15 July 2008

Letter 2.37

I once had a little black box inside of which dwelt a genie. The rear two thirds of the top of the box was hinged and could open up - the hinge was on the back side, not the side side. On the front third of the boxtop was a silver lever jutting up and forwards. Beneath it a plate indicated that it was OFF and if it were pushed backwards it would be ON. I turned it to ON, and, at once, from the entrails of the box, came a chirring, rumbling, groaning sound. Slowly, the box rocked from side to side while the clattering continued. And then, slowly, slowly, the lid of the box rose and a little green hand reached out of the box, grasped hold of the lever, and pushed it back to OFF. Then the hand retreated, the lid closed, the rocking ceased, the groaning was silenced, and all was normal once more… If a machine can be made to turn itself off why not a man? Although the hand never left the box, the rabbit may not only leave its pit but fill it in as well. Because an act of will is itself insufficient to renounce (or to see) sakkāyaditthi [1] it does not follow that no conditions attainable are adequate. A bubble can burst from the inside. Strangely -- and wonderfully -- enough the ground is real: it is the abyss that is illusory, whether or not one strives (for Freedom or Bondage), the cleavage -- or what one takes to be such -- is the real problem.

I'm out wandering now -- about halfway at the moment between Kandy and Pollonuruwa -- and your words, panting and out of breath (or, perhaps, that was me), caught up with me and delivered themselves. As to the letters, you are perfectly free to make use of them without any time limit and to share them. But, when you are finished, the next designee is the designer. My own copy was lent to an individual who now will not return it -- talk about misappropriation of the Dhamma! -- and so I should like to make use of the copy now with you. As I'm out for a while, and since you will doubtlessly send it by air, there's certainly not even a near-future need of it, though there will be, perhaps, in a few months, by which time, I suppose, the need in B.C. will have been partially assuaged.

As for sending you a copy of Notes on Dhamma (I'm sorry to inform you that it's not a great hoax), as I say I'm out now and have no copies available -- in fact I've had to put my spare copy away in order to protect it from aforesaid individual and it is now unavailable to me. As soon as I return to the Hermitage it will become available and then I shall be happy to send it to you. In the meantime you can have a rest of no-reading for a few months to prepare you for the shockwaves of Notes.

I'm perched on the side of a small mountain where, sitting on the top of a rock beneath which is a fine cave, I can look down on the paddy fields in the valley, which have just been transplanted, and every field, separated from the others by small dikes, has its own shape, internal pattern, and distinct shade of green through which can be seen the reflections of the sky and the coconut groves on the hill across from me. To my right are some jagged barren mountains, all around me are a profusion of wild flowers. I can wander through the village, along narrow dirt paths winding about: re-crossing the paddy fields, and collect my alms food, and then climb back up my mountain and sit on the rock, under it, or beside it (or even nowhere near it), and enjoy my stringhoppers, bananas, mangoes, sweets, etc. Then I can lie back, light up a
beedie or shrootie -- I usually get some native smoke on my alms round -- and rest contented. Most of the day I just sit on the rock and watch the trees, fields, sky, etc., perhaps not entirely unmindfully.

There is a vihara higher up on the hill (I'm only about 200 feet up), and at evening they ring their bell. Then shortly afterwards the villagers will emerre from the dark shadows of the coconut trees surrounding their houses and walk, singly and in files, along the dikes of the paddy fields, a silent drift of calmness as they go to vespers. Watching them, with my robes around me against the wind, which rises at evening, in the last red light of the clouds which sometimes blanket the top of this mountain after a day of causing as little harm to creatures – myself included -- as I could manage, I feel a real quietness.

To prayer, to prayer I go… I think I go.
I go to prayer. Along a corridor of woe
And down a stair, in every step of which
I am abased. A cowl I wear.
I wear a halter rope about my waist.
I bear a candle end put out with haste.
I go to prayer.


[1] sakkāyaditthi: (Pali) the point-of-view of the personality.

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