Kerouac Buddhist Influences

Allen Ginsberg on the influences on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues from here

AG:  But he doesn’t know where to begin.   The other influence was a lot of Buddhist texts, particularly the Diamond Sutra, and he’d read in and out of a book called A Buddhist Bible by Dwight Goddard, which was out of print for many years and is now available in paperback, and is a compilation of basic Buddhist texts – the “Life of Buddha,” some of Milarepa‘s work, sections from the Lankavatara Sutra, the Surangama Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, all of which were texts that Phil Whalen and Gary Snyder chewed over and read with him in ’54, ’55.  Those were the pop Buddhist metaphysical texts of that time.  They’re all constant in Zen Buddhism, the basis of Zen Buddhism.  And maybe you know a little bit about that theory and maybe you don’t, but we’ll get to it if you don’t.  If anybody needs footnotes for that.

But the single sentence that stuck the most is –  “All conceptions as to the existence of the self, as well as all conceptions as to the non-existence of the self, as well as all conceptions as to existence of a supreme self, as well as all conceptions as to the non-existence of a supreme self, are equally arbitrary, being only conceptions.

You ever follow that?  Everybody?  “All conceptions as to the existence of the self,” – (“I am Dmitri”) – “as well as all conceptions as to the non-existence of the self,” – “There is no soul” – (“as well as all conceptions as to existence of a supreme self,”) – (“There is a God”) – “as well as all conceptions as to the non-existence of a supreme self,” – (“There is no God” ) – “are equally arbitrary, being only” mental ideas or conceptions.  And so therefore not identical with the event that they’re supposed to label or represent – that is, a word – language – is not identical.  When people ask me “Are you Allen Ginsberg?” I say, “No, that’s my name.”  Or a table is this and then a table is the word we use for the table.  But the word “table” is not identical with this piece of wood and plastic.  So the word “God” is just an idea, it doesn’t have anything to do with whatever event is out there.  But it might be included as a tiny part of the big event of the universe.  And that’s from the Diamond Sutra – the “Diamond-Cutter Sutra” – that is to say, like diamond, so sharp it cuts through it all – confusions and semantic confusions..

Are there any more ashtrays around?
Student:  Here’s one.
AG:  Yeah, there’s one unused over there, I think.

…which brings back one other reference I’m sorry I left out –  (Oswald) Spengler we got from (William S.) Burroughs in 1945 – a big copy of Spengler, literally, which he gave to me and to Kerouac, and Kerouac gave it to me and I gave it to (Neal) Cassady, finally.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fourteen-and-a-half minutes in and continuing until approximately eighteen-and-a-half minutes in

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