In this, the third of nine installments of Jack Kerouac’s previously unpublished life of the Buddha, we pick up the story after Prince Siddhartha has left his father’s palace, adopted the homeless life, and taken a seat under the bodhi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.

“Born in such a place, of such a name, and downwards to his present birth, so through hundreds, thousands, myriads, all his births and deaths he knew.”

Knowing full well that the essence of existence is of one suchness, what birth could not his Bright, Mysterious, Intuitive Essence of Mind recall? As though he had been all things, and only because there had never been a true “he,” but all things, and so all things were the same thing, and it was within the purview of the Universal Mind, which was the Only Mind past, present, and future.

“Countless as the sands of the Ganges were the births and deaths, of every kind and sort; then knowing, too, his family relationships, great pity rose within his heart.”

It had been a long time already finished, the ancient dream of life, the tears of the many-mothered sadness, the myriads of fathers in the dust, eternities of lost afternoons of sisters and brothers, the sleepy cock crow, the insect cave, the pitiful instinct all wasted on emptiness, the great huge drowsy Golden Age sensation that opened in his brain that this knowledge was older than the world.

“The sense of deep compassion passed, he once again considered ‘all that lives’ and how they moved within the six portions of life’s revolution, no final term to birth and death; hollow all, and false and transient as the plantain tree, or as dream, or phantasy.”

In the ears of the Buddha as he thus sat in brilliant and sparkling craft of intuition, so that light like Transcendental Milk dazzled in the invisible dimness of his closed eyelids, was heard the unvarying pure hush of the sighing sea of hearing, seething, receding, as he more or less recalled the consciousness of the sound, though in itself it was always the same steady sound, only his consciousness of it varied and receded, like low tide flats and the salty water sizzling and sinking in the sand, the sound neither outside nor within the ear but everywhere, the pure sea of hearing, the Transcendental Sound of Nirvana heard by children in cribs and on the moon and in the heart of howling storms, and in which the young Buddha now heard a teaching going on, a ceaseless instruction wise and clear from all the Buddhas of Old that had come before him and all the Buddhas a Coming. Beneath the distant cricket howl occasional noises like the involuntary peep of sleeping dream birds, or scutters of little fieldmice, or vast breeze in the trees disturbed the peace of this Hearing but the noises were merely accidental, the Hearing received all noises and accidents in its sea but remained as ever undisturbed, truly unpenetrated, and neither replenished nor diminished, as self-pure as empty space. Under the blazing stars the King of the Law, enveloped in the divine tranquillity of this Transcendental Sound of the Diamond Ecstasy, rested moveless.

“Then in the middle watch of night, he reached to knowledge of the pure Angels, and beheld before him every creature, as one sees images upon a mirror; all creatures born and born again to die, noble and mean, the poor and rich, reaping the fruit of right or evil doing, and sharing happiness or misery in consequence.”

He saw how evil deeds leave cause for regret and the nameless desire to redress and re-straighten badness, initiating energy for return to the stage of the world: whereas good deeds, producing no remorse and leaving no substratum of doubt, vanish into Enlightenment.

“He saw, moreover, all the fruits of birth as beasts; some doomed to die for the sake of skin or flesh, some for their horns or hair or bones or wings; others torn or killed in mutual conflict, friend or relative before; some burdened with loads or dragging heavy weights, others pierced or urged on by pricking goads. Blood flowing down their tortured forms, parched and hungry – no relief afforded, one with the other struggling, possessed of no independent strength. Flying through the air or sunk in deep water, yet no place as a refuge left from death.

“And he saw those reborn as men, with bodies like some foul sewer, ever moving among the direst sufferings, born from the womb to fear and trembling, with body tender, touching anything its feelings painful, as if cut with knives.”

This valley of darts, which we call life, a nightmare.

“Whilst born in this condition, no moment free from chance of death, labor, and sorrow, yet seeking birth again, and being born again, enduring pain.”

The millstone of the pitiful forms of ignorance rolling and grinding on and on.

“Then he saw those who by a higher merit were enjoying heaven; a thirst for love ever consuming them, their merit ended with the end of life, the five signs warning them of death. Just as the blossom that decays, withering away, is robbed of all its shining tints; not all their associates, living still, through grieving, can avail to save the rest. The palaces and joyous precincts empty now, the Angels all alone and desolate, sitting or asleep upon the dusty earth, weep bitterly in recollection of their loves. Deceived, alas! no single place exempt, in every birth incessant pain!

