Joyce Meditates on Buddha
Joyce learned much
about Buddhism when he lived in Trieste and referred to it in A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
Buddhism and Oriental pacifism were concepts that interested Joyce, especially
in his Triestine days around World War I. He appears to have learned
Buddhism through Theosophy in his early days. This paper aims to
discuss how Buddhism influenced Joyce's works.
full version is available in Language and Culture, No.5 (Center
for Language and Culture Education and Research, Iwate Prefectural University,
January 2003), 53-64.
Copyright 2003 Eishiro Ito
Ireland has been guided and shaped
by the Catholic Church, which James Joyce once tried to follow, but he
could not. He chose to become a gpriest of beauty,h rather than
a priest of Roman Catholicism. When he lost faith in Catholicism,
he found an alternative in Dublin, that is, Theosophy or Eastern mysticism.
He might have visited the Dublin Lodge of the Theosophical Society on the
introduction of William Butler Yeats or George Russell around 1902.
Joyce owned five books by Theosophical authors: the two books by Annie
Besant were acquired by Joyce in Trieste. He came to know about
the Buddha and Buddhism. It is likely that he saw the reclining Buddha
statue at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin at the
turn of the century.
When Joyce left Dublin for the Continent, he seems to have left behind most of his Theosophical books. But he did not forget Theosophy and the Buddha in Trieste at all. In June 1905, Trieste, Joyce finished composing Chapter 24 of Stephen Hero in which Stephen Dedalus refers to the Buddha in comparison with Jesus Christ.1 Stephen also mentions the Buddha and Theosophy in Ulysses, and Leopold and Molly Bloom also monologue on the Eastern god. Buddhism and Oriental pacifism were interesting concepts for Joyce, especially in his Triestine days around World War I. Later Joyce attempted to absorb all kinds of religious and philosophical teachings and parodied many in his texts Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
Stuart Gilbert remembered in James Joyce's gUlyssesh that Joyce asked him if he had read any of Alfred Percy Sinnett's Buddhist works as well as Victor Berard's Les Pheniciens et l'Odyssee(viii). Gilbert noted that Berard's book gave Joyce many hints to reconstruct the Mediterranean scene in the age of the rhapsodists (vii). Then can we say the same thing about Sinnett's Buddhist works? Joyce seems to have derived some key ideas from them. My aim is to discuss how Buddhism influenced Joyce's works.
I. Joyce and Buddhism
In his early days, Joyce became interested in Buddhism as a philosophical alternative to Christianity. In 1903, Joyce wrote a review of H. Fielding-Hall's The Soul of a People, in which he conveyed a romantic view of Hall's version of Burmese Buddhism as "a wise passive philosophy"(CW 93)2:
Our civilization, bequeathed to us by fierce adventurers, eaters of meat and hunters, is so full of hurry and combat, so busy about many things which perhaps are of no importance, that it cannot but see something feeble in a civilization which smiles as it refuses to make the battlefield the test of excellence. (CW 94)
It clearly shows Joyce's sympathy with
Buddhist methods of non-violence and pacifism. But the review did
not provide many details on Buddhism.
