Chapter 22: Freedom Doesn’t Choose, It Discovers
Mahavira says that truth itself is relative: he has no ultimate truth. Buddha has no ultimate truth. Again the difficulty is that Mahavira and Buddha can be misunderstood when they say that there is no ultimate truth but that every truth is relative: it can be one thing in one situation, it can be another thing in another situation, and because it is related to situations it cannot have any ultimacy. This goes against all the great mystics.
Only Mahavira and Buddha, two persons.. But I know both, and I understand both better than their own followers, because none of their followers have been able to make any sense out of it: either all the mystics are wrong, or Buddha and Mahavira are wrong!
I say nobody is wrong. What Mahavira says is that truth has seven aspects, and Buddha says that truth has four aspects. They are really referring to the expression of truth. Truth can be said in seven ways according to Mahavira. He is really a logician. But what he is saying is not about truth - there is a misunderstanding. What he is saying is about truth expressed, not experienced. When you experience it, it is always ultimate, but the moment you say it, it becomes relative. The moment you bring it into language it becomes relative, because in language nothing can be ultimate. The whole construction of language is relative. Buddha is not a great logician, so he stops at four, but the situation is the same.
They are not speaking of the truth which you experience in silence, beyond mind. Nothing can be said about it. The moment you say something about it, you drag it into the world of relativity, and then all the laws of relativity will be applicable to it.
Perhaps Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the best logicians of this age, was right when he said, “That which cannot be said should not be said.” This is a strange statement. It stands out in the whole history of thought, unique and original: “That which cannot be said, should not be said” - because if you say it, you are contradicting yourself. First you say it cannot be said, and then you say it. You may make all kinds of conditions: “When I say it, it is no longer the same; when I say it, it even becomes untrue.” But then, why say it?
Wittgenstein’s statement will make it clear that Mahavira and Buddha both were talking about the truth said: then it is relative. The mystics who are talking about the “ultimate truth’ are talking about the truth experienced yet not brought into the world of language and objects. So I think it is better, although it is a repetition, to allow them to use the word ultimate, because it keeps it separate.
Is it not true to say that because we can even formulate a question that we have an inkling somewhere of the answer - even though we are not aware of it?
It seems to me like a doctor looking at a patient: the fact that he asks the patient certain questions and not others indicates he has some idea of what the diagnosis - and hence the answer - is.