………..“He lived in a life wild as that of the Arabian Nights, but
………..missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could
………..not see the beauty of it.” ………..

Each of the first three chapters of Kim (1901-2) is introduced by a stanza from Kipling’s poem, “The Buddha at Kamakura,” which he wrote after a visit to Japan in 1892. It’s by no means his best poem, but it’s certainly one of the most detailed and challenging ones he ever wrote on the subject of East and West from a religious point of view. Needless to say, the poem must have interested Kipling a lot for him to have selected stanzas from it for such a crucial introduction.

And they’re not easy ones either, so Kipling must have wanted readers to spend some time figuring out what they meant. Most importantly, they’re not about exotic adventure in India, or even about India, for that matter, but rather move toward the quieter, deeper, more universal themes in Kim, many of which would be new to readers even today.

Kamakura is the 44 foot high, 800 year old bronze Amitaba Buddha near Tokyo so much loved by the people of Japan — ‘Amitaba’ is  the Japanese Buddha of love, a ‘Savior Buddha,’ really, and closely related in his origins to the female goddess Kwan Im in China. Kipling makes sure the reader knows it is precisely this Buddha and this place he is referring to by introducing Chapter I with the phrase, “And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura“–  and of course the word “idol” was intended to provoke a negative response. The verses, on the other hand, succeed in doing just the opposite — which, I would argue, is precisely why they are there.…………………………………

…………………………………………..Kim,  Chapter I:
………………………………….O ye who tread the Narrow Way
………………………………….By Tophet -flare to Judgment Day,
………………………………….Be gentle when the ‘heathen’ pray
………………………………….To Buddha at Kamakura!

………………………………………….Kim,  Chapter II:
………………………………….And whoso will, from Pride released,
………………………………….Contemning neither creed nor priest,
………………………………….May feel the Soul of all the East
………………………………….About him at Kamakura.

………………………………………….Kim,  Chapter III:
………………………………….Yea, voice of every Soul that clung
………………………………….To life that strove from rung to rung
………………………………….When Devadatta’s rule was young,
………………………………….The warm wind brings Kamakura.

The first stanza tries to soften Christian distaste for other religions by appealing to the warm atmosphere at Kamakura.  Both “Tophet-flare” and “Judgement Day” are harsh Biblical allusions that contrast strongly with the gentle peace embodied in the place, Kamakura, and of course in the last line of every stanza in the poem. Chapter Two’s stanza, on the other hand,  praises Western, non-orthodox free-thinkers who take pride in their open-mindedness to “other creeds” (this is the age of “Spritualism,” don’t forget, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and there were big personalities involved  in those movements too, needless to say).  The appeal to these two, diametrically opposed groups of people at the beginning of the novel shows the degree to which Kipling’s own heart was engaged in quite a different spriritual dimension in Kim.

The third introductory stanza is much more ambiguous. Devadatta was a very close disciple of the Buddha who actually rejected the Master’s “Middle Way,” preferring to stay behind in the old elitist spiritual life as an ascetic in the forest. Devadatta did not join the Buddha in his later, more gentle, holistic phase, and there is even a legend that he tried to kill the Buddha to prevent him from attaining Enlightenment. The stanza seems to suggest that whoever such people are, they are conservative and therefore unwilling, or not yet ready, in any case,  to move on. They belong to an earlier world order.

In fact, Kipling did not include this 3rd stanza in the full version of “The Buddha at Kamakura,” which he first published in 1892 in an article in the Times called “The Edge of the East,” an article specifically about Japan. The poem as a whole was eventually added to the collection called The Five Nations in 1903,  two years after the publication of Kim. In that version he included the following, much easier, more straightforward stanza, part of which is also quoted in the body of the first chapter of Kim, so we’re in the same place:

…………………………………Yea, every tale Ananda heard,
…………………………………Of birth as fish or beast or bird,
…………………………………While yet in lives the Master stirred,
…………………………………The warm wind brings Kamakura.

Ananda was the closest friend of the Buddha, if one would dare to say that about the Buddha, implying as it does some attachment on his part as well. In any case, this stanza would seem to celebrate the supportive presence of the Buddha in the pre-conscious mind,  so to speak, i.e. in those beings who have not yet had the chance to experience life as a fully conscious human being.

This is mainly just a hunch, but my feeling is that Kipling was addressing in both these last two stanzas the vast majority of Westerners, busy people too set in their ways to understand Eastern spiritual practices in their hearts. He seems to be saying that with a little help they could still come to respect and even be inspired by devotion like that shown to Amitaba Buddha at Kamakura, which has certainly proven to be true in our times.

The overall message in the introductory stanzas is one of love and respect for all people who worship out of the heart, whatever their creed or the form of their worship. It is indeed a blessing to find yourself among such devoted people, the poem says, so “be gentle” and respect them. “Feel the Soul of all the East
,” open yourselves up to “the warm wind of Kamakura.”

An extraordinary message for 1892, or anytime!

Christopher Woodman

…………………………………………… “Kamakura
…………Great Buddha, with an enlarged detail of a man standing on the hands.”
……………….Photo published in Brinkley’s Japan, a Guide Book (ca. 1890).
…………………………………The Buddha at Kamakura
………………………….“And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura”

…………………………………O ye who tread the Narrow Way
…………………………………By Tophet -flare to Judgment Day,
…………………………………Be gentle when the ‘heathen’ pray
…………………………………To Buddha at Kamakura!

…………………………………To him the Way, the Law, apart,
…………………………………Whom Maya held beneath her heart,
…………………………………Ananda’s Lord, the Bodhisat,
…………………………………The Buddha of Kamakura.

…………………………………For though he neither burns nor sees,
…………………………………Nor hears ye thank your Deities,
…………………………………Ye have not sinned with such as these,
…………………………………His children at Kamakura.

…………………………………Yet spare us still the Western joke
…………………………………When joss-sticks turn to scented smoke
…………………………………The little sins of little folk
…………………………………That worship at Kamakura.

…………………………………The grey-robed, gay-sashed butterflies
…………………………………That flit beneath the Master’s eyes.
…………………………………He is beyond the Mysteries
…………………………………But loves them at Kamakura.

…………………………………And whoso will, from Pride released,
…………………………………Contemning neither creed nor priest,
…………………………………May feel the Soul of all the East
…………………………………About him at Kamakura.

…………………………………Yea, every tale Ananda heard,
…………………………………Of birth as fish or beast or bird,
…………………………………While yet in lives the Master stirred,
…………………………………The warm wind brings Kamakura.

…………………………………Till drowsy eyelids seem to see
…………………………………A-flower ‘neath her golden htee
…………………………………The Shwe-Dagon flare easterly
…………………………………From Burmah to Kamakura,

…………………………………And down the loaded air there comes
…………………………………The thunder of Thibetan drums,
…………………………………And droned — “Om mane padme hums ” —
…………………………………A world’s-width from Kamakura.

…………………………………Yet Brahmans rule Benares still,
…………………………………Buddh-Gaya’s ruins pit the hill,
…………………………………And beef-fed zealots threaten ill
…………………………………To Buddha and Kamakura.

…………………………………A tourist-show, a legend told,
…………………………………A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
…………………………………So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
…………………………………The meaning of Kamakura?

…………………………………But when the morning prayer is prayed,
…………………………………Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade,
…………………………………Is God in human image made
…………………………………No nearer than Kamakura?

……………………………………………………………………..Rudyard Kipling, 1892



  1. May 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Kipling was nursed by a native nanny, his much loved ‘Ayah,’ for the first five years of his life in Bombay. His parents were extremely busy, preoccupied, we’d say, charitably — there was a certain style and hauteur, distance, propriety, which was a primary obligation for the British colonial rulers, and the Kiplings, though quite bohemian really, were no exception. So like most of the ruling class of the Raj, however precarious their finances, and Kipling’s parents were none too secure, his parents were neither dressed nor equipped for the exigencies of childcare, and all the holding, washing, feeding, spoiling, playing and training were undertaken by the much loved Ayah assisted by the noble ‘Bearer,’ the man-servant — who in photographs looks much like the figure on the doorstep on the wonderful cover of the Penguin Kim (brilliant choice of illustration — much more anon!). So Kipling’s first language, or more properly speaking, languages, there were so many in every Indian household, was certainly not English. Indeed, he would only have spoken English after first being scrubbed and kitted out to be ‘seen’ by the grown-ups, which almost certainly meant not being much heard. Kipling himself recalls in his autobiography that his Ayah would say to him as she straightened up his clothes by the door, “Speak English now to Papa and Momma” — which the little boy would have done a little self-consciously, perhaps, the syllables a bit crowded and tumbled in the Indian way — “a clipped, uncertain sing-song” as the child would describe Kim’s English when he himself had grown up and become a famous author.

    (I suffered some of the same dislocation in my own childhood in the 1940s, but also what freedom it meant for me to be in the kitchen and out the backdoor with the farm boys and their sisters, what adventure, what joy. Indeed, I’ve never recovered, and I feel sure Kipling didn’t either!)

    The little boy Kipling was sent back to England to be forcibly molded in the English way at the age of six which, although common among Anglo-Indian families, was in his case more sudden and cruel than usual. Indeed, he rarely saw his parents for the next 10 years, and how he suffered in that exile (as I did too when I was sent away to boarding school, but then I was 11!). Because Kipling was not good enough at school to win a scholarship to Oxford, the fees being beyond what his parents could afford, he was brought back to India at 16, where he immediately began a full-time job as a journalist on a small paper in Lahore. And he wrote the most extraordinary copy right from the start — indeed, some of his well-known poems and stories were dashed off to meet deadlines while he was still in his teens!

    He left India, for all practical purposes forever, in 1889. He was not yet 24, and already a celebrity!

    The miracle of Kim was partly a result, I feel sure, of the extraordinarily rich experience Kipling had with his Ayah for those first five years, followed by those six and a half hard-working years as a teen-age journalist. But partly only. Henry James, who met Kipling when he first came to London at 24, described him as “the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence)” that he had ever met, and from the very first pages of Kim that genius is self-evident. How could anyone be so comfortable with so much mind-boggling, untranslatable diversity? How could anybody of any definable background ever be quick and multi-facetted enough to function as Kim does, that mercurial “Little Friend of all the World.”?

    How could anyone, and anyone English in particular, have penetrated so deeply under the skin of such an extra-planetary, super-nova culture, and hob-nobbed so intimately with such alien beings? That’s what Kim is about — being on familiar, first name-terms with the unknowable.


  2. May 31, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I love the illustration on the cover of the Penguin edition I used to illustrate the article above, but am embarrassed to say I don’t know its origin. There have been four or five editions with wonderful paintings by Edwin Lord Weeks, the American orientalist who painted a lot in India, and this is certainly in that style. It could even be by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father, who was perfectly capable of doing this, but I don’t think it is. Please do let me know if anyone has more information about it.

    What I want to say is that I feel the scene of the householder pouring water into the hands of the boy, a common way to drink water from a bowl or a spigot in Asia, by the way, represents an extremely important theme in Kim.. Indeed, it’s an important act or ritual gesture in almost every culture in the world. For water is the great equalizer, it flows no matter where, it irrigates, washes, cools and refreshes at all social levels, indeed, before it we human beings are all simple and equal — equally open, equally vulnerable, and equally close to ourselves being god-like and pure.

    All over South Asia, from India to the Phillippines, water is the currency of welcome –as it is in my house in Chiang Mai. You simply can’t sneak in here without somebody offering you a glass of cool water even if it isn’t always on a tray, or even that cold — ice cubes feel a little tacky and smack of a restaurant or bar. They’re crude, ice cubes, and don’t serve the more delicate needs of the body well in the tropics either — nor do they impress people unless they’re tourists who have nothing to do and are paying to just sit there and feel special. Because what you’re offering in South Asia is the intimacy of your own private space, the water you share with them is the water in the pitcher or pot which you drink from yourself every day. It’s just water, the gist of who you are and what you have to share with people regardless of their background or your status, or vise versa.

    And this is true at all levels of society too. In the poorest hovel there is a clay pot by the door with a coconut scoop to offer hospitality to any visitor, a passer-by, a neighbor, a cousin, a social worker, a friend, policeman, politician, beggar, or bill collector. And the same is true at the tailor or the barber, even at the bank if you’re waiting to see an officer — even waiting for the dentist, or an audience with the King at the Royal Palace, something I’ve never done but would be willing to bet would involve a glass of cool water.

    This ritual is universal in South Asia, and its importance cannot be exaggerated, or its meaning exhausted by any concept however elevated like “respect” or “hospitality.” Because taking the water is also a gift, and the receiver becomes like the god on the altar — for that’s what happens on the altar everyday too in my house and everywhere. A glass of cool water is placed before every image on every altar and every spirit-house first thing every morning everywhere in South Asia, and when you get your own glass of cool water, you, an ordinary person, you too become an object of reverence, gratitude and awe. So it’s two-way — when you receive the water you deign to receive a gift to the god in you, but you give equally of the same as you receive the water, and make the donor a god. For in South Asia it is just as blessed to give as it is to receive.

    Like a Buddhist monk standing by the roadside at daybreak, barefoot, eyes lowered, bowl cradled with both hands in front of the belly without any demand or expectation. And the gift of the alms-food is as much a gift by the monk who receives it to the donor as it is a gift by the kneeling donor to the monk, and both know it.

    As both the two figures in the illustration above know it too.


  3. wfkammann said,

    May 31, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Kim says: “Thus do we beg who know the way of it,’ said he proudly to the lama, who opened his eyes at the contents of the bowl. ‘Eat now and – I will eat with thee. Ohe, bhisti!’ he called to the water- carrier, sluicing the crotons by the Museum. ‘Give water here. We men are thirsty.’
    ‘We men!’ said the bhisti, laughing. ‘Is one skinful enough for such a pair? Drink, then, in the name of the Compassionate.’
    He loosed a thin stream into Kim’s hands, who drank native fashion; but the lama must needs pull out a cup from his inexhaustible upper draperies and drink ceremonially.”

    So the lama drinks from a cup and it is a ceremony.

  4. June 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

    There is a contrast made right from the start of “The Buddha at Kamakura” between “the Narrow Way” of Christianity and “The Way” of the Buddha, at least as Kipling sees it. But, of course, there are things Kipling can observe about Buddhism that a Buddhist wouldn’t notice — and certainly there are just as many things about Christianity that a Christian who remains within the Christian faith wouldn’t notice either about his or her religion, or feel it was worth considering.

    When you are in a religion, when it’s your personal faith, it becomes like your own body serving all your needs that succinctly and in that much detail. Which is why our New Age attempts at syncretism satisfy so little of our yearning to be whole in our personal lives (religio, after all). For with religion, the sense of being “whole” can only be experienced in the immediate parts, down on the knees, in other words, in the right place at the sacred hour — not in big open discussions or “sharing,” not while engaged in Comparative Religion studies or generous get-togethers with candles and guitars. Great Moments have their moment but they’re rarely the real thing, and they simply can’t sustain us.

    So here goes. Kipling says Christianity is a “narrow way” through which you “tread.” You march on, stay steadfast, persevere, under-go trials and tribulations, “by Tophet- flare,” he calls it in the poem, fire and brimstone, of course, and ultimately on to the Day of Judgment — the terrible reckoning when everything will finally be clarified, punished and/or forgiven. And that’s a most wonderful, mysterious, creative discourse too, whether experienced as the Stations of the Cross at the one extreme or being Really Good at work in the world on the other. It’s the genius of Europe, the furnace of the West, the fire out of which all our western accomplishments have been wrought. The problem is that not everybody knows or cares about The Narrow Way, and you can see some of them on their knees at Kamakura. They’re “heathen,” spelled ‘heathen’ to be sure you get the message, and they’re ignorant of the fact that the “Narrow Way” is the only way to God, and that there’s a name and a date on it.

    Because of course, the irreconcilable difference between “the Narrow Way” and “The Way” is the word “narrow” — which indicates the amount of time and space at your disposal. The Christian knows he will be sorted out once and for all at a certain moment, very distinctly and in very great detail. And it will happen at one definable moment because our sine qua non is that THINGS HAPPEN and that GOD IS THERE. Whereas in the second way, “The Way” as it’s called in the poem, nothing happens that matters. Yes, it all moves along but it never goes anywhere or matters. And there is nobody there either, a.) nobody there in you, b.) nobody there in God, and c.) nowhere to go at all today or tomorrow. Yet the Buddhist at Kamakura prays and grovels before the image, indeed he prays and grovels so much that the Christian feels his behavior’s indecent!

    Here’s what Kipling says about that in the poem, words that neither the Buddhist nor the Christian would own to:

    …………………..For though he neither burns nor sees,
    …………………..Nor hears ye thank your Deities,
    …………………..Ye have not sinned with such as these,
    …………………..His children at Kamakura.

    So what do you do about that, and how do you live with such ironies?


  5. wfkammann said,

    June 1, 2011 at 11:52 pm


    Buddhism is called “The Middle Way” because it treads the line between the view that things exist permanently and not at all.

    The view that things exist permanently is called Conventional Reality. Yes, up is up and down is down; things are good and bad and you turn right or left. The Old Man in the Mountain is the symbol of the state of New Hampshire; it’s on the quarter and Hawthorne even wrote a story about it called “The Great Stone Face” It exists! This is the common-sense reality we all live in and it is functional and if you make the wrong turn you don’t get there. If you turn the light off you’re in the dark.

    …………..Great Stone Face

    But on May 3, 2003 the Great Stone Face slid into the valley in a calamitous, naturally caused rockfall. So what kind of existence does (did) The Old Man in the Mountain have? It certainly existed didn’t it? This brings us to the second reality.

    This view is called Ultimate Reality or reality under analysis. If we look at the rocks in Franconia Notch we don’t see the Old Man anymore. When I was a boy we vacationed there and I can tell you “He was there.” But it seems he wasn’t there permanently; for all time.

    He was impermanent and although he seemed real to me then, I now see that there was nothing about him that assured that he would always be there. If we had looked then we might have said that he existed because he was made of rocks and they exist or even that there was an essence to The Old Man which would always be there. The soul or spirit of the Great Stone Face. But now what do we say?


    We say that the Old Man came about during the 8th millenium BCE during the Wisconsin glaciation, the most recent ice age. Post glacial erosion created the cliff which would erode into the Old Man of the Mountain. It was first seen by “white men” in 1805. Daniel Webster wrote: “Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.” So, the Old Man is a proof of the existence of God.

    But the Buddhists would say that the Old Man came about due to causes and conditions (dependent arising) and was an impermanent eroded cliff that was called The Old Man of the Mountain because he looked like the face of a man when viewed from a certain direction. Other causes and conditions destroyed him and he was EMPTY of any permanent existence. Because no part of him was ever permanent does that mean that he didn’t exist at all? NO

    Because everything exists in dependence on (due to) causes and conditions and relationship, everything is EMPTY of what the Buddhists call “Inherent Existence”

    So the world seen from one perspective is dual, i.e. it is on and off; good and bad; solid, liquid and gas. It “really” exists. From the other perspective it is non-dual or “One” since it all lacks any permanent or inherent or “from its own side” existence. Not materialism; Not nihilism.


    The common sense world under analysis becomes EMPTY and so the two truths are really one seen from different perspectives. The common sense perspective is called “Ignorance” and the perspective that sees things as having one nature is called “Wisdom.” Meditation involves analysing the world until you can go from One to Two without ever really losing the sense or Oneness.

    I apologize for any mistakes in this analysis which is partial and not well put, but perhaps it might help someone and advance the conversation here.


    • Christopher Robinson said,

      January 29, 2019 at 2:02 am

      The Middle way is not about reality existing or not existing but about how one lives.

  6. June 2, 2011 at 10:59 am


    Winslow Homer -- The New Novel
    ………Click here for a much bigger and brighter version of the same.

    1.) The truth of the empty field which has nothing whatever to do with anyone who might happen to lie over there by the bushes;

    2.) The truth of the girl who finds herself lying in the field by the bushes at a specific moment in a dress with a book ;

    3.) The truth of the mind of the girl that enters the entirely different world in the book in which neither the girl nor the landscape exist;

    4.) The truth of the artist, Winslow Homer, who sees the girl lying in the field over there at the edge lost in the book, and tries to paint a picture of that truth that may also be a portrait of the truth that he loves her. And to be sure we know where to look for that truth, the artist tells us the picture is called “The New Novel.”

    5.) The truth of yet another, independent person, a viewer or reader like me, who looks at the painting of the girl lying on the grass with the book and loves it not because of the truth of the grass, the girl, what’s happening in the book, or in the life of the artist, but because of the orange — how the dress, the hair, the shoes, and even her skin are all gilded with orange like the gold on an icon.


    P.S. You can see another icon that has come into being through a similar process here.

  7. June 3, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Apologies from the Editor — the previous two posts crossed in cyberspace and as neither Bill nor myself could decide which came first, his chicken or my egg, we’ve left them to sit in the nest together, so to speak.

    Good Introduction to what follows.


    Bill was replying to my comment which ends, “So what do you do about that, and how do you live with such ironies?”

    I was replying to what I thought was his reply to that statement, i.e. “TWO TRUTHS.” So the dialogue still works even if it’s muddled.

    And it’s muddled because of the inherent paradox in Buddhism, it seems to me — indisputably the most logical, disciplined and non-theistic of all religions, Buddhism has yet thrown up more magic, psycho-gymnastics and occult cosmology than any other religion on the face of the earth! Yes, the Buddha does indeed make precisely the points that Bill does in his well-tuned argument, and in an equally dispassionate and unadorned style, but wherever the Buddhist religion goes it gets suffused with passion and devotion, a process which reaches a sort of apogee in the Virgin Mary-like cult of the Amitaba Buddha at Kamakura in Japan — of all places!

    And that’s what lies behind my blatantly ‘poetic’ response above too, freaky, in your face, triumphantly narcissistic. Because even though I know Bill is right in what he says, it simply doesn’t satisfy my hunch that there is something in the human effort to find meaning in all that emptiness anyway. Of course Bill has already answered that one-two when he says at the very end, “You can go from One to Two without ever really losing the sense or Oneness” — and if you look at the vocabulary and syntax of that whole sentence (“Of course… Oneness.”) you will see the folly of saying anything that’s true about all that anytime soon.

    It’s not what we say that is true, it seems to me, it’s the saying of it that’s true. So it’s always both Wisdom and Ignorance at the same time, never just one or the other.

    In fact I find the whole Buddhist discourse boring, I really do — and no, I’m not a Buddhist. I often say that, you may remember, and I really mean it.

    And here’s the riddle that unglues me — I wouldn’t have the vaguest idea HOW to be a Buddhistt. What I have discovered by living in a small Buddhist community in Thailand for so long is that the “boring” part is absolutely essential in the Asian context — because the passionate, undiscriminating, irrational side of the religious life here is so over-developed. Everybody is bowing and scraping and lighting incense and doing prostrations all the time, yearning and keening and praying, so there’s no danger that the Buddhist discourse will ever be too dry or too philosophical. Indeed, that’s why being a monk is so important in Buddhism everywhere, even in the States — everybody in California and Colorado wants to get themselves straightened out in some sort of retreat! Because just as it was in the Buddha’s time, which was Hindu, don’t forget, and he was a protestant reformer, there is simply too much of the communal — too much going on all the time in the Group. In fact, the Buddha taught a method to recover the individual from all that muddle and then to get the emerging sense of ‘self’ to develop in a private inner life called Meditation. Because you simply can’t lose something that you haven’t got first, that’s the truth — and the monk experience is just about the only way in the community where I live for anybody to be alone even for a second what is more to do something as rigorous and solitary as that.

    But as to myself, I’m much too alone and prickly already, and I think Bill is too but he thinks that’s good. He wants to be a spiritual hero and I just want to be a lover. Yes, I still go for the girl gilded in orange over the Buddha even at 71. Makes me feel holier, and closer.

    Bill’s Buddhism makes me feel cold — here I watch the extraordinarily beautiful festivals and pujas with delight but I never participate in them. I’m a lonely voyeur, which is another name for a poet.


  8. wfkammann said,

    June 3, 2011 at 9:16 am


    Keep grasping lover, and you’ll never be a Buddha. You might yet have a good time though. One thing is for sure, the orgasm, the sneeze and the state between waking and sleep is said to be like the enlightened state, so we do have some experience of it.

    This reminds me of the old joke about dirty Eddie, the rude young man who made a bet that he could sleep with his girl more times in one night than his friend could sleep with his. They were to mark on the bedstead the number of conquests. The friend makes love once and makes a mark. Later a second and then in the morning a third; so the bedstead looked like this 111. Eddie comes in in the morning and says, “Damn, one hundred eleven and I only had 108!”

    108 beads on a mala. Pray it round and round lover-boy.

  9. June 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

    But Bill, honestly, I don’t think I want to be a Buddha. Indeed, I’d exchange extinction any day for that good sneeze what is more for the friend’s one last time in the morning. And the breakfast that follows too, and then the heart-break in the afternoon and on to the end of that other sort of mourning. And to rise from the grave yet again every day, or at least to have that potential?

    We’re god’s already!


  10. wfkammann said,

    June 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

    God Christopher,

    You cannot embrace a philosophy which culminates in blissful equanimity and be a Romantic lover. So love away. What do a few million more turns of the wheel matter, really, in the long view?

  11. June 3, 2011 at 11:58 am

    But isn’t that dualism, Bill — bad becoming good and on to salvation?

    I really don’t believe that after death there’s a future for the person that dies — there may be something but it certainly won’t be a “future” in the sense that we measure on our earth clocks. What you seem to be suggesting is, like, if you don’t make it this time, don’t worry, you’ll get another chance soon. Or persevere my child, bite your tongue, stifle your yearnings, obey your parents and you’ll be fulfilled as an adult — whereas children that are good at that usually a.) aren’t good at anything else, and b.) become unhappy adults!

    That’s dogma, Bill, moral and religious convention. It’s a social contract justified by the promise of heaven — though you don’t use that word that’s essentially what you’re saying, even when you’re joking.

    And that’s a serious challenge on my part. I’m not very good at this sort of thing, but it seems to me that in the light of eternity this is manifest nonsense. Boundlessness, eternity, the indefinable emptiness that fills everything — in the light of all that there simply can’t be a future that comes after the present, or puts an end to the past. Impossible.

    So I come back as I do again and again to my insistence that even after Galileo had proved the earth revolved around the sun with his telescope he was still able to accept the Curia’s contrary truth at the same time, that God made it as He says He did in The Bible, fixed and central. Even a baby knows that about the earth, after all — it’s just grown-ups who get confused, putting all their eggs in one conventional basket that they measure with the instruments of their particular culture and the moment they live in.

    Non-dualistic vision goes way beyond that, doesn’t it? Or are we just pretending?

    Non-dualism not only denies the polarity of center and circumference but renders untenable all our concepts of space, size, time and dimension. And physicists know this now very well even when they can’t describe it in other than baby talk. They know that anything can become its opposite, turn inside out, not exist and exist at the same time, be in more than one place at once, bend backwards and forwards, all those sorts of diddles and tricks you need as a yogin to attain enlightenment. Which doesn’t exist either, of course, because everything’s impermanent including equilibrium and bliss.

    So who’s to say that the romantic lover is going to have to wait longer than the monk when there’s no time to wait and nowhere to go?

    And I’m serious about that.


  12. wfkammann said,

    June 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Your remarks put me in mind of the end of Kim. They have gone up the mountain. The old monk getting stronger as he returns to his environment, and Kim, too, putting on muscle and moving from boyhood to manhood. Kim, Kim, Kim who is Kim? he meditates. The Russian and Frenchman: players of The Great Game, have come over the mountain; struck the lama, brought the man out in Kim and sent them both back down toward the plain.

    Kim now has the weight of the world on his shoulders and a sick lama to carry. When he reaches the home of the old woman, she cures him and the lama has his adventure of realization.

