The principal aim of these Notes on Dhamma is to point out certain current misinterpretations, mostly traditional, of the Pali Suttas, and to offer in their place something certainly less easy but perhaps also less inadequate. These Notes assume, therefore, that the reader is (or is prepared to become) familiar with the original texts, and in Pali (for even the most competent translations sacrifice some essential accuracy to style, and the rest are seriously misleading). They assume, also, that the reader s sole interest in the Pali Suttas is a concern for his own welfare. The reader is presumed to be subjectively engaged with an anxious problem, the problem of his existence, which is also the problem of his suffering. There is therefore nothing in these pages to interest the professional scholar, for whom the question of personal existence does not arise; for the scholar s whole concern is to eliminate or ignore the individual point of view in an effort to establish the objective truth a would-be impersonal synthesis of public facts. The scholar s essentially horizontal view of things, seeking connexions in space and time, and his historical approach to the texts, disqualify him from any possibility of understanding a Dhamma that the Buddha himself has called akalika, timeless . Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha s Teaching. But human kind, it seems, cannot bear very much reality: men, for the most part, draw back in alarm and dismay from this vertiginous direct view of being and seek refuge in distractions.
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Ven. Ñanavira Thera, formerly Harold Musson, was born in 1920 into a British military family, and attained the rank of Captain during World War II. After the war he graduated with First Class Honours in Modern Languages from Cambridge University, but dissatisfied with his mundane life, he left England for Sri Lanka in 1948 and became a samanera the following year. He ordained as a bhikkhu, taking the name of Ñanavira, at Vajirarama monastery (Colombo) in 1950, and spent his early years at the Island Hermitage. He later moved to a solitary kuti near Bundala, where he spent most of his ordained life until his death in 1965.
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