a book that changed me

RAY DAVIES on Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai's 'The Teachings of Buddha'
Click to follow
When did you first read it? In a hotel in Tokyo. Lots of time to kill and the English speaking cable TV station didn't work. I'd just finished my Alan Bennett and the drinks in the mini bar were too expensive. The translation from Japanese to English was very basic, as if it was meant to be read out loud in broken English. I found it very touching.

Why did it strike you so much? Just came along at the right time in my life. I was in Japan to play dates and before the tour I was in a panic about many problems in my life. I'd love to say a great literary work helped me through this time but even though I was brought up to enjoy a good read, I often find great literature too daunting in such circumstances. It's like girls, the most perfect girl doesn't always make for a great date. A great book can make you keel over with admiration but somehow doesn't have the knack of healing a sore head.

I haven't wigged out totally. I still enjoy the good old western God- fearing religion. Still, everybody takes their own spiritual route. All religions say basically the same thing but this Buddhist book for travellers with a low concentration threshold did the trick on the day and hit an emotional nerve.

Have you re-read it? If so, how many times? Like many other "tour" books, it can be read in snatches. The parts interest me more than the total. At the same time each little passage contains an overview of the book.

Does it feel the same as when you first read it? That's the thing about anything that has an impact on a person. Every time they hear, read or see it again, it either reduces them or elevates them to the state they were in when they discovered it. Doesn't it?

Do you recommend it or is it a private passion? When I was touring with the Kinks, others would proudly display the latest novels they were reading, whereas I'd be reading an obscure second-hand frayed hardback that nobody'd ever heard of. I'm a "possessor", so any book I like goes in a brown paper wrapping so that nobody knows what it is. The irony is that before I left Tokyo, I went to buy a copy of the book to take home as a souvenir. When I got back to my room I discovered that it was a proper translation written in perfect English but somehow it didn't have the same impact on me. So I stole the original from the hotel and left the copy I bought in its place.

! Ray Davies's collection of short stories, 'Waterloo Sunset', is published by Viking at pounds 14.99