Piercing the Blazing Jewel

(1 March 1998)

The mind jewel is almost invisible behind its ceaseless blaze of thoughts as the sun is hidden by its brilliance. We cannot see where our thoughts come from. Yoga techniques can clarify and then still them to reveal the mind jewel, a source of personal inspiration, but even that jewel can be pierced to penetrate to cosmic life and inspiration which transcend personal limitations and death itself.

These things are symbols, [presents drawings] but they’re not just symbols like a notice for fire or water, where the symbol has got nothing to do with what it symbolizes. A good symbol has something of the qualities of what it symbolizes. A good symbol is like a merciful cloud, in a way, which veils partly the brightness of the sun, which we can’t look at directly but nevertheless reveals it. The cloud becomes radiant. Newton tried to look at the sun once. He was blind afterwards for two days. Recovering, he never tried it again.

There are these three symbols: blazing, jewel and pierce. These words are familiar to us from daily life. Their daily life meaning is the meaning which the symbol uses to point to something beyond our normal acceptance of what the words mean. Now, for instance, we will begin with blazing. In each of us, there’s a jewel, according to the holy teaching, in each of us, not just the clever, not just the wise, not just the profound, not just the very virtuous, but in each person, there’s a jewel.

We don’t see it because it’s blazing. ‘Blazing’, you think ‘What’s that mean?’ It is blazing with thoughts. We’re thinking and feeling all the time. We don’t know where the thoughts come from. They’re like the rays pouring out of the sun. They hide the sun. Suppose I’ve got quite a simple job to do. Something that needs to be done. I’m asked to sort of pile of papers. ‘Boring. Why’d they put these jobs on to me? Anyway, there’s no point in it. Oh, when the day comes, we’ll get a data processing onto the job, but even then the computers go wrong, don’t they?’

Now, all this, my thought is blazing away in meaningless thoughts while I am sorting. I’m feeling, feelings are blazing away. ‘I do these tedious jobs. Other people get the interesting ones, it’s all put on to me. What thanks do you get for it? None.’ I don’t need those thoughts. ‘They don’t help to sort the things’. It’s blazing out of the mind. What’s happening is this: to light a little gas ring, I build a bonfire. It’s quite a simple thought. ‘I’ve got to sort these things’. That needs about two thoughts. ‘Put this pile on that pile’. But I’ve got 200, 2000, 20,000 thoughts. In other words, to make a little fire, I light a bonfire. To light a cigarette, I make a huge bonfire.

All these thoughts and feelings take energy. We think, ‘Oh, no, they don’t. They come up by themselves.’ No, they take energy. ‘Oh, I don’t feel them.’ It’s like a direct debit. You get the goods. You seem to be getting them free, don’t you? Just a penny. But at the end of the month or year, you have to pay a lot. Thinking all these unnecessary thoughts, hampering thoughts, distracting thoughts, which make me far less efficient, I have to pay for them in the end. I pay for them in terms of the loss of concentration or the loss of will-power. I can’t see things through. I start things with a great enthusiasm. ‘Oh no, no, no. Don’t go through with it.’ Now, we have to reduce the bonfire so that when we’re asked to do something, we just do it calmly. It’s just so much thought.

We can understand this physically. If I’m constantly fidgeting, and then you ask me to sign something, if I’m twitching all the time, it’s going to be quite difficult to sign. Relax the body, balance the body, then just so much, sign. These examples are given to us. Reduce this bonfire of blazing thoughts and feelings by realizing that it’s a strain, it’s a strain keeping it up.

We think, ‘Oh no, it’s difficult to stop. It goes on automatically.’ It goes on automatically because I am supplying it with energy. It’s taking my energy and I’m putting energy into it. Now to practise giving it up. We’ll just try for a minute. Take a deep breath. As you breathe out, calm the body and the mind, balance. Remain calm until I ring the bell again after a minute. Now, take a deep breath. [bell rings]

It’s very valuable to learn to make a little break in the flood. Just as when we’re hunched over some job, then just periodically every hour, stretch. The whole body is relieved. Well, in the same way to learn to make these little breaks in the compulsive chain of thinking from time to time. If we can develop a little habit of being able to do that, it’ll be a great advantage in checking the automatic reactions in life, so that – when the time comes and there is some minor crisis, when there’s no time to philosophize or think or control – if the habit has been established, then when the time comes and somebody smacks me… [breathing]. Now have your anger. ‘Oh, well, I can’t be bothered.’ It’s a great advantage to prevent the automatic response, to make that little gap.

