The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

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DateAuthorTitleSourceQuotation by Merton
1941/11/27Leon WiegerBouddhisme chinois Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 455 I was reading about Hopkins' conversion when I dropped the book and rushed out of the house and went to see Fr. Ford. All this reading covered a period of a year and a half, or two years-during which I read almost all of Fr. Wieger's translations of Buddhist texts-without understanding them.
1957/10/22Tuesday Lobsang RampaThird Eye. The Autobiography of a Tibetan Lama Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 126-27 A thrilling and terrifying and fascinating book-The Third Eye by a Tibetan lama who calls himself Rimpoche Rampa. Life in the lamasery and their religion in general sounds like something out of ancient Egypt-the Old Kingdom [Note 20: Merton notes in margin, "This turned out to be a hoax."] Everything centered on death. Getting the monk to the other shore by telepathy. Or rather, to their next incarnation. Astrology. The fascinating names of the years.
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.
1959/11/02 Dhammapada Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 338 A lovely afternoon full of noise. Reading after dinner-snatches from the Dhammapada-I thought of this clear sky and how it must be like a Mexican sky.
1960/11/15Abraham Joshua HeschelGod in Search of Man Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 66 At the heart of Heschel's splendid book-God in Search of Man-the consistent emphasis on the importance of time, the event in revealed religion, Biblical, prophetic religion. Event, not process. The unique event, not repeated. The realm of the event is the realm of the person. Liberation from the process by decisions, by free act, unique, irreplaceable. The encounter with God. Contrast Buddhism. Yet of Zen - the event of enlightenment. But this is not an encounter. Part of a well-ordered process? "An event is a happening that cannot be reduced to a part of a process." [Heschel] p. 210 "To speak of events is to imply that there are happenings in the world that are beyond the reach of our explanation." [Heschel]
1960/12/27Ananda Kentish CoomaraswamyHinduism and Buddhism Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 80 Incomparable richness of Coomaraswamy! His book on Hinduism and Buddhism. I am giving it a first reading in which I do not expect to understand and appreciate everything. One point-already familiar-driven home more: Whatever is done naturally may be either sacred or profane according to our own degree of awareness, but whatever is done unnaturally is essentially and irrevocably profane! (p. 25).
1961/02/12Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Ltrs: HGL p. 128 Yes, I have read Marco Pallis [i.e., Peaks and Lamas]. We do not have it here, I borrowed it from Victor Hammer's wife (he met AKC [Ananda K. Coomaraswamy] once and has some offprints of his). I copied out some of the best bits about Tibetan art and craftsmanship (I make no distinction).
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.
1961/04/21John C.H. WuBeyond East and West Ltrs: HGL p. 615-16 I am very glad the Mencius finally arrived and I knew you would like it. I am glad you approved of the "night spirit." It seems to me that Chinese is full of wonderful things that the West does not suspect"”like your observation on the lunar month which deeply touched me in Beyond East and West. There are so many fine things in your book. I especially enjoy the notations from your diary that are being read now. The community was in a state of near riot when you described your marriage. I am in love with your parents. The book is most enjoyable and moving.
1962/02/00Tsangnyön HerukaLife of Milarepa Ltrs: RtoJ p. 320 First of all I want to thank you for the wonderful gift of the Life of Mila Repa. This is a splendid volume, and extremely interesting to me. I am absorbed in it, and it gives a wonderful idea of Tibetan Buddhism. It has a character of energy and power which is quite unique. Certainly the Western idea of Buddhism is terribly confused. You mention the spirit of sacrifice in your letter, and the most notable thing about Mila Repa is the absolute totality of his sacrifice in order to attain liberation. There was no price too high to pay. His will was indomitable. At the same time will alone is not sufficient. This is recognized, in Buddhism, by the idea of karma from a positive or good aspect, and in Christianity by the idea of grace. In any event it is clear that Mila Repa had received a special gift, a power to desire and to thirst for the light.
1962/02/14Nicholas of NarbonneIgnea Sagitta (The Flaming Arrow) Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 203 Milarepa's prayer in solitude-austere and beautiful. Something to meditate on-like the Fiery Arrow.
1962/03/04Thomas AquinasCommentary on Timothy Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 207 "The secret which is hidden in the heart of the Father, has become Man." -St Thomas Comm[entary] On Tim[othy] That Christ is not a human nature conscious of Himself as (human) subject. To say He is natura humana sui conscia [human nature with self-consciousness] would be saying He was a Human Person (subject). Hence Nestorianism. So some distinguish two consciousnesses, divine and human, but there is only one (divine) subject. What does Buddhism attempt to do with the natura humana sui conscia? What happens to it in mysticism? Implications? Difficulties?
