Asian moments

henry david thoreau

1854: The first edition of Thoreau’s Walden appears. On the frontispiece page is an  engraving of a leaf from a Banyan tree, the tree under which the Buddha sat when he encountered enlightenment.

1958, November: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky call up D.T. Suzuki at his apartment in New York City, just arrived from Japan. His secretary says: “Can you come over right now?”

“You young men sit here quietly and write haikus while I go and make some powdered green tea,” Suzuki says. Sipping the tea, Allen says, “It taste like shrimp.” “It tastes like beef,” says Suzuki. “Don’t forget it’s tea.”

Kerouac’s haiku is:

Three little sparrows on a roof,

Talking quietly, sadly.

Kerouac tells Suzuki that he’s experienced several samadhis lasting “a whole half hour or three seconds.” After the visit, as Kerouac is walking away he realizes that Suzuki was his old father in China, and shouts: “I would like to spend the rest of my life with you.” Suzuki, waving goodbye, says, “Sometime.”

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