Well, this is one of the first points: don’t make bonfires, just so much. A little light is all that’s necessary for the job, then just have a little light. The rest.  Don’t have these chains of sparks of thought.  One of the ways they tell us to reduce these things, the events and the things that happen to us in society, [is to realise that] many of them are unreal. Much of our thinking and our feeling and our actions are dictated by things which are unreal – things you absolutely take for granted, which we all know to be true.

A little knowledge of history, as my teacher used to say, is a great advantage. In the Middle Ages, it was absolutely axiomatic that one ought to eat meat and fish if you wanted to be strong and vigorous. If you ate lettuces and green stuff, well, rabbits eat that, and you are what you eat, aren’t you? If you eat lettuces and green stuff, and vegetables, you’ll become like a rabbit. If you eat dairy produce, you’ll become like a cow, won’t you? They ate enormous meals of meat in order to keep going. Now, just to read a little bit from a standard history.

Reading: Upper-class nutrition clearly lacked for nothing in terms of quantity. Individual intake of calories in households of all kinds would have been in the region of 4,000 to 5,000 per day, similar to those found on the continent, for example, in the households of the Archbishop of Arles. In reality, the daily intake was rather less than this and a good deal of food was wasted, or at least handed out to the poor, gathered at the gates.

Judged by modern nutritional standards, the diet of the upper ranks of medieval society shows serious deficiencies in quality. Consumption of dairy produce and fresh fruits and vegetables was minimal. In a fortnight in 1337 in the household of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, milk worth a penny-halfpenny, cheese worth three-pence and vegetables worth ten pence were accounted for in a total budget of 18 pounds, 11 shillings, and three-pence. Such figures are by no means exceptional, that must mean that on many days, none of these foodstuffs was eaten.

TPL. We know now that the peasants, provided they weren’t actually starving, had a better diet than the nobles. It was then absolutely axiomatic, meat, meat, meat, meat, meat, five times a day, meat and fish. What do we do today which is so absolutely axiomatic? Freud taught us to give way to our feelings. Nobody actually reads Freud. We read Freud [by reading] somebody who’s read somebody who’s read somebody else who’s read Freud. What Freud actually said is all culture’s based on repression and sublimation. Society will become a jungle unless the individual accepts considerable restraints on his sexual and individual freedom. This is what he actually said, but now the other view is regarded as so obvious that it’s not worth thinking about.

In these ways, we’re told to examine our lives and simplify them instead of simply accepting myths which are put about. There are three ways of learning. By instruction, if you are most intelligent. If you are less intelligent, by observation. If you’re still less intelligent, as I have often been, you have to have bitter experience. However, when we examine a new contact, look at the people who are doing a particular line of conduct for 15 years and see whether you want to be like them. There’s something unreal about much of our behaviour and I’m taking some of this from the book. It’s a recent text or recently discovered, it’s a Sanskrit text, which I translated freely for the general public. Don’t buy this, it’s 70 pounds. Wait for the paperback – it’ll soon be out but he’s got some new things in that. But one of the things he says is not to live mechanically by unproven assumptions, but to live intelligently.

The next point is we live a lot by unrealities, which we don’t examine. Things are transient. Things are passing and we expect them to be permanent and may try to hang on to them and so our life is suffering. Things will pass. We can learn by observation, instruction, or bitter experience. To be in the Guinness book of records in the sporting section, top of the page, photograph, that’s success, isn’t it? But 50 years afterwards, he can hardly walk. These things pass.