1962/03/18Karl RahnerOn the Theology of Death Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 211-12 Karl Rahner's [On the] Theology of Death [New York, 1961] is a most exciting book. First time I have been completely won over to him. Basic idea: that death by its nature is meant to be an act of fulfillment. That by sin it has become a dissolution-suffered and undergone-a final manifestation of sin. That by grace it becomes once again, though hiddenly, an act of faith and submission, an act done [underlined twice]-while also the body and soul suffer separation. This emphasis on the act [underlined twice] of death in fulfillment and selftranscendence is to me startlingly Buddhist in the highest spiritual sense of Buddhism properly understood. Here is a real point of contact between Buddhism and Xtianity... On p. 53 he appears to include a kind of Buddhist spiritualization under the "sinful act" of autonomous death. In reality this could not be true Buddhism-it would be the spirit's affirmation of itself as intangible. True Buddhism as I understand it is a perfect spiritual humility and a total openness. Properly understood, Buddhist concept of liberation should open me to Xt. Improperly it would close one inexorably!
1962/05/01Hui-nengPlatform scripture / Hui-neng ; (transl. and with an introd. and notes by Wing-tsit Chan) Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 217 "Those who have the dharma should devote themselves only to its practice. Disputes arise from the desire for conquest and are not in accordance with the Way." - from the T'an Ching of Hui Neng
1962/05/24MilarepaSixty songs of Milarepa / transl. by Garma C.C. Chang ; select. and introd. by Bikkhu Khantipalo Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 221 Have nearly finished Milarepa. Wrote to Dezhung Trulka about it (Tibetan Buddhist scholar at U. of Washington who has meditated in various caves once frequented by Milarepa).
1962/07/03Edward ConzeSelected sayings from the perfection of wisdom / chosen, arranged and transl. by Edward Conze Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 230 Reading [Edward] Conze's superb selections on Perfect Wisdom. Prajnaparamita [perfection of wisdom]-My way. What way?
1962/08/24Hui-nengPlatform scripture / Hui-neng ; (transl. and with an introd. and notes by Wing-tsit Chan) Ltrs: HGL p. 552 It is a long time since I received the remarkably interesting translation of the Platform Scripture and I ought to have acknowledged it long ago. The translation and the introduction by Wing Tsit Chan are both extremely interesting. It is an invaluable document, and will mean much to everyone who is interested in Zen Buddhism. I have not written about it, as I wanted time to comment fully. I have not had time for that yet, and also I would like to keep the manuscript a little longer and go over it again. I expect to be in the hospital for a checkup in a few days and I will meditate on the text there, I hope. In any case it will get a second and more serious reading. "¦ Keep me posted with regard to all your interesting projects at the Institute for Asian Studies. Fr. Dan Berrigan brought me messages from Fr. Beer and John Wu. I was glad to hear from them. The Chinese books are there but "¦ I think that perhaps I will have to put off serious work in this field until I am replaced as novice master by somebody else and can devote more time to study "¦
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.
1963/00/00Hui-nengPlatform scripture / Hui-neng ; (transl. and with an introd. and notes by Wing-tsit Chan) Ltrs: CforT p. 141 I am sending you John Wu's translation of the Tao Te Ching. The same place has published a translation of an important Chinese Zen work, the Platform Sutra of Hui Neng, but unfortunately the translation, though probably good in its own right, uses terminology that misses the real Zen meaning and does not correspond to the kind of language used by the best Zen men, like Suzuki. At least there should be some agreement on terms.
1963/06/23Hui-nengPlatform scripture / Hui-neng ; (transl. and with an introd. and notes by Wing-tsit Chan) Ltrs: HGL p. 625 Paul Sih has sent me the Platform Scripture and it is handsomely done. He wants me to write a review of it, and I will earnestly try, but it is hard to fit in right now. But with a book like this an immediate reaction is not essential. Eventually I hope to come through with something.
1963/07/00Marco PallisPeaks and Lamas Ltrs: HGL p. 464 First of all, I hope you will forgive the typewriter. I do not type well, but my writing is worse, and I am used to the machine, much as I regret to confess it to the author of Peaks and Lamas. I read your book several years ago and found it very congenial indeed. I certainly envy you your experience with Tibetan monasticism, and I hope at least the young lamas in New Jersey will eventually come down here, as I am not able to go to them, due to our strict interpretation of the laws of enclosure here.
