Sheldon Kopp’s Eternal Truths: An Eschatological Laundry List

Decades ago I read If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients by psychotherapist Sheldon B. Kopp (New York: Bantam, 1972). It blew me away.

What speaks to me most from this book is a couple of pages from the Afterword — An Eschatological Laundry List: A Partial Register of the 927 (or was it 928?) Eternal Truths. I’ve included this list below.

Reviewing it after all these years, I find some of the items to be dated and at odds with what I’ve learned about Buddhism. But much of the list still resonates with me — especially the first and last items.

(Please forgive the sexist language, by the way. This was published a long time ago.)

  1. This is it!
  2. There are no hidden meanings.
  3. You can’t get there from here, and besides there’s no place else to go anyway.
  4. We are all already dying, and we will be dead for a long time.
  5. Nothing lasts.
  6. There is no way of getting all you want.
  7. You can’t have anything unless you let go of it.
  8. You only get to keep what you give away.
  9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.
  10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good does not often pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune.
  11. You have a responsibility to do your best nonetheless.
  12. It is a random universe to which we bring meaning.
  13. You don’t really control anything.
  14. You can’t make anyone love you.
  15. No one is any stronger or weaker than anyone else.Everyone is, in his own way, vulnerable.
  16. There are no great men.
  17. If you have a hero, look again: You have diminished yourself in some way.
  18. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends (yes, you too, and most certainly I myself).
  19. All evil is potential vitality in need of transformation.
  20. All of you is worth something, if you will only own it.
  21. Progress is an illusion.
  22. Evil can be displaced but never eradicated, as all solutions breed new problems.
  23. Yet it is necessary to keep on struggling toward solutions.
  24. Childhood is a nightmare.
  25. But it is so very hard to be an on-your-own, take-care-of-yourself-because-there-is-no-one-else-to-do-it-for-you grown up.
  26. Each of us is ultimately alone.
  27. The most important things, each man must do for himself.
  28. Love is not enough, but it sure helps.
  29. We have only ourselves, and one another. That may not be much, but that’s all there is.
  30. How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.
  31. We must often live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.
  32. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.
  33. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.
  34. No excuses will be accepted.
  35. You can run, but you can’t hide.
  36. It is most important to run out of scapegpoats.
  37. We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.
  38. The only victory lies in surrender to oneself.
  39. All of the significant battles are waged within the self.
  40. You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.
  41. What do you know…for sure…anyway?
  42. Learn to forgive yourself, again and again and again and again….