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BORGES' ALLUSIONS TO HINDUISM AND BUDDHISM Author(s): Didier Jan Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of South Asian Literature,

Vol. 16, No. 1, Part I: EAST-WEST LITERARY RELATIONS (Winter, Spring 1981), pp. 17-29 Published by: Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University Stable URL: . Accessed: 19/06/2012 06:04
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Didier Jan AND BUDDHISM TO HINDUISM BORGES1 ALLUSIONS Indian religions in a context Latin American and seemingly Oneof the mostrecentbooksof that ever-increasing on the following list of Borges1 criticism makes startling comment unending the studyof Borges1literary sources: to be gained from Thereis not much listing the authorsin other languageswhom Borgeshas read and the nineteenth writtenabout. Theytend to be from and to make,these days, or early twentieth century c collection.! a ratherexcentri This may be true, of course, for a studythat considers Borges1litto be based on the belief in the point of view of Formalism) erature (from of fiction from the absolute autonomy reality, and interpretseach of Borges' stories as a rhetorical artifact illustrating itself (illustrating, that is, the act of fiction writingitself). 2 of Borges1literature On the otherhand,there is the interpretation and using scheme" controlledby his esthetic-metaphysical as "thoroughly allusion as the basic literary techniqueto illustrate this scheme: "For Borges,allusion first of all expresses the collapse of timeand the disintechnique[of allusion] destroyschrotegrationof personality"; "Borges1 of the samemind: to think nologyand treats identical ideas as enactments the timeallusions is to demonstrate the sameis to be the same. To make "3 mind. less universalityof the human It is possible to supportbothpoints of viewon the basis of Borges1 as their authorshave so aptly shown. It is also possible own statements, not contradicteach other. For a writer that the twopoints of viewmay to the act of whoseemsto believe that the act of life is tantamount creation (or at least plays with that possibility), it seemsratherarduous the act of fiction writingand the act of living to distinguishbetween distinctions whichDonQuixotewas the understandable (granted,of course, . unable to make) What seemsimpossibleis to be able to appreciate fully or even undere collection" of whatthat "excentri art without stand Borges1 knowing authorsalluded to by Borgesstands for. Indeed,we can enjoy a story by ever havingheardof Berkeley, Borges(say, "TheCircular Ruins") without more but how fully we appreciate it if we have. Not that our interpolation and perfectunit, will improve the story, whichis a complete of Berkeley be enhanced but the experienceof whichthe story is a part may by the to focus on one of association of the two. This study,then, is an attempt the facets of that collection whichto this point has been undeservedly neglected.

-18our title refers bothto Hinduism Athough and Buddhism, the emphasis will be on the latter. It wouldbe difficult to distinguishbetween the twoin Borges1literature, partly because Borgeshimselfdoes not make such clear-cut distinctions, and partly because of the natureof the subject itself: Themore the moreit superficially one studies Buddhism, seemsto differ from Brahmanism in which [i.e. Hinduism] difit originated; the more our studythe more profound ficult it becomes to distinguishBuddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in whatrespect if any Buddhism is really unorthodox.4 to bothHinduism in the and Buddhism Thus,we have kept the reference title since in someinstances Borgesdrawson essential ideas and literary documents that may in contrast to be consideredcommon to both. However, direct allusions to Buddhism, are Borges1 specific allusions to Hinduism be significant in the sense that precisely that sparse. This contrastmay in whichBorgescoincides withBuddhism (as we shall see later) is what, from othersystems: accordingto Borgeshimself,distinguishesBuddhism "In contrastto other philosophicalsystems of India, Buddhism denies the existence of the soul9" he says in the article "ThePersonalityand "5 Buddha. in the essay "Noteon (Towards)Bernard Shaw,"writtenabout However, the sametime (1951), Borgesbases his highesteemof the British playon the fact that his creations, in contrastto other contemporary wright writers, accordingto Borges,do not foster the cult of the personality, that illusion of the self condemned by the Vedanta: Man's characterand its variations are the essential of the novel of our times: lyric poetryis the theme and misforof love's fortunes