    ‘Yea, my Soul went free, and, wheeling like an eagle, saw indeed that there was no Teshoo Lama nor any other soul. As a drop draws to water, so my Soul drew near to the Great Soul which is beyond all things. At that point, exalted in contemplation, I saw all Hind, from Ceylon in the sea to the Hills, and my own Painted Rocks at Such-zen; I saw every camp and village, to the least, where we have ever rested. I saw them at one time and in one place; for they were within the Soul. By this I knew the Soul had passed beyond the illusion of Time and Space and of Things. By this I knew that I was free. I saw thee lying in thy cot, and I saw thee falling downhill under the idolater – at one time, in one place, in my Soul, which, as I say, had touched the Great Soul. Also I saw the stupid body of Teshoo Lama lying down, and the hakim from Dacca kneeled beside, shouting in its ear. Then my Soul was all alone, and I saw nothing, for I was all things, having reached the Great Soul. And I meditated a thousand thousand years, passionless, well aware of the Causes of all Things. Then a voice cried: “What shall come to the boy if thou art dead?” and I was shaken back and forth in myself with pity for thee; and I said: “I will return to my chela, lest he miss the Way.” Upon this my Soul, which is the Soul of Teshoo Lama, withdrew itself from the Great Soul with strivings and yearnings and retchings and agonies not to be told. As the egg from the fish, as the fish from the water, as the water from the cloud, as the cloud from the thick air, so put forth, so leaped out, so drew away, so fumed up the Soul of Teshoo Lama from the Great Soul. Then a voice cried: “The River! Take heed to the River!” and I looked down upon all the world, which was as I had seen it before – one in time, one in place – and I saw plainly the River of the Arrow at my feet. At that hour my Soul was hampered by some evil or other whereof I was not wholly cleansed, and it lay upon my arms and coiled round my waist; but I put it aside, and I cast forth as an eagle in my flight for the very place of the River. I pushed aside world upon world for thy sake. I saw the River below me – the River of the Arrow – and, descending, the waters of it closed over me; and behold I was again in the body of Teshoo Lama, but free from sin, and the hakim from Decca bore up my head in the waters of the River. It is here! It is behind the mango- tope here – even here!’

    So life begins for Kim. The magic of his boyhood and the magical boy are lost. The old monk fulfills his life but, like a good Bodhisattva, returns out of love for Kim. There’s something unsatisfactory in the ending. But maybe there’s always something unsatisfactory in the beginning; the middle and the end.

    And in answer to the question, is it dual, yes, of course it’s dual. But unlike Western Christianity, there is a Buddha in every realm of the wheel and the assurance that it does in fact lead to realization by all beings, that they are at one with all things. And then time stands still and good things start popping up everywhere in bliss.


    • wfkammann said,

      June 5, 2011 at 3:07 am


      …………..But when the morning prayer is prayed,
      …………..Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade,
      …………..Is God in human image made
      …………..No nearer than Kamakura?

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons stated that God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”

      St. Clement of Alexandria says that “he who obeys the Lord and follows the prophecy given through him . . . becomes a god while still moving about in the flesh.”

      St. Athanasius wrote that “God became man so that men might become gods.”

      St. Cyril of Alexandria says that we “are called `temples of God’ and indeed `gods,’ and so we are.”

      St. Basil the Great stated that “becoming a god” is the highest goal of all.

      St. Gregory of Nazianzus implores us to “become gods for (God’s) sake, since (God) became man for our sake.”

      This view is called theosis and is found in the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the west it is heresy.

      As far as being a Buddha goes, I would say that since the body of a Buddha is all that exists, we are already Buddhas just as we are already Gods. The trick is to realize it; this is called Enlightenment.

  13. June 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I worked quite hard on a response to that remarkable Kim passage you posted yesterday morning, and then the Jehovah’s Witnesses turned up. I thought I should be welcoming and offered them to sit down with me at my little round table on the porch and talk. One of the men, a European, claimed his first language was French but I couldn’t make out what he was speaking and he couldn’t understand my French either. Perhaps it was Romansch, and he looked Greek or Turkish. The other was an older Japanese man who spoke English, fluently it seemed, but I could hardly understand a word that he said.

    They told me right away that their mission was to Thais, not foreigners, and were surprised to see me when they came in the gate. I thought later that maybe they were angels and I’d missed a great chance.

    In any case, I tried my best to follow my conviction that all religions speak the truth, but their approach to everything was so simplistic and literal it made me impatient — they assumed that things were of course much worse in the world today than they’d ever been before, which I don’t, that of course everybody was worried that the end is nigh, which I’m not, and that everybody would be interested in the book they had with them that had all the answers right there in black and white. I said I agreed completely that The Bible was the word of God but that it spoke in a language that I didn’t speak very well, and could we rather read together the Bhagavad Gita. But they didn’t know it.

    So in the end I was just smart, and although we left on good terms, and they even said they’d be back, I felt arrogant — a show off, a debater. And that’s not what I meant at all.

    That put an end to the confidence I had in the morning that I might be able to write something about the Lama’s return as a god.


    I liked very much what you posted today about Asia:

    “In answer to the question, is it dual, yes, of course it’s dual. But unlike Western Christianity, there is a Buddha in every realm of the Wheel of Life, and the assurance that it does in fact lead to realization by all beings, that they are at one with all things. And then time stands still and good things start popping up everywhere in bliss.”

    And then you followed that up today with those quotes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition which you call Theosis — wonderful. Indeed, those sentiments are much more in line with what the Lama says in the Kim passage than anything I could have said.

    Do you think Kipling knew that Theosis teaching, or his father who worked with him so closely on Kim and was really the leader between them in spiritual matters? Are there any hints, for example, to the Theosis teaching in what Kipling says about the Russians in the Great Game that was being played out in India?

    What I’d really be interested to know is, does this sort of teaching make a difference in the lives of those who hear it, and in particular in the lives of the holymen, priests and hermits who live by it? Because that’s the proof of the pudding, isn’t it? What it gives to us in our everyday lives?

    Indeed, has there ever been a culture that has embodied the Word of God in such a way that it might demonstrate that human beings live better together under spiritual management?

    Because certainly today the people all over the world who claim to live specifically by the Word of God create the most confusion, rivalry and suffering.


  14. wfkammann said,

    June 6, 2011 at 2:36 am

    The thought that God is only peace and love is naive. If God is “everything” it must be all that we call good and all that we call evil. We see things as dual; they aren’t! We create a God that is only good but forget that the system doesn’t work without the vulchers, worms and bacteria to clean things up. The whole system might be called “Good” but it would include what WE call bad.

    As far as Theosis goes, I don’t know. I think realizing you’re God, like realizing that you’re a Buddha is a great goal for spiritual practice. We should lead “better” lives as we progress i.e. more loving, more compassionate, more balanced; less angry, less hateful, less anxious. I think some do make it and most may be a little better for trying. All religions have the goal to become more selfless, serving others.

    But religion promotes confusion, rivalry, suffering and much, much worse. We’re right; you’re wrong. We’re going to Heaven; you’re going to Hell. So if we kill you now it’s no great loss. No man is an Island?

  15. June 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I think one of the defining moments in Kipling’s life must have been the struggle he went through in writing a poem for Queen Victoria’s 1897 Golden Jubilee — which he did in the end, but reluctantly one feels. And that poem was the profoundly moving but at the same time profoundly uncomfortable “Recessional.”

    The irony is that the poem seems to have been embraced on both sides of the Atlantic with its ironies intact, that people did understand the moral perils of empire, and the obligations those perils imposed on each of us whatever our race or culture not to forget that we are equally undeveloped however privileged, that we are equally blind, obtuse and, needless to say, proud people.

    But not to forget what?

    ……………. RECESSIONAL

    ……………. God of our fathers, known of old—
    ……………. Lord of our far-flung battle line—
    ……………. Beneath whose awful hand we hold
    ……………. Dominion over palm and pine—
    ……………. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    ……………. Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    ……………. The tumult and the shouting dies—
    ……………. The Captains and the Kings depart—
    ……………. till stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
    ……………. An humble and a contrite heart.
    ……………. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    ……………. Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    ……………. Far-called our navies melt away—
    ……………. On dune and headland sinks the fire—
    ……………. Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
    ……………. s one with Nineveh and Tyre!
    ……………. Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
    ……………. Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    ……………. If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
    ……………. Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
    ……………. Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
    ……………. Or lesser breeds without the Law—
    ……………. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    ……………. Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    ……………. For heathen heart that puts her trust
    ……………. In reeking tube and iron shard—
    ……………. All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    ……………. And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
    ……………. For frantic boast and foolish word,
    ……………. Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
    ……………. Amen.

    The poem has become an important element in Remembrance Day celebrations all over the Commonwealth, including Canada and even America, and the “lest we forget” refrain to stand for the message that there is something glorious about dying for one’s country, and that we the people will never forget the sacrifice that our young men and women have made fighting for our nations. That’s a noble sentiment, to be sure, but it is also jingoistic unless it is tempered by the much deeper message that the poem actually conveys. And that is “lest we forget ourselves!” in the deeper sense of forget our own humanity, our fragility, our need to depend on each other as much as our need to defend each other, and the fact that we are all in this human boat together, all equally struggling, equally undeveloped, equally blind, obtuse but worthy people.

    And of course there are other considerations too, like lest we forget human history, lest we forget the Wheel of Life on which all peoples as well as all persons rise up, reach the summit of their powers, and then inevitably fall down, empires and churches, tribes, nations and individuals all equally. “Dominion over palm and pine” comes about, for sure, and we have benefitted from that and hopefully done a good job with it —- yet?

    “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,/ Lest we forget—lest we forget!” Be with us even so. Be with us still, even after the realization has set in, even after the inevitable collapse and fall.

    Powerful, for it includes the caveat that whether we have done a good job with it or not, whether our “dominion” over others has been righteous or not, we still must remember, recall it and think about it all alone in ourselves. We still must remember in our souls!

    And the poem goes on like that, delivering both those messages at once, dominance and the communal responsibility that goes with it on the one hand, and the inevitability of the reckoning within ourselves that is equally imperative.

    ……………. The tumult and the shouting dies—
    ……………. The Captains and the Kings depart—
    ……………. till stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
    ……………. An humble and a contrite heart.
    ……………. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    ……………. Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    And if our imperial intervention in other peoples’ lives causes them to revolt against us, and there was more and more of that at the time, not only in India but in Africa, then we must ask ourselves about it first, we must question ourselves, our motives, and the example we have set. “If, drunk with sight of power, we loose /Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe… Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget” — an extraordinary message at the time. “Know thyself,” imperialist — look in the mirror and ask the hard questions!

    In the last stanza the ironies are the most explicit and painful of all, and probably for that reason are often misunderstood. The “heathen heart that puts her trust /In reeking tube and iron shard” are our own imperial soldiers with our own government’s guns and cluster bombs, none other.

    ……………. For heathen heart that puts her trust
    ……………. In reeking tube and iron shard—
    ……………. All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    ……………. And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
    ……………. For frantic boast and foolish word,
    ……………. Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
    ……………. Amen.

    Power that builds itself on dust, however valiant, is dust too, “frantic boast and foolish word.”

    Whether there can be a just invasion or a just occupation is not what this poem is about, and it never gets near the moral questions involved in the use of power to dominate others either. So there’s nothing to learn in it about Vietnam or Iraq, for example, or the Twin Towers, but everything about ourselves.

    Lest we forget to enquire.


  16. wfkammann said,

    June 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Psalm 51

    1. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

    2. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

    3. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

    4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

    5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

    6. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

    7. Urge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    8. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

    9. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

    10. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

    11. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

    12. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

    13. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

    14. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

    15. Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

    16. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

    17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

    18. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

    19. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

    This is one of the most powerful Psalms and most important theologically. Kipling references the “contrite heart” as the sacrifice acceptable to God. The dynamic of spiritual practice is the flux and finally fusion of the inward life and life in the world. “Your inside is out and your outside is in” as the Beatles tell us.

    The concept of a broken and contrite heart is a strong image. It is the opposite of the proud heart or the “frantic boast and foolish word.” The broken heart provides the place of selflessness where God can enter in. The sacrifice is acceptable, like the widow’s mite, because it is all of our SELF.

    Of course Kipling is using the Judeo-Christian tradition for this poem. In Kim he has more to choose from and the Catholic Priest and Protestant Clergyman are given a superficial treatment compared to the rich spiritual life of the world in India.

    Ida said this morning that Buddhism is “only about self-realization” and that Buddhists have never made the world better.

    Ironically the main teaching of the Buddha is anatta = no self, no soul; nothing at all to cling to.


    Come on come on come on come on
    Come on is such a joy
    Come on is such a joy
    Come on lets take it easy
    Come on lets take it easy
    Take it easy take it easy
    Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and
    my monkey.

    The deeper you go the higher you fly
    The higher you fly the deeper you go
    So come on come on
    Come on is such a joy
    Come on is such a joy
    Come on lets make it easy
    Come on lets make it easy.

    Take it easy take it easy
    Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and
    my monkey.

    Your inside is out when your outside is in
    Your outside is in when your inside is out
    So come on come on
    Come on is such a joy
    Come on is such a joy
    Come on lets make it easy
    Come on lets make it easy
    Make it easy make it easy
    Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and
    my monkey.

    • wfkammann said,

      June 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm

      Here’s something I like from Kipling’s Naulahka.

      ………..There is pleasure in the wet, wet clay,
      ………..When the artist’s hand is potting it;
      ………..There is pleasure in the wet, wet lay,
      ………..When the poet’s pad is blotting it;
      ………..There is pleasure in the shine of your picture on the line
      ………..At the Royal Acade-my;
      ………..But the pleasure felt in these is as chalk to Cheddar cheese,
      ………..When it comes to a well-made Lie
      ………..To a quite unwreckable Lie,
      ………..To a most impeccable Lie,
      ………..To a water-tight, fireproof, angle-iron, sunk-hinge, time-lock,
      ………………..steel-faced Lie!
      ………..Not a private hansom Lie,
      ………..But a pair and brougham Lie,
      ………..Not a little place at Tooting, but a country-house with shooting,
      ………..And a ring-fence, deer-park Lie.
      …………………………………….. –Op. 3.

      An’ that’s the Truth!

  17. June 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Truth indeed, Bill — and a major theme in Kim. Indeed, the boy Kim has to submit to quite a number of Lie Tests in the course of the novel not only to survive but to be himself — or not to be himself, as the case may be, whichever may be closer to who he really is. Because telling the facts is not always the truth in the context of one’s personal history, not to speak of the fact that it can sometimes be foolish to be too open, even suicidal.

    Ever tried to go through a day without telling a single lie?

    Or to say who you are to a stranger without having recourse to a myth?

    On a number of occasions Kim is questioned by powerful men in the higher echelons of the British Secret Service, the “Ethnographer,” Creighton, and the “Horse Dealer,” Mahbub Ali, among them, neither of whom is at all what he purports to be. More than that, both Creighton and Mahbub Ali love their cover-up professions with a passion, Buddhist studies on the one hand and beautiful horses on the other — their modus vivendi, quite literally, as they both have to travel to remote and inaccessible places like Lhasa and Kabul. And both are consummate liars, of course, yet one is from a culture that prides itself on integrity, i.e. the British, and the other, the Afghan culture, which prides itself in what the British call duplicity but the Afghans intelligence, experience, and even wisdom. Formidable mentors, both Creighton and Mahbub Ali test Kim intensively to be sure he is capable of being both perfectly truthful when that’s the ticket, which means primarily with them, and perfectly convincing when he needs to lie, which is most of the time otherwise. Because a dedicated spy who’s a true patriot must know both how to use the truth to cover up the lie and how to use the lie to protect the truth, or polish it, as the case may be — the assumption being, of course, that the end justifies the means because when God is on your side the end is always good!

    Like Jesuits — who are trained so well in that, and whom I greatly admire for it. Also lawyers. Because if you haven’t got the facility to juggle the parameters you’re never going to be much use to your team’s defense, to your Church, let’s say, or your Government — or to any communal truth that really matters like Democracy. And if you think you can be yourself without lying you’re very arrogant as well as very stupid. Indeed, you will never know yourself, because your capacity for self delusion will be so great the rest of the world is going to find out that you’re a hypocrite before you do!


    There’s a terrible hidden side to Kipling, I feel sure, at least hidden from the outside world — yet Kipling knew this side of himself well, I also feel sure, which is one of the special kinks, among many other gifts, that made him such a great artist. Indeed, Kipling spent over half his life burning every draft, note and letter he had ever written that was not for publication, and with his wife’s help managed to get hold of virtually his whole correspondence, even when carefully preserved by others — even after his death, and sometimes at very considerable expense to his family too.

    Kipling directly addressed his capacity for lying in the very short, summary autobiography called “Something of Myself” which he wrote at the very end of his life. In the passage from it that follows he is referring to the horrendous six years of abuse he experienced as a young child at the hands of an evangelistic, puritanical couple to whom his parents abandoned him in England at the age of six. Kipling was a difficult child, I feel sure, and there are many strands to this story which the lack of a paper trail in the years to come have made almost impossible to disentangle — such as why his parents abandoned him in the way they did in the first place, and why they never even told him they were going. But the punishment of those six years at Lorne Lodge certainly left their mark on Kipling’s genius including that capacity to lie which we call “creativity,” making things up. But this warp in his nature also created in him the extraordinary talent to extol the public truths of, for example, his own British imperial culture while at the same time unveiling the hidden, less-noble motives that compromise even the most altruistic of human values. By so doing, Rudyard Kipling rendered an enormous service to us all in the pursuit of truth, whatever our age, our time or our culture.

    Here’s the passage:

    “If you cross-examine a child of seven or eight on his day’s doings (specially when he wants to go to sleep) he will contradict himself very satisfactorily. If each contradiction be set down as a lie and retailed at breakfast, life is not easy. I have known a certain amount of bullying, but this was calculated torture—religious as well as scientific. Yet it made me give attention to the lies I soon found it necessary to tell: and this, I presume, is the foundation of literary effort.”

    The best source for more on the background to those feelings is Kipling’s short story set in Lorne Lodge called “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”


  18. June 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I’d just like to say that my hunch that Kipling had a “terrible hidden side” is not to say that the hidden side was “terrible” because it was uncivilized or barbaric or contained secrets about his private life that were disgraceful. My feeling is that it was “terrible” because it contained what he could never deal with in himself, the sense of entitlement that as a child had been so badly and incomprehensibly betrayed by his parents. It was “terrible” because it had to be hidden, being forever too raw and too inexplicable ever to be let out.

    My sense too is that Kipling may have felt he couldn’t deal with the anger that might slip out if he ever opened that door, and the shame that might then overwhelm him.

    For the record, I’m not relying on any special psychological theory or method to arrive at this conclusion, just on my own experience combined with common sense and a careful reading of Kipling’s life and works.

    One of the theories about why Kipling’s parents didn’t board him at one of the large family houses his three aunts had married into, the Burne-Jones, the Poynters, or the Baldwins, was that the little boy was so loud and uncontrollable as a six year old that nobody felt confident about having him in the house. His mother at one point referred to “complications” as the reason why she placed him in the anonymous Lorne Lodge, and extreme manic behavior, not uncommon among prodigies, may have been the reason she didn’t dare to board him in the family. She may well have felt ashamed of herself for having produced such a monster of a child, both physically through birth and through the total spoiling she permitted him in the first years of his life. She didn’t even teach him to read!

    But what mother would ever have suspected her impossible little boy was to become Rudyard Kipling aka Kim?

    Huge topic, the “terrible,” “hidden” sides of both the important decisions we make in our lives and of the consequences afterwards for everybody. And most often there is nothing there but a coat over the back of a chair in the dark!

    Kipling’s life as well as his work, I feel, make a wonderful field study for the nature of the Self at it’s most complex and at the same time simplest and most fundamental expression.


  19. wfkammann said,

    June 10, 2011 at 8:44 am


    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Kipling’s parents led interesting lives.

    His mother, Alice MacDonald, was the daughter of a Methodist Minister. During one of their family’s moves to another parish she came across an envelope containing a lock of John Wesley’s hair. `See!’ she exclaimed, throwing the holy relic on the fire. `A hair of the dog that bit us!’

    Her sister Georgiana married Edward Burne-Jones, Agnes married the president of the Royal Academy, Edward Poynter and Louisa married the industrialist Alfred Baldwin and was the mother of prime minister Stanley Baldwin. Alice was not without connections or charm. and an Indian Viceroy said of her, “Dullness and Mrs. Kipling cannot exist in the same room.

    ………………..Alice Kipling

    Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, was also the child of a Methodist Minister, Joseph Kipling, educated at Woodhouse Grove School, a Methodist boarding school, which he found unbearable. Both of Kipling’s parents were lapsed Methodists. The “society” of occupation India was associated with the Anglican Church and Lockwood designed the altar for Christ Church in Simla. He studied design and pottery and in 1865 was given a position as professor of architectural sculpture in the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay and later became its Principal. Rudyard was born in December of that year and was named for Rudyard Lake, where his parents had met, and named Joseph in the Kipling tradition of alternating boy’s names John and Joseph.

    Harry Ricketts in his biography of Kipling tells of their courtship: “The story of how they became engaged deserves a place in any anthology of courtship. The occasion was a picnic with friends at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire in the summer of 1863. There was a meal, followed by a walk. An old, gaunt-looking horse was spotted in a nearby field. `”Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud,”‘ suggested Lockwood. `”He must have been wicked to deserve such pain,”‘ returned Alice, immediately recognizing the quotation from Robert Browning’s `Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’, and capping it with a line from the next stanza. `It was done in that moment,’ she later observed.”

    After sending Rudyard and his sister to England, Lockwood advanced from Bombay to Lahore in 1875 as Principal of the Mayo School of Arts and curator of the Lahore Museum which is called the Wonder House in Kim.

    ………………..Kiplings Father & Son

    Lockwood’s book, Beast and Man in India: A Popular sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People (1891), shows him to be a follower of Darwin and extremely knowledgeable in the daily life and customs of India. The many proverbs and sayings in Kim could very well be his. He is also conversant with the literature of the area including the Jakata Tales and Book of Arda Viraf. Given the extensive folk knowledge which Lockwood demonstrates in this book, his level of collaboration with his son may be quite substantial and is certainly not limited to his considerable skill as an illustrator.

    …………..Lockwood Kipling, illustration, The Jungle Books

    As far as the issue of sending Ruddy and Trix to stay with total strangers at Lorne Lodge, Harry Ricketts has this to say:

    “It is not known exactly when Lockwood and Alice decided that Rud and Trix should be sent to live in England. Why they chose to do so would not have surprised any of their fellow Anglo-Indians; in fact, the reason would have seemed too obvious to mention. If an explanation had to be given, it was usually that, at a certain age, white children became particularly susceptible to the rigours of the Indian climate. This, however, was a convenient euphemism, a broad-spectrum rationale, masking other concerns — since, medically, there was no reason why children of five and three, like Rud and Trix, should have been more at risk from the climate than children even younger.

    What were those other concerns? Two at least seem straightforward enough. Anglo-Indians did not want their children to grow up thinking of India as home: home, or `Home’ as they usually referred to it, was England. Nor did they want their children to acquire sing-song, chi-chi accents, the almost inevitable consequence of prolonged exposure to the servants’ English. In addition, there were less obvious anxieties, again involving the influence of the servants. Maud Driver in her 1909 book, The Englishwoman in India, was one of the first publicly to express these less mentionable fears. According to her, it was necessary to send Anglo-Indian children `Home’ in order to remove them from `the promiscuous intimacy of the Indian servants, whose propensity to worship at the shrine of the Baba-log [the children] is unhappily apt to demoralise the small gods and goddesses they serve’.

    In other words, while Anglo-Indian parents were happy enough for their children, when very young, to be cosseted and worshipped by the servants, they did not want them to grow up unmanageable and, in the case of their sons, unmanly. And, strictly in its own terms, such an attitude makes sense. There is plenty of evidence, not least among Kipling’s stories, to support the idea that the little sahibs were often extremely indulged and tyrannical. In his own case, his sister Trix remembered how the servants used to treat him as one of themselves, calling him (as he was later to call his character Kim) `Little Friend of all the world’. She added that he was also `rather noisy and spoilt’. More obliquely, Maud Driver also hinted at something more problematic than simple over-indulgence. Her phrase `promiscuous intimacy’ suggests that the real demoralisation she had in mind was of a sexual nature: that, through such close and extended contact with the servants, white children ran the risk, at an early age, of finding out about the facts of life and of knowing more than was good for them. Kipling’s own testimony bears this out, and he certainly came to feel that in India `it was inexpedient and dangerous for a white child to be reared through youth’.

    After five years in India, Lockwood and Alice probably fully shared and endorsed these concerns. But in their case two other factors contributed to their decision to send Rud and Trix to England. On 18 April 1870 Alice had given birth prematurely to another son who did not survive. Whether as catalyst or corroboration, that loss must have played its part. The other reason was more pragmatic: without the children, Alice would be better able to concentrate her very formidable social skills towards the advancement of Lockwood’s career. So, in the circumstances, the decision to send Rud and Trix to England was nothing out of the ordinary. What seems puzzling, and requires some explanation, is why the couple should have decided to send the children to live with strangers and not with any of their numerous relations.

    Alice, who obviously had a monopoly on the domestic decision-making, must take responsibility for this. Edith Plowden recalled her later saying that `She had never thought of leaving her children with her own family — it led to complications.’ Alice could hardly have been unaware of the bad impression that Rud’s behaviour had made on her mother and sister Louie during the 1868 visit. Understandably, she would have wanted to avoid any possible repetition. Other worries probably also affected her thinking. While she and her sisters were undeniably close, their letters and Louie’s diary show that they could be intensely competitive and at times extremely jealous of each other. Did Alice fear that if she sent her children to live with members of her own family, they might in time transfer their primary allegiance away from herself? The prospect of parting with Rud and Trix would have been painful enough in itself; to part with them to strangers might well have appeared a less threatening prospect than the risk of `losing’ them to one or other of her tough, charming sisters. Towards the end of her life, Trix suggested that the obvious solution would have been for Rud and her to have gone to Lockwood’s family at Skipton. But once Alice had discounted her own side of the family, clearly Lockwood’s had to be discounted too; that would only have led to other complications.

    As it turned out, Alice and Lockwood chose Pryse Agar and Sarah Holloway of Southsea as the future `foster parents’ for their children. Whether the original contact was made through an advertisement in an English or Indian newspaper or through some other channel has never been discovered. Presumably letters and references were exchanged and considered satisfactory. At any event, all the necessary arrangements must have been made long before Alice, Lockwood and the children set off for England in April 1871.”
    ……………………………from Harry Ricketts, Rudyard Kipling: A Life (1999)

    A boyhood of suffering seems almost to have been a prerequisite for advancement in colonial India.


  20. June 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

    There is a crucial chapter toward the middle of Kim in which not only the dynamics of Kim’s life are established, including his bond with the three most important people in his life and their role in his schooling, but an explanation, indeed justification, for the loneliness and punishment he must undergo to get properly educated. Because Kim will be deprived of his freedom at St. Xaviers, a highly disciplined and selective school for the elite, and his teachers will now be his “masters” — in locis parentis, an image straight out of imperial Great Britain and still used at boarding schools today, including in America – or in my day, at least.

    In addition, Kim will be deprived not only of his freedom but of the warmth of those who love him, in his case not “mater” and “pater,” which is what parents are called at English “Public Schools,” or “pitch-ups” at Winchester, but his three surrogate fathers: the Lama, Mahbub Ali, and Creighton. In sum, Kim is to be removed from the comforts of his beloved “home” — the whole of India in his case, his nursery, the “Road.” Instead he will be stuffed into stiff, alien clothing, forced to sit up straight and talk brilliantly, when addressed, and to submit to extreme discipline in mind, body, and soul day and night. And why? For one purpose and one purpose only – to become nothing short of the best.

    Which was the genius behind the British Empire, of course, or its dirty little secret, depending on how you look at it. The genius of the “Public School” system, so exclusively private — Eton, Harrow and Winchester, among them, the training grounds for the handful of men who would make the British Empire not only possible but work!

    Here’s a story that everybody at all those sort of schools knows even today:

    The Etonian offers the old lady a chair, the Harrovian goes and gets it, and the Wykehamist sits in it. (A Wykehamist is a graduate of Winchester College founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, the oldest and academically the most rigorous of all the Public Schools. I’m a Wykehamist.)

    No mention in the story of who made the chair or bought it, cleaned, repaired, put it back or threw it away, needless to say, just who managed it. And “managing it” included speaking all the world’s languages, of course, knowing all the history and geography, a superbly trained memory, a super-human tolerance for danger and loneliness, courage that was always on the very edge of bloodshed, and the ability to live nobly and at full stretch all alone for long periods of time and only very rarely in any tender embrace!

    Indeed, never has the world created a system more effective at creating Top Class Administrators with more knowledge, courage, stamina and, yes, integrity – though God help you if you weren’t on their side!

    As the man the boy Kim is destined to become, trained by his teachers at St. Xaviers who were part of it whatever the tint of their skins — and at the behest of his Great Game supervisors, brilliant men who needed him to be perfect. And, of course, brought into being by Rudyard Kipling, trained in the same imperial school of hardship, loneliness and deprivation, Kim’s model and his author all in one.