If we know and understand that things will pass and accept it, then we’re not always clutching, ‘Oh, stay. Oh, stay.’ No, then we don’t suffer from it. We know the things will go. We shouldn’t be disappointed. My teacher said one of his pupils was a rich man who had a good collection of Chinese jades. Then there was a financial upset and it appeared he was going to lose all his money. The teacher just mentioned this to me. Then, to my amazement, he said, I have no sympathy with him at all.” I thought, ‘What?’ “He knows you have been in the Far East. He knows you appreciate Chinese Jade. Did he ever show you his collection?” “Well, no. I didn’t know him very well.”  “If he had shared it, when he had it, he would not regret it now when it passes.” ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘yes, that’s quite true. He should have done that,’ but afterwards you start taking it to yourself. I made a rule of life after that and whenever I had a piece of luck, instantly to share it because I felt, well, this is the teacher’s advice.

If it happens to go, you don’t regret it, if you have shared it. There are brilliant musicians who just give concerts. It’s amazing how long they last, many of them; but finally, the ability goes. But if they share it, if they teach as many have done, then the loss of ability is not regretted. This is a point to remember that the transience, the passing nature of things must be accepted. If we share the things, we should not regret it so much. We can say, ‘Well this is a very gloomy view of life and it’s going to make one very depressed and inactive.’ Not at all, not at all.

The Japanese are a most energetic people but if you look at their literature in the 21 great anthologies of poems, there’s not a single poem which speaks of fulfilled love. It is disappointment or it is delayed love, postponed, or very often it is dying for love. Yet this gloominess, as it’s called by foreigners, has not made the Japanese apathetic. It’s made them very energetic. They don’t expect passing things to remain. This is one of the secrets of life. If we can learn to check the automatic grasping at things and make a little gap to let things go in our lives, just for 20 minutes, half an hour, a day, then the whole of the rest of the life is energized. But if the whole time we are engaged in thinking and thinking and thinking, or else dull in a stupor, not blazing, but the smoke is pouring out. Then we live in a way which, later on, we find to have been rather meaningless.

So, what does he recommend? He says we must get a certain independence by realizing that things are passing and that the ideals and hopes and fears are, to some extent, unreal and look at them carefully. Then the actual discipline is we must do some form of austerity. We must try to establish in small things first, a sort of independence: occasionally to miss a meal, occasionally to sit up half the night and study and meditate. Occasionally, when it’s cold, to go out without a scarf or coat. And when some misfortune happens, to practise independence of it. In these ways, we can begin to release the energy, which is in all of us. There is an energy which is independent of circumstances and it can be released by that.

The second thing is study. Now, the point of study of the holy texts is to do enough study to convince one about the practice and the goal. If you do no study at all, and then you begin to practise all the time, every week, you start thinking, ‘Well, I don’t know, perhaps there’s nothing in it after all’.  But if you study seriously, you can come to the point where you think, ‘Now, I don’t know, but I’ll do this and then I’ll do it seriously. I’ll do it for, say three years, seriously – like I would do anything else seriously.’

After three years, there will be a definite yes or no. As a matter of fact, the yoga practices as he explains in the book are designed so that they give little results at the beginning, definite results. Not, ‘I’m sure I’m feeling much better today.’ No, it’s not that. Definite results. Those little results, which happen from yogic practice and anyone who practises seriously will experience them. They are not what is wanted. What is wanted is independence and setting free; this finding the jewel within and then going further.

The little science which was given at the beginning, when he says it’s like in the so-called primitive societies, they make a fire by a pointed stick, which is held down on to a plane of wood with a little indentation in it and then the stick is revolved quickly, and then there’s friction. If you’ve ever seen this done, first of all, the smoke comes out. Then if it can be continued, there’s fire. Now, the first thing that comes is the smoke. Smoke is not what you want, it’s the reverse of what you want actually. The smoke appearing shows that you’re on the right lines and the fire will come.

Now, in the yoga disciplines and experiments, little signs are given which can be confirmed. When one has been confirmed, it puts the whole practice on a different basis. You all know this – when you’re lost in a town and you ask the way and a man says, “Go up there and take the second left and then the third right, then you’ll see there’s a church on the left, which has got a red steeple.” You think, ‘Mmm, I don’t know’ but you go there and then you come to the church with a red steeple. That’s not what you want but it confirms that you’re on the right road. In the same way these yogic practices, they can if they’re pursued – like the stick: if you stop turning it, you have to start again – must be pursued.

