Sparks from the Heart Flint

Sparks from the Heart Flint

This talk is called Sparks from the Heart Flint. Of course, our hearts aren’t flinty — at least mine isn’t — so in a way the whole basis of the talk collapses! But the fact is that other people — and sometimes they have good reason — think that my heart is flinty when you just scratch the surface. So, for the purposes of my talk, the heart is a flint — it is hard and it can scratch.

Now, when steel is applied skilfully to flint, a spark can be struck. If you have ever tried to do this, or seen it being done, you know that you don’t get many sparks out of the striking with the steel, but you get some. And you have to go on until you get a spark.

Our heart flints can be struck in different ways, and one of the methods is to use short incidents and stories in the hope that one of them will sort of click. It’s like trying to point out something in a distant landscape. You say to someone:

“You see that grey building with the round roof?”

“No, I can’t make that out.”

Now, you don’t persist; you just say, “Well, can you see the river gleaming in the distance?”

“No, no, I can’t see it.”

You don’t say, “Well, you must see it!” You try something else. And sooner or later he sees: “You see that red building on the far hill?”

“Yes, I’ve got that.”

“Now, look at the red and go left. Keep going left along the horizon and then you will come to the green patch, and then you will come to the river.”

This style is connected with trying to get an initial spark and then going from there. Our hearts have to be struck. These days the heart flint is generally regarded as the responsibility of society. If somebody does something wrong, well, in a way we’re all guilty, aren’t we, because we have set him a problem he didn’t really manage to overcome. The shepherd is guilty for not integrating the wolf with the flock, so to speak. But as a matter of fact, if we look at our own experience, we find that the idea of society being responsible is quite false. If I look at the spiteful and vicious things I’ve done, I can’t honestly say that society was responsible. I did them.

This is one of the first things to recognize — that the heart is a flint. Then to try applying these methods. They can be considered like jokes. Sometimes one sees a joke then it’s enough. But if one doesn’t see it, or if it is an inappropriate joke, or if one has no sense of humour, then it is no use labouring it: “You must see this!” or arguing about it; just pass on to another one.

The next point is when the spark is struck. You hold the flint in the left hand and you have some tinder, which is like dried grass, held on the flint under your left thumb. You strike, and the spark must catch the tinder otherwise the spark’s gone immediately. If it catches the tinder – you blow very carefully, not too much, not too little – it will glow. Then you can light your cigarette with it, or whatever it is. (It’s a long way of lighting a cigarette— but there has to be a tinder).

Now, these spiritual stories, and incidents and things that happen, can strike a spark from us, but unless there is some tinder for it to catch, that spark is lost. We may feel a momentary exaltation, a momentary flash, but then it’s gone. The tinder can be some persistent situation, some past association, some fixed habit, some problem or obsession. When that is struck — when the spark strikes the tinder — it begins to glow.

We can tell what is happening from our own reactions. Suppose something vicious is done. Some people, for example, have unselfishly performed a great service and built something up. And then somebody comes along and — for no reason at all — breaks it down and destroys it. When that happens to someone else, I think, ‘Oh, deplorable! So sad!’ And then I go all psychological and say, “Of course, you know, the sufferer is the man who has done this mindlessly spiteful thing; he is the real sufferer.” But if it happens to me, then it’s quite different.

Now, that is a tinder situation — when it happens to me — when what I have built up unselfishly and not for personal gratification, glory or power, is wantonly kicked to pieces out of sheer devilment. This is one of the cases given in Zen. The teacher says to a man to whom this has happened, “What is your feeling now?”

The man struggles with himself and says, “Well, I suppose I’m telling myself that poor fellow is making very bad karma for himself; and I’m sorry for him.”

Now the teacher says, “That’s no good at all.”


“That’s no good at all. You’ve got to drink him down to the last drop of poison.”

When the teacher says something like that to me, I think, ‘Ugh!’ Then he says — and this is in one of the old Zen books — “You’ve got to drink him down to the last drop of venom:

‘Let the bird fly in the vast sky of your serenity;

Set the fish free in the bottomless ocean of your tolerance.

Do that! Love has to be brave enough to drink up the person entirely, poison and all.”

And I think, ‘Oh, you can’t expect me to do that!’

Well, that’s the tinder and if that spark strikes, then there is a chance, just a chance — if it is preserved — that my attitude can change and I can move out of that cycle of grudging acceptance, into something different.

Then I say, “Well, what am I supposed to do? Supposing I do drink him down. Am I just to let it go, encourage him to do it again?”

The teacher says, “No. Words of love are not necessarily only kindly words.”

