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The Dharma Bums  

- Jack Kerouac


We unpacked our packs and laid things out and smoked and had a good time. Now the mountains were getting that pink tinge, I mean the rocks, they were just solid rock covered with the atoms of dust accumulated there since beginningless time. In fact I was afraid of those jagged monstrosities all around and over our heads.

"They're so silent!" I said.

"Yeah man, you know to me a mountain is a Buddha. Think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waitin for us to stop all our frettin and foolin." Japhy got out the tea, Chinese tea, and sprinkled some in a tin pot, and had the fire going meanwhile, a small one to begin with, the sun was still on us, and stuck a long stick tight down under a few big rocks and made himself something to hang the teapot on and pretty soon the water was boiling and he poured it out steaming into the tin pot and we had cups of tea with our tin cups. I myself'd gotten the water from the stream, which was cold and pure like snow and the crystal-lidded eyes of heaven. Therefore, the tea was by far the most pure and thirstquenching tea I ever drank in all my life, it made you want to drink more and more, it actually quenched your thirst and of course it swam around hot in your belly.

"Now you understand the Oriental passion for tea," said Japhy. "Remember that book I told you about the first sip is joy the second is gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy."

"Just about old buddy."

That rock we were camped against was a marvel. It was thirty feet high and thirty feet at base, a perfect square almost, and twisted trees arched over it and peeked down on us. From the base it went outward, forming a concave, so if rain came we'd be partially covered. "How did this immense sonumbitch ever get here?"

"It probably was left here by the retreating glacier. See over there that field of snow?"


"That's the glacier what's left of it. Either that or this rock tumbled here from inconceivable prehistoric mountains we can't understand, or maybe it just landed here when the frig-gin mountain range itself burst out of the ground in the Jurassic upheaval. Ray when you're up here you're not sittin in a Berkeley tea room. This is the beginning and the end of the world right here. Look at all those patient Buddhas lookin at us saying nothing."

"And you come out here by yourself. . . ."

"For weeks on end, just like John Muir, climb around all by myself following quartzite veins or making posies of flowers for my camp, or just walking around naked singing, and cook my supper and laugh."

"Japhy I gotta hand it to you, you're the happiest little cat in the world and the greatest by God you are. I'm sure glad I'm learning all this. This place makes me feel devoted, too, I mean, you know I have a prayer, did you know the prayer I use?"


"I sit down and say, and I run all my friends and relatives and enemies one by one in this, without entertaining any angers or gratitudes or anything, and I say, like 'Japhy Ryder, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha,' then I run on, say, to 'David O. Selznick, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha' though I don't 69 use names like David O. Selznick, just people I know because when I say the words 'equally a coming Buddha' I want to be thinking of their eyes, like you take Morley, his blue eyes behind those glasses, when you think 'equally a coming Buddha' you think of those eyes and you really do suddenly see the true secret serenity and the truth of his coming Buddhahood. Then you think of your enemy's eyes."

"That's great, Ray," and Japhy took out his notebook and wrote down the prayer, and shook his head in wonder. "That's really really great. I'm going to teach this prayer to the monks I meet in Japan. There's nothing wrong with you Ray, your only trouble is you never learned to get out to spots like this, you've let the world drown you in its horseshit and you've been vexed . . . though as I say comparisons are odious, but what we're sayin now is true."

He took his bulgur rough cracked wheat and dumped a couple of packages of dried vegetables in and put it all in the pot to be ready to be boiled at dusk. We began listening for the yodels of Henry Morley, which didn't come. We began to worry about him.

"The trouble about all this, dammit, if he fell off a boulder and broke his leg there'd be no one to help him. It's dangerous to . . . I do it all by myself but I'm pretty good, I'm a mountain goat."

"I'm gettin hungry."

"Me too dammit, I wish he gets here soon. Let's ramble around and eat snowballs and drink water and wait."

We did this, investigating the upper end of the flat plateau, and came back. By now the sun was gone behind the western wall of our valley and it was getting darker, pinker, colder, more hues of purple began to steal across the jags. The sky was deep. We even began to see pale stars, at least one or two. Suddenly we heard a distant 'Yodelayhee' and Japhy leaped up and jumped to the top of a boulder and yelled 'Hoo hoo hoo!' The Yodelayhee came back.

"How far is he?"

"My God, from the sound of it he's not even started. He's not even at the beginning of the valley of boulders. He can never make it tonight."

"What'll we do?"

"Let's go to the rock cliff and sit on the edge and call him in an hour. Let's bring these peanuts and raisins and munch on 'em and wait. Maybe he's not so far as I think."

We went over to the promontory where we could see the whole valley and Japhy sat down in full lotus posture crosslegged on a rock and took out his wooden juju prayerbeads and prayed. That is, he simply held the beads in his hands, the hands upsidedown with thumbs touching, and stared straight ahead and didn't move a bone. I sat down as best I could on another rock and we both said nothing and meditated. Only I meditated with my eyes closed. The silence was an intense roar. From where we were, the sound of the creek, the gurgle and slapping talk of the creek, was blocked off by rocks. We heard several more melancholy Yodelayhees and answered them but it seemed farther and farther away each time. When I opened my eyes the pink was more purple all the time. The stars began to flash. I fell into deep meditation, felt that the mountains were indeed Buddhas and our friends, and I felt the weird sensation that it was strange that there were only three men in this whole immense valley: the mystic number three. Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya. I prayed for the safety and in fact the eternal happiness of poor Morley. Once I opened my eyes and saw Japhy sitting there rigid as a rock and I felt like laughing he looked so funny. But the mountains were mighty solemn, and so was Japhy, and for that matter so was I, and in fact laughter is solemn.

It was beautiful. The pinkness vanished and then it was all purple dusk and the roar of the silence was like a wash of diamond waves going through the liquid porches of our ears, enough to soothe a man a thousand years. I prayed for Japhy, for his future safety and happiness and eventual Buddhahood. It was all completely serious, all completely hallucinated, all completely happy.

About the book:

In The Dharma Bums, Kerouac charts the spiritual quest of a group of friends- eager to experience the Zen way of life- in search of Dharma, or Truth.

Jack Kerouac is considered by many to be the best Beat Generation writer and poet. Kerouac's 'spontaneous prose' style, which he himself developed, makes the words shimmer and dance in front of your eyes, lending a somewhat transcendental feel to the novel.

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