If meditations are done every day, without any break at all, then there will begin to be a change and then something which can be convincing. That is, the full study, then Ishvarapranidhana is to worship. There is something within which is a God. We think, ‘Oh, I can’t say that,’ so we worship a God outside. That’s not wrong as a symbol, but there is a worship of a God within. This must be cultivated. This is where a teacher very often is a great advantage, to know a teacher, because it’s easy to have faith in a teacher. It’s difficult to have faith in oneself.

I’ve taught judo for instance up to quite a high level. I have experience of the teacher’s role there. Now, if some young kid comes out, he’s very keen, but he’s got doubts because the others seem to be…  He’s very nervous. He thinks, ‘I’m not a rough and tumble type, but I’m keen to do it. Could I do it?’ When I look at him, I can see in three years we can change that nervousness into speed or reaction. He can be very fast but he’s going to have quite a tough time. You can see, looking at that rather feeble, spindly figure, perhaps very nervous and hesitating and shy and frightened, you can see the picture of what it can be because you’ve seen it before. He has no faith in himself, but if he has a faith in the teacher then he may be able to carry on from the teacher’s faith in him.

As an elderly senior with a certain prestige, I occasionally and very occasionally visit a judo club. I went once to a place and there was a kid there about 16. He was trying like mad and of course he was just falling over and falling over but he was coming back and the teacher there he said, “He’s going to be good.” I said, “Yes. Has he got faith in you?” He said, “Yes, he’s keeping it, he believes in me.” He said, “Would you just give him a word?” I said, “Well…” He said, “Oh, please.”

He brought this kid out and I said, “Show me what you’re doing.” “Nothing much.” I said, “Well then, show me what you’re trying.” Of course, he did it and it was terrible but I said, “Look, that’s very good. That’s coming on well. You keep going on that and in a year or so you’ll do that.” Afterwards, the instructor came to me and said, “He was terribly disappointed, you know. You just sort of praised him and he just thought, ‘Oh, he’s just soft-soaping me. This is no good. He doesn’t think I’ll be any good.’” So, I said, “Well, I’ll see him again.” I said, “You are absolutely terrible, and you’ll never manage harai-goshi but you could do this and this and this but it’s going to take you three years now.”  Somehow we have to have faith in ourselves and to know a senior can be an advantage in getting that.

When the thoughts begin to die down: when we can sit every day in the meditation – it takes eight or 10 minutes for all the excitements of the world and what’s been happening and what’s going to happen and this and that, to forget them – if you do it every day, at the same time your body and your mind will begin to settle down when that time comes. Get up half an hour earlier, and five minutes before {the meditation} now settle down. If you do that every day for three months, then in that five minutes, your body will begin to, of itself, settle down and your mind will begin to calm of itself. Now, you’ll find your breathing begins to get slow and even. You’ll find your muscles settle and calm. Try and master one of the traditional postures, but you can sit in a chair, it’s all right. Sit in a balanced position, not slouching otherwise you have to keep on. Sit in a balanced position. Assuming that the mind is beginning to calm down there are fewer blazing thoughts, now the jewel will begin to become visible.

We’ll read just two or three of the sutras from the yoga sutra.

Reader: Sutra 141: identification in samadhi. Samapati is when the mental process has dwindled and the mind rests on either the knower or the knowing process or a known object. Like a crystal, it apparently takes on their respective qualities.

Trevor Leggett: For some time in meditation, you meditate, say on a mountain peak, and you keep forgetting it, the mind wanders off. But if you persist with it, then the mind will begin to take on the shape, and you won’t have to keep supporting bringing the mind back. When you sit there calmly, that peak will be there of itself in the mind, and this is the first step but it’s still mixed up with many associations and thoughts. Words are mixed up with the thing itself.

