…The clouds cast a dim and diffuse light here; the lagoon fills from the torrential rains (the channel to the sea's kept closed until the flood waters are impossibly high), and I rest briefly from the long hours of strenuous effort involved in developing samathabhávana - calm concentration. After six months of hard - very hard - work, a few words of the language of wisdom have been learned - though perhaps the grammar necessary for this mental development may still be a long way off. I have found my solitude: it is totally internal.
Yes, I was aware that Lama Govinda (I assume you were referring to him) was at the Hermitage for a while - and I'm not surprised that he found the horizon for a poet-painter limited. The Buddha left no instructions for success in any of the arts, and if one wishes to practice the arts one may well find the Buddha's Teaching limiting. The Buddha's Teaching is limited: 'Two things only do I teach, Monks. What is dukkha, and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha.'
No, I hope I did not suggest that
Except for a rather fruitless month in Colombo when I arrived - a month filled with the despair that can only be known by one who walks the hollow corridors of officialdom - I've been here at the Island Hermitage since arrival, It's far from being the best place for me, but I can say this about it - it's the only place for me, at least, in Ceylon. The only real trouble is it’s so terribly overpopulated. When I first arrived here there were 5 dogs, 4 Sinhalese, 3 Germans, 2 mongooses and an elderly Yugoslavian ex-philosophy professor who has been a samanera for a year and will not take his higher ordination because he doesn't want to have to eat dirty food. There is an ocean filled with fish, a sky filled with birds, a jungle filled with snakes and a well filled with tadpoles. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't speak to me. Kierkegaard, for instance, has been saying a lot, all of which I've found well worth listening to, though, it's necessary to dodge the occasional theological snowballs he throws out. But they melt rapidly in this climate.
Climate? The monsoon lasts, apparently, 10 months of the year. The mosquitos last 12. The fireflies are holding out strong also.
The solution is a permanent retreat - my novel, by the way, has the impermanent title of A Foreign Retreat - into samathabhávana (calm concentration), which, in spite of all the nonsense I picked up in Calcutta, really works. That is, it's useful.
Yes, I've found my Guru: the Buddha. But I've also found a present-day Guru. Unfortunately, he's been dead for two years now. He was an English Bhikkhu (
The novel? It's in the States now, being read by various people. I don’t give a damn about it really - publishing that is - and am not making any effort at all. If others want to, that's their account. Since then I've written some pages on the theme of identity-searching, which I gave up as being poorly conceived. Also I've been doing some drawings, which are fun because I don't have any inclination to take them seriously. A few poems revolve in my head. Whatever I do is just for the doing of it now. If something were published it would be as pseudonymous as hell. Whatever solitude I've got (and it's gotten by meditation, not by running away), I'm not about to give up.Give up? Rather, after having given up everything else, I've found that the vacuum created is peace. It cannot be given up, but only dispersed by not giving up other things – hell - you know all this anyway.