We should try to agree on a broader spectrum of meanings of a particular word to have a coherent and pleasant communication about important subjects. Following this, it then remains a demonstration of our language skills how it is set in the concept we wish to communicate to others. If we remain fixated or obsessed about important words by having a favorite or limited spectrum of meanings, especially philosophical or dharma words, we limit out ability to interact with others realistically and cause misunderstandings.
The word “idea” can possibly also mean a plan or method of acknowledging that we only partially understand a concept. For example, Jack might explain very carefully what is going to happen in a construction project and I respond, “I think I have an idea about what you are talking about.” So, the listener does not know where they are being led, but is following an idea of another with a certain amount of faith that the speaker who gathered the elements of the idea knew what they were doing. The speaker holds the vision and the listener has a partial understanding of it and acknowledges that.
This is actually a big problem in the transmission of Buddhism from Tibet. Over a long time, many came to Tibet, or read Tibetan books and transmitted partial understanding and translations into their native language passing along their own ideas as facts. Because of limited understanding and cultural agenda, even though it sounded good, it was not what was meant. Someone with a partial idea might not have enough knowing to be able to help others understand what they have jumped to conclusions to explain. It might be good to cultivate a love of plain speaking because then we have to actually know what we are talking about and not hide behind a flurry of high-sounding words and implied meanings.
By the listener verbally acknowledging they only partially understand the concept, to the degree that what was presented was heard, and even paraphrasing, allows the listener to state how well they understood. This opens conversation by gathering partial understandings and paraphrasing. This is how rough communication, (meaning human language) is at it’s most careful. If I need someone to understand what I am saying, we will need go back and forth using different analogies, different word choices, and different concepts. We learn to communicate effectively by saying it aloud a number of times in order to achieve a result of clear transmission. Really, it takes a long time, but is worth the effort to have clear understanding.
I acquired a copy of a book called, “Tartuffe,” written by Moliere after attending a delightful performance of it at the American Players Theatre in rural Wisconsin. Many earlier plays were about the comic results of misunderstandings and seem to be a classic form of entertainment. Anyway, a better method for communication is to push words and meanings back and forth like a ping-pong match testing how things are going. To be continued….