If you want to experience something of the higher samadhi, get up early and go to a place where you can sit on a hilltop and see the sunrise, and see the sun coming up. Now, the sun is so big that you forget the words. You don’t think, ‘Oh, the sun’s coming up now.’ The words go and this can give a little hint toward the meditation. Now, the next one.

Reader: Sutra 142. The samadhi identification is called Savitarka when it is mixed up with mental constructs of word, thing, and idea.

Trevor: While we’re thinking in words about our meditation, there’s a mix-up. Although the mind is taking on that shape, it’s still mixed up, but the next stage is to go beyond words.

Reader: When there is purification from memories, that samadhi apparently empty of its own nature of knowledge with the object alone shining forth is Nirvitarka.

Trevor: There are three very important points here. One is purification of the memory. What checks the inspiration in us, which is reigning on us all the time is the memories, the past convictions: ‘this must be so.’ ‘This is like that.’ ‘Oh, no, that couldn’t be so.’

In meditation, going beyond words, getting free from memories, the meditation becomes empty of its own nature, as it were, and no longer thinks, ‘I am meditating.’  ‘How am I doing?’ Steady now, yes’. All these are words, they begin to drop away until it becomes empty of its own nature, as it were. That’s to say, no longer thinking, ‘I am meditating.’ Now, this is beginning to take place of itself, and the object shines out in its own nature. This is one of the secrets of inspiration. Notice it carefully. It’s the associations. It’s not that the new ideas don’t come. They come all the time, but they are thrown off: ‘Oh, no, it couldn’t be.’

They had a programme on “Giant Shoulders: Poincare.” He intuited relativity, as did Einstein about the same time too, but Poincare was sceptical. Einstein presented the theory as something that actually happens in the world. The commentator said, “Einstein put his reputation on the line, which Poincare was not willing to do,” but Einstein had no reputation. He did nothing. He just scraped through his final exam. He had no higher degrees, whatever. He was totally outside the mainstream of academic research, and he was in the Patent Office, a clerk in the [Swiss] Patent Office. Not quite a clerk but inspector of new patents, so he had no reputation. What an enormous advantage it was. The past associations, the memories, they form a big block against new ideas.

Now, when the mind becomes stilled, it becomes like a jewel, and then it becomes purified of memories and associations of time and space. Then it becomes truth-bearing, becomes inspired. Now, these are lovely words, aren’t they? They actually refer to something. This evening I thought, I’d bring along a picture of a Japanese Zen man. They were the monks there – in certain of the sects they’re given a sort of riddle to concentrate on.

Now, Buddhism was a foreign doctrine. It’s the only foreign doctrine that China ever accepted from abroad until Communism, essentially.  But the Chinese didn’t necessarily understand it fully, and they tended to quote without understanding what they were quoting. So, the Chinese masters devised a system of these riddles to make people actually think. We think we think, but we don’t actually think. This blaze of thought is just a ragbag in a tumble. People are thinking and thinking and thinking and talking and talking and talking all the time, but there’s nothing there. And then, ‘Now, here’s a man who’s going to commit suicide! Say something to him!’ ‘Ohhh, don’t do anything you might regret afterwards…’

They can’t think what to say. The thing is to think when we are to think and when it’s not the role to think, to be able to lay down thought, have the space and clearness above thought. Now, the jewel is shining in us. If we can worship it, as Beethoven or Wagner worshipped the Muse, their inspiration. Wagner could have quite easily modified his long operas to make them more acceptable. He wouldn’t do that. He was worshipping the Muse, the goddess in himself. There has to be a reverence when meditations are done.

In the Zen tradition, they are given riddles. If the two hands make a clap, what is the sound of one hand? You can easily get an intellectual answer. This is a Japanese Zen man who makes semi-humorous pictures, and here you see one pupil is going into the master’s room, and the other one is coming out. He’s looking at his hand, isn’t he? He’s been given the koan, the riddle of one hand. “If two hands make a clap, what is the sound of one hand?” He’s got to think about that. He’s got to make an answer, and the teacher’s got a great big stick to hit you if you don’t try hard enough, and he uses it too. Let’s say you present your answer, and the teacher accepts it once in a 1000 times and in the other 999, he rings the bell. Rings the bell in the interview and out you go. The next one comes in. Now, this one, he meditated for over a year. What is the sound of one hand, and he made his answer. You can easily make an intellectual answer, but then he’ll never accept it: “It was quite easy, oh, one hand is the subject, one hand is the object. Subject meets object – that’s experience. The sound of one hand.” “What is the experience of the subject to learn?” “That there’s no object.” Oh. The teacher just… [ sound of bell vigorously rung].

