Lotus in the Fire

The title Lotus in the Fire: The Healing Power of Zen, a highly personal account of Jim Bedard’s long battle with leukemia, may mislead readers expecting either an instruction manual in alternative medicine techniques with a Buddhist bent or a source book of Buddhist texts on healing. Instead, Bedard graphically details the events of his life from the day of his diagnosis to the successful completion of his medical and spiritual fight with cancer. Bedard clearly and repeatedly affirms that his Buddhist practice gave him the strength and clarity to survive his ordeal, but only sporadically does he outline specifically Zen practices that might be useful to others who might find themselves in a similar plight. It is not until the end of his narrative that Bedard provides an appendix of Buddhist teachings in list form that might assist readers in understanding his spiritual path.

Ostensibly, Bedard’s plan was to share his experiences with a general audience unfamiliar with Buddhism, and by doing so, interest readers enough to encourage them to pursue further study. For those who are in a similar situation or are involved with someone facing a life-threatening disease, Bedard will indeed likely engage them with his compassionate, open-minded and openhearted anecdotes of personal relationships, his internal questions and courage, as well as his family’s dealings with scientifically rigid medical practitioners. Readers not currently engaged in this environment will still find Bedard’s poignant and honest story a moving experience, and they may find themselves intrigued enough to also pursue more in-depth sources on Zen spirituality. However, readers with only a passing knowledge of Eastern practices and those more familiar with Buddhism, Taoism, or related religions will find other readily available books more to the point with fuller explanations of what Bedard alludes to in various passages.