Thomas Jefferson – Lessons from a Secret Buddha

This is a delightful and simple novella that views the life and achievements of one of America’s great role models through the principles of Buddhist thought, a man who wished only to be remembered for three achievements, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia. He was President from March 1801 – March 1809.

Suneel Dhand has created a Buddhist guru whom he connects to Jefferson’s mother, and who then begins to correspond with the young man when he is a discontented, overweight child. The letters introduce him to seven ancient principles of Buddhism and the Eastern way of life and we then witness Jefferson’s own lifestyle change as he becomes vegetarian, more interested in books and develops a greater awareness of how thoughts, actions and behaviours position a man.

When we take an in-depth look at all of his lifestyle practices we see that Tom practiced very Eastern ways of living, different from his fellow countrymen. In many ways he was a well-being guru, centuries ahead of his time.

Most of my knowledge of the role Thomas Jefferson played in American society comes from having seen the excellent HBO TV series ‘John Adams’ and the awe with which he was regarded by both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin as they encouraged him to pen the Declaration of American Independence.

Portraits of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by American painter Mather Brown 1788

The series is based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer prize-winning biography ‘John Adams’, a volume I have on the shelf and will one day set to and read as well.

As Abigail Adams would confide to Jefferson, there had seldom been anyone in her husband’s life with whom he could associate with “such perfect freedom and unreserve” and this meant the world to her.  If you haven’t seen the series, here are some of Jefferson’s greatest moments played by the British actor Stephen Dillane.

A surprising little book, one that is full of good sense and relevant to today while reminding us of the extraordinary man Thomas Jefferson was and the major contributions he made not just to American history but also to humanity.

Today millions continue to be inspired by Thomas Jefferson, the genius who galvanized his people to freedom. A truly enlightened soul indeed – and that, without ever requiring any lessons from a Secret Buddha.

Note: This is an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

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23 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson – Lessons from a Secret Buddha

    • Thank you Valorie, I am sure you will enjoy it – such a thoughtful way to depict the growth and development of the man, while reminding us of his place in important historical events. One of the things I so love about good historical fiction. Entertaining and educational both.

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    • I think it is most probably due to Jefferson’s purported Deist beliefs, prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries – the Age of Enlightenment, but Dhand has cleverly linked Buddhist principles, to offer an alternate, if fictitious view that is original indeed Helen.

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  1. Very interesting, Claire. I’m a great fan of Jefferson. You probably know that he and John Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826. — Susan

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    • Well my goal is one book a week as I usually only have time after 9pm when the children are in bed, but I’ve had a few days at the lake/beach recently and now the children require less vigilant supervision I can read! I’m am passionate about books Judy, however I also like to savour them. A long read for me is usually 2 weeks.

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  2. Hi Claire,
    This sounds like an interesting read. I so enjoyed Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, which also gives you an idea about what an exceptional man Jefferson was. Only human, but exceptional. (I watched the series, John Adams, and found that fascinating too–so well done!)

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    • It is intriguing and commendable to come across professionals in one domain (i.e. medicine) who turn their hand and research to other areas (such as creative writing), I read another excellent work of fiction early this year ‘Cutting for Stone’ written by the Medical School Professor and Internal Medicine Physician Abraham Verghese.

      Turning their hand/pen to fiction, opens their work up to an entirely new audience and is an interesting concept for sharing cultural and historical facts, within a compelling narrative.

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      • I think the cross-disciplinary approach can have huge benefits to the analysis – the questions and priorities of one field force angles that aren’t usual to those who limit themselves to one field. Writing is also a learned skill, just like all the others, so really the authors of these works have to be effective polymaths to make an effective book. Many of them are, and it sounds like this author certainly is.

        Jefferson, for me, was a unique character – representing the essence of that late eighteenth century rationalism which has so often been lost, misinterpreted, or taken out of context and used to justify later actions that folks such as Jefferson, Franklin and so on would have been horrified by. Without having read the book (but I do want to), I think I can see how buddhism could become an extremely useful and valid frame within which to reinterpret his life.

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  3. I just received this message from the author, so thought I would share it with you all.

    Dear Claire,

    I am the author of Thomas Jefferson: Lessons from a Secret Buddha, and wanted to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read my book and writing such a positive and comprehensive review. It is much appreciated.

    As a doctor, my primary interest is in health & well-being education and promotion. After reading about Thomas Jefferson, I was inspired by his wellness practices, and my aim was to write a book that creatively combined his teachings with long-known Eastern concepts and also the story of the American Revolution.

    I am so glad that you enjoyed!

    Kind Regards,
    Suneel Dhand

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  4. Pingback: Quote of the Day – Thomas Jefferson « Red Alexandria

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