1963/07/19Hui-nengPlatform scripture / Hui-neng ; (transl. and with an introd. and notes by Wing-tsit Chan) Ltrs: WtoF p. 166 The following are the questions, with Merton's answers: 1. Name the last three books you have read. The Platform Scripture of Hui Neng, translated by Wing Tsit Chen The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley 2. Name the books you are reading now. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture by John Huizinga Ratio Verae Theologiae (The Real Meaning of Theology) by Erasmus The Historian and Character by David Knowles 4. Books that have influenced you. Poetic Works of William Blake Plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas Sermons of Meister Eckhart De Doctrina Christiana, Confessions, and Sermons on Psalms of St. Augustine Rule of St. Benedict The Bhagavad-Gita The Imitation of Christ, etc. 5. Why have these books been an influence on you? These books and others like them have helped me to discover the real meaning of my life, and have made it possible for me to get out of the confusion and meaninglessness of an existence completely immersed in the needs and passivities fostered by a culture in which sales are everything. 6. Name a book everyone should read. Besides the Bible (taken for granted and not included above) and such classics as The Imitation of Christ, I would select a contemporary book which I consider to be of vital importance and which I think everyone should read at this time: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. 7. Why this book? This is the most forceful statement about a crisis that is of immediate importance to every American, and indirectly affects the whole world today. It is something that people have to know about. The Negro has been trying to make himself heard: in this book he succeeds.
1963/10/04Marco PallisWay and the Mountain Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 22 Two minds more different than those of Karl Barth and Frithjof Schuon would be hard to imagine, yet I am reading them both. Barth with his insistence on "God in the highest": completely unattainable by any human tradition and Schuon with his philosophia humanis [humanistic philosophy] (am reading his excellent book on Islam [Comprendre l'Islam, 1961]). True, Barth is a greater mind and there is an austere beauty in his Evangelical absolutism (closer to Islam than one would think!!) but there is another side to him-his love of St. Anselm and of Mozart. Schuon naturally oversimplifies his "contrast" between Islam and Christianity. One has to know what he's really doing! I wrote this morning to Marco Pallis (who sent the Schuon book) about his Way and the Mountain (the other night I dreamed about the way).
1963/10/04Marco PallisWay and the Mountain Ltrs: HGL p. 465 I want to thank you especially for the books you so kindly sent. First of all, your own The Way and the Mountain is a very solid and valuable collection. Your essay on the "Active Lif" belongs precisely to a tradition that I recognize and live in, and it is very well done. The one on Sikkim Buddhism is perhaps the one that moved me most. Can we hope for a revival of these values? As you say, it is really the cross of our time to see so much that is really valuable being destroyed or discarded in the most irresponsible sort of way. Even efforts to preserve the best things seem at times fated to be foolish and destructive. I wish the Church were more sensitive on this point. There is a glimmering beginning now, but perhaps too late, with the formation of a secretariat for relations with non-Christian religions, and with some beginning of understanding of primitive cultures on the part of people in the missions. Too few of them, I am afraid. It is a very sad thing that more Catholics were not the type of de Nobili, Xavier and Matthew Ricci "¦ The essay "The Way and the Mountain" is the one I liked best. It is very fine indeed, and as a matter of fact the night after I read it, I dreamed about a "way," high on a cliff yet somehow secure. The Chinese painting of the "way" reproduced in the book is magnificent. I will send you my little book on Direction [Spiritual Direction and Meditation], which has many points in common with your essay "¦
1964/01/01Rudolf BultmannForm Criticism: Two Essays on New Testament Research Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 52-53 Sense of God all day. Now Bultmann's idea of God (evening, before Night Watch). Our care meets Him at the end of its capacity. He limits our care and cuts it short. Our love of beauty, our need for love, our desire to work, etc. Bultmann's God is the power who limits, who "sets a terminus" to all this. "It is God who makes man finite, who makes a comedy of man's care, who allows his longing to miscarry, who casts him into solitude, who sets a terminus to his knowing"¦etc. Yet at the same time it is God who forces man into life and drives him into care, etc." Curious? But it is a Biblical notion of God, and very real! (Essays [Form Criticism: Two Essays on New Testament Research, 1962], p. 5). Not Christian yet! It could equally well be the devil! Yet belief is a "Nevertheless" embracing this power and the limits it imposes, with love and confidence. And it is not a weltanschauung [general idea]! "Real belief in God always grows out of the realization that being is an unknown quantity, which cannot be learned and retained in the form of a proposition but of which one is always becoming conscious in the ‘moment' of ‘loving'" (Essays, p. 7). "Real belief in God is not a general truth at my disposal which I perceive and apply; on the contrary it is what it is only as something continually perceived afresh and developing afresh"¦Not a general cosmic purpose, etc." (p. 7). This will lead him back to say that there is no valid knowledge of God outside of Christian revelation (all other knowledge of Him is weltanschauung). But is this true? Are they merely "general ideas"? (We can see in the longing for a weltanschauung, an escape from the enigma and from the decisive question of the moment"¦etc. But he has apparently not learned the religious and existentialist quality of Buddhism, Taoism, etc.)
