[L. 134 | 144] 3 December 1964

Clearly you are one of those people who manage to feel and perhaps to re-create the atmosphere and associations belonging to buildings and places, and so, when you visit these places, you are able almost to take yourself back in time in a bodily way. Whatever little capacity I had in this direction (I used to enjoy travelling and visiting places) was blighted by my years in the wartime Army where, having abused my brain all day (I was in Intelligence—of which, as Huxley has pointed out, there are three kinds: human, animal, and military), I only sought (with indifferent success—my education was against me) to abuse my body all the night. Anyway, it simplified my world and brought out the issues clearly.

But now, even though there are the places of significance for the Buddhist in India, and the Buddha himself spoke in praise of visiting them (the Birthplace, the place of Enlightenment—strictly this is a mistranslation, it should be Awakening—, of the First Sermon, of the Final Passing Away), I have never felt either the need or inclination to visit them.

How irritating the Buddha's Teaching must sometimes appear! Here you are, having been to an ashram and learned or realized the Great Truth that 'reality is consciousness—not consciousness OF, not knowledge, but consciousness',—and now here am I with the distressing duty of having to inform you that the Buddha says (I simplify slightly) 'Without matter, without feeling, without perception, without determinations (intention, volition), that there should be consciousness—such a thing is not possible' (cf. Khandha Samy. 51: iii,53). (An exception is made for the highest spheres of consciousness, where matter is transcended by a process of successive abstraction, but all the other items are still present.) I am sorry about it, but there it is—but then I am not obliging you to accept the Suttas.[a] (Hindus have the habit of saying that all religions are One, with particular reference to the Buddha's Teaching. Since the Buddha was a Hindu, they say, his Teaching must be Hinduism. Besides, they say he was the eighth avatar of Vishnu. Buddhists, on the other hand, do not say that all religions are One—thus demonstrating at least one difference from Hinduism.)

Perhaps this very point will throw light on my preference (within due limits) for the existentialist philosophers: Husserl maintained, and Sartre confirms, that all consciousness is consciousness of something, e.g.

Consciousness is consciousness of something. This means that transcendence is the constitutive structure of consciousness; that is, that consciousness is born supported by a being which is not itself. (B&N, p. lxi)
And from this, again, you will see why I am essentially anti-mystical. And this explains why, from the Western point-of-view I am not a religious person. There seems to be a paradox in the fact that my tastes—literary and other—are more secular and less spiritual than yours.

It is quite clear that the Notes can never be a popular work (except by mistake), but it is perhaps more difficult than you or I quite realize. Possibly it might be of interest to professional or semi-professional philosophers, but, to judge from Mind, there don't seem to be any in England. Why should the book be published at all? I don't quite know.


[134.a] I don't in the least doubt that you were benefitted by your visit to the ashram; and it may be that (in a manner of speaking) this is the Truth for you. But the question is, ultimately, how far it takes you. And the Buddha says that it does not take you (or anyone) to extinction. But perhaps that is not what you wanted. [Back to text]