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Black, D.M. (2017). Reply to Dr. Najeeb. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(4):1231-1232.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(4):1231-1232

Reply to Dr. Najeeb Related Papers

David M. Black

Dear Editor,

I am grateful to Dr Najeeb for his thoughtful response to my paper, which I think echoes the way in which many practising Buddhists would be inclined to respond. He is absolutely correct when he says that ordinary Buddhists, in order to live a manageable daily life, speak of ‘conventional truth’, different from the ‘ultimate truth’ of Buddhist understanding. This then allows them, like the Buddha, to use ordinary sentences that include the words ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and so on, and to use verbs with past and future tenses, and so on.

But to argue from that to saying that the Buddha's followers didn't see ‘anything paradoxical in it at all’ is a considerable stretch. It is undoubtedly true that the great majority of practising Buddhists live with the teachings without being constantly troubled by the fundamental paradox (just as, perhaps, most practising Christians believe in a loving God without being constantly troubled by the paradox that this loving God consigns some souls to eternal damnation); probably some bracketing of challenging questions is a necessity in any religion whose practitioners want to live an ordinary life, and it deserves to be viewed in a friendly spirit, I think. Even so, practitioners of Zen, who meditate on the verbally constructed little conundrums called koans, deliberately awaken themselves to the tension of paradox. And the Mahayana is full of calls to wake up and notice the paradox, as in the famous question: who seeks Nirvana?

What I attempted to show in my thumb-nail outline of Buddhist history, with its huge intellectual energy and the countless schools and philosophies of the Mahayana, was that something significant was compelling all this creativity, not in ‘ordinary Buddhists’ exactly but in Buddhism's most earnest thinkers, and that that something was not the untroubling ‘conventional truth’ but the underlying paradox entailed by the ‘ultimate truth’.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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