[L. 93b | 126] [undated]

Dear bhante, [1]

I was sorry to hear, the other day, that your condition is apparently getting no better and that you are having to endure increasing pain. It is rather unwillingly that I am writing this to bother you again with my own affairs. Actually, you already know how I am situated, and this letter will not really tell you anything that you might not already be expecting. If I write at some length, then, it is more for the sake of other people who, finding it difficult to understand my position, may be puzzled or worried about what I am proposing to do.

As you know, the satyriasis with which I am afflicted (and which is no better) presents me with a constant temptation to disrobe, and, when it becomes acute, the only means I have of resisting it is by contemplating suicide. To some extent, however, these alternatives (disrobe/suicide) are kept at arm's length when I find myself with something to say or write about Dhamma; and since last June I have been busy enlarging and retyping my Notes on Dhamma. But in due course this came to an end, and I found myself with nothing further to say.

In consequence of this—and since my amoebiasis more than doesn't permit samatha practice—my situation once again became acute and, in fact, I again made an attempt to end my life. (After the Ven. Ñānamoli Thera's death I came into possession of a few objects that had belonged to him. Amongst these was a small glass ampoule containing a liquid that, for various reasons, I thought was very probably a solution of potassium cyanide—which, as you know, is an extremely quick and efficient poison. I was glad to have this, but I did not want to break the ampoule until I actually intended to use the contents. And when eventually, having made all the necessary arrangements, I did come to break it I found that the contents, whatever they were, were certainly not cyanide, which has a very characteristic smell. So I was most reluctantly obliged to go on living. These repeated attempts at suicide are instructive—I am rapidly becoming an expert—and they certainly provide good practice in preparing for death; but it is always a painful business to face this life again once one has decided that one has no further interest in it.)

This second unsuccessful attempt leaves me at present without any particular desire to go on living, but without any very comfortable way of dying. (I have my razor, of course, but it is not so easy to make up one's mind to cut one's throat.) But what is significant about the whole episode is that it tends to confirm what I had already long suspected, that is to say, that sooner or later I shall either disrobe or else make a successful attempt at suicide. For a few weeks, a few months perhaps, possibly longer, I might manage to keep my balance between these two alternatives; but if it is to be a question of years (and I see no prospect of an early natural death), then it is extremely unlikely that I shall do it—and the reason (as you know[2]) is quite simply that I no longer have any very strong motive for making the necessary effort. Even if I fail in keeping a balance and fall to one side or the other (and, obviously, in my case suicide is the lesser evil), it will not make any difference to the ultimate outcome, and so I am not ultimately interested in keeping my balance.

At this point, no doubt, people will come forward with constructive suggestions how I should employ my time so as not to fall into either temptation. But this is not so easy. The good doctor, for example, who has the best of intentions, has asked me to 'forget my troubles and busy myself with some research work into the Dhamma'. But the advice to 'forget my troubles', however excellent it may be from the medical point of view, is directly opposed to satisampajañña; and further, once one has acquired the habit of mindfulness—and it is quite soon acquired in solitude—then one simply 'forgets how to forget', and one is incapable of following the advice even if one wants to. This idea of 'research work into the Dhamma', as far as I am concerned at least, has ceased to have any meaning for me—what possible interest can I have in that? Is this not putting me back into the kindergarten? No—with the best will in the world I cannot disengage myself from my existence and make believe that my troubles don't exist.
[Back to text]

Footnotes to editorial notes:

[93b.1] This draft was obviously written after revision of Notes had been completed, or nearly so: perhaps as late as 1965. It was therefore not involved in the 'stir' revolving around L. 93. It is included here inasmuch as it is addressed to the same recipient, and deals with the same topic, as L. 93a. [Back]

[93b.2] See note to L. 97. [Back]