Buddha Plays 18 Book Review

Buddha Plays 18
Grade: A
Teacher’s Comments: Unlike many in the genre, this is a worthwhile read.

I think that it all must have started with publication of “Golf In The Kingdom ,” Michael Murphy’s 1971 book about a golfer’s encounter with a mystical golf guru in the hills of Scotland. Since that decisive moment, dozens, if not hundreds of books have been written on the metaphysics of golf. I’ve read more than I care to admit, and have found most to be either unapproachably obtuse, or just plain ludicrous.

Edward Balian’s Buddha Plays 18, on the other hand, is both approachable and somewhat sensible. It’s actually the first of the genre that I thought usable by the average golfer.

The premise of Buddha Plays has the author serving as a caddy for Buddha during a round of golf (yes, thats ridiculous, but stick with me here.). During this round, as Buddha is confronted by various golfing “situations,” he explains to his caddy/disciple the proper applications of the principles of the Eightfold Path. Thus, it’s less “be the ball” or “let the mystical energies flow through you,” than it is practical.

For example, in the pursuit of “right thinking” Buddha says he treats misfortune on the course as opportunity.

“In fact nothing here is ever really bad. I’m merely confronted with some new exciting challenges in my next shot you need to see it that way. Your journey has challenges not errors. Change the negative words you use to positive words and your brain will eventuality get the message. Then your thinking will change the same way, from negative to positive.”

To this end, he calls “sand traps,” “sand opportunities” and relishes the challenges afforded by difficult lies.

Balian also manages to relate the “Four Noble Truths” to the golf game:

1) Golf is suffering
2) Your golf desires, or attachments, continually feeds your suffering while on the course (eg. Desire for ten more yards, one putts, perfect weather)
3)Eliminate your attachments and you will alleviate your suffering
4) Practicing the Eightfold Path is the only way out of your suffering.

Great quote: “To those who have never played the game please just trust that at the international hall of fame for suffering the game of golf has a entire wing of its own built right on the premises.”

I am not normally one to subscribe to eastern mysticism, but I agree with much of what Balian writes. Indeed, I have always thought of golf misfortune as an opportunity to use creativity to solve a puzzle. It’s the puzzles that golf offers that keeps me most interested in the game. I am reminded of a line in Jonathan Livingston Seagull (not coincidentally dating to about the same time as Golf in the Kingdom – 1970): You seek problems because you need their gifts

As an aside, I wonder what golf’s Scottish fathers would have thought of the application of Eastern Philosophy to golf. Scotland is, after all, the home of Common Sense Realism, and of such philosophers as Francis Hutcheson, David Hume,  and my favorite, Adam Smith. Heh. I may have to write a book about my mystical encounter with those luminaries on a haunted course.

In the end, I found Buddha Plays 18 to be a worthwhile read. It’s light—I finished it in about an hour—and enjoyable. I think that nearly every golfer can find something in its pages to help his game.


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3 thoughts on “Buddha Plays 18 Book Review”

  1. Hey there GolfBlogger—-THANK YOU for such a wonderful review of my book, Buddha Plays 18. I appreciate it. May IU send you a few complimentary copies? RSVP with your mailing address. More birdies to you, ==Dr. Ed Balian


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