    At the end of Chapter VII, Kim gets to say goodbye to his beloved Lama just as he is being enrolled at St. Xaviers. The Lama explains in some detail why he came to see Kim one more time, a parental pronouncement which would seem cruel and remiss today for sure. “I came, as thou seest me, to watch for thee going up into the Gates of Learning. A day and a half have I waited not because I was led by any affection towards thee – that is no part of the Way.” Kim bitterly complains at this disinterest, longing for some sympathy or sign that he isn’t being just coldly left behind. “But surely, Holy One, thou hast not forgotten the Road and all that befell on it. Surely it was a little to see me that thou didst come?”

    “ ’I had a fear that, perhaps, I came because I wished to see thee,” the Lama replies “- misguided by the Red Mist of affection. It is not so . . .’ “

    “ ‘What they will teach thee I do not know, but the priest wrote me that no son of a Sahib in all India will be better taught than thou. So from time to time, therefore, I will come again. Maybe thou wilt be such a Sahib as he who gave me these spectacles’ – the lama wiped them elaborately – ‘in the Wonder House at Lahore. That is my hope, for he was a Fountain of Wisdom – wiser than many abbots …. Again, maybe thou wilt forget me and our meetings.’ “

    “ ‘If I eat thy bread,’ cried Kim passionately, ‘how shall I ever forget thee? No – no.’ ”

    “He put the boy aside. ‘I must go back to Benares. From time to time,now that I know the customs of letter- writers in this land, I will send thee a letter, and from time to time I will come and see thee.’ “

    Needless to say, the Sahib at the Lahore Museum, that “Fountain of Wisdom,” as the saintly Lama calls him, was none other than Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father, who not only collaborated in every aspect of the writing of Kim, as Bill notes above, but who was also the parent who abandoned the baby Ruddy to 10 years of torment — all alone in exile for 10 years without any explanation what is more hug or apology. All for his good, and without even missing him — just as the Lama says, “[not] by any affection towards thee – that is no part of the Way.”


    As a baby, the household servants in Bombay called Ruddy “The Little Friend of all the World” – Kim’s name, in other words. When Kipling/Kim went home at last after his education was finished at 16, his genius was hot and ready to go. He later combined that genius with the genius of his father to write Kim in his early 30s. And it’s a novel about the two of them, father and son, I would argue — how between the two of them they found out how so much suffering could make sense, could be worth it even, as much as it hurts and wounds you. How suffering is essential to enlightenment, as both Buddhism and the British Empire’s school system attest.

    In conclusion, I would say Kim is also about how the British imperial system created one of the greatest novels ever written by building on the damage it did both to the father and the son that wrote it. And you’ll know Kim’s that great too if you read it on the level that Lockwood Kipling, “wiser than many abbots,” helped his equally gifted son to create it.

    Look in Lockwod’s eyes in the detail just below and you’ll see who Rudyard Kipling was working with, at least who met him at the boat when he came back to India in 1882. The whole photo is above in Bill’s last comment. The son is 17, the father 45, and though the head is bald, the eyes are blue and the beard not white but blond.

    No need for a robe.

    ………… Lockwood Kipling, 1882


  21. June 13, 2011 at 10:29 am

    In the context of these ideas about education, and the role of the father in particular, the famous passage that Bill quotes above acquires yet another level of meaning. I’m referring to the passage at the very end of the novel in which the Lama disengages himself from Nirvana (or God, or the Great Soul, whatever you want to call it) and deliberately wrestles his way back into the physical body to attend one more time to his young friend and companion on earth. And this is a truly original ‘vision,’ for want of a better word, a spiritual ‘metaphor’ that can’t be found in any established religion. Yes, the ‘discourse’ is far more Hindu than Buddhist with it’s emphasis on God and the Soul, but it’s also quite Christian – the Father deliberately choosing incarnation out of love for the Son.

    Where the passage belongs theologically is of minor interest compared to what it says to the sensitive reader who is prepared to visualize it artistically and apply it to his or her own personal life. And it’s not an adversarial message either, one that contradicts what is said about “enlightenment” by traditional Buddhists or Hindus, or by anybody. It merely adds a personal dimension of choice, devotion and sacrifice which is extremely moving, and so full of hope!

    What is most moving of all for me, a fact that is rarely observed, is that the vision/discourse is autobiographical as well, and casts light on Kipling’s relationship with his own father who also abandoned him when he was a child and then returned to him later. And that’s very powerful stuff.

    When in Chapter VII the Lama left Kim as he was passing through the “Gates of Learning,” he refused to admit that there was any special bond between them. The Lama wouldn’t even say that he would miss Kim, indeed he turns up his nose at all sentimental considerations almost as if he were British! The Lama not only believed that Kim’s education should be perfectly disciplined, but was himself dedicated to a pursuit of Enlightenment which involved a total turning away from all earthly “attachment.” Yet in the passage we are discussing the Lama qualifies the philosophy he calls the Way, a Path which he had striven to follow all his life. And he does it specifically out of love for one small human being still stuck way back there on the Way.

    So “The Way” seems to have another, wholly different meaning, and that shift can perhaps be best understood by examining the relationship between Lockwood the father coming back to Kipling the son which actually took place during the writing of the novel.

    ”Then my Soul was all alone, and I saw nothing, for I was all things, having reached the Great Soul. And I meditated a thousand thousand years, passionless, well aware of the Causes of all Things. Then a voice cried: “What shall come to the boy if thou art dead?” and I was shaken back and forth in myself with pity for thee; and I said: “I will return to my chela, lest he miss the Way.”

    But there’s another, wholly unexpected ingredient. There is something good in both detachment and attachment, there are things which one never ought to flee even if they involve discipline and/or loss. The Lama realizes that his flight from the earth to attain enlightenment was also selfish, in a sense, that it was in fact a clinging to himself that coiled around his soul like a snake and brought him back.

    At that hour my Soul was hampered by some evil or other whereof I was not wholly cleansed, and it lay upon my arms and coiled round my waist; but I put it aside, and I cast forth as an eagle in my flight for the very place of the River. I pushed aside world upon world for thy sake.”

    By returning to the predicament that is his personal existence, the Lama becomes wise enough to realize that there is in reality a season for attachment, as there is a season for saying sorry too, from the depth of one’s heart. As did Lockwood Kipling to his gifted but damaged son Ruddy still stuck back there on his difficult way in Vermont. The father came back to the son at 30 with the gift that he had withheld from him as a child, as the Lama had from Kim, because at the time it seemed to them both the right thing to do. The gift is love and remorse, even if so long in coming.

    Lockwood abandoned Rudyard Kipling as a baby, which damaged his son irreparably but at the same time sealed him in the forehead with his genius – and the antecedent is deliberately vague.


  22. wfkammann said,

    June 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm


    The Red Hat Sect is shorthand for the original Schools of Buddhism in Tibet: The Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu, or others say just the Nyingma (the oldest).

    With the birth of Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) these teachings were synthesized, clarified and expanded by one of the greatest religious thinkers. He founded the Gelug School, or Yellow Hats, which are today the largest sect of Tibetan Buddhism. But the older traditions continue to thrive as well.

    Mahayana Buddhism is distinguished from the Theravada by the motivation used to achieve Enlightenment, i.e. “for the sake of all sentient beings.” This is no “personal” liberation; no remaining in Nirvana, but rather a striving for Buddhahood which will not be complete until all sentient life has realized the nature of existence and obtained the joy and peace commensurate with that realization.

    In Santideva’s The Guide to the Bodhisattva”s Way of Life this famous passage occurs in the 10th Chapter or Dedication of Merit.

    For as long as space endures
    And for as long as living beings remain,
    Until then may I too abide
    To dispel the misery of the world.

    Although Kim’s lama has reached his goal, some “evil” (The Bodhisattva Vow) will not allow him to remain in Nirvana. He remembers his chela and must return to be sure that Kim does not miss The Way. It is not attachment which calls him back but the selfless love which does not allow one to be in bliss while others yet suffer. It’s an immense motivation, an infinite motivation and the goal is correspondingly great.

    Here are The Eight Verses for Training the Mind by Lan Tri Tang Ba

    With a determination to accomplish
    The highest welfare for all sentient beings
    Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
    I will learn to hold them supremely dear.

    Whenever I associate myself with others I will learn
    To think of myself as the lowest among all
    And respectfully hold others to be supreme
    From the very depths of my heart.

    In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
    And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
    Endangering myself and others
    Will firmly face and avert it.

    I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature
    And those pressed by strong sins and sufferings
    As if I had found a precious
    Treasure very difficult to find.

    When others out of jealousy treat me badly
    With abuse, slander, and so on.
    I will learn to take all loss
    And offer the victory to them.

    When one whom I have benefitted with great hope
    Unreasonably hurts me very badly
    I will learn to view that person
    As an excellent Spiritual Guide.

    In short I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
    All help and happiness directly and indirectly
    And respectfully take upon myself
    All harm and suffering of my mothers.

    I will lear to keep all these practices
    Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
    And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
    Be released from the bondage of attachment

    So yes, one may be released from the bondage of attachment but the vow to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings continues through all of the many lives of a Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva will always be drawn to return to the realms of Samsara (to the Wheel) until the last being in every realm has realized Buddhahood.

    Is it possible to transform our selfish, greedy minds to a view of selflessness for the benefit of all? The Buddhists point to Tsongkhapa and many others and answer “Yes.” But how can we ever change to that extent? The Buddha Nature is the very lack of permanence which is the characteristic of all dependently arisen phenomena. Yes, it is our nature to go there and to reach the goal.

    Tibetan Wheel of Life

    For a larger version click on the image, and then for an even closer look click on that image too.


  23. June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

    “Is it possible to transform our selfish, greedy minds to a view of selflessness for the benefit of all?” Thank you for that, Bill.

    Because that is indeed the question, and as you say, the “Bodhisattva Vow” addresses the issue in a way that Lockwood and Rudyard Kipling would have known and respected. And it certainly does contrast with the Buddhism in my neck of the woods, South East Asia, where the emphasis is more on individual conduct, morals, detachment, and being perfectly alone in your cell. Indeed, the object of the Buddhism here in Chiang Mai, at least as described in the texts the monks are reading, the people knowing little or nothing about it, is to extinguish yourself in Nirvana. All your personal needs must be ruthlessly suppressed, including the need to “be yourself,” as we say, and in the end you disappear into Nirvana and never come back. On the other hand, in the alternative doctrine you are discussing in your comment, Bill, also read largely by monks in safe retreats, of course, and supremely intellectual, the emphasis moves dramatically from personal salvation to personal surrender — the individual takes a vow to refuse salvation until all beings are saved in their turn. The disciple says ‘No!’ to heaven, in a sense, and deliberately returns to the world in order to minister to others as a Saint.

    No pie in the sky here, or if there is some you take a piece home with you and share it round the table with the others.

    And on a literal level that’s ridiculous, of course, to suggest that there actually is a Place and a Time when you get to stand up straight before those pearly gates and make the decision not to take the bliss but go suffer some more at home with everybody else.

    The argument is even more ridiculous when you ask yourself what goes back, the Buddha himself instructing his disciples that in reality there is nobody at home in the first place.

    But then, on another level it’s all “true,” of course, and the Bodhisattva ideal is probably even more “true” than the rest though Jesus is pretty good. But then again, there are so few Bodhisattvas to help us out in our troubles, and the population of Sentient Beings is exploding at such a rate, like a nightmare.


    By fiddling around with the concepts you present in a more traditional, textual way in your comment, Bill, I am trying to show how Lockwood and Rudyard Kipling might have dealt with ‘Buddhism’ in the process of writing Kim. For it’s not a Buddhist novel, it seems to me, at least in the sense of the doctrines and texts you refer to in your comment. It’s just a big wooly novel, and a picaresque one too that also happens to be picaresque in its spiritual adventures. Yes, it uses Buddhist imagery, a lot of it, in fact, but it uses lots of imagery from other spiritual traditions too, in particular from Islam, and magic. It certainly doesn’t assume readers will know or even be interested in Buddhist texts per se. Furthermore, neither Kipling, father or son, was a practicing Buddhist — neither joined a monastic community as far as I know, or professed a commitment to a particular Buddhist region or sect. Nor did they practice a specific type of meditation or follow a doctrine, routine, or any identifiable tradition for that matter.

    They drew and they wrote, and through what they created in their illustrations, poetry and books have transformed our lives, not converted us to what they may or may not have ‘believed in’ themselves.

    My feeling is that all we have to go on is the text of Kim, and its incorporation of doctrines is mainly artistic. The novel depicts a world of overwhelming complexities and contradictions as well, like real life. So my feeling is that if we can read that final ‘vision’ of the Lama’s return as a ‘creation’ in itself, visualize it, let the rhyhtm of its language get right into our breaths and its devotions into our hearts, we can transform ourselves just as well and deeply as we can at a Buddhist ritual conducted by a contemporary High Lama in the Dordonne or at Naropa, or even, if only it were possible, in Lhasa.


    I’ve written a lot about how I read the Lama’s vision already, and I don’t think I could improve on it. I’d just like to remind anybody reading this not to forget those three stanzas from “The Buddha at Kamakura” that introduce the novel as well as this thread — or ever to forget the warmth the Lama generates in a similar way wherever he goes, or the very real contradictions even this wonderful creation, a fully realized yet believable saint, wrestles with. Like his love for the boy he meets on the road, and his corpulence!


  24. wfkammann said,

    June 15, 2011 at 9:21 am


    The Naulakha is a beautiful pavilion within the fort at Lahore. It was built for Mumtaz Mahal of Taj Mahal fame. It is decorated with silver and jewls and the name means “worth nine lakhs rupees” or 900,000 rupees (a fortune). The phrase came to mean something very valuable. Wolcott Balestier referred to Rudyard Kipling as The Naulakha.

    …….The Naulakha

    ………………The Naulakha detail

    Kipling met Wolcott Balestier in London where he represented the Lovell Publishing Firm. . Within two months they were in Vermont at the Balestier home collaborating on “The Naulahka: A Story of West and East.” This may have been the first Cowboy and Indian Novel (and I don’t mean Red Indian, as the British say). The Century magazine paid the largest price ever given by an American magazine for a story. Kipling was traveling to India when he learned of his friend’s death of typhus in Dresden in 1891. He returned to London and contacted Wolcott’s sister Caroline and asked her to marry him.

    The novel is not highly regarded, but demonstrates an example of Kipling’s method of collaboration. The opening chapters in Topaz, Colorado are strongly influenced by Wolcott. Once the setting moves to India, Kipling takes the lead. The result is a “real” cowboy and his “missionary” girl friend in the wilds of Rajputana. After numerous adventures the cowboy, Tarvin, finds the necklace “The Naulakha” around the waist of the Gypsy Queen puts his arm around her waist and gets it for himself. Thereupon the Gypsy Queen tries to have him killed several times and arranges for a holy man to disturb the hospital that the “missionary,” Kate is running, and all of her patients leave. Tarvin nearly admits that he lied to the King in order to stay in India but talks his way out of it, returns “The Naulahka” (of course it was a fake) marries the girl and lives happily ever after. The young crown prince, whose mother is the “real” Queen may attend a military school run by the English unless he is poisoned again by the second wife: the Gypsy Queen. There’s lots more but you have to read it yourself if you have the time.

    The Balestiers were of an aristocratic New York family; the grandfather of Mrs. Kipling was Joseph Neree Balestier, a prominent lawyer in New York City and Chicago, who died in 1888, leaving a fortune of about a million. Her maternal grandfather was E. Peshine Smith of Rochester, N. Y., a noted author and jurist, who was selected in 1871 by Secretary Hamilton Fish to go to Japan as the Mikado’s adviser in international law.

    But as far as the Vermonters in Brattleboro were concerned they were a bunch of outsiders who came for the hot springs and bought property. Caroline was especially unloved because of her “airs” and Anglophile preferences. Wolcott was dead; the couple married in London. (Henry James gave the bride away) The newlyweds returned to the US and traveled on to Japan (Kamakura) on honeymoon until their bank failed and they were forced to return home to Vermont. Caroline was pregnant and the couple settled into “Bliss Cottage” where Josephine was born on December 29, 1892, Kipling was born Dec. 30 and Caroline Dec. 31. (That’s a lot of goats in one family!) They decided to stay and build a house. They purchased 12 acres from Caroline’s brother Beatty, a plain spoken Vermont farmer. The house was built and named “The Naulakha” in honor of Kiplings collaboration with Wolcott.

    …….Naulakha House

    Kipling called it his “ship” and it was designed by Kipling to resemble a ship with his study in the prow. He introduced skiing to Vermont on skis that were a gift from Arthur Conan Doyle. He also built Vermont’s first tennis court. Kipling’s father Lockwood arrived in 1893 after his retirement and helped decorate the new house. This was the period of his collaboration with his son on Kim. The Kipling’s second daughter, Elsie was born in February 1896 and a few months later all hell broke loose.


    In the beginning things seemed quite cordial between the Kiplings and Beatty Balestire. When Rudyard and Caroline Kipping arrived at the train station in Brattleboro in February of 1892 it was Beatty who picked them up in his sleigh. For the first few months of the Kiplings stay in Vermont, Beatty served as Kipling’s right hand man supervising the construction of Kipling’s estate while Kipling and his family rented a cottage on the Bliss farm. In fact, Beatty and Rudyard spent their spare time together snow shoeing during the winter. In December of 1892 the Kipling family enjoyed their first Vermont Christmas in Beatty’s home and Kipling wrote a poem in honor of Beatty’s young daughter Marjorie.

    It seems that the schism between Beatty Balestier and the Kplings rested in the fact that each were of different temperament. Balestier was informal and gregarious, while the Kiplings were the opposite.

    What Kipling saw in Beatty was a rowdy personality, and spend thrift that he felt for the good of his wife and daughter needed corrective action. He made Beatty a proposition that if he went away from Vermont for one year to seek out gainful employment and self improvement they would support his family during that time. This was the initial insult and impertinence that Beatty could not tolerate. Following the battle over the property that Beatty wanted to retain mowing rights to, and that Caroline wanted for a garden, Beatty lost his position as the Kipling’s Bailiff, for which they had paid him a salary.

    After these issues came to a head both families did not talk for a year. Upon one of Kipling’s visits to Brattleboro he stopped into the gentlemen’s club at the Brooks House on Main Street for a drink. There he got to talking with a Colonial Goodhue and during the conversation said, “Beatty is his own worst enemy. I’ve been obliged to carry him for the last year; to hold him up by the seat of his breeches.”

    This word got back to Balestier who later met Kipling bicycling on the Pine Hill Road almost running him down. From his wagon he expressed his anger to Kipling in full and colorful measure. He threatened Kipling, according to Balestier, that if he “did not retract his comment in one week he would bash his brains in.” Kipling, on the other hand, later recalled the comment as being that Beatty promised to “blow his brains out if he did not retract the comment”.

    Immediately following this confrontation Kipling had Sheriff Starkey arrest Balestier for assault and threatening bodily harm. His bail was set at $300, which Kipling paid to get him out of jail. The subsequent grand jury hearing that caused Kipling to have to give lengthy testimony not only created substantial public notoriety, but greatly embarrassed Kipling. While the initial incident had occurred earlier in the summer the grand jury bound Balestier over for a September trial. However, the resulting scandal forced the Kiplings to make a hasty withdrawal from their home in August 1896. With some speculation it might be concluded that the feud would not have occurred if it were not for Caroline Kipling’s stirring the pot.

    On February 12, 1899 the New York Times reported that Beatty was bringing suit against his brother in law for $50,000 on charges of malicious prosecution and false arrest in 1896. To quote The Times: “ The reason that the suit will be brought in New York is that Mr. Kipling is not expected here for some time. The news of the proposed suit was a great surprise here, even Mr. Balestier appearing astonished that the matter had become public. He refused to-night to give the names of his attorneys, but said that the suit would be brought in a very short time.” But, of course, Kipling did return to the United States in 1899. Both Kipling and his daughter Josephine had developed pneumonia. He recovered; she died. She had been his favorite and this was the first tragic blow to his family.

    ……………..Josephine Kipling

    The Naulakha in Vermont was sold in 1903 to the Kiplings’ friend Mary R. Cabot who purchased the house for her sister Mrs. Frederick Holbrook. In Kipling’s conversations with friends he spoke fondly of India and Naulakha; India he had to leave because of his health and Vermont because of ill will. He told callers, “There are only two places in the world where I want to live – Bombay and Brattleboro. And I can’t live at either.”


  25. June 15, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I don’t follow you, I’m afraid. What does this all have to do with the Lama’s vision, which I thought we were still discussing? I’ve ventured a whole lot of very personal observations and hunches and would love to have your reactions.

    Do you feel The Naulakha has the answers, or the quarrel with Beatty? I’m new to all this and feel totally out of my depth, I’m afraid.

    Is it not possible to read Kim as an experience in itself, or do we need to do more research before we can know and understand what we perceive on our own?

    Is it not possible to read the novel alone in our armchairs?

    Even your posting the Tibetan Wheel of Life leaves me confused. What is this, Bill? What are we looking at?


  26. June 15, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Forgive me, but I have a bit more to say about this dialogue between us. And if I hold it back I feel it may grind to a halt.

    If whatever we’re discussing is just about “history” and “influences,” then it doesn’t interest me nearly so much. If it’s a part of a great poem, book, piece of music or work of art that is still speaking in a unique voice that can be heard and change our lives, then it interests me a lot. Of course you and I don’t always have the same relationship to the artistic material that comes up — and that’s good. Images of the Buddha, for example, are of less interest to you than they are to me — I tend to go down on my knees before them if they’re beautiful, even though I don’t really regard myself as a Buddhist. Indeed, I trust that they know what they mean just because they are beautiful, whereas you tend to distrust them unless you know their provenance, the schools they belong to, and how they fit into the history of Buddhism. For me they are art of a very high order — for you, I think, they’re just art.

    (And don’t let me get away with saying that if it’s not true, Bill — indeed, I’m just trying to get you to say!)

    I think what’s valuable to me about whatever we are discussing is the way we are discussing it together. Because the voice of whatever comes up is still speaking to us, it’s still current. What we hear is still new because we’re hearing it ourselves in a context in which it may never have been heard before — for example, go back and look what got said in earlier threads about Ganesha, or the lotus, or that silly ballad of empire written by a very young man on the road to Mandalay. Which we went on with him.

    What I would hope is that Cowpattyhammer is about people speaking about things that have not yet been understood and, in some instances, have never even been heard. Like a tree falling in the forest.

    Like the Buddha at Kamakura, the image itself and the the poem as an image in Kim. I don’t think we’ve really managed to get to that yet despite all the talk.


  27. wfkammann said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm


    Images and Icons are physical objects; there is nothing inherently holy, sacred, or beautiful in them. If you practice a religion you may bow down or admire it as part of your efforts to transform yourself. That’s how I feel and it has nothing to do with the provenance.

    I’m not sure we are only “discussing it together.” As you know we have both been reading Kim, but I have also read The Naulahka and have interested myself in Kipling’s life in America. Is this tangential? As we said, Kim was written at Naulakha in Vermont in collaboration with Lockwood. The Naulahka had also been written in Vermont in collaboration with Charles Wolcott Balestier. And Kamakura, well that’s the honeymoon with Carrie before the bank failed.

    I see things as interconnected in ways that do not always involve linearity. Here’s a poem by Kipling.


    Unto whose use the pregnant suns are poised,
    With idiot moons and stars retracting stars?
    Creep thou between—thy coming’s all unnoised.
    Heaven hath her high, as Earth her baser, wars.
    Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fray
    (By Adam’s, fathers’, own, sin bound alway);
    Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
    Which planet mends thy threadbare fate, or mars.

  28. wfkammann said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm


    Something else.

    The Juggler’s Song
    Enlarged From “Kim”

    When the drums begin to beat
    Down the street,
    When the poles are fetched and guyed,
    When the tight-rope’s stretched and tied,
    When the dance-girls make salaam,
    When the snake-bag wakes alarm,
    When the pipes set up their drone,
    When the sharp-edged knives are thrown
    When the red-hot coals are shown,
    To be swallowed by-and-by–
    Arre, Brethren, here come I!

    Stripped to loin-cloth in the sun,
    Search me well and watch me close!
    Tell me how my tricks are done–
    Tell me how the mango grows!

    Give a man who is not made
    To his trade
    Swords to fling and catch again,
    Coins to ring and snatch again,
    Men to harm and cure again,
    Snakes to charm and lure again–
    He’ll be hurt by his own blade,
    By his serpents disobeyed,
    By his clumsiness bewrayed,
    By the people laughed to scorn–
    So ’tis not with juggler born!

    Pinch of dust or withered flower,
    Chance-flung nut or borrowed staff,
    Serve his need and shore his power,
    Bind the spell or loose the laugh!

    When Kipling wanted to copyright his Chapter headings he published Songs From Books in 1914. In that book he lists this poem as from the Naulahka p. 288. It does not, however, appear in the novel, but looking at page 288 you find the following:

    ‘Yes; I have thought it out by myself. I am myself a Raj Kumar, and I
    would go to the Raj Kumar College, where they train the sons of princes
    to become kings. That is only at Ajmir; but I must go and learn, and
    fight, and ride with the other princes of Rajputana, and then I shall be
    altogether a man. I am going to the Raj Kumar College at Ajmir, that I
    may learn about the world. But you shall see how it is wise. The world
    looks very big since I have been ill. Kate, how big is the world which
    you have seen across the Black Water? Where is Tarvin Sahib? I have
    wished to see him too. Is Tarvin Sahib angry with me or with you?’

    In looking at the commentary on this passage from the Kipling Society we find the following:

    Page 288, line 10] Black water (in Hindi, kalapani) the waters which separate India from the rest of the world, and which, to cross, is to lose caste. See “The Miracle of Purun Baghat”, in which Purun Dass, a distinguished senior administrator in a native state, travels to England:

    At last he went to England on a visit, and had to pay enormous sums to the priests when he came back; for even so high-caste a Brahmin as Purun Dass lost caste by crossing the black sea.

    So why did Kipling include the poem with a reference, perhaps, to this passage? Was there something in the crossing of the Kalapani between India and America, between England and America which cost Kipling dearly? His “collaboration” with Wolcott; surely his ambition to find a publisher in America? His life aboard his “ship” The Naulakha? The birth of two daughters and the feud which broke it all apart? His crossing once more only to lose his beloved Josephine? Is the inept juggler Kipling himself? Is it Wolcott? and Christopher, tell me please how it relates to the chapter in Kim where a part of this poem is a chapter heading?

    Best I can do for now. There is certainly a Kalapani and a half between us at times.


    • wfkammann said,

      June 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm

      In the material I was able to access there is mention of Kipling’s “mistake” in referencing The Naulahka for this poem. As far as I know, no one else has taken a look at the page where he said the poem was found and looked for a connection.

      Kim is a born juggler and a born liar, as was Kipling. Kipling is a man “made to his trade” but was Wolcott Balestier? Are a cowboy and a missionary maid from the US really able to pull off a jewel heist with a big lie about gold in the stream? Does Tarvin’s offer to repay the King make up for his lie to Kate? And what about Kate”s lie to the Queen Mother? Now they’ve both lied and so the awful “honesty” of these two Americans is papered over with forgetfulness. Hypocrites in the name of “decency.”

      Don’t we all pretend to be decent? Or are there some (from New England) who really are?

      • wfkammann said,

        June 18, 2011 at 1:52 am

        Give the man who is not made
        To his trade Swords to fling and catch again,
        Coins to ring and snatch again,
        Men to harm and cure again,
        Snakes to charm and lure again –
        He’ll be hurt by his own blade,
        By his serpents disobeyed,
        By his clumsiness bewrayed,’
        By the people mocked to scorn –
        So ’tis not with juggler born!

        Pinch of dust or withered flower,
        Chance-flung fruit or borrowed staff,
        Serve his need and shore his power,
        Bind the spell, or loose the laugh!
        But a man who, etc.

        The Juggler’s Song, op. 15

        “Followed a sudden natural reaction.

        “‘Now am I alone – all alone,’ he thought. ‘In all India is no one so alone as I! If I die today, who shall bring the news -and to whom? If I live and God is good, there will be a price upon my head, for I am a Son of the Charm – I, Kim.’

        “A very few white people, but many Asiatics, can throw themselves into a mazement as it were by repeating their own names over and over again to themselves, letting the mind go free upon speculation as to what is called personal identity. When one grows older, the power, usually, departs, but while it lasts it may descend upon a man at any moment.