1964/06/11Daisetz Teitaro SuzukiZen and Japanese Buddhism Ltrs: HGL p. 569 Two packages of books have arrived and I am most grateful to you for them and for the kind inscriptions. I have begun immediately with Zen and Japanese Buddhism, which is very clear and has some fine things in it. I am especially struck with the idea of the purposeless life, "filling the well with snow." I suppose all life is just that anyway, but we are obsessed with purpose. I think of this because there was a very purposeful meeting of abbots and novice masters here last week, and we mightily filled all the wells in the country with snow, except that we thought we were doing something else. It is surprising how tired one can get of doing nothing, and how tireless the real "doing" always is.
1964/12/12Wu Wei WeiAll else is bondage : "non-volitional living" / by Wei Wu Wei. pseud. of Terrence Gray Ltrs: WtoF p. 167-68 It was very kind of you to think of sending me the little book of Terrence Gray. It is most valuable and full of very accurate insights. I appreciate very much having such a book at my side and I have been reading it often and thoughtfully in the hermitage, where I am fortunately able to spend quite a lot of time, day and night. It is a good book to keep one spiritually alert. I have no hesitation in saying that the "Buddhist" view of reality and of life is one which I find extremely practical and acceptable, and indeed, I think it is one of the very great contributions to the universal spiritual heritage of man. It is by no means foreign or hostile to the spirit of Christianity, provided that the Christian outlook does not become bogged down in a slough of pseudo-objective formalities, as I am afraid it sometimes tends to do. But I am very grateful for this book, and will be looking for a way to get some of the others. Perhaps the simplest thing would be for me to write to Mr. Gray and propose an exchange of some of my books for his.
1966/01/07 Prajna paramita Sutra Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 17-18 In the afternoon, musing on the Prajna paramita Sutra, out at the top of the hay field, really saw it (instead of simply understanding that there was something in it to see). And really laughed! It means exactly what it says, and yet one does not break through. To break through everything! With whom does emptiness shake hands when it shakes hands with itself?
1966/03/19MilarepaSixty songs of Milarepa / transl. by Garma C.C. Chang ; select. and introd. by Bikkhu Khantipalo Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 30 Read some Angela of Foligno (I love her admirable, passionate fervor and honesty) and St. Thomas on the light of glory - also some Milarepa which I must return to Linda Parsons today. Sending off the preface to Japanese translation of Thoughts in Solitude and, tentatively, to Harper's, "Apologies to an Unbeliever," though I do not like the tone of it and will have to make changes - if they want it.
1966/04/22Daisetz Teitaro SuzukiMysticism : Christian and Buddhist Ltrs: Hammer p. 234 Many thanks for the Pavese books. I am well into one of them and he is a marvelous writer. I returned Suzuki on Mysticism Christian and Buddhist. I am not et finished with Briffault, The Mothers which is marked for August 31. Could I perhaps have it a little longer? I notice that Muir's Autobiography seems to be marked for that date too, and I am still working on it.
1966/04/24 Dhammapada Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 44 Today - back to meditation on the Dhammapada - something sound to support me when everything else is quicksand.
1966/06/02Anagarika Brahmacari GovindaFoundations of Tibetan Mysticism / pseudonym of Ernst Lothar Hoffman Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 75 Finished [Idries] Shah on Sufism [The Sufis (New York, 1964)] the other day. Parts of its are good. Reading Laura [Anagarika Brahmacari] Govinda on Foundations of] Tibetan Mysticism [New York, 1960].
1966/07/15Thera NyanaponikaHeart of Buddhist Meditation Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 95 Blazing hot yesterday afternoon - I found a good breeze at one of my favorite spots, the N.E. corner of St. Edmund's field where the road (track) plunges into the woods. Read on Buddhist meditation [The Heart of Buddhist Meditation (London, 1962)] ([Bikkhu] Nyanaponika Thera - excellent) - on "bare attention"! Then Alan Watts on LSD (poor). Later came back and read some, The Idiot.
1966/07/20Thera NyanaponikaHeart of Buddhist Meditation Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 98 Reading Dostoievsky's The Idiot, a marvelous and fascinating book. What a world! And how he structures it, with what ease - from the very first chapter. Also [G. J.] Warnock on English Philosophy Since 1900 [London, 1963], a new area for me - I always assumed these people were complete squares. Need to know Wittgenstein. The book is well written. Finally also Nyanaponika Thera's excellent treatise on Buddhist meditation - the basic elements - so easily despised, but very practical indeed. There is a healthy empiricism in Buddhist ascesis!
1966/10/27Thich Nhat HanhVietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 151 Finished a preface to Nhat Hanh's new book [Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, 1967], which is clear and interesting and ought to be widely read. Harper's is publishing it - soon.
