Buddhism Beat & Square

Rick Fields

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One afternoon in 1953, a young poet named Allen Ginsberg visited the First Zen Institute which was then still housed in an elegant private uptown apartment in New York City. Ginsberg occupied himself by perusing the Zen paintings, records and books in the library. But he did not stay very long: the whole atmosphere of the place made him uncomfortable; it was, as he remembered years later, “intimidating—like a university club.” Ginsberg had only recently discovered Buddhism and Chinese philosophy in the New York Public Library. “I had only the faintest idea that there was so much of a kulcheral heritage, so easy to get at thru book upon book of reproduction,” he wrote Neal Cassady in California.

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