In Stephen Hero, Stephen monologues about the Buddha, commenting on the street woman in the black straw hat after he was disappointed when Emma told him about the rumor that he was a mystic and read dreadful books:
The woman in the black straw hat
has never heard of the name of Buddha but Buddha's
character seems to have been superior to that of Jesus with respect to unaffected
sanctity. I wonder how she would like that story of Yasodhara's kissing Buddha after
his illumination and penance. Renan's Jesus is a trifle Buddhistic but the fierce
eaters and drinkers of the western world would never worship such a figure. Blood
will have blood. (SH 190)
This passage was omitted when Joyce reconstructed
the story for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but it proves
that Joyce read some books about Buddhism and was influenced by the Buddha
he was disappointed in Christianity. Joyce probably got some hint
from Stanislaus Joyce's Dublin Diary: gJesus was a far more intellectual
type than Buddha or Mohammed or St. Francis, though not so beautiful as
Buddha nor so masterful as Mohammed nor so charmingly simple as Francis
Yasodhara was Gautama Siddhartha's wife before he became the Buddha. The Buddha (meaning the wise or enlightened one) is the title of Gautama Siddhartha (c.563-c.483 B.C.). At the age of twenty-nine Prince Gautama, after spending his youth shielded from the harshness of the world, was startled out of his ease by his first sight of old age, sickness, and death. Fleeing secretly at night from his palace, he became an ascetic, leaving Yasodhara and their son. After renouncing his former life, he attained enlightenment and traveled to preach and spread the doctrine. Seven years passed. King Suddhodana, the Buddha's father, invited him to his palace at Kapilavatthu. King Suddhodana took him to the palace and served him food. After the meal, there was great excitement in the palace and all but Princess Yasodhara came to show their reverence to the Buddha. Yasodhara thought that if there was any virtue in her the Noble Lord would come to her himself. The Buddha saw that if he did not visit her, Yasodhara's heart would be broken with grief. So he handed his bowl to the King, and accompanied by his two chief disciples, entered the chamber of Yasodhara and sat on the prepared seat, saying, gLet the King's daughter show reverence as she likes.h gSwiftly she came, clasped his ankles, and placing her head on his feet, reverenced him as she liked.h4 So Stephen probably refers to the Buddha's biography in that passage or he just wants Emma to be more obedient or generous to him like Yasodhara. A possible source is The Soul of A People, in which Fielding-Hall showed his deep compassion for Yasodhara(31-33). One major source of Joyce's Buddhist allusions is Henry S. Olcott's The Buddhist Catechism (1881). As Richard Ellmann checked, Joyce's copy of the book was dated May 7, 1901:
... He also joined the rest of
intellectual Dublin in taking an interest in occultism;
his copy of H. S. Olcott's A Buddhist Catechism is dated May 7, 1901. His brother
Stanislaus thought James was looking for a substitute religion, but it is probable
that he, like Yeats and unlike George Russell, was attracted more by the symbology
than by the pious generalization of Theosophy. (JJ 75-76)5
Although the book remained popular and authoritative until early in the twentieth century, it cannot be regarded as a reliable Buddhist handbook because it preaches an occultist version of Buddhism. The small booklet is divided into five categories: 1) The Life of the Buddha, 2) The Dharma or Doctrine, 3) The Sangha, or Monastic Order, 4) A Brief History of Buddhism and 5) Some Reconciliation of Buddhism with Science. In Part One, Olcott notes that the gword ereligion' is most inappropriate to apply to Buddhism, which is not a religion, but a moral philosophy.h Then the questions and answers continue:
2. Q. What is Buddhism?
A. It is a body of teachings given out by a great personage known as the Buddha.
3. Q. Is eBuddhism' the best name for this teaching?
A. No: that is only a Western term: the best name for it is Bauddha Dharma.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
12. Q. Was Buddha his name?
A. No. It is the name of a condition or state of mind, of the mind after it has
reached the culmination of development.
13. Q. What is its meaning?
A. Enlightened; or he who has the all-perfect wisdom. The Pali phrase is
Sabbannu, the One of Boundless Knowledge. In Sanskrit it is Sarvajna.
The first scholar who pointed out the
importance of Buddhism in Joyce's works is Stuart Gilbert. In his
book James Joyce's gUlysses,h Gilbert remembered one occasion
when Joyce and he chanced to be discussing Eliphas Levi's theories of
magic and Mme Blavatsky's entertaining Isis Unveiled: ghe asked me if
I had read any of Sinnett's workh(vii-viii). A. P. Sinnett, ga
cultured and intelligent manh according to Gilbert, was a member of Mme
Blavatsky's circle in India and her biographer. Naturally he took
the hint and procured Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism and Growth
of the Soul, well-written books from which Joyce certainly derived
some of his material. But as Gilbert remembered, Joyce shied off
the conversation on spiritual literature, perhaps because of his Catholic
upbringing(viii). Gilbert also confessed that he was sometimes asked
if Joyce believed in Theosophy, magic and so forth(viii). Gilbert
seems to have doubted if Joyce really believed in any such doctrines, though
many Joycean readers know that Joyce owned several deeply rooted superstitions.
But it should be underlined that Gilbert insisted on the importance of
Sinnett's theosophical works on Buddhism for reading Ulysses as
well as Berard's Les Pheniciens et l'Odyssee.
