The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

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Category:         Geography and ethnology
SubCategory:  Asia

Follow link under "Source" below for a list of Merton books corresponding to abbreviations.
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DateAuthorTitleSourceQuotation by Merton
1940/01/13Robert CurzonVisits to Monasteries in the Levant Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 134 I have got Curzon's Monasteries of the Levant from the Library and right away I am going to read it. The seven sentences I have read look fine, the pictures look fine. Maybe then I'll read Arabia Deserta, only I don't think so. I think I'll read Duchesne's History of the Early Church, or Gasquet on English Monasticism or more of Gabriella Cunningham Grahame on Saint Theresa.
1941/02/11E.M. ForsterPassage to India Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 308 That spring in that front room on Perry Street I read some good books. Hopkins' letters; Bridges' Milton's Prosody; R. Hughes' In Hazard, E. M. Forster's Passage to India; Herodotus; Thucydides; Curzon's Monasteries of the Levant; Saint John of the Cross; maybe some Leon Bloy, I forget. Then the big thing that happened that spring was Finnegans Wake came out, and I remember the fine day it was when that happened.
1941/02/11Robert CurzonVisits to Monasteries in the Levant Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 308 That spring in that front room on Perry Street I read some good books. Hopkins' letters; Bridges' Milton's Prosody; R. Hughes' In Hazard, E. M. Forster's Passage to India; Herodotus; Thucydides; Curzon's Monasteries of the Levant; Saint John of the Cross; maybe some Leon Bloy, I forget. Then the big thing that happened that spring was Finnegans Wake came out, and I remember the fine day it was when that happened.
1959/05/12Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 279 Third day of retreat. Yesterday, quiet-sunny day-spent all possible time in the woods reading and meditating. Marco Pallis's wonderful book Peaks and Lamas was one. And Suzuki.
1959/05/13Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 281 Yesterday all the red roses in the novitiate garden were blooming. Today the rhododendrons by St. Fiacre's shrine came out. It rained again-rained while I was with the novices weeding strawberries. I am finishing the Loch book on Mount Athos I borrowed from Victor Hammer. And am reading the fine study of Borodine on Nicholas Cabasilas. And of course continuing with Peaks and Lamas which, in many places, deeply moves me.
1959/05/14Constantine CavarnosAnchored in God: Life, Art, and Thought on the Holy Mountain of Athos Ltrs: Hammer p. 69 I am really enjoying Peaks and Lamas, and also the Athos book [Note 59: Conastantine Cavarnos, Anchored in God: Life, Art, and Thought on the Holy Mountain of Athos] has been very fine - and the Hesiod.
1959/05/14Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Ltrs: WtoF p. 4 The first thing to be said, of course, is that Hagia Sophia is God Himself. God is not only a Father but a Mother. He is both at the same time, and it is the "feminine aspect" or "feminine principl" in the divinity that is the Hagia Sophia. But of course as soon as you say this the whole thing becomes misleading: a division of an "abstract" divinity into two abstract principles. Nevertheless, to ignore this distinction is to lose touch with the fullness of God. This is a very ancient intuition of reality which goes back to the oldest Oriental thought. (There is something about it in Carolyn's wonderful book Peaks and Lamas [written by Marco Pallis], incidentally.) For the "masculine-feminin" relationship is basic in all reality"”simply because all reality mirrors the reality of God.
1959/05/14Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Ltrs: WtoF p. 5 I am really enjoying Peaks and Lamas, and also the Athos book has been very fin"”and the Hesiod. When you have thought about this material on Sophia, perhaps we could make a further step toward thinking of a title. I am so happy to be involved in what is clearly a very significant work, spiritually as well as artistically.
1959/05/14Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Ltrs: Hammer p. 69 I am really enjoying Peaks and Lamas, and also the Athos book [Note 59: Conastantine Cavarnos, Anchored in God: Life, Art, and Thought on the Holy Mountain of Athos] has been very fine - and the Hesiod.
1961/03/19Arthur KoestlerLotus and the Robot Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 101 Finishing [Arthur] Koestler's book on Asia, The Lotus and the Robot [London, 1960]. Though there are plenty of passages where one has the feeling that he did not catch on, still I think the book is important and offers a basically healthy corrective for the Western intellectual's guilt complex toward Asia. What he says of Asia's spirituality vs. Western materialism is pert[inent], but perhaps has truth in it.
1961/05/23Mary Lelia MakraHsiao Ching / transl. (from the Chinese) by Mary Lelia Makra ed. by Paul K. T. Sih Ltrs: HGL p. 549 It has been a little while since I received your kind letter and later on the copy of the Hsiao Ching, for which I am deeply grateful. I have also heard from Jubilee and they are willing to have me review the two books. So I intend in due time to do an article on them. I enjoy the Hsiao Ching very much indeed. In its simplicity it has roots in the highest wisdom and one is surprised at the "modern" sound of some of its basic intuitions. I hope to study these two books carefully and am trying to write of them worthily. I hope I will myself grow in wisdom.
