Chapter 9: A Philosopher Asks Buddha
So there are two types of ignorance: ordinary ignorance is when a man is ignorant but is not aware that he is ignorant. When a philosopher becomes aware that he is ignorant - this is the second type of ignorance, very deep: he has come to realize that he is ignorant, he is fully aware that he is ignorant - when ignorance is aware of itself, that becomes the first step of wisdom.
So the first thing to understand:
A philosopher came to Buddha one day, and asked.
There were many philosophers in Buddha’s time. Really, there has never been such a flowering of intellect as happened at that time - not only in India, all over the world. Buddha was there; Mahavira was there; Prabuddha Katyayan, a great logician; Ajit Keshakambal, a great philosopher; Makkhali Goshal, a rare intellect; Sanjay Vilethiputta and many others were there in Bihar. Now their names are not well known because they never created any following. Exactly at the same time in Greece there was Socrates, Plato, Aristotle - the three who created the whole Western mind. Exactly at the same time in China there was Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Mencius. It seems at that peak, all over the world, mind was at its Everest.
There are only three cultures: one is Chinese, another is Indian, and the other is Greek. Only three cultures exist, all the others are just byproducts. The whole West originated with the Greek mind in Athens. The whole Chinese civilization, a totally different type of civilization, arose out of Confucius’ and Lao Tzu’s confrontation, and all that is beautiful in India came out of Buddha, Mahavira. And all these people existed at a single moment of history.
Historians say that history moves like a wheel: there are moments when intelligence is at its peak, there are moments when intelligence goes down. These were the times when intelligence was at its peak. Many were the philosophers, particularly in India; the whole country was philosophic. People moved from this corner to that corner seeking for truth - millions of seekers!
Only when there are millions of seekers, then a few can become enlightened, because it is a pyramid-like thing. A pyramid is very broad at the base, and then, by and by, comes the peak. A Buddha exists only when at the broad base millions of people are seeking truth; otherwise he cannot exist. There is no possibility, he cannot stand. Where will he stand? He needs millions, millions of seekers; they become the base.