Keats and Buddhism?

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Keats and Buddhism?

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:06 am

At the end of the DVD "Bright Star" in the "extras" section of the DVD, Jane Campion is interviewed. In that interview she makes a comment about how Keats "wandered (or wondered) into Buddhism" (something like that - it's hard to tell by the speed and accent she possesses). Anyway, does anyone know what she is talking about?

"Keats and Buddhism" - was this a reference in Keats' writing? Or was it a general example of a personal reflection she had when she was younger and then connected Keats somehow to it? It could be understood in a variety of ways.

Any thoughts? (I listened to the Campion statement about 6 times straight to figure out what she meant...)

Anybody know what she is saying?
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Malia » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:26 am

Hmm. . .I don't remember hearing that. I must go re-view that extra! I think Keats had a kind of Buddhist sensibility in some ways, but I don't know if he ever considered it seriously--did he have much information on Buddhism? Definitely worth investigating :)
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:28 pm

I don't remember hearing this either. Buddhism wasn't known in the West at that point , but he mentions the "Hindoos" in his letter of the Vale of Soul Making. I used to be quite into Buddhism and there is nothing in John's letters that indicates to me he had a Buddhist sensibility- his sensibility is far more of a nature spirituality/pagan.
I say the following not disparagingly of John- but he was far too intense to have a Buddhist sensibility- Buddhist texts write about letting go of desires and strong emotions.
Woopdee doo I can get through at last- I wonder for how long this time!
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Cybele » Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:07 pm

Raphael wrote:I don't remember hearing this either. Buddhism wasn't known in the West at that point , but he mentions the "Hindoos" in his letter of the Vale of Soul Making. I used to be quite into Buddhism and there is nothing in John's letters that indicates to me he had a Buddhist sensibility- his sensibility is far more of a nature spirituality/pagan.
I say the following not disparagingly of John- but he was far too intense to have a Buddhist sensibility- Buddhist texts write about letting go of desires and strong emotions.
Woopdee doo I can get through at last- I wonder for how long this time!


Glad you've been able to get back on line, Raphael!
Yes, "Hindoos" are mentioned in the letters, but not Buddhists.

When I first read the letters, I detected a hint of Buddhism -- especially in that famous "Vale of Soulmaking" section. Suffering and other life experiences contribute to the making of a soul/identity. This is, IMO, very Buddhist. He also talked about being open to the experiences life offers, "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." How is this *not* Buddhist?

And yes -- of course there are Pagan tendencies, too. I feel Keats was not really joking when he referred to himself as a "Heathen." I don't believe that Paganism and Buddhism are mutually exclusive.

Rejoicing in nature is easily part of both traditions. True, it wasn't until later in the 19th century that Buddhism became at all well-known in the West. (This was largely due to my beloved New England Transcendentalists! :) ) But there is, I believe, profound, immanent wisdom/knowledge that is accessible to us if we are open to it. That wisdom/knowledge has always been there and always will be -- a person, particularly one who was such a genius as Keats, doesn't necessarily need formal instruction to access that wisdom.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:45 pm

Glad you've been able to get back on line, Raphael!


Lawk! So am I- I have to keep fiddling with settings on my PC- I scarcely know what the problem is. I have asked my mother for my brother's e-mail- he is a computer geek- if anyone knows how to stop spamhaus it is he...


When I first read the letters, I detected a hint of Buddhism -- especially in that famous "Vale of Soulmaking" section. Suffering and other life experiences contribute to the making of a soul/identity. This is, IMO, very Buddhist. He also talked about being open to the experiences life offers, "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." How is this *not* Buddhist?



Well I am of the thought that wisdom is universal and some philsophies can be called many things not just Buddhist, Hindu or Christian etc. From my experience of various Buddhist traditions ( of which there are many and they vary in their teachings) John's Vale of Soul Making, brilliant though it is isn't Buddhist-Buddhism teaches that there is no soul. The Vale of Soul Making is all his own. :D Buddhism is concerned with allieviating suffering, teaching that most suffering is a result of lack of Enlightenment and how one percieves things. (I am not in full agreement of all of this by the way). The New Age movement has taken on board the idea of Enlightnement and the Buddhist teaching that one needs to become enlightened ( i.e become a Buddha) which ensures that one is not reborn again into the physical world- which they call the Wheel of Samsara. The New Age movement differs in that they see suffering is necessary to learn and become enlightened. Buddhism doesn't teach that- that suffering makes one enlightnened in itself, but if one examines the suffering that one can let it go.
John's Negative Capability, again is brilliant but not really Buddhist. But I really think he was onto something amazing- that some things cannot be known.His use of the word Mystery is actually more shamanic.
I am not of the opinion that suffering is necessary for wisdom. I also do not ascribe to the New Age idea that in each incarnation we choose our life and how we are going to suffer and die. Just as if John would have chosen for his parents to die like that, Tom and himself to contract tuberculosis!


