The first four episodes of Wake Up, Jack Kerouac’s previously unpublished life of the Buddha, recounted the story of Prince Siddhartha’s early life: leaving his father’s palace, taking up the homeless life, attaining enlightenment, and postponing his own entry into nirvana until all sentient beings are freed from suffering. The following episodes described his journey to Benares, his first sermon, the formation of the first sangha, and his sermons on the nature of reality and the inconstancy of the self This, the final installment, picks up when Shakyamuni Buddha is about to die. Now eighty years old, he has just proclaimed to his attendant Ananda, “The time of my complete deliverance is at hand, but let three months elapse, and I shall reach Nirvana.” The complete manuscript of Wake Up will appear in a volume entitled Some of the Dharma, due to be published by Viking Penguin in 1995.

Note: Kerouac’s original spelling and usage have been retained throughout.


The Death of Buddha and His Entry into Nirvana, Japan, fourteenth centry, scroll
The Death of Buddha and His Entry into Nirvana, Japan, fourteenth centry, scroll

Buddha rising from out of his ecstasy announced to all the world: 
“Now I have given up my term of years: I live henceforth by power of faith; my body like a broken chariot stands, no further cause of ‘coming’ or of ‘going,’ completely freed from earth, heaven and hell, I go enfranchised, as a chicken from its egg.

“Ananda! I have fixed three months to end my life, the rest of life I utterly give up; this is the reason why the earth is greatly shaken.”  

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