Billionaire Buddha is Rivera Sun‘s third novel. In it David Grant, a self-made billionaire, goes from the pinnacle of a most unfulfilling and emotionally deprived material success to homelessness, destitution and the spiritual contentment of knowing himself (which is the embodiment of Buddhahood). Sun describes the changes Grant goes through in a clear writing style which holds the reader and compels them to turn the pages to see what happens next in this book which should be read by all Americans with their general love of money.
This novel shares many similarities with Sun’s first two books: Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, and The Dandelion Insurrection. Billionaire Buddha inadvertently shows why Buddhism, the world’s fourth largest religion, though less than half the size of the next, Hinduism, will always be a relatively minor movement that focuses on individual enlightenment without a robust follow through to the great masses of humanity. Nothing illustrates this more than when Grant gets thrown into jail on trumped up phony charges by a totally corrupt small town police department. A fellow prisoner dies saving Grant’s life, yet he does nothing to change the circumstances of the other prisoners stuck in indentured slavery.
This illegal debt slavery is happening in 21st Century America, just as it happened in the 20th century in this country as described in Upton Sinclair’s 1906 The Jungle, and Jack London’s 1907, The Road. The reader wants to see Sun take this travesty of what the United States is suppose to stand for, expose it for what it is and smash it. Of course, neither Sinclair nor London did any more than describe it and it is unreasonable to ask more of Sun. Perhaps a future novel of hers can address this issue.
The invisibility of the poor, the homeless, the transient, are graphically depicted in Billionaire Buddha. This is as true in America as it is in Latin America, India or any third world country. Sun’s descriptions are as pungent as any in London’s 1903 book, The People of The Abyss. It comes as a revelation to Grant, but is well known to the world’s poor.
Grant leaves the Gold Mountain Resort at the start of the book and returns to it at the close when he is left it by his ex-wife. The resort is in dire straits, losing money with back taxes owed. Grant wants to give the land to nature, though Sun does not dive into the problems which would allow him to do that. The book describes Grant giving back the land to nature, though it is unconvincing because the legal issues are not addressed. This can be easily corrected in a later edition of the book, but a non-profit will have to be formed and the land given to the foundation it controls, or the land will revert to the state and be auctioned off for back taxes.
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