complacent magnification and Jasperturneach of Heidegger tunes; the philosophy one of us into the interestinginterlocutorof a secret or withthe and continuous dialogue with nothingness be may formally divinity. Thesedisciplines, which admirable,foster that illusion of the self whichthe Vedanta rejects as a capital error. Theyoften play at desperationand anguish,but in essence flatter vanity; theyare in this sense, immoral. Shaw'swork,on the otherhand,leaves a taste of the Portico and the taste of the sagas.6 This final association of the Vedanta withthe teachingsof the Stoics and of the sagas illustrates one of the mosttypical characteristics of of allusion, historical and geographiBorges' literature in which,bymeans cal distances are madeto vanishto showthe unityof mind or spirit in mankind (as R. Christ has pointedout) or in the literary world(as Sturrock of course, is not exclusively Borgesian(alwouldput it). This tendency, the mostefthough Borgeshas refinedthe literary techniqueto accomplish fective and startling results). In a way,Borges' literature could be seen as part (and also as culmination) of that eclectic tendency of the turnof the century and first part of the presentone (as in Theosophy), that saw,or to find, a synthesisof all religions, philosophies, and sciences attempted or metaphysical in the revival of a transcendental (literary, for Borges) a viewwhich of all knowledge; discovered,or re-discovered, interpretation

-19and religion, but whichalso saw that ancient roots in Indian philosophy as a partial expressionof universal truths, as Coomaraswamy, philosophy > 1944) saw it: "The echoingAldousHuxley{ThePerennialPhilosophy and as such, Indian tradition is one form of the PhilosophiaPerennins, those universal truthsto whichno one people or age can make embodies exclusive claim."7 be seen that many of the general statements Thusit may that one can in Borges1literaand Buddhism make in relation to allusions to Hinduism of metature, can apply as well to allusions to other authorsor systems on Buddhist themes, touching Borgesmakes physical knowledge.Often,when as well to western reference philosophical sources or to other literary and and the or Hinduism, religious authors. Thusdirect referencesto Buddhism seen withinthe similarityof Borges1ideas to their essential ideas, when be consideredas part of a more total contextof Borges1literature, may of references whichcovers the entire "esoteric tradicomprehensive system atonism, Gnosticism, the tion" from Buddhism, Sufism,Neo-Pi Hinduism, such as Kabbalah,and Christianmystics,as well as Idealist philosophers and Schopenhauer, and Transcendental ist writers like WaltWhitman Berkeley or Emerson, whose works also have roots in oriental thought and religion. the tradition which, Bythe "esoteric tradition" is meant,roughly, the intuor literature,tries to convey throughout religion, philosophy, and God,or of man and the underlying ition of the fundamental unityof man . What that source of all that exists (a sort of PhilosophiaPerennis) unityconsists of is opento speculation (or invention)and at this point is where Borges1literature comesin. It has generallybeen held by the critics that the origin of Borges1 of his literature can be traced to Berkeley's esthetic and, consequently, by Borgeshimselfin the philosophical idealism. This is corroborated "8 In this essay, Berkeley's negationof of Berkeley. essay "TheCrossroads the reality of the objective worldis expanded by Borges,using the same of idealism, to a negationof the reality of the personal self. arguments It is this intuition, that the self does not exist as a permanent reality, that constitutesthe central intuition of Borges' literature and its startfashionin the first paraing point. Thushe states in almosttextbook of Personality": graphof the essay "TheNothingness of purpose: Statement I wantto abate the exceptional pre-eminence that todayis usually given to the self: I amspurredto of this by a yeryfirmcertainty,and not by the whim an ideological deceptionor a rashly preaccomplishing intellectual cleverness. I intendto provethat mature to by conceit and consented personalityis a dream basis nor essential habit, but without anymataphysical I wantto apply to literature the reality. Furthermore, and to confrom these premises consequences emanating an esthetic hostile to the psycho! struct uponthem ogism an esthetic into us by the last century, bequeathed the most clined towards the classics and vet encouraging disparate tendenciesof our day.9 The rest of the essay expounds differentargument to undermine the belief in the existence of a permanent self, as well as of objective reality, witha climaxwhich goes beyond Berkeley'sdoctrine, not only