1966/12/25Chogyam TrungpaBorn in Tibet Ltrs: HGL p. 477 Many thanks for the book Born in Tibet. I have already read your excellent preface, which faces the problems candidly without undue lamentation and yet without underestimating the seriousness of the situation. I see the book will be very important for me and will read it attentively.
1967/08/02HanshanSurangama Sutra (Leng Yen Ching) / Chinese rendering by Master Paramiti of Central North India at Chih Chih Monastery, Canton, China, A. D. 705 ; commentary (abridged) by Ch'an Master Han Shan (1546-1623) ; transl. by Upasaka Lu K'uan Yü (Charles Luk) Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 272 Evening. I sit up late again listening to crickets and frogs because I can't go to bed yet. I had to translate in chapter again tonight - which is not my business at all, and realize I may be stuck with this for the rest of the visitation. Came back feeling stupid, as if I had done wrong. And in fact these sessions in chapter are, in their own way, stupid. Dom Ignace was very nice and simple and gave a talk on his impressions of Japan and I did a good job of translating and made everyone happy - and it was childish. I am ashamed of myself. I did the best I could and it was silly. And so I pretend I belong here "¦ as if I belonged somewhere. The woods, OK. But I came back feeling sad. And I realize it is this way almost everywhere and with everyone except very few people. Going to chapter - just as reprehensible as going to Thompson Willett's and playing with little Alice in the pool. Got back - read a happy underground paper from Cleveland and felt the same about that. It is silly. It is stupid shit. Then I read a little poetry magazine. The same. Do I now have to think there is something the matter? This does not follow. I will no doubt have to go to chapter for a few days and do my silly bit. But I don't have to read happy newspapers and poetry magazines that still take themselves seriously. Or anything else of the kind. The Suramgamma Sutra - maybe. That's different. And there's a lot of classic shit in that too. Fortunately I had some bourbon in the hermitage.
1967/08/07HanshanSurangama Sutra (Leng Yen Ching) / Chinese rendering by Master Paramiti of Central North India at Chih Chih Monastery, Canton, China, A. D. 705 ; commentary (abridged) by Ch'an Master Han Shan (1546-1623) ; transl. by Upasaka Lu K'uan Yü (Charles Luk) Ltrs: HGL p. 532 Have I yet thanked you for the Surangama Sutra? If not, I do now. It is a book of essential importance. Of course a great deal of it is the product of a certain cultural milieu, but the main idea is of crucial significance: namely, liberation of/from consciousness "¦ Of all religions, Christianity is the one that least needs techniques, or least needs to depend on them. Nor is the overemphasis on sacraments necessary either: the great thing is faith. With a pure faith, our use of techniques, our understanding of the psyche and our use of the sacraments all become really meaningful. Without it, they are just routines.
1968/05/00Richard S.Y. ChiLast of the Patriarchs: The Recorded Sayings of Shen-Hui Ltrs: RtoJ p. 114 It may interest some of you to know that I have recently had a chance to write an introduction to an important book on Zen Buddhism [The Last of the Patriarchs: The Recorded Sayings of Shen-Hui, edited by Richard S. Y. Chi], a series of texts of a Chinese Zen Master, Shen Hui, to be published next year by the University of Indiana Press. As you know I am very interested in dialogue between Christianity and Asian religions, especially Buddhism. Also for almost a year I have been lecturing on Sufism, the mystical side of Islam, to the monks here. It is very revealing. For a long time Christians have too readily assumed that other religions had little "depth." This is entirely wrong. I think today we need to be more aware than we are of the real depth of the other major religions and the "mystical" side of their experience. Especially is this true when in some ways it can be said that the Western trend is toward activism and lack of depth. As one who came thirty years ago to the Catholic Church because I sought something deep and substantial which was not evident in ordinary secular and academic life, I can say it is an illusion for Catholics to try to "appeal" to the world of our time by merely reflecting its own attitudes and obsessions"”especially when the reflection is something like the kind you get in a fun-house mirror. The "world," unfortunately, is just not interested in this, in fact less interested than in the image of a Church that is totally "different." The more I see of certain efforts at creating a "new imag" of the Church, the less I am interested. Genuine progress must take place on a much deeper level"”and will doubtless do so.
