Agony and Ecstasy

A comparative study of the five hindrances, together with the five states of concentration or mental absorption.

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Agony and Ecstasy

Agony and Ecstasy

Introducing the Subject

I am aware that the title of this booklet “Agony and Ecstasy” will sound very familiar to many and I gladly admit having derived this title from the famous book “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone, which was made into an equally famous film, depicting an important period of the life of Michaelangelo, that greatest artist of the Italian Renaissance, painter, sculptor and architect, builder of St. Peter’s dome, painter of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, sculptor of the famous statues of David in Florence, of Moses and the Pieta in Rome, to mention just a few.

Well, this present booklet has nothing in common with those great creations – except the title, which I borrowed, asking for the kind permission of the Publishers, with appreciation and admiration. I could not not help doing so, as the title is so appropriate to the subjects to be dealt with: the five mental hindrances (nīvaraṇa) and the five states of mental absorption (jhāna). Five agonies and five ecstasies, which, as shall be seen, can cancel out one another, till the final emancipation, which is beyond all agonising conflict (dukkha) and ecstatic joy.

Henri van Zeyst
14th May, 1978,
Uplands Estate,
Kandy, Sri Lanka.

From: Henri G. A. van Zeyst
Sri Lanka
18th Sept. 1977

The Publication Manager
Messrs. Doubleday & Co. New York

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Dear Sir,

I am the author of several books on Buddhism during the last 37 years and I am presently preparing a comparative study on what are called in Buddhist terminology the five hindrances (nīvaraṇa) in spiritual progress: lust, hate, sloth, agitation and doubt, with the five states of concentration or mental absorption (jhāna) from the silencing of discursive thought to one-pointedness of mind.

The two sets appear to cancel out one another, thus preparing the ground for the final emancipation of Nirvāṇa. The conflict within, as seen against the tranquillity in meditation has suggested to me as title: Agony & Ecstasy

I am, of course, fully aware of the title of Irving Stone’s beautiful book on the life of Michael Angelo, published by you, and made into an equally beautiful film of the same title. Both are too well known internationally not to draw one’s attention thereto, if I were to publish my study under a very similar name: Agony and Ecstasy.

Although I am advised that the borrowing of the title would not be an infringement of copy-rights, yet I prefer as an act of courtesy to obtain your kind permission to make use of the title (and that only) which seems so appropriate to my proposed study.

I shall be, therefore, both be grateful and obliged to have your and/or the author’s permission (if you could contact him on my behalf) to make use of this title with full acknowledgement. The similarity of the two studies begins and ends with the title.

With best regards,
Yours faithfully,
H. G. A. Van Zeyst

Doubleday & Company Inc.
245, Park Avenue,
New York 10017
October 20, 1977.

Mr. H. G. A. van Zeyst,
Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Dear Mr. van Zeyst,

In answer to your kind letter concerning the use of the title, Agony & Ecstasy, we can grant permission for its use in your manual. Titles are not copyrighted, and since Mr. Stone’s book was published in 1965, it does not seem that there would be a conflict of interest.

Best of luck in the publication of your manual.

Dorothy M. Harris, Permissions Editor.

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