“Heaven, hell, or earth, the sea of birth and death revolving thus—an ever-whirling wheel—all flesh immersed within its waves cast here and there without reliance! Thus with his Mind eyes he thoughtfully considered the five domains of life and the degradation of all creatures that are born. He saw that all was empty and vain alike! with no dependence! like the plantain or the bubble.”

The groundmist of three A.M. arose with all the dolors of the world. “On the third eventful watch he entered on the deep, true apprehension. He meditated on the entire world of creatures, whirling in life’s tangle, born to sorrow: the crowds who live, grow old, and die, immeasurable for multitude. Covetous, lustful, ignorant, darkly-fettered, with no way known for final rescue.”

O what was the cause of all this death of bodies?

“Rightly considering, inwardly he reflected from what source birth and death proceed.”

Birth of bodies is the direct cause of death of bodies. Just as, implantation of its seed was the cause of the cast off rose.

“Then looking further, Where does birth come from? he saw it came from life-deeds done elsewhere; then scanning those deeds, he saw they were not framed by a creator, nor self caused, nor personal existences nor were they either uncaused; he saw they themselves obtained along a further chain of causes, cause upon cause, concatenative links joining the fetters binding all that is form-poor form, mere dust and pain.

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.


Then, as one who breaks the first bamboo joint finds all the rest easy to separate, having discerned the cause of death as birth, and the cause of birth as deeds, he gradually came to see the truth; death comes from birth, birth comes fromdeeds, deeds come from attachment, attachment comes from desire, desire comes from perception, perceptioncomes from sensation, sensation comes from the six sense organs, the six sense organs come from individuality, individuality comes from consciousness. Deeds come from attachment, deeds are done for a reason of imagined need to which a being has become attached and in the name of which he’s made his move; attachment comes from desire, the desire comes before the habit; desire comes from perception, you never desired something you didn’t know about, and when you did, it was a perception of either pleasure which you desired, or pain which you loathed with aversion, both being two sides of the coin named desire; perception came from sensation, the sensation of a burning finger is not perceived at once; sensation came because of the contact of the six sense organs (eye-seeing, ear-hearing, nose-smelling, tongue-tasting, body-feeling, and brain-thinking) with their mutual objects of sense, as, no finger is burned that has never contacted the flame; six sense organs come because of individuality, just as the germ grows to the stem and leaf, individuality growing its own sixfold division of what was originally neither One nor Six but Pure Mind, mirror-clear; individuality comes because of consciousness, consciousness like the seed that germinates and brings forth its individual leaf, and if not consciousness then where is the leaf?; consciousness in turn, proceeds from individuality, the two are intervolved leaving no remnant; by some concurrent cause consciousness engenders individuality, while by some other cause concurrent, individuality engenders consciousness. Just as a man and ship advance together, the water and the land mutually involved; thus consciousness brings forth individuality; individuality produces the roots. The roots engender contact of the six sense organs; contact again brings forth sensation; sensation brings forth desire (or aversion); desire or aversion produce attachment to either desire or aversion; this attachment is the cause of deeds; and deeds again engender birth; birth again produces death; so does this one incessant round cause the existence of all living things.

Detail of scenes from former lives of Shakyamuni Buddha, Tibet, sixteenth century, gouache on cotton, Courtesy of the British Museum, London © John Bigelow Tayor
Detail of scenes from former lives of Shakyamuni Buddha, Tibet, sixteenth century, gouache on cotton, Courtesy of the British Museum, London © John Bigelow Tayor

And beyond this, instantly viewing and completing the Twelve Links in the Chain of Existence (the Nirdana Chain), he saw that this consciousness which brings forth individuality together with all this trouble, itself comes from Karma (leftover unfinished action of the dream), and Karma comes from Ignorance, and Ignorance comes from Mind. Karma is the impersonation of the inexorable, inflexible law that bound together act and result, this life and the next; Karma explains everything that concerns the world of living beings, animals, men, the power of kings, the physical beauty of women, the splendid tail of peacocks, the moral dispositions of everyone; Karma is a sentient being’s inheritance, the womb which bears him or it, the womb to which he or it must resort; Karma is the root of morality, for, what we have been makes us what we are now. If a man becomes enlightened, stops, and realizes highest perfect wisdom and enters Nirvana, it is because his Karma had worked itself out and it was in his Karma to do so; if a man goes on in ignorance, angry, foolish, and greedy, it is because his Karma had not yet worked itself out and it was in his Karma to do so.

