Alfred R. Pulyan

Letters from a Zen Master

Alfred Pulyan Zen Master

May 17, 1961

[Pulyan's last known letter to R.]

Dear Dick,

No, it is very difficult to solve the cosmic problem oneself, because for the "self" to abandon (even for a fraction of a second which is all that is necessary) its own proud assumption of being the ultimate decider is, as I have so often said, almost impossible.

This is because to "decide" not to decide is a paradox, like lifting yourself up. Of course if you hold onto a horizontal bar you can lift yourself off the ground & in the same way you must use an awakened person to "help" (like the horizontal bar).

A person who will patiently "work" with you without complaining, without hope of reward or desire for it, for years if necessary, must have something & it is rather over-skeptical to doubt it. No doubt there are a lot of goofy people who think they are a Jesus or God, but you can surely tell them pretty quickly & they are NOT the type to reason with you patiently for years.

If you will allow me to say so your skepticism is beyond the ordinary allowance even for an "intellectual" & verges upon the ungracious & unkind. As a mathematician & former auditor my standards of proof are very, very high & exacting, but I do not "hold out" when a sufficient level of proof has been reached. In a bank audit or the audit of a commercial concern we were always watchful but did not fall into pathological doubt-fancies. When doubt ceases to be a servant & becomes your master & you wonder if there is an octopus hiding behind the .04 stamp on my letter then you are in a bad way.

Now unfortunately doubt in itself is not evil, but allied to resistance it can go against the flow of life & I can usually tell by looking at a person or after a brief conversation, whether they are of this type & so dangerously vulnerable to tensions, lack of circulation & consequent bad troubles in the body. That is why such "constipated" & "withdrawn" obstinacy can crumple in a flood of tears at a religious healing meeting AND ACTUALLY PRODUCE RESULTS! (Whether the religion taught is nonsense or fact is not the point. It is the softening of attitude that is so vital. We try to be so rock-ribbed, we poor mortals!)

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Fortunately even though life may get rough "all will be well, very well." I cannot logically prove this but it is a fact (if you will let your friend make a mere assertion of what is true by his own experience), & it is a fact according to a lot of others too, that there is a Something that seeks us individually & personally with a humility & open simplicity we lack. The poem "The Hound of Heaven" illustrates this (by Francis Thompson: "I fled Him, down the nights & down the days ... "). [1]

[1. selfdefinition.org/christian/francis-thompson-hound-of-heaven.htm ]

It does not matter when you encounter such a person as myself, except that if you do not feel well it is much harder for you to "work."

In your case not being a medical man I do not know what thing will help one of your troubles & harm another perhaps. My own teacher when her mother had bad bronchitis (had to have injections) gave her some high potency C vitamin tablets & told her to eat them freely!! (A 500 mg tablet of Vit. C is equivalent perhaps to a quart of orange juice as regards Vitamin C.)

For a condition like that I would get the 100 tablets of 500 mg Vit. C from Hudson for $1.35 (postage ppd.) or else if the acid was not desired then get the Plus Formula 279, Vit. C powder, 50 grams -- $1.95, "soluble in cold liquid, acid-free" from Plus Products (see pink slips). Maybe you would ask your doctor to see if it would do harm. If not, try it!! because I wouldn't be stopped merely by the fact that the use of massive doses of Vit. C to reduce infections is experimental.* (Of the 100 tablets or the 50 grams of powder I would use in my own case half during one week, then rest a week, then use the other half. This works out about 7 tablets a day or 3500 mg a day, or about 3 1/2 grams a day.)

* Has been since 1948. When will they 'know'?

Also, I feel that Yogurt would possibly be helpful & containers of this are easily available at .19 & .25 which will last two times at least. They can be flavored with fruit syrups, popular in this weather, such as Cherry, Strawberry, Grape, Orange etc. & Yogurt is then easy to take.

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(Plus Products have a fine Torula Yeast which provides a good balance of the B vitamins, an almost complete protein (it is 50% protein anyway) & lots of minerals) -- I do not want to divert your mind however from the suggestions on page 2 which you could check. Nor do I know if you are dieting & if so how.)

"Awakening" is perhaps a sad knowledge -- like growing up! But I asked my teacher if she would "go back" & she said "No!" Now I myself can answer my own question! My answer is "I would not think of it. No!" I remember in New York getting a telephone installed for her & her husband. I felt, "This is the end! Tomorrow there will be thousands of people lining the street & sitting on the sidewalk & steps -- all waiting to see her and get enlightenment."

Surprise! There wasn't one. Only me & a few private students of hers.

Nor are there more than a handful who write to me now. Yet this is worth more than all the wealth of the world because the wealth of the world will not buy it.

When I was young I day-dreamed of course & thought I would like to be not famous, but wise! The "power behind the throne," another Richelieu!! Knowing more than professors, scientists, religious leaders, philosophers, everybody!! Now I do know more than most & the pride is no longer there, that is dust and ashes, burnt out. There is much sympathy left & I do what I can & sometimes I get beautiful letters full of gratitude; rarely from 'famous' people, although I know two or three authors & lawyers, a minister or two, housewives, psychotherapists, night-watchmen, bum, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, agnostics ---- but none in the topmost ranks like Jung & so forth. Jesus said they were too smart for their own good. I was too. What an insufferable, snooty, sneery, smart-aleck I was. (Hope I have improved at least a little!) I knew it all. My mind was free from prejudice, open, capable of judging -- IN A PIG'S EYE!!! A good thing we don't know our own motives & weaknesses. Our intellect is based on a miscellaneous grab-bag of assorted memory-junk & prejudices arrived at largely by accident (what we read, heard, saw ---). We are not even properly programmed for our job like an IBM machine!

Yet these chance memories give the flavor to our "I" that we call "personality." (We "remember" things we do not properly understand or respond to, apart from certain useful facts.)

Thus the much-vaunted "I" is a collection of half-understood perceptions!

And this bemused captain controls the vessel we call our 'body.' He is only "conscious" a few minutes at a time during the day! Rulers of the earth! Voyagers to the stars! (with a trail of empty beer-cans &, mentally, a cargo of aberrations, for α-Centauri!)

I wish we were kinder to the animals.

I wish we were kinder to one another. There is nobody on earth, even Kruschchev, who will not feel one day his or her utter loneliness, utter insulation from any other human being. To avoid knowing this we engage in commerce (must work to eat you say? YES, but I have known millionaires go on working!) & fill our time with distractions.

The "work" I do helps toward breaking down this separation we human-beings feel. It is not necessary, it is only the impulse to defend ourselves, -- we are terribly afraid of "coming out" just as ourselves & being stepped on!

This is a false fear. A lot of people, some professional speakers & entertainers, are quite "open" (cf. Will Rogers), & I do not mean backslappers.

This "I" of ours has a better side of course. Its basis -- apart from memories -- is the strange "self" conception. This is a direct reflection of the One Self & it is this we can see in one another.

Friend,

Al.

[Pulyan's last known letter to Rose. No letter by Rose in response.]

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