        “‘Who is Kim – Kim – Kim?’

        “He squatted in a corner of the clanging waiting-room, rapt from all other thoughts; hands folded in lap, and pupils contracted to pin- points. In a minute – in another half-second – he felt he would arrive at the solution of the tremendous puzzle; but here, as always happens, his mind dropped away from those heights with a rush of a wounded bird, and passing his hand before his eyes, he shook his head.

        “A long-haired Hindu bairagi [holy man], who had just bought a ticket, halted before him at that moment and stared intently.

        “‘I also have lost it,’ he said sadly. ‘It is one of the Gates to the Way, but for me it has been shut many years.’

        “‘What is the talk?’ said Kim, abashed.

        ‘Thou wast wondering there in thy spirit what manner of thing thy soul might be. The seizure came of a sudden. I know. Who should know but I? Whither goest thou?’

        “‘Toward Kashi [Benares].’

        “‘There are no Gods there. I have proved them. I go to Prayag [Allahabad] for the fifth time – seeking the Road to Enlightenment. Of what faith art thou?’

        “‘I too am a Seeker,’ said Kim, using one of the lama’s pet words. ‘Though’- he forgot his Northern dress for the moment – ‘though Allah alone knoweth what I seek.’

        “The old fellow slipped the bairagi’s crutch under his armpit and sat down on a patch of ruddy leopard’s skin as Kim rose at the call for the Benares train.

        “‘Go in hope, little brother,’ he said. ‘It is a long road to the feet of the One; but thither do we all travel.'”
        ……………………………………………………………… Kim, Chapter 11

        The Chapter heading is interesting in that the poem does not have a section that begins “But a man who, etc.” We are to make our own poem from here out.
        Is Kipling/Kim a man who is a born juggler? So it seems. Who is Kip, Kip, Kip? Who knows? Not me!”



      • June 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

        Not our own “poem from here out,” Bill — our own lives from here out. Our own self-serving juggling acts.

        Because needless to say our personal histories are full of contradictions and reversals, just as are the histories of all the characters in Kim, not to speak of its author, the biggest, most uncomfortable and tormented juggler of them all!

        Think about this one: Kim saves the life of E23, disguised already as a “Mahratta,” don’t forget, by disguising him as a fakir in plain sight of everyone in the carriage and at considerable risk to himself — i.e. Kim helps the Mahratta to lie! The latter not only escapes from the compartment as a result of the lie but runs straight into the arms of a Secret Service colleague, Strickland, who is disguised as a Policeman patrolling the platform as well, another big lie, and Strickland “arrests” E23 in plain sight of everyone — one hell of a lie in the eyes of the whole world of India, yet E23’s salvation!

        As to the Lama, he’s appalled that Kim would use a “charm,” i.e. magic, to transform the Mahratta into a fakir in the first place, and upbraids Kim as it’s against the Law to use magic at all, and against the Way to lie. Furthermore, the Lama assumes that the arrest is genuine and that both Kim and the Mahratta are being punished instantly by the bad karma they’ve accrued. To compound matters, Kim lets the Lama assume that, which is yet another lie. Yet in a deeper sense it’s a sacrifice — Kim sacrifices his own reputation out of compassion for another suffering human being he hardly knows — a truly selfless action!

        Lies nestle within lies in Kim, and the reader has to concentrate all the time to keep his or her moral bearings, and that’s not only the genius of the tale, why it’s so compelling, but for those who would push a bit deeper in trying to grasp its message. And I’d just like to add my hunch that Lockwood, the father, and Kipling, the son, were together wrestling precisely with those same ironies, both in the novel and in their relationship, and that in a very important sense THERE IS NO TRUE HISTORY OR MESSAGE — just as there is no conclusion to the verse that introduces this chapter but oneself…

        Indeed, even the saintly Lama admits to the degree he has bamboozled others during his life, even in the name of the Buddha. “I did not seek truth in those days,” he admits, referring to his earlier years in Tibet even as a monk. “I did not seek truth in those days, but the talk of doctrine. All illusion.”

        And despite all the Lama’s meditation and philosophical knowledge, he’s still bamboozled and remains bamboozled right to the end!

        And that’s all I’m getting at.


        For those of you less well acquainted with me, “Kip” was my childhood nickname, and a few of my close friends and family still call me that name on occasion — mostly to remind me of who I am in one way or another, either out of love or frustration.

        The irony is that I am called “Kip” by all my non-English-speaking Thai friends and family because they find “Christopher” impossible to pronounce. Thai is a mono-syllabic language which focusses on the vowels, and the consonants are always single and, particularly when following a vowel, so light you can hardly hear them. So the crush of harsh consonants like “chr” and “st” feel crude and inhospitable, whereas “Kip” feels familiar and kind. Indeed, I am called “Lung Kip” by most Thais, which means “The-Kip-Who-Is-Old-Enough-To-Be-Respected,” so even though it’s my baby name it’s also come to stand for my dotage.


        What Bill and I are really arguing about at this point, I think, is how much one should say about anything. My feeling is that one has an obligation to others to be as open and helpful as one can, and Bill may be right that that’s the New England sense of service, though in another sense it’s probably just childish. Bill’s assumption is that everybody is on their own private Way — if the individual is ready, he feels, if he or she has good enough Karma, has worked hard enough on philosophy and made sufficient progress in self-development, that individual will understand any sacred icon, or anything else worthwhile for that matter, without assistance from him.

        To make matters even more complicated in our relationship, I feel that some spiritual matters should not be talked about at all, that it’s not only misleading but unkind to include a symbol or icon in a discussion when one knows very well it’s almost impossible to understand. Some symbols and icons only open their doors at certain moments, so to speak, and in just the right quarters. It’s as if they’re veiled by nature, and if you expose them in broad daylight they simply aren’t there — so to speak.

        So we have some problems in talking together, Bill and I, but what human beings don’t? And who is to answer the dilemma that arises in Kim right after the Lama’s short sermon on the Wheel of Life in Chapter XII (see below)? Needless to say, the Lama is still concerned about the bad deed Kim did when he put a spell on/saved the life of the Mahratta. Kim still has to bite his lip and accept that delusion on the part of the Lama. And, of course, he has to swallow his pride to protect his beloved Master as well, of all ironies. If the Lama remains ignorant he is less likely to get hurt, and in a Buddhist context that’s a true chestnut!

        “‘Cure them if they are sick,’ said the lama, when Kim’s sporting instincts woke. ‘Cure them if they have fever, but by no means work charms. Remember what befell the Mahratta.’

        ‘Then all Doing is evil?’ Kim replied, lying out under a big tree at the fork of the Doon road, watching the little ants run over his hand.

        ‘To abstain from action is well – except to acquire merit.’

        ‘At the Gates of Learning we were taught that to abstain from action was unbefitting a Sahib. And I am a Sahib.’”


  29. June 16, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Kalapanis are kalapanis only in the kalapani discourse — which may mean in a legend or a myth or even in a doctrine if the kalapani is part of a religion. You know the word because you have studied the Kipling Society Notes, and even though its not part of your own culture you adopt it voluntarily and use it as an ‘image’ to communicate something that is hard to say about your relationship with me. But if you hadn’t told me about the image beforehand, opened it up and made it comprehensible as an image, it would have meant nothing to me.

    A very good image too, and infinitely fertile, and I’m certainly thinking about it.

    In Kim, Buddhism is a source of many such images. Kipling uses many Buddhist doctrines, the wheel of life, for example, detachment, karma, reincarnation, to communicate many things that are hard to say. On the other hand, the author does not assume a deep knowledge of Buddhist doctrines in his readers, what is more that any of them actually believe in them — he even dares to mix the Buddhist doctrines up to suit his artistic needs as in the final vision. And Kipling does that because he is trying to make his own images communicate what he has to say, not to communicate what Buddhism has to say.

    Where I get into trouble with your approach is that when one of those images comes up in the novel, “the wheel of life,” for example, without capitals, you throw in a graphic of an actual Tibetan Wheel of Life as if all one needs to make sense of it is to see it posted there right in front of you on your screen. Well, that may be enough for you because you are a follower of Tibetan Buddhism and have lived with the Tibetan Wheel of Life for years, but to someone who hasn’t, or even to someone like myself who has just a little, it says nothing, indeed it’s even off-putting to the extent that it makes me feel out of it. Because YOU are saying it, Bill, not Tibetan Buddhism, it’s YOUR image, not that of an alien, high-altitude, demon-obsessed culture. And if your image is too detailed and schematic it will mean nothing without your easing it into context and making it come alive.

    To me it feels almost like an insult when you just throw in the religious symbol and depart, like a Jehovah’s Witness!

    There’s a beautiful example of this that just happened in Australia. A well-known television presenter was trying to tell a joke to the Dalai Lama, and failed miserably. In this case it was not because the television presenter didn’t know the Buddhist image he was using, One With Everything, but because the Dalai Lama didn’t know the Western image, “one with everything,” and as a result the most fundamental of all the Buddhist truths was incomprehensible to the Dalai Lama!

    And you know, that television presenter is being rude to the Dalai Lama to have put him in such a bind. The presenter says he knew it wasn’t going to work, so why did he do it?

    That’s insulting — makes me mad.


  30. wfkammann said,

    June 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Dear Christopher,

    Over breakfast your “cousin” says “I couldn’t agree with Christopher more. This is life everyday with Bill.”

    So I suppose you have every right to be mad. Perhaps you would like to join those who might find me palatable without this or that annoying fault or rough edge. While humbled that any would care enough, and recognizing that I do change, still, I fear, I may never reach a level acceptable to “decent” New Englanders with fleets of cargo ships. There may always remain a Great Dark Water separating us.

    Having a birthday the day before Kipling; like him born with a cast in one eye, but unlike him getting glasses to correct it (being called “The Professor” in kindergarten) Because of this, my relationship to Kipling and access and understanding of him is likely different from yours. Do you need to understand every bit of who I am before you can actually understand what I am trying to say and why? Yes, images are tough and there may be some people who look at The Wheel of Life and find that it evokes something that lends a profound resonance to Kim and my comments on it.

    However, you may be much closer to “the common man” or “the average reader” whom your remarks imply is the readership of cowpattyhammer. And I guess if I can confuse and anger such well balanced and educated people as you and your “cousin,” I am clearly in the wrong. Only instruct me further and we’ll soon be overwhelmed by the hoi and the poloi as well.

    I take it your solution is not an extended explanation of The Wheel of Life?

    Or is your complaint that my remarks do not always dovetail with yours? The easiest solution to that is to invent your own Nooch and be in perfect control. Then, even if you are mad, it would only be with yourself. Truly the Other is infuriating.

    Your cousin tells me that sarcasm is not a productive response; so please disregard the above.


  31. June 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

    The Great Dark Water separating us is the only hope on Cowpattyhammer, as if it were almost real life. For if there were no Dark Water there would be no crossing, and if the crossing were easy there would be no need to prepare for it, to lay in provisions, master the sextant, prayer, and fasting that are necessary to sail to the ends of the earth. There would be no need to write home either after the accomplishment, no need to struggle with the descriptions of what had passed that would change the lives of those who, although they weren’t brave enough to venture out, were still willing to listen.

    So let”s toast the Kalapani and a half between us and do it again.

    And I really do think you’re like Kipling, Bill. And I agree, I don’t have to understand every bit of who you are before I can understand what you’re trying to say, what is more why. But if there are no words at all, just graphics of a particularly detailed and regional sort, I need some help from you as to “why” you think I might be able to understand what you mean without a word from you. Ditto in your last post about “The Juggler’s Song,” why you felt you had to include all those notes about p. 288 and quote that whole passage about Raj Kumar College etc. without any introduction or guidance — I still don’t get that, I’m afraid. If it’s just that Kipling suffered a lot during the many years he worked on Kim, and only about half those years were spent in Vermont, by the way, then why didn’t you say that? Yes, you do some interpreting at the very end of that same post, but the horse had long since departed the stable.

    The most interesting moment in the confrontation between the Australian presenter and the Dalai Lama is the ending, how the two react to their failure to communicate with each other.

    I guess I’m more like the presenter — I think the presenter felt he should change his job, which is the way I feel too, most of the time. Like a jerk.


    “Yes, images are tough,” you say, “and there may be some people who look at The Wheel of Life and find that it evokes something that lends a profound resonance to Kim and my comments on it.” Well, Bill, I can’t find your comments on the Wheel of Life, that is on the specific Tibetan mandala that goes by that name, and the passage describing it in Kim, the novel, is enormously effective in the context because it’s in words, not small, stylized figures. So when you post the painting itself it’s not really helpful if you don’t indicate where to look in the painting, or tell us a little about how the structure represents what is described in Kipling’s words. Because the painting is in shorthand, so to speak, it’s a manual in code to stand for volumes and volumes of Buddhist texts. It could even be called esoteric because its teaching is only comprehensible to those who are initiated into it. Finally, it’s imagery is Tibetan, not Indian, Chinese, Japanese or American, and a lot of notes are needed just on the cultural level too.

    So let’s have a look at it in Kim. Here’s the passage you were referring to in Chapter XII:

    “When the shadows shortened and the lama leaned more heavily upon Kim, there was always the Wheel of Life to draw forth, to hold flat under wiped stones, and with a long straw to expound cycle by cycle. Here sat the Gods on high – and they were dreams of dreams. Here was our Heaven and the world of the demi-Gods – horsemen fighting among the hills. Here were the agonies done upon the beasts, souls ascending or descending the ladder and therefore not to be interfered with. Here were the Hells, hot and cold, and the abodes of tormented ghosts. Let the chela study the troubles that come from over-eating – bloated stomach and burning bowels. Obediently, then, with bowed head and brown finger alert to follow the pointer, did the chela study; but when they came to the Human World, busy and profitless, that is just above the Hells, his mind was distracted; for by the roadside trundled the very Wheel itself, eating, drinking, trading, marrying, and quarrelling – all warmly alive. Often the lama made the living pictures the matter of his text, bidding Kim – too ready – note how the flesh takes a thousand shapes, desirable or detestable as men reckon, but in truth of no account either way; and how the stupid spirit, bond-slave to the Hog, the Dove, and the Serpent – lusting after betel-nut, a new yoke of oxen, women, or the favour of kings – is bound to follow the body through all the Heavens and all the Hells, and strictly round again. Sometimes a woman or a poor man, watching the ritual – it was nothing less – when the great yellow chart was unfolded, would throw a few flowers or a handful of cowries upon its edge. It sufficed these humble ones that they had met a Holy One who might be moved to remember them in his prayers.

    ‘Cure them if they are sick,’ said the lama, when Kim’s sporting instincts woke. ‘Cure them if they have fever, but by no means work charms. Remember what befell the Mahratta.’

    ‘Then all Doing is evil?’ Kim replied, lying out under a big tree at the fork of the Doon road, watching the little ants run over his hand.

    ‘To abstain from action is well – except to acquire merit.’

    ‘At the Gates of Learning we were taught that to abstain from action was unbefitting a Sahib. And I am a Sahib.’”

    Kipling was extremely generous to mankind in the action of writing out this description of one of the world’s greatest icons, and it’s for us too. Because Kipling not only describes parts of The Wheel in detail, but places it in a context, Chapter XII in Kim. Indeed, the dialogue between Kim and the Lama that follows contrasting the active and the contemplative lives draws upon that context, and casts the Wheel of Life icon in a most unusual light. And that’s the artistic trick, the context, that makes the icon “work” for us. Even a reader who didn’t grow up with the icon and is not familiar with the assumptions behind it can find a great deal of meaning in this passage.

    You want us to be like the poor man and the woman who just watch the Lama’s “ritual” and throw handfuls of cowrie shells on the edge of the diagram. All they want to do is to bask in the magic of the teacher without having to understand what the teacher means.


    In your religion, Bill, the Mass takes place hidden behind an ornate screen. The barrier is elaborately carved with angels, demons, birds, flowers, ladders, chickens, palms, pitchers, nails, wedding guests, thrones and empty tombs, and you’re happy for us just to look at all that while the mystery is enacted in your closet.

    Next you’ll have Ida and myself kissing your ring.


  32. wfkammann said,

    June 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t have a religion and I don’t wear a ring. But you may kiss my ……. ;-}

    Every time you characterize what I want I cringe. You couldn’t know that any more than I can know for certain what you want. That we even pretend to understand each other is more convention than fact.

    But on the subject of The Wheel of Life: This is the monk’s practice to draw the wheel with a Chinese brush and to explain the wheel. When the drawing is torn in the scuffle in the mountains (shall I notate that with page number?) he says that the small section left untorn is the length of his life. We’re mostly tatters at this point, my friend, and the Mass is taking place behind the screen and in the crowd around you.

    Unto whose use the pregnant suns are poised,
    With idiot moons and stars retracting stars?
    Creep thou between—thy coming’s all unnoised.
    Heaven hath her high, as Earth her baser, wars.
    Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fray
    (By Adam’s, fathers’, own, sin bound alway);
    Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
    Which planet mends thy threadbare fate, or mars.

    Thank you for linking Kipling to the Wheel, Christopher.

  33. June 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I agree with everything you say here, Bill, and I even understand that “……..” Indeed, I think there are two occasions when Kim, despite his Hindu attire, goes down on his knees to kiss someone’s feet, once Mahbub’s, a Muslim, and once the Lama’s, a Buddhist. So I can quite well manage yours, whatever path they are on.

    The only part I DON’T need is the page number, a point I have been at some pains to get over. I just need you to help a bit with whatever material you present so I can understand why you are interested in it and what it might mean. Both of which I’d like to know.

    For example, I’m not quite clear why you have quoted this verse from Chapter VII to me twice. Does it refer to the traditional planets as depicted in the Horoscope, or to The Tibetan Wheel of Life? I’m sure the latter can, and is, in fact, read like a horoscope by Tibetans, but I wouldn’t know where to find the planets and stars in it, what is more how to read it. And even more deeply, why is it helpful to read a Buddhist Wheel of Life as a horoscope in the first place? Of what value is it to tell the future in a Buddhist context?

    Among my many questions about that, as well as why Kipling chose it to introduce that chapter, and of course why you specifically chose it for me.


    For anyone reading this later than June 18th, 2011, the gist of my response is in a Reply above which you can find here. And if you really want to follow the argument you have to go back to Bill’s last two comments just before it (here and here).


  34. wfkammann said,

    June 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm


    Unto whose use the pregnant suns are poised,
    With idiot moons and stars retracting stars?
    Creep thou between—thy coming’s all unnoised.
    Heaven hath her high, as Earth her baser, wars.
    Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fray
    (By Adam’s, fathers’, own, sin bound alway);
    Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
    Which planet mends thy threadbare fate, or mars.

    I’m not sure where this poem is used or if it is in the novel Kim at all, but it is entitled Kim and therefore might give some insight into the novel or the character Kim/Kipling. It imagines a world with multiple pregnant suns and idiot moons and stars retracting stars. From the universe Kim/Kipling creeps between without fanfare. Heir not only to this universe; these cosmic and earthly wars, but heir also to the Augustinian original sin through Adam, fathers’ and own.

    Somehow firmly locked in the net of Indra: that great causal nexus of all things. From this perspective “Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say Which planet mends thy threadbare fate, or mars.” There is an exalted language here; a sense of forces of action and genetics beyond human control. Puzzling this incomprehensible karmic connectivity, draw out a horoscope based on your moment of birth, or moment of conception or any other moment for that matter and then tell me, Christopher, which planet; which person; which relationship “mends thy threadbare fate, or mars.”

    Is Kim/Kipling’s fate threadbare? Is ours? Do we need mending? Could we be yet further marred? Who is Kim-Kim-Kim?

    By the way, I believe that the Tibetans are great believers in oracles and horoscopes and numerology. Before an event is scheduled or at the request of a devotee a Mo (divination) is done to answer a specific question or gain a sense of the favorability of a certain course of action or specific date. Study of astronomy, astrology and mathematics are part of a Tibetan lama’s education as well as poetry, medicine and Buddhist systems of tenets (schools of thought). Beyond this there is the study of Tantra (the quick path to Enlightenment).

    The Nechung Oracle is the state oracle of Tibet but there are other oracles as well in Tibet. The oracle is “possessed” by a spirit or deity who acts as a medium between this world and the subtle spiritual realms. This tradition comes from the Nyingma school, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism.

    Time to take Madame Blavatsky out of the closet, don’t you think?

    ……………. Madame Blavatsy

    Here’s Kipling’s father’s opinion of her per Kipling.

    “At one time our little world was full of the aftermaths of Theosophy as taught by Madame Blavatsky to her devotees. My Father knew the lady and, with her, would discuss wholly secular subjects; she being, he told me, one of the most interesting and unscrupulous impostors he had ever met. This, with his experience, was a high compliment.”

    Theosophy, Spiritualism? Here’s Kipling’s take.


    “Behold there is a woman that
    hath a familiar spirit at En-Dor.”
    I Samuel, xxviii, 7.

    THE ROAD to En-dor is easy to tread
    For Mother or yearning Wife.
    There, it is sure, we shall meet our Dead
    As they were even in life.
    Earth has not dreamed of the blessing in store
    For desolate hearts on the road to En-dor.

    Whispers shall comfort us out of the dark—
    Hands—ah God!—that we knew!
    Visions and voices — look and hark!—
    Shall prove that the tale is true,
    An that those who have passed to the further shore
    May’ be hailed — at a price — on the road to En-dor.

    But they are so deep in their new eclipse
    Nothing they say can reach,
    Unless it be uttered by alien lips
    And framed in a stranger’s speech.
    The son must send word to the mother that bore,
    ‘Through an hireling’s mouth. ‘Tis the rule of En-dor.

    And not for nothing these gifts are shown
    By such as delight our dead.
    They must twitch and stiffen and slaver and groan
    Ere the eyes are set in the head,
    And the voice from the belly begins. Therefore,
    We pay them a wage where they ply at En-dor.

    Even so, we have need of faith
    And patience to follow the clue.
    Often, at first, what the dear one saith
    Is babble, or jest, or untrue.
    (Lying spirits perplex us sore
    Till our loves—and their lives—are well-known
    at En-dor). . . .

    Oh the road to En-dor is the oldest road
    And the craziest road of all!
    Straight it runs to the Witch’s abode,
    As it did in the days of Saul,
    And nothing has changed of the sorrow in store
    For such as go down on the road to En-dor!

  35. June 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

    That Lockwood met Madame Blavatsky is well-known — she came to Lahore looking for what she would come to call her “Masters,” seers with occult powers in the Himalayas, both living and dead. Lockwood was the Curator of the Lahore Museum, Kim’s “House of Wonders,” which was a meeting place for all those, both European and Indian, who were gathering “ethnographic” material on the different sects and religious practices in the region. Among the most colorful of those researchers came to be called the “Pundits,” literally scholars but also British Secret Agents, who penetrated into Tibet and brought back along with maps the first Buddhist texts and teachings to arrive from the Roof of the World. The most famous of all the ‘Pundits’ was Sarat Chandra Das (1849–1917), a Bengali scholar and educator who struggled all the way to Lhasa on foot in 1887 and again in 1890, and managed to carry back with him hundreds of Sanskrit and Tibetan texts — which he duly translated at home. In the process he wrote the first English-Tibetan dictionary, which is still of great linguistic value to this day. And of course he was also a British spy, and when the Tibetans found out after he had left, they tortured, mutilated, and drowned all his Tibetan friends and contacts — all of them unusually open and intelligent Buddhist monks…

    Sarat Chandra Dass was the model for perhaps the most vivid character in Kim, Hurree Chundar Mookerjee, the Bengali Babu who accomplishes the greatest feat of them all and at the highest altitude in the novel. Here he is sauntering along in one of Lockwood Kipling’s bas relief illustrations for the novel.

    ……………..Hurree Chunder Mookerjee

    Huree Babu embodies in himself such a wonderful sense of self-irony that even Kim never gets his mind around who he really is — just as even the wise old Lama, even after his “enlightenment” at the end, remains ignorant of the true nature of Kim. Indeed, at the very end of the novel, it is only Huree Babu who is “enlightened” in the Western sense of the word. Only the “oily” Babu, absurd anglophile, pedant, as pompous as Polonius and as fat, and as ambitious to boot, emerges free from illusions.

    What a message!

    And I challenge you on that, Bill — in the context of the novel, the Buddhist method fails as it is unable to cut through all the Delusions, and even the “enlightened” Lama must return to the Wheel. And the stumbling block lies in the heart of the Lama, a great “Spiritual Master” in Madame Blavatsky’s theosophical terms, a true “Rimpoche” or “Precious Jewel” in the Tibetan. For even the gravest, most rigorous Buddhist practice cannot erase from the Lama’s heart his genuine love for Kim, that most blessed of all bonds, and the ultimate, indispensable attachment.


    We know Madame Blavatsky did meet the real life scholar, Sarat Chandra Dass — I would love to have been there. We also know from Kipling that his three, fictional ‘pundits,’ Huree Babu, Colonel Creighton and Lurgan Sahib, all had a goal even higher than serving Britain with honor in the Great Game, and that was to be able to place FRS, Fellow of the Royal Society, after their names. Indeed, after each adventure they almost certainly spent far more time on their “ethnographic” field-notes than they did on their Secret Service reports, and wrote them up as “Papers” for The Proceedings of the Royal Society — the most important scientific journal in the world at the time. So tons of esoterica were pouring into Britain as scientific data. And I myself was Chairman of the Cambridge University Buddhist Society only thirty years after Kipling’s death, and yet hadn’t an inkling of how close I was to the source. And both Joseph Needham and Edward Conze were there at our lectures too — and then Trungpa Rimpoche, who walked out of Tibet in 1959, was approached to become our President…

    But of course there was that ‘scientific’ element already in Theosophy way back in the 1880s — Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) tried very hard to make the study of the occult a genuine ‘science’ by applying empirical methods to her seances, for example. She failed because so much of what she and her colleagues did was compromised by theatrical embellishments in the dark. Indeed, it was left to Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian scientist in charge of the massive project to collate all Goethe’s work at the Goethe Archives in Weimar, to emerge after Madame Blavatsky’s death with what he called “Spiritual Science,” an attempt to chart the non-dimensional “Higher Worlds” as a realm for empirical research. Rudolf Steiner claimed he could could “see” those Higher Worlds” in such a way that they could be classified in the laboratory, and that through scientific meditation they could be “developed” for the betterment of the world. In the decade after 1900 until his death in 1925, Steiner applied those findings to agriculture, medicine, architecture, and education in particular, and his Anthroposophy continues to be an important influence on all those fields to this day.

    That’s a bit of a detour, but those contemporary currents, both Thosophical and Anthroposophical, were well known in the Kipling household, and indeed the relative value of “occult powers” to manipulate the physical world is an intriguing theme in Kim. The Lama, for example, is never aware of the power-plays of the “Great Game” which provide the ulterior motive behind almost everything Kim does after he leaves St. Xaviers, and indeed the Lama’s ignorance of all that leads him to the moment when he picks up the ultimate instrument of worldly power, a rifle that kills, and almost fires! And of course, the Lama remains ignorant of the fact that Kim did NOT, in fact , use occult powers on the Mahratta. Furthermore, as a Tibetan ‘Lama’ he’s a Bodhisattva already, of course, yet he’s ignorant of the fact that when he uses the Wheel of Life for telling the future he’s misusing his own occult powers. For Divination, and indeed all Psychic Powers, were expressly forbidden by the Buddha who argued not that they don’t work (which they do) but that no human activity cultivates more specifically the ‘Ego.’ In the Buddhist sense, and this is an important distinction, the ‘Ego’ refers to that distinct feeling which all human beings have that they must preserve and advance themselves at all cost…

    Th Witch of En-dor in the poem above is about that too, Bill, as you say — we can discuss that further in due-course along with the Wheel of Life as a Horoscope in Kim.


    If you glance back at the photo of Madame Blavatsky in Bill’s preceding comment and then at the following photo of Rudolf Steiner you’ll see the problem — huge power in the eyes that is terrible to contain within the person. Rudolf Steiner was a genius of the highest order, but then so were Hitler and Rasputin, both of whose eyes burnt with a similar inner/outer/higher power, a power which is always perilous because it’s inhuman…

    ………..Rudolf Steiner c. 1910


  36. wfkammann said,

    June 20, 2011 at 7:17 am


    You say, “And I challenge you on that, Bill — in the context of the novel, the Buddhist method fails as it is unable to cut through all the Delusions, and even the “enlightened” Lama must return to the Wheel. And the stumbling block lies in the heart of the Lama, a great “Spiritual Master” in Madame Blavatsky’s theosophical terms, a true “Rimpoche” or “Precious Jewel” in the Tibetan. For even the gravest, most rigorous Buddhist practice cannot erase from the Lama’s heart his genuine love for Kim, that most blessed of all bonds, and the ultimate, indispensable attachment.”

