Some essential thing is missing


We know when the fly is caught in the window, its half open, and he’s buzzing against the glass, isn’t he? He wants to get out into the sunshine. Then we’ve often watched them. They go up the top and there’s the edge of the window there; beyond that it’s open. He comes to the edge, he just comes up a little bit, and we think, oh no, it’s all dark. Back in sunshine… and he’s buzzing against the glass again. If he could just leave that… go on… then he’d be free!

This is used by a teacher as an example. People are going to go beyond the glass of the mind but then they get frightened, and they come back to it, frustrating though is. A little more, and then they’d be free.

Well, I’ll read one translation which I didn’t read yesterday. This is from the Zen master at the beginning of the century. He says, ‘A real fool is appealing and he’s easy to get along with. Then you meet other people who are regarded as fools but actually, when you get to know them, you find they’re rather bright and they’re able to do things, but there is something essential missing always’.

When they go in for anything they’ve got all the talents, all the abilities, energy but there is some essential thing missing.

So it always ends in failure and he says it’s like a fan, like a dancer’s fan. A dancer’s fan has got gold and silver, beautiful pictures, a huge thing. This central pivot here holds the fan together. If this drops out, then the fan just spreads out with no unity at all, and can’t be used. And he said in these people, very talented people; the one essential thing is missing.

And, by implication, he says most of the people in the world are like this; they’ve got talents, they’ve got genuine and beautiful feelings and impulses, but the central thing is missing which would hold it all together and so it comes spread out and it’s useless.

You get little flashes of beauty from this spread-out fan, but it’s of no use at all. It can’t be used for dancing and it can’t be even used to fan yourself in the hot weather.

There’s the fool, the real fool, and then there are people who always fail and so looked like fools although, in fact, they’ve got a lot of abilities, but the central thing is missing which would hold it together and he says finally, ‘The one who thinks of himself as a fool, [as it is said] ‘I know that I know nothing’, he thinks of himself as a fool, as of no account, as of having no superiority over others, then for him the world begins to open out, wide and high and he can become a man of freedom, but while he’s thinking of these little successes and failures he’s held into those.

He gives an example, he says logic is necessary to some extent, you can apply the categories, and you can show that this this this must be so, but the fact is that anyone with a clear mind speaks and acts and makes things without constantly appealing to logic, and, furthermore, the man who constantly appeals to logic misses the inner inspiration and in the end he gets tired and then his logic begins to fray at the edges. Well, this is a profound remark but one thinks of an application in our own day and one of the great adherers of logic in human affairs was Bertrand Russell, a beautifully clear writer.

In his book on education – he never went to school himself, so he had pretty clear ideas on what schools ought to be – he said, you’ve no need for all this discipline and curriculum and so on. Children want to learn and you simply have to give them the opportunity and the facilities and they’ll learn. So he founded a school on this basis; he discovered that this was not so. He says, rather sadly, ‘I spend all my time separating the children. One of them said to me, ‘The big ones hit me, so I hit the little ones. That’s fair’.

But, in his book on education, Russell says, ‘I shall not discuss what to do if there are two or three persistently disruptive children who, not only won’t take any interest in learning themselves, but actively prevent other children from learning. I shall not discuss what to do because, under a proper system of education, such a contingency would never occur’. Well, this was the great disciple of logic, applying his logic, and, yes, one can see the logic of it but actually it’s pathetic isn’t it? He doesn’t know what to say. His logic is rather crumbling.

1.    Rinzai Zen Buddhist nun, Venerable Myokyo-ni, was head of the London Zen Centre. She died in 2007.

2.    Joshu Jushin, great Zen Master in ancient China, 778 – 897

3.    Rinzai Zen Master, Dokuon, teacher at Shokokuji, Kyoto. The meeting was in 1869.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: The Flower of the Heart

Part 2: Pointing directly to the human heart

Part 3: The concealment of realisation

Part 4: Reaction from the universe

Part 5: You cannot live on sweets

Part 6: Some essential thing is missing

Part 7: Naming a thing is not knowing it

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