1968/06/29ShantidevaWay of the Boddhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 135 I am spending the afternoon reading Santi Deva in the woods near the hermitage - the oak grove to the SW. A cool, breezy spot on a hot afternoon. (I changed my mind about going across the road and out to the small pond in the knobs"”or"”on the way there yesterday I ran into too many people.) Quiet"”except for someone firing a gun at the pond across the road: typical! Thinking deeply of Santi Deva and my own need of discipline. What a fool I have been, in the literal and biblical sense of the word: thoughtless, impulsive, lazy, selfinterested, yet alien to myself, untrue to myself, following the most stupid fantasies, guided by the most idiotic emotions and needs. Yes, I know, it is partly unavoidable. But I know too that in spite of all contradictions there is a center and a strength to which I always can have access if I really desire it. And the grace to desire it is surely there. It would do no good to anyone if I just went around talking"”on matter how articulately"”in this condition. There is still so much to learn, so much deepening to be done, so much to surrender. My real business is something far different from simply giving out words and ideas and "doing things""”even to help others. The best thing I can give to others is to liberate myself from the common delusions and be, for myself and for them, free. Then grace can work in and through me for everyone. What impresses me most at this reading of Santi Deva is not only the emphasis on solitude but the idea of solitude as part of the clarification which includes living for others: dissolution of the selfin "belonging to everyon" and regarding everyone's suffering as one's own. This is really incomprehensible unless one shares something of the deep existential Buddhist concept of suffering as bound up with the arbitrary formation of an illusory ego-self. To be "homeless" is to abandon one's attachment to a particular ego"”and yet to care for one's own life (in the highest sense) in the service of others. A deep and beautiful idea.
1968/07/29 Dhammapada Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 147 I am working on my Joyce review article for the Sewanee. Some of the things said in two of the books (Darcy O'Brien and Virginia Moseley) are simply incredible. It was a nice afternoon and I would have liked to spend it over at Linton's reading the Dhammapada. But the work was good too and the house was not too hot. There are some nice things in Giacomo Joyce. But I see the idiocy of the mystique of spiritual seduction. And all the mental nonsense that goes along with such imaginings.
1968/09/05Chogyam TrungpaBorn in Tibet Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 164 I am trying to finish reading of important books I can't take with me. Absorbed by Chogyam Trungpa's Born in Tibet [Note 6 Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the eleventh Trungpa tulku. The story of his youth and escape from Tibet after the Chinese Communist incursion "as told to" Esme Cramer Roberts, Born in Tibet, was published by Harcourt Brace in 1968.] I question Zaehner's At Sundry Times. I think he is off target.
1968/09/11 Tibetan Book of Dead / compiled and edited by Walter Yeeling-Evans-Wenz Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 171 So now that lies under the dirty [indecipherable] sludge of clouds, the blue sea full of drifting snow, cloud-floes. And the big brown-green river makes south. Best exit: through the Brahanarandra-or Foramen of Monro. Importance of Tibetan Book of Dead-the "clean passage," direct, into a new space or area of existence--even in one's "this present"life-clean unclogged steps into more maturity. I stepped through a big mudhole. Like escaping through the window of a toilet. It lifts. It talks. Meditation of the motors. Mantra. Om. Om Om Om over and over like a sea-cow. And sun sits on the page.
1968/09/17 Tibetan Book of Dead / compiled and edited by Walter Yeeling-Evans-Wenz Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 179 Bardo Thodol"”your own true nature confronts you as Pure Truth, "subtle, sparkling, bright, dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome like a mirage moving across a landscape in springtim"¦. Be not terrified"¦. From the midst of that radiance the natural sound of Reality, reverberating like a thousand thunders simultaneously sounding, will come. That is the natural sound of thine own real self. Be not daunted thereby nor terrified." [Note 2: This passage is excerpted and paraphrased from p. 104 of Evans-Wentz's Bardo Thodol and the quotes that appear on the following pages of the journal are from the same source.]
1968/10/15Hermann HesseSiddhartha Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 209 Long, long noon. Endless noon. Like Alaska in midsummer. In San Francisco it has long been dark. It is nearly 10 at night there. Here, endless sun. I have done everything. Sleep. Prayers. And I finished Hesse's Siddhartha. [Note 5: Siddhartha Gautama (Sanskrit) is the personal given name of the Buddha. Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha, however, relates the life of one of the Buddha's earliest disciples.]
1968/10/15W.Y. (Walter Yeeling) Evans-WentzTibetan yoga and secret doctrines : or, Seven books of wisdom of the great path, according to the late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English rendering / W.Y. (Walter Yeeling) Evans-Wentz ; arr. and ed. with introd. and annot. to serve as a commentary by W. Y. Evans-Wentz ; with Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 205-06 I am going home, to the home where I have never been in this body, where I have never been in this washable suit (washed by Sister Gerarda the other day at the Redwoods), where I have never been with these suitcases (in Bangkok there must be a katharsis of the suitcases!), where I have never been with these particular books, Evans-Wentz's Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines and the others.
