[L. 117 | 127] 29 April 1964

 Dear Ananda,[1]

It is extremely good of you to have taken all this trouble about writing to me on this tiresome affair. Though I did not actually anticipate that the Colombo Thera would show my letter[2] to you in particular, I did not ask him to keep it private, since I do not think it is fair to burden people with confidences that they have not sought.

I had better explain why I wrote about this matter to the Colombo Thera. He had earlier written to me telling of his condition, and then saying that he would like to know how I was, since he had heard that I was not well. I could, of course, have replied in general terms without committing myself in this way; and this would have spared the Colombo Thera his present worry, and things would have gone on peacefully as before. But there was another consideration.

As you may know, sexual matters are not things the Vinaya takes lightheartedly (however much a bhikkhu may feel inclined to do so), and if I had kept silent about my condition, that silence might have been taken by others (and perhaps also by myself) as a desire to conceal matters that should be declared, and I might thus have found myself in a false position vis-à-vis my fellow bhikkhus. I did not feel justified in being silent when asked about my condition by the Colombo Thera. (The point here is that I was, and am, anxious to be in conformity with the Vinaya; and it is this that causes me concern, not sex as such. As far as sex goes I have few inhibitions, and I certainly do not regard it with the horrified fascination that some people seem to. I do not have a 'thing' about sex.) But, having decided to speak about my satyriasis, I could not, without begetting future misunderstandings, say nothing about suicide. Besides, since it was (and is) a possibility, I felt it was better to let the Colombo Thera know in advance, so that in the actual event it would not come as so much of a shock.

Naturally, since the Colombo Thera has only known about this affair for a few days, he may be a little upset; but I have lived with it for nearly two years (and also discussed it in considerable detail with my doctor and with Mr. Samaratunga), and I cannot now be expected to get worked up about it.

It is unfortunate, really, that you have become involved in this business to the extent of seeking to help me; and this for the reason that I am actually, as a bhikkhu, not in a position to give you the whole picture, and unless you have this I am afraid that discussion between us, however well intended, will be at cross purposes. You, on your side, will remain convinced that I am in a state of anxiety, and any denial that I may make will only go to confirm your opinion. On my side, I shall never be able to convey to you that the key to the situation (that is, to an understanding of it) is not that I am worried but that I am tired, and further, that I am not even worried about being tired. Whatever you may say, however right in itself, is almost certain to be regarded by me as irrelevant. But if you press me to make this clearer, there is nothing that I can say to you. You may be sure, however, that I am not likely to have overlooked any considerations that might be urged against my contemplated action.

You assure me that my condition can be put right, and I should be only too glad to believe you. But the fact is that I have several times pressed my doctor to tell me if a treatment for this disorder is available, and I have told him that I am prepared to come to Colombo to take it. But he has never given me the slightest reason to believe that there is any such treatment. If a doctor is willing to assure me that a cure or a partial cure is possible, I am prepared to consider coming to Colombo. But not otherwise. The simple reason is that it is much more wearing to set out in hopes of recovery and then, after all the trouble and discomfort of investigation and treatment, to be disappointed, than it is to accept the assurance that one's condition is probably incurable and then to try to live with it. (In this connexion, I am a little astonished that you so confidently predict a cure—do you not perhaps see that if, at the end, there is no cure, one's mental state is liable to be much worse after than before? Here, possibly, my doctor has given better advice by refraining from giving any.)

You tell me, too, that a man needs friends and contact with equals. Assuming this is so (which remains to be proved), whom would you suggest? Besides, in my letter I said that it is precisely in solitude that my condition gives me some peace, whereas in company it is worse. In spite of the fact that my living in solitude is a source of irritation to people generally, I can by no means disregard this fact in considering what I should do. Admittedly, if I follow your advice and go into company I am less likely to kill myself, but also I am more likely eventually to disrobe, and whatever the public feeling may be, the former is (for me) by far the lesser evil. So if I want to play safe, I must remain in solitude, even if I risk forfeiting my sense of proportion.

It is quite true that lepers and the like are in a worse bodily condition than myself, and if they go on living, no doubt it is because they still find a use for their body; but that, after all, is their decision. The point at issue, surely, is whether one can still use one's body for the purpose that one has decided upon. (I know that this is not the only consideration, but I do not see that a leper displays any particular virtue in not committing suicide.)

As for exercise, I have not taken any simply for its own sake since I left school, and I do not propose to start now. The importance of exercise is one of those great myths of the Twentieth Century that make living in it such hell. If nobody took any exercise unless he actually wanted to go somewhere everybody would be a lot happier.

In any case, please tell the Colombo Thera that the situation is at least not worse than it has been; and also to consider the survival value of Nietzsche's dictum 'The thought of suicide gets one through many a bad night'. And say, also, that I am sorry to have worried him. Perhaps it would have been better if I had kept quiet after all.

P.S. I expect that your letter cost you as much trouble to write as this one has me, so please do not think me unappreciative. If you find one or two sharp edges in this letter they are not meant unkindly, but can perhaps be taken as an indication that you may have picked up this affair by the wrong end.

Editorial notes:

[117.1] Ananda Pereira was the son of Dr. Cassius Pereira (who later became the Ven. Bhikkhu Kassapa—see L. 22), and was himself a well-known supporter of the Sangha and of individual monks. His generosity was cut short by an early death in 1967. [Back to text]

[117.2] my letter: See L. 93a. [Back to text]