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Dharma Bums Following The Sutra? Essay

1575 words - 6 pages

Jack Kerouac and his so-called "Dharma Bums" lived an extremely unconventional lifestyle, to say the least. Many scoff at their eccentric practices, dismissing them as frivolous, slothful and even immoral. "Ray Smith," "Japhy Rider," and "Alvah Goldbeck," among others, did not go about life without striving for some greater end. All professed to be devout Zen Buddhists in search of Enlightenment. It is disputable as to whether or not their carefree means of existence was motivated by desire to "follow the right path." While I am not convinced that all aspects of the lifestyle served to enhance the Buddhist understanding, I do believe that the Dharma Bums had good intentions and lived the life of the sutra as best as they knew how and in turn, became more spiritually enlightened as a direct result. For the most part, the manner in which the Dharma Bums lived both aided in their search for enlightenment and also allowed the Buddhist way to dictate and form their eccentric lifestyles. Section III of the Diamond Sutra says, "…no Bodhisattva who is a real Bodhissattva cherishes the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality." In this principle, Ray is able to find solace from perceived ignorance. "This thinking has stopped,' but because I had to think it no thinking had stopped, but there did come over me a wave of gladness to know that all this perturbation was just a dream already ended and I didn't have to worry because I wasn't 'I.'"(35). Although Phillips 2 Alvah is criticizing his notions of Buddhism, Ray does not allow Alvah's insults to dwell within him. If he were an egotistical man, then he might be tempted to defend his beliefs by engaging in an all-out argument, thus disturbing his overall peace of mind. But, he resigns himself to the fact that Alvah was not criticizing him. "I am emptiness, I am not different from emptiness, neither is emptiness different from me; indeed, emptiness is me"(138). This statement certainly exhibits Ray's adherence to the principle of not possessing a distinctive identity. Here, he is comparing himself to a complete non-entity, emptiness. Oftentimes, emptiness is equated with nothingness, so he is humbling himself as well."…in the practice of charity a Bodhisattva should be detached. That is to say, he should practice charity without regard to appearances: without regard to sound, odor, touch, flavor or any quality." Japhy performed many acts of charity that embodied this principle. He constantly gave to others, most notably Ray, and did so without even thinking about it. It did not matter how big or small, simple or ornate, old or new something was-Japhy freely gave or shared, but did not give for mindless reasons. "Smith, you don't realize that it's a privilege to practice giving gifts to others.' The way he did it was charming; there was nothing glittery or Christmasy about it, but almost sad, and sometimes his gifts were beat up old things but...

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