I was delighted to get your book this afternoon, and perhaps even more with the graceful letter that accompanied it. Although we have, from time to time, discussed the Dhamma in the past, it was difficult from such fragmentary discussions to find out what exactly you understood by the Buddha's Teaching; but now that you have obliged yourself to set down your ideas all together in print, I hope to have a better chance. It is my own experience that there is nothing like sitting down and putting one's ideas on paper to clarify them, and, indeed, to find out what those ideas really are. I have a private dictum, 'Do not imagine that you understand something unless you can write it down'; and I have not hitherto found any exception to this principle. So, as you say, one writes by learning, and learns by writing.
What I hope to find, when I come to read the book, is that you have formed a single, articulated, consistent, whole; a whole such that no one part can be modified without affecting the rest. It is not so important that it should be correct[a]—that can only come later—, but unless one's thinking is all-of-a-piece there is, properly speaking, no thinking at all. A person who simply makes a collection—however vast—of ideas, and does not perceive that they are at variance with one another, has actually no ideas of his own; and if one attempts to instruct him (which is to say, to alter him) one merely finds that one is adding to the junk-heap of assorted notions without having any other effect whatsoever. As Kierkegaard has said, 'Only the truth that edifies is truth for you.' (CUP, p. 226) Nothing that one can say to these collectors of ideas is truth for them. What is wanted is a man who will argue a single point, and go on arguing it until the matter is clear to him, because he sees that everything else depends upon it. With such a person communication (i.e., of truth that edifies) can take place.
[35.a] Nobody, after all, who has not reached the path can afford to assume that he is right about the Buddha's Teaching. [Back to text]