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Chapter 4: Go On Digging

The essence of Buddhism is not in the scriptures, not in the words of Buddha. It is something to be understood, because it has far-reaching implications. Whatever Buddha has said is as close to truth as possible, but even being close to truth, it is not true. Even closeness is only a kind of distance. So you cannot find the essence of the experience of Buddha through the scriptures. That is the ordinary conception of people, that if you read Buddhism, if you become a learned scholar of Buddhism, you will know the essence of it.

One great Buddhist monk, Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan, met me by chance in a Buddhist conference in Bodhgaya. He took me out of the crowd and asked me, “Whatever you were saying is so authoritative, but. Forgive me for interrupting you, I loved whatever you said, but I have never found in any scripture the stories you were telling. And I am the head of the Buddhist Society of India.”

I had heard his name, I had read his books. I said, “It is a great opportunity to meet you. I have loved your books, but I can say to you that you don’t know the essence of Buddhism. Otherwise you would have understood my stories. It does not matter whether it really happened or not.”

He said, “What do you mean?”

I said, “Whatever I have said, if it has not happened it should have happened. That’s what I mean. Even Gautam Buddha cannot deny it. It may not have happened - that I can accept, that it is not factual. I don’t care much about facts. To me, truth is something more than a factual incident. It is anything that carries the essence.”

He said, “You are a strange fellow. I have never heard such an idea.”

He lived in Nagpur. I used to pass Nagpur once in a while; he would always come and he would say, “This story I have read in your book. I loved it, but the problem is that it never happened in Buddha’s life.”

I said, “For that I am not responsible. If it did not happen, what can I do? It should have happened! You are a learned scholar; you can add it somewhere in the Buddhist scriptures.”

He said, “What are you saying? Nothing can be added to the scriptures.”

I said, “Any scripture to which nothing can be added is dead.”

When I entered America, the inquiry officer asked me a few questions.whether I am an anarchist, a communist. I told him, “Listen, I am a living man.” He said, “What do you mean?”

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