-20of apparin the rejection of a divine reality but also in the affirmation ent reality as the only reality there is: Reality does not need to be supported by other the realities. Thereare no hiddendivinities among trees, nor an ungraspable thingin itself behindthe self to orderour appearances,nor a mythological actions. Life is true appearance. The senses do not deceive us, understanding does, as said by Goethe;a withthis verse by statement we may which compare Fernndez: Macedonio in openmystery (J, 93-94). Reality works the paradoxical stateSucha statement of the intuition approaches ments characteristic of Buddhism (specially Zen Buddhism). Is this accidental, or is this intuition a discoveryby Borgeson the basis of Berkeley? Buddhist when notionsenter Borges1 at this moment I have no wayof knowing but certainly as early as this beforeor after Berkeley whether thinking, of method essay. To concludethe essay, Borgesrefers to the Buddhist self. This method, of a permanent eliminationto provethe non-existence accordingto Borges,based on the principle that "Thosethingsof whichI the self and an end are not myself,"eliminatesfrom can detect a beginning and even thought the senses, the passions, the emotions, itself, to conclude: "Oncethe affections, the foreignperceptions,and even the changeare discarded, consciousnessis a vacant thing,without able thinking, any in it" (J, 95). to give it existence by reflectingthemselves appearances in such an early essay estaballusions to Buddhism These concluding to whichlittle lish a relationshipbetween Borges1literature and Buddhism attentionhas beengiven. A reviewof such a relationship reveals, in my thanBerkeley's, are principles, perhapsevenmore opinion, that Buddhist at the verycenterof Borges1literary creations. This is not intended,of a Buddhist out of Borges. He is simply,as he oftenascourse, to make serts, a writerwhoserawmaterials are the paradoxical visions suggested one cannottake Borges1literary by doctrinessuch as Buddhism.However, a dismakes rhetorical exercises, when fantasies as simply Borgeshimself and true poetryor art which(like the Classics) such games tinction between tries to express eternal truths. of this distinction is madeby Borgesin referThe clearest statement ence to the first twolines of Shakespeare'sSonnetCVII as indicated by R. Christ, whosetranslation I quote: Shakespeare begins a sonnetthis way: Notmine own fearsj nor the propheticsoul of the wideworld on thingsto come. . . and so on. The exdreaming here is crucial. If the locutionprophetic periment it is only a verbal soul of the worldis a metaphor, indiscretionor merely a personalgeneralizationof the one whowroteit; if it is not a metaphor, if the poet really believed in the personalityof a common, universal soul of the world, the locution is truly poetic {idiomade los Argentinos > pp. 60-61). because it "This passage"--observesR. Christ--"is specially important the a rhetorical metaphor, showsBorgesin the veryact of transforming

-21proposition,the style of stapleof his Ultraist period, into a metaphysical art."^ In these metaphysical his mature propositions,in these truly poetic truths,we may doctrines, as he add, Borgescoincides withBuddhist neverfails to realize and acknowledge. Borgeshas repeatedlystated, and rightlyso, that he is not a Budstories the manis boththe dhist follower: "Thefact that in one of my that I ama followerof Berkeley and and the dream does not mean dreamer the Buddha," he states in the prefaceto R. Christ's book; and in a lecture Aires in 1977 again he states: "I amnot on Buddhism delivered in Buenos 11 certain of beinga Christianand I amcertain of not beinga Buddhist." withBuddhism seemsto emphasuch a need to denyhis connection Somehow, size the relationship. themes that seemto originate in Borges1literature presentsmany Buddhism:In the story "TheCircular Ruins" a man sets himselfthe task of and insertinghiminto reality, only to discover at the dreaming up a man end that he himselfis the product of someone else's dream. A reference to the Zendlanguageseemsto indicate that the action of the narrative the outcome takes place in Persia. However, of the story, the dissolution of the individual personalityinto meredream or appearance,is a fact that accordswell withthe fundamental principle whichserves to distinguish Buddhism from Upanishadic religions, the principle of amatia: the absence of a permanent individual. On the enduring private "self" withinthe human a literary point of view, the effect of the storyon the otherhand,from of discoveringthat the creator is of the same reader, the astonishment stuffas his