Pioneers and Scavengers

‘If you associate with dogs you have to be prepared for quite a lot of barking.’ A genuine thirteenth century Chinese saying: ‘A furious tiger rises up but is killed and then a tiny kitten comes up and laps the blood.’

This exemplifies third rate thinkers who try to sit on the body, so to speak, of the dead master and get a little of his prestige and strength.

Compare the Western saying about pioneers and scavengers. Pioneers find the new tracks in the forest but sooner or later they are struck down by some wild beast and they die. Then the scavengers come afterwards and pick over the bones. In the same way great innovative thinkers or scholars die, and the scavengers come and pick holes where they can find any little scraps. But they contribute nothing original themselves.

Compare Patanjali IV.3 Sutra: That cause (Samadhi) is not the impelling drive itself, but it makes a breach in the retaining barrier of the natures, as does a farmer (for irrigation). The farmer irrigates the field in a terrace by making a small breach in the water filled upper terrace and then water by its own power comes down and irrigates the next terrace down. He could do this by simply taking it down in buckets, but he knows that with a very small movement, by making a breach where it is needed, then the thing will effect itself. In the same way Patanjali says Prakriti (Nature) is a seething mass of potentialities and the Samadhi does not so much create the effect of power and knowledge but rather makes an opening where it can manifest itself.

In the case of the Japanese artist Hokusai, he was an uninspired ordinary poster artist until about his fifties. Then he began to practise meditation. As it reached Samadhi, it made an opening in the form of artistic creativity, and the cosmic life poured through the opening into his waiting heart and technique. He produced some of the most famous pictures in the world in his seventies, including “The Wave”.

After the fame of Hokusai and other leading woodblock artists had spread to the West where they influenced the French Impressionists and others, a brisk trade in fake prints was developed to palm them off on gullible western Philistines. Many houses in the west were graced by such, the work alas not of pioneers but of scavengers.

© 1999 Trevor Leggett

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