1961/05/29Mary Lelia MakraHsiao Ching / transl. (from the Chinese) by Mary Lelia Makra ed. by Paul K. T. Sih Ltrs: HGL p. 618 I have carefully gone through your fine translation of the Tao Te Ching, and it is all superb. I really mean to get down to the article. I loved the Hsiao Ching too. It is so completely in tune with reality. The Zen books you speak of interest me, but my German is slow. I shall be eager to see if they appear in English translation. If I once reached Buddhahood and redescended to my present state, all I can say is that I made a really heroic sacrifice. But I don't regret it, as the other Buddhas seem to have done the same. Yourself for instance. Thus we go along gaily with littleness for our Mother and our Nurse, and we return to the root by having no answers to questions. Whatever I may have been in previous lives, I think more than half of them were Chinese and eremitical.
1961/06/15Romain RollandInde: journal 1915-1943 Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 127 Began the other day reading Romain Rolland's Inde. Wide awake and all there when I read this (I cannot say as much for Nels Ferre, whom nevertheless I like). Much more myself, much more awake, reading this than when reading some of the long chapters, in proof, of my own New Man, which is a failure. The thing that keeps me awake in Rolland is truth. I don't mean dogmatic truth, but the truth of life. He is a lover of India but not a zealot or an enthusiast and he sees the weaknesses, the vanities, the blindnesses. He does not just take Gandhi blindly. He sees the element of despotism in Gandhi. He likes Tagore and now so do I. I really want to read Tagore. Victoria Ocampo sent me a picture of him. I sent her Mencius.
1961/06/21Romain RollandInde: journal 1915-1943 Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 130 Romain Rolland's Inde is detailed and interesting - besides being very important - in the objectivity with which he treats Tagore. The conflict in Tagore between the poet and the prophet. He is too seldom able to rise to the "prophetic" (or shall we simply say political) level. Analysis of his struggles over Fascism-how easily he was duped and used and how much trouble his friends had to go to [to] wake him up. We are travelling toward an age in which consciences are no longer troubled over such things! Que penser d'une epoque où les fêtes du centenaire de St-François d'Assise sont patronees par un Mussolini! Et l'Eglise Romaine, bien loin de protester, y trouve son profit! [What can be thought of an age when festivals celebrating the anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi are presided over by a Mussolini! And the Roman Church, instead of mounting a protest, profits from the occasion!] Inde, p 167 Same page. That the basic conflict is between Conscience = Christ in us, and the state.
1961/08/12Paul K.T. SihDecision for China Ltrs: HGL p. 619 I am reading Paul Sih's book about China at the moment. It is very clear and informative, and tells me a lot of things about which I knew nothing. When we are up against a monster propaganda machine, the task is discouraging, but we must nevertheless stick to the truth. The trouble is that there is also a monster ambiguity to deal with at the same time, as though the propaganda machine had not only changed the "truths" but even changed the "truth" itself. As if it had somehow created a new kind of truth, in the face of which all former truths, however true, become irrelevant. This is the problem.
1961/08/16Paul K.T. SihDecision for China Ltrs: HGL p. 549 It is already a long time since your letter of July 26th and the arrival of the two books, which I was so happy to receive. I began your autobiography [From Confucius to Christ], and then one of the novices needed a book of this type as a change so I lent it to him (he enjoyed it very much), while I myself proceeded with your Decision for China. The latter is clear and illuminating. I have not yet quite finished it but it is a very meaningful book to me "¦
1961/12/12 Poems on Solitude / Transl. from the Chinese by Jerome Chen and Mike Bullock Ltrs: HGL p. 620 "¦ Someone has recently sent me a marvelous book, Poems of Solitude, a collection including Juan Chi, Pao Chao, Wang Wei, Li Ho and Li Yu. Maybe you are right about my being Chinese, because this kind of thing is just what makes me feel most happy and most at home. I do not know whether or not I am always happy with mystical writings that are completely out of touch with ordinary life. On the contrary, it seems to me that mysticism flourishes most purely right in the middle of the ordinary. And such mysticism, in order to flourish, must be quite prompt to renounce all apparent claim to be mystical at all: after all, what difference do labels make? I know you agree, for this is what St. Therèse so well saw.
1962/06/07James LeggeChinese classics Ltrs: HGL p. 622 Paul Sih has obtained for me a wonderful reprint of the Legge translation of the Chinese Classics, and has also sent the Wang Yang Ming. I am awed and delighted with the great volumes of the Classics. I do not intend to read them lightly however, they are waiting until other things can be cleared away. But I must admit I have done absolutely no work at all on Chinese, because I find that I simply waste too much time fumbling around in the dictionary and so little is done that it does not make sense to continue until sometime in the future when I can get some instruction. So it will all have to wait a bit.
1962/11/05Denys RutledgeIn Search of a Yogi Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 263 Saturday I finished a preface to Dom Denys Rutledge's book In Search of a Yogi [New York, 1963]. It rambles too much, and he is too sarcastic in places - though I can understand the temptation. There is an aura of pretentiousness that gets into Indian religiosity sometimes - perhaps as a reaction to Christian claims to be absolutely the only true religion.