creation, resembles techniquesused in other literary works, as is shown by Borgesin the essay "Partial Magicin the Quixote." As in the Quixote, in Hamlet,in the Ramayana, in A Thousand and OneNights, charactersin the story become readers, or spectators, or narratorsof the samestory in which theyappear. Of these, perhapsthe mostastonishing,accordingto Borges, is the , Ramayana the poem whichnarrates the exploits of Rama by Valmiki and his warwiththe demons. In the final book, the sons of Rama, whodo not know whotheir father is, seek a hermit teaches them to protectionin a forest, where read. This teacher is, strangely,Valmiki,the bookin which orders a sacrifice theystudy,the Ramayana.Rama of horses; Valmikiand his pupils attend this ceremony. The latter, accompanied by the lute, sing the Ramayana. Rama hears his ownstory, recognizeshis childrenand later rewards the poet (01, p. 67). These techniques,suggestsBorges,produce a disquieting effect on the reader because "such inversionssuggestthat if the characterin a fiction can be readersor spectators, we, their readers or spectators, can be fictitious" (01, p. 68-69). Suchan effect on the reader, we could add, is whatBorgesconsideredtrue art if it expresses a basic belief and is not a rhetorical artifice. merely Sucha disintegrationof the self is not alwaysarrived at as directly as in "TheCircular Ruins." Underlying the vision of man as a dream or illusion in Borgesis the idea that timeis an illusion. In the story "The Garden of Forking Paths" the ancestorof one of the charactersis a Chinese

-22Ts'ui Pen, whoattempted scholar named to write a novel in whichthe confronted withalternatives, instead of choosingone, as characters,when is traditional, choose all of them at the sametime. Each of these alternatives in turnleads to others, resulting in a proliferationof different and contradictory are possible and develop into difstories, all of which ferenttimes. Another characterin the story, an Englishscholar, explains that the workis no idle exercise in rhetoric. This is suggestedby certain facts in Ts'ui Pen's life: "Thetestimony of his contemporaries proclaim-and his life fully confirms--his and mystical metaphysical '2 interests." Ts'ui Pen had renounced to devotehimselfto writinga book everything witha labyrinth)and for thirteenyears he retired to confused (which many Solitude. Upon his death, his family the Pavilion of Limpid wanted to burn "but his executor-a Taoist or a Buddhist monk--insisted on the manuscripts their publication" (L, p. 24). The novel is thus interpreted by the English scholar as a parable, a metaphor of timeor of eternity: In contrastto Newton and Schopenhauer yourancestordid absolute time. He believed in not believe in a uniform, an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzyingnet and parallel times. This netof divergent,convergent, work of timeswhich one another,forked,broke approached of one anotherfor centuries, emoff, or wereunaware braces all possibilities (, p. 28; italics in the text). of timeexplains Ts'ui Pen's statement about creatinga Sucha labyrinth that wouldbe strictly infinite, and also corresponds to a prelabyrinth of of the story: "I thought of his descendant at the beginning monition that would a labyrinth of labyrinths,of one sinuous spreading labyrinth the past and the futureand in some wayinvolve the stars" encompass (L, p. 23). The setting of the storyof Ts'ui Pen (not that of his descendant)in ancientChina, his mysticalinclinations and retreat, and his connection monk witha Buddhist suggestthe relationshipof the basic ideas of the more notionsof time. This relationship is made apparent storyto Buddhist was an expansion and continuRefutation of Time,"which in the essay "New of Eternity,"bothof whichpresentthe ation of a previousessay, "History idea of the illusory natureof timeand the alternative notionthat all possibilities are eternal or eternally present. to give a historyof the of Eternity" The essay "History attempts conceptof eternity. It beginswithan analysis of the conceptof time and of the paradoxesit involves: negationof the reality of the past and the futuremay imply,as well, negationof the present: "one of the philosophical schools of India denies the presentbecause it is ungraspable. or is already on the ground,' the branch 'The orangeis about to fall from claim those strangesimplifiers, 'No one sees it fall1." '3 Thusthe conof time, a cept of eternitycannotbe, nor has it been, a simpleaggregate sum of the past, the presentand the future,or an infinite series of time. of those "It is a simplerand more magicalthing: it is the simultaneity in otherwordsit is: "the contemporaneous times" [HE, p. 14). Expressed and total intuition of all fractionsof time" [he* p. 28). be the result of a Borgessuggeststhat this conceptof eternitymay human desire "to stop in some waythe flowof the hours," the desire to

