Book Review: Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine by Irini Rockwell
Utilizing the traditional Buddhist five wisdoms–presence, clarity, richness, passion, and action, Rockwell seeks to show readers their own personal strengths and possible weaknesses. Rockwell then seeks to demonstrate how to bring out the other three to four wisdoms within your personality to achieve more balance.
Before I had a book blog, I read quite a bit of Buddhist literature. My minor was Religious Studies, and I also had an interest in it from a psychiatric and personal perspective. Certain aspects of Buddhism are used in modern psychiatric treatments, for instance. In any case, this is not my first Buddhist read. I am familiar with a lot of the terminology and ideas. This book though was nearly impossible to follow. Quite possibly the worst book on Buddhism I’ve ever come across.
First, there’s how Rockwell talks about the five wisdoms. Instead of consistently calling them by either their English name, Sanskrit name, or a hyphenated version of the two like most Buddhist works do, Rockwell bafflingly switches back and forth between English and Sanskrit without any rhyme or reason. Particularly in an ebook where it’s difficult to flip back to the earlier pages where the wisdoms were introduced, this makes it really hard to follow the author’s thought-process.
Similarly, random information is inserted but then not fully explained. I wonder if in the print version these are set apart in boxes? Not sure. For instance, the section introducing the five wisdoms has a completely random blip about the colors Tibetan Buddhism associates with them inserted in the text between the fourth and fifth wisdoms. It’s just jarring and odd.
Finally, I didn’t really learn anything of value from the book. Rockwell talks at length about what a person who is mostly possessing the wisdom of passion might look, behave, and even dress like, but not much is discussed about how to put this knowledge to good use. It’s almost as if Rockwell got so caught up in describing the wisdoms that he forgot to talk to us about how to put this knowledge to much use. Besides, does it really help to know to label the person who is passionate as exhibiting the passion wisdom? We already know instinctively what they are like and how to deal with them. Labeling it doesn’t really help, does it?
Overall, I found this book to offer very little in a way of self-improvement or aid in dealing with people. It is confusingly organized without much valuable information within it. Although it is a readable book that is not at all offensive, it just doesn’t seem like reading it is worth the time.
2 out of 5 stars