Dorothy Norman invited me to dinner in New York.
There was a lady there from Philadelphia who was
an authority on Buddhist art. When she found out
I was interested in mushrooms, she said, “Have
you an explanation of the symbolism involved in the
death of the Buddha by his eating a mushroom?” I
explained that I’d never been interested in
symbolism; that I preferred just taking things as
themselves, not as standing for other things.
But then a few days later while rambling in the
woods I got to thinking. I recalled the Indian
concept of the relation of life and the seasons.
Spring is Creation. Summer is Preservation.
Fall is Destruction. Winter is
Quiescence. Mushrooms grow most vigorously in
the fall, the period of destruction, and the
function of many of them is to bring about the final
decay of rotting material. In fact, as I
read somewhere, the world would be an impassible
heap of old rubbish were it not for mushrooms and
their capacity to get rid of it. So I wrote to
the lady in Philadelphia. I said, “The
function of mushrooms is to rid the world of old
rubbish. The Buddha died a natural death.”