-23to preservethe possess all the possibilities, or perhapsan attempt personalself: The universerequires eternity. Theologiansare not of the fact that if the Lord's attentionwere ignorant drawn for a single secondawayfrom my right handthat writes this, my handwouldfall back into nothingness, as if fulminated by a fire withoutlight. For that reason theyclaim that the preservation of this world is a perpetualcreation and that the verbs to conserve and to create, so antagonistichere, are synonymous in Heaven"{(HE, p. 33; italics in the text). beliefs in the permanence of the universeand Thus, our common-sense of the personalself-support,and are supported by, our belief in eternity. belief in time, Onthe other hand,the contrary belief, our common-sense self and a permanent universe: implies a denial of a permanent It is known that personal identityresides in the memory and the annihilationof that faculty bringsabout idiocy. thinkthe sameof the universe. Without Onemay eternity, a delicate and secret mirror without of whathappened the souls, universal historyis a waste of time, through makes us uncomand with it, our personal history-which . . . Eternityis a mostprofuseinvenfortablyghostly. tion. It is true that it is not conceivable, but neither is the humble successive time. To denyeternity, to supposethe vast annihilationof years loaded withcities, its rivers, joys, is no less incredible thanto imagine total salvation (he, pp. 35-36). witha totally unsolvabledilemma Thuswe are confronted (at least at I believe, is at the root the rational level). This typeof confrontation, of the Zen Buddhist method. However, a ^/ery tentative experiential solution is offeredor suggested by Borgesin the final section of the essay. This experience,in whichthe contemplation Aires of a suburb of Buenos or repeats, or is the samescene as thirtyyears before, gives resembles, Borgesthe vagueintuition of the conceptof eternity: I felt dead, I felt as an abstract spectatorof the fear imbued withscience, whichis the world: Undefined best clarity of metaphysics. I did not thinkthat I had returned on the supposed watersof time; rather, upstream I suspect that I was the possessor of the reticent or absent sense of the inconceivableword eternity {HE, p. 40; italics in the text). The section mentioned above is again reprinted withthe essay "New Refutation of Time,"whichpresentsperhapsthe mostbasic idea underlying Borges1literature, as he himselfstates: "This refutationof time is in than the some works"(01, p. 237). This implies more waypresentin all my title suggests, because the refutationof timeinvolves also the refutation the from of the reality of the world,as impliedin the followingstatement essay: I amtold that the present, the specious presentof a fewsecondsto a mi niseule psychologists,lasts from

-24fractionof a second; that is the durationof the history of the universe. Or rather, there is no such history, as there is no such thingas the life of a man,not even we live exists, that of one of his nights; each moment not its imaginary aggregate(0J, p. 242). The universe,as well as our individual lives, then, belongto the realmof objects: imaginary admitsthe in his theory of apprehension, Meignong, of imaginary dimension, beings: the fourth apprehension let us say, or the sensible statue of Condillac, or the animalof Lotze, or the square root of -1. hypothetical If the reasons I have indicated are valid--says Borges-that nebulousorb can also include matter,the self, the externalworld,universal history,our lives (01, p. 254). ideas is perhapsclear, but The relationshipof these ideas to Buddhist sources. It it is also suggestedin the essay withreferencesto Buddhist is true that Borgesarrives at the idea of the illusory natureof time but its roots are and Schopenhauer, the writingsof Berkeley,Hume through illustrates the idea of the presentas presentin Buddhism.Schopenhauer a revolvingspheretouchesthe tangent. Borgesparalthe point at which sources: to Buddhist lels this witha reference A Buddhist treatise of the fifth century,the Vissuddhimaga (the Way of Purity), illustrates the samedoctrinewith the samefigure: "Strictly speaking,the durationof the life of a living being is exceedingly brief, lasting only while a thought lasts, just as a chariot wheelin rolling rolls only at one point of the tire, and in resting rests only at one point; in exactly the samewaythe life of a living being lasts only for the period of one thought" Other