On this point, I thought I would give one or two short examples from my own experience as a judo practitioner (at which I have spent a good many years) and as a teacher (at which I have also spent a good many years). Now I am retired and have hardly been to the judo halls for perhaps twenty years. Young people — some of them my pupils — are teachers now. But very occasionally I do have to go, and I went on one anniversary.

The teacher there is a very good man. He has been an English champion and is a very good teacher. He said to me, “There’s a young fellow here. He’s desperately keen. He’s got a very poor physique, but he’s trying like mad. Would you have a word with him?”

“No, I don’t want to. He’s your pupil; you teach him.” I remembered when I was young how these old boys used to totter up. So, I said, “No, I don’t want to do that.”

“But he must see you. You’ve got to! You’ve got to!”

So, I saw this young chap trying his stuff. And, well, it was all so terrible really that I couldn’t say it was good or bad. But when you get old you get sort of kindly. So, I said, “Very good, yes, very good, bravo!” And he bowed and went off. Afterwards the teacher came to me and said, “You know, he was terribly disappointed with what you said.”


“He expected you to say something. He wants to get on. Please see him again.”

So, I saw him again and I told him: “You’re no good and you’ll be no good for three years, and you’ve only got one chance in a hundred of achieving what you want to achieve. But if you do this and this and this, and build up to two hundred repetitions every day, and practise like mad, you’ve got one chance in a hundred.” Well, he’d asked for it and he got it!

Some years later I was pleased to hear that he had won the junior championship of Britain.

Words of love are not necessarily kindly words. And words which are kindly are not necessarily to the benefit of the person.

We are told in one of the schools that the things that happen in training are like vaccinations. With a vaccination you get a little bit of the illness under controlled conditions. If you are then exposed to a big infection, your body can throw it off more easily. In the same way, some of the things which happen in training are designed to give us a little experience so that we can learn how to meet that experience and later on, when life throws something at us on the same lines but much bigger, we know the method.

There was a Master called Iida, some of whose books are difficult to read. They are old books from the beginning of the last century, and I went over parts of one of them with a good Zen teacher who is also an excellent scholar, and he told me: “In places, I don’t know what the old boy meant. He just throws difficult Chinese texts at you.” In one section, however, Iida lists in an illuminating way some of what a former Master (Master Gudo) called Zen illnesses.

The first illness is: Lack of faith — that your faith doesn’t go far enough. Iida said, ‘It isn’t so much faith in what will be, as faith in what is. We have to have faith in what is now. We all know what people say they think; it comes out in their words. But often those same words also give away the true state of affairs.’

Those who have done much judo might sometimes be asked to control people who are drunk. And anybody who has ever had to do that is very familiar with the phrase: “I’m not so think as you drunk I am!” We know what he means, but the very way he says it tells you the opposite.

Iida spoke of ‘the heart of faith’ (This is a phrase also used by Rinzai.) What is the heart of faith? He said, “The one who asks is the heart.” And what is faith? “The fact that he asks is faith.” Now, if he can isolate those two in himself — what it is that is asking, and what is this asking — then he’ll come to the heart of faith. It’s not a matter of words.

Perfection is often represented by a great circle. A man tried with [Master] Takuan. He made a big circle in the air with his finger and said, “The Buddha, Buddha-nature — it’s a great circle — means perfection.” He was in an exalted state as he said it.

The teacher said, “What?”

“Buddha-nature — perfection — perfect circle!”


Then he started and he said, “The Buddha-nature is perfection.” The teacher said, ‘There’s an angle here somewhere.’

Now, Iida, this Zen master from whom I’ve taken many of these illustrations, he sometimes turns the phrases around on their heads, but it makes us think about them and it can be a stimulus. There’s a saying that the karma must ripen and the season must come, then the man who’s been loyally practising – then… [he gets it]. He [Iida] says, “The karma and the season have come, they’re waiting for you. It’s the persons who are lacking.”

Faith in the universe. The example given is growing roses. He says, “The gardener can’t actually get inside the rose and go uhh! uhh! uhh! uhh! He has to have faith in the rose. Then he removes obstacles, and if there’s a lack of water, he supplies it. But when you say the gardener grows roses, this is only in a secondary use of the term. The roses grow. The gardener removes the obstructions.” Well, then another example from gardening of which I may say I know nothing, but this example is always given, and I have the feeling sometimes that it’s given by people who also don’t know much about gardening.

