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American Literature | English Language and Literature | Religion


Michael Opitz


A great American author, Jack Kerouac, loved the Eastern philosophy, Zen Buddhism, which influenced fifteen years of his writing career. The theory of Zen Buddhism taught him what was in and out of human control as well as the true essence of nature. Kerouac reflected on and described his daily life of Zen Buddhism in his novels, and Zen Buddhism certainly became his spiritual inner home for fifteen years. However, searching for a true spirituality never settled him down emotionally; therefore his loss of faith in Zen Buddhism demolished his inner spiritual home, and his struggle began. My thesis examines the conflict between Kerouac's ultimate goal, which was to find the absolute truth, and the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, which teaches about the limitations of human life and how to live in this suffering world full of mystery. His realization of human limitations was a great disappointment for him, and his doubt and loss of inner spirituality lowered him to the loneliest feelings. It is possible to say that Kerouac's realization was very realistic, but his desire perhaps was unrealistic. Kerouac's writing described his self-discovery process through the study of Zen Buddhism, showing his deep and hopeless sorrow and disappointment in human life. For Kerouac, who lived passionately, with his imagination expanding endlessly, to understand the limitations of human knowledge was the most difficult fact to accept. Perhaps Kerouac's desire for absolute knowledge combined with the study of Zen Buddhism was a dangerous mix; nevertheless, he created an incredible voice through his involvement with Zen Buddhism.