Chapter 11: The Suchness of Things
That was Buddha’s way of answering. His word was tathata. Tathata can be translated approximately as suchness. He was asked a thousand and one times, “Why is there death?”
And he would say, “Tathata - such is the nature of things.” It is not an answer, remember. What kind of answer is this? “Such is the nature of things - that the water flows downwards and the fire rises upwards.” Such is the nature of things.?
In fact, the word dhamma, used by Buddha, which is ordinarily translated as religion, exactly means suchness, the suchness of things, the dhamma of things. Aes dhammo sanantano - such is the ultimate nature of things. Nothing more can be said about it.
That which is born will have to die. The young will become old, the child will become young, the beautiful will become ugly, the healthy will become ill. Such is the nature of things - but this is not an answer, remember. And Buddha insisted again and again, “I am not answering your questions, I am only making your questions clear to you.”
This is the difference between a philosopher and a mystic: the philosopher tries to answer your questions, the mystic simply helps you to understand your questions.
Whenever Buddha used to go to a new place, his disciples would go ahead and declare to the people: “Please don’t ask these eleven questions. It will be a sheer waste of time, because all that he is going to say is, ‘Such is the nature of things.’ So we can say it to you! This will be his answer to these eleven questions: ‘Such is the nature of things.’ So don’t ask these questions.”
Neither is Buddha a philosopher, nor Lao Tzu; in fact, no one who has known is a philosopher. Philosophers are blind people thinking about light.
You must have heard the ancient Panchtantra story..
Five blind men went to see an elephant. They were not five blind men, they were five philosophers, but all these philosophers were blind. That story has two meanings: one for small children - then it is five blind people - and one for those who are a little more mature, and then it means five philosophers.
Those five blind men touched the elephant from different sides. Somebody touched his feet and declared that the elephant was like a pillar - and so on, so forth. They all described the elephant according to their very limited, partial observation. And they started quarreling, arguing. A great argument arose, and the whole village gathered. They were very argumentative people. They quoted scriptures, they tried to prove that what they were saying was right. They were philosophers, theologians and scholars. Of course there could not have been any conclusion. Philosophers have never come to any conclusion - they cannot, because a conclusion is possible only through experience, and the experience has to be total, absolute, categorical.