One’s always told, “Oh, well, don’t look for results. Think of tiny little children, think when you were a little child – you planted seeds. The next day, “Oh, nothing’s come up!” And the next day you thought, ‘I’ll dig them up and see what’s going on.’ How ridiculous, isn’t it? An experienced gardener says, “Yes, of course, that’s ridiculous to dig them up after two days. On the other hand, if you put down the seeds six years ago and you left them alone and you just put rubbish on top of them and then nothing has happened, it might be time to do a bit of digging up and plant some fresh seeds.”

His next illness is: Acquiring things. This is not an example from Iida. It’s an example I heard two or three years back from a Zen teacher. One of the most popular film stars – perhaps for all I know, he still is – in Japan, is Alain Delon. He [the Zen teacher] was giving the example of a Japanese husband and wife. He says there, “The husband’s working hard, getting on, and the wife’s doing well, she’s bringing up the baby, the child. But one day, instead of doing the household chores, she spends the afternoon looking at a television picture of Alain Delon. She’s very taken with this.

Then shortly before her husband comes back, she puts on the apron, so he’ll think, ‘What a hard-working wife I’ve got,’ and she busies herself. Then he comes in and she looks at him and she thinks, ‘Why aren’t you more like Alain Delon?’ As a matter of fact, in the train on the way back, he’s been reading a magazine about Alain Delon. He looks at her and he thinks, ‘Why aren’t you more like the glamorous women that Alain Delon comes back to?’ He [Zen teacher] says, now they’ve both got something in their mind. They’ve acquired something, and that spoils their life momentarily.”

Then he makes the further point that it’s something that doesn’t exist because what they’ve seen on the film is a creation of makeup and lights and camera angles. The actual film stars when you meet them are nothing like at all what they are on the screen. They’ve put something which is already illusory into their mind, and they have it at the back of their mind when they’re talking to each other. This is a great illness of acquiring something, putting something into your mind, which doesn’t exist.

The next illness is: No persistence. He says, people start with a tremendous rush of enthusiasm. Nirvana now and beat the rush.

They can’t keep it up. They don’t keep it up. Then he mentions quite an interesting point about tricks. We know this from judo. With people in their first year, you can teach them certain things which will get quick results, they’re surprising tricks. They will get very quick results in the contest in the first year. I knew a pair of brothers, they were not from any dojo where I’ve taught, but the teacher had taught them a three or four of these tricks, and they had spent – it must have been a lot of time on them.

When they came up to one of the central clubs for the grading contest, they sometimes won in two or three seconds. It was most dramatic, marvellous, like a miracle, like a magical trick… man goes over – bang! And very pleasant for the examiners, too. These things have an inherent limit. Their effect is mainly from surprise. After a year, they’ve got the brown belt (this is one below the famous black belt). Now, Brown Belts, they’ve been around. They’ve seen most of what there is to be seen. These tricks now no longer work. They won’t get any results at all.

A man who spent his time acquiring them, he doesn’t have throws which can develop. He’s only got tricks which now no longer work because they depended on surprise, and those two brothers, although they shot ahead in their first year, then they were stuck for three years and couldn’t advance any further. While the people whom they’d beaten so brilliantly in the early stages went ahead. This in the spiritual traditions is called sneaking in by the side door.

There are, so to speak, tricks by which people can have immediate results, which seem to be very impressive especially to them. These things have inherent limitations, they can’t progress, they can’t lead to anything, and people who sneak in through the side door without an invitation, not coming in through the front door, they soon get discovered and as the teacher says, “They get thrown out.” These dramatic successes which can be obtained by tricks are generally disastrous, without saying anything about Buddhism, but in judo you never improve from success. You nearly always get worse because your head goes just like that [bigger] when you’ve had a success and then you think, ‘Oh, no need to study anymore.’ Whereas when you have a failure, then you analyse and you make progress. “The early successes” he says, “in Zen are not very favourable, because what seem to be early successes, what the man himself thinks of as early successes because affect his persistence.”

Then the next one is said to be a very, very serious illness indeed. This is: to Hang On to one’s Own Ideas, to hang on with a clenched fist onto one’s own ideas.

One can use a good deal of resources if people are ingenious to protect and to develop one’s own ideas. The intellect can be used. You say to the intellect, “Look, this training’s getting boring, get me out of this.”

Intellect says, “Well, of course, I speak as an outsider, but I can only – only – bring in pure reason but it seems to me – correct me if I’m wrong – Buddhism is supposed to remove the ego. Is it not?”


“Well now, if you are saying, ‘I’m going to practise; I’m going to keep up this discipline.’ Well, that’s an assertion of the ego. You’re strengthening the very thing you’re supposed to be weakening!”