II. Joyce and Theosophy
There are numerous allusions to
Buddhism in Joyce's works. Then, how did Joyce know Buddhism?
He had a copy of Olcott's The Buddhist Catechism, read Fielding-Hall's
Soul of a People and Sinnett's books. Joyce probably learned
Buddhism mostly through Theosophy. Theosophy is a body of religious
doctrine strongly influenced by the gEsoteric Buddhism,h prehistoric
gBudhismh (spelt with one, instead of two d's) or pre-Vedic Brahmanism.
In A Portrait, Stephen hears his fellow students' catcall, "We want
no budding buddhists"(P246). As Don Gifford notes in Joyce
Annotated, this is echoing Irish prejudice against the interest in
Theosophy and the occult evinced by W. B. Yeats and some of his associates(269).
Theosophists were then an avand-garde group fascinated by the mysticism
of Eastern religions, various Christian heresies, and the medieval Cabala.
Theosophical doctrine derived in part from Buddhist teaching. Stephen
in Ulysses alludes to Mme Blavatsky and to Isis Unveiled
in the Proteus episode and in the Scylla and Charybdis episode. In
addition, AE (George Russell) and John Eglinton, who appear in the Scylla
and Charybdis episode, were at one time affiliated with the Dublin Lodge
of the Theosophical Society. But Stephen's attitude is apparently
cynical towards Theosophy. It is likely that Joyce consulted Sinnett's
Buddhism and The Growth of the Soul.
The Theosophical Society was founded by Mme Blavatsky in 1875 in New York in connection with Olcott and others. She published many books, among them, Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), which deal with occult doctrines, spiritualist themes and esoteric knowledge.
The main objects of the society were thus set out according to the 11th Britannica: g1) To establish a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity; 2) to promote the study of comparative religion and philosophy; 3) to make a systematic investigation into the mystic potencies of life and matter, or what is usually termed eoccultism'h(EB26.789).6 The first object, the society's theory of universal brotherhood was, however, of far wider scope, being based upon a mystical conception of gthe One Lifeh ?an idea derived from and common to various forms of Eastern thought, Vedic and Buddhist. In her early days, Mme Blavatsky was much influenced by what they called gEsoteric Buddhismh which is somewhat close to Theravada (Southern) Buddhism or gThe Teachings of the Eldersh which is practiced in South[-East] Asian countries like Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand (Siam), etc. But her teachings and doctrines, often criticized, are not coherent throughout her life. Her important gsutrah The Secret Doctrine, is partially based on The Book of Dzyan, a mysterious Thibetan(?) Buddhist book many scholars and critics suspect does not actually exist. The second object, the study of comparative religion and philosophy, led to the theory that all the great religions of the world originated from the same supreme source, and that they were all to be regarded as so many diverse expressions of one and the same fundamental truth, or gWisdom Religion.h From time to time Mme Blavatsky's numerous friends and associates were allowed to witness the manifestation of goccult phenomena,h which, she insisted, were the outcome of her connection with these gMahatmas.h That is probably Theosophy's most serious defect. There are numerous passages in the sacred books of the East, especially those of the Buddhists, which warn the student against the assumption that gmagicalh performances of any kind are to be regarded as proving the truth of the performer's teaching. In The Secret Doctrine, Mme Blavatsky often mentioned Mahayana (Northern) Buddhism, especially Thibetan Buddhism, presumably inspired by Japanese Buddhist missions at that time, as Olcott noted (116-18). Mahayana Buddhism prevails in Thibet (now part of China), China, Korea and Japan. In the catechism-style of the Ithaca episode, the readers know that Bloom would like to travel to two Buddhist countries as well as Jerusalem: gCeylon (with spicegardens supplying tea to...), Jerusalem, ... the forbidden country of Thibet (from which no traveller returns), the bay of Naples (to see which was to die), the Dead Seah (U17.1980-90). Joyce's Bloom combines these and says gVedi Thibet, e poi muorih (gSee Thibet and then dieh). It is widely known among Theosophists that Mme Blavatsky claimed to stay in Thibet from 1868 to 1870.
