As Buddhists, Can We Be Fundamentalists?
Unfortunately … yes.
Fundamentalist: a person who believes in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.
This is not the same as realising the compassionate heart of scripture, where we deal with each situation accordingly. We can either take the teaching to be literal or expedient – a means to an end, rather than the end in itself!
There were fourteen questions the Buddha would not answer because to answer would, in itself, not have been beneficial.
Thich Nhat Hanh, in a commentary on the Sutra, explained:
“The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts.”
Thich Nhat Hanh continued:
“Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, “Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same.” Another time he said, “Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.”
Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.”