In this, the third of nine installments of Jack Kerouac’s previously unpublished life of the Buddha, we pick up the story after Prince Siddhartha has left his father’s palace, adopted the homeless life, and taken a seat under the bodhi tree, vowing not to rise from the spot “until, freed from clinging, my mind attains deliverance from all sorrow.” The complete manuscript of  Wake Up will appear in a volume entitled Some of the Dharma, due out from Viking Penguin in 1995. Note: All of Kerouac’s original spellings and usage have been retained.


His bones could rot and his sinew shrivel, and crows pick on his abandoned brain, but this godlike man would not rise from this spot on the bed of grass beneath the fig tree until he had solved the riddle of the world. He set his teeth and pressed his tongue against them. He bent his radiant intelligence down, and let his consciousness drift into the inner intuition of in-sight. Hands folded gently, breathing like a baby, eyes closed, immovable and undisturbable, he intuited, as dusk descended on the terrace of the earth whereon he sat. “Though all the earth be moved and shaken, yet would this place be fixed and stable.” It was May in India, the time known as Cowdust, when the air is golden as grain, warm and dreamy, and all things and beasts breathe forth their faith in sundowns of natural mental quiet.

Buddha by Jack Kerouac, © John Sampas, All Rights Reserved, Estate of Jack Kerouac
Buddha by Jack Kerouac, © John Sampas, All Rights Reserved, Estate of Jack Kerouac

Many words have been written about this holy moment in the now famous spot beneath this Bodhi Tree, or Wisdom-Tree. It was not an agony in the garden, it was a bliss beneath the tree; it was not the resurrection of anything, but the annihilation of all things. Came to Buddha in those hours the realization that all things come from a cause and go to dissolution, and therefore all things are impermanent, all things are unhappy, and thereby and most mysterious, all things are unreal.

A cool refreshing breeze rose as he realized everything had flowered out of the mind, sprung from the seeds of false thinking in the Divine Ground of Reality, and there stood the dream all woeful and in gloom. “Beasts, quiet and silent, looked on in wonderment.” Temptations filled the mind of the Buddha to rise and go elsewhere and give up this futile meditating under trees; he recognized these temptations as the work of the very Tempter, Mara, the Indian Devil, and refused to budge. Even fear crossed his brain, imaginary fevers that something was going on behind his back, before his closed eyes: unmoved like a man watching children at play, he let these doubts and disturbances, like bubbles, vanish back to their origin in the emptiness of the mental sea.

By nightfall he reposed peaceful and quiet. He entered into deep and subtle contemplation. Every kind of holy ecstasy in order passed before his eyes. During the first watch of the night he entered on “right perception” and in recollection all former births passed before his eyes.

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