Articles by Sangharakshita

 
 

Extracts of Old Diary Leaves

Introduction

I made this selection from my 1953-1954 diaries some years ago. The originals have since disappeared, having been lost or mislaid. I hope this handful of excerpts will give you an idea of the nature of my life during my early years in Kalimpong. A much fuller account of this period is to be found in 'Facing Mount Kanchenjunga: An English Buddhist in the Eastern Himalayas.'

Sangharakshita.

Extracts of Old Diary Leaves

1953

January

January 7 (Wed)

Read some of the 'Sonnets to Orpheus'. Profoundly moving. Was profoundly impressed by Rilke's idea that poetry is not about existence, but that it is itself a new kind of existence.

January 10 (Sat)

Puja and meditation. Good concentration. Faintly 'saw' Avalokitesvara, then the Buddha, Who dissolved as it were into a Yab-Yum form. Feeling of great peace and purity.

January 12 (Mon)

Experienced a feeling of great peace and coolness. Understood the illusoriness of individuality.

January 13 (Tue)

Looked at some sprays of peach blossom which I had plucked yesterday and their beauty gave me a feeling of inexpressible delight.

January 15 (Thu)

In the afternoon lay down and contemplated deeply for some time on various aspects of Buddhist thought. Felt very strongly that only the Void could satisfy my aspirations.

January 17 (Sat)

Taught Sachin Logic for more than an hour, and afterwards spoke to him seriously on the meaning of renunciation. Explained that the giving up of family ties did not involve cruelty or selfishness, but that it was inspired by compassion and a desire to help mankind. Hope he will understand. Read Asvaghosha's 'Awakening of Faith in Mahayana'. I think no other Buddhist book so completely expresses my own deepest intuitions as this matchless treatise.

January 19 (Mon)

Reflected on Asvaghosha's philosophy. Deep meditation.

January 23 (Fri)

Extremely cold… In the afternoon stitched a new cover, composed of two old civaras, on to my quilt. Puja and meditation. Had an uncomfortable feeling that there was an evil presence nearby.

January 25 (Sun)

While we were talking a magician came and insisted on showing us some tricks. He took handfuls of nails and a big stone from his mouth, made water disappear from a pot etc.

January 26 (Mon)

The remarks Joe made yesterday caused me to feel that I had no earthly refuge, that none understood me or sympathized with the aim I was striving to achieve.

January 28 (Wed)

Advized Indra on a variety of topics and pointed out the connection between culture and religion. Emphasized the necessity of sublimating our emotions through aesthetic appreciation and creation. From the poet's point of view, those poems are most successful which express his total personality.

February

February 4 (Wed)

Read few more chapters of Dickens' Pictures from Italy. Found the one entitled 'An Italian Dream' delightful.

February 6 (Fri)

It was raining when I awoke this morning, and not until 2 o'clock was a bit of blue sky, or a cold gleam of sunshine, to be seen. The air was cold and raw, and a dull and melancholy atmosphere seemed to hang over the hills.

February 11 (Wed)

An old Nepali nun, who had been on pilgrimage to Lhasa, came with a small boy just before breakfast. Gave her some tea.

February 12 (Thu)

Went outside into the garden, and saw that Cleopatra was about to give birth to her kittens. Put her inside a comfortable box in the small room and shut the door; but she yowled loudly as soon as I went away and insisted on my remaining with her. Stroked her back for more than an hour, which pleased her immensely, but as nothing happened I left her, despite her protests, and had a hot bath.

February 13 (Fri)

Sachin came for a few minutes. He noticed an unfamiliar scent in the air, and I showed him one of the beautiful yellow blossoms of a flowering tree he had admired last year, which I had kept in a vase. The bud is like a great nut. All at once the shell splits in two and a hard, butter-coloured flower is disclosed, its petals waxen-smooth and cold, and emitting a strong keen acrid scent.

February 14 (Sat)

Meditation fairly deep. Experienced a feeling of refreshment pervading the body, especially the forehead.

February 15 (Sun)

Reflected after lunch, and felt a stronger and purer sense of vocation than for a long time past. Felt in curiously the same spiritual mood as at Rajagriha three years ago. Is it the effect of the same Spring weather?

February 18 (Wed)

A beautiful cool clear night, with a crescent moon in the sky.

February 21 (Sat)

Miss Rao came and chattered very foolishly. She mentioned the Sacred Tooth at Kandy and asked if the Buddha had not got His Enlightenment from it!

March

March 1 (Sun)

Reflected on the nature of the poetic experience.

