[L. 70 | 77] 14 November 1963

I have now returned to Bundala armed with some heavy authorities with which to add weight to any replies I may be called upon to make to people's comments on the Notes. Learned objections usually call for learned replies, and a salvo of passages from about page 650 of some forbidding work can be quite effective. But learned objections to the Notes are actually a misunderstanding, since the Notes is not a learned book at all (though this is not to say that it is an easy book); and the more intelligent objections that may be raised cannot be answered simply by reference to authority. Learned objections must, no doubt, be answered; but it is the more urgent personal objection that it is worth taking trouble with. But will there be anything more than polite acknowledgments?

The Ven. Thera remarked that if students make use of the Notes when studying for their examinations they are certain to fail. This, of course, is perfectly true; and, indeed, I should be horrified to learn that the Notes had been approved as a textbook for school or university use. I have made the Notes as unattractive, academically speaking, as possible; and it is hardly conceivable that anyone could be so perverted as to set their pupils to learning them by rote. No—let them stick to the citta-vīthi, which, being totally meaningless, is eminently suited for an examination subject.

I have started making corrections and additions to the Notes, in the carbon copy. The corrections, fortunately, are very minor, and concern only such things as faults in style and grammatical slips; but the additions are more substantial and, I hope, make things clearer. No doubt I shall go on making them as they occur to me.

My general impression, so far, is that NA CA SO is attracting most attention.[1] This is perhaps understandable, since the natural question to ask, upon being told that the Buddha denies a 'self' (a misleading statement) but asserts rebirth, is 'Who, then, is reborn?'; and the answer comes out pat: Na ca so, na ca añño, 'Neither the same (person) nor another'. The consequence is, that everyone supposes that this celebrated (and facile) phrase is the key to the whole of the Buddha's Teaching. It must therefore come as rather a shock—almost as a scandal—to find it criticized by a bhikkhu whose sanity nobody had hitherto seen any reason to question. Certainly, there is hardly a single popular book on Buddhism that fails to quote this phrase—many of them seem to suppose that it is found in the Suttas (at least, they do not point out that it is not found in the Suttas).

Editorial notes:

[70.1] NA CA SO: The book was sent out with an accompanying note requesting reactions to the book so that necessary revisions could be made in a proposed printed (and not cyclostyled) edition. [Back to text]