Eastern Thought in the Works of Kerouac and Ginsberg Essay

Eastern Thought in the Works of Kerouac and Ginsberg Essay

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Eastern Thought in the Works of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg

 
    In the late 1950's and throughout the 1960's, a fascination with Eastern thought developed, concentrating on Zen Buddhism and Daoism. This attraction can be explained in part by the complete strangeness of these thought forms to Western ideals. Buddhism's denial of reality and Daoism's wu-wei or flowing with life were revolutionary ideas to the people of the late '50's who had been brought up with consumerism, patriotism, Christianity, and suburbia. As people began rebelling from this cookie-cutter society, Eastern thought became a tool for the revolution, denying previously indubitable truths such as reality, attachment and God. This polar opposite belief-system, though it worked well as a slap in the face for conservative America, had difficulty being accepted in it's purest totality. Many aspects were too strict, too foreign and even too conservative to fit properly with the atmosphere of revolution and freedom. Thus began the process of "domestication". In order for these belief-systems to be embraced by the revolutionaries, a sort of depurification had to take place. Writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg combined Zen Buddhism, Daoism, and forms of Tibetan mysticism with parts of Western religions to create a medley of traditions much more liberal in practice than any of it's component belief systems. This "corruption" of Eastern thought began with the inclusion of sex, drugs and even facets of Christianity and other modes of Western thought to produce a hybrid of spirituality, and ended as an accepted mode of belief among the revolutionaries in a way the purest forms of these religions never could have. Jack Kerouac in his book, The Dharma Bums, and Allen...


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...beliefs with their own, or tracing the traditions to their purest roots and taking the religion from there. It was a long road, but the sincerity of the Dharma Bums and the other poets and writers of the 1960's left a legacy of religious freedom, breaking out of the barriers of middle-American Christianity and setting out for the new frontier. Kerouac muses over this in The Dharma Bums, "'Yes, Coughlin, it's a shining now-ness and we've done it, carried America like a shining blanket into that brighter nowhere Already'" (138).

 

Works Cited

Allen, Donald ed. The New American Poetry 1945-1960. Berkeley: U of CA, 1999.

Ginsberg, Allen. "Kaddish". Allen, pp. 194-201

Ginsberg, Allen. "Sunflower Sutra". Allen, pp. 179-180.

Ginsberg, Allen. "A Supermarket in California". Allen pp. 181-182.

Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums. New York: Penguin, 1986.

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