March 2 (Mon)

Strong impression of the impermanence of all things.

March 5 (Thu)

In the afternoon read Kashyapji's Abhidhamma Philosophy, but though it is very interesting could not help thinking that I belonged to a different form of Buddhism.

March 12 (Thu)

The kittens are a month old today, and have started to lap milk and run about.

March 14 (Sat)

A clear, cold morning, with a fine view of the snows.

March 17 (Tue)

Condoled with Mrs Perry on her brother's death. An active and busy day, with perhaps more talking than is good for one.

March 22 (Sun)

Read Plato's Phaedrus. Wrote to Princess Irene about the silver masks.

March 24 (Tue)

Miss Delannoy came, and we had an interesting talk on Poetry, and on the relative claims of Religion and Art. Advized her not to try and rationalize difficulties away, but in fact consciously and deliberately to cultivate contradictions up to their farthest point, since only in this way could the dichotomizing intellect be transcended and the spiritual world entered into.

March 30 (Mon)

Very cool pleasant moonlit evening.

March 31 (Tue)

The trip down to Siliguri was very pleasant. We saw the sun rise above the misty blue mountains like a disk of liquid gold.

April

April 2 (Thu)

Sat out in the sun and finished reading Barchester Towers.

April 6 (Mon)

Felt in an inspired mood.

April 10 (Fri)

A heavy mist came rolling up from the valley, and there was some rain… On the way back to the Hermitage was deeply impressed by a group of tall trees that were vividly silhouetted against the grey-blue sky whenever the lightning flashed.

April 11 (Sat)

The sky became very black and there was much lightning. An exceptionally violent wind brought down many branches.

April 14 (Tue)

Sachin came as usual, and I explained to him my ideas for an article on 'The Metaphorical Structure of Reality'.

April 20 (Mon)

Finished breakfast quite early, as I rose at dawn, and saw the snow-peaks turn rosy before the mist obscured them.

May

May 6 (Wed)

Thunder, lightning, and high wind, but only a few big drops of rain. Beautiful view of some distant peaks, fresh and clear as though the snow had fallen on them newly.

May 9 (Sat)

Thought very deeply about the nature of Art.

May 14 (Thu)

Glimpsed a whole world of new truths but found it difficult to put them into any sort of order.

May 15 (Fri)

Just as I was about to start breakfast the little black and white kitten came bouncing in, looking very sleek and shiny, after having been missing for three days.

June

June 6 (Sat)

At 6 o'clock evacuated a large white worm. In the evening the rain, which had been falling heavily all day, ceased, and the sky became clear. White clouds showed against the dark blue hills , and black clouds against the golden sunset sky above. Here and there were streaks of luminous green. During the whole day was in a mood of strong revulsion against worldly desires, and was intensely aware of the reality of spiritual things. Though to a certain extent torn between the two, felt that the latter must in the end prevail.

June 12 (Fri)

Dressed the foot of the little daughter of one of the poor people living in the compound as it had been badly burned and the skin was hanging in ribbons.

July

July 19 (Sun)

Many strange dreams during the night. In one of them a goddess spoke about my past and future life. Felt a complete lack of interest in anything. As the evening drew on my mood deepened. When I went out experienced deeply the unreality of all things. People seemed like ghosts and shadows. My body seemed to float along the road. Was half out of my normal consciousness. The mind was poised, steady, and without desires, though not very clear.

August

August 1 (Sat)

Wonderful view of the snow-peaks this morning.

August 5 (Wed)

…reflected on the meaning of philosophy.

August 13 (Thu)

Awoke with a wonderfully cool, clear mind. Felt as though I had been repeating the Mantra for some time.

August 14 (Fri)

Dreamed about a Burmese Pacceka Buddha.

August 21 (Fri)

Read Gogol's Dead Souls, and liked it immensely. Very Dickensian.

September

September 3 (Thu)

Rose early, and watched the snows turn from rose to gold, and from gold to white at sunrise. Felt in a deeply spiritual mood. How to lead the holy life in the world?

October

October 13 (Tue)

Tashi Rabgias said that while in Lhasa he translated my Biography (of Anagarika Dharmapala) into Tibetan.

October 14 (Wed)

After lunch took Tashi Rabgias to Dr. Roerich's place. Dr. Roerich spent a couple of hours going through the Tibetan translation of my biographical sketch of Ven. Dharmapala.

November 19 (Tue)

Fine clear night. Snows visible in the light of the moon, which is almost full. Rather cold.

