[L. 133 | 143] 19 November 1964

The English publisher's attitude[1] is, of course, quite normal. A publishing house, like any other association of businessmen, exists for the mutual benefit of its members, not for the purpose of edifying people; and we cannot expect that an exception will be made to the general principle of Business First. Even if he should personally like the book, he cannot accept it if its publication will not be to the material advantage of his colleagues. It is unfortunate, no doubt, that I should have hit upon such a dated subject as Buddhism to write about. But what would you? It seems that I must have got on the wrong boat some fifteen or twenty years ago and have been exploring a backwater ever since and now I find myself unable to write about anything more progressive. It is true, of course, that I have recently become unexpectedly well equipped (my health is just the same, thank you for your kind wishes) to make investigations in quite a different field of activity, still fashionable; but the subject seems to have been adequately covered—that appears to be the right word[a]—by people before me, and I do not feel I really have the talent to write another Kāma Sūtra. (It is quite possible, you know, that people might be more profoundly shocked by the Notes than by the K.S. The K.S.—which I have never read—suggests only that we should abandon morality; the Notes suggest that we should abandon humanity.)

Certainly, people have to make money to live; and just because I have been fortunate enough never to have been in need of it (least of all, perhaps, now that I don't have any) there is no occasion for me to give myself airs. But, beyond a certain point, devotion to money becomes scandalous ('Money is lovely, like roses'), and we finish up with the dying Rimbaud: 'Que je suis malheureux, que je suis donc malheureux...et j'ai de l'argent sur moi[b] que je ne puis même passurveiller!'[2]

Ven. S. tells me—it is his leitmotiv—that nobody in Europe now thinks of anything but money, and some firms (notably the pharmaceuticals) make so much of it that they don't know what to do with it all. He himself has had a letter from his people urging him to return, on the grounds that he will never make money by being a Buddhist monk. (Evidently they are not very well informed about the present state of the monkhood in Ceylon.)

The late Ven. Soma Thera aspired to poetry; here is a translation of his from the Sanskrit (the second line might be improved, but the last two make their effect):

In him who ever and again
Reflects on death's hard hand of pain
The drive for gross material gain
Grows limp as hide soaked through with rain.
The Ven. Soma was a man of moods and enthusiasms. On one occasion, quoting a Sutta passage as his authority, he violently denounced all book-learning. Here is the Ven. Ñānamoli Thera's comment:
Lowly stoic Epicteatise
Never wrote a single treatise:
The utterances of the man
Were taken down by Arrian.
Imperial Mark Aureliorse,
His bibliophobia was worse:
He wrote a book himself instead
When 'Throw away your books!' he said.

I have added a couple of pages to NIBBĀNA. The Suttas define nibbāna as 'destruction of lust, hate and delusion'. But the Visuddhimagga qualifies this by saying that it is 'not merely destruction', which introduces chaos. If nibbāna is not merely destruction of lust, hate and delusion, then it must be something else besides. But what? Why, practically anything you like to imagine. It is, if you so wish, destruction of lust, hate and delusion and ten thousand a year and a seductive mistress. But perhaps you may care to look at the whole new typescript now that the translations have been appended and the text enlarged.


[133.a] There are others, e.g. (a supposed Daily Mirror headline): UNDERGRADS PROBE SEX SENSATION. [Back to text]

[133.b] Eight kilos of gold! [Back to text]


Editorial notes:

[133.1] English publisher: Mr. Brady had taken the typescript of Notes with him when he went on home leave. L. 131 to 133 were addressed to England. The typescript remained in England for about six months (see L. 143) making the rounds of the publishers. (It was on Mr. Brady's return to the East, it seems, that he stopped off at an ashram in India, discussed in L. 134.) [Back to text]

[133.2] Rimbaud: 'How wretched I am, oh! how wretched I am...and I've got money on me that I can't even watch!' [Back to text]