Goat Rope has been spending a bit of time with Henry David Thoreau lately. His writings are full of great nuggets. If you are a fan, click on last week's posts.
Old Henry had a Buddhist soul, although his direct knowledge of the Buddha or Buddhist teachings was very limited. Not a lot was known about Buddhist teachings in the early and mid 19th century America. If memory serves, he may have read a little of a translation of the Lotus Sutra, a Mahayana text which contains little if any information about the "historical Buddha."
Some may want to chalk that up to karmic affinity...
He professed his fondness for Buddha and Christ in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, where amidst musings on various religions he wrote
I know that some will have hard thoughts of me, when they hear their Christ named beside my Buddha, yet I am sure that I am willing they should love their Christ more than my Buddha, for the love is the main thing, and I like him too.
Although he didn't have the chance to learn Buddhist meditation techniques, he seemed to have got there on his own, as this passage in Walden indicates:
Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise til noon, rapt in revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in my west window, or the noise of some traveller's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than the work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works.
He also picked right up on the grand Dharma theme of wakefulness, as is shown in quotes like
Only that day dawns to which we are awake.
I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
Sorry, Kerouac, but I think he might have been America's first Dharma bum.
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GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED