The judo teacher. He says, “You may get technical excellence, but it will be of no use to you as a training for life” .
When we move from judo to life we have to be able to extend this. In a judo club it’s very important for all the members to take part. Not to have the accounts done by a chartered accountant who is a member, so that he takes over and does them marvellously and the ordinary members don’t do anything.
No. The ordinary members too must take part in that, under his supervision, but they must take part in that. And you’ll get somebody who’s more or less fearless. For when it comes to accounts he says, “Oh I’ve never done that. Oh no I don’t think I could do that ! ” You say, “Come on, where’s that fighting spirit you’re always talking about?”
Oh I’ve never done anything like that!” In these ways we are expected to extend the special training beyond the narrow field and go out into the whole of life.
One example that I remember of such a thing was in a performance of “The Ring” at Covent Garden when they decided to put the real dragon “Fafner” actually on the stage. He’s often shown just as a shadow’. And they prepared this tremendous monster which in the rehearsals surged forth and then Siegfried finally dispatches it, but it was a very impressive thing. Very successful in the rehearsals, then it was put away. Well, when the night of the performance came, this thing began to surge out from the wings, but there was a terrible squeaking of wheels, they’d forgotten to oil the wheels Well this often happens with our virtuous actions. We do them but there’s a sort of squeaking of wheels as we do them. One teacher says, “Don’t cough when you do a right action”. When you put a gold coin… cough’ “learn to do your right actions without coughing”, and in that one phrase it can be very useful.
A man went to a Buddhist teacher and he said, “All this talk of detachment you know. It means you’re separated from human life. There is grief in human life and It should be expressed. There is a righteous indignation when something vicious and venomous and spiteful is being done and ought to be stopped. And these things should be expressed by people in the world as I am.” And the teacher said, “Yes. The doctrine doesn’t deny that there are roles to be played. To rejoice when people are rejoicing at the birth of a new child. To mourn with people who are sad at a bereavement.” But he said, a first class actor performs these roles with a minimum of movement. Why ‘ham’ them?” And this can be very useful to us. We may have a genuine role to play, but we’re not to become ‘ham’ actors indulging in our emotions.
A man was worried about egoism and he said to his wife, t(hey were small shopkeepers) “the food we have is too good. It’s pampering to our egoism and I’m going to have simpler food. You can go on of course.” She said, “Oh no, I’ll eat what you eat.” So they reduced the food to the very simplest form. Well then after a little bit he said, “My clothes are too good.
You of course wear what you like but I’m going to wear…” She said, “Oh no. I’ll wear much simpler clothes.” Well then after a little bit of that he said, “You know, the fact is you’re in the way of my spiritual development. The Buddha left home, child, you see, and that’s what you’re stopping me doing, and I’m going to live by begging.” So the wife said, “Oh. Very well.” And he went to ask the teacher about it and the teacher said, “Oh no.” But he felt that as a test, so he went begging and he caught pneumonia (and I knew this case’, and he caught pneumonia and then he was shipped back into hospital. He wife was running the shop and bringing up the children. And finally, much worse for wear, he got back home. Well then he explained to the teacher. He said, “I’ve tried to get rid of this egoism but the fact is I’m beginning to see that my efforts to get rid of it are themselves assertions of egoism” . And the teacher said, “Yes. There is a traditional Chinese story that the turtle has its enemies who follow the tracks the turtle makes. So the turtle wipes out the tracks of its feet with its tail. But the enemies follow the marks of the tail. And by trying to wipe out egoism with egoism, like the turtle.”
So the man said, “Well, what can one do?” So the friend said, “So you do what the teacher says, except what he actually does say” . “Oh well, all right.” So he went to his wife and he explained the turtle situation to her and he said, “Well now, what can the turtle do?” And she said, “Oh I don’t really know, I suppose the only thing he could possibly do would be to give up being a turtle” . And he went away and he thought about that.
From the giving up being a turtle the teacher says we shall see a beauty and an art in everyday things. When we wash up, bubbles come up. Children find those bubbles wonderful and beautiful, they blow bubbles. Well, we don’t see them as beautiful – it’s just ‘I’ve got to get this blasted washing up!’ We don’t see the beauty. What’s happened? The beauty’s there. Something’s happened. The teacher says you will find a beauty and an art in everyday things.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 4: The doctrine of the void