I was particularly pleased to get your last letter since it seems to show that you are managing to make some sense out of the Notes—and this, in its turn, means that I have succeeded, to that extent, at least, in making the Notes intelligible. PHASSA, to which you make particular reference, is by no means the easiest in the book; and though you do not indicate how far the subordinate notes are comprehensible to you, it is already a considerable advance to have grasped that 'contact' is primarily 'an appropriation by a misconceived self' (to use your own words). By way of contrast, here is the Milindapañha's account of 'contact':
"Bhante Nāgasena, what is contact?"
"Your majesty, contact is the act of coming in contact."
"Give an illustration."
"It is as if, your majesty, two rams were to fight one another. The eye is comparable to one of these rams, form to the other, and contact to their collision with each other."
"Give another illustration."
"It is as if, your majesty, the two hands were to be clapped together. The eye is comparable to one hand, form to the other, and contact to their collision with each other."
"Give another illustration."
"It is as if, your majesty, two cymbals were to be clapped together. The eye is comparable to one cymbal, form to the other, and contact to their collision with each other."
"You are an able man, bhante Nāgasena."
(from Warren's Buddhism in Translations, pp. 186-87)
I quite agree that comments on the Notes are likely to be few and slow, and I also agree that it is a matter of very secondary importance. Constructive criticism will probably be negligible (though I might get some ideas for improvements and additions—particularly to meet unforeseen objections); and we are certainly not seeking anybody's Imprimatur to sanction our appearance in public. The principal reason, surely, for our saying that we should be glad to hear the comments that people may wish to make is to find out how much adverse or positively hostile reaction the Notes, with their rather anti-traditional tone, are likely to arouse—in other words, to find out to what extent (if at all) the Ven. Thera's apprehensions are justified. In brief, to find out whether any precautions are necessary if and when the Notes are made generally available to the public at large. For the rest, so long as we know that a few people at least are likely to find them helpful, that is all that really matters. (Naturally, I am curious to know what people's first impression is, in order to satisfy my author's vanity; but this is quite beside the point.)
[72.a] Kierkegaard once remarked that, since all his contemporaries were busily engaged in making everything (i.e. Christianity) easy, the only task left for him was to make it difficult again. And this he proceeded to do, not without effect. During the last months of his life he launched a bitter attack on the falsity and hypocrisy of the Established Church in Denmark with its state-salaried priests. He expected to suffer persecution for this attack; but, instead, became a popular figure. [Back to text]