Intellect as a sort of devil in a frock coat speaks from the point of view of reason. That sounds all right. Then one of the little imps who is aping his master shouts enthusiastically, “Yes, that’s right, and don’t make your breakfast either, because you’ll be thinking ‘I am making breakfast,’ and that will impair your spiritual practice too.” If we’re going to do anything, then we should do the spiritual practice. A man with a bitter tongue, now Iida gives this example, he went to his teacher, it’s on the same lines, and he said, “Nirvana is here now, why do spiritual practice?”

The teacher said, “Yes, Nirvana is here now, why go around slandering people?” Had a bitter tongue. If no spiritual practice is to be done because it’s not necessary, then our ordinary activities also should not be done by the same reasoning. If I’m not to do spiritual practice because it’ll increase my egoity, then I shouldn’t make the breakfast because that’ll increase my egoity. People have to be trained, and we don’t know the training that we need, because the training that we need will be directed at our weak point. The training I’d like to do would be the training of my strong point where I can show off like mad. “I’m very strong on the right. I can get results on the right. I can throw people on the right.”

Suddenly the teacher says, “Now, you’ve got to give up the right for six months and only use the left.” Well, then I look a fool, I can’t throw people with the left. It’s ridiculous, I can do things this way. I can’t do things that way. Why does he insist I should do it that way?” They all say, “Old Leggett’s going off, you know. Can’t throw anyone.” Well, it takes considerable effort to get over that and to think, ‘All right, I’m going to look a fool for six months,’ then both the sides balance, and as a matter of fact when the left is developed, the right becomes stronger.

If the right is developed by itself and the left side is undeveloped, even that apparent strength of the right is defective. We are trained in what we need. As a Japanese Zen teacher told me, he said, “Don’t think that Zen came to Japan because it suits the Japanese people. No, Zen came to Japan because it’s what the Japanese people need.

Among the judo fraternity, the roughest are the medical students. I think it has perhaps some application here too, but I practised once with a man. I didn’t know where he came from.

He came up to me. Now, normally in the dojo, the practice hall, people just come up and say, O-negai”, “Will you?” This chap came up and made a very deep formal bow: “O-negai- itashimasu,” “May I have the honour of practising with you?  

“Oh, well, all right.”

He’s like a typhoon. All elbows and knees and hacks, and when he threw me, as I was getting off the floor, he drew himself up and he said, “Please, excuse me.” I thought, “All right!”

Well, then when I threw him, same thing, he got up off the floor. He said, “Thank you very much,” and then it was all elbows, knees and hacks again. I realized that the teacher in that big medical judo dojo, he knew that was what they needed. He made them have very strict politeness so that it would calm them down even a little bit, restrain a little bit just for a moment in the middle of the excitement, would restrain them and hold them to something formal and peaceful and honouring and respecting the opponent. He knew they would be liable to lose their tempers, so that was imposed. Now, on the other side, I don’t know really if I ought to say this, but when you get old, you don’t care.

One judo man I knew, now he was the opposite. He was a marvellously skillful man, but he was too kindhearted. He used to think, ‘If I beat this chap, he’ll be all depressed and sorry.’ You’d say, “Look, he’s come here to try; he’s come here to fail; he wants you to go all out.” But no, he was too nice, he was too kind. Well, the teacher, just before the contest called him out of the hall, just around the corner and he said, “I’ve just got something to tell you before the contest.” And the teacher spat in his face. It’s a nasty experience. The teacher wiped it off and said, “Now, go on, get back” and to all our amazement, this man who usually went up very, very politely and considerately to the platform, he was fighting along with his passion and he won in no time.

Well, that was his, not exactly weak point, but he was too nice and it was against the spirit of the contest, which is to fight very, very hard and then afterwards to be very good friends. The whole basis is peace, but on that peace, for the sake of sport, there’s this intense competition and rivalry. Personal ideas have to be given up. We have to accept that training will be to our weak point and we have to accept that.

Then his next illness is: that things get too shallow and too narrow.

Now, one of the modern Zen teachers, he says people today are very sensitive, and he has a method of teaching. He gets his students to write big characters with a big brush on newspaper every day, big Chinese characters, and then at the end of every week, they write a great big character on a huge sheet of paper, white paper, and they present it to the teacher. He told me, he said, “I look at this thing, what they’ve written,” and I say, “Well, this character is very ragged.” Consciously, it doesn’t really hold together, does it? This one starts off with a big bang, doesn’t it? Then it tails off. This one’s quite well-formed, but it’s very timid, isn’t it? It’s more by itself in the middle of the paper