ISSN : (Online)
DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14354/yjk.2008.29.59
Yeats’s Anti-self Defined by Upanishads and Zen Buddhism
After leaving the Golden Dawn in 1917 Yeats explored a wide range ofmeditative traditions such as Zen Buddhism, Upanishads, Tibetan Mysticism andChinese Taoism. Throughout his poetic career, Yeats defined poetry, and indeed allart, as a form of meditation, as an experience which can reveal the unified "Self,"defined by the Upanishads, and unlock its creative energy stored in the "deep of themind." In "Discoveries," Yeats said that the more he tried to make his artdeliberately beautiful, the more he follow the opposite of himself.
In this paper I argue that Yeats's anti-self is similar to the "Self" of Upanishadsand the Buddhahood of Zen Buddhism. In "The Double Vision of MichaelRobartes" the girl dancing between a Sphinx and a Buddha in the fifteenth night isthe anti-self of Yeats. In a moment the girl, the Sphinx, the Buddha and the poethimself had overthrown time in contemplation. They remain motionless in thecontemplation of their real nature, Buddhahood. Full moon is the light of Samadhiand Turiya which is the forth state corresponding to the whole sacred word "AUM,"pure personality, the "Self" of Upanishads. Only when Yeats becomes the anti-selfhe can be a totally subjective mind, overcome the illusion of duality, and find a"revelation of realty." It is a deliverance that leads simply to seeing things the waythey really are, in their most naked reality.
The process of spiritual realization is cognitive, for knowledge unites the knowerand the known together, reverting to the language of "A Dialogue of Soul andSelf," intellect no longer knows/ Is from Ought, or Knower from the Known. "TheSelf is Brahman": the individual soul is seen to be the universal spirit. When eachman realize that his original nature is the eternal spirit, no matter how ordinary heis, he will enter Buddhahood. Like Bodhisattvas who, on the verge of their ownenlightenment, vow to hold themselves from that final bliss until all sentient beingsare released from the phenomenal world Yeats would like to be an Avalokitesvarain this rag-and-bone shop.