To conclude, I just want to quote from someone who appreciated the value of difference. Henry Clark Warren, Harvard Professor at the turn of the century, who was one of the first translators of Buddhist texts into English. When Professor Warren encountered the Buddhist texts, he was swept off his feet a bit. It challenged his established modes of thought; pushed him beyond accustomed patterns. But instead of grabbing onto the familiar philosophical scientific paradigms of his day to "make sense" of Buddhism, he allowed himself to meander the strange new landscape. He wrote:
A large part of the pleasure that I have experienced in the study of Buddhism has arisen from what I may call the strangeness of the intellectual landscape. All the ideas, the modes of argument, even the postulates assumed and not argued about, have always seemed so strange, so different from anything to which I have been accustomed that I have felt all the time as though walking in fairyland. Much of the charm that the Oriental thoughts and ideas have for me appears to be because they so seldom fit into Western categories.
I close tonight by suggesting that perhaps we could take a note from Henry Clark Warren: Let Buddhism rub us the wrong way. Let it not make sense to us so quickly, enjoy the walk in fairyland, and see if it doesn't lead to perhaps some fresh insights and perspectives that we never imagined before.
Question: Referring to your last comments on the essence of learning in general, how do you keep from grasping too soon and sort of putting things into a framework or defining things, since that is how children learn from the very first?
Response: I wrestle with that one too. Someone once gave a definition of sanity as the ability to hold two contradictory, opposite ideas in your mind at the same time and not go crazy. That is really what we are being called upon to do. In a scientific sense I think we do have a precedent in a sense, namely to suspend judgment, remain open until we get enough of data. From this point of view, the acquisition of the data isn't quite complete yet–we are historically only in the very beginning stages of a Buddhist transfer to another culture. From another point of view (one I presented earlier), there is both external data and internal data. The internal data could refer to the purification of one's own body and mind (the instruments and laboratory, if you will, of our experiment.) And as that inner work continues, it is said in Buddhism that even if you don't want it to be clear, it will be–as clear as an apple in the palm of your hand. But until then it's all speculation. So, I think it will require a certain amount of emotional maturity to suspend judgment and not jump to conclusions, and more importantly the direct knowledge that comes through self-cultivation, to really "learn" Buddhism.
To be End