They’re just playing with words. It’s got to lead to a definite experience. What is the sound of one hand?  He made a little sketch of his experience. [Shows the sketch]. He passes into a state called [samyama] samadhi, where all the worldly consciousness disappears.

There’s a great hand, the whole universe is the hand of the Buddha. It’s a construct, with a purpose. He finds himself he too is contained, not in a world of hostile chances and inevitable disappointments, and transiency and unreality, but in the hand of the Buddha, the vast hand, which is the universe. As you can see, this is a partial experience because the sound of the one hand is not really covered in this experience, but this was his experience. Meditation is to lead to definite experiences, not to vaguely feeling a little bit better today.  These are experiences of the limited riddle, but it has to go beyond, meditation has to go beyond the riddle. There is something in us which is transcendental, which is not simply the higher Self of man. It’s something transcendental.

As an illustration, there’s a photographer in Japan who does nothing but take pictures of the mountain Fuji. This was one that he took. This symbolises a meditation experience. All the associations have dropped away. It’s symbolised by the darkness, the unknown.  Then, the sun striking a light within. Now, would you like to look at that picture, just for a little bit, for a few seconds, and then close the eyes and then calm the interior  and bring your attention to something unmoving, transcendental to find a jewel within ourselves, but as you know, there’s one more step to pierce the jewel. The jewel is the very depths of the ‘I’. Beyond associations, there still is some individuality which separates. To pierce through that, as if, when you pierce through a jewel to hang it on the necklace, the thread goes through.

This illustration is given in the Gita: “like clusters of jewels on a string.” Then, the method applied in meditation is to look through even that jewel. Very important is the practice in daily life. I’m doing something, I’m writing or I’m painting something or polishing something, the boring repetitive jobs are especially favourable for this type of meditation. In fact, for meditation generally, when the meditation is first brought into daily life. Supposing I’m writing or polishing something, I am doing this. [Demonstrates a motion].

The first stage is, as you know, to give up the blazing feeling of how long this is going to take – only another half hour, only another two stones to polish, unless they come out with their muddy feet, of course. No. No extra thoughts to polish. Then, the cloth and the hand and the stone begin to become radiant, they begin to shine out in their own nature. But still, I’m doing it. ‘Oh, if I give up, by doing it, it’ll stop.’ I haven’t given it up. If I stopped doing it, I’m still, so to speak, the driver just as much as if I do it, but in doing it in the action, to give up ‘I’m doing it,’ and the action will go on on a different basis. These are the things that have to be practised. They’re very interesting and afterwards we’re never bored when we’re asked to do copy typing or sweep endlessly because we’re practising. Practising doing the repetitive movement and then giving up the sense of ‘I’.’ Sometimes, generally, it’ll stop. It will just stop!’ No, that means I have stopped it.

When this can be done, without the ‘I’ then the jewel will have been pierced and then it will be strung on the necklace of the, well, it’s called cosmic consciousness. These are all words: sometimes they make us feel better, but the thing is to do experiments so we ‘re given the chance to do these things. Even a little makes life quite different, gives a new dimension to life. We can say, “Well, I haven’t got any significance in my life.” This will transform that sort of conviction.