Indian Philosophy,I, 373). (Radhakrishnan: texts say that the worldis annihilatedand reBuddhist million timesa day five hundred created six thousand created manis an illusion, vertiginously and that ewery and solitary men. "The being a series of momentary from the Way to Puritytells us-of thoughtof the past moment has lived, but does not live norwill it live. The being will live, but has not lived nor does of a futuremoment does of thought it live. The beingof the presentmoment live, but has not lived nor will it live" (op. cit., I, 407) {01, pp. 255-256). which recalls a line of reasoning A reference to the Milinda-panha man to a carriage and concludeswitha refutationof mateagain compares rial existence: "Justas the king's carriage is neitherthe wheels, nor matter, the body,nor the axle, nor the pole, nor the yoke, neitheris man ideas, instincts, or consciousness. He is not the comform, impressions, them" binationof those parts nor does he exist apart from (01, p. 256). they Such, then, are the conclusionsof intellectual reasoning.However, withthe experiencesof existence; thus confronted appear futile when of the essay: seemsto concludeBorgesin the final paragraph succesTo denytemporal And yet, and yet ... universe sion, to denythe ego, to denythe astronomical

-25are apparent desperationsand secret consolations. Our or the hell of destiny(unlike the hell of Swedenborg is not frightfulbecause it is unreal: Tibetanmythology) it is frightfulbecause it is irreversible and ironclad. Timeis the substanceI ammadeof. Timeis a river that carries meaway,but I amthe river; it is a tiger that destroysmebut I amthe tiger; it is a fire that consumes is real; mebut I amthe fire. The world,unfortunately, amBorges(l, p. 256). I, unfortunately, and "Pertwoessays: "Forms of a Legend" Finally, I shouldmention material. The which deal directly withBuddhist sonality and Buddha," first one ostensiblydeals withthe differentversions of the legendof an old man,an to the ascetic life after encountering Buddha'sconversion and consideringthat all of us are subinvalid, a dead man,and a monk, to supportthe idea ject to suffering. Borgescites the Majjhima-nikaya that the Buddha narratedthis parable to explain his conversion,although perhapshe neverrelated it to his ownlife. Yet tradition incorporated India the legendpassed on to the legendto the life of Buddha. From of a novel entitled Barlaam and bymeans Europein the seventhcentury Pitts' article, writtenby a Christianmonk (see Dr. Monique Josaphat European languagesand pp. 3-16). The novel was translated into many ironically led to the inclusion of a St. Josaphat(the Christianversion of the Bodhisattva)in ChristianMartyrology. is perhapsbetter revealed in The intentionof Borges' essay, however, his revision of other Indian versions of the legend, whichtried to account of for the unrealistic coincidenceof the fouroutingsand encounters Sidhartaby explainingit as a prearranged plan. Thus, in the epic mereapparitions become Buddhacarita , which Borgescites, the fourencounters created by the gods, and in the mostexaggerated version, the Lalitavistava a Narration of the Game"),the wholethingbecomes (literally "TheMinute of the inflates the components fantastic pageant. This poem tremendously and thousands of the Buddha in Heaven with thousands story, surrounding to "reveals the text of the work while the Buddha gods and Boddhisattvas, directs each the gods." "In this strangepoem,"notes Borges, "the Buddha stage of his destiny; he causes the divinities to project the four symbolic who figuresand, while he interrogatesthe chariot driver, he clearly knows a theyare and whattheymean"(l, p. 207). Thusthe wholethingbecomes minds a dream. Just in case our western of the heavenly Buddha, may game the such oriental fantasies, Borgesreminds beginto feel detachedfrom Christ the Son uponthe cross and readerof a similar situation between his Father. With a wery succinct remark Borgestranslates the wholething withinparenthesis: "(Withanother terms as he remarks, into Jungian myor vocabulary, our century thology speaks of the unconscious)"(J, p. 207). and Thus in one stroke Borgesestablishes the recurrence of the theme gives to all a literary connotation. is not the end of Borges' essay. He carries the impliThis, however, doctrines. cations of the dream to its farthestlimits withinBuddhist This is a dream that nobody dreams,Borgesremarks: the world because for the Northern School of Buddhism, and the proselytesand Nirvanaand the wheelof transmiare equally unreal. No one is grationsand the Buddha in Nirvana,we read in a famous treatise, extinguished because the extinctionof incommeasurable beings in Nirvana