Theosophy is a field where Joyce's youthful investigations might have not sustained the same level of interest on the Continent as they had in Ireland. As Michael Patrick Gillespie notes in Inverted Volumes Improperly Arranged, of the five texts by theosophical authors--Walter Adams, Annie Besant, William Horton and Henry Olcott--which Ellmann lists in The Consciousness of Joyce, only the two books by Annie Besant were acquired by Joyce in Trieste: Une introduction a la theosophie and The Path of Discipleship: Four Lectures delivered at the Twentieth Anniversary of the Theosophical Society, at Adyar, Madras, December 27, 28, 29 and 30, 1895(15). Gillespie suspects that Joyce disposed of the Adam's, Horton's and Olcott's books before leaving Dublin (14). Joyce, however, seems to have investigated Theosophy and Buddhism in Trieste.
As Gillespie says, this interest marks Joyce's early efforts in the search of a structuring principle or philosophy that could serve as a framework for his artistic development while giving it greater freedom that Catholicism would permit (28). Joyce's inclination towards Theosophy and Eastern mysticism may have been short-lived. Joyce presumably could not distinguish Theravada Buddhism from Mahayana, nor did he know that Ceylon's Buddhism belongs to Theravada and Thibet's to Mahayana Buddhism. But he remembered Theosophy in his Triestine days at least enough to use some for Bloom's rationale for vegetarianism in the Lestrygonians episode and Stephen's parodies in the Scylla and Charybdis episode in Ulysses.
III. Buddhist or Theosophical Allusions
In Ulysses, Bloom explains gre-incarnationh or gmetempsychosish to Molly in the Calypso episode. Re-incarnation is one of the principle Buddhist doctrines. His reference to re-incarnation is the one which probably summarizes and simplifies the gRe-incarnationh chapter of Sinnett's The Growth of the Soul7:
-- Some people believe, he said,
that we go on living in another body after
death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say
we have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives. (U4.362-65)
Three main characters of Ulysses,
Bloom, Stephen and Molly remember the Buddha. Bloom's and Molly's
Buddhist references are quite easy to understand while Stephen's references
are very difficult, influenced and distorted by Theosophy.
The first reference to the Buddha is in the Lotus-Eaters episode where Bloom imagines the East on a sunny, warm morning. In Westland Row he halts before the window of the Belfast and Oriental Tea Company and reads a tea poster gchoice blend, made of the finest Ceylon brandsh(U5.18-19): he soon associates it with gThe far east. Lovely spot it must be: the garden of the world, big lazy leaves to float about on, cactuses, flowery meads, snaky lianas they call them...h(U5.29-31). Ceylon is famous for tea products, and also the place where Olcott's Buddhist Catechism was compiled as he noted at the end of the booklet. Next he imagines the people's idle lives there like the Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey, gSleep six months out of twelve. Too hot to quarrel. Influence of the climate. Lethargy. Flowers of idleness. The air feeds most. Azotes. Hothouse in Botanic gardens. Sensitive plants. Waterlilies. Petals too tired to. Sleeping sickness in the airh(U5.33-36). Then Bloom remembers the chap in the picture gin the dead sea floating on his back, reading a book with a parasol openh(U5.37-39).
For a time Bloom forgets the East while he walks westward to check his post box at Westland Row Post Office, encounters C. P. MeCoy talking about Paddy Dignam's death, etc. and reads Martha Clifford's letter in the lee of Westland Row Station wall. After finishing it, he resumes his walk and reaches the open backdoor of All Hallows (St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church). He steps into the porch and doffs his hat:
Same notice on the
door. Sermon by the very reverend John Conmee
S. J. on saint Peter Claver S. J. and the African Mission. Prayers for the
conversion of Gladstone they had too when he was almost unconscious.
The protestants are the same. Convert Dr William J. Walsh D. D. to the
true religion. Save China's millions. Wonder how they explain it to the
heathen Chinee. Prefer an ounce of opium. Celestials. Rank heresy for
them. Buddha their god lying on his side in the museum. Taking it easy with
hand under his cheek. Josssticks burning. Not like Ecce Homo. Crown of
thorns and cross. Clever idea Saint Patrick the shamrock. Chopsticks?
