4 August 2008

Letter 2.57

I'm convinced now that the magnificently sculpted mountains have strongly influenced the people here, so that their minds become better sculpted. Everyone out here -- the Indians, the freaks, the lamas, Tibetans, and other oddities -- seems to be on well-directed trips (of different velocities and varying rates of cycles per second) trying to find a level at high altitude. The openness of the Himalayas is an open invitation to spread one's wings, drop one's burdens, and join the eagles in the sky. So for the three months of Vas (rainy season) retreat I'll be living on Crank's Ridge, where I feel very much at home. The mountains -- let alone the rest of the fairyland trip -- may help me to live in peace, to be as straight as I can, and to cool my head. That, at any rate, is what's on the menu for this Vas. We shall see how well I fill my plate.

Lama Govinda will be leaving shortly for a year or so, lecturing at, I believe, Southern Methodist University (he's been invited by the Methodist Church), and Suññata Bahaji is in Denmark at present, visiting his ailing elder sister (he's somewhere about 85 years old), so we're a bit short on Big Names at the mo, but Baba Ram Das (Richard Alpert) is down the footpath at Kausani -- about 8 miles toward Bageshwar -- and, locally, we have the Ven. Buddhananda (Ronald Boughan), a recently ordained former Intelligence officer for the British Foreign Service, who, says, with a sinister and confidential grin, that he still keeps a hand in the game. (Did you meet him when you were out this way? He lives in Snowview.) Then we have Win Chamberlain, the producer-director of a film called 'Brand X'. (I've never heard of him or his film before, but apparently it got good reviews and a bit of attention in some of the more ethereal segments of North American culture: have you heard of/seen it?) and an intimate of Timothy Leary. We also have Leary's ex—wife, a lanky Swede married to a Harvard grad student doing studies in Tibetology (he'd been a Tibetan monk for four years in -- yup -- New Jersey), so it's not surprising that rumors maintain that Leary Himself has fled from Algeria (where, I'm told, he was being held prisoner by the Black Panthers -- politics makes incredible bedfellows) and is hiding out either in the Kumaon hills or in Scandinavia. (Neither of us, of course, will believe a word of it, will we?) And then… but enough: you are now aware that the spiritual-pharmaceutical fringe is very biz in these parts (at the mo).

I've been to see Lama Govinda several times, and shall see him a few more times before he splits. He's a fine old man, alert, friendly, with a good head, fine vibes, and lots of undiscovered vitamins. He came from Germany together with Ven. Nyanaponika (of the Forest Hermitage and Buddhist Publication Society fame) and Swami Garibalda, who holes up near Jaffna. All three, at one time, were Theravada monks at the Island Hermitage. It's interesting to see, after thirty years, what each of them has done with his life. Certainly Lama Govinda -- scholarship and other diversions aside -- has been making some good use of his time, and has profited by it. He manages, nonetheless, to enshroud himself in a few romantic veils (stitched in secret by his wife?).

If I can keep the body together (which will require reasonably good health) and shitting at the proper rate (which will require some funds), there will be nothing to stop the mind from holding together and shitting at the proper rate. 'Monks, whoever eats and drinks needs to shit and piss' And again: 'There are, monks, these four foods: solid food, whether coarse or fine, contact second, thirdly mental-intention (mano sañcetanā) and consciousness as fourth'. Your tract on defecation was good. What about the void in the bowels after the movement? If it all comes out in the end, when does the end come out? As for contact (consider the sensory-deprivation experiments), mental-intention (i.e. time-structuring) and consciousness, what they produce (i.e. shit) is worthy of consideration. So too is it worthwhile to consider what they are, which, in the present terminology, is that they're itches produced by the mosquito bites of the mind. Shit is what happens when we scratch them. Thanks for pointing that out. Dhamma is a spiritual calamine lotion. It is also a mental flit bomb. It's for eliminating the cause of the itch, and not for finding a better way to scratch, There are no mosquitos on Crank's Ridge -- except the ones we bring with us.

Om Hūm,


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