-26... and of a fantasmagoria is like the disappearance is mereemptielsewhereit is writtenthat everything ness, merename,includingthe bookthat declares it and the man whoreads it (01, p. 208). menThe observation,if we recall, takes us back to the literary games the reader is faced with the possibility of his own tioned before, in which unreality. subexcesses of the poem Paradoxically,Borgesnotes, the numerical tract, ratherthanadd, reality: . . . are monstruous and the vast numbers The vast forms of Nothingness.Andso, the unreal bubbles,emphasis has continuallymadeinroads in the story: first it gave a fantastic characterto the figures, thento the and to prince, and withthe prince, to all generations the Universe(<9I, p. 208). the In the end result, the effect of Borges1essay is to confront we must readerwiththe paradoxical vision of an unreal universewhich accept if we follow the rules of logic or else, by rejecting logic, reject the basis of the universewe call "real." Borgeshas the ability to select the mostparadoxical featuresof the storyor belief and express it in such or absurditycannotbe missedor avoided, that the dilemma crisp terms leaving the reader in a state of utter discomfort. Of course, the reader life. on his everyday may simplyignorethe bookand go on happilycarrying be planted. The reader longs for Yet the seed of disbelief or paradox may does not come. This longingfor an answer a solution which coupledwith the rejection of all possible answersputs us squarelyface to face with the unnamable.This, perhaps,is the vergeof revelathe unanswerable, which only a leap of faith (to recall tion, the brinkof absurdity can bridge. or a leap into the abyss (to recall Zen Buddhism) Kierkegaard) but it also of Zen Buddhism, is quite similar to the methods Themethod of a recalls Borges1conceptof the esthetic experience: "Theimminence revelation that does not occur" (<9I, p. 12). writtenabout the same In the otheressay, "Personalityand Buddha," morethanmereacquaintance of a Legend,"Borges1 timeas the essay "Forms doctrineand his sustained interest in it are clearly illuswithBuddhist trated. In this essay Borgestries to establish a definite distinction notionsof the personality(whichattach a posiwestern-Christian between tive value to the self) and Buddhist negationof the personality. The same and the Vissudcfoimaga of a theMilinda-panha from quoted in "Form arguments are adducedhere as an illustration of this doctrine, but the line Legend" withNagarjuna'snegationof all reality, including of reasoningculminates the doctrineand Nirvana,and also witha negationof the althe Buddha, there is no ignorternatives: "Thereis no object, there is no knowledge, ance, there is no destructionof ignorance,there is no sorrow,there is no origin of sorrow,there is no annhiliationof sorrow,no waythat leads to of Nirvana."14 nor non-attainment the annihilationof sorrow,no attainment rhetorical exerSuchpassages, Borgeshastensto clarify, "are not merely and an ethic" (PS, p. 34). A cona metaphysics cises; theyproceedfrom of western sources illustrates the difference trast withquotationsfrom Caesar explains that he has given vision. For example,a letter in which thanto be more to his political enemies"because I desire nothing freedom to be as theyare." Somewhat as I amand for them ironically, Borges

-27"Theoccidental enjoyment of the personalityis palpitating in comments: which thosewords Macaulay judged to be the mostnoble wordsever written" to {PB9 p. 34). This distinction of the twoperspectivesis important understand and evaluate Borges1literature because, in distilling the essence of Buddhist teachingto a negationof the individual personality, Borgesalso reveals the vision of literature and ethics which distinguishes the Westfrom a distinction which also touchesthe essence of Buddhism, more dramatic Borgesliterary creed. This distinction is made by contrasting the style of authorsadmired by Borges: LonBloy and Francis Thompson wouldhave been for the Buddha of men that are lost and mistaken, prime examples not only because of the belief that theydeserveddivine attention, but because of their effort to elaborate, within a common language,a small and vain dialect, It is not to understand this; all of us necessaryto be a Buddhist feel that the style of Bloy, in which each phraseseeks an astonishment, is morallyinferior to that of Gide, which to be, generic. is, or pretends From to MarcelProust, the subject matter Chaucer of the novel is the non-repeatable, singular taste of the individual souls; for Buddhism there is no such a taste or it is one of the many vanities of the cosmicdeception (PS, p. 34). In Borges1literature, we may add (as in Bernard Shaw), there is no such taste either, and it is in this sense that Buddhism, evenmorethan Berkeley'sidealism, is at the root and centerof Borgescreations. But of perhapsthe samecould be said of the Kabbalah,of Transcendentalism, or of Schopenhauer's Sufism idealism. NOTES 1. John Press, 1977), p. 13. Sturrock, Paper Tigers (Oxford: The Clarendon 2. My statement shouldnot be contrivedas demeaning the value of s readingof Borges,whichhas indelibly tinted all our Sturrock' further we like it or not, just as readingsof Borges,whether readingBorgeshas tinted our viewof the world. 