If you’ve ever seen living chess, it’s done, occasionally they play it – they turn a lawn into a big chessboard and, it’s they do it at college sometimes, then the students dress up as a knight or as a bishop and the White Queen, she’s a fair haired, blonde girl, beautiful white dress and the Black Queen’s got black hair and so on. This is marked out in squares. Then, at each end on a rostrum there’s a master playing and the herald calls out the move. The knight takes the pawn and the one in the knight’s armour stalks across and the wretched pawn goes like that [demonstrates a pose] and he brings down his hatchet and the pawn goes, “Aaghh.” The stretcher-bearers run up and carry him off and the knight stands like this [demonstrates]. While something’s happening on your square that’s quite interesting but for most of them it’s pretty tiring standing there for two, three hours.  But a few of them play chess and they have a little board and they know and understand, not merely what’s happening in their own little section of this board, they know what’s happening elsewhere.

Now, I don’t know if there are chess players here but it doesn’t necessarily matter.  If there’s a passed pawn on the queen’s side, coming towards the end game, that pawn may not move. The furious attacks that are going on on the other side of the board, are controlled by the fact that if exchanges take place then that pawn will run through. Therefore, one of the players dare not exchange. Although the pawn doesn’t move, its presence affects the whole game and if you’re a pawn and you don’t play chess, you just stand there. ‘Mmm…well of course, I’m enjoying this…’  but if you play chess it’s very interesting.

A master of calligraphy in Japan retired to the country, to a village. He took an interest in the education of the children in the village. There was one old lady there, she was looking after her grandson, the parents had died in an accident. She made a living just by doing little odd jobs around the houses in the village and with the little money she managed to bring up the boy, who was bright. Of course, it was a tremendous sacrifice and an enormous effort she made and the village heard all about that but she didn’t have many friends.

Well, the teacher, the retired calligrapher, met her and he told her, he said, “The boy is bright and when the time comes, he should go to a college.” Well, when the time came, the calligrapher said, “Look, I know the president of one of the top colleges in the capital and I could write an introduction for this boy. I’ve watched his education develop and they have a scholarship, I know. And I believe if I recommended him, they would take him on.” So, they were overwhelmed with gratitude.  He said, ” I’ll provide you with the train ticket to Tokyo and make the appointment with the president and I’ll write you a letter of introduction to show him.”

She thought, ‘Well, now I’m going to see something, this wonderful calligrapher and he’s got these wonderful brushes from China’ and so on. But he didn’t use any of these brushes. He took an old, blunt stub of a pencil and just made two little cuts on it, and then he scribbled something which she couldn’t even read. He didn’t seal it or sign it. There was an envelope, [he] addressed the envelope very carefully to the president and said, “Give him that.”

She thought, ‘How can I go there? Anybody could’ve scribbled that. I can’t even read it.’ But she was far too embarrassed to say anything, so they went out and she passed the envelope to the president’s secretary.  The president, after a minute, told the secretary and they went in. He was looking at this scribble and he said, “Oh that’s wonderful. Who else could have done it? He’s got such control that even with this blunt pencil, he can imitate the shading that would be used by a brush.”

He said, “It’s a masterpiece. I’m going to keep this. For the boy, yes certainly, I’ll take him on, anyone recommended by him.” She was bewildered but anyway they went back and then the boy went to the capital. She thought, ‘I’m going to be very lonely now, but of course, for his sake, I’ll put up with it.’ She wasn’t quite so lonely as she’d expected. People started dropping in on her and bringing little presents of tea or sweets or other little things which she needed.

One day, one of them said to her, “Do you know why people like me come and see you?” So, she said, “No.” “Well, in the old days, you used to complain rather a lot and it was a bit tiring. But now you never complain at all. In fact, you hardly say anything. But when we’ve been with you here and we go home, we’ve found we’ve got a new sort of strength to face life and a new inspiration for what to do. Now, I’m only telling you this because I want to ask, what made the change in you?” The old lady told her that story of the calligraphy master and the pencil stub and she said, “I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought, ‘Why did he do it?’ He had all of those wonderful brushes there and he did this. Though the president did say it was a masterpiece but why did he do it? I kept thinking, ‘The pencil stub, the pencil stub’ Then one morning,” she said, “I woke up and I realized I’m the pencil stub. My life is nearly at the end, my mind is dull and blunt, but with just two little cuts, cutting away my selfishness, the Buddha can write a masterpiece. Since then, I’ve felt a strength holding me and peace within.”



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