1954

February

February 26 (Fri)

Started reading An Introduction to Jung's Psychology by Frieda Fordham. Found it clearly written and very interesting.

March

March 10 (Wed)

Sat outside in the garden and read Baudelaire, whom I continue to find endlessly stimulating.

March 15 (Mon)

As we approached Darjeeling saw many beautiful flowering trees - white and pink and red - on the hillside.

March 24 (Wed)

James came, obviously with the intention of trying to prove the claims of Christianity. Had a long discussion which wasted a lot of time and led nowhere and almost made me resolve never again to discuss religion with a theist.

April

April 7 (Wed)

Very trying day with innumerable disappointments and luck apparently dead against us. But we have to carry on.

April 8 (Thu)

Felt in an exalted and spiritual mood.

May

May 18 (Tue)

Sat out in the garden and read Buddhist Texts [Through the Ages]. Felt in deeply spiritual mood.

May 21 (Fri)

In the afternoon read several chapters of Conze's Buddhism. Suddenly had a deep intuitive understanding of the truth of the Tantric Buddhism and its relation to the Mahayana generally. Experienced in consequence a feeling of mastery and exhilaration which lasted for some time.

May 25 (Tue)

From early morning felt the Kundalini bubbling in the Manipura Chakra on and off all day. Towards evening felt in a very indrawn mood.

May 30 (Sun)

Decided to devote the day to poetry, so sat out in the garden and read Sir Philip Sidney's 'Astrophel and Stella' sequence… After lunch… sat outside again and read Yeats. Some of the earlier poems had acquired a fresh beauty and significance.

June

June 8 (Tue)

Rose late, after an extraordinary dream in which I attended a Tantric ceremony. At the end of this ceremony was served with prasad made from human body, while the body of a child lay beside the low table at which we were eating.

June 9 (Wed)

Felt in a very indrawn mood all the evening and spoke very seriously to Anagarika about the necessity of practising mindfulness.

June 20 (Sun)

Read 'The Voice of the Silence' straight through and received a much clearer impression of its total meaning. Vedantic admixtures displeasing, though.

1955

January

Jan 12 (Wed)

Very vivid dream of being initiated into a mantra beginning AUM HRING BE.

February

Feb 6 (Sun)

Deep concentration and some development of vipassana.

Feb 9 (Wed)

Deep concentration and faint vipassana… Felt very inspired by reports of Swami Ramdas' world tour.

Feb 22 (Tue)

Puja, reading and meditation. Second jhana.

May

May 4 (Wed)

Very beautiful moonlight night. Snows clearly visible. Read Don Quixote and slept.

June

June 3 (Fri)

Spent most of the afternoon and evening reading Suzuki. Felt in deeply meditative mood. Had a new insight into Zen.

June 11 (Sat)

Read a number of short stories including 'The Last Laugh' by D.H. Lawrence. Though I did not understand it at all this last left a very profound impression on my mind.

June 12 (Sun)

Woke suddenly some time after midnight. My unconscious seemed to have opened and I saw clearly the meaning of Lawrence's story. A kind of mystical experience. Understood intuitively his whole philosophy. Impression of tremendous power - something demoniacal yet divine. Could not help thinking Lawrence a Buddhist Tantric reborn. More than ever impressed by his genius.

July

July 14 (Thu)

Read S.N. Dasgupta on Vijnanavada. Very inadequate account.

August

August 28 (Sun)

At 4 o'clock one of the Catholic fathers came with a Cistercian monk. Had a long talk about ascetic life, mysticism, Buddhism etc.

September

September 12 (Mon)

Woke at 3 o'clock and lay thinking about the interpretation of Faust etc.

September 29 (Thu)

Ani-la brought to see me a Dominican father who is making a study of Islamic mysticism. Had an interesting talk about Buddhism.

November

November 14 (Mon)

Had some discussion with a Sinhalese Catholic. Explained what universality in religion really means.

November 30 (Wed)

Felt a change of consciousness.

December

December 15 (Thu)

On returning read an abridgement of Dr Johnson by an American author. Then started reading The Life of the Heart, a biography of George Sand, but found it very poor stuff after the Johnson - idealism the pimp, most unpleasant.

Memoranda

Yesterday I saw a man trying to swim where there was no water; today I met a poet without religion. (28.1.53)

Doctrines are only hooks on which to hang experiences. (2.2.53)

To love is a necessity; to be loved a luxury.

To share your pain were bliss, compared with the pain of being excluded from your pain.

Evil is unrealized potentiality for good. (20.6.53)