19. Teaching Truth, Part I

Perfect Brilliant StillnessDavid Carse
"There are trivial truths and there are great truths.
The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false.
The opposite of a great truth is also true."
- Neils Bohr

"Profound things are simple.
If it is not simple, it cannot be true.
But simple things are difficult."
- Douglas Harding

"THOSE WHO ARE QUALIFIED to teach, those few like the Maharshi, said that silence was more efficacious, but in early stages teaching can only be given via a series of untruths diminishing in inveracity in ratio to the pupil's apprehension of the falsity of what he is being taught. Truth cannot be communicated. It can only be laid bare." (Wei Wu Wei)

The ordinary person’s acceptance of the illusions of the individual self, physical ‘reality’, birth, death, creation, destruction, free will, personal achievement, (in short, maya) as truth has so inverted the perception of truth and falsehood, that what is true is generally perceived as false and what is false is given credence as truth. In this environment, a teacher who speaks the naked truth will be perceived by the ordinary person as speaking falsehood or, perhaps, as lunatic. Through no fault of his own, the listener, because of his conditioning, will not give himself the chance to hear or understand what is being said.

Thus out of compassion for the listener, in order to initiate the process of coming to understanding, the teacher will sometimes begin by couching a small amount of truth in images, illustrations or thought categories which are known to the teacher to be essentially erroneous. The listener on the other hand will perceive this teaching as mostly ‘true’ (i.e. familiar) with a small and perhaps puzzling element of what seems to be ‘untruth.’ If this is explored and his own presuppositions challenged, the listener may with help understand the truth of what he had perceived as the small untruth. It may then be possible for the teacher to gradually, in his teachings, introduce more elements of truth and just as gradually to reduce the falsehood used to make the truth comprehensible.

At some point the listener begins to recognize the inconsistency and incompatibility of the conventional imagery that is being used as a vehicle with the truth that is being conveyed. When the listener thus “apprehends the falsehood of what he is being taught,” the teacher is free to dispense with the vehicle and “lay the truth bare” in a way which the listener would previously have found unacceptable.

Since truth is beyond concepts and language, this exposing of the truth will necessarily include less and less in the way of statements of What Is, and more pointers by way of what is not (i.e. the via negativa) until perhaps at length the listener may actually reach a point where she is able to hear and understand the truth in silence, about which Ramana Maharshi said that it is the only accurate expression of Truth but unfortunately very few are capable of hearing it. Only in silence is there freedom from the dualism inherent in the subject-object structure of language and thought.

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