    I’m afraid your disillusionment with Buddhism is showing.

    Heinrich Heine: Buch der Lieder

    ………………..Lyrisches Intermezzo

    ………………..So hast du ganz und gar vergessen,
    ………………..Daß ich so lang dein Herz besessen,
    ………………..Dein Herzchen so süß und so falsch und so klein,
    ………………..Es kann nirgend was süßres und falscheres sein.
    ………………..So hast du die Lieb und das Leid vergessen,
    ………………..Die das Herz mir täten zusammenpressen.
    ………………..Ich weiß nicht, war Liebe größer als Leid?
    ………………..Ich weiß nur, sie waren groß alle beid!

    ………………..Lyrical Intermezzo

    ………………..Have you forgotten; done me wrong?
    ………………..Though I possessed your heart so long,
    ………………..Your heart, so sweet, so false, so small,
    ………………..Sweeter and falser there’s none at all.
    ………………..So now you’ve forgotten the Love and the Pain,
    ………………..That pair you crushed my heart between.
    ………………..But which was the greater, Love or Pain?
    ………………..They both were great; they both remain!

    If you understood my post on the Bodhisattva Vow you would have gathered that the reason for returning is not attachment but a vow

    ……………………..For as long as space endures
    ……………………..And for as long as living beings remain,
    ……………………..Until then may I too abide
    ……………………..To dispel the misery of the world.

    Kipling’s understanding of this may not be Buddhist. Yours certainly isn’t. Love and Compassion, or rather those expanded emotions called Great Love and Great Compassion are the bases for progress as a Bodhisattva. Yes, you might be pulled back to help one whom you care for (Kim) but ultimately there is no abiding in Nirvana for a true Bodhisattva and the motivation is greater than for a single person.

    “For even the gravest, most rigorous Buddhist practice cannot erase from the Lama’s heart his genuine love for Kim, that most blessed of all bonds, and the ultimate, indispensable attachment.”

    Very Romantic.

    ……………… Kim & the Lama - Lockwood Kipling

    In this bas relief of Kim and the Lama by Lockwood Kipling, the Lama displays the mudra of fearlessness. The mudra of the Dhyani Buddha Amoghasiddhi, The Buddha of the North. You will remember that as they travel north into the mountains, the Lama’s strength returns and Kim has to struggle and develop his stamina and physical strength to keep up. The Lama had moved toward the Center (south) to find the River of the Arrow and will return again to reach his realization.

    The consort of Amoghasiddhi, by the way, is Green Tara, the protectress of meditators and the principal female embodiment of enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism. Her vow: “until Samsara is empty, I shall work for benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s body.”

    ………. Amoghasiddhi or the Green Tara

    …………………………………. Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Svāhā

    A letter from Alice MacDonald, Kipling’s mother, to Cormell Price, dated January 24, 1878 — Cormell Price was Kipling’s headmaster at Westward Ho:

    “The lad has a great deal that is feminine in his nature, and a little sympathy from any quarter will reconcile him to his changed life more than anything…”

    Now that should be clear as a bell. Kipling/Kim/Green Tara and Amoghasiddhi.


  37. June 20, 2011 at 11:23 am

    You’re so proprietal, Bill. I said the Buddhist method fails “in the context of the novel,” not in itself, which would be as foolish as saying that Christianity fails just because I’m not a member of a church. Indeed, I’m not the slightest bit “disillusioned” with Buddhism any more than I’m disillusioned with Anthroposophy, why should I be when I’ve never had illusions about what is more been let down by either. I’m reading the novel Kim, after all, not The Knowledge of Higher Worlds or some Buddhist Sutra.

    What interests me about Kim is that it is set just at the time the Tibetan Guru Gold Rush was getting started, and that one of it’s most interesting characters, Hurree Babu, was modeled on an early scholar who actually got to Tibet and met the real thing — unlike Madame Blavatsky who didn’t. Needless to say, it also interests me personally that I happened to be in charge of the Cambridge Buddhist Society just as the first generation of genuine Lamas was forced out of Tibet by the Chinese and came west — and that one of the most charismatic of them all, Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche, should have got his first big boost as a western Spiritual Celebrity on my calendar!


    Kim is profoundly concerned with issues of authenticity, including spiritual authenticity, and needless to say both Rudyard and his father Lockwood were much involved in their own struggle as Anglo-Indians. “Who am I?” they must have asked themselves everyday – and Kim comes up with some most unusual answers about integrity, an extraordinary accomplishment.

    One of the beliefs universal in the Indian community at Kipling’s time was that illnesses could be cured by magic, and one of the most important functions at all the myriad temples and even mosques was to provide amulets, cords, bundles, spells, balms and magic numbers that could heal the sick, including of course, big theme, the infertile. In a world without pensions or insurance, the only guarantee of support in old age was children, and not having any condemned one to loneliness and poverty.

    In a crucial episode, Kim saves the life of a farmer’s child by diagnosing his illness in a western way, seeing clearly that the child has a fever brought on by malnutrition and dehydration. He gives the child sweets to suck for a start, which have an immediate effect, and then treats the fever with quinine. Basic first aid, in other words. Yet all those who witness the cure believe that the power that accomplished the wonder lies within Kim himself, not in his medicines, and Kim emerges not as a doctor but as a spirit healer. And he’s worshipped!

    And that’s not to say, Bill, that I don’t believe in magic or healers, just that like the Kiplings I’m highly sensitive to fraud — which I see around me all the time on exactly the same level. My wife is a Traditional Medicine Doctor and runs a Health Center and School in Chiang Mai, so we get a large number of westerners coming to our doorstep for training in alternative medicine. And my problem is that so many of them are deceived by anything that smells like incense, tinkles like a bell, wear’s a funny costume, and promises enlightenment if you know how to carry off the disguise. And that’s precisely the theme in Kim – because, in fact, the priests in the temples are as often as not the ones on the make, and everybody in India knows that. Look out for the priests and fakirs, everyone cautions, because they’re out to screw you!

    So how do you know what’s genuine, that’s the question? Just with patience, I guess – better to stand there awkwardly in silence than to prostrate yourself because it looks spiritual. Better to dress simply than wear stuff, or shave your head, or do something else funny with your hair. And keep your mala (rosary) in your pocket until you’re alone. And don’t talk about it.


    The irony is that in the beginning, becoming a Buddhist monk meant going out from the family compound, leaving the comfort and protection of the community and daring to be unidentified, displaced and all alone. Shaving the head and the eyebrows was about removing any identifiable features, and even the robe was a way of showing one had no status and belonged nowhere. Indeed, to this day the word for “ordination” in Thai is buat, “leaving the community,” “going out.”

    Today the New Age alternative garb asserts I’m ‘in,’ not out — I’m on the Path, I’ve got a Guru and belong to an Ashram. And I Love You!


    So we start out with Madame Blavatsy and fellow travellers engaged in the Himalayan Spirtual Gold Rush and come right on up to the present. Put the label “Tibetan” on toothpaste and spiritual people in white robes with malas will pay double for it. We had a student here from Oregon who carried around his own special salt in a spiritual-looking receptacle, like an amulet box. On the label it said “Genuine Tibetan Sea Salt.”


    Bill, the Lama is distracted by the hills, not released by them. That’s the whole point of the ending. As he walks up into the high mountains he gets stronger and stronger to the point where he finds himself about to fire a rifle at his shoulder. He turns back to the valley in a panic because he knows the higher, purer, more refined realms of Himalayan spirituality are a deadly threat to his personal well-being, a most terrible distraction from his own gentle Way. Indeed, at the end he is closer to his River of the Arrow secure in the voluminous skirts of his mother, the Sahiba — “her failings, her tongue, and her large charity.”


    I used the word “proprietal” in the beginning, and I applied it to you, Bill, but just a little. In a larger sense I was referring to the tendency in true believers to hold on so tightly to what they’ve been taught that they can’t let go and have fun like the Lama bathing in his puddle. So it is precisely their knowledge and their practice that limits them.

    That was Mahatma Gandhi’s problem too, it seems to me. Indeed, I was going to include his eyes with those of Madame Blavatsy, Rudolf Steiner, and the two others whose names I won’t mention. (I was talking about possessing or being possessed by powers which are entirely neutral in themselves…)

    Mahatma Gandhi almost always lowered his eyes, of course, and also wore steel-rimmed glasses, but that was all part of his schtick, like the loin-cloth. Because although he was truly a Great Soul, indeed one of the most inspired leaders in the struggle for human dignity, peace, respect for nature, and self-sufficiency that has ever lived, Mahatma Gandhi was propelled largely by the demon of ego.

    (There’s nothing wrong with schtick, is there, Bill? Show me any great leader who isn’t a master of timing, nuance, manipulation, and outrageous self-promotion? Oh, and chutzpah, another indispensible leadership quality that Gandhi had in abundance and that also comes into English from the Yiddish on the Lower East Side, like Lee Strasberg and”The Method!”)

    Kim has much to say to any attentive reader about THE TRUTH, and particularly as it applies to Buddhist notions of selflessness and the search for enlightenment. Looking at this photo with the whole story of the Lama and Kim in mind as well as the subsequent history of India helps us to understand just how far the two Kiplings got.

    ……..Mahatma Gandhi


  38. wfkammann said,

    June 21, 2011 at 12:28 am


    To imply that there is a “Buddhist method” in the novel and then to dismiss my discussion as “proprietal” leaves me at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed.

    I will only mention that the Lama is considered a fool and a crazy incompetent by Kim and someone in need of help to even beg. You characterize him as a failure who needs a mother and the love of a boy to round him out. But yet, he manages to come up with Kim’s tuition and Kim is entrusted to him to finish his “education” before he becomes an official player in The Great Game.

    Perhaps we have another Babu here. Maybe all the characters are Babu except Kim who is himself only a little Babu in training.

    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

    I read that Kipling’s sister Trixie was able to quote all of Shakespeare from memory. Quite a family, this square.

    The Lama appears to be in second childhood but he wears Lockwood Kipling’s glasses prominently on his head. But who needed the glasses as a boy? Yes, it was Kipling/Kim and where was Lockwood then?

    His assessment of Kim to the same headmaster was:

    “I find Ruddy a delightfully amiable and companionable little chap, but the way in which he only half apprehends the common facts and necessities of daily life is surprising. Vagueness and inaccuracy, I fear, will always bother him and they take curious forms…If there is anything in him at all, the steady stress of daily work in which exactness is required should pull his mind together a little. But I should think he will always be inclined to shirk the collar and to interest himself in out of the way things…”

    Or a few years later:

    “….Now a boy living in India has curiouly few chances of going wrong-and especialy living with his own people. I must confess from what I have seen of Ruddy it is the moral side I dread a breakout on. I don’t think he is the stuff to resist temptation.
    It has occurred to us that the regular daily work of a newspaper would furnish by no means a bad occupation and I doubt not I could get him engaged on the Civil and Military Gazette here. And on the whole I am inclined to think that the easy-going general interest he is ready to take in all sorts of things, though the plague of his masters, who think he could do so much better if he would only work-is after all one of those affairs of temperament and constitution which nothing can change, and must be made the best of. Journalism seems to be specially invented for such desultory souls…”

    So, he couldn’t afford the tuition at Oxford and Ruddy couldn’t qualify for a scholarship and so Lockwood got him a job at the local paper. Like his father, Kipling learned in the world of hard knocks. Not quite able to resist temptation but full of the family ambition.

    You, Christopher, seem to have a lot of rules about the proper method of following the path of Spiritual Development. Where to keep your mala, not to use Tibetan toothpaste or sea salt. You look down a little on deluded seekers who follow a phony guru or a New Age sensibility. But from what pinnacle or pit do you issue this Wisdom? An Enlightened Cynic on a pillar? John the Baptiser in the pit waiting for the axe? If I’m confused, please set me straight again. I would gladly follow if you do not block the sun.


  39. June 21, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I didn’t say your discussion was “proprietal,” Bill, I said your relationship to Buddhism was proprietal. Because every time a Buddhist image comes up in the novel you cite a Buddhist source or doctrine as if that would, of course, explain what the Kiplings meant – whereas they hadn’t a clue what they meant beyond what they wrote in the novel! Of course what the Buddhist source proclaims is helpful, having supplied the image in the first place, but without some accompanying interpretation from you it’s of very little use to someone trying to understand what it means. And I don’t mean just a doctrinal explanation of the original either, but the way the image is actually used, indeed reinvented, in Kim, and then how it develops!

    Buddhism has as many faces as adherents, which means an awful lot of angles– the orthodox Mahayana interpretation you tend to impose on images like the Wheel, the Way, the Law, and Enlightenment is just one of them. You like it, I know, and feel it’s the truth, but that also makes your approach a bit Thomistic. Indeed, I often feel it makes it harder for you to follow what is actually going on in the novel – like what happens in the mountains, for example, or in the vision at the end. Because the novel is a post-modernist baggy-monster, not a religious parable or doctrinal gloss, and achieves its effects through indirection, accretion, and, yes, shock — and that’s just the opposite of scholastic control.


    The Lama is incompetent like you, Bill, but he’s also quite capable of managing a huge charitable organization so that it runs well and even makes money – like you did as well. All the same, that very large sum of money the Lama comes up with for Kim’s education remains a troublesome Buddhist fact – how the Tibetan monasteries become so rich! The answer is widely known but emarrassing – like in all theocracies, it was accomplished by the exploitation of the people’s credulity as well as by taxation and extortion. But there’s more. The lay people of Tibet were very poor with a very short growing season, so that source alone would never have been enough to build what they did. They also needed the “donations” of the semi-criminal mafia families that ran the whole of secular Tibet and dominated its foreign trade — as the mafia still does here in Thailand today. What makes the Thai Wats so rich and beautiful is that the Thai chao-paw (‘god-fathers’) dump unlaundered money in them to burnish their reputations. Indeed, that’s why monasteries are rich all over the world, really — or become rich even if they try very hard not to, like the Cistercians.

    A novel like Kim can help western readers to be more charitable about undemocratic realities like that, showing as it does that credulity can also be a blessing, foolish donation a wise act, and worshipping what you know to be a sham an acknowledgment of the truth…

    Based on my own experience at Samye-Ling in the 60s, a monastery in Scotland run and staffed entirely by Tibetan refugees who spoke little or no English, and a surprising number of them tulkus (Bodhisattvas like the Lama) too, democracy didn’t exist in Tibetan monasteries. The abbots were dictators, the work loads distributed very unfairly, and nothing at all was transparent. I had first hand experience of how the money came and went at Samye-Ling, and I would guess that the sum that was dispensed for Kim’s education didn’t cause anyone to blink.

    You will remember that the Lama tells the Curator of “The Wonder House” right at the very beginning of the novel about his own disillusionment with the Buddhism he knew at home, and one assumes he meant even in his beloved Such-zen, “opposite the Painted Rocks, four months’ march away.”

    “’And I come here alone. For five – seven – eighteen – forty years it was in my mind that the Old Law was not well followed; being overlaid, as thou knowest, with devildom, charms, and idolatry. Even as the child outside said but now. Ay, even as the child said, with but-parasti.'[a Muslim expression, idolatry!]

    ‘So it comes with all faiths.’

    ‘Thinkest thou? The books of my lamassery I read, and they were dried pith; and the later ritual with which we of the Reformed Law have cumbered ourselves – that, too, had no worth to these old eyes. Even the followers of the Excellent One are at feud on feud with one another. It is all illusion. Ay, maya, illusion. But I have another desire’”

    Of course these are the words of a fictional character in a novel. On the other hand, we know precisely from whom Lockwood Kipling, the Curator of the Lahore Museum, would have heard the accusation — Sarat Chandra Dass and his Sykkimese companion, Ugyen Gyatso, probably the model for the Lama. Both were conscientious reporters, and nothing that they did after their return from Tibet would suggest they were fabricators or had axes to grind.

    There is all sorts of parallel evidence that suggests such abuses were not uncommon in Tibet as they weren’t in many if not most Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monasteries either, hence the periodical upheavals and painful reforms in Church history. The Chinese government makes the same argument today about Tibet, needless to say, and despite the extraordinary integrity of the Dalai Lama and his entourage, and the conspicuous contribution of a number of other refugee Lamas, there is enough evidence of abuse of power (and powers!) in the expatriate Tibetan community to suggest the Lama was probably right in what he said. Or at least that’s the way I feel.

    In the late 60s, Trungpa Rimpoche (born only 38 years after the publication of Kim and four years after the death of Rudyard) said to me one evening, well into his cups, needless to say, but then he always was: “Why feel sorry for Tibet? Look how superior we felt, look how we tried to hold on to our religion all for ourselves. Karma, Tibet had so much bad karma! The Chinese invasion? Inevitable, all our own fault. Karma in action.”


    I’ve taken the time to say all this, Bill, because I don’t think Kim’s Lama was even at the time typical of Tibetan monks, and why should he have been? He was the creation of two Anglo-Indians, a gifted father and a genius son, who were not Buddhists or anything else — indeed, on a path uniquely their own. Yes, they used a lot of Buddhist imagery in the novel, but they did that to say something far more complex and unstable than could ever be gathered in a coherent doctrine.

    And what is it? What is it? I really have no idea, but I’ve just started reading the novel again. And it has made a difference.


  40. wfkammann said,

    June 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm


    “He peered at the cross-legged figure, outlined jet-black against the lemon-coloured drift of light. So does the stone Bodhisat sit who looks down upon the patent self-registering turnstiles of the Lahore Museum.”

    After lecturing for an hour you end. “And what is it? What is it? I really have no idea, but I’ve just started rereading the novel!”

    You failed to address the claim that you prate about Spirituality and express opinions and criticisms of all manner of practices of which in the end you will finally have to say “And what is it? What is it? I really have no idea.” But knowing you, you will finally make a virtue of your ignorance and club others to death with it. Indeed, the sheer weight and pomposity of your prose is bound to prevail.

    Comparing and contrasting the characters with actual images and practices may miss the point as far as you are concerned, since you imagine some sort of “complex and unstable” message which you will certainly pick up on second reading.

    In an article entitled “Kipling and the Craft,” Bro. Harry Carr writes of Kim:

    “It is an adventure story in which the plot is of minor importance, but it furnished the opportunity for a study of an enormous variety of people in circumstances which enabled Kipling to depict the life, colour and atmosphere of his beloved India, and something of the mysticism and the complexities of character of its population.”

    “‘I am certain the Keeper of the Images in the Wonder House was in past life a very wise Abbot. But even his spectacles do not make my eyes see. There fall shadows when I would look steadily. No matter – we know the tricks of the poor stupid carcass – shadow changing to another shadow. I am bound by the illusion of Time and Space…”

    And it has made a difference!

  41. June 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Dear Bill,
    Of course I’ve been pushing too hard, and I do apologize for the many ways I’ve been overstating my case at your expense. But I do feel the tension between our two approaches has been productive, and that we’ve managed to take Kim way beyond the level on which it is usually read. And I would include in that the article called “Kipling and His Craft” by Bro. Harry Carr that you cite. I don’t agree at all that Kim is just “an adventure story” for young adults, for example, or that the plot is of “minor importance,” etc. Indeed, the post-modern mish-mash of a plot emerges little by little until it becomes an astonishingly coherent fable to illuminate us. Indeed, the plot places the whole development of our modern western spirituality in relation to its sources in Asia into a provocative new personal context — which is what both this thread, “Kim, Kipling and Kamakura” and the preceding thread, “East is East and West is West” have been exploring — and I suspect are nowhere near finished.

    For example, the image in the final chapter that you have just quoted — the Lama becoming a “stone Bodhisat” at the moment Kim wakes up at the very end of the novel after his 36 hour sleep of recovery. In other words, the Lama has achieved an iconic, formal, hypo-static quality even at the moment the Lama is himself, as a person, most human, weak and foolish. And what does this new Buddha do but “look down upon the patent self-registering turnstiles of the Lahore Museum” — a genius bit of plot clarification if there ever was one, taking us right back to the beginning. And yes, our Buddhism is in a modern ‘Museum,’ so to speak, the repository of a scholarship which is also profoundly religious for many of us, including for me. We go to the ‘Museum’ in ordinary clothes through patented turn-styles that count us, one by one — like at the British Museum or The New York Public Library — or on-line at the Kipling Society or Wikipaedia. And it’s a fully valid religious experience!

    “‘Welcome, then, O lama from Tibet,” says Lockwood Kipling in Chapter I. “Here be the images, and I am here’ – he glanced at the lama’s face – ‘to gather knowledge. Come to my office awhile.’ The old man was trembling with excitement.”

    The Lama forms an immediate bond with the Sahib Curator, seeing in him even the incarnation of a former Tibetan “Abbot” — which means that Lockwood himself has been identified by the Lama as a tulku, an “incarnate lama” or, yes, a living Bodhisattva! And my own feeling would be that within the context the Lama is absolutely right, Lockwood is a Bodhisattva and his creation, Kim, a holy text written by an almost divine hand.

    But most extraordinary of all is the twist that makes the whole story such a profound and edifying fable. The Lama informs the Curator that he has, in fact, abandoned the old monastic way of life, the ‘Old Dispensation,’ in a sense, and is embarking upon what should be called, I really mean this, a whole new ‘Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma,’ one that goes way beyond even the ‘Third,’ the esoteric ‘Vajraiyana’ that hardly anybody has ever understood anyway and which gets so bogged down in psychic powers, demons and spells the Chinese moved in — the Vajraiyana’s style being almost as dense with spiritual pomposity as this sentence!

    “‘We are both bound,’ says the Lama, ‘thou and I, my brother. But I’ – he rose with a sweep of the soft thick drapery – ‘I go to cut myself free. Come also!’

    ‘I am bound,’ said the Curator. ‘But whither goest thou?'”

    And then the Lama tells the most extraordinary story which becomes the deus ex machina by which the plot will be made to move to a wholly unexpected, wholly fresh and original ending. The Buddha is said to have shot an arrow which flew out of the mountains into the great seething abode of lower, warmer more fertile humanity — where we live today, in other words! That’s why the Lama left Tibet, and why we must for the same reasons leave Tibet too, figuratively speaking. Because now the River of Healing wells up not at some exotic altitude in a meditation retreat or monastery but right here at our feet.

    The whole meaning of Kim, and the ordering principle of the plot is right there: the education of Kim in geography and mathematics, the engagement in a very active world of global politics, and finally the acceptance that our spiritual goals are no longer in high mountain fastnesses but right here humbly at our feet in San Miguel de Allende, Chiang Mai, or Bisbee.


    I have written this as a note of contrition, dear Bill, and do hope you can accept it.


  42. June 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I just saw today in the paper this wonderful photo of a contemporary embodiment of our hero. Dr. Michael Aris, a distinquished Tibetan scholar at Oxford and his wife Aung San Su Kyi, our Lady of Burma, named their son, who is now 33 and as handsome a Eurasian young man as the world has ever seen, yes, “Kim Aris!”

    …… Kim Aris and his mother, Aung San Su Kyi

    Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu!


  43. wfkammann said,

    June 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Here’s a link to the Wonder House in Lahore. Many of the Buddhist images described in Kim are still to be seen here. Take the virtual tour and don’t forget to look up at the ceilings in the rooms and especially in the entrance hall. The collecting of native arts and crafts gave John Lockwood Kipling access to many parts of India and beyond as well as a reason to get “reports” and artifacts from all over the region.

    Don’t see the turnstiles, but the Gandhara and Buddhist/Hindu/Jain collections are excellent.


  44. June 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    But what do they say to you, Bill? How do these images collected by Lockwood Kipling add to your understanding of what this remarkable collector of Gandhara Buddhist art at the end of the 19th century contributed to your understanding of Kim? You’ve done a wonderful job with their archaeological and ethnographic provenance in a preceding post, but is that all there is to it? Is there nothing more to say than just “Greek art?” The “stone Boddhisat” looking down on Lockwood’s patented turnstiles in Kim’s vision as he comes back to life at the end of the novel? Is it enough just to ask if the turnstiles are still there today in the museum in Lahore?

    And do you buy my preceding analysis of the novel, how the Buddha’s arrow comes to earth at our very own feet in San Miguel de Allende or Chiang Mai? Is this possible, that Kim points to a whole new Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma for us?


  45. wfkammann said,

    June 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    You said you were re-reading the novel and it starts here with reference to the Gandhara buddhas. Hardly a new turning of the Wheel of Dharma. Did you look at the ceiling in the entry hall?

    • wfkammann said,

      June 23, 2011 at 5:45 am

      Here’s another version of the arrow story:

      Then they brought out the bows, and skillful archers placed their arrows in targets that were barely visible. But when it came the prince’s turn to shoot, so great was his natural strength that he broke each bow as he drew it. Finally, the king sent guards to fetch a very ancient, very precious bow that was kept in the temple. No one within the memory of man had ever been able to draw or lift it. Siddhartha took the bow in his left hand, and with one finger of his right hand he drew it to him. Then he took as target a tree so distant that he alone could see it. The arrow pierced the tree, and, burying itself in the ground, disappeared. And there, where the arrow had entered the ground, a well formed, which was called the Well of the Arrow.

      Not a river, a well. Oh well!

      • wfkammann said,

        June 24, 2011 at 9:31 am

        In Beast and Man in India Lockwood Kipling writes:

        A Hindustani will say of a Punjabi, “A country donkey with a Punjab bray:/ and the Punjabi retaliates with, “A country donkey with an Eastern limp”; while of the Bengali Baboo, who affects English speech and manners, they say, “A hill jackass with an English bray.” Our dear Babu may not be as highly thought of as he might like.

      • wfkammann said,

        June 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

        In Beast and Man in India Lockwood Kipling writes:

        The establishment of an aristocracy of Brahmans was another stroke of practical wisdom; but the days when a class can be maintained aloft by formal prescription merely, seem to be passing away all the world over.

      • wfkammann said,

        June 25, 2011 at 7:58 am

        In Beast and Man in India Lockwood Kipling writes:

        A jumbling of sternest use and wildest fancy is one of the most bewildering of Oriental traits. The cultivator, who, by the necessities of his life, is sordidly practical, will at one and the same moment deliver himself of a grim sweat-and-blood axiom, born of penury and edged with despair, and some blind blundering ineptitude which, though sanctioned by immemorial usage, could be disproved by five minutes’ observation of fact.

      • wfkammann said,

        June 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm

        In Beast and Man in India Lockwood Kipling writes:

        In the Hindu ear the mere word (cow) is grateful, for the Ganges itself is said to issue from a “cow’s mouth” up in the hills, and there are many sacred wells and stream pools known as cows’ mouths.

      • wfkammann said,

        June 27, 2011 at 3:37 am

        In Beast and Man in India, Lockwood Kipling writes:

        “Buddhism, now dead and done with as far as India proper is concerned,-and so overgrown with fungous growth of idolatry and demonolatry in other lands as to be almost unrecognisable,-has its elephant legends. The elephant takes the place of the dove in the Annunciation to Maya Devi of the coming of the Bodisat. She lies asleep and the creature appears to her in many sculptures at Amravati and Southern India, but, hitherto, only once in the extensive series from the North-West frontier where the Buddhist legend is told with more than a mere touch of the classic Art of Europe. Another incident of the legend is the miracle of the subjugation of the elephant, made mast or frenzied by Devaditta, the envious schismatic, and sent to meet and murder the Lord Buddha. They met as the conspirator hoped, but instead of trampling the master underfoot, the creature stood still and worshipped as Buddha touched its forehead. Later stories tell of an elephant’s body hurled an immense distance by the Lord Buddha, but they belong to a cycle of incrustations of dead matter.”

        Also of interest to those who read The Naulahka, Lockwood talks about the natural ambling gait of the horse and this is the gait which Tarvin chooses when riding to the Cow’s Mouth. It is amazing how closely the observations of father and son coincide. He also quotes his son extensively in the section of horses and you may clearly see the contrast in writing style. The father is competent and entertaining; the son, genial.

      • June 27, 2011 at 9:40 am

        This is now getting hopelessly out of order, but then that’s post-modern too. Like the accretion of myths and Buddhist fables in Kim without which the level of reading I’m attempting to establish wouldn’t be possible.

        I’m deconstructing it, in other words — as I have to do your posts too because you give me so little to go on but the fragments from your reading. “A heap of broken images,” as T.S.Eliot calls it.