(U5.322-30) (Italics mine.)
The greclining Buddha,h National Museum of Ireland, Dublin. gThe figure is of marble, with
the drapery painted gold, and is 140 cm long by 23 cm wide by 41 cm highh(Smurthwaite 3).8
In the Roman Catholic church, Bloom remembers
and mocks the Jesuit missionaries in China showing his sympathy for the
Chinese people. Bloom's comment on gheathenh Chinese people's
preference for an ounce of opium over Christianity might satirize the Opium
War between Britain and Ching Dynasty China (1839-42). Then he remembers
the reclining Buddha statue he saw in the National Museum of Ireland.
According to Olcott, as we have seen, the Buddha is not gtheir god,h
but the ggreat personage known as the Buddha.h In general, there
are three poses for the Buddha's statues: 1) standing Buddha as a preacher,
2) sitting Buddha in meditation and 3) reclining Buddha, dying and ready
for Nirvana. The above Buddha, from Burma, is very beautiful,
well-proportioned and, sensual, when compared with Japanese Buddha statues.
Olcott noted that the Buddha was ga man of surpassing beauty of form and
features, and that he had on his body certain marks which are said to be
seen on the body of every Buddhah (25). Most Northern statues of
the Buddha are standing or sitting, so Mahayana Buddhists do not often
see lying or reclining Buddha images like the statue Bloom saw in the main
entrance hall of the National Museum, off Kildare Street, which was presented
in 1891 by Colonel Sir Charles Fitzgerald as ga trophy of Britain's newest
colony exhibited to the people of her oldesth according to John Smurthwaite(3).
Joyce mistakenly associates the Buddha's reclining pose with idleness.
In fact, the reclining Buddha statue was made to express how the Buddha
attained the Nirvana after he had eaten the pork dish offered by Cunda,
the smith, which made his stomach totally uncurable: ghe had bedding spread
with the head towards the north according to the ancient custom.
He lay upon it, and with his mind perfectly clear, gave his final instructions
to his disciples and bade them farewellh according to Olcott (22).
The episode name, gLotus-Eaters,h brings to mind the Buddha, because the Buddha is typically portrayed sitting on a lotus flower that arises pure from the muck. Joyce probably knew the lotus flower is also the important symbol for the Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhism, one of the most important and influential sutras is the gLotus Sutra.h In the Odyssey, the Lotus Eaters appear in Book IX. Early in Odysseus's voyage he and his men were driven by a storm to the land of the Lotus-Eaters, ga race that live on vegetarian foodh and Odysseus disembarked to take on water. Some of Odysseus's men met the friendly Lotus-Eaters, and ate the lotus: gAll they now wished for was to stay where they were with the Lotus-eaters, to browse on the lotus, and to forget that they had a home to return toh(141).9 Odysseus drove the infected men back to the ships and set sail. Bloom here regards Ceylon as a land of the Lotus-Eaters and longs for the reclining Buddha contrasting its peaceful image with Christ's torture of thorns and cross.
After the church service ends, Bloom goes out and walks southward along Westland Row for Sweny's (a chemist). He buys a sweet lemony wax for Molly. Then he walks cheerfully towards the mosque-shaped Turkish baths. The episode ends with glotus flower,h a metaphor for the fulfillment of his name gBloomh and his feigned name gHenry Flowerh: gHe foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked, in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved. He saw... his navel, bud of flesh: and saw the dark tangled curls of his bush floating, floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flowerh (U5.567-72). It is a Joycean association of the Buddha/bud/bod (Ir. penis) often found in Finnegans Wake. Here Bloom becomes a reclining Buddha in his mind.
Stephen monologues in the Scylla and Charybdis episode:
Dunlop, Judge, the
noblest Roman of them all, A. E., Arval, the Name
Ineffable, in heaven hight: K. H., their master, whose identity is no secret to
adepts. Brothers of the great white lodge always watching to see if they can
help. The Christ with the bridesister, moisture of light, born of an ensouled
virgin, repentant sophia, departed to the plane of buddhi. The life esoteric is
not for ordinary person. O. P. must work off bad karma first. (U9.65-70)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Yogibogeybox in Dawson chambers. Isis Unveiled. Their Pali book
we tried to pawn. Crosslegged under an umbrel umbershoot he thrones an
Aztec logos, functioning on astral levels, their oversoul, mahamahatma. The
faithful hermetists await the light, ripe for chelaship, ringroundabout him.
