On Mexico City Blues (41st Chorus)

19th century painted Medicine Buddha Mandala with goddess Prajnaparamita at the center, Rubin Museum of Art, New York

Allen Ginsberg, in 1981, on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues from here 

AG: Okay, then the next one, 41st Chorus, he’s gone back to talking about the sound in your mind:

“That other part of your mind/Where everything’s refined/To thin hare screamers/Must be in the cavern/Somewhere..” – (“(T)hin hare screamers” – that’s some sort of nightmarish self-hood – “thin hare screamers.”  A hare is a rabbit that screams when it’s killed.  The death scream of a rabbit.  Scream of a rabbit – “thin hare screamers.”  A thin scream.  Anybody ever … you know that?  A rabbit screams.

Student:  That’s what I’ve heard.
AG:  Pardon me?
Student:  That’s what I’ve heard.
AG:  Yeah.
Peter Orlovsky:  Before they’re going to get killed by a dog
Student:  Yeah.

AG:  Yeah, actually he may have been paraphrasing (William) Blake “Each outcry of the hunted Hare/A fibre from the Brain does tear.”  Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence.”  “Each outcry of the hunted Hare/A fibre from the Brain does tear.”  It’s a little bit like that theory of (Antonin) Artaud I mentioned – in fact, exactly like that-that there are certain sounds -vocal sounds – which when made alter the physical construction of the nervous system.  And Blake had that same insight – “Each outcry of the hunted Hare/A fibre from the Brain does tear.”  Really subtle note.  Anybody ever know that one?  That’s Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” – it’s really worth reading.  A whole series of Zen-koan-like couplets.  “A Robin Red breast in a Cage/Put all Heaven in a Rage.”

Peter Orlovsky:  “A cut worm forgives the plow.”

AG:  “A cut worm forgives the plow” is in there.  “Every Morn & every Night/… Some are Born to Endless Night.”  “Some are Born to Endless Night.”  And “Some are Born to sweet delight.” [Editorial note – the actual passage reads – “Every Night & every Morn/ Some to Misery are Born/ Every Morn and every Night/ Some are Born to sweet delight/ Some are Born to sweet delight/ Some are Born to Endless Night]

“Each outcry of the hunted Hare/A fibre from the Brain does tear.”

“That other part of your mind/Where everything’s refined/To thin hare screamers..” – (In other words, that way back in the bottom of the mind which entertains that kind of fear and nightmare and ultimate indignity and desecration and fear “Must” also “be in the cavern” of the mind “Somewhere.”
We had the cavern before.  He said, “A vast cavern, huh?”  The 33rd Chorus begins “A vast cavern, huh?”

“That other part of your mind/Where everything’s refined/To thin hare screamers/Must be in the cavern/Somewhere./ But was is its self-nature..” – (“But was is its self-nature”-  it’s almost Yiddish – “But vas is its self-nature location?”  “But what is its self-nature/of location.”  “But was is its self-nature/of location” – where is it?

And his answer? – “Nada, nadir, naparinirvana – / ni parinirvana” – (In other words, nothing, nadir – the bottom – no – na – no paranivana.  Does anybody know “parinirvana”?  Is that a familiar word?

Student:  No.

AG:  Nirvana, you know.  “Pari-nirvana” is the word applied to when Buddha died – the parinirvana of Buddha – so he went up into nirvana.  Or para-psychology – the big nirvana,  he went to the big nirvana.  Paranirvana. “Na-parinirvana” means not even the parinirvana, not even the big nirvana.

“Nada, nadir, naparinirvana/ni parinirvana/But Most Excellent & Wise/ the Glorious Servant/of Sentient Needs..” – (Actually in Buddhist theory there is no nirvana, actually.  There’s no path, no wisdom, no nirvana.  And in the “Diamond Sutra“, “No nirvana, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, because no attainment.”  And Kerouac is locating this philosophy there also in that kind of negation of ideas about what things are supposed to be like.  The only thing you could say as a Bodhisattva )

“But Most Excellent & Wise/the Glorious Servant/of Sentient Needs..” –  (The Bodhisattva Vow is to serve other people rather than try and get yourself to Nirvana.) –