        Which in some ways is good — or at least all we’ve got. And it makes you’re offerings poetry, and I like that. Whereas I write prose.

        I don’t know very much about the state of Buddhism in India at the time, and only in Tibet from what ‘The Pundits’ through Lockwood Kipling have passed down to us in Kim. I also try to make it clear that what’s in the novel is all I need to know to read what it says, as it’s a sign system quite whole in itself.

        Nevertheless, and it’s relevant to Kim to note this, the early Theosophical Society in India under Madame Blavatsky and her American colleague, Colonel Olcott, made a huge effort to revive Buddhism in the whole subcontinent starting in the 1880s. Col. Olcott (1832 -1907) was also the first westerner of note to publicly announce himself as a “Buddhist,” and has come to be regarded in Sri Lanka even to this day as the Founder of Buddhism in that island nation.

        Col. Olcott met Madame Blavatsy for the first time at one of the seances at the Eddy farm in Vermont in 1874, and needless to say his Buddhism put a special emphasis on reincarnation, psychic powers, telepathic transmission, and what the Theosophists still call “Masters.”

        It interests me that Olcott established Buddhism in Sri Lanka, of all places, because the island has now become one of the bastions of the non-occult Theravada — or the Hinayana as the Mahayanists call it, looking down on how unromantic it is. Indeed, by comparison the Mahayana is a love story!

        When the greatest Thai Buddhist monk and philosopher of the 20th Century, Buddhadasa (1906-1993), was in his 40s, he still couldn’t find anyone to teach him Vipassana in Thailand, the Buddha’s own art of meditation having been neglected for so long. So Buddhadasa went to Sri Lanka to study it, and upon his return revived the simplest and noblest of all Buddhist practices in Thailand almost single-handedly, and its Vipassana Retreat Centers are now world-famous.

        Buddhadasa was also a great scholar, and insisted that in the Sutras, the texts based upon the Buddha’s actual teachings, he never in fact taught reincarnation as a transmigration of souls between distinct lives at all — that indeed there was nothing to transmit, period. Buddhadasa also taught that the Buddha forbad his disciples to develop psychic powers, which he insisted only nourished the ego. Finally, Buddhadasa was adamant the Sutras said that all attempts to “see” things, including auras, the dead and the future, were just distractions, and should not be permitted in Buddhist monasteries.

        A salutary dialogue.


      • wfkammann said,

        June 27, 2011 at 10:32 am


        Bloomin’ idol made o’mud —
        Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd —
        Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!

        Kim Chapter XIII

        “‘Thy Gods are lies; thy works are lies; thy words are lies. There are no Gods under all the Heavens. I know it … But for awhile I thought it was my Sahib come back, and he was my God. Yes, once I made music on a pianno in the Mission-house at Kotgarh. Now I give alms to priests who are heatthen.’ She wound up with the English word, and tied the mouth of the brimming bag…

        “One cannot strike down an old man that he recovers again like a boy in the night. Weakness bowed him to the earth, but his eyes that hung on Kim were alive and imploring…

        “I do not need anything,’ said Kim, angered where he should have been grateful. ‘I am already rudely loaded with favours.’

        “She looked up with a curious smile and laid a hand on his shoulder. ‘At least, thank me. I am foul-faced and a hillwoman, but, as thy talk goes, I have acquired merit. Shall I show thee how the Sahibs render thanks?’ and her hard eyes softened.

        “‘I am but a wandering priest,’ said Kim, his eyes lighting in answer. ‘Thou needest neither my blessings nor my curses.’
        ‘Nay. But for one little moment – thou canst overtake the dooli in ten strides – if thou wast a Sahib, shall I show thee what thou wouldst do?’

        “‘How if I guess, though?’ said Kim, and putting his arm round her waist, he kissed her on the cheek, adding in English: ‘Thank you verree much, my dear.’

        “Kissing is practically unknown among Asiatics, which may have been the reason that she leaned back with wide-open eyes and a face of panic.

        “‘Next time,’ Kim went on, ‘you must not be so sure of your heatthen priests. Now I say good-bye.’ He held out his hand English-fashion. She took it mechanically. ‘Good-bye, my dear.’

        ‘Good-bye, and – and’ – she was remembering her English words one by one -’you will come back again? Good-bye, and – thee God bless you.’”


  46. June 25, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I don’t know if you posted this particular synopsis of the River of the Arrow because you don’t buy how the story is presented in Kim or you don’t buy my attempt to interpret it. I went to some trouble to summarize what is actually said about the story in the novel as a whole, and you reply with a quote from a modern French popular retelling translated into English. Indeed, Amazon advertises your source as “a coherent narrative” that “dimensionalizes the story of Siddhartha, born into luxury…” etc. “It is short and very readable, and can be recommended for young adults.”

    My argument is that Kim is far more than an “adventure story” (you quoted that assessment too just above) and that its message is very unlikely to interest what is more to be understood fully by “young adults.” I also feel that the image of the River of the Arrow not only is the flight under which the plot is assembled but provides a unique interpretation of the Buddhist fable — indeed a wonderful new way of looking at Buddhism as a source of inspiration in our time.

    And here’s a note on that: The word “well” at the end of your version is an interesting translation problem as the author, André Ferdinand Herold, used the French word “une source,” in his version. i.e. a “well” or “spring” from which a river arises. In fact, in French this is a very powerful and appropriate word to describe the River that breaks forth from the ground in the fable.

    I’m going to try to write a fuller account of my take on the novel as a gloss on the River of the Arrow later this morning, and then I’m done.


  47. June 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I’m going to try to trace The River of the Arrow fable in Kim in an attempt to show that there is not only more of a plot in the novel than is usually recognized but also that there is a theme that arises out of that plot which deepens the novel in a way that is seldom acknowledged.

    The Lama and Kim first meet by Zam-Zammah, the great gun in Lahore which has, thanks to Kim, now become such a famous image of power and empire the world over. In a sense the whole action of the novel is fired from there as the gun brings the two most important characters together. On the other hand, Zam-Zammah is rarely associated with that other ‘catapult’ in the novel, the Buddha’s bow and arrow — that one appears just two pages later and really does ‘fire’ the two protagonists in the sense that it both propels them physically and inspires them forward. Because it is the search for the River of the Arrow which determines not only the actual routes that are followed, the railways, alleys, foot paths, and trunk-roads, but it makes sense out of all the numerous thoughts, sensations, religious beliefs, peoples, dangers and delights that are so seductive – that for most people is enough to make Kim great.

    We’ve already looked at that extraordinary moment right at the end of the novel when Kim wakes up after 36 hours of convalescence and sees the Lama sitting like a “stone Boddhisat” (Buddhist image of a Boddhisattva) looking down on the turnstiles in the Lahore Museum, giving perfect shape and coherence to the novel. We mentioned briefly the Lama’s motive for having left Tibet in the first place, his disillusionment with Tibetan Buddhism. We also looked at the significance of the fact that the Lama discusses this motive with, of all people, the Curator of the Lahore Museum — an Englishman who has not only helped to put together one of the greatest collections of Buddhist art in the world but was also part of the intellectual community that put, at the end of the 19th century, Buddhist philosophy on the map for the West. And of course, that Englishman also just happened to be Rudyard Kipling’s father, Lockwood, who had a very important hand in writing the novel. Finally, Kim is 16 at the end of the novel, the same age at which Rudyard Kipling returned to India — to discover that his genius was to write about his Indian childhood in the person of Kim!

    We’ve covered that so thoroughly it doesn’t need much more said about it. Put simply it shows that the plot of the novel is effective -– a bit post-modern, but that’s perfectly suited to the subject.


    At the very beginning of the discussion with the Curator, the Lama says that the books he read in Tibet were “dried pith,” that the “later ritual” had “no worth,” and that the monks were constantly “at feud with one another.”

    “It is all illusion,” the Lama despairs. “Ay, maya, illusion.”

    The problem is that most westerners know so little about Tibetan Buddhism and at the same time have such a romantic fantasy about everything to do with Tibet they fail to notice what the Lama is actually saying. Because he is actually disillusioned with his religious culture, and is deliberately leaving behind what he feels is decadent and deluded. He wants to go out in the world and make a fresh start – before it’s too late.

    The Lama says it this way, referring specifically to the modern scholars who were collecting the texts in Lahore at the time: “’Your scholars, by these books, have followed the Blessed Feet in all their wanderings; but there are things which they have not sought out. I know nothing – nothing do I know – but I go to free myself from the Wheel of Things by a broad and open road.’”

    Of course this is a fictional character speaking, and his words were actually written by the Kiplings, father and son, not by a real Tibetan monk communicating real information about his country and religion. Indeed, the Lama’s point of view is simply a plot motivator in a novel. On the other hand, if the novel makes sense and if, as I think it does, says something important about Buddhism that speaks specifically to the “broad and open road” we are on today too, then we don’t need to concern ourselves much with how true these accusations were historically. We do not live in a secluded theocratic kingdom on the roof of the world, what is more in a monastery anywhere, but are engaged in the very busy global marketplace and, like the Lama, we have very different needs from the past.


    “Listen to a true thing.”

    And the Lama tells how the young Siddhartha broke the first bow, and then upon ordering another that nobody else had ever drawn, like Odysseus about the same time (!) but in Ithaca , fired an arrow such as had never been fired before. Not only did it overshot the mark, i.e. go beyond any knowable limit established up to that point in history, “[the] arrow passed far and far beyond sight. At the last it fell; and, where it touched earth, there broke out a stream which presently became a River, whose nature, by our Lord’s beneficence, and that merit He acquired ere He freed himself, is that whoso bathes in it washes away all taint and speckle of sin.’ “

    “Where is that River? Where fell the arrow?” begs the Lama to the modern Curator whom he calls the “Fountain of Wisdom” (la source, in your French retelling, Bill, the “spring” or “well-head”), and who is also the father of Rudyard Kipling and collaborator in the creation of Kim.

    “’I do not know. I do not know,’” replies the Curator.

    “The lama brought his thousand-wrinkled face once more a hands breadth from the Englishman’s. ‘I see thou dost not know. Not being of the Law, the matter is hid from thee.’”

    “’Ay – hidden – hidden,’” says the Curator, “sadly” — who is indeed not a Buddhist or even, as far as we know, a member of any particular religion, like most of us.

    “’We are both bound, thou and I, my brother. But I’ – [the Lama] rose with a sweep of the soft thick drapery – ‘I go to cut myself free. Come also!’”

    “’I am bound,’ said the Curator. ‘But whither goest thou?’”


    So the two of them are in the same boat with regard to the quest for the source of self-knowledge and well-being, self-exiled Tibetan and Anglo-Indian in exile back ‘home’ in Vermont or Devon. And that is the truth of the novel as well as the truth of what it might mean to call oneself a Buddhist today.

    “Whither goest thou?”

    Noble question — in itself a full path.

    [end Part I]

    • wfkammann said,

      June 26, 2011 at 12:03 am

      As you will remember, there are two questers: the Lama and Kim. Kim’s red bull is as important to the plot development as the River of the Arrow. It is Kim’s need to go up into the mountains that drives the end of the novel; not the quest for the river which only re-emerges in Kulu country. Everyone else sees the old man as a fool who nearly drowns in the stream and is rescued by the Babu. That you see a “new Buddhism” which by now would be at least 100 years old is surprising.

      If the Lama was so disillusioned with his monastery why did he get the tuition from there? The man vacillates between being a simpleton and a wisdom figure. The Babu the same.

      The truly clever ones are the Englishmen and the little Hindu boy who bests Kim.

      The question “But whither goest thou?” might simply reflect Lockwood”s concern to let such an unworldly man wander unprotected. So Kim, the new chela, the miraculous one, (the curator’s son) becomes a guide and protector for the old man. But only when Kim is sick and unable to “protect” him does he wander into the stream. He returns to teach Kim or to be assured that Kim too is liberated by the Lama’s revelation. He assumes that he has been.

      Lockwood’s assessment of Kipling is worth looking at again with Kim in mind:

      “I find Ruddy a delightfully amiable and companionable little chap, but the way in which he only half apprehends the common facts and necessities of daily life is surprising. Vagueness and inaccuracy, I fear, will always bother him and they take curious forms…If there is anything in him at all, the steady stress of daily work in which exactness is required should pull his mind together a little. But I should think he will always be inclined to shirk the collar and to interest himself in out of the way things…”

      Clearly Kim is the hero of the novel and not the Lama or Buddhism. It is a boy’s coming of age and entering the dangerous world of responsibilities and duty. Not a natural thing for Kipling/Kim. Once he got his Capricorn mate he never had to venture out again. He was always protected but the world still intruded with the death of his favorite child and his son, sent half blind to his death.

      Are you saying that the message of Kim is that enlightenment is right under your feet? The River of the Arrow is always quelling in your own heart?

      Very, very Romantic indeed.

      • June 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

        Step by step you are retreating from all the insights you had about Kim in the early stages of this discussions, and you seem to be forgetting so much.

        You write, “Clearly Kim is the hero of the novel and not the Lama or Buddhism. It is a boy’s coming of age and entering the dangerous world of responsibilities and duty. Not a natural thing for Kipling/Kim. ”

        Of course Kim is “the hero,” as he’s the main character, but he’s also about as irresponsible, dirty, dishonest. immoral and violent a model for a boys “coming of age” novel you will ever find. Indeed, many commentators have stressed that Kim is a novel about NOT coming of age, that it is a run-away, damaging fantasy of men who refuse to grow up — who have no interest whatsoever in the responsibilities that go with being a grown-up! I mean Kim’s taste for drugs and sex alone, at 14 to 15? “A boy’s coming of age and entering the dangerous world of responsibilities and duty?” Come on, Bill. What are you smoking?

        More an On the Road” or “Dharma Bums,” I’d say, a blow out!

        And “Not a natural thing for Kipling/Kim?” What a strange thought. Kipling was a fully grown man with a big bushy beard when he came back to his parents in Bombay at the age of 16 — they were shocked and made him shave most of it off. And then he immediately took a very hard and very adult job, and from day one made a great success of it. And he never looked back either.

        And yes, he had huge disappointments including the loss of his beloved daughter at a very young age. But up to the publication of Kim in 1901, nine years after his marriage, he continued to travel all over the world in steamships two or three times a year, build and move into new houses on two continents (he was only at Naulakha for just over two years!), and even led troops in the Boer War in 1900.

        This was no Emily Dickinson, Bill — more an Elizabeth Barrett Browning!


  48. June 26, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Dear Bill,
    These are valuable comments, but rarely do they connect with my interpretation of the specific words and phrases that I quote from the book.

    Of course the novel is about “two quests,” which is the whole point of the “stone Boddhisat” at the end looking back at the Museum in the beginning. The novel ends with the conclusion of one quest, the Lama’s for the River of Healing, and the beginning of another, the 16 year old Kim/Kipling setting out on his own life as a global adult. Of course we don’t know where that will go, which I feel is even part of the success of the book, by the way. It leaves the fundamental question which confronted the two Kiplings on finishing it, and which the novel passes on to us too — “Whither goest thou?”

    And what’s wrong with 100 years? Do you mean that’s too much, or too little? Come on, Bill, it’s you I’m talking to as well as myself — you too are just starting to get it. It’s not about years, it’s about circumstances, it’s about timing and change.

    (I remind you of what the 29 year old Trungpa Rimpoche told me in Scotland, that he felt Tibet imploded because it tried to hold on to what it had. It tried not to change by shutting the world out!)

    I would think you would welcome this obvious but often unrecognized facet of Kim — a novel which takes Tibetan Buddhism and brings it back down to earth, even engaging it like the Dalai Lama in international intrigue and politics.

    The Lama arranged for the money to be sent because he had it, not as an endorsement of the system which generated it — indeed, he never discusses where it came from, and he may even have been a bit embarrassed. As a symbolic gesture in the novel it beautifully supports my argument too, I’d say — that the Lama leaves the old dispensation and in the process gives a very modern young man a more appropriate, more useful education.

    And in the end the Lama himself just splashes about in a puddle.


    So am I saying that the message of Kim is that enlightenment is right under your feet?

    You bet I am, Bill — and isn’t it? Is there any other place from which the River of the Arrow can well up but in ones own heart? Or do you want it to be some sort of Lobsang Rampa or Alexandra David-Neel occult manifestation on Mt Everest?

    As to Romantic, you seem to have forgotten our discussion on all that back here.

    Romantic = willing to be lost.

    Classic = willing to be found.


  49. June 26, 2011 at 10:39 am

    [Part II]

    What precedes is an analysis of Chapter I — now we must move on to the end, the final denouement — an especially good word for Kim with it’s suggestion of clarification, revelation, and the stripping away of unnecessary outer garments.

    In Chapter XIII, the long trek of the Lama and Kim takes them up into the foothills of the Himalayas in what is Pakistan today, indeed not far from Abbottabad and the Swat Valley, very much in the news for other reasons. But what’s really happening is all very ambiguous at this point in the novel, and the signs are usually misread partly because the Lama himself misreads them, at least initially. The higher he gets the more ‘at home’ he feels, and the more vibrant and stimulating the imagery becomes too. High spiritual territory, that’s the message in all the descriptions.

    The Lama, on the other hand, is still on his search for a deliverance that he knows will come from a different quarter, one that will be based on a different dispensation, so to speak, quite beyond his experience, or of anyone else’s in the Tibetan monastic community. As he explains it to the Curator at the very beginning of the novel: “’Your scholars, by these books, have followed the Blessed Feet in all their wanderings; but there are things which they have not sought out.” Indeed, he acknowledges that, despite all his Buddhist training, he knows nothing at this point in his life but that he must free himself in some way by entering upon “a broad and open road.”

    What neither the Lama nor the reader understands at the beginning of this trek up into these beautiful hills is just how much the Lama is, despite all his principles, training and meditation, a victim of desire. The verse that introduces the chapter illustrates this beautifully by evoking a whole avalanche of images that lure sailors back to the sea, and I’m a sailor so I’m a real sucker for all of them – seductive I’d call them, erotic even. And then suddenly in the last line of the verse the victim of all this desire becomes someone else entirely, someone whose being is fulfilled by the hills. “So and no otherwise – so and no otherwise hill-men desire their hills!”

    “Who goes to the hills goes to his mother,” starts the chapter – but this beloved is more a snow maiden or ice queen, a huge temptation for those who know and love such high altitude pleasures. “There is no cold till we come to the true Hills,” says the Lama, on fire, “We must not always delight in soft beds and rich food,” luxuriating in the Alpine air like a modern mountain-climber or skier in Lech or Gstaad. And not surprisingly at all the delights of this high world will give us the most beautiful and unself-conscious seductress in the whole novel, the ‘hill-tribe’ Lispeth, Woman of Shamlegh, with her many husbands and very open moves to get Kim into her bed.

    ……….. Akha Hill Tribe Girl

    We have very similar Austro-Tibetan hill tribe peoples such as the women in both these photos all around us in Chiang Mai, Akha, Lisu, Yao, etc., because Chiang Mai is also in the foothills of the Himalayas, don’t forget. In some of these tribes the women also practice polyandry, and sexual pleasure before, and one suspects, even during marriage, is distinctly not restrictive.

    Do notice the young westerner with the camera in the background of the next photo, which is from a modern postcard. There are other incongruous items — the girl in the foreground has on hand-made flip-flops while the women behind wear store-bought boots — they’ve trekked all night on steep path-ways to get down here this early in the morning, but still the flip-flops, or even bare feet, would have been normal in these lower hills up until very recently. Indeed, anthropologists tell us the leggings are a remnant of the embroidered felt boots this tribe would have worn at higher altitudes. The wooden saddles on the bullocks, on the other hand, are from time in memorial — as are all the rest of the accouterments, the short skirts, the voluminous blouses for carrying things in like the Lama, and the silver head-dresses.

    …… Akha Hill Tribe Women at an early Chiang Rai market.

    Kim, Chapter XIII: “And the people – the sallow, greasy, duffle-clad people, with short bare legs and faces almost Esquimaux – would flock out and adore. The Plains – kindly and gentle – had treated the lama as a holy man among holy men. But the Hills worshipped him as one in the confidence of all their devils. Theirs was an almost obliterated Buddhism, overlaid with a nature-worship fantastic as their own landscapes, elaborate as the terracing of their tiny fields; but they recognized the big hat, the clicking rosary, and the rare Chinese texts for great authority; and they respected the man beneath the hat.”

    This description of Hill Tribe people is perceptive in the larger picture even if it’s negative in the details — I know these people well and certainly do not share the prejudice. Indeed, I admire them a lot, find them fascinating even, like I do the indigenous people of the Arctic or Kenya — or the Na’vi in Avatar, that’s more like it! Yes, they are dirty, noticeably, but it’s good, healthy, workable dirt. And yes, their legs do look short, but that’s because they are well-adapted to living and working while tilted most of the time at 45° to the earth!

    But this passage as a whole is really worth pausing over – it’s both a beautiful embodiment of the temptations of the high altitudes and yet another question mark over the Tibetan religious practices as they were reported to have been at the time of Kim. Above all, take note of the different kind of respect the Lama gets in the Plains, more suitable to his own development at that stage, gentler, more compassionate, I’d say, and therefore more helpful to his spiritual development at the end of his life. Being “worshipped” is not useful to any human being, ever, and I suspect some of the Tibetan Lamas who escaped in 1959 and came to the West subsequently ran into trouble in Europe and America, and I mean fraud, alcohol abuse, promiscuity while still in the robe, that sort of trouble, were undermined by the divine adulation they received growing up as gods on high thrones in Tibet.

    The ones that came out intact, on the other hand, like the Dalai Lama and my favorite, little known Ato Rimpoche who lived near me in a small terrace house in Cambridge, are all the more remarkable for what they overcame. Triumphs of humanity – and for humanity above all. (Ato Rimpoche was quite a lot older and much more reserved. He worked as an “orderly,” I think it’s called, at Addenbrookes Hospital, changing and emptying bed-pans mostly. He never told anyone he was a Tibetan what is more a Bodhisattva, indeed he almost never spoke. The rest of the staff just thought he was an Asian. I suspect the dying patients in particular knew he was a saint.)

    [end Part II]

  50. June 27, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    This thread is jumping all over the place, and whole discussions are being pursued in several different places at once. “Post-modern,” I just said to Bill, who gives me only fragments to ride and no leg up — in T.S.Eliot’s phrase, his “heap of broken images!”

    So you might want to check back here to read my comment about the role Westerners played in the development of Buddhism in South India followed by Bill’s quoting the beautiful passage about Lispeth from Kim right here — which I think Bill posted as a comment on what I said but you can never be sure.

    The passage is from Chapter XIII — the one in which the hill-tribe ‘Woman of Shamlegh’ poses theological questions to Kim while trying to shame him into making love with her – a wild and funny scene straight out of Woody Allen!

    The eponymous heroine is the main character in Lispeth, one of the only two stories in which Kipling touched on the taboo subject of inter-racial love relationships during the British Raj. Lispeth was a gifted and beautiful orphan girl brought up by missionaries as a Christian, and supposedly as an equal, to be sure, who falls in love with a young British officer – she was “hill-tribe,” and would have looked very much like the young woman in the graphic just above had she not been brought up as if she were sweet, clean and English. When the Christian missionaries realize the couple are in love they secretly send the young man back to Britain while lying to Lispeth, telling her he’ll be back in three months. After a year has passed, the patient Lispeth finds out her fiancee has already married a more appropriate sweet English girl at “home,” and runs away in a fury at having been so crudely, selfishly and needlessly betrayed.

    At the end of the story it is assumed Lispeth dies worn out and sexually exploited in some frontier hovel, so it’s all the more remarkable when Kipling chooses to resurrect her in Kim as one of the strongest and most attractive characters in the whole novel. But what is particularly remarkable is Lispeth’s confidence in who she is and what she stands for, and of course her contempt for the hypocritical moralism that characterizes, dare I say it, most over-established religions.

    “‘Thy Gods are lies; thy works are lies; thy words are lies. There are no Gods under all the Heavens. I know it,” she says. “But for awhile I thought it was my Sahib come back, and he was my God. Yes, once I made music on a pianno in the Mission-house at Kotgarh. Now I give alms to priests who are heatthen.’ She wound up with the English word, and tied the mouth of the brimming bag.”

    That’s their food in the bag, all they need for the long trek down to the valley – indeed, she is proudly providing charity to them even though she regards all priests as “heatthen,” in English! But not just charity but love too she provides, her arms, her whole body wide-open – and hope above all, the essence of everything she stands for. Then she says goodbye in her own , much deeper English – ”thee God bless you!”

    The Chapter starts with the hills as full as the sea – “Who goes to the hills goes to his mother,” it opens, and both the Lama and Kim will have very close encounters with desire in those hills. In the context of the Lama’s own personal search for enlightenment, that’s just what he needs, even though his whole training has been to set him free from it!

    An extravagant paradox, and one of the most original insights in the whole of Kim in relation to the older, more doctrinaire, more philosophical path that had been established as Buddhism.

    Just a suggestion, but why not now reread “The Buddha at Kamakura?”


  51. wfkammann said,

    June 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I read that when the USA was founded only 10% of the population attended a church.

    I think the 19th century, more than the 20th, was the century of science and exploration. Lockwood Kipling is in favor of Darwin; quotes Whitman, and provides an atmosphere which is informed by two Methodist minister parents (Kipling’s grandfathers) but more in line, I feel, with the comments above.

    Alexander von Humboldt was a prime example of a scientist/explorer and his books are still excellent reading. As you know, Christopher, God was dead in Europe long before Nietzsche pointed it out.

    The missionary spread of Christianity during the colonial period has come back to bite the Anglican Church. The colonies now have a 19th Century religion with which they are “evangelizing” the West. One step forward; two steps back. And, of course, the US Fundamentalist are investing a fortune in Africa to be sure that “secular humanism” does not rear its ugly head and that women, gays etc. continue to fear for their lives.

    I don’t think, after reading a little more of Lockwood Kipling, that he found much knowledge of religion in the Indian population: neither Buddhist, Hindu, Jain or Muslim. As in Thailand, people are “devout” and superstitious (I picked up a book in Chaing Mai of Buddhist chants to ward off earthquakes)

    So, society, connections, having a product to sell and a publisher to publish it: these are the things that mattered to Kipling and family. They understood very, very well (as only Wesleyans could) that the new breeze was economic (the Balestiers were millionaires) and Kipling was the FOX News reporter and camera at the front.

    Like Twain, whom he met on his first trip through the US, Kipling became a “bigger than life” example of British colonialism and traded his inability to resist temptation for a conservative respectability which is not evident in Kim, nor in most of his work. Yet he wrote lyrics set by Arthur Sullivan to raise money for soldiers and became an icon of the Empire.

    There is something too easy about Kipling’s writing, almost like a Steven Foster song, a Morphy chess game or a Tiepolo drawing. This is the mark of a genius with an effortless facility and mastery of his art.

    ………………………….. Morphy Chess Puzzle

    This puzzle was created by Morphy when he was 10 years old. The solution is Ra6…


    Twain too, and Heine are all reporters like Kipling. As Lockwood commented:

    It has occurred to us that the regular daily work of a newspaper would furnish by no means a bad occupation and I doubt not I could get him engaged on the Civil and Military Gazette here. And on the whole I am inclined to think that the easy-going general interest he is ready to take in all sorts of things, though the plague of his masters, who think he could do so much better if he would only work-is after all one of those affairs of temperament and constitution which nothing can change, and must be made the best of. Journalism seems to be specially invented for such desultory souls…”

    Perhaps journalism or newspaper writing is the transitional genre between Romantic and Modern. Kipling is certainly NOT Romantic; he was never willing to be lost, ever! To compare Twain and Kipling would be a study in similarities. They both knew everybody. Twain, though, ended up on Fifth Avenue and Kipling in a house in Sussex.

    What I’m saying is that I doubt if Lockwood or Rudyard took any religion seriously. After the enthusiasm of Methodism they were too clever and too cynical to be taken in even by a good hearted Lama and they lacked the ambitions of Madame Blavatsky. Lockwood was an artist; Rudyard, a writer: craftsmen; not philosophers. Part of The Great Game; part of the Empire. No cold garrets or existential struggle here; certainly not on the page.

  52. June 28, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Again, it’s as if you want an easy way out with Kipling, Bill, as you do as well with religion. You want Buddhism to stay still so you can concentrate on it, and you want Kim to be about something and to fit into some category so you can move on and forget it.

    Can you imagine someone like Lockwood Kipling having what you call in your comment a “religion? Can you imagine yourself, with all your knowledge and practice of several, actually having one either? And what a word that is, “having,” like a garage or a bank account — or some neighbor’s wife.