3. RonaldChrist, TheNarrow Act: Borges' Art of Allusion (New York: New YorkUniversity Press, 1969), pp. 33-34. 4. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism Conn.: (Westport, Wisdom Press, 1971), p. 45 (first printedin 1943). See also Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism York: Barnesand Noble, (New 1954), I, xi. "La personalidad 5. Trans, from y el Buda,"Sur, XIX, 192-194(Oct.-Dec, as in the popular 1950), 33. (The "soul," here, is to be understood Christianbelief in an individual personalessence.) 6. Trans, from Otras inquisiciones (BuenosAires: Emece,1960), pp. 200221. Further referencesto this work will be indicated in the text

-28by the initials 01 followedby page numbers.Englishtranslationof is OtherInquisitions (Austin: University this work of Texas Press, 1965). 7. Coomaraswamy, p. 4. 8. "La encrucijadade Berkeley," Inquisiciones (BuenosAires: Editorial Proa, 1925), pp. 109-119. First publishedin Nosotros,XII, No. 164, Vol. 43 (January 1923), 359-365.

"La naderia de la personalidad,"Inquisiciones 9. Trans, from 3 p. 84. Further referencesto Inquisiciones will be given in the text by the initial I followedby page numbers. 10. Christ, pp. 14-15. 11. Trans, from La Opinin, August 3, 1977. The followingstatement by from Jeande Milleret, Entretiensavec Borges,translatedby Sturrock to JorgeLuis Borges, (Paris: 1967), p. 72, could as well be extended include Buddhism: I thought above all of the literary possibilities of let's say, ratherthan its intrinsic Idealist philosophy, . This does not mean merits[son biennecessarily fond) or of Berkeley that I believe in the philosophy I believe I was thinking ... ratherof the Schopenhauer or unrealityof the materialworldas subjects alchemy usable by literature (Sturrock,p. 22). the sameinterview, comments from To this, we could add the following to Buddhism: in which Borgesrefers directly to his approach I studied quite a bit about Therewas a timewhen and I had begun to write a Alicia Jurado Buddhism. bookabout it, but we could not reach an agreement was to convertpeople to becausewhatshe wanted Buddhism.Thus, if I found anypicturesquecharacteristics she wouldsay that that wouldput people off. that there is of fanShe wanted to discard anything in Buddhism.Basically, she tastic, for us westerners, catechism. AndI, on soughtto write a sort of Buddhist wanted to exhibit that strangeworldwhich the contrary, is the worldof Buddhism.So, after writinga fewpages, to write twodifferentbooks we realized that we wanted the project. and we abandoned I wanted to write an accountthat wouldbe entertaining for the reader, because therewerethingsthat attracted meby their strangeness: Thewholeof Buddha'slegend, the the cosmology of Buddhism.But she considered astronomy, all that from an ethical point of view, she consideredherself a Buddhist and wanted to convertpeople; thus it was the necessaryto exclude anything strangeor surprisingfrom book. somethirtyor On Buddhism itself, I had at home and English. Andabout in French,German, fortyvolumes the Kabbalah,I thinkI had about a dozen, whichI

-29read and annotatedin referenceto other readingsor ownreflections. studies or to my interestedin Buddhism Because I became and the Kabbalah beforeI ever dreamed of writingabout such topics. That is, I have not read these booksin order or to put togetheran article, on to document myself the contrary,I beganfrom curiosity and interest, and the idea cameto meof using them also only afterwards for literary or philosophical purposes. (Trans, from Jeande Milleret, Entretiens,pp. 142-143) 12. Labyrinths York: New referDirections, 1964), p. 27. Further (New ences to this work will be given in the text by the initial L followed by page numbers. 13. Trans, from Historia de la eternidad (BuenosAires: Emece,1953), referencesto this work will be given in the text pp. 12-13. Further by the initials HE followedby page numbers. 14. Trans, from "La personalidad references y el Buddha," p. 34. Further to this work will be given in the text by the initials PB followedby page numbers.