Alfred Pulyan

Letters from a
Zen Master

Feb 27, 1961

Dear Dick,


This continues while the Universe awaits your decision! Naturally you will soon repeat yourself. I do not know what data would satisfy you. Metaphysical discussion is useless yet we keep bringing up such questions as “merger with the One” or “eternal life of the mind” that cannot be answered VERBALLY & require “experience.”

(Incidentally I did NOT say the mind lives unendingly. What does GO ON, or better what does not cease, is better known by this same personal experience.)


There is nothing “odd” or harmful here although your word “unusual” has some truth in it. Sometimes I am sad (for people like yourself) but always compassionate. I have NOT got “big” as you suggest. What I have is in all of us. Those who seem famous like St. Germain, Cagliostro might not be of much use to you when you had got behind the showmanship.

Simple, unassuming people may be the true “knowers.”

As for “what is a guru?” a teacher does not actually “teach” anything, but quietly persists like a mother until the child grows up with often no thanks & asking no reward.


There is confusion here. Patanjali uses this as “preliminary” yoga, but Yogananda made it his main technique. In any case it stresses “union” when that means there are two things YET TO BE joined! It is the other way round. The ONE thing exists -- & there is already “union,” but you will not lose yourself in it, nor your self-consciousness, WHILE YOU LIVE. Words are of no help here.


We paint pictures, play the recorder, toboggan down the hill, but have no need to use silly words like the one in capitals (“TRANSCENDENTALISTS”). You are having nightmares -- such talk is for those who have not “attained” & have not started to live. Does such talk help you at all?


To answer a host of your questions I am no more learned than ‘before,’ cannot levitate or do miracles, cannot speak with the dead, -- in fact only a close friend could see any difference at all.


I didn’t notice it. But you can always retire in a cloud of recriminations & say “these fakers don’t get very far with me.” I have known this done before & it gives satisfaction no doubt to the person who does it (at least for a time).

As for me “the Lord gives & the Lord takes away,” one comes, one goes.

Or else you could “search” for ever, for searching’s sake with (paradoxically!) no thought of “finding.” Some fear to find.

I shall give you no testimonials however (those are confidential); nor paint glowing pictures of attainment or threats if you don’t, nor promise marvels & magic (the beautiful thing in the world is the “order,” not the “leeway” -- which does however exist).

Nor can I “beg” too much as this thing may not be debauched or debased and it would be undignified & twist our relations round. Usually the student seeks the guru & then does as he is told. How else can we tame ego?


There is a remarkable disproportion between the low tone of our correspondence (bathrooms & plumbing are our top levels) and the drastic & final change in a person which should be our real theme.

This “awakening” is for the childlike, the simple at heart, but not necessarily for those either lacking in keen discrimination or in natural culture. “Wise as serpents, innocent as doves.”

Nor is this work usually undertaken in a trivial, calculating way. It is the most important thing that can happen to any human being and appears to be the specific reason for existence of the universe. Lincoln discovered this on April 13, 1865.



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