    How many years and years ago did you get beyond that stage yourself, Bill? And what will your biographers say about your spiritual life, what religion you belonged to, what church you attended? Or will they just speculate on what you secretly believed in your closet at home?

    What a waste of time that would be!

    Would you expect the Kiplings to be confused by your own existential confusion. i.e. that you can’t explain your “faith” to anybody but that they can hear it when you sing or you laugh?

    Why shouldn’t they get the benefit of the same doubt?

    And it’s manifestly absurd when you say that when the USA was founded only 10% of the population attended a church. Context, Bill, context. Where exactly were all those churches they might have chosen to attend, and what sort of priests and images were in them?

    Rudyard Kipling dashed it all off — yes, and so what? So did Mozart and Picasso, and you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to make sense out of their lives either, what is more decide what religion they belonged to!

    Kim is not about religion, and I bet the subject almost never came up in those terms as the father and son played around with the details. And “played” is the word, as it was also with Mark Twain.

    But does Huckleberry Finn generate discussions? Will it ever be finished? Or “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” or “Guernica?”

    I think our discussion on Cowpattyhammer may be the first to examine Kim as, among many other things, a critique of late 19th Century Tibetan Buddhism, or at least of an interpretation of it. And if I’m right in my hunch that one of the themes in the novel is the disengagement of the Lama from his own “formal religion” as we say, and his discovery of desire, eros and all that, etc. etc. — well, there’s a lot in that that speaks to a man who is in a state of perpetual exile, grief, duplicity and abandonment — in every sense of the word.

    Sort of like real life. Sort of like what the Buddha stands for in the fundamental common denominator underneath his message that still rings clear as a bell from Lumbini to Kamakura!

    …………….A tourist-show, a legend told,
    …………….A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
    …………….So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
    …………….The meaning of Kamakura?

    …………….But when the morning prayer is prayed,
    …………….Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade,
    …………….Is God in human image made
    …………….No nearer than Kamakura?

    …………………………………………Rudyard Kipling, 1892


  53. wfkammann said,

    June 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I love the way you toss around “real life” as if it were represented in Kim and as if you were yourself in touch with it. Kipling’s well for Kim was the experience of a child and young man in Lahore; once that time was gone he was too famous and respectable to mix with the “common” Indians and as a result he had a dried-up well to work with; not a River at all.

    Henry James had this to say: ‘His talent,’ James told Grace Norton, ‘I think quite diabolically great … But my view of his prose future has much shrunken in the light of one’s increasingly observing how little of life he can make use of.’

    The charismatic boy soaked in every aspect of Indian culture became too quickly a sick and embittered old man full of hate. Well, there’s a lot in that that speaks to a man who is in a state of perpetual exile, grief, duplicity and abandonment — in every sense of the word.

    No, it’s not about Buddhism or the Lama leaving idolatry for an emotional fling. Like The Naulahka it’s an adventure story written to make money. All of the depth is generated from your side, I’m afraid.

    Stevenson is credited with this remark about Kipling: ‘All the good fairies came to his christening; and they were all drunk.’

    God in human form is nearer than Kamakura. It’s right there in Chiang Mai, but it’s not you Christopher, no, it’s your drunken brother-in-law, and that is certain!

    There is something diabolically maddening about Kipling. As a fellow Capricorn I think I may have some insight. But then again, I think I’ll let you do the projecting for the two of us.

    P.S. If there were Buddhist preachers rather than teachers you might have good career ahead of you ;-}

  54. June 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

    “Kipling’s well for Kim was the experience of a child and young man in Lahore.’ Yes, of course it was, but that’s by no means the whole story any more than Proust’s well was just the remembrance of that madeleine. Needless to say, who it is that remembers and at what stage in his or her life is also crucial. Indeed, most artists have a well of some sort — “une source” — from which they draw their water, and we can often identify their work at any period in their lives based on our recognition of a certain style, personal content, or imagery that comes from that source. Some artists continue to live beside it for their whole lives like Andrew Wyeth, some grow up and away from it like Balthus, and some move their whole lives to the ends of the earth to embrace, become one, and then die in it like Gauguin.

    So Kipling’s ‘well’ for Kim was also to some extent himself even at the age when he wrote it with his father in his 30s, and when he gazed into that well he found himself artistically whole. That’s why when we read it we get satisfaction from a much larger accomplishment than just a childhood story, or at least I do. And it made money not because it was a good sell but because it was good!

    We don’t just say, “wow, what a childhood!” “ooh, India is so colorful!” and “aah, Lamas are so holy!” — and then lose ourselves in the adventure that follows. Unless, of course, we’re boy scouts.

    “The charismatic boy soaked in every aspect of Indian culture became too quickly a sick and embittered old man full of hate.” Well, that’s reductive nonsense, Bill — pseudo, psycho-critical babalysis.

    Because for every example of “hate” in Kipling’s poems, novels and stories I’ll show you two, perhaps ten even, examples of a genius that wakes up the whole world and brings it together.

    And you quote me simplistically in what follows on from there too — you know very well what I mean, but you can never resist an opportunity to make somebody who’s vulnerable look foolish.


  55. June 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Bill writes:
    “No, [Kim’s] not about Buddhism or the Lama leaving idolatry for an emotional fling.”

    Did I say that, Bill? “Idolatry?”

    I thought we were talking about mindfulness and discipline — for it’s the Lama’s obsession with his practice that is at the heart of the fable, and the tale recounts what he does to transcend it. At least that’s how I read it. Yes, there are a number of passages in which Tibetan Buddhism is accused of an obsession with demons, magical powers, and hierarchy, and of course with feuding between schools and monasteries — but not “idolatry.” The Buddha as an idol is the prejudice of the British soldier in “Mandalay,” not in Kim, or the western tourists at Kamakura.

    The Lama’s motives for leaving Tibet are very clearly expressed in the first few pages of the novel, but he has not the faintest doubt about the truth or validity of what he calls “The Way” or “The Path.” He just has to learn more about his relationship to the world, to himself and to others, that’s all. The Path turns out not to be as “plain” as he thought, and in other ways even plainer!

    And “Emotional fling?” Oh dear, that’s so mean it’s breath-taking.

    I think I’ll reply to that with another Rimpoche story.

    We were all such ardent disciples at Samye-Ling in the 60s — we practiced such long hours, did so many prostrations, took all the initiations, sat all night in boxes, wore the right robes with our malas wound round our wrists just right, and yearned and strained and prayed for some vision. We didn’t expect to fly, or do speed-walking, or dry 100 wet towels or any of that, but we did expect visions. We expected to see something like the Tibetans!

    So one evening at Garwald I asked Trungpa, still in his cups, why don’t we see things? Why don’t we have visions or at least get a feeling of some sort of special powers developing in us?

    And Trungpa just laughed — his crooked laugh because he was already paralyzed on one side (drunk driving). “Visions? Powers? Why do you want that old stuff? It’s so easy for one thing, and so useless for another. That’s below you, that’s way, way back in the past. You’re on a higher path — we Tibetans didn’t know anything about what you know, you see, we couldn’t do any of it. Personal relationships, that’s much harder — we couldn’t do that at all. And look at us? Look what a mess we make with these things in the West?”

    “The challenge is to love and help each other, and even passion is part of that, even sex. We were like spirit animals. We could do magic and see all sorts of things, but we couldn’t do anything with each other. Just abuse.”


    • wfkammann said,

      June 30, 2011 at 8:21 am

      The Buddha at Kamakura
      ………………………….“And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura”

      • June 30, 2011 at 9:01 am

        “The Buddha at Kamakura” is narrated in a number of different voices, and some of them look on this image as a huge Golden Calf. The poem addresses this sort of prejudice in many different ways, including sometimes just in the quality of the language — “the warm winds of Kamakura,” for example, which sweetly short-circuits the dismissals of angry evangelists and monotheists in general.

        Many years ago I was sailing in Tunisia and we had to take refuge in a small fishing port. We took a walk in the evening and it started to rain, and a fisherman beckoned to us to take shelter with him under an upturned boat. And we talked — his French was just comprehensible.

        His brother was working in Marseille and had told him the Christians worshipped many gods, and that he’d actually seen them. Their churches were full of graven images of men and women, he said, and even birds and animals, and how could that be when God is only One?

        “Are Europeans ‘barbares? ‘” That’s the word he used — pretty good. We’d say “primitive.”

        Needless to say, he was a Muslim. It was hard to answer him, not that we wanted to particularly.


  56. wfkammann said,

    June 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    You write:

    “The challenge is to love and help each other, and even passion is part of that, even sex. We were like spirit animals. We could do magic and see all sorts of things, but we couldn’t do anything with each other. Just abuse.”

    Well this ties in very well with your view of the Lama. He was an old abuser and demon worshiper (idolator) who now had a chance to fall in love with Kim and even come back from the brink of Nirvana to be sure that Kim “got it.” From your stand-point and Trungpa’s, I guess, this is a step forward and a modern interpretation of Buddhism.

    For me, though, this floating experienced by the Lama during his dunk in the River is Madame Blatavsky with a spirit in the corner of the room. It’s a fraud and a joke, and yes, people do experience it. I know someone well who had the same experience of leaving her body and seeing herself lying below her on the couch from the corner of the room.

    Blake has a picture of the soul reluctantly parting with the body.

    …. William Blake, The Soul Hovering Over the Body Reluctabtly Parting from Life, c. 1805
    ……… “The Soul Hovering over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life”

    No, the Lama’s experience is not a new path but a mish-mash of Hinduism and Spiritualism. The Buddha said NO SOUL an-atta. In the net of interdependent arising there is no permanent thing; not a soul; not an emotion; not even loving and helping each other. Yes, sex feels good and even being spirit animals has it’s attraction (I’m a Great Golden Bear, by the way).

    No, IT is happening and all the descriptions and emotions and religions are added to IT by the spirit animals. Some even use the excuse of “getting it” to continue to abuse themselves and others. If Enlightenment is truly “Beyond Good and Evil” why not have sex with the students and drink yourself silly? WHY NOT? Aren’t ethics just a step on the path and didn’t the Buddha say that you throw the boat away when you reach the other shore?

    The short answer is that the others are still watching you and probably won’t understand (bound as they are to the Wheel of duality) and even if they want to and pretend to for a while, eventually they will become disillusioned and consider you a phony, a fraud and an abuser; even if you do found a university and hundreds of centers throughout the world. Right? The abused child first thinks it’s her/his fault. Read the biography of the Dalai Lama’s mother: Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother’s Autobiography, if you have further questions about the lives of women in Tibet.

    But my experience was more positive; less abusive; more helpful. There are qualified Buddhist teachers; there is a Buddhist emotional, psychological and intellectual development that leads to a lessening of suffering and glimpses of a unity which is the duality of life. I have pointed to these as our conversation has progressed. Perhaps they were not germane to Kipling but they may yet offer insight into The Buddha at Kamakura.

  57. June 29, 2011 at 8:55 am

    This is a wonderful response, Bill — you generate just the right atmosphere now for an examination of my thesis, whether or not you agree with it. Because I substantiate every word of what I say about the Lama’s life in the novel with quotes, images and events taken from the text, and I have done this in depth and detail. You don’t seem to take any of that into consideration, indeed sometimes I suspect you don’t even read me, just toss out your sarcastic rejoinders and go back to your piano.

    If you just dump on things all you’ll ever have left is just dump.

    But I’m grateful to you here because in this response the field of enquiry is still open and visible, and we can actually talk about it.


    In the end I think the greatest difference between us is that in matters of the spirit you are far more literal than I am. You really believe that what you say about higher things is true and immutable — that “one with everything,” for example, is an irrefutable statement about the true nature of both Buddhism and being. And I think it’s just “metaphor,” or “art” if you prefer, or “vision” even, and as such no more nor less “true” than Blake’s “The Soul Hovering over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life.” William Blake was a visionary of great wisdom and integrity, and his revelations are as true and important as are the fantasies of Madame Blavatsy, Rudolf Steiner, Swedenborg, Jacob Boehme, and Mary Baker Eddy.

    As a result of your literal bent, you read Kim very differently from the way I do, and when images come up like a big gun, a stone Bodhisattva, a prayer, or a legend you go for the source, the date, the transmission and provenance, and then you stop there. Kim is a big wooly adventure story for you full of tit-bits of lore to look up, and you race through it with your encyclopedia flipping through your fingers like crazy. And that’s fun, of course it is, and valuable, but much less so if you stop there. For that’s just the beginning of the story, that’s just the first lap.

    Quite differently from that, I read Kim like I read Blake’s “The Soul Hovering over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life,” and when the parts of the vision make sense to me, when they seize me and shake me as Blake’s do so often, I stop and go back and read it over. I give them a chance to deepen like Shakespeare’s or Emily Dickinson’s, because in no way can I get what either of those towering geniuses and great, great human beings constructed to tell me — one in polyphony, the other in plainsong — in one reading.

    You say it very well in your last comment, Bill, setting out your own religious development: “But my experience was more positive; less abusive; more helpful. There are qualified Buddhist teachers; there is a Buddhist emotional, psychological and intellectual development that leads to a lessening of suffering and glimpses of a unity which is the duality of life. I have pointed to these as our conversation has progressed.” And yes you have, but the problem is that most of the time you just quote what your teacher or text says as if that were enough. Well, it may be for people in your own religion, but if you’re going to share those insights with people who are not members already, or in other words, with people who are not familiar with your vision, then you’re going to have to get in there and say what YOU mean in your own words. Otherwise it will be just more bible, and only comprehensible to your parishioners.

    You end up by saying, “Perhaps they [i.e. your Buddhist teachers and/or their teachings] were not germane to Kipling but they may yet offer insight into “The Buddha at Kamakura.” And of course they will, but it’s YOU that have to say them, it’s YOU that has to make them an experience that can be shared. Otherwise it’s still just bible.

    Which is not to say The Bible is not God’s word, just that the readers of God’s word speak many languages, and even more complicated than that, use different graphics in their visions.


    Thanks for that, Bill — I could never have said this if you hadn’t said what you did first.


  58. wfkammann said,

    June 29, 2011 at 9:42 am


    And I say, you’re welcome. And now let’s see what kind of critique you can heap on that.

    I do read you Christopher, yes I do. I don’t flip through encyclopedias but I do a little research before I say something and I don’t really need to read and re-read as you do; nor do I care to. You constantly set up your way of doing things; your interpretation; your idea of how I (and everyone else, including Trungpa) should be and act and think and respond to you.

    You are hardly normative, Christopher. Not being grounded in Buddhism you have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. Having taught literature for so many years, you have a teacher’s confidence in your superiority in class. But you’re not the last word here, although you would think so from your tone.

    As you rightly sense, my responses are not solely for you or in response to you. There is the little matter of Kim and Kipling and Family and the reader, whoever that might be. Somehow you must be a Lodestar or nothing at all.

    You imply that I am not saying what I mean to say and that if I would only say things more directly, and in response to you, and more by the spoonful everything would be much better. But I frustrate you, it seems, with a collage; a pastiche and offhand remark; a free association.

    Try this thesis. Trungpa, after the car accident, decided that he would have to give up the monk’s robes and the traditional teaching methods and remove the Buddhist Dharma completely from the Tibetan world and culture in which he had learned it. So, your soul-mate who started as an angel turns into an enemy. But now, surprise, surprise, YOU have decided that Kipling’s Lama has run from the monastery and entered the world of The Great Game and setting aside the Tibetan Culture is experiencing Enlightenment in a new and Western way. Is there an echo in this room??

    Perhaps I am too literal for you. You seem to have an evangelical zeal for your point of view; for your interpretation. You even proclaim how novel and unique it is. Maybe I should look for Buddhism in the newspapers or on TV. It’s here; it’s there; it’s everywhere, so, beware!

    Remember, Christopher, if I had your blinders, your wonderful education, your wealth of experience, I would certainly appreciate you in a way which I do not. True, you are willing to be lost, but, maybe, a little too proud of it, too.

    Please put in the Morphy puzzle, the Tiepolo drawing and the Swanee River in post 51. Thanks.


  59. June 29, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I didn’t post the graphics yesterday because my ADSL was down and I couldn’t upload them. I put them up early this morning but perhaps you hadn’t seen them.

    I still haven’t a clue what they mean though. I think the simplicity of the chess puzzle is breath-taking and of the Tiepolo drawing ditto, if that’s what you mean, but I thought you were using them to illustrate a short-coming in Kim. I love “Down by the Swanee River,” one of my earliest childhood memories, in fact, but I don’t understand why you chose that version, which I find stagey and the singing artsy. Is that what you meant?

    And, yes, that’s precisely what Trungpa said about himself, though in more visionary language. We had to put shots of whiskey out on the window-sill for the dakinis — he said he drank so much and messed up his life so the dakinis would leave him alone. They loved him so much they wanted to keep him in their realm so he had to plunge deeper and deeper into this one.

    And I buy that, and think he did.

    Ato Rimpoche was over 40 in 1959. He said Trungpa, who was only 19 when he came out, was simply too young and therefore in a precarious state. He said it was very, very difficult to train tulkus, and that that was why they were so strictly supervised until they were 40. They were so naughty, wild and fearless. Impossible!

    I was 19 in 1959 too, and having my first baby. And I was 29 when the dakinis were sitting on the bar-stools at the window, no more ready to deal with them than their beloved Trungpa lying besotted with something or other in his bed in my house.

    I remember being very struck that D.T.Suzuki at the end of his very long life bitterly regretted he had translated all those Zen texts. He said he would never have guessed they would be used so recklessly by such young people, referring of course to the Beats. He assumed that anyone would know that letting go only came after lots and lots of strict discipline — the texts he was referring to would never have been taught in Japan to practitioners under 40.


    I didn’t think my last comment would so upset you — I thought we were finding some ground.

    After a lot of work I am finding Kim more and more fertile which is why I’m taking the time to it explore it in such detail. Kim is, on the other hand, a limited and rather sad subject for you, the product of a hack writer with unresolved conflicts and too many problems at home. That’s just the opposite to my interest — I’m drawn more and more to the subtle intricacies within the novel itself while you look outwardly at the life of the author, a life which you feel reflects badly on his work.


    You hit two marks in your last comment. First of all, I was indeed trained to do close-reading, and I acknowledge that I do do that too with Kim. But you are unfair to suggest that I do close-reading just for it’s own sake. I think the way I write about Kim is unliterary and unpretentious, in fact — indeed I have had very little to pretend to in my life after I resigned my tenure at Cambridge at 29 and moved up to Eskdalemuir to take care of Trungpa, my wounded Lama.

    And yes, you’re quite right about the parallels you draw with one conspicuous exception. Trungpa and I were exactly the same age, within days, and Akong Rimpoche, his closest friend, said the two of us had always been together. Sometimes I even think I can feel what he meant.

    But I looked after Trungpa to the best of my ability, and the irony is that had I not been who I was and behaved as I did, Trungpa might never have gotten to America to get that tie on Allen Ginsberg or to found Naropa, two acts of his which I very much respect.


  60. wfkammann said,

    June 29, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    You write: Sometimes I even think I can feel what he meant.

    So, you believe that you have been with Trungpa in past lives? If he’d left the alcohol on the window sill he would have lived much longer.

    My point about Kipling is that he had a tremendous natural talent for writing. I read that he was able to keep 40 plots for short stories in his head. He had the facility of a Foster, Morphy or Tiepolo. Mozart, of course is the classic example. This is not his weakness. This is his strength.

    He could also soak up a scene quickly and describe it with color and detail. Henry James was a friend who wrote as I quote above: ‘His talent,’ James told Grace Norton, ‘I think quite diabolically great … But my view of his prose future has much shrunken in the light of one’s increasingly observing how little of life he can make use of.’

    Talent in art, chess and music or in writing is “a gift” and some have it to overflowing. Kipling did.

    Morphy was able to absorb the essence of chess as a child and going to England and the continent beat everyone in sight. Some list him as the greatest player ever; all feel that his mastery of opening positions is worth study even today. He considered chess unworthy of pursuit as a serious occupation. He tried to practice law but lived in New Orleans on his family fortune. He is called the first “modern” chess player.

    Foster is an interesting parallel. At age two he supposedly picked out harmonies on a guitar (Mozart picked out thirds and chords on the clavichord) He was influenced by a German classical musician and by clown and blackface singer who made a living in traveling circuses. He combined the classic song and minstrel song and is called the “father of American music.” Many of his songs have a Southern theme although he was only down the Mississippi once to New Orleans for his honeymoon. Like Morphy, there were no professional songwriters in his day and he died in New York trying to make a living writing music.

    Giambattista Tiepolo was also a self made man. He painted magnificent frescoes in Italy, Germany and Spain. He completed his first commission at 19. No fatal flaw here. A long and successful life, but an amazing talent.

    And Mozart, well you know about him.

    It is the existential part, the life of the artist, that comes into play in modern criticism and there has certainly been a great deal written about Kipling’s life and I share some of that above to point to a failed potential and some reasons for it. If Kim is his greatest work and it was begun at Naulakha with his father and dealt with material from Lahore, you see the problem right away. He said he would like to live in Bombay or Vermont but couldn’t due to his health and his personal conflicts. Sickly, angry, sarcastic, misanthropic but simultaneously a portrayer of he-men, a wise thinker (Recessional) and an icon of his society. He accepted honorary degrees but not a knighthood. He got the first Nobel for an English writer and was poet laureate. Rudyard Kipling: an angry adolescent or pre-adolescent genius trapped in an sick old man’s body. Not able to replicate the Square which formed him. His talented sister a self-centered mental health case. Spoiled brats; social climbers. Somebodies and Nobodies. Truly modern, like Morphy and Foster; truly talented but unable to express a great part of life or even participate in it.

  61. June 30, 2011 at 9:21 am

    There are other ways to have been together with something or someone “always,” or at least far longer than one lifetime would suggest. Re-incarnation is just a convenient short-hand or myth, a “sort-of-like” or a metaphor, and though it’s held as an article of faith by most Buddhists, the Buddha didn’t actually teach it. He danced all around it as it was the focus of most spirituality at the time, but he never endorsed it. He just used it as a kind of parable and then stepped aside.

    As with so many other existential nuts that are hard for human’s to crack, the experience of falling in love and being one with the beloved is another good parable. That’s why most compelling religious experiences are so romantic, like La Vita Nuova or the art-deco eroticism of so many Buddhist images:

    ………. Amoghasiddhi or the Green Tara


    I like all that about Morphy, Tiepolo and Foster. I had no idea. But I really don’t get why you feel that because of their limitations you feel they were “unable to express a great part of life or even participate in it.”

    They sound pretty normal to me with the exception of whatever it is that’s called “genius.” It seems to me that perhaps all of them, and certainly Rudyard Kipling who is the freshest in my mind, actually stood on the shoulders of their weaknesses to become became giants, like Emily Dickinson, or like me.

    I’m not a giant, you say, Bill, I’m much too limited? Certainly I have no fame, nor do I have any accomplishment or product that is just waiting to be discovered, but I’m still me, and I know that if I did have what Foster or Kipling had nobody would bother about my loneliness — if I still dared to call it that even, or my self-absorption. They’d love it!

    And even you’d get a mention!


    • wfkammann said,

      June 30, 2011 at 10:00 am

      That paragraph was about Kipling; not the others, although it applies to Foster as well. Sometimes I think you don’t even read me, Christopher.

      Of course, if you stood on the shoulders of your weaknesses you would tower above everyone. Even Emily Dickinson would be looking up to you.

      The Old Folks at Home was chosen because of the band which reminded me of something at Simla in the summer. It’s theatrical but it was the best version of the song I heard. Pittsburgh area has produces some humdingers: Foster, Warhol, Gertrude Stein to mention a few.

      Isn’t the Green Tara beautiful? Her posture is with right leg stretching out so that she can rise quickly to help you. She is the protector of meditators; a truly fierce and potent antidote to those who would harm you. When you meditate on her you can surround yourself with a rainbow of adamantine layers. Nobody gets to you then, not even you, Christopher and your honorable mention.

      I’m nobody! Who are you?
      Are you nobody, too?
      Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
      They’d banish us, you know.

      How dreary to be somebody!
      How public, like a frog
      To tell your name the livelong day
      To an admiring bog!

    • June 30, 2011 at 10:43 am

      Sorry, Bill, but I can’t just let that slip. You may have intended what you said about “limitations” to apply just to Kipling, but you didn’t set up your comment like that.

      You quoted the very interesting observation on Kipling by Henry James, that though Kipling’s genius was staggering his scope was very limited. James’ actual words were: “My view of his prose future has much shrunken in the light of one’s increasingly observing how little of life he can make use of.”

      You then go on to say in the next paragraph, “Talent in art, chess and music or in writing is “a gift” and some have it to overflowing. Kipling did.” That plus the James which inspired it is then followed immediately by paragraphs on Morphy and Foster, both of whom were also prodigies yet failures, at least in Henry James’ terms: geniuses working in narrow, unsustainable frameworks, natural facility that does not come to fruition in true greatness.

      Some people would include Mozart in that framework, and I thought you did too — I don’t so I wasn’t sure what you meant. Ditto Tiepolo.

      That’s why I asked you about what you meant initially — I read over what you wrote and looked at your graphics carefully but I really didn’t see how you could conclude: “There is something too easy about Kipling’s writing, almost like a Steven Foster song, a Morphy chess game or a Tiepolo drawing.”

      Finally, I find Henry James far more limited than Kipling, actually, despite his huge academic reputation, and feel that James’ sophistication and psychology are no match for Kipling’s humanity. Yes, humanity. A Man of his Times, for sure, but as society emerges out of the colonial era I feel sure it will be Rudyard Kipling, not Henry James, who will be the Man for all Seasons.


  62. wfkammann said,

    June 30, 2011 at 9:51 pm


    It is the existential part, the life of the artist, that comes into play in modern criticism and there has certainly been a great deal written about Kipling’s life and I share some of that above to point to a failed potential and some reasons for it. If Kim is his greatest work and it was begun at Naulakha with his father and dealt with material from Lahore, you see the problem right away. He said he would like to live in Bombay or Vermont but couldn’t due to his health and his personal conflicts. Sickly, angry, sarcastic, misanthropic but simultaneously a portrayer of he-men, a wise thinker (Recessional) and an icon of his society. He accepted honorary degrees but not a knighthood. He got the first Nobel for an English writer and was poet laureate. Rudyard Kipling: an angry adolescent or pre-adolescent genius trapped in an sick old man’s body. Not able to replicate the Square which formed him. His talented sister a self-centered mental health case. Spoiled brats; social climbers. Somebodies and Nobodies. Truly modern, like Morphy and Foster; truly talented but unable to express a great part of life or even participate in it.

    The question was this last paragraph and whether the the last sentence refers to Kipling or all three. It refers to Kipling. The entire paragraph refers to Kipling. It reflects the James remark but it refers to Kipling. The others are parallel examples and the last sentence may refer to them to some extent as well, but it is Kipling, Kipling, that fellow we’ve been talking about, who is meant here. And yes he may have a better heart than James, I don’t know that. He speaks to young people and you don’t end up examining the wallpaper pattern as you read him. Still James is probably a better novelist; Kipling a bitter misanthrope with a heart of gold: a broken heart of gold.

    Those of us not hampered by genius can just breathe a sigh of relief.

    I’m nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
    They’d banish us, you know.

    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!


  63. June 30, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Love your Tara, Bill, and what you say.

    I was very pleased to find out that in fact Tara’s got a very old pedigree, as of course she should, being indispensable to a meditator. In fact she’s the embodiment of an ancient ‘Jini ‘named ‘Siddhayika’ who predates your Tibetan mentor by 100s of years, and is still an important protective deity in the Jain community to this day. She ‘s what we might call a “Genie” (=‘Jini’) today, if we believed in such things, in other words a spirit of power that can assist you if you know how to summon and handle her. But she’s also an early ‘Boddhisattva’ in the Mahayana sense, a realized celestial being who incarnates to help and encourage all of us in our spiritual struggle to be better. She’s green like Tara too, and sits with one leg poised for quick action as well. As you’ll see she sits on a lion to boot — we say rides a tiger, or has one in her tank perhaps. And needlessly to say she’s ravishingly attractive.

    You can either visualize her presence as “surrounded with a rainbow of adamantine layers,” as you suggest, or you could just let yourself be in her embrace, like a woman. That might be better — but the gods and goddesses are entirely as you wish, and what you find helpful. They’re at your beck and call, so to speak, your genie in the bottle.

