Okay, now this is the post-postscript. It is hard to understand my difficulty. As far as I can remember I have always been reading and doing nothing, day in, day out, for almost half a century. Naturally, to select is almost an impossible task. But I have undertaken it during these sessions, so the responsibility is yours.
First, Martin Buber. I would not have been able to forgive myself if Martin Buber was not included. As a penance I include his two books: first, Tales of Hassidism. What D.T. Suzuki did for Zen, Buber has done for Hassidism. Both have done a tremendous service for seekers. But Suzuki became enlightened; sorry to say, Buber could not.
Buber was a great writer, philosopher, thinker, but all those things are toys to play with. Still, I pay my respects to him by including his name, because without him the world would not have even known the word Hassid.
Buber was born into a Hassidic family. From his very childhood he was raised among Hassids. It was in his very blood, bones, in his marrow, so when he relates it, it sounds so true, although he is only describing what he has heard, nothing more. He has heard correctly; that must be on record. Even to hear correctly is very difficult, and then to report to the world at large is even more difficult, but he has done it beautifully.
Suzuki is enlightened, Buber is not – but Suzuki is not a great writer, Buber is. Suzuki is an ordinary writer. Buber towers very high as far as the art of writing is concerned. But Suzuki knows, and Buber knows not; he is only relating the tradition in which he was brought up…of course, relating authentically.
Tales of Hassidism should be read by all seekers of truth. These tales, small stories, have such a flavor. It is different from Zen, it is also different from Sufism. It has its own flavor, unborrowed from anyone, uncopied, unimitated. The Hassid loves, laughs, dances. His religion is not of celibacy, but of celebration. That’s why I find a bridge between my people and the Hassids. It is not accidental that so many Jews have come to me; otherwise, I am always shattering the heads of the Jews as much as I can…and still they know that I love them. I love the essential in Judaism, that is Hassidism. Moses had not heard of it of course, but he was a Hassid; whether he knew it or not does not matter. I declare him to be a Hassid – and so I declare Buddha, Krishna, Nanak and Mohammed. Hassidism came after Baal Shem. The word does not matter, the spirit matters.
Martin Buber’s second book, I and Thou, is his most famous work, the book for which he was given the Nobel prize. Forgive me, but I disagree with it completely. I mention it because it is a beautiful work, written artistically, with great profundity and sincerity. But still there is no soul in it, because the soul was missing in Buber himself. How could the poor man manage to bring it into his book, his masterpiece?