“Tathagata Akshobya,/Brother of Merudhvhaga,/ Kin to Sairputra/Holy & Wise/Like John in the Wood” – (Akshobya, Merudhvhaga and Sariputra were students of Buddha, and Sariputra was the one that was addressed in the “Diamond Sutra.”)  “Sairputra this is the….”  – (Let’s see.  Does anybody know the “Diamond Sutra” in here?  Well, the “Diamond Sutra” is … I’m sorry, the “Prajnaparamita,” the “Highest Perfect Wisdom Sutra,” which is of the same series of sutras as “Diamond Sutra” which I quoted a while back, I think.  It said, “All conceptions as to the existence of the self as well as all conceptions of the non-existence of the self….”  Did we go over that in this class? [Editorial note – he did – see here]  Because that’s the “Diamond Sutra.”  The “Diamond Sutra.”

The “Prajnaparamita Sutra” is the basis of all Zenand they chant it every day in Zen temples, and they also chant it here in the Tibetan shrine room.  It says, “Avalokatesvera Bodhisattva” – (someone who’s taken a vow to serve other sentient beings – to renounce Paradise-Nirvana for himself, but work hard) – “Avalokatesvera, down-glancing lord Avalokatesvera, or compassionate down-glancing lord, Avalokatesvera Bodhisattva, practiced deep highest meditation, highest perfect wisdom meditation when he perceived the five fields of the senses of consciousness all empty, and that relieved every suffering.”  It was all empty so there was nobody to suffer.  “Sariputra, this is the original character of everything; not one, not annihilated, not tainted, not pure, does not increase, does not decrease, therefore in emptiness, no form, no feeling, no sensation, no thought, no consciousness.”  And then it goes on to say, no wisdom, no attainment, no non-attainment.  Because no attainment, no non-attainment, so nobody has anything to worry about.  There’s nothing to attain since everything is nothing.

And Kerouac was interpreting Buddhism in those days in that – nothing is nothing and nothing comes from nothing, so don’t worry about it.  But it’s horrible to be there in a body tangled with meat and hair that’s all nothing anyway, so that the suffering is for nothing.  It was his basic take and that was actually also somewhat of an alcoholic version of Buddhism.  With the emphasis on inflamed cheek-nose-body-nerve-and-flame suffering in a tangle of hair and the body being a bag of meat.  And that’s also an old Buddhist take.  One of the old contemplations on the corruption of the body – how the body’s nothing but a bag of water and hair and goes back to that sooner or later.  And it’s an old Christian contemplation, too.

So he’s imagining the extreme of death – the “thin hare screamer”-  and all the horrors of that “Must be in the cavern” of the mind “Somewhere.”  That sensation of extreme pain, fear, other death door terror – terror –  Frankenstein, must be somewhere in the bottom of the mind, but what is the location of that nature?  Nowhere, in Nirvana, and there’s none, so there is existence, the “Servant/of Sentient Needs.”

Then he talks about the scene where Buddha is giving the Sutra out of “Highest Perfect Wisdom” to Sariputra and the brother dharma buddies, whom Kerouac is characterizing as “Holy & Wise/Like John in the Wood” – whoever that is. “John in the Wood”, that might be a Shakespeare character,that might be St. John of the Desert, like John in the Desert, John in the Wood  [Editorial note – perhaps Allen is thinking here of St. John of the Cross]

“No location to thin hare screamers..” –  (And there’s lots of “thin hare screamers” around.  I remember Kerouac saying later on some guy was in a mescaline fit and was screaming and was frightened, “Is that another one of those thin hare screamers?)” – “No location to thin hare screamers/… “In the min’ – .  Blank – .  “In the min’ — buzz.

“… d’s central comedy/(ute/and/ long     NOTHING/ ago/  lament)/ of mind’s central/comedy  BALLOONS

Going back to the old Balloons theory – or the joke about the balloons that we had the other day from Luba, the Russian, who said that all the social life and all of marriage and all the worries of love and big New York parties on New Year’s Eve are nothing but a bunch of balloons.  Does that make sense?  Yeah.

Audio for the above can be found here, beginning at approximately thirty-one-and-a-quarter minutes and concluding at approximately forty-one minutes in.

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