Rightly illumined, thoroughly perceiving, firmly established, thus was he enlightened.

Destroy birth, thus death will cease; destroy deeds then will birth cease; destroy attachment then will deeds cease; destroy desire then will attachment end; destroy perception then will desire end; destroy sensation then ends perception; destroy contact of the six sense organs then ends sensation; the six entrances of the sense organs all destroyed, from this, moreover, individuality and the picking out of different related notions will cease. Consciousness destroyed, individuality will cease; individuality destroyed, then consciousness perishes; consciousness ended, the dreamenergy of Karma has no hold and handle; Karma done, ignorance of dreaming ends; ignorance destroyed, then the constituents of individual life will die: the Great Rishi was thus perfected in wisdom.

Here is the list of the Nirdana Chain Links:

1. Ignorance
2. Karma
3. Consciousness
4. Individuality
5. Six contact organs
6. Sensation
7. Perception
8. Desire
9. Attachment
10. Deeds
11. Birth
12. Death

Insight arose, ignorance was dispelled; darkness was done away and light dawned. Thus sat the Buddha of our present world, strenuous, aglow, and master of himself, singing this song in his heart:

Many a house of life has held me; Long have I struggled to find him
Who made these sorrowful prisons of the senses! But now, you builder of this tabernacle—You!
I know thee! Never shall you build again
These walls of pain, nor raise the roof-tree
Of deceits, nor lay fresh rafters on the clay;
Broken your house is! and the ridgepole split! Delusion fashioned it! Ignorance is your name!
Safe I pass now, deliverance to obtain.

In him, thus freed, arose knowledge and freedom, and he knew that rebirth was at an end, and that the goal had been reached.
And for the benefit of the world he now devised the way, based on the Four Noble Truths.


The Four Noble Truths
 

1. All life is suffering … (all existence is in a state of misery, impermanency and unreality.)
2. The cause of suffering is ignorant craving.
3. The suppression of suffering can be achieved.
4. The way is the noble eightfold path.

And the Noble Eightfold Path is as follows:

The Noble Eightfold Path

1. Right Ideas, based on these Four Noble Truths
2. Right Resolution to follow this Way out of the suffering
3. Right Speech, tender sorrowful discourse with the brothers and sisters of the world
4. Right Behavior, gentle, helpful, chaste conduct everywhere
5. Right Means of Livelihood, harmless foodgathering is your living
6. Right Effort, rousing oneself with energy and zeal to this Holy Way
7. Right Mindfulness, keeping in mind the dangers of the other way (of the world)
8. Right Meditation, practicing Solitary meditation and prayer to attain holy ecstasy and spiritual graces for the sake of the enlightenment of all sentient beings (practicing Dhyana to attain Samadhi and Samapatti.)

“When this knowledge had arisen within me, my heart and mind were freed from the drug of lust, from the drug of rebirth, from the drug of ignorance.”

Thus did he complete the end of “self,” as fire goes out for want of grass, thus he had done wh~t he would have men do; he had found the way of perfect knowledge. And he knew as he sat there lustrous with all wisdom, perfect in gifts, that the way of perfect knowledge had been handed down to him from Buddhas Innumerable of Old that had come before in all ten directions of all ten quarters of the universe where he now saw them in a mighty vision assembled in brightness and power sitting on their intrinsic thrones in the Glorious Lotus Blossoms everywhere throughout phenomena and space and forever giving response to the needs of all sentient life in all the kingdoms of existence, past, present, and future.

With the discernment of the grand truths and their realization in life the Rishi became enlightened; he thus attainedSambodhi (perfect Wisdom) and became a Buddha. Rightly has Sambodhi been called, it can be accomplished only by self help without the extraneous aid of a teacher or a god. As the poet says,

“Save his own soul’s light overhead None leads man, none ever led.”

The morning sunbeams brightened with the dawn, the dust-like mist dispersing, disappeared. The moon and stars paled their faint light, the barriers of the night were all removed. He had finished this the first great lesson and the final lesson and the lesson of old; entering the great Rishi’s house of Dreamless Sleep, fixed in holy trance, he had reached the source of exhaustless truth, the happiness that never ends and that had no beginning but was always already there within the True Mind.

Not by anxious use of outward means, had Buddha unveiled the True Mind and ended suffering, but by resting quietly in thoughtful silence. This is the supreme fact of blessed rest.

He was sihibhuto, cooled.

Liberate this article!

This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.