Alfred R. Pulyan

Letters from a Zen Master

Alfred Pulyan Zen Master

Aug 20, 1960

Dear Richard,

Mac [1] is very kind, and your letter is very straightforward. As Mac may have told you I am not a believer in polite phrases but feel that to save time we should tell the truth as best as we can.

[1. McIntyre, who recommended Pulyan to Rose.]

You are 43, no longer young, and in a position that I found intolerable. Like you, I was a "seeker," but it is obvious no words will satisfy you. Otherwise let us publish them in the newspapers. From this the vanity of using mind (intellect) in the search is obvious.

However as you say IT IS ALL WE HAVE, so at the same time as you recognize the vanity of the instrument you have to use it to consider what A.R.P. is all about (for example).

It is all vague and tantalizing -- not even to know what your are & what is to become of you.

Consider this from A.R.P.'s standpoint (if you can!). He tries to "work" only with likely cases. Even then success is not 100%. He gets months (even years) of misunderstanding & trouble from each one of these, and more gray hairs.

They are not to "blame," they are using a mind which is amazingly persnickety & easily slips into mere debating society argument (on every minutest point) so that the wood is lost in the trees ... not knowing the result aimed at they are not deeply dedicated (usually) and things go in one ear and out the other.

He cannot tell them that as far as he knows he is their only hope -- and that an uncertain one -- unless they wish to go somewhere for personal "work" (say to a Zen instructor or to Subud).

He knows something people call "God" & which governs his life -- but not theirs. They can be flippant about it, he can not. One day they may say "This is obvious" but until then they cannot "believe" & every inch of the way is a hard fight.

He has to be "tough" with them to remove their obstacles but they  interpret it as quarreling with them -- as though he would waste weary time in that form of amusement!

This is written at 2:30 a.m. for example & the weight of the 3,000,000,000 people in the world seems at such an hour very oppressive. Further he knows that not one of them can be trusted or treated as a real friend until after their "awakening." They are treacherous in fact at some point.

I wonder if Jesus had one friend?

The world seems stranger to me perhaps than even to you. Perhaps I could find only 1 out of several tens of thousands who would understand this.

Why not tell me as much as you can of your early upbringing and religion & those things you have since studied & your opinion about them --- indeed 'open up' about your real sentiments.


Alfred R. Pulyan

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