"]And yes -- of course there are Pagan tendencies, too. I feel Keats was not really joking when he referred to himself as a "Heathen." I don't believe that Paganism and Buddhism are mutually exclusive."



I don't think he was joking either- he was quite open in his admiration of the Greek paganism and his liking for Apollo. Paganism and Buddhism have some things in common, but have many differences too- Buddhism is more of a philosphy and does not have dieties ( except Tibetan Buddhism) but paganism is polytheistic.




Rejoicing in nature is easily part of both traditions. True, it wasn't until later in the 19th century that Buddhism became at all well-known in the West. (This was largely due to my beloved New England Transcendentalists! :) ) But there is, I believe, profound, immanent wisdom/knowledge that is accessible to us if we are open to it. That wisdom/knowledge has always been there and always will be -- a person, particularly one who was such a genius as Keats, doesn't necessarily need formal instruction to access that wisdom.


In early Buddhism there are poems and writings about nature and spirits of nature but that has not come into modern Buddhism in the West. There is a different focus on Nature in pagan traditions- some like Druidism seek to form relationship with Nature, animals and the forces of nature, seeing all the myraids of life and energies as sacred. I totally agree what you wrote above about John- a natural genius and deeply spirtual person as he was- he didn't need formal teaching.
John....you did not live to see-
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:08 pm

Certainly Buddhism was known in the West when Keats was alive, as Schopenhauer notes in his "The World as Will and Representation". However, Schopenhauer writes: "up till 1818...there were to be found in Europe only a very few accounts of Buddhism, and those extremely incomplete and inadequate, confined almost entirely to a few essays in the earlier volumes of the Asiatic Researches". (Volume II, page 169. Dover 1966) Schopenhauer's recognised masterpiece first appeared in 1819 but was revised and elaborated upon in 1844.


I don't think Junkets would have read any of this though. He doesn't mention it in his letters- and I think he would have had he read them.
I am unfamiliar with the writings of Schopenhauer and Neitzche so cannot comment on what you wrote really. But I would say on this:



[quote]The problem for Schopenhauer, I think, is that his general belief that the 'will' (not to be equated with an immanent god) is correctly understood to be essentially evil, despite its being a blind, purposeless 'striving'. This 'will' is manifested in the phenomenal world, and therefore Schopenhauer's grand theory is going to be dismissed by pagans as readily as their Christian fellows.[quote]

In paganism and Buddhism the will is not seen as inherently evil- it is the intent of the act/thought/deed itself- good and bad are grey areas.Paganism is less concerned with thoughts and concepts rather more experience, relationship and feeling.
Some things are best experienced rather than analysed as Junkets said... :wink:
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:23 pm

I'm sorry I cannot answer on your theories- I get lost in words- I prefer the "sensations" Junkets talked about. He was of the opinion that the magic was taken out of the Rainbow by describing it scientifically- and I whole heartedly agree- when I am blessed enough to see one- I just look at it, feel it's magic, feel those colours, drink it in become one with it as much as I can. As a Druid- that is what it is about- to feel, sense, form relationship. There are experiences to be had in nature that are so mystical and profound that science cannot explain that. There is the Mystery as John well knew... :wink:



I think his problem is that he can't get beyond his sheer hatred of Christianity.




I think this is a shame as hating any religion can often leave a person unable to experience the divinity and sanctity of life- life becomes cold and hard with no meaning ( throwing the baby out with the bath water)- I met with a woman like that once. She called herself atheist which means not believing in God, yet she rejected anything spiritual, mystical and marvellous. The Universe is vast, awesome and we humans cannot possibly know all there is to know- we know but a fraction. Science is just another religion- at times as trying hard to prove it is right as fundamental religious people. There are many things science cannot explain- why people clinically dead and are brought back by the doctors can describe all that was going on around them in great detail yet their brains were “dead”. For me, life is an adventure, a journey a wonder- it is mystery and magic! Of course, there are problems, but that does not negate the wonder.


All that we can be aware of simply contradicts the Christian faith. And by extension all other belief systems are ludicrous as, along with Christianity, there is no proof whatsoever for their authenticity. All that pleasure we revel in when we apprehend the natural world in all its apparent glory is underpinned by suffering. Turn over almost any stone in your garden, local park, etc, and you're bound by natural laws, nature in all its wonder, to witness so-called lower forms of life tearing themselves to pieces.



Spirituality- and acceptance of nature as red in tooth and claw is something we pagans know- this is not dogma but acceptance that physical life, lives, dies and goes on again in some other form. The same as Buddhists know. The nature of physical life is to recycle. There is no reason- it just is.
That is the Mystery. :wink:



All that we are, and can ever be, is governed by interestedness. Christianity, socialism and the like all look good on paper, but they can never be implemented successfully in practice. I've yet to meet a Christian or believer in any faith who truly practises what he/she preaches. And if this sounds like a rant then I apologise genuinely for any hurt feelings - but I can't withdraw my remarks. I accept I've gone a little off topic though.



