10 September 2008

Letter 3.30

Legian Kelod, Bali -- '78

For coastal island-type living Bali is as good as I've found. It's a very easy life, though, and it's rewards, the real, are not earned -- unlike in the Himalayas, where I felt (wrong-headedly, no doubt) that every wonder had been earned and was therefore (somehow) worthier, or perhaps it was I who was worthier, I don't know.

Your offer to give me Worthy Bones is incredibly generous. Before I accept, however, I'd like to see what I can do with it. That I gratefully accept. I quite agree that you should retain final approval -- after all, it's your story -- or rather, it seems, stories. How many versions have there been now? Perhaps you could send me both an 'ancient first edition' and the last re-write so I can see how your jungle has been growing. I don't expect to run any roads through it – more a matter of trimming back some of the overgrown undergrowth, leaving the trees free to reach sunwards. I want Bones to be something publishable, and something to be read. It's a great story, which impressed me when I read it. I would like to see it stand primarily as a story, revealing its meaning in its movement, rather than as a series of images succeeding each other, each beautifully portrayed but each basically static. I say this now so that should you not agree with this concept you can tell me so now instead of later. In any case, wait till I'm settled into my rabbit-hole in Thailand before sending Zem Bones for me to nibble on.

What is the difference between 'ceasing of activity' and 'ceasing of the activity of greed, hatred, and delusion'? True, the Buddha was active. The Buddha was an arahat. Not only are only arahats capable of non-karmic action (if by non-karmic you mean 'activity not involved with greed, hatred, and delusion') but that's the only sort of activity the arahat is capable of, or involved in. (This leaves out of account the sekha [1], whose position is in-between. In fact, anyone who succeeds in acting non-karmically is by that fact an arahat. The rest of us just keep scratching our itches. Activity without scratching is non-karmic. (The sekha doesn't always scratch, but he still itches.)

Balinese Buddhas, by the way, are rather unsettling, having breasts and very shapely bodies. Scratch, scratch.



[1] Sekha: (Pali) 'one in training' (synonymous with sotapanna or 'stream-winner'): he stands half way between the puthujjana, who has no realization of the Dhamma and the arahat (or asekha 'one finished the training') who has full realization of the Dhamma.

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