[Buddha-l] Paul Williams

Joel Tatelman tatelman at sympatico.ca
Sat Dec 22 16:32:00 MST 2007

On a rational level, I find satisfactory Erik's philosophical  
response to the dissatisfactions with Buddhist thought attributed to  
Paul Williams.

At the same time, to me, the most satisfying Buddhist position on  
such questions as "why is there something rather than nothing?" is  
presented in the sutta in which the Buddha refuses to answer such  
questions, counselling rigorous practice instead--while at the same  
time intimating that, as an awakened individual, he knows. There's a  
statement in the text to the effect that the truths known to the  
Buddha that he chooses not to expound are as numerous as the leaves  
in the forest.

I always took this to mean that such questions are only resolvable or  
understandable when one attains awakening. It seems pretty reasonable  
to me that, so long as my awareness is conditioned by craving  
(attachment, whatever), there is going to be a limit to my cognitive  
abilities. Now I can see why one would find this position  
unsatisfactory, if only because it seems to "excuse" the tradition  
from attending to such questions, but, at the same time, if one  
accepts that there's something more to "awakening" than a way to  
exalt some people over others, it makes a certain sense.

Accordingly, if one found this "theoretical reticence" in Buddhism  
intolerable, I can see why one would go elsewhere, especially if  
decades of practice had not seemed to bring one any closer to  
grasping some of those leaves in the forest....



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