The first four episodes of Wake Up, Jack Kerouac’s previously unpublished life of the Buddha, recounted the story of Prince Siddhartha’s early life: leaving his father’s palace, taking up the homeless life, attaining enlightenment,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 delaying his own entry into nirvana until all sentient beings are freed from suffering. Episode Five described the Buddha’s journey to Benares, where he gave his first sermon. This installment picks up the story after Shakyamuni has ordained five ascetics as monks and formed the first sangha. The complete manuscript of Wake Up will appear in a volume entitledSome of the Dharma, due to be published by Viking Penguin in 1995. Note: Kerouac’s original spellings and usage have been retained throughout.

Tete (Le Bouddha), Henri Matisse, 1939, charcoal on paper. Courtesy Musée Matisse, France.
Tete (Le Bouddha), Henri Matisse, 1939, charcoal on paper. Courtesy Musée Matisse, France.

Shortly afterwards the Buddha had an accession of a thousand new disciples by the conversion of three leading fire-worshipping ascetics, the Kasyapa brothers with all their followers. It was on the Elephant Rock near Gaya with the beautiful valley of Rajagaha stretched out before them, that Buddha, seizing the occasion of a sudden brush fire on the horizon, delivered his famous great Fire Sermon (Aditta-Pariyaya-Sutra) to the thousand assembled fire-sacrificers who had all of them aforetime been monks with matted hair.

“All things, O priests, are on fire. And what, O priests, are all these things which are on fire?

“The eye, O priests, is on fire; forms are on fire; eye-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the eye are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant or unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the fire, that also is on fire.

“And with what are these on fire?

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.