16 April 2008

Letter 1.12

…Your black and red letter arrived, delivered by our steward here (who looks like a stumble-bum anarchist), from a very foreign port, indeed. It has taken me some days to read it, as it takes me, of late, some days to do anything. Action involves anticipation (in three directions), removing presence from the present by means of the root addiction: to being (and, in the same sense, not-being). I'm still a junky - every drop of blood contains, in its very fluidity, addiction to change (which demands a background of sameness); every vein, in its solidity, contains addiction to sameness (which requires a background of change). Infinite hierarchies lurk everywhere: the world contains an infinite number of them, hierarchically structured. The world is an infinite number of structures of infinite structure. One learns to live every moment as arises, endures, and fades - each event an impossible surprise - which, as you well-put it, is a very simple, often tedious, moral exercise. When it’s accomplished, it is accomplished alone, no matter how many (or few) other people are about; no matter how closely. Solitude cannot be shared. Immediacy is here-now, where there is only room for one, at most, and infinity, at least; not ten. Communion afterwards is shelter on a cold dark bough.

I have been very slowly dyeing my robes russet (the color of the vinaya with bark-dye, which has very weak adhesive powers. It gets on everything, and I sit on Sinhalese newspapers. Some arbitrary gust of wind - perhaps a passing poltergeist - dusted my empty bookshelf free of your letter, which took residence upon the news of the day, hiding, possibly as a legal notice, upon which I sat. Your letter is, consequently, black, red, and russet, and all crinkled up, and a bit more difficult to read than before. (The lines themselves are clear as Burl Ives - single spacing suits your style - but there is so little space between the lines that I can hardly make out what’s going on there.) Your blessing is clear, however, and so that you need not retain dross (and lest I forget or run out [#35] of paper before another chance arises), you have my blessings - right now.

It is now six days since I have begun this letter. I stopped last tire unable to decide upon the appropriate blessings, or on anything else, for that matter. Having nothing original and striking, I give you, simply: Blessings: of virtue, of vision, of wisdom of the Way. Of pleasure, joy in understanding of serenity in equanimity; of anticipation of the unsurpassable final extinction of delusion: of having done what is to be done, with no further task in sight.

Mahayana has it beauty. I don't deny it has its value. I don't deny it its truth. What I do deny is that it has the same truth, the same value, as that which is in the Pali Vinaya and Sutta pitakas (note that I make no reference to Theravadins, about whom most charges are valid). By putting Ven. Ñánatiloka Mahathera into a tomb modeled after Lenin's tomb, one has not in any way created a dead red bhikkhu (though the effect, I admit, is rather disconcerting to the few who know). The Pali is not, of course, an authoritative collection (but who is the authority?), but the Kanjur-Tanjur, in its all-inclusiveness, however authoritative, and historical it may be, is also: comic, in Kierkegaard's sense, and precisely absurd in Camus'. It may also be useful. If they have the Pali canon and the Mahayana; how do they reconcile them? They don't? Because mysticism (which they is) allows such incomprehensibilities? And even though the Pali texts don't, there is still only a higher mystery? Fine – but where does it get you? I know where the absurdity lies for exactly the same reason as you know the absurdity of someone trying to unite say your novels with mine, or as Shostakovitch would if someone tried to unite his music with Ives (Charles not Burl): the public, the 'they', the observers who are not intimately involved with their being in and as their subject - those whose existence is considered as an objective object - the scientists and scholars, the hobbyists - can combine, mix, jumble, until they have a fantastic salad with an unbelievable dressing; but the concerned individual, who cares about his occupation with an infinite concern can never allow himself the sensuality of doing so, must always eat his carrots whole, raw, and unpeeled, and must rigorously discriminate and discard simply because it is concerned in and for his own immediate and subjective being. In a word: apply your experience with your novels to my position. You will immediately understand how it is both possible and necessary for you to appreciate and use each bit of Buddhism you discover that fits into the non-Buddhist 'thing' you are building; how it is both possible and necessary that I do likewise with all the non-Buddhist 'things' for the 'thing' I am building, but how we both must differentiate carefully, closely, and always to prevent our 'thing' from becoming, through osmosis, generalities, and no longer ours. 'Nuff.

I'm sorry/happy to hear that your/my rucksack has been lost by Qantas: may it long continue on its journeys, an itinerate container to the world.

I myself shall continue on my journey very shortly. After 9 months on the island, leaving it only under compulsion or need, I find that the foetus has grown nicely, but expect that birth will be easier outside, and therefore propose to leave, in a few weeks, for a few months, wandering on foot in jungles and finding, hopefully, a solitude without the many breaks required here. Perhaps it will be a stillbirth, or a monster. I suspect, however, that it will merely be a female receptacle which must also be impregnated and cared for nine months or so until… another hierarchy is born. Anyway, we shall see; we shall see…

By now a number more days have passed - I'm not even sure how many (but the moon was waxing when I began this letter, and now is waning) - and so unless I become inspired between now (evening) and tomorrow (when mail is posted), shall say no more.

Inspiration! Metta (loving-kindness) is the popular way of signing letters, pretending to meditate on such, etc., and is very appealing to the slovenly positivistic commonsense common mind. The Buddha, however, has said that, of the four Brahma-viharas (Divine Abidings - of which metta is the first), the last upekkha (equanamity, onlooking) is the best. I agree, therefore, fully aware that most people would be grossly insulted at the idea, unable to comprehend the beauty and necessity of negative thinking, I shall limit application of this beautiful and necessary attribute, without which one can only half exist - I shall limit my use of it to those who fully exist.

With upekkha,


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