    …. Siddhayika - Jain Goddess & Protector


  64. wfkammann said,

    July 1, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Yes, Yakshas and Yakshinis are earth spirits and predate Buddhism certainly. Padmasambhava is the great sage guru from the Swat valley who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet. He had the power to tame all local yakshas and yakshinis. He is called the Lotus Born and we discussed him above a bit.

    In Tibetan Buddhism the Dakinis are very much like the Yakshinis. The female embodiment of enlightened energy serves as a teacher, guide and protector for the meditator. They help transform negative energy into the awareness that results in enlightenment.

    They are present at all stages of tantric practice from the secret to the inner and then outer levels including the use of a kamamudra or female consort (sexual partner) to achieve the results of imagining oneself as a tantric buddha or deity. The secret dakini is Prajnaparamita (the ultimate nature of reality lacking any permanent part). The inner dakini is the dakini of the mandala. The outer dakini is the subtle body of the meditator which transmutes the physical nature of the meditator into a state compatible with enlightenment. The kamamudra is a female (in traditional heterosexual terms) yogini. Using sexual desire in the path to enlightenment is a method which may show rapid improvement since the orgasmic mind is identified as similar to the enlightened mind.

    Tantra is the final practice for Tibetan monks and only for those with the capacity to use it. Monks without the proper preparation are liable to get sidetracked by the sex, drugs and rock and roll.

    ………..White Tara
    …………………………………………….White Tara

    The Taras are of this nature, and the Green Tara is a protector and one envisages not her but you within that adamantine sphere (or maybe the two of you in there together). Yes, the female (consort) represents Wisdom, and the male represents Method (action). It is this combination of female and male energies which opens the way to realization of a non-duality as the ultimate nature of the good/bad world we live in. Think of the orgasmic mind. At that moment there is no good or bad, inside or out. There is only that one experience which is all consuming and all encompassing. Do we live in a world in a constant state of orgasm? Not a bad idea, and maybe not so far from the truth.

  65. July 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I introduced in my last post the beautiful ‘Jini,’ Siddhayika, a Jain goddess who manifested herself yet again quite a lot later in Tibet as Tara. This is what I said about her in my usual foolish way: “You can either visualize her presence as ‘surrounded with a rainbow of adamantine layers,’ as you [Bill] suggest, or you could just let yourself be in her embrace, like a woman. That might be better — but the gods and goddesses are entirely as you wish, and what you find helpful. They’re at your beck and call, so to speak, your genie in the bottle.”

    Bill then goes on to give a much fuller account of Tara, expounding on her qualities and functions as would a Tibetan scholar at his desk on the cliff. He writes: “The female embodiment of enlightened energy serves as a teacher, guide and protector for the meditator. They help transform negative energy into the awareness that results in enlightenment.” And I much respect that sort of clarity, I really do, and even admit that at certain periods in my life I have felt I knew what that meant and even tried to do something about it. But I didn’t get very far, obviously, and feel much more comfortable when Bill caves in at the end and even begins to sound a bit ditzy like me. Here’s how that sounds: “Think of the orgasmic mind. At that moment there is no good or bad, inside or out. There is only that one experience which is all consuming and all encompassing. Do we live in a world in a constant state of orgasm? Not a bad idea, and maybe not so far from the truth.”

    Lockwood and Rudyard Kipling wrestled with similar material, but they didn’t live at a time like ours when it was fashionable to be a Buddhist, and I doubt they even knew what that meant. Instead they integrated hunches they had about Buddhism, very respectful ones, obviously, and I suspect passionately debated. They took these hunches and wove them together with the wild adventures and wonderful characters on the dusty roads of India that would in the end become Kim. And they stumbled on something truly remarkable, I feel, something very personal that really matters. Indeed, it’s my argument that the father and son watched the character of the Lama stumble through a kind of “enlightenment,” but one that had little to do with what it says about Enlightenment in Buddhist texts, both what it is and how it might be accomplished. And I feel that this was a major achievement that is rarely recognized. Indeed, I’ve found no help on this matter whatsoever from anyone but W.F.Kammann, and he has helped mostly by jamming very big spanners in my works. Which has prevented me from saying anything that I don’t think is true to the best of my ability, and I mean that.

    But Blll doesn’t do that for once with Tara, and I want to build on what he says in Part III of my exploration of what actually happens to the Lama and how we might understand that for the benefit of all sentient beings.

    And to warm that up even a bit more, here are a series of images arising out of this exchange. They still thrill me, all of them, and I hope they will you too.

    ……… Green Tara
    ………………………………………….. Green Tara

    ……………………….. Tantric Buddha
    ……………………………………………….. Tantric Buddha

    ………………….“Wisdom & Means,” Christopher Woodman (1978)
    ………(Carved from a single slab of the beech tree that fell on his house,
    ………the stump having been turned up-side down like his life for the carving.)

    ……………………………. “Wisdom & Means” – detail


  66. wfkammann said,

    July 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I remember that sculpture.

    There is the wonderful story of the Taras originating from the tears of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara. White Tara bestows long life and is a healer. Green Tara is more wrathful and provides a safe place to meditate. The entire idea e.g. in the Six Yogas of Naropa is to develop a practice which enables you to determine the place of your subsequent reincarnation. There is even a practice for transferring your consciousness into a fresh corpse. Tsongkhapa writes a commentary on this; so their may be something to it. It seems a bit ghoulish to me; like vampires who cannot die. The bloodthirsty dakinis are in this vein.

    I didn’t mean to be ditsy (I’m sure I am anyway) but the final realization is of a reality filled with great bliss where phenomena arise miraculously and spontaneously. So bring on Part III.

  67. July 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Part III

    I see no evidence in Kim that the authors, father or son, were Buddhists, and am not in the least interested in making the argument that Kim is a “Buddhist novel,” or that a knowledge of Buddhism is essential to understanding it. On the other hand, the novel plays furiously on almost every page with the endless spectacle of human religions and religious identities that is India, and even though a reader today is likely to be better informed about the differences between Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, and Buddhism, etc, because that’s just a start, most people will not look to Kim for a religious message or even consider that it might have some purpose other than to just entertain. Even for you, Bill, it’s just an Easy Rider.

    Which may or may not have had a religious message, by the way, i.e. Easy Rider, or at least may or may not be in the process of acquiring one. Which Kim may be too if anyone is taking this thread seriously beside me.

    On the other hand, the novel does go somewhere quite deliberately, indeed it is my argument that the Kiplings were explicitly aware that to get there the novel has to reinterpret, or freshen-up might be a better way of saying it, re-assess perhaps, the fundamental tenets of Buddhism that are carved in the stone of the great Gandhara Buddhas that have been keeping watch over the Curator of the Lahore Museum. We’ve already discussed the key passage at the very end where the “enlightened” Lama is seen as a “stone Boddhisat” looking back on “the patent self-registering turnstiles” at the entrance to the Lahore Museum” (pretty good that, Bill, “self-registering!).” But more than that, as the Lama and Kim are slowly making their way down from “the rampart of the Himalayas” toward safety in the valley in the last chapter, having realized the Way lay not in tackling the high citadel of Buddhist asceticism but somewhere in “the well-cropped, kindly Plains” below, the Lama makes an extraordinary connection between the way he has come to see things and the Curator of the Lahore Museum, the “Wonder House.” At a very moving moment in the first few pages, the curator gives the Lama his own glasses so that the old man can “see.” And recalling that moment now at the end of his life the Lama says, “I am certain the Keeper of the Images in the Wonder House was in past life a very wise Abbot” – which in Tibetan terms would mean that the Curator was a tulku, a Boddhisattva, in other words, an “incarnate Lama,” and therefore well-equipped both to be and to teach the Lama!

    The Curator of the Lahore Museum was, of course, Lockwood Kipling, who joined his son Rudyard in a very close collaboration to write Kim, and the novel is in some ways about the relationship between the father and son as well. So it should not be surprising that at the very end, the Lama should also describe the 16 year old Kim, Rudyard’s alter-ego, as the Buddha’s closest friend and companion, Ananda. “Never was such a chela,” says the Lama referring to Kim as a disciple in training, “I doubt at times whether Ananda more faithfully nursed Our Lord” – a wonderful association which ends up by suggesting that Kim is also, on some level at least, a parable.

    Every reader today is aware of the fact that Rudyard as a child grew up in India, and many also know that he was brought up by native nannies and servants who spoke various Indian dialects with him, not English, and spoiled him outrageously. Less well-known is the fact that at six he was ripped out of that perfect polyglot, womb-like nest to be taken back to frigid old England and placed in an abusive boarding-house/school without any explanation from his parents — and left there for what amounted to 10 whole years alone. Abandoned, expelled from paradise as a punishment for something he could never understand, humiliated by those who loved him most — that was Rudyard Kipling’s connundrum, as it was also Lockwood’s, his father, who had allowed it to happen. And I feel sure that the collaboration that produced Kim sought both to explain and mend the terrible rupture that had intervened between them. But I also feel that this dilemma is fundamental for anyone who is to become fully human, that indeed discipline really is essential to our growth, and even, yes, that we learn more when we get hurt – to be brief! But that’s also why it’s never enough just to rely on the Training, just to focus on the Knowledge, however High, or the Experience we gain through Self-Control, Discipline, Concentration, Will-power, and in Buddhist terms, Perfect Awareness. That’s never enough, ever — but if you’re on that path, if you’re totally self-reliant and self-focussed, even to the extent that you can send your little six year old son away to be humiliated, bullied and beaten, as any English family would have done at the time if they could afford it, and many still do, then you eventually have to stoop in humility too, cry perhaps, or more likely just shut up in old age. And if in the end you can find love and forgiveness too, even just a little, you can settle down in your puddle like the Lama and realize the pursuit of Perfection itself may well have been the problem.

    “The lama raises a hand toward the rampart of the Himalayas. ‘Not with you, O blessed among all hills, fell the Arrow of Our Lord! And never shall I breathe your airs again!’

    “’But thou art ten times the stronger man in this good air,’ says Kim, for to his wearied soul appeal the well-cropped, kindly Plains. ‘Here, or hereabouts, fell the Arrow, yes. We will go very softly, perhaps, a koss a day, for the Search is sure. But the bag weighs heavy.’

    “’Ay, our Search is sure. I have come out of great temptation.’”


    The realization that human heights, whether of power, culture or spirituality, are always a source of personal temptation and corruption, all three of them, and that the scaling of such heights is itself almost always a fall, that paradox is worked out in wondrous ways in Kim on all levels including the autobiographical. Of course one has to be very cautious not to read too much in that last way, the text as a psychological case-study, but this story of a Lama and his chela is enormously deepened if one can also feel what a relief it is for most fathers and sons to sit down at some point in a puddle, and for priests and hermits ditto.

    “But even his spectacles do not make my eyes see,” says the Lama about Lockwood’s glasses. “There fall shadows when I would look steadily. No matter – we know the tricks of the poor stupid carcass – shadow changing to another shadow. I am bound by the illusion of Time and Space. How far came we today in the flesh?”

    (end Part III – one Part to go!)

  68. wfkammann said,

    July 2, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    (pretty good that, Bill, “self-registering!) I think that means they had a counter on them.

    most people will not look to Kim for a religious message or even consider that it might have some purpose other than to just entertain. Even for you, Bill, it’s just an Easy Rider.

    I always wince when you tell me what I think. Kim is a novel which explores the relationships among different cultures during the British occupation of India and The Great Game. It presents a portrait of an “Irish” boy who passes for native (Kipling) and in so doing examines some of the same questions as the Kamakura poem:

    Kim, Chapter I:
    O ye who tread the Narrow Way
    By Tophet -flare to Judgment Day,
    Be gentle when the ‘heathen’ pray
    To Buddha at Kamakura!

    Kim, Chapter II:
    And whoso will, from Pride released,
    Contemning neither creed nor priest,
    May feel the Soul of all the East
    About him at Kamakura.

    Kim, Chapter III:
    Yea, voice of every Soul that clung
    To life that strove from rung to rung
    When Devadatta’s rule was young,
    The warm wind brings Kamakura.

    The scenes on the road and especially in the trains show aspects of Indian life which continue today. Holy Men of every sect and none at all are respected; revered and supported by the general population. The folks on the train may not know a Buddhist from a Hindu or Sikh but they are “religious” (or superstitious) enough to respect the Lama and Kim as well.

    That is the development in the novel: Kim moves from being an impostor to actually becoming a chela to the Lama, or does he? When people respect him at first it is as a chameleon. He joins the Lama initially to learn more about the world (he’s never seen a Buddhist) and help him beg since he is very savvy in this department. But does he actually develop into a practitioner? Does he realize what the Wheel of Life symbolizes and does he see how it works in the world? His teachers are a Buddhist Lama, a Muslim horse trader, and an English/Christian officer and a trainer of spies.

    The actual Catholic Priest and Protestant Clergyman are given short shrift and only serve to transition Kim into those stiff clothes and his new life as a sahib. They say Kipling’s skin was too dark; there was talk that he was not his father’s son. The contrast in presentation between the Christians and those of other faiths is telling. The spirituality of the non-Christians is palpable. The Christians are as cold and stiff as Kim’s new clothes.

    Christopher, you don’t ask why the Lama agreed to go up into the hills again. Do you think he was so stupid that he forgot where the Buddha shot the arrow? Was the Lama a part of The Great Game all along? Was the curator also in the loop? In this case, since he would have known Kim, perhaps he arranged for Kim to accompany the Lama on his quest. This could also explain his continued involvement including payment of tuition. The Lama is a dodo I guess, or is he?

    Kim’s mother is a Kuru; his “woman” is The Woman of Shamlegh, the head of a village and a “sadder but wiser girl” when it comes to dealing with Sahibs. But here we have an important theme in the novel. There are no Gods, but the person you love can become that God for you. Yes, you may lose. You may be left at the church or wait in vain for their return. But to have loved is what’s important in the end. Kim learns this lesson from her. And so, devastated by his manly combat and newfound manhood and great responsibility he descends with his Lama on a litter carried by two of her husbands.

    ‘These also acquire merit,’ said the lama after three miles.
    ‘More than that, they shall be paid in silver,’ quoth Kim. The Woman of Shamlegh had given it to him; and it was only fair, he argued, that her men should earn it back again.

    That’s the old Kim but a new man now with money in his pocket; strengthened to manhood in the mountains (the direction of HIS quest); exhausted by his encounters and in need of the real mothering he never had.

    Because things come into being depending on other things they have no permanent (inherent) nature themselves. Kim kisses the girl and enters the world of men (a world of good and bad; a world of interdependence). The old Lama falls into the creek and thereby rises above the dual world for a moment and achieves a realization of oneness. Both are dealing with the same reality.

    That is the parallel in the ending.
    Dependent Arising=Emptiness. Kim sees the connectedness in the mountains; the Lama sees the oneness in the plain; it is the same realization for the wise. Right Christopher?

  69. July 3, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I like your analysis very much once you get through the dirt at the beginning, which does hurt — as you intended.

    So just let me say for once, I too wince when you tell me what you “think” about what I say — because it so often has in it a large dose of put-down. You play the plain, uncomplicated guy in order to portray me as inflated. You dismiss my views as romantic, and my carefully substantiated readings as dilettantish, and that’s unkind.

    The following is just for the record, and why I mentioned Easy Rider (which is actually a film with a great deal to say, almost a parable like Kim…)

    It’s a sampling of the way you diminish Kim, sometimes I feel almost as a vendetta — but honestly, against what I really don’t know. Because if that’s all you see, I wonder why you bother, with Kim or with me?

    Comment 12
    “Your remarks put me in mind of the end of Kim. They have gone up the mountain. The old monk getting stronger as he returns to his environment, and Kim, too, putting on muscle and moving from boyhood to manhood. Kim, Kim, Kim who is Kim? he meditates. The Russian and Frenchman, players of The Great Game, have come over the mountain, struck the lama, brought the man out in Kim, and sent them both back down toward the plain.

    “Kim now has the weight of the world on his shoulders and a sick lama to carry. When he reaches the home of the old woman, she cures him and the lama has his adventure of realization.

    …………………. [Quote: Chapter XV, “Enlightenment” passage]

    “So life begins for Kim. The magic of his boyhood and the magical boy are lost. The old monk fulfills his life but, like a good Bodhisattva, returns out of love for Kim. There’s something unsatisfactory in the ending. But maybe there’s always something unsatisfactory in the beginning; the middle and the end.”

    Reply to Comment 47
    “Clearly Kim is the hero of the novel and not the Lama or Buddhism. It is a boy’s coming of age and entering the dangerous world of responsibilities and duty. Not a natural thing for Kipling/Kim. Once he got his Capricorn mate he never had to venture out again. He was always protected but the world still intruded with the death of his favorite child and his son, sent half blind to his death.”

    Comment 60
    “Rudyard Kipling: an angry adolescent or pre-adolescent genius trapped in a sick old man’s body. Not able to replicate the Square which formed him. His talented sister a self-centered mental health case. Spoiled brats; social climbers. Somebodies and Nobodies. Truly modern, like Morphy and Foster; truly talented but unable to express a great part of life or even participate in it.”

    Comment 62
    “And yes he [Kipling] may have a better heart than James, I don’t know that. He speaks to young people and you don’t end up examining the wallpaper pattern as you read him. Still James is probably a better novelist; Kipling a bitter misanthrope with a heart of gold: a broken heart of gold.

    “Those of us not hampered by genius can just breathe a sigh of relief.

    ………………………. “I’m nobody! Who are you?
    ………………………. Are you nobody, too?”

    I’ll get to the good stuff in what you say a bit later, after I’ve let this go.


  70. July 3, 2011 at 11:13 am

    We get much closer to a shared vision of the novel in what you say in your last comment. But there remain a few important differences.

    1.) I’m a little wary of your distinction between “religious” and “superstitious” with regard to the people of India as represented in the novel. “Superstition” is a Judaeo-Christian prejudice which cannot be applied to the vast majority of the world’s population who don’t just believe but know that the spirit world exists, and who see and touch visitors from it everyday. The only characters who share the “superstition” prejudice in the novel are the Christians of various stripes, and of course that great Muslim, Mahbub Ali — he even places Jannatu l’Adn (the Garden of Eden) in that category! Even the Lama is, from a Judaeo-Christian point of view, superstitious, even after his Enlightenment — and I will quote the whole passage because I so love it:

    “With a hitch of his broad Bokhariot belt the Pathan swaggered off into the gloaming, and the lama came down from his clouds so far as to look at the broad back.

    “‘That person lacks courtesy, and is deceived by the shadow of appearances. But he spoke well of my chela, who now enters upon his reward. Let me make the prayer! … Wake, O fortunate above all born of women. Wake! It is found!’

    “Kim came up from those deep wells, and the lama attended his yawning pleasure; duly snapping fingers to head off evil spirits.”

    2.) I would say that a chameleon is NOT an imposter any more than a juggler is, or a priest, writer or actor — and one would miss a whole lot of the subtlties of Kim if one read it as a morality tale in which a bad boy learned not to lie. I would argue that Kim doesn’t have to learn not to lie because he’s the truth already, in a sense, he’s so naturally transparent and aware, at least to those who can see. And that’s why he’s chosen for positions of the very highest responsibility by the very best people right from the start, the Lama, Mahbub Ali, Creighton, Lurgan Sahib. They all know he’s the real thing, a genuine “practitioner” — a sort of holy fool, I would say, a Loki, Hanuman, or Papageno. When Mahbub Ali realizes he’s become the chela of a wandering Lama, he doesn’t hesitate to entrust him to deliver the Pedigree of the White Stallion, a hugely important mission. And of course, the Wheel of Life is where Kim’s at from the start too — it’s his natural habitat, the stage upon which he plays every role.

    I think both Lockwood and Rudyard would have agreed to all that too…

    I find it very interesting that at the end of the novel everybody wants Kim to become a “teacher” — that’s almost a refrain, in fact. Or a “scribe!” But does Kim “develop,” in fact, is this really a “coming of age” story in which a boy “grows up” to be a strong and honest man? Well, I see no signs of “development” in a western sense whatsoever — and as Rudyard Kipling never got passed sixteen himself and still managed to become a very successful, influential, and well-paid “scribe,” there’s obviously hope for Kim too.

    Though you, Bill, would hold all that against the boy’s creator!

    3.) “Kim’s mother was a Kulu,” you write — that is a hill-tribe woman from the same region as Lispeth, the Woman of Shalegh. All we know is that his mother was a nurse-maid in a British officer’s family, which means she could have been “Indian” and not “white,” but as far as I know Kipling never said that — and probably would have felt he couldn’t. But that’s all very fertile, that Lispeth could have been his aunt or, god-damn it, even his mother (read the short story called ‘Lispeth” with that in mind and you’ll sky-rocket!)

    I’m not sure what message you think Kim learns from the wonderful Woman of Shamlegh, but it’s certainly not about sex — he’s had plenty of that before, as everybody tells us at any opportunity, and in any case he doesn’t do it with her. I also don’t feel receiving her money is some sort of ritual to manhood bestowing on him for the first time a sense of empowerment. For one thing, Kim’s been given money many times before, and for another the sum is so little, and he’s so tired.

    I think you get closer to the meaning of Lispeth when you say, “There are no Gods, but the person you love can become that God for you. Yes, you may lose. You may be left at the church or wait in vain for their return. But to have loved is what’s important in the end.” Because that is what happened to Lispeth and also to Kim himself, in a sense, as both an orphan and a chela. And that’s certainly part of it.

    As I tried to show in my “Part II” comment which included a photo of a beautiful hill-tribe woman, I think there is a great deal more to the Feminine in Kim altogether than just biographical details, and that the Lama may tell us more about that in his story even than the boy. That indeed is how we got into all that Tantric material on this thread, and I would say that in my reading that sort of imagery is fundamental to Kim. I don’t mean specifically Tantric, indeed I don’t mean any specific philosophy or practice, more a hunch, an image, a way-of-saying-it, although the Kiplings may have known about it specifically from both Hindu and Buddhist sources. I mean something much larger and more general than a text or painting from Tibet, something more universal that all enquiring human beings come to find out. But I’ll start to repeat myself if I get into that — if you want to read more on this you can go here or for more images here.

    4. You write: “That is the parallel in the ending. 
Dependent Arising=Emptiness. Kim sees the connectedness in the mountains; the Lama sees the oneness in the plain; it is the same realization for the wise. Right Christopher?”

    Right, Bill — but that language is not of the novel, and if I didn’t know a bit about the source of that discourse, have a bit of a grasp on that imagery, or algerbra really, code, I wouldn’t have a clue what you meant. And frankly, I’m tremendously grateful to artists like Kipling who can make that philosophy not only comprehensible without specialst training but make it fly!

    And in the end I’d say it’s a love story, “Dependent Arising = Emptiness.” Indeed it’s a love story just like Kim.

    And with that said I think we’ll have no more problems.


  71. wfkammann said,

    July 4, 2011 at 3:22 am


    You’ll be happy to know, I didn’t think we had a problem to start with. You call me incompetent; I say I wince: par for the course. I don’t believe I called you a dilettante, coming from me that would be a compliment in any case.

    I have been developing the theme of Emptiness and Dependent Arising in this thread too; so it should not be such a surprise. See Comment 5 on “The Two Truths.” No this language is not in the novel but what do you think The Wheel of Life represents if not the results of actions based on ignorance? So there is the Wheel and the Stream of the Arrow/ Dependent Arising and Emptiness. The point for the novel was that Kim enters the world of dependent arising; the Lama the realization of Emptiness, but in the end they are the same thing; not two different things.

    I am not making a distinction between religious and superstitious; simply using two words which might account for their behavior. After the kiss, as I recall, Kim still doesn’t have any silver. That must have come later; so, I don’t think you can say that they didn’t have sex any more than you can say with certainty that he had had a lot of sex. How do you know that? He shakes his head no later when the Kuru woman points out the signs of dissolution in him but “who do you trust” a savvy old woman or Kim?

    When the Kuru woman cures him he says that he wants to call her mother. She acts as a mother to him and I am not sure from the story who had been his “mother” before. I’m just reading the book. The trip to the mountains involves two women. It is driven by a new identity (Player in The Great Game) and there is a transition there between the boy of the plains and the young man in the mountains. The Lama too gains strength, but when he is struck on the very spot of his first injury of aggression there awakens again in him the agony of being trapped on the Wheel and he remembers his purpose again and descends (or does he know exactly what has happened there and now can finally return?) Did you not wonder why Kim is entrusted to the Lama by all of his handlers for his “finishing school” before he starts into The Great Game full time? Is it that he is still too young? Is it to practice assuming another identity? Or why did the Muslim, Mahbub Ali consult with the Lama for two days after his “Enlightenment?” And by the way, I never EVER said that Kim was honest. Not for a moment! Master of deceit, master of disguise, yes; honest? hardly. Remember, his new identity as a Sahib is more foreign to him than any other.

    Significantly, the Kuru woman is a center of the tale. You’ll remember, when Kim had to go to school he encouraged the Lama to stay with her, but she was too much for him and he left. In The Naulahka, incidentally, the queen mother is a Kulu and brings a bride from the North for her son.

  72. July 4, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Yes, you have indeed mentioned the theme of “Emptiness and Dependent Arising,” Bill, but until your last two comments I have seen no attempt on your part either to “develop” the theme or link it specifically to Kim. Your full-length presentation of the doctrine in Comment 5 doesn’t even mention the novel, for example, and I took you up on that at the time too. The whole discourse is a high altitude philosophical concept that only makes sense in a very narrow, dialectical framework, lacking as it does any objective correlative.

    And I know what I’m saying, and yes, I know very well that what I say is just as dense and obscure — which is my point! My own last sentence is as closed a book to those uninitiated in Dialectical Criticism as yours is to non-Buddhists — and closed even to a lot of those, I would say, if not most!

    In my bad sentence I deliberately left out the one word that could have opened the concept up to normal people, and that was “metaphor” instead of “objective correlative.” But even that word is part of a specialist discourse, I know, which is why I try to find ways to soften it up whenever I use it like “image,” for example, or quite recently “sort-of-like” and “parable.”

    Which is how I read Kim.

    My bottom-line on Kim is that before the story began the Lama was faced with a similar dislocation in himself way up in his monastery in Tibet — he tells the Curator as much in the first chapter. The strict Buddhist training in dialectic, textual analysis, memorization, ritual and spiritual discipline had left him “dry” in his soul, as Christian monks sometimes say. Though a high Abbot full of knowledge and much respected, the Lama felt frustrated, aimless, a novice even in his own practice, and he came down to the plains of India to find a new sort of lighter, less rarefied, more engaged enlightenment. And of course he met the boy Kim, his Papageno, who in a sense becomes the old monk’s mentor, leading him little by little back to earth where, in the abode of the women, he could at last get a final good soak in what’s what!

    A metaphor. A nutshell. What you meant all along, Bill, I know — because it’s actually, in reality that is, quite orthodox. It just has to be visualized anew.

    Kim as mentor, or Rudyard — an act which is otherwise called Paradox.


  73. July 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Part IV. The End

    It’s the “enlightenment” of the Lama at the very end that makes Kim as a novel, it seems to me, the passage is so dramatic, beautifully expressed with its liturgical and Miltonic cadences, and satisfying in the way it concludes the search for the River of the Arrow, the most delicate thread in the plot. But I’d go beyond that. I’d say the final vision also has the power to remake the novel almost as a Parable if a reader feels inclined to go that way — that is, if there’s something in a reader, images, let’s say, memories, dreams, or actual experiences, perhaps ones already couched in Buddhist and/or Christian language, that resonate with the vision and, in so doing, prove that the reader and the writer are both on the right track. A reader so touched may well want to go back and reread the whole thing as I did, and let it all happen again in search of even deeper confirmation.

    I’ve also reread this whole thread, all 90 odd comments, and am very interested in the way both Bill and myself made our positions clear about how we read the Vision way back at the beginning. And I think neither of us could do better, so rather than adding another lengthy analysis of this fundamental chapter I’ll just let you go back and reread what we said.

    Bill quotes the whole vision here with some analysis.

    Christopher analyzes his version of the vision here .

    Bill re-examines the Buddhist implications of it here

    I think that’s a fair and convenient way to conclude this massive thread, quite an adventure if I must say so myself.

    Who would have ever thought it would go where it did at the start?


  74. wfkammann said,

    July 4, 2011 at 11:33 pm


    Have enjoyed our adventure with Kim. To quote the holy man:

    “‘Go in hope, little brother,’ he said. ‘It is a long road to the feet of the One; but thither do we all travel.’”


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