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Conversations about the invisible

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The Buddhist perception of the world
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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Buddhism... you were asking if India had taught me one thing, especially in the area of Buddhism, it is the importance of knowing what level you are on when you talk to someone. It is very important in Buddhism to find the right level, where both speakers can speak in a useful way to each other. Because if we aren't on the same level, speaking to one another is useless. As the Dalaï Lama once put it himself: if you answer a clever question naïvely, that will be ridiculous. If you give a clever answer to a naïve question, that's useless. Therefore, you have to know the level, yes that is very important. It is like a carpenter who tries to balance his work with a level, it was the same for us. I have kept that memory, that and the fact that India is more complicated than the West. Indian mythology accepts infinitely more numerous universes than our culture does, infinitely vaster and older, therefore it impacts on the dimensions in which you think. Contemporary physics theories about multiple universes around us, and the fact that the matter that we are made of, your camera, the air carrying my voice, the stars looking down on us, the nuclear matter made out of atoms, through which we can have some contact even with distant objects... the idea that this matter is only 3.5% of the total matter in the universe is an idea that is very easily accepted by Asian Indians, much more so than by us. The range of their thinking has, for a long time, been very much greater than the Aristotelian. Aristotle's universe is the Earth, with a few planets, and a few stars in the sky. No, the Indian universe is amazingly greater through pure intuition rather than through scientific knowledge.

Le Bouddhisme, si… vous me demandez si l’Inde m’a appris quelque chose, surtout dans le domaine du Bouddhisme, c’est l’importance du niveau au moment où l’on discute avec quelqu'un. Ca c’est très important dans le Bouddhisme, d’arriver à trouver le bon niveau où on va pouvoir parler de façon profitable pour l’un et pour l’autre. Car si on est décalé, ça ne sert à rien de parler. Comme le Dalaï Lama l’a dit une fois lui même: si à question savante réponse naïve, c’est ridicule. Si à la question naïve, réponse savante, c’est inutile. Donc il faut trouver le niveau… et ca c’est très important : le niveau. C’est exactement comme un charpentier ou un menuisier qui avec un niveau d’eau cherche à bien équilibrer son travail, c’était la même chose pour nous. J’ai gardé ce souvenir-là, outre le fait que l’Inde est évidement plus complexe en pensée que l’occident. La mythologie indienne accepte des univers infiniment plus nombreux que notre passé à nous, infiniment plus vastes et infiniment plus longs en durée donc ça change beaucoup les dimensions de la pensée si l’on peut dire. Les théories contemporaines de physique sur la multiplicité des univers autour de nous et sur le fait que la matière qui nous compose, nous, votre caméra, l’air qui porte ma voix, les étoiles qui nous regardent, la matière nucléaire constituée d’atomes grâce à laquelle  nous pouvons avoir un contact même très lointain… cette idée que cette matière ne compose que 3.5 % de la matière totale de l’univers est une idée qui est très facilement acceptée par les Indiens beaucoup plus que par nous. Parce que les dimensions de la pensée sont depuis très longtemps beaucoup plus vaste que les dimension aristotélicienne.  L’univers d’Aristote c’est la terre avec quelques corps sublunaires et puis quelques luminions dans le ciel. Non, l’univers Indien est infiniment plus vaste que ça par simple intuition,  plus que par connaissance scientifique.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He has written screenplays for films including 'Belle de Jour', 'The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie', 'Tin Drum' and 'Danton'.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Buddhism, Dalaï Lama

Duration: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 18 October 2010