Thursday, February 07, 2008

questions



In the external world where our body moves and has its life we are not free. We have to obey the laws of nature, the laws of God, or we suffer; and it is the task of our intellect gradually to discover those laws. But there is our little world of inner life. Here we have limited freedom, but we are free enough to deny the light and even to deny God. Here in our inner world there is something which is not bound by the laws of nature, by the laws of time and space. In the inmost of our soul there is the world of the Spirit and the world of the Spirit is free: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." But the more we deny the Spirit of the Lord, our Atman, our own Self, the more are we bound. We could live in the centre of our soul and thus feel the infinite joy of the Brahman, but instead of yearning towards the centre we make infinite centres of selfishness in the circumference of our souls. The farther those centres are from the Centre, the farther we are from the light: selfishness becomes stronger and stronger, the chains that bind us and which we so laboriously make with our THOUGHTS and WORKS are more and more difficult to break.

The Truth of the Spirit is not found by the arguing of philosophical or metaphysical questions. How can we ask a question about something so near at hand? It is as if we were asking if we were alive; and in fact we might well ask this question since so much of our life is mere vegetable or animal life. We know that we are alive, but not alive to the Highest Life. If, however, we are tempted to argue abou the supreme problems, forgetting the words of Indian wisdom that "Those things which are beyond thought should not be subject to argument" and that "When we can argue about a thing it shows that it is not worth arguing about", we may listen to the word of the Buddha:

"Imagine a man that has been pierced by an arrow well soaked in poison, and his relatives and friends go at once to fetch a physician or doctor. Imagine now that this man says: 'I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know the name of the man who shot it, and the name of his family, and whether he is tall or short or of medium height; until I know whether he is black or dark or yellow; until I know his village or town. i will not have the arrow pulled out until I know about the bow that shot it, whether it was a long bow or a cross bow.

I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know about the bow-string, and the arrow, and the feathers of the arrow, whether they are feathers of vulture, or kite or peacock....................

Well, that man would die, but he woudl die without having found out all those things.

In the same way, any one who would say: 'I will not follow the holy life of Buddha until he tells me whether the world is eternal or not; whether the life and the body are two things, or one thing; whether the one who has reached the Goal is beyond death or not; whether he is both beyond death and not beyond death; whether he is neither beyond death nor is not beyond death.

Well, that man would die, but he would die without Buddha having told these things.

Because I am one who says: Whether the world is eternal or not, there is birth, and death, and suffering, and woe, and lamentation and despair. And what I do teach is the means that lead to the destruction of these things. Remember therefore that what I have said, I have said; and that what I have not said, I have not said. And why have I not given an answer to these questions? Because these questions are not profitable, they are not a principle of the holy life, they lead not to peace, to supreme wisdom, to Nirvana." (Majjhima Nikaya)


Juan Mascaro in the Introduction to "The Upanishads", Penguin Classics

3 comments:

akash said...

"No answers " . Indeed .
akash

Krishna. N. C. said...

What an enlightening post! It's just the kind of thing that a forever frantically thinking creature like me needed to read. Thanks for helping me alter my perspective with your invaluable post. Now I can stop pestering God with my stubborn demand of answers that I unwisely deemed necessary for spiritual development :)

- Kunal
(bro of Krishna/Deciphering Spirituality blog)

solitaire said...

Hello, Kunal, I finally found the post you were referring to!

Questioning is good. It is a process that keeps us moving along. Thanissaro Bhikkhu often talks about skilful questioning. Does the line of questioning lead us along on the spiritual path, or does it create obstacles not only to ourselves but perhaps to others as well? I often struggle with this as well... :-)