About Lin Yutang. People who find life worth living are usually confining their attention to this particular life; they forget (or do not know) that there has been no beginning to this business of living.[a] This particular life may perhaps be not too bad, but how about when they were a dog, or a hen, or a frog, or a tapeworm? Alam—Enough!
Mr. Wijerama has written a very intelligible letter, and I have found something to say in reply; but whether my reply will make things clear is another matter—the question of change and movement is notoriously perplexing and not easily disentangled. But even without entirely clarifying the situation, it is necessary to point out the source of certain current misinterpretations of the Dhamma—in particular, the view that 'since everything is always changing nothing really exists, and it is only our ignorance that makes us think that things do exist', which is quite erroneous but very widespread. If Mr. Wijerama wants further discussion of this or other matters, he has only to write me.
Last month I was visited unexpectedly by a Swiss gentleman. He is Roman Catholic, and had just encountered the Buddha's Teaching for the first time. There is no doubt that he had been astonished and profoundly impressed, and he said that his head was still going around in bewilderment. He asked me a number of very pertinent questions, and did not seem to be upset at getting some rather difficult answers. He struck me as being a very intelligent man, and perhaps capable of making use of the Dhamma. I gave him a copy of the Notes, but was sorry to have to apologize to the gentleman for the fact that the Notes contain a lot of Pali, which he would not understand; and I began to think about this later.
I finally decided that there would be no harm (you know I am against translations), and perhaps some good, if the Notes were provided with a Pali-English Glossary and English translations of all the Pali passages. Accordingly, I set to work to do this, and finished the task last night. I feel that there may be people (such as this gentleman) knowing nothing of the Dhamma, or at least of Pali, who might nevertheless find the Notes a better introduction to the Teaching than a popular exposition giving the impression that the Dhamma is really quite a simple matter—indeed, most intelligent people do not want anything very simple, since they have understood already that whatever the truth may be it is certainly not a simple affair. The Glossary and Translations will make the book—if it comes to be printed—much more widely accessible than it is at present.
[88.a] It is always advisable, when taking up a new author, to find out whether he accepts or rejects survival of death. If one knows this, one can make the necessary allowances, and one may perhaps make sense of what would otherwise seem to be rubbish. Camus is a case in point—to find him sympathetic it is necessary to know that he passionately loathes the idea of survival. [Back to text]