Louis H. Victory. T. Caulfield Irwin. Lotus ladies tend them i'the eyes, their
pineal glands aglow. Filled with his god, he thrones, Buddh under plantain.
Gulfer of souls, engulfer. Hesouls, shesouls, shoals of souls. Engulfed with
wailing creecries, whirled, whirling, they bewail.(U9.279-85)(Italics mine)
Stephen mocks and parodies Theosophy and
Buddhism here. As Gifford notes, the first passage he remembers Daniel
Nicol Dunlop (editor of Irish Theosophists, c. 1896-1915), William W. Judge
(Irish-American Theosophist), Arval (the Esoteric Section), Master Koot
Hoomi (one of Blavatsky's two masters), the Theosophical version of Christ's
career in the plane of buddhi, the life esoteric and karma (UA 197-98).
In the second passage, Stephen mentions Isis Unveiled, Pali book (the Ur-book),
Aztec logos (the groundwork of universal truth with an Aztec flavor), astral
levels, oversoul, mahamahatma (Sanskrit: ggreat, great-soulh), chelaship
(an Esoteric Buddhism term), Lotus ladies (Apsalas, Hindu nymphs), pineal
glands (gthird eyeh) and Gulfer of souls (God in Theosophy) (UA
In the legend of the Buddha, after he abandoned his worldly career, he attempted an excessive asceticism. In the course of this contemplation the Buddha achieved enlightenment, becoming a gBodhisattva.h The Sanskrit term gbodhih means genlightenment.h gThus the Prince Siddhartha Gautama was a Bodhisattva up to the moment when, under the blessed Bodhi tree [not a plantain] at Gaya, he became Buddhah (Olcott 28); in Theosophical terms, he achieved the astral level and thus became gtheir oversoul, mahamahatma.h Stephen in the Scylla and Charybdis episode seems to try to achieve some enlightenment arguing his Hamlet theory. In this sense, Stephen can be identified with a Bodhisattva. Stephen's comment on the Buddha is, as he monologues, probably influenced by Mme Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled. She mentioned:
The lotus, the sacred flower of
the Egyptians, as well as the Hindus, is the symbol of Horus as it is that
of Brahma... With the Buddhists, it has the same signification. Maha-Maya,
or Maha-Deva, the mother of Gautama Buddha, had the birth of her son announced
to her by Bhodisat (the spirit of Buddha), who appeared beside her couch
with a lotus in his hand. Thus, also, Osiris and Horus are represented
by the Egyptians constantly in association with the lotus-flower.
These facts all go to show the identical parentage of this idea in the three religious systems, Hindu, Egyptian and Judaico-Christian. Wherever the mystic water-lily (lotus) is employed, it signifies the emanation of the objective from the concealed, or subjective--the eternal thought of the ever-invisible Deity passing from the abstract into the concrete or visible form.(I,91-92)
Thus Stephen's monologue intensifies
the relationship between the lotus flower and the Buddha. In the
Oxen of the Sun episode, Stephen cites Theosophists' word about the karmic
law and re-incarnation: gTheosophos told me so, Stephen answered, whom
in a previous existence Egyptian priests initiated into the mysteries of
karmic lawh (U14.1168-69). Needless to say, the two concepts
of re-incarnation and the karma are also Buddhist terms.