1968/10/17Acariya Maha Boowa NanasampannoWisdom Develops Samadhi / translated from Thai by Bhikkhu Pannavaddho Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 212 The Thai Buddhist concept of sila, the "control of outgoing exuberance," is basic, somewhat like the Javanese rasa. There is a good pamphlet on the "Forest Wat," the idea of wisdom, beginning with sila. This small book, really only an extended article, "Wisdom Develops Samadhi" by the Venerable Acarya Maha Boowa Nanasampanno, a translation from the Thai published in Bangkok, is a spiritual masterpiece.[Note 9: While the Venerable Nanasampanno's essay may exist as a separate pamphlet in the Thai language, it appears almost certain that the text Merton read was the English translation by Bhikkhu Pannavaddho of Wat Pa-barn-tard, which appeared in the May 1967 issue of the magazine Visakha Puja.] The author is apparently, or was, one of the masters in the Ghai forest wats, abbot of Wat Pa-barn-tard in the jungle of north central Thailand.
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 "¦
1968/10/20MilarepaSixty songs of Milarepa / transl. by Garma C.C. Chang ; select. and introd. by Bikkhu Khantipalo Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 217 I have been reading the poetry of Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi, who was born in 1052. "Repa""”"clad in one piece of cotton." (Because of his heat meditations?) He stands at the head of the Kagyudpa tradition. The "whispered transmission," i.e., esoteric. But he was not a bhikkhu, and his master, Marpa, was a layman.
1968/10/27Phra Sasanasobhon (ed.)His Majesty King Rama the fourth Mongkut Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 226 And amid all this, a pure gem: the little book on King Rama IV Mongkut, Bhikkhu, Abbot of Wat Bovoranives, then King of Thailand (d. 1868). [Note 32: The book Menon was reading about him is His Majesty King Rama the Fourth Mongkut, edited by Phra Sasanasobhon, published in Bangkok in 1968 in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the holy monarch's death.] A really beautiful account of a holy life, simple and clear with some Franciscan signs and miracles. "There is nothing in this world which may be clung to blamelessly, or which a man clinging thereto could be without blame." [H. M. King Maha Mongkut (Rama IV)]
1968/10/28 Tibetan Book of Dead / compiled and edited by Walter Yeeling-Evans-Wenz Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 227 "Therefore have no fears, have no terror of that deep blue light of dazzling, terrible and awful splendour, since it is the light of the Supreme Way." [Tibetan Book of the Dead]
1968/10/29Armand DesjardinsMessage des Tibetains Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 227 I have much to read: [Giuseppe] Tucci's The Theory and Practice of the Mandala [London, 1969], [Armand] Desjardins' Message des Tibetains [Message of the Tibetans, London, 1969], the Dalai Lama's pamphlet on Buddhism, essays by Marco Pallis, Trungpa, and things I picked up yesterday from Dr. Lokesh Chandra of the Academy of Indian Culture.
1968/10/29Giuseppe TucciTheory and Practice of the Mandala Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 227 I have much to read: [Giuseppe] Tucci's The Theory and Practice of the Mandala [London, 1969], [Armand] Desjardins' Message des Tibetains [Message of the Tibetans, London, 1969], the Dalai Lama's pamphlet on Buddhism, essays by Marco Pallis, Trungpa, and things I picked up yesterday from Dr. Lokesh Chandra of the Academy of Indian Culture. [in the next pages several quotes from Tucci's book]
1968/11/02Giuseppe TucciTheory and Practice of the Mandala Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 240 I talked to Sonam Kazi about the "child mind," which is recovered after experience. Innocenc"”to experienc"”to innocence. Milarepa, angry, guilty of revenge, murder and black arts, was purified by his master Marpa, the translator, who several times made him build a house many stories high and then tear it down again. After which he was "no longer the slave of his own psyche but its lord." So too, a Desert Father came to freedom by weaving baskets and then, at the end of each year, burning all the baskets he had woven. (Tucci, pp. 83-84). {Many quotes from Tucci on these pages}
1968/11/02Surendranath DasguptaIntroduction to Tantric Buddhism Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 239 "One is to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha only for the sake of others; it has therefore been said, ‘Bodhicitta is perfect enlightenment (attained) for the sake of others"¦'" [S. B. Dasgupta, An Introduction to Tantric Buddhism (Calcutta, 1958), pp. 280-83]
1968/11/03MilarepaSixty songs of Milarepa / transl. by Garma C.C. Chang ; select. and introd. by Bikkhu Khantipalo Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 247 "It is the tradition of the fortunate seekers never to be content with partial practice." (Milarepa)
