Chapter 30: Truth: Beyond Mind, Beyond Language
And these are our everyday experiences, what to say about truth, which is not our everyday experience. Once in a while, after thousands of years, somebody realizes the truth. He can sing it, he can dance it, he can live it, but he cannot describe it. It is not his fault. Language is very poor; it cannot describe such precious experiences, it is not made for that. Language is a marketplace thing. It can be used perfectly in the ordinary world, but the moment you move within you are alone and only silence prevails. You feel it, you rejoice in it, you radiate it, but you suddenly become dumb.
A Zen master, Rinzai, whenever asked, “What is truth?” used to do only one thing: he would not even say that it cannot be said. A philosopher had come to see him, and when he asked and received the answer he said, “But you can at least say that it cannot be said.”
Rinzai said a very pregnant statement, “Even to say that it cannot be said, you have said something about it. That’s why I use the finger. I cannot descend from the heights of the experience to the dark valley of language. If you want to know the truth, I can hold your hand, but you will have to travel unknown paths. Are you ready?”
The philosopher said, “I have not come here to follow any path. I am a professor, I teach in the university, and I wanted to know what is the attitude of a Zen mystic.”
Rinzai said, “Then you will have to go as empty as you have come. Although you have come very close to the well, you will go as thirsty as you have come.”
The realization of truth is an inner experience. Even to say “experience” is not absolutely right, only approximately right. Truth is your being; either you know it or you do not. But nobody can say anything about this being. It is so tremendous, and words are so small; it is so vast and words are so small. If your hands cannot reach to the stars, that does not mean that the stars don’t exist. It simply means your hands are very small and the stars are very far away.
Our language is very small. Its approach is very limited and our being is the unlimited, the unbounded; nothing can be said about it. Yes, even this much is to concede, is to be compassionate - to say that nothing can be said about it.
Of this century I consider Ludwig Wittgenstein the most important philosopher. He has not written much, and he is the only Western philosopher of all time who has written only in maxims, what we call sutras. In the East that has always been the case. Those who had any glimpse, any taste, have written sutras - telegraphic, using as small a quantity of words as possible.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his famous book, Tractatus, has one sutra which makes him not only a philosopher but also a mystic. But he commits the same mistake which Rinzai was trying not to commit. The sutra is: that which cannot be said should not be said. He was alive; I wrote him a letter saying, “You have said it. At least one quality of it you have brought into language.”
He was sick and he died very soon. His brother answered me, “Your question he received with great respect, and he said to me, ‘It is true that if nothing can be said, then even to say this is to say something. I am sick and I am tired. If I get well I will answer, but if I die you answer for me: in the second edition of Tractatus we will leave this sutra empty, just a space.’”