“The Buddha was famous for remaining silent when he was asked any of fourteen questions, questions like “Are the self and the world eternal? Are the self and the world not eternal? Do the self and the world have an end? Do the self and the world not have an end?” Although much has been written about the deep meaning of his noble silence, one of the more plausible interpretations (which actually occurs in a Buddhist text) is that the Buddha remained silent because he knew whatever he said, he would be misunderstood. If he said that the world was eternal, people might get discouraged and not practice because they would conclude that they could never get out of samsara. If he said that the world would end, people might not practice because they felt they could just wait around for samsara to end naturally.”
Donald S. Lopez, Jr., “From The Academy” Click on the link to read more by professor Lopez (not relation to me).
There’s an old saying, one that was the motto for the infamous Barrington Hall co-op in Berkeley: “Those who know don’t tell, those who tell don’t know.” This is can be applied to so many facets of our lives. If you are a writer and someone asks you, what are you writing?, often to speak of the work is to invoke the energy of it, which is deflating when you sit down to actually write out your ideas. If you speak them, why do you need to write them? This of course is only relevant if you are engaged in the traditional practice of individual authorship. For many other kinds of creative work (especially the kind that many of us are engaged in), sharing is a conditon for evolution.
But more to the point of this particular dharma lesson, there is the issue of labeling, as Lopez’s longer piece discusses (linked above). To be a “true” Buddhist, you don’t label what you do, because the practice of Buddhism is beyond dualism (saying “this” is “that,” and so on). Dualism is not wrong–we need to survive and function in the world and discernment is absolutely necessary. But attaching dualism to reality as opposed to understanding that this style of thinking is just a cognitive tool to organize perception, we start to believe the labels are reality as opposed to the phenomena that emerged the labeling. Likewise, naming something thingifies it, a prerequisite for its commodification.
More importantly, as described in the above anecdote, the Buddha believed such questions only create more suffering. Do we really need to know how the universe was created? Is it necessary to think through this idea in order to live a full and happy life? He wanted to simplify our approach to the world so that we do not get caught up in such large unsolvable, unknowable problems.
Which brings me to my most important point: conspiracy.