Molly monologues in the Penelope episode:
hes sleeping at the foot of the
bed how can he without a hard bolster its well
he doesnt kick or he might knock out all my teeth breathing with his hand
on his nose like that Indian god he took me to show one wet Sunday in the
museum in Kildare street all yellow in a pinafore lying on his side on his
hand with his ten toes sticking out that he said was a bigger religion than
the jews and Our Lords both put together all over Asia imitating him as hes
always imitating everybody I suppose he used to sleep at the foot of the bed
too with his big square feet up in his wifes mouth damn this stinking thing
In Molly's imagination, Bloom's sleeping
pose is similar to that of Buddha's statue. Bloom, now impotent
after his son Rudy's death, has not had sexual intercourse with Molly
for a long time. The Buddha never had sex after leaving his wife
Yasodhara and his child at the age of 29. Bloom's sleeping pose
identifies him with the reclining Buddha. He sleeps with his head
at one end of the bed and she with her head at the other, so that they
can avoid having another child. His sleeping arrangement might also
imply his secret will to renounce the world. Bloom has been exaggerating
or is treating a number of Eastern religions as one, but such exaggerations
were common in the late nineteenth century when Westerners tended to inflate
the populations of the East and to lump Eastern religions together without
distinction(UA 627). According to The Century Book of Facts
(1906), Christians numbered 477,080,158, and Buddhists, 147,900,000,10
but Mme Blavatsky suggests in Isis Unveiled that Christians numbered 260,000,000
and Buddhists numbered 450,000,000 in the middle of the nineteenth century(II.539).
Molly's comment reminds the readers of Bloom's obscure longing for the
Far East he shows in the Lotus Eaters episode.
Then when did Joyce think of putting these Buddhist references into Ulysses? In Ulysses's Notesheet, the word gBuddhah appears twice: gR <A Gautama, A Jesus, An Ingersoll>h (gCirceh II, 324; U15.2198-9), gR <LB Buddha> (gPenelopeh I; U18.1199-205). In the Scylla and Charybdis episode, Stephen's Buddhist references in the two passages can be seen in the Rosenbach Manuscript (9,2&8) and the Little Review version (V, 11,32&37) with some theosophical terms like gIsis Unveiled,h gPali bookh and gmahamahatmah: Joyce added some more theosophical terms including glife esoteric,h gkarma,h and goversoulh to the same passages later at the stage of Typescript (Buffalo V.B.7;JJA12.351;354). The last Buddhist reference Joyce inserted is in the Lotus Episode at the stage of Placard X: gBuddha their god lying on his side in the museum. Taking it easy with hand under his cheek. Not like Ecce Homo. Crown of thorns and crossh(JJA17.190;U5.328-30). Judging from the dates Joyce inserted the Buddhist references, he planned to use them in Ulysses from the beginning. So it is rather surprising Joyce inserted the reclining Buddha passage last, while Molly's mentioning the Buddha statue was planned earlier. In my personal view, however, Joyce seems to have decided in which part of the novel to introduce the statue after long deliberation.
As we have seen, Joyce learned
about Buddhism through many Buddhist books and Theosophy. His review
of Fielding-Hall's The Soul of a People indicates how sympathetically
he regarded Buddhism which put war aside as irrelevant, when he heard an
army in Trieste at the beginning of World War I. Joyce's hatred
of force also emerges in Exiles and Ulysses, and Stephen
Dedalus in A Portrait remains non violent, with his weapons of gsilence,
exile, and cunning,h as Richard Ellmann noted.11 Joyce's
knowledge about Buddhism was not always correct, but he thought for a time
that the Buddha could be a substitute for Jesus Christ from whom he vainly
wanted to escape when he was young. Influenced by Buddhism, or what
Joyce called ga suave philosophy,h Mediterranean Joyce meditated upon
the Buddha and wrote Ulysses, the Greek-Irish novel, and other writings
In A Portrait, Stephen calls himself in Greek, gBous Stephenoumenos! Bous Stephaneforos!h(P182) which means gOx as garland-bearer of the sacrificeh and gox- or bull-soul of Stephenh as Seamus Deane notes.12 It recalls to my mind that the earlier Buddhist sculptures, like the famous Bamian wall-cut figures which were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, were made by the Greco-Buddhist people in Bactria (now Afghanistan). It can be argued that Stephen is a kind of sacrificial bull, especially in the context of the Bodhisattva concept, as Roshan L. Attrey says in The Function of Oriental Allusions in James Joyce's gUlyssesh(268).
