Alfred R. Pulyan

Letters from a Zen Master

Alfred Pulyan Zen Master

Aug 27, 1960

[Top margin note was partially cut off in the copy machine]  ... You met Mac. From him you met me. Don't mess this one up! Al.

Dear Dick,

You certainly don't sound like a fool and that is half the battle! As long as you realize that the "self" is like an eel dipped in oil. (WOUCH! WOUCH! There it goes ... )


Your problem is the old koan: What shall I do when I meet a Zen master? Shall I give him an uppercut, biff him, plug him? Well, if you do, he will either give you a little Judo, if he is a black belt, or, if he is an old man & weak, will politely transfer you to another monastery! Occupational hazard!


Shall I call him a liar? He will smile & I shall get no further. Besides after knowing him some time I shall see that he is sincere. So? Then the possibility is that he is self-deceived, in a state of illusion, mental conjangulation, misunderstanding of subjective experiences etc. etc. Who isn't?

After knowing him a little longer I find him keen, sharp, definite, logical, certainly not psychotic, & I begin to say: "Hell. God or no God, give me some of that anyway!"


But right now. I have just met him. How shall I act? Shall I doubt & yet half hide it, placate him so that he won't run away? If there is A CHANCE that he really is that extraordinary thing, a Buddha, another Jesus, a Lao Tse, an Eckhart, etc. etc ... then let us not lose this chance! So let us cajole a bit, smarm a bit, flatter the old bastard, kiss his venerable posterior, hide our doubts ...

The trouble is that the Z.M. knows that one too! Besides IF HE NEEDS THAT HE IS STRICTLY NO GOOD, STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS. Try somewhere else ...

Of course you could be just a friend, and friends don't have any communication problem.



(a) You are a run-of-the-mill intelligent man -- no less than me, no more than me as regards capacity.

(b) As regards knowledge we have both picked up scraps.

(c) My mind is not more or less "infinite" than yours.

(d) I am no "better" or "worse" than you. We are both mixtures.

(e) Our "communication" is normal. I cannot however describe the transcendental (beyond reason) aim of our "work." I may try to do so now & then -- if so laugh at me! It cannot be done.

(f) It is NOT something "added" -- you would not find me or my friends too exceptional -- we get up, eat, work round the place, look at TV, discuss & all that you do. But we do know what underlies the whole caboozle! (And went through hell to get it.)

(g) Avoid the highly "advertised" persons. The awakened ones are usually unknown   & you may meet one at intervals without suspecting it in any way.

(h) We can have a "transcendental" thing right now -- friendship & confidence. From that it is but a step. But such things cannot be forced. They must be spontaneous, natural, real -- like the taste of a glass of water.

(i) "Relative bicameral approach." Leave that to me & just be yourself. And be truthful -- remorselessly so. That will help me most. Don't cover up -- if what we seek is the truth & the way of the Universe it can stand it I hope !! Remember always I know the whole game & this is nothing new, not the first time by any means!

(j) Am I an "incomprehensible man"? My wife doesn't seem to appreciate my "greatness"! She finds me very ordinary -- as indeed I am. Yet that is personality   only. Otherwise I could well be one in a million because I found what I was looking for (AND SO CAN YOU) and that is RARE -- but to work by "mail" is EVEN RARER. I do not know of many cases. Where could you go? To your ridiculous "brotherhood"? Well -- they have the right doctrine (Wisdom Religion) many of them BUT THEY DON'T TAKE YOU TO THE EXPERIENCE usually. They would scare away the paying clients.

(k) Is "attacking" the method? Yes & No. If you call "attack" the necessary exposure of EVERY ego trick, then it is sharp attack. I assure you it CANNOT BE PLEASANT for either of us. If you are smart enough  to see that friends can say anything whilst steadily maintaining their relationship   then something can be done.

Every step is contra-ego & that is a synonym for disagreeable, isn't it? (I got mad with my teacher. I got physically murderous.) Ego doesn't relinquish his boss idea without mayhem, squawks, screams, evasions, smarming, ... At times the student tries to discredit the master, at other times he withdraws ... There is a black leopard on the stairs. You meet him! What will you do? You can't pretend he isn't there. You can withdraw (run away), you can fight furiously, you can say "nice pussy," you can try tricks to divert him, you can call for help ... many things ...

But he must eat you.

You will never be attacked, or abused, without reason ... In business it is understood that when you say "you are a low-down crook" you are being friendly (if you smile!) & merely mean you are asking too much, but I have to have the goods.

God comes easiest if you tell him he has made a mess of things. Try it! He is so grateful that AT LEAST you acknowledged his existence that he comes through with seventh-heaven treatment ecstasies ...
Verb. sap. [verbum sapienti sat est. : a word to the wise]

(l) Can you "defend"? Why not -- IF IT IS NOT "DEBATING SOCIETY" or "SOPHIST" tactics. It must be genuine & strictly reasonable. Otherwise there is no hope at all for the FUZZY-MINDED!

(m) There is NO "emotion" in this. Love is "heightened awareness" (& not the variable "emotion"), & can be hard, but always it is outgoing, thinks not of itself, only of the other person. Our AIM is "heightened awareness" -- in fact a Consciousness you have certainly never known& which is amazing---

(n) Regarding the question:

The body dies & is dissipated.

The mind is one with it at all times and is therefore also dissipated.

Nothing of you remains. There is no survival or reincarnation or "immortal soul," "conscious entity."

As far as that goes you are the exact equal of a drop of water & have the same possibility! Or an electron. Or a cabbage.

Grim? Not at all, this is the wonderful truth & is the purpose of our work.

The Zen Master asks: "What happens to you when the great Universe disappears in fire?"

(o) If you have had some inklings of experiences, even the transient ones, if you are discriminative & can balance almost imponderables (i.e. if you are cunning & smart with true self-interest, like a serpent) then there is a chance, but Jesus said "FEW."

arrow points to right  [Left margin note for the next paragraph]
I do not fool myself. We shall see if you lose yourself in mere back-and-forth stuff, or if you take  your chance. God knows -- & that is no platitude.

[Remember however that facts are facts & "knowing" them makes no difference, EXCEPT to your peace of mind. What will happen to both of us is the same whatever we say or do!]

With fingers crossed, but always,



PS: Don't mix things. Keep my letters confidential to yourself -- especially as regards Mac. Naturally you are similar in many ways but this is a one-one thing & won't work in consultation! In other words to "avoid" awakening is quite easy, 3,000,000,000 do that. To attain it is something else. "Messiah-jumpers" just don't.

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