Chapter 16: The Courage to Say “I Don’t Know”
But this is not only the case with Bodhidharma. This is the case with everyone.with Gautam Buddha, with Mahavira, with Confucius, with Lao Tzu, with Zarathustra, with Jesus, with Moses.with everyone without exception. Whenever they come close to the ultimate question, they start talking nonsense. And these are very sensible people, very intelligent people.
But the ultimate question can be answered not by intelligence but by innocence, can be answered only by an innocent person, a person who does not care for any respectability, for any wisdom, for any enlightenment, who can risk everything for his sincerity.
These people were not able to risk their wisdom. They could not say, “I don’t know.” But that is the only authentic answer, because that gives you the sense that you have come to the ultimate: now begins the mystery - and it is unsolvable. There is no way to reduce it into knowledge. It is not an unknown which can be made known by efforts, by intelligence, by practice, by discipline, by any method, by any ritual.
The mystery can be lived, but cannot be known. It remains always, unknowable. It remains always, a mystery.
One man, a great contemporary, G.E. Moore, has written a book, Principia Ethica. And perhaps he is the only man in the whole of history, who has thought so deeply just to define the word good. Because without defining good, there can be no ethics and no morality. If you cannot define what is good, then how you can decide what is moral, what is immoral; what is right, what is wrong.
He took a fundamental question, without knowing that it is the ultimate question and he got into trouble. And he was one of the most intelligent people of our contemporary world. He looks at it from every direction inquiring for almost for two hundred and fifty pages, just on a single question, “What is good?” And he was utterly defeated in defining such a simple word as good. Everybody knows what is good, everybody knows what is bad, everybody knows what is beautiful and everybody knows what is ugly. But when it comes to definition - you will be in the same trouble.
He was thinking that everybody knows what is good.there must be some way to find the secret and define it. But finally, after two hundred and fifty pages of very concentrated thinking, of the keenest logic and rational analysis he comes to the conclusion that good is indefinable. These two hundred pages have been just going round and round and reaching nowhere. Good is indefinable.
Croce has done the same work on “beauty”.one thousand pages. He has gone far deeper than G.E. Moore has gone into “good.” And after one thousand pages, comes the last statement: that beauty is indefinable.
Everybody knows that the most difficult problem is that it is very difficult to find a man who does not know what beauty is and what ugliness is. But don’t insist on a definition. Even the greatest minds have failed.