49 Buddhas: Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm
Lama Rinzen Mystery Series Book 1
by Jim Ringel Genre: Mystery
49 Buddhas tells of Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm—a realm of confusion, shifting ground, and anger.
Lama Rinzen awakens from meditation to find himself reincarnated as a detective on Denver’s Colfax Avenue. Immediately he realizes that once again he has been reborn into the Hell Realm—this time charged with finding insurance man Sonny Heller’s killer. Rinzen believes finding Heller’s killer will lead to the Sacred Dorje, which has eluded the lama for many lifetimes. By finding the Dorje, he will become a bodhisattva, allowing him to lead all sentient beings to Nirvana. But should the Dorje escape his grasp, Rinzen will be forced to suffer yet another lifetime in Hell, haunted by past demons and his failure to achieve enlightenment.
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I, Lama Rinzen, awake from meditation and am reborn on Denver’s Colfax Avenue.
What to see? A darkened apartment. Paper window shades. An altar with a Buddha statue in the center.
Pool balls break beneath the floorboards.
And a telephone rings.
What to see, what to hear? That once again I am reborn into the Hell Realm.
Can I never escape?
The air feels pinched and cold. I see a baby crib in the corner. Beneath the baby crib, a telephone rings.
My only hope, that this is the lifetime I find the dorje. If only I touch it, immediately I will achieve enlightenment. Not just my enlightenment. Enlightenment for all.
A telephone rings. I lift its cradle between ear and shoulder.
“I’m looking for Rinzen Naraka. You him?” the phone asks.
“Police headquarters here, detective. Thank goodness you answered. A crime down in the warehouse on 33rd and Josephine, and your number’s up.”
“Number? I am not a detective,” I confess. At least I cannot recall being a detective. Not this lifetime. Not any other. “Why call me? I do not know why Americans kill one another.”
“Look, work with me here. A big shot insurance guy goes and gets himself sliced. Insured some trinket shipment from Asia, and then gets killed.”
I shift the phone from one ear to the other. “Trinket shipment? From where exactly in Asia?”
He harumphs slightly. “I don’t know. Asia. How big can it be?”
“Let me ask. Does the shipment include a dorje?”
“Dorje? Detective, I don’t want to tell you your business. Find who killed the insurance man first. Start at the beginning. Work your way through it, like a detective might. Yeah. Sure, there’s a dorje. I don’t know. Why not?”
Start at the beginning. Find the killer. Because a shipment came in from Asia, and the killer probably did what he did to get his hands on the dorje.
Of the ten negative actions, killing is the worse. Worse than Wrong View. Worse than spreading gossip or having bad sex.
“Look. Go down and talk to Inspector Fernandez,” the telephone says. “33rd and Josephine.”
I do not know this place, 33rd and Josephine. I do not know anyone named Fernandez.
All I know is my mission in life. In all lifetimes. To be a bodhisattva. To bring all beings to enlightenment.
That is how I get out of Hell.
Jim Ringel writes the Lama Rinzen Mysteries, with each book set in one of the six Buddhist realms of Hell, Hungry Ghosts, Animals, Humans, Warring Titans, or Gods. In each realm, Rinzen must solve a crime and learn the lesson of the realm so he may progress along his path to enlightenment. The first book of the series comes out in May, 2018.
Jim is a Buddhist practitioner who writes and explores Buddhism in his every day life. His previous works include the novel Wolf, a "sales-werewolf" noir set in a world where vanquished dogs return seeking revenge, and where salesmen sell products they cannot understand.
Jim writes the Writing Like a Buddha blog (www.WritingLikeaBuddha.com), and lives in Colorado with his Tibetan Terrier, Rascal, who is both inspiration and teacher.
The novel is called 49 Buddhas: Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm. Is this Hell Realm the same as how Hell is understood in Judeo-Christian teachings?
In Christian teachings as I understand them, Hell is an afterlife where a soul is condemned as punishment for sins committed while alive. It is an eternal and inescapable damnation.
Buddhists believe in a different afterlife. 49 days after dying, beings are either reborn onto Earth to learn the lessons they failed to learn in previous lives, or they are reborn into enlightenment because they have learned the lessons. Therefore, Hell is not an eternal condemnation, but a temporary lifetime in which a person learns the lessons of Hell. Specifically, these Hell lessons are about how to cope with confusion and anger without becoming confused and angry.
In Buddhism there are six realms, or six lessons to learn, called the Six Paramitas. The Hell Realm, the Hungry Ghost Realm, the Animal Realm, the Human Realm, the Warring Titans Realm, and the God Realm are the settings in which these lessons are learned. Each realm teaches a lesson that is necessary to move toward enlightenment.
49 Buddhas is the first of the Lama Rinzen Mysteries, and it takes place in the Hell Realm on Denver’s Colfax Avenue. Each of the following books takes place in another of the six realms someplace else in Colorado, where Rinzen must learn that realm’s mystery while solving a murder. Only after accomplishing both—learning the lesson and solving the murder—will Rinzen be killed so that he may be reborn into the next book, and into the next realm.
In many ways, the differences between the Western and Buddhist concepts of Hell are the differences between the two philosophies. The Western philosophy emphasizes the need to better yourself, by aspiring to be more like a God who essentially exists outside you. The Buddhist concept is more about adapting to the world as it is—not by aspiring to be more like some mysterious Supreme Being, but by integrating the self into life as it exists around us.
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