You are perfectly entitled to voice your views; I am not in the least bit hurt by your comments. A follower of any tradition or faith is not expected to be perfect- we do not demand it of scientists so why demand it of faith traditions? Science has done as much harm as religious genocide- e.g creating bombs. Both have their faults. I am not on one side or the other.

I am with John when he said he didn't believe in perfectibility. What matters are the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of Imagination. :wink:

I can understand your disillusionment- I have been there-but when I came to a sort of living in Negative Capability things became easier- at the time I didn't really know what it was (I had heard of it years back but not understood it) - the suffering of the world pressed upon me and I became quite disheartened- this was a few years ago. When I came to accept that this is by default of a physical existence (e.g. our nerves allow us to feel pleasure and pain and we cannot get way from that) it was like a veil lifting from my eyes. Now, that does not mean I do not care or try to do good- far from it. I do not claim to know all there is- far from it. In fact this leads me to know that there is more to know, there are things we cannot comprehend in our physical existence. Life is a wider experience than just this physical one; this is just a segment of something far vaster. Quantum Physics points to that.
John....you did not live to see-
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Cybele » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:24 pm

John's Vale of Soul Making, brilliant though it is isn't Buddhist-Buddhism teaches that there is no soul. The Vale of Soul Making is all his own. :D Buddhism is concerned with allieviating suffering, teaching that most suffering is a result of lack of Enlightenment and how one percieves things. (I am not in full agreement of all of this by the way). The New Age movement has taken on board the idea of Enlightnement and the Buddhist teaching that one needs to become enlightened ( i.e become a Buddha) which ensures that one is not reborn again into the physical world- which they call the Wheel of Samsara. The New Age movement differs in that they see suffering is necessary to learn and become enlightened. Buddhism doesn't teach that- that suffering makes one enlightnened in itself, but if one examines the suffering that one can let it go.
John's Negative Capability, again is brilliant but not really Buddhist. But I really think he was onto something amazing- that some things cannot be known.His use of the word Mystery is actually more shamanic.
I am not of the opinion that suffering is necessary for wisdom. I also do not ascribe to the New Age idea that in each incarnation we choose our life and how we are going to suffer and die. Just as if John would have chosen for his parents to die like that, Tom and himself to contract tuberculosis!

[snip]

I don't think he was joking either- he was quite open in his admiration of the Greek paganism and his liking for Apollo. Paganism and Buddhism have some things in common, but have many differences too- Buddhism is more of a philosphy and does not have dieties ( except Tibetan Buddhism) but paganism is polytheistic.

In early Buddhism there are poems and writings about nature and spirits of nature but that has not come into modern Buddhism in the West. There is a different focus on Nature in pagan traditions- some like Druidism seek to form relationship with Nature, animals and the forces of nature, seeing all the myraids of life and energies as sacred. I totally agree what you wrote above about John- a natural genius and deeply spirtual person as he was- he didn't need formal teaching.


Wow -- what a lot to respond to! (And I'm certain I messed up quoting only parts of your post!)
Rather than respond to specifics, I think what I meant to express was my understanding of Keats's idea that suffering led to a maturation of the "soul," not neccesarily a literal belief in a soul. This maturation is a way of *becoming*, a constant growth, a process -- not a belief in something that more closely resembles western religious dogma than it resembles philosophy.

I kind of understood that by accepting the inevitable suffering that comes with being human, we also learn to let it go, that's it's just part of the whole.

What did our guy say? "I can scarcely describe what I but dimly perceive . . ."
Yup, I'm there! LOL!
Alas, I'm not nearly so eloquent or articulate as he was.

And oh my gosh! There certainly are shamanic elements, especially in the more mature works, like the odes and the two Hyperions.

(A short digression: A shaman friend told me that I must always pay attention when it seems like an animal or animal spirit seems to be "speaking" to me -- either in a physical encounter or a dream. At the time, I thought this an odd thing. I told her I didn't believe in such things. She said that my beliefs didn't matter in this case. It only mattered that I take her advice. Needless to say, I found this odd, too. :) But I did as told and found wisdom where I never expected to find it.)
Last edited by Cybele on Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Montmorenci » Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:46 pm

Wow, I take a lot of offense to what has been said here, it is time I say goodbye to this forum. It's been a pleasure while it lasted.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby BrokenLyre » Thu Apr 08, 2010 2:03 am

Wow - I didn't realize my simple comment about "Buddhism" from the DVD "Bright Star" extras would lead to such intricate speculations on theology, geology, mysticism, paganism etc.... I have enjoyed the read however. I appreciate [banned member]' reflections on Keats and Buddhism and Schopenahauer etc... but I would kindly disagree on a number of points. There is a whole level of complexity when it comes to religion, history, language, hermeneutics, philosophy and science.

