A couple years ago, a childhood friend who lives in New Delhi, handed me The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma—a self-help book on spirituality and "eastern wisdom", which, curiously, was all the rage in Indian yuppie circles. At first, I attributed this to pride in the author's Indian roots and his huge (financial) success in America.
Readers of this blog will know that I'm deeply suspicious of this genre, replete as it is with New Age charlatans preying on people's angst and insecurities. Still, due to my friend's gushing praise and insistence, I began reading the book. I recall it now as a struggle on every page and often thinking of Dorothy Parker's words from long ago: this is not a book to be tossed aside lightly; it should be thrown with great force. I finally caved in midway, putting her words into action. It dawned on me that the book's transnational appeal lay in its very fatuousness (it has been published in 30+ countries, becoming a huge seller in the US, Israel, India, Mexico, and Canada, but apparently not in Europe).
I then read its customer reviews on Amazon (I often scan the lowest ratings first for critiques that might disqualify a book from my reading list). Mine was of course the minority reaction, but it was there alright. One person couldn't even get past the title—what's so great about selling one's Ferrari, he asked? Why did the monk not give it away? But it was the hilariously scathing review below that most delighted me.
I was recommended this book because I work too much. Every page that I managed to get through was painful. This book is the saddest and most excruciating way to introduce Buddhist philosophy. It is a "Fable" with a capital "F". Nothing in the book is true. If something in the book has been based on a true concept it has been so badly distorted by this text that it is no longer even close. To summarize for those that don't need the rest of the review to know that this is a book to skip, here is a banal platitude from the book that forced me to emit an audible groan while I was reading it: "Your `I can' is greater than your IQ"
It starts out with this absolute fat jackass womanizing alcoholic unscrupulous lawyer, that would essentially be better off dead, and that I personally hated to read about, and would hate to know, and wouldn't talk to except to make rude noises at if I did know him because I was related to him or something. You are then told that he is basically a good person but unless your "I can" is greater than your "IQ" you aren't fooled even for a second. Then he has a heart attack and goes to India and meets a guru, and turns into this soft and supple bi-curious sounding freak that wears long red robes and pours tea all over a former colleagues wife's Persian rug to illustrate concepts that aren't really true. In essence he's an even bigger jerk that is now ultra self-important because he's this transformed guru come back to bring enlightenment to all the normal people that weren't alcoholic womanizing hoodlums to begin with.