[L. 104 | 111] 3 November 1964

Many thanks for the press cuttings. The offer of the Nobel Prize to Sartre is not really very surprising, nor is his refusal of it. He has been a considerable influence in European intellectual circles (outside Britain) for almost twenty years, and his books have been widely read. He is probably now fairly affluent, and can afford to do without the prize-money, and he still gets the credit (whether he likes it or not) of having been offered the prize—and additional credit for having refused it! None the less, his reasons for refusing the award are sound and set a good example for others.

The height of absurdity in the matter of official distinctions is the award of titles to distinguished bhikkhus by the Burmese Government—quite oblivious of the fact that if a bhikkhu accepts an official distinction he shows himself ipso facto to be a bad bhikkhu. And perhaps the topmost pinnacle of this height of absurdity is the 'official recognition' by the said Government, not many years ago, of the claim of a certain bhikkhu (which, for all I know, may have been justified) to be arahat. (The Catholic Church, of course, has to do this sort of thing. Since there is no attainment—samāpatti—in Christianity, nobody can claim to be a saint. The Church—the Vatican, that is—simply waits until the likely candidates have been safely dead for a number of years and then pronounces officially that they were saints when they were living. Since the Church is infallible—if you are a believer—, all this is quite in order. But if you do not happen to be a believer it is all a huge joke.)

Babbler's statement that Sartre is 'the founder and leader of existentialism' is very inaccurate—existentialism, as a distinct philosophy, is universally agreed to have started with Kierkegaard (1813-1855), and there have been other existentialist philosophers—notably Heidegger—before Sartre. But what Babbler calls 'the fundamental tenet', though not recognized as such by existentialists, is more or less correct (and you will have noted that, so stated, it is not repugnant to the Buddha's Teaching—we can agree that 'man is what he makes of himself').

November, with its rains, is rather a bad month for me, and my thoughts tend to darken like the skies. Since, as you will understand, I no longer have any compelling reason to go on living—and what a relief it is too!—I have to look around, in difficult periods, for makeshift reasons for carrying on; and my principal resort is preoccupation with the Notes. I correct them, add to them, polish them, re-type them, and then consider various ways and means of having them published—and all this is not so much because I am really concerned about them (though I will not pretend that I am totally disinterested) as because it is a way of getting through my day.