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Being Nobody, Going Nowhere

There's no denying that Ayya Khema (1923-1997) is a mystic. Her "Meditations on the Buddhist Path" are far too fuzzy-minded to be fully satisfying to a hard-headed physicist like me, as friend Mary Ewell warned when she lent me the book. But set aside Khema's scientific garbles and misunderstandings. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere is what it is, a chatty series of sermons, thirteen transcribed talks given to students in Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s. Sometimes it's clunky and repetitive, but often it's poetic and moving in its imagery. For example, in Chapter 4 ("Four Friends"), a metaphor for life:

There is a lot to learn in this realm and that is its purpose. It is a continual adult education class, that is what this whole human realm is designed for. Not for the purpose of finding some comfort, not in order to have riches, wealth, possessions. Not to become famous or to change the world. People have many ideas. Life is strictly an adult education class and this is the most important lesson, namely to cultivate and make the heart grow. ...

... and later in the same chapter, some sage advice that echoes Arnold Bennett and the Stoics:

... The only person we can lead to liberation is ourself. Everybody has to go alone, solitarily. Anybody who would like to come along is welcome. The band-wagon is big and there aren't enough people on it yet.

Khema similarly brings to mind Robert Nozick when in Chapter 6 she discusses the rôle of friends in aiding one another on the road toward flourishing:

When we have the good fortune to have a noble friend with whom we can have noble conversation then it is also our way of repaying that gift by being a noble friend to others. Noble friends are like a chain reaction. We don't only need to search for one. We can also be one.

And in a most mystical mood, at the end of Chapter 10 Khema quotes Buddha:

There is the deed, but no doer. There is suffering, but no sufferer. There is the path, but no one to enter it. And there is liberation, but no one to attain it.

Maybe that's the point, as the book's title hints ...

(cf. BennettOnStoicism (1999-04-29), UniversalFlourishing (2001-12-25), EatTheOrange (2004-11-28), ...) - ^z - 2008-10-18


(correlates: LonelinessAndFinality, ThanksAndAcknowledgements2, Wherever You Go, There You Are, ...)

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