Nanavira Thera wrote:The Notes seem to have struck Mrs. Quittner with considerable impact, and her immediate reaction is all that could be desired. What disturbs her is the fact that statements are made throughout the Notes 'without any reasons' being given for them, on the 'take it or leave it' principle. What the self-respecting reader wants is to have his opinion consulted by the author, who is expected to allow him to make up his own mind about the points at issue, and thus either to agree or to disagree with what is said in the book. If the author does not do this (by failing to give his reasons) he insults the reader (and particularly the feminine reader) by seeming to assume that he (or she) has no opinion worth consulting.
But the one thing I want to avoid is to have readers make up their own mind about the book; for once they have objectively decided whether they agree or disagree with the author's arguments they will shut the book, forget it, and pass on to the next one. No, the Notes are designed to be an invitation, a provocation, a challenge, to the reader to come and share the author's point of view; and if the book starts off by democratically assuming that the reader's opinion is as good as the author's, it will simply defeat its own purpose. At all costs the reader must be prevented from fraternizing with the author.
Consider, for example, Mrs. Quittner's complaint that with a few strokes of the author's pen 'we are reduced from three to two baskets and this without giving any reasons for his statement'. (The reference is evidently to note (a) of the Preface.) If I had provided a discussion of my reasons for doubting the authenticity of the Abhidhamma Pitaka (on the lines, perhaps, of what I said in my last letter to you), at once people would have had something positive to seize hold of, and learned controversy might have started up leading more and more passionately away from the point at issue. As Kierkegaard says, "In general, all that is needed to make the question simple and easy is the exercise of a certain dietetic circumspection, the renunciation of every learned interpolation or subordinate consideration, which in a trice might degenerate into a century-long parenthesis." (CUP, pp. 29-30)
As things are, the reader is informed bluntly (condescendingly?) at the beginning of the Notes which canonical books the author proposes to regard as unquestionably correct, so that there will be no room for confusion in the matter. Then, if the reader wants to know the reason for the author's rejection of certain books (the Abhidhamma Pitaka, for example), he must make the effort to understand the Notes and see things as the author sees them. When he has done this, the reason for the rejection of these books will be self-evident.
Mrs. Quittner's 'arrogant, scathing, and condescending' is a clear indication that she has been provoked by the Notes, and the fact that she has already read the NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA no less than five times seems to confirm it. If people are going to take this much interest in the Notes they are welcome to use whatever strong language about them as they please. I shall only start worrying when people begin calling them 'insipid, flatulent, and platitudinous'.
alan wrote:Just ordered "Notes" from amazon. In anticipation of reading it, I'd like to understand why it generates so much emotional turmoil.
He was not a scholar, but so what?
If his thoughts are useful and compelling, motivating the reader to pursue a more noble path, what is wrong?
alan wrote:Just ordered "Notes" from amazon. In anticipation of reading it, I'd like to understand why it generates so much emotional turmoil. He was not a scholar, but so what? If his thoughts are useful and compelling, motivating the reader to pursue a more noble path, what is wrong?
tiltbillings wrote:Just to add, it is a bit annoying to have people say that Buddhadasa, Nanavira, or whomever else really has it in hand and poop on Vens Bodhi, Nyanaponika and whomever else who does not toe the particular line imagined of whatever particular teacher.
Then you might have asked Peter if the subject was generating such emtional response rather than suggesting that it does. You cannot see his face or hear his voice, and going by the written word alone is not always a safe basis for determining an emotional response. If you have any further comments or questions, PM them to me. There will be no further meta-discussions of this.alan wrote:Moderator, note:
At the top of this page the question was asked "I'd like to understand why it generates so much emotional turmoil".
Do you think his thoughts are without merit? Are they not really Buddhist?
Peter wrote:Ven. Nanavira openly dismisses, contradicts, and reinterprets traditional Theravada Buddhist teachings.
retrofuturist wrote:As a point of clarity though, it is worth pointing out that Nanavira Thera is only opposing the Abhidhamma Pitaka and certain Theravada commentarial interpretations of Sutta. Nanavira is not opposing the first four volumes of the Sutta Pitaka themselves. It would therefore probably be even more accurate to say that "Ven. Nanavira openly dismisses, contradicts, and reinterprets the traditional Theravada Buddhist understanding of the Dhamma
alan wrote:I'm hoping to hear what people dislike about his particular views, rather than critiques of his style or attitude towards later teachings.
alan wrote:That doesn't leave much for me to go on. What is the right way?
When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them." - AN 3.65