Good karma

By Lauren Kelly

In association with The Beats Go On… events held at Columbia, the Friends of the Library Signature Showcase will present “Buddhism and the Beats: The Impact of Eastern Philosophy on Beat Writers.”

The event will be presented by Dr. Stephen Asma, a full-time faculty member at Columbia.

The two-hour event will be held on Oct. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Ferguson Lecture Hall in the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., on the first floor. It is free and open to the public.

Through lecture and discussion, Asma will explore how beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were affected by the Buddhist philosophy.

“All of them say Buddhism had a huge influence, but they never go on to explain how or why,” Asma said.

He said he wants people to be able to connect the dots more between the Beats and the religion. Asma said Buddhism forms a backdrop for many of Kerouac’s novels such as The Dharma Bums and On The Road.

Though he was picked to be the speaker for the event because of his expertise in Eastern Philosophy and Buddhism, Asma said he started reading beat literature in high school.

“There are reasons why Buddhism is attractive to free thinkers and artists and people who want to live a bohemian lifestyle outside of the usual capitalist rat race,” Asma said. “I think Buddhism itself is a countercultural philosophy. That’s one of the reasons they were attracted to it, because it is anti-establishment.”

Asma has had four books published, and his fifth, On Monsters: A Tour of Fears and Fascinations, will be released in 2009.

This is the first Friends of the Library Signature Showcase event.

“The Library wanted to create a series to highlight the works of our faculty on campus,” said Kim Hale, head of library marketing, outreach & special initiatives. “It’s another way to share their work with a larger audience.”

Founded in 2005, the Friends of the Library aims to develop library collections to support the academic and cultural community of Columbia, according to its website.

The next Signature Showcase event is in April and will feature the work of Sam Weller, author of The Bradbury Chronicles, as well as a faculty member in the Fiction Writing Department.

Weller will then discuss his book and his friendship with Ray Bradbury.

To see a complete schedule of And The Beats Go On… events, visit