1968/11/03Phra Sasanasobhon (ed.)His Majesty King Rama the fourth Mongkut Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 248-49 Sankaracharya on the ego (from The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination): "When we say: ‘This man is that same Devadatta whom I have previously met,' we establish a person's identity by disregarding those attributes superimposed upon him by the circumstances of our former meeting. In just the same way, when we consider the scriptural teaching ‘That art Thou,' we must disregard those attributes which have been superimposed upon ‘That' and ‘Thou"¦.' "Cease to follow the way of the world, cease to follow the way of the flesh, cease to follow the way of tradition. Get rid of this false identification and know the true Atman"¦. "Cease to identify yourself with race, clan, name, form and walk of life. These belong to the body, the garment of decay. Abandon, also, the idea that you are the doer of actions or the thinker of thoughts. These belong to the ego, the subtle covering. Realize that you are that Being which is eternal happiness. "Man's life of bondage to the world of birth and death has many causes. The root of them all is the ego, the first-begotten child of ignorance. "As long as a man identifies himself with this wicked ego, there can be no possibility of liberation. For liberation is its very opposite. "Once freed from this eclipsing demon of an ego, man regains his true nature, just as the moon shines forth when freed from the darkness of an eclipse. He becomes pure, infinite, eternally blissful and self-luminous." (Sankaracharya, pp. 86, 91, 96)
1968/11/04T.R.V. MurtiCentral Philosophy of Buddhism Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 252 Murti on Madhyamika: "Its dialectic is of crucial importance. This dialectic is the consciousness of the total and interminable conflict in reason and the consequent attempt to resolve the conflict by rising to a higher standpoint." [T. R. V. Mutri, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London, 1960), p. 126] [Many quotes from Mutri's book in the next pages, until November 14]
1968/11/06Marco PallisIs There Room for 'Grace' in Buddhism? Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 260 [Note 52: For this and the following quotes see Marco Pallis, "Is There Room for ‘Grace' in Buddhism?" in Studies in Comparative Religion, August 1968, Pates Manor, Bedfont, Middlesex, England.] Marco Pallis on grace in Buddhism: "The word ‘grace' corresponds to a whole dimension of spiritual experience; it is unthinkable that this should be absent from one of the great religions of the world. "The function of grac"¦to condition man's homecoming to the center itself"¦which provides the incentive to start on the Way and the energy to face and overcome its many and various obstacles. Likewise grace is the welcoming hand into the center when man finds himself at long last on the brink of the great divide where all familiar human landmarks have disappeared." (Pallis, p. 5)
1968/11/07Dalai LamaIntroduction to Buddhism Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 264 "Know the sufferings although there is nothing to know; relinquish the causes of misery although there is nothing to relinquish; be earnest in cessation although there is nothing to cease; practise the means of cessation though there is nothing to practise." [Note 56: The Buddha, as quoted in the Dalai Lama's pamphlet An Introduction to Buddhism (New Delhi: Tibet House, 1965), 8.]
1968/11/15Eduard ConzeBuddhist Thought in India Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 276 Conze comments on the fact that communication between East and West has not so far done much for philosophy. "So far European and particularly British philosophers have reacted by becoming more provincial than ever before." (Conze [Buddhist Thought in India (London, 1962)],p. 9)
1968/11/19Eduard ConzeBuddhist Thought in India Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 287 "True love requires contact with the truth, and the truth must be found in solitude. The ability to bear solitude, and to spend long stretches of time alone by oneself in quiet meditation, is therefore one of the more elementary qualifications for those who aspire towards selfless love." (Conze, p. 85) This is the chapter on Buddhist social virtues. [Note 69: Actually, the chapter (chap. 6) in Conze'Buddhist Thought in India is entitled "The Cultivation of the Social Emotions." The discussion of maitri ("friendliness") begins near the top of p. 82 in the Ann Arbor paperback edition.] Maitri"”friendly lov"”is not exclusive, it is rooted in truth rather than in passionate need. Compassion is proportionate to detachment; otherwise we use others for our own ends under the pretext of "love." Actually, we are dominated by illusion. Love that perpetuates the illusion does no good to others or to ourselves. Ultimately the illusion has to be destroyed by prajna, which is also one with perfect compassion (karuna).
1968/11/21Eduard ConzeBuddhist Thought in India Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 290 I finished Murti at Mini. Also all I intend to read of Conze's Buddhist Thought in India, and Dr. [T: Y] Pemba's novel Idols by the Path. It is interesting, full of violence, but probably gives a fair idea of Tibet before and after the Chinese takeover. And of Tibetans in this part of India.
1968/11/21T.R.V. MurtiCentral Philosophy of Buddhism Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 290 I finished Murti at Mim. Also all I intend to read of Conze's Buddhist Thought in India, and Dr. [T: Y] Pemba's novel Idols by the Path. It is interesting, full of violence, but probably gives a fair idea of Tibet before and after the Chinese takeover. And of Tibetans in this part of India.