Alfred R. Pulyan

Letters from a Zen Master

Alfred Pulyan Zen Master

Nov 23, 1960

Dear Richard,

Your question is eminently "reasonable"! What is to be done if you meet a Zen Master (says the koan)? Shall you talk to him, ignore him or sock him on the chin?

ANOTHER ATTITUDE

Sometimes a student will say: "I give in. I am through trying to argue. I am at your disposal."

What do we do then? Contact God & have him send a wheelbarrow to collect the student?

STUDENT HAS TO DO IT HIMSELF

Alas! Even the saints of old wrestled with themselves for years in the desert, as did Gautama the "Buddha." But the student wants supreme satisfaction, supreme enlightenment, health, the equivalent of a $5000 psychologist etc. --- all for a casual grudging word and a "might as well, it don't cost nothing" attitude -----------

YOUR ATTITUDE

This however is not yet your position. You are demonstrating to me graphically that one cannot "decide or decide not to decide" or "write without demonstrating conceit or a pretense at reason."

CONVINCED?

That is -- you are not saying: I am convinced that there is something to attain. How do we attain it?

NO!

Oh no! You are just making a point.

If you were "convinced" there would be MUCH to say -- in particular how you had changed from the letters before when you had all your intellectual spines up like a porcupine & your dichotomizing "reason" all agog to tear everything in half ----- Then we could go on from there.

I'LL SHOW HIM!!

But your letter is merely a device in the arguments you put up (valid or not it doesn't matter) in the pushing away of something you don't especially want. Better bring on the dancing girls to stir your jaded appetite, it won't be until years start coming alarmingly quickly, perhaps, that you will awake from your leaden lethargy.

THEN WE ARE "AT HOME"

This is not "blame" of course. No ethics are involved here. If for some reason the time is not ripe (& I do not know all the conditions that make one agog for "awakening") then there are satisfactions in life to be had, "unnumbered ways of dream" as the poet says. [1]

[1. "Immortality", by A. E.

WE MUST pass like smoke or live within the spirit's fire;
For we can no more than smoke unto the flame return
If our thought has changed to dream, our will unto desire,
As smoke we vanish though the fire may burn.

Lights of infinite pity star the grey dusk of our days:
Surely here is soul: with it we have eternal breath:
In the fire of love we live, or pass by many ways,
By unnumbered ways of dream to death.]

HALF AN HOUR A DAY? NOT THAT!

And after all how much in any day are most persons actually even "conscious"? Only when it becomes necessary to make a decision! Thus a person could be fully aware & awake from 8 - 8.03 am, 12 - 12.05 pm, 7 - 7.05 pm etc. --- & could wear a sign "open for business as follows: ----"

A TEST

Ouspensky says you could be walking down the street & could say to yourself: "I must remember myself." Then you would go on: "I know I see a taxi passing. I know a man & a woman are going by. I see the building across the street. I know ----" and all of a sudden it is three hours later & you say: "My goodness. I forgot to remember myself!"

We are prisoners of our day-dreaming. And so life goes by -------

NOTE HOWEVER arrow pointing to text

(But you will realize this is NOT the "awakening" I refer to. That is not voluntary -- even though one "works" toward it.)

I was merely sketching a way of life, the usual one.

BOOK
(HE TRIES TO AVOID "INTELLECTUALIZING" AND THEN FLOPS RIGHT INTO IT!) BUT GET IT.

There is a Mentor book "The Teachings of the Mystics" by Walter T. Stace (MD306, .50) [published 1960] [2] and although he is only a philosopher, & mixes up "mystical experiences" with "awakening," nevertheless it might help to establish the mere existence of that which I speak & which I claim to know myself & to have assisted others to.

[2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Teachings_of_the_Mystics
Read online at Archive.Org ]

BACK TO THE PROBLEM ...

I find it quite possible to write "awakened" friends! It is perhaps necessary to be genuinely "open" & not snide or tricky, but to be just naturally friendly. There is no reason to avoid "reason" especially when it is keen "discrimination."

ONE OCCASION ONLY!

As for "egotism" & "conceit" those are our birthrights -- yours & mine, but ONCE, just ONCE and "really truly" they must be shed. After that you can resume -- but it won't be quite the same!

Friend,

Al.

Note: R does not respond to this letter for almost 3 months, on Feb. 17, 1961.

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