Regarding the passages I sent you earlier, and also our talk at the Hermitage, I do not want to give the impression that it is necessary to study and master these things. All that I am concerned to do is to make you aware of the existence of an order of things underlying the scientific order of things. The general assumption today is that the only order is the scientific order, and once one leaves that one enters the chaotic and mystical realms of emotion, religion, art, 'subjectivity', and so on. This assumption is quite stultifying and fatal to any wholesome and profitable attitude to life. If, in your reading and in your life, you can make yourself aware that there is a fundamental order in all things that is not confined to the field and attitudes of science, then you can safely read books about matters that science is unable to take into account (paranormal phenomena, telepathy, precognition, and so on, as well as evidence for rebirth), without fear of bewilderment and disorientation. You will be able to understand that these apparently impossible and contradictory happenings ('they cannot be true, because if they were they would upset all our ideas about the world') are, in fact, perfectly possible, and within the natural order of things. But you need not study it—only be aware of it. It is only when the peculiar limitations of one's thinking that are characteristic of this scientific 'age of reason' in which we live are removed that it becomes possible to read and listen to the Dhamma with any degree of sympathetic understanding.
It is a misfortune of mine that I am not able to put things in a simple way; I am too fond of getting into detail and taking my listeners in amongst the trees where they can no longer see the wood as a whole. So please do not feel intimidated or discouraged by my perhaps rather complicated way of putting things—it is not at all necessary to follow everything I say.
[10.1] Hermitage: The Island Hermitage, Dodanduwa, Sri Lanka, is a centre for Western Buddhists. The Ven. Ñānavīra spent some of his early years there and returned in later years for visits. The Hermitage was founded in 1911 by the German-born monk, the Ven. Nyānatiloka Mahāthera (cf. L. 4, §5). [Back to text]