirmation. Humor enables us to deal with and overcome many of the most painful and difficult situations in our lives.
In both Surfing the Himalayas and Snowboarding to Nirvana, I have tried to transmit as best I could the spirit of humor, and the sense of humor of the monks I have encountered.
At the same time, I took the liberty in Snowboarding to Nirvana to do a type of parody of what I suppose you would call "New Age fiction."
I think perhaps the greatest book ever written was Ulysses by James Joyce. In one particular chapter in Ulysses, James Joyce imitates every major writing style that's been used by English and American writers over the last 700 years - starting with Beowulf and Chaucer and working his way up through the Renaissance, the Victorian era and on into the 20th century. He managed to do this 'tour de force' of styles without ever breaking the narrative structure of the chapter he was writing. It is the most brilliant parody of writing styles that I have ever read. I have tried to do something similar in Snowboarding to Nirvana. While I am writing about the details of my own intimate encounters and journeys in America and the Far East in all earnestness, very often - to make it more fun for the reader - I have chosen to parody the writing styles of Carlos Castaneda, James Redfield, Richard Bach, Lynn Andrews, and several other best-selling new age authors.
Personally, I enjoy the writings of all of these authors and they have
been very inspirational for me. But I think that it is important as
writers of metaphysical, New Age, occult fiction and nonfiction to not
take ourselves too seriously.
We are all really writing about the same thing - that there are a number of different metaphysical practices that people can engage in that will give them a brighter, deeper, and happier view of life.
It is part of our job as writers of both New Age and occult fiction and nonfiction to offer, through the medium of our writings, practical solutions and realistic remedies that our readers can apply to situations in their own lives that will help them not only to be happier but to reach higher understandings of the process of living itself. But in doing so, it is very important that we not become pompous ourselves. We must be careful not to become, as Clint Eastwood once said of people who attain fame and notoriety, "legends in our own minds." As inspirational writers, we have to practice what we preach. And if we can't laugh at ourselves, each other and the world around us, I think we have missed not only our own message but the essence of the teachings of our own teachers - which is to lose self importance and to care more for the welfare of others and the magical world around us, than we do for ourselves and our own self images.
In writing Snowboarding to Nirvana I have intentionally written an
inspirational spiritual adventure story, which will hopefully provide
people with metaphysical techniques, spiritual knowledge, hope and a
brighter view of life. But at the same time I wanted to make the reader
laugh, to feel the innate humor that I find in Buddhism and also to
laugh at the attempts of myself and my fellow metaphysical writers as we
try to explain the inexplicable knowledge that we have gained from years
of study and through our own personal experiences.