I was just wondering if anyone actually listened to Jane Campion's comments at the end of the DVD for Bright Star and what is it that she said about Keats and Buddhism. It seems like it was a personal reflection on her own youth with a random comment about Keats's concerns and her Buddhist explorations perhaps. I just wanted to know what you understood Campion to mean.
(But I didn't mind the thoughtful comments).

Any thoughts?
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Thu Apr 08, 2010 2:39 am

Wow - I didn't realize my simple comment about "Buddhism" from the DVD "Bright Star" extras would lead to such intricate speculations on theology, geology, mysticism, paganism etc.... I have enjoyed the read however. I appreciate [banned member]' reflections on Keats and Buddhism and Schopenahauer etc... but I would kindly disagree on a number of points. There is a whole level of complexity when it comes to religion, history, language, hermeneutics, philosophy and science.


Yes- it's all so complex, most of it beyond me Broken Lyre!



I was just wondering if anyone actually listened to Jane Campion's comments at the end of the DVD for Bright Star and what is it that she said about Keats and Buddhism. It seems like it was a personal reflection on her own youth with a random comment about Keats's concerns and her Buddhist explorations perhaps. I just wanted to know what you understood Campion to mean.
(But I didn't mind the thoughtful comments).

Any thoughts?


I did watch it but only once- I shall watch it in the next couple of days ( might not have time tommorrow- my friend is coming to put my herbal hair dye on tommorrow... :D
I don't remember her saying it, so am interested to watch this again- I was going to anyhow. I assume you mean the working with Jane bit?

Montmorenci- I am really sorry if anything I posted caused you any offence- it was not my intent to be offensive or upset anyone.I hope you will stay.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Thu Apr 08, 2010 3:09 am

Sorry I missed your post before Cybele.

Wow -- what a lot to respond to! (And I'm certain I messed up quoting only parts of your post!)
Rather than respond to specifics, I think what I meant to express was my understanding of Keats's idea that suffering led to a maturation of the "soul," not neccesarily a literal belief in a soul. This maturation is a way of *becoming*, a constant growth, a process -- not a belief in something that more closely resembles western religious dogma than it resembles philosophy.


No, you didn't mess it up at all Cybele. :D .I'd like to say that although Buddhism (from my experiences in it) doesn't teach there is a soul, but I am undecided, as there are so many definitions of soul and spirit and sometimes the two can get confused. I'm open to it. John might have believed there was a soul- it seems that way to me from reading his letters- he gave it a capital S too!


I kind of understood that by accepting the inevitable suffering that comes with being human, we also learn to let it go, that's it's just part of the whole.




Yes! That's kind of my take on it.



What did our guy say? "I can scarcely describe what I but dimly perceive . . ."
Yup, I'm there! LOL! Alas, I'm not nearly so eloquent or articulate as he was.





I think you did well actually!



]And oh my gosh! There certainly are shamanic elements, especially in the more mature works, like the odes and the two Hyperions.

(A short digression: A shaman friend told me that I must always pay attention when it seems like an animal or animal spirit seems to be "speaking" to me -- either in a physical encounter or a dream. At the time, I thought this an odd thing. I told her I didn't believe in such things. She said that my beliefs didn't matter in this case. It only mattered that I take her advice. Needless to say, I found this odd, too. :) But I did as told and found wisdom where I never expected to find it.)



Yes- I was thinking of The Fall of Hyperion especially. You have a friend who is a shaman? That's nice- I find shamanism really interesting.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Keats9264 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:07 am

I think it's all up to interpretation. People see his comments as they want to see them. There is much mystery in Christianity, and while he rejected hearing the Bible at the end (though he would only hear the Christian book (what was it? I forgot the name) until he got really bad.) I find his statement on negative capabilities totally in line with what is considered the blind faith of Christianity. The young man was entrenched and fascinated by antiquities and mythology, and of course worked that into his works to make them rather esoteric. And it worked.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Keats9264 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:14 am

I think it's just not cool to classify anything wonderful and mysterious as Christian anymore. Keats, like anyone might have been, especially one so young, was disenchanted with the horrors of life. His young troubled life. He probably was going through a phase of resenting God, like many people go through, but there is God in all his works. He just didn't get a chance to work it all out. I doubt he was the Hare Krishna standing at the airport as many try to make him out to be.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby BrokenLyre » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:36 am

The books you refer to that Keats was reading in Italy were Jeremy Taylor's "The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living" (1650) and "The Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying" (1651). These are rare and expensive books these days - and a bit hard to find.

Obviously Keats was reading Taylor to find some comfort in his last days.
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