The Tale of Zen Master Bho Li

The Tale of Zen Master Bho Li is the story of an eight-year-old orphan who becomes a beloved Zen Master. Meet the cast of memorable companions who assist him on his captivating life’s journey:

  • The Firethroat – an exotic little bird that saves him from a life threatening circumstance.
  • Soyu Sei – the “Dangerous Granny” whose wise and tender guidance civilizes the feral child he’d become without taming his wild heart.
  • Master Wu – abbot of Silent Thunder Zen Monastery, whose successor he would become.
  • And Master Bho Li’s three most problematic disciples: Sei Wot, Noh Hui, and Wai Mi, from each of whom he learns an important lesson.

The refined talents and carefully crafted illustrations of Aaron Gilmore complement this winsome Zen fable.

Signed copies of The Tale of Zen Master Bho Li  are available upon request.

US Review of Books

This superbly illustrated Buddhist fable tells the story of how the orphaned eight-year-old Bho Li survived the earthquake that destroyed his entire village and killed his family and went on with the help of a magical bird to become a famous Zen master. The well-told, fast-paced story is a dramatic one with many sympathetic characters. The book is successful on several levels. As pure entertainment, it is fun to read and enjoyable. It functions as a gentle introduction to Buddhist philosophy for children and has inspiring words for readers of any age, while also carrying a message against bullying and giving encouragement to those who may be victims.


    Eventually, he scaled up the gap as he envisioned, and reached a spot where it abruptly ended and became too wide to straddle. For a moment he thought he’d only made things worse. He did not know what to do next.

    “That Firethroat saved me, Renshin!” He explained that the little bird flew down and landed just where Bho Li needed to put his hands and feet in order to get the best grip to safely edge his way up the mountainside onto a path, that prior to risking the climb, he could not have know was there.
    It took some time for him to understand that the little bird was actually showing him the way to free himself. “Once I set my mind to do it, I had total trust in that bird. In fact, I trusted it as I had never done another living being before, although inching along that precipice was still a dangerous feat, and I did it with great caution.”

    Scrambling at last onto the path, he stopped to catch his breath and look around. The bright expanse of morning sky, azure blue, and dotted with wispy sprays of white clouds tinged with lavender, stunned him. The short distance from the ledge below to the path changed everything, and he couldn’t help but wonder, How does the whole world shift so completely from one moment to the next? And the path had been so close all that time.

    Once again, the little Firethroat commanded Bho Li’s attention. Now it was flying in and out of the woods alongside the path, beckoning him to follow. Once in the woods, the path became hidden, but he felt an ease flowing through him, just knowing it was there. He could explore it later. For the first time since his ordeal began, he thought, Maybe I’ll be all right.

    The Firethroat flew to a small bush laden with glossy red berries, and began to eat them. Bho Li immediately understood that his feathered friend was showing him they were edible, and safe for him to eat, too. And he did eat, and eat, and eat. Throughout his lifetime, he retained a fondness for goji berries, despite their slight bitterness.

    The little bird stayed close, as if it knew Bho Li needed companionship. Wherever it flew, Bho Li followed. They spent the day in communion and celebration. As night came upon them, Bho Li grew anxious. The narrow chasm in the mountainside, although precarious, had offered a degree of safety. “In the beginning, the nights were a time of terror for me, Renshin. I was deathly afraid of goblins and dragons, and all manner of things that the mind can imagine in the dark