1963/02/25Joseph Jean Lanza del VastoPelerinage aux Sources Ltrs: CforT p. 138 Yes, I know Lanza Del Vasto. There was a Jewish student of mysticism here who had visited the Community of L del V and spoke highly of it. I have also read what I think is his most interesting book, Le Pelerinage aux sources (i.e. to the sources of the Ganges). He is great friends with Victoria Ocampo. I have read parts of the "4 Plagues" and it is terrific. I have also read fine articles of his in peace publications. Talking of Victoria Ocampo: her friends got up a volume of Testimonios for her, and I was included: they put my name as "Thomas Merton S.J." "¦
1964/04/13Paul NizanAden Arabie Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 96 Note exactly the same torment of conscience in Sartre's preface to Aden Arabie. A long querulous self-examination and confession, based on the fact that Aden Arabie (by Paul Nizan) is itself another version of the same confession.
1964/12/29Karlfried Dürckheim, vonJapanese Cult of Tranquility Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 184 I finished Von Durkheim, The Japanese Cult of Tranquillity. The best and most revealing part is the appendix from a Japanese master of swordsmanship speaking of the "sword that kills and gives lif" in the tradition of Takuan. Actually the pinnacle of swordsmanship is not violence and killing but simply a "truth" against which the opponent can ruin himself or by which he can be enlightened. A fascinating concept. Only "the animal man" seeks to "win" ("prevail"). But the spiritual man is simply true and the law of truth has to "win" in him.
1966/05/08Matsuo BashoNarrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches / translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa Ltrs: CforT p. 262 Thanks for the books which came in yesterday. Have already begun the Bash which is just what I have been wanting after so much tired stuff, this is the greatest the most alive and you are right perfect monasticism. Thanks for the intuition that it is what I would need. Maybe when I read it carefully I will know a lot more about the question. And there is no question that the great issue is freedom. From Urizens goddam hammers. I go where I am Los (turned loose) so far the one place where I can be the sunlight is up here on this hill where all the angels shine around me in each leaf and no one can prevent them. I have been on the road before and there were fewer and sometimes none. I think I have only one way to travel and it is straight up. Or straight down into the root.
1968/10/18Chogyam TrungpaBorn in Tibet Ltrs: CforT p. 272 I am suggesting to a friend of mine, a Tibetan Lama, that he might send you a manuscript he is preparing [Born in Tibet]. It is of great interest, a contemporary document in the authentic Tibetan tradition"”& first rate. The English may need a little improvement but the material is as impressive as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The author's name is [Chögyam] Trungpa Rimpoche. I am giving him City Lights' address & he will contact you some time. I am over here on an extended trip & hope to keep extending it "¦
1968/11/17Ruth BenedictChrysanthemum and the Sword Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 281 "Dear Father Merriton," said the note, "Please make yourself at home the moment you arrive and just ask the bearer for anything you may require." Without my having to ask, the generator went on, the lights began to work, tea was provided in the big comfortable drawing room. I escaped quickly to the bungalow, aside, apart, alone, silent. Fire lit. Books unpacked, including one on Japan by Ruth Benedict and also Anaïs Nin's Under the Glass Bell, which I hope to finish. Along with the Buddhist books I have to return to Harold Talbott, who remains in the Windamere where he reads wrapped in a blanket.
1968/11/28Arthur KoestlerLotus and the Robot Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 304 Dr. Raghavan had had quite a bit to say about his guru, Sankaracharya of Kanchi, whom I have not met"”he is traveling in the villages. I forgot I had read about him in Koestler's (bad) book The Lotus and the Robot. Rereading an excerpt"”I find Sankaracharya saying: "Adaptations have no place in the standards of spiritual discipline." Against shortening or changing the ancient rituals. No concessions to be made. One who cannot fulfill his obligations can somehow substitute by regret and repentance, but the obligations are not to be slackened. Koestler was bothered by this "unyielding attitude." Sankaracharya's views, he thought, "bore no relation to contemporaneity."
1968/11/29Robert KnoxHistorical Relation of Zeilon Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 307 "On the West the City of Columbo, so-called from a Tree the natives call Amba (which bears the mango fruit) growing in that place; but this never bare fruit but only leaves, which in their Language is Cola, and thence they call the Tree Colambo, which the Christians in honor of Columbus turned to Columbo." [Note 79: From Robert Knox's Historical Relation of Zeilon (London, 1681; reissued, Colombo, 1958).]
1968/11/30Robert KnoxHistorical Relation of Zeilon Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 311 Anything going to or coming from the King of Kandy is held sacred, says Knox, and the people move aside out of the way not only of the white flowers that he likes, when they are being brought to him, but also his dirty linens when they are taken to the lake to be laundered. "And when they are carried to washing, which is daily, all, even the greatest, rise up, as they come by, which is known by being carried on a hand heaved upwards, covered with a painted cloth." [Knox, op. cit.)