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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 15 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked, and may contain mistakes and mishearings.

understand, they don't agrecupon the meaning of the terms that they use. For instance people might
have a discusion about love, but they might mean quite different things by
that particular term. Or
they might not even have thought about it at all. They might not have a clear idea of what love means.
They might just have a vague sort or impression, a vague sort of feeling, as they would say. So
discusion under those conditions is really not possible. One can only have a mutual exchange of noises.
Mike Shaw. - What I was thinking was whether it was possible for the language to be more literal
rather than metaphorical really. Whether you could have some more clearly defined meanings, I guess,
because it seerns that a lot of the problems seem to be due to lack of clarity in some way.
S. - Yes, I think this is certainly true and therefore there is a great need for clarity in one's
communication. One must be clearer about the moaning of the words that one uses, the ideas that one
is putting forward. But at the same time I would say that is not enough. There does need also to be
what you called sympathy, or perhaps one should call it empathy. A sort of pos"itive feeling between
people who are parties to the discusion, and a willingness to arrive, so to speak, at the truth. So that
their discusion isn't~a sort of competitive wrangle as sometimes it is. But I don't think that if one
develops a sort of cold clinical scientific language, that will necessarily be the solution, because
there's a lot that you will want to communicate that can't in fact be expressed in that particular way.
Mike. - If it is possible to actually define language and make "it clearer in that sort of way, does that
mean language is sort of ceasing to be metaphorical if you did make it clearer ?
S. - Not necessarily - it can become more intensely metaphorical, because nothing so muchiUu;~ines
a discusion as a good metaphor, or a good simili~. Very often something that ou've been strugling to
communicate in more general conceptual terms for perhaps some minutes
is certainly made cle~~hen you use an appropriate "metaphor or other figure of speech.
- But I
think I can sort of repeat in this particular oontetwhat I said before, in other contexts, that there's ~ot to
be a will to clarity. You've got to want to be clear. I think that is very important. You've got to want to
be clear and positive and creative in your own thinking. And you've got to want to communicate that
to other people.
In thinking about this I was trying to clarify my own mind a bit.
if language is essentially metaphorical or if
you view language as essentially metaphorical, could you see that view as a sort of middle way
between the 2 extremes of the absolute identificatio~ say, that a primitive man makes, between the
language, the word and Reality, that being one extreme. And the other extreme being a sort of
corespondance theory where you have two separate entities, the language and the...
S. - Yes. Yes you could certainly look at metaphor in that sort of way, as a bridge or a middle way, in
that fashion. But perhaps I should make one qualification here. When I speak of langeage as essentially
metaphorical, I mean the language which we use with regards to non- material things, that is to say
with regard to ideas, thoughts, philosphies, is metaphorical. Because when ~one says that something is
metaphorical, one means that terms which~are deriviedfrom one's sensuous experience, say from one's
kaa~loka experience, are applied to experiences which are not of the kama-loka nature at all, which are
non-kamaloka experiences. In other words one applies- terms derived from one's experience of the
material world to the world of thought, even to the world of spiritual experience.
So one doesn't, one cannot,apply them literally. They are
applied in a metaphorical way. So any kind of language which refers to one's anything beyond /
imediate experienc~ of the material world is
necessarilly metaphorical. this Perhaps I should add a warning here - that/assumes, of cOu~55~
that language does hav"e it's origins in sense experience. Some traditionalists might disagree. They
might maintain that language c~me from heaven, that language has a divine origin. But that's another
derived from matter. One might say
to~the extent that language is ~/" one1 5 experience of
the material world, to that extent, any use of language
in conection,~ay, with the non-material world or one's experience of that non-material world, will be -
in fact must be - metaphorical.
For instance, give you a very, very common expression. We speak for instance of En - light
-en -ment. So we are applying the expression light, which is clearly a phenomenon of our sense
experience, t9 a realm or to ~a sphere which is non-material. We speak of the light of Reality, for
instance~ 'The Light of Truth'. But here the term 'light' is used metaphorically. So you can see that just
in the same way that light, in amanner of speaking, abolishes the darkness, so ti"~th abolishes -
untruth, or
the light of truth abolishes the dark- ness of ignorance.
So even the most refined anti sophisticated philosophical vocabulary will be found on
examination and analysis to have a
fairly earthy origin. In other words philosophical language is inherently metaphorical. Religious
language is metaphorical. It cannot be otherwise. This leads to all sorts of interesting implications and
consequences which we can't pursue now. Perhaps we will on some other future occasion, not
necessarily here at 11 Convento this year.
Anyway what else did you have ?
Vessantara.- I just wanted to clear up something else in that discusion. You say at one point,
"speaking metaphorically doesn't correspond to the truth, in a sense a "metaphor embodies the truth.
This is a quote; 'In a sense, ~n a very sort of highly specialised form, or a very limited form, that is to
say, a metaphor under certain conditions, within a certain context, is reality.' An~ I, a bit further on
started asking you a question about that statement. And you then said,'It's not that under certain special
conditions a metaphor can be
284~~ 34reality, but that a metaphor is a case of reality being under certain special conditions.' Can you clarify
that for ine a- bit ? I didn't...
S. - I think there's a few words missing off the end here, of what I actually said.
Vessantara. - er. As far as I know y~ then went on to talk about the example of the metaphor of the...
S. - Read that again. The distinction is quite subtle.
Vessantara. Yes. This goes as ~ollows:
"It's not that under certain -speoial conditions a
metapho#an be reality, but that a metaphor is a case of reality being under certain special conditions."
Ah well the difference is quite clear. (laughter) Vessantara. - I can't quite get my brain arround it,
could you -- help me at all ?
S. - I don't think at the moment I can put it more clearly than that. I think to make it more clear I'd
have to take apart and ~explain more fully what I meant by each statement or each position in such a
way as to show how they did in fact differ, but that would take me sorne time~ I think I'd better leave it
for this evening. But bring it up in a few evenings time, preferably near~r the beginning of the
evening's session.
Vessantara. - I'll give it some more thought myself before then.
S. - Perhaps we'd better end on that note then. O~~,,f~Q.~
285 BI ~ 1Vessantara; So this evening we have questions on the seventh lecture on the Bodhisattva Hierarchy.
We'll start with a question from Devamitra.
In my group we were discussing the difficulty which western eo le seem to have in
offerin worshi reverence and we discussed a variety of different qualities or terms - for instance,
veneration, respect, reverence, admiration and appreciation and I explained that eight years ago I think
it was in exchange between yourself and myself we were talking about the difference between
admiration and appreciation and as best as I can remember you seemed to be implying that it's much
easier to admire someone than to really appreciate them, and I wondered if you could expand the
distinction for us.
S: I don't think that's very easy. When one admires something I think there is a suggestion,at least, of
looking up to it in some way. For instance in my talk last night I happened to refer to Michelangelo's
David. No doubt it would be quite appropriate to say that one admired Michelangelo's David but
would it be appropriate to say that one appreciated it? It would seem that in this connection,
appreciation was a somewhat weaker word. Admiration means that you're sort of overcome with
wonder contemplating the product of Michelangelo's skill and inspiration, but as I said appreciation
does seem something quite a bit weaker at least in this connection. Appreciation seems to be more like
a sort of just estimate of something and a just
estimate of something canbe a comparatively low
or comparatively high estimate. Appreciation seems to come a little near to value. You can value
something at a low rate or value it at a high rate. Just as you can have a low appreciation of it, or have
a high appreciation of it. So it seems to me, initially, that admiration is a sort of general term; in
general a more positive ...

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