East is East and West is West but for ever the twain shall meet because gExtremes meeth (U15.2098) in Trieste, boundary between East and West, gwhere extremes meeth (FW440.34-35). Mme Blavatsky cited the famous Venetian Marco Polo in Isis Unveiled: gAs Marco naively expresses it, Buddha led a life of such hardship and sanctity, and kept such great abstinence, ejust as if he had been a Christian. Indeed,' he adds, ehad he but been so, he would have been a great saint of our Lord Jesus Christ, so good and pure was the life he led'h (II, 581). In the Circe episode, Elijah tells Stephen, gYou have that something within, the higher self. You can rub shoulders with a Jesus, a Gautama, an Ingersollh (U15.2198-9). Both Stephen and Bloom long for the Buddha in the way they want to long for Jesus Christ. In Ulysses, the Mediterranean novel, Joyce enriched Bloom's character with elements of Buddhist pacifism and Stephen's character with elements of Buddhist enlightenment.
Aithal, S. Krishnamoorthy. gAllusions
to the Buddha in Ulysses.h
James Joyce Quarterly, 16.4 (Summer 1979), 510-12.
- - -. gIndian Allusions in Ulysses.h Eire-Ireland.14,4 (Summer 1979),
Atherton, James S. Books at the Wake: A Study of Literary Allusions in
James Joyce's gFinnegans Wake.h Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1959.
Attrey, Roshan L. The Function of Oriental Allusions in James Joyce's
gUlysses.h Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1986.
Blavatsky, H. P. Isis Unveiled. 2 vols. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical Society
- - -. The Key to Theosophy. Los Angeles: Theosophical Society Press,
- - -. The Secret Doctirne. 2 vols. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical Society
Cheng, Vincent J. Joyce, Race, and Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1995.
Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
- - -. Ulysses on the Liffey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.
- - -. The Consciousness of Joyce. Toronto and New York: Oxford
University Press, 1977.
Encyclopaedia Britannica. 29 vols. 11th ed. New York: The Encyclopaedia
Britannica Company, 1910-11.
Fielding[-Hall], H[arold]. The Soul of a People. London: Macmillan and Co.,
Gifford, Don. Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man [or JA]. Berkeley: University of California Press,
- - -. With Robert J. Seidman. gUlyssesh Annotated [or UA]. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1988.
Gilbert, Stuart. James Joyce's gUlyssesh: A Study. New York: Vintage
Gillespie, Michael Patrick. Inverted Volumes Improperly Arranged: James
Joyce and His Trieste Library. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983.
- - -. James Joyce's Trieste Library: A Catalogue. Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1986.
Golden Land Mynmar, The. gIntroduction to Basic Buddhism.h 20 Sept.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. E. V Rieu. London: Penguin Books, 1946.
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ed. Seamus Deane.
London: Penguin Books, 1992.
- - -. Finnegans Wake. New York: The Viking Penguin Inc., 1987.
- - -. Ed. Phillip F. Herring. Joyce's gUlyssesh Notesheets in the British
Museum. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1972.
- - -. Stephen Hero. New York: A New Directions Book, 1963.
- - -. Ulysses. London: The Bodley Head, 1986.
- - -. Ulysses: A Facsimile of the Manuscript. London: Faber and Faber
Ltd. in association with The Philip H. & A. S. W. Rosenbach Foundation,
- - -. Eds. Ellsworth Mason & Richard Ellmann. The Critical Writings of
James Joyce. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989 (1st ed. 1959).
- - -. Eds. Michael Groden, etc. The James Joyce Archive. 63 vols. New
York & London; Garland Publishing, 1978.
Joyce, Stanislaus. Ed. George H. Healey. The Complete Dublin Diary of
Stanislaus Joyce. Dublin: Anna Livia Press, 1994.
Olcott, Henry S. The Buddhist Catechism. London: Theosophical Society,
Scholes, Robert and Richard M. Kain. The Workshop of Daedalus: James
Joyce and the Raw Materials for gA Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Man.h Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1965.
Sinnett, A. P. Esoteric Buddhism. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company,
- - -. The Growth of the Soul. London: The Theosophical Publishing
Smurthwaite, John. gThat Indian God.h James Joyce Broadsheet, 61
* I am indebted to Audrey Whitty of the
National Museum of Ireland for showing me many Buddha statues including
the reclining Buddha and other Eastern collections which are not open to
the public, and to Niamh Deegan of the Museum's Rights and Reproductions
Office for granting permission to reproduce a photograph of the statue.