Thursday, 6 April 2017


103. The contrast between the Buddha's silent and spoken teaching is stark. It might put us in mind of the philosopher Wittgenstein's distinction between 'showing' and 'saying'. He remarks: 'What can be shown, cannot be said'. In spelling out for the assembly what had just transpired between himself and Mahakashyapa, the Buddha utilises words that conjure up concepts, concepts that cry out for formulation in doctrinal statements. But having spoken of the True Dharma Eye, the Subtle Dharma Gate, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, and the True Form of the Formless, the Buddha suddenly kicks away this ladder of abstract terms with his declaration that the Dharma is 'independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine'. Thus he points us back to what was shown in the silent presentation of the flower and Mahakashyapa's responsive smile. 

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