Professor George Dorsty
2 April 2013
A True Dharma Bum
One of the most powerful quotes in the entire book that I feel sums up what it is to be a dharma bum, “ I felt free and therefore I was free”. This quote from Ray Smith shows that a dharma bum must always believe in oneself and take the journey to becoming a Dharma bum from within. Although one can learn from fellow dharma bums such as the Saint Teresa bum, Han Shan, and Japhy the ultimate truth of being Dharma bum comes from within.
Saint Teresa Bum is the “first genuine dharma bum” that Ray Smith, the main character is Dharma Bums has ever met. The book starts off with Smith jumping into a box car where he runs into the Saint Teresa bum. The bum found a prayer written by Saint Teresa that he cut out of a reading room magazine in Los Angeles a few years before. He reads this poem to himself every single day as he roams around staying out of everyone else’s way. When Smith asked the bum about his religion he was very modest about it. Smith also noticed that the bum was much more patient than he when it came to the boxcar being so cold. Although Smith never fully reveals why he thinks he is the first true dharma bum he has met, I believe it is because he humbles Smith and teaches him more about being a true dharma bum than he could have ever imagined. Before meeting the bum, Smith felt very secure and sure that he was a true bum. After seeing how loyal this bum was to reading his prayer and staying true to himself he re thinks what it means to be a dharma bum. The Saint Teresa bum’s patience, focus on prayer, and spirit about life make him a dharma bum.
Another Dharma Bum that Jack Kerouac learns from is Han Shan. From the book we see that, “Han Shan you see was a Chinese scholar who got sick of the big city and the world and took off to hide in the mountains” (14). He wrote “Cold Mountains” a thousand years ago scribbled on the sides of clips hundreds of...