From emptiness inspiration will come


The teacher told his pupils, “From emptiness, inspiration will come “. And they forgot it, except one who said, “What on earth does he mean?” He kept on asking the teacher. He said, “Well. All right. As you’re so persistent, prepare yourself.” He gave him a difficult ritual preparation to do for three weeks, then fast for two days, then come at dawn to the main hall which he did. The teacher was in full robes with a staff, and he came in  as a priest. The teacher drew himself up to what seemed more than possible height, and he crashed his staff down . He said, “I’ve something very important to tell you. Such an opportunity is very rare.” Well the disciple waited, then he realised, he thought, “Why doesn’t he tell me? What’s going on? Must mean something I suppose” .

Then he realised all his thoughts were futile. And he waited. Then he gave up waiting. He simply stood there. And he found in his heart an emptiness beginning to spread. Well the teacher said, “The interview is finished. Go.  Later on lie told him. He said, “When something which you’ve expected and prepared for, which has become the whole world for you, is taken away, then there is emptiness. Now, if you don’t fill that emptiness with thought of ‘what’ going on? Why is this happening? ‘I’ve prepared for this and now I’m not getting it’. If you don’t have those thought, there’ll be purity and a clearness which doesn’t need to move, which doesn’t need to think which doesn’t need to breathe. You become aware of something ” And then he told him, in life when we have a great disappointment, our whole world collapses. The death of someone with whom we’ve been completely bound up, the whole world has gone then, in that emptiness: instead of filling it with thought of regret and sadness, retain that emptiness there, that light will come up.

We can become slaves to meaningless things. I’ve a pen here. It’s made of silver, and on it there’s traced in tiny, tiny characters, the whole of the Sutra. It’s a very rare thing. But the fact is, I’m terrified to take it out of my home for fear of losing it. It’s too heavy to write with, and also, although it has relieved me of this a little bit, I think when I’m writing with it, I’m wearing off the metal casing ‘ feel I want to hold it like……  So in the end it’s more or less completely useless’. ‘In fact its only use really is on an occasion like this to point out how useless it is ! Perhaps if I had a simple Biro like this… I can write with it, it’s light, it’s quick, it’s easy. If’ lose it, nothing’ gone, ‘If ! break it, it’s all right. When it’s worn out…. Well, our live can be, we can get rid of all these silver and all the decoration with which we taunt people’. It seems a pity to have this and nobody knows about it, but I can’t use it. All I can do is to show it to people and have them say “Oh isn’t that lovely”

One teacher says , “Word and thought are like clouds.” Few of them in the sky, interesting and beautiful. Put if you have too many of them you blot out the blue sky. You can’t see the sun and the moon. The same thing applies perhaps to lectures . If they go on too long, they can shut out the light.

There’s one last thing to say: people feel  “Oh well, it’s all right for these geniuses of Zen Masters and great Chinese poets and so on, they can inspire people. But what can I do? What shall I ever be able to do? “And I’ve seen a dramatic representation of this. Then ‘s a bell here . It can attract a lot of attention from people who don’t want to hear it. You go up behind somebody and you…..   

In the same way you can go up to people And you can catch hold of their ear and you can shout the truth of Buddhism into the ear. And perhaps they’ll be quite impressed for a time, but then tomorrow somebody will get hold of that ear and be shouting something into the ear. The size and the noise the noise of this bell is no guarantee of any particular effect and as a matter-of-fact it’s often counter-productive, people don’t like the noise. But if people are attentive and want to hear then even something very small, the dharma is conveyed as truth as part of this bell.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Judo Experience – Zen & More Stories

Part 2: Finding inspiration in everyday things

Part 3: Go into the peace of your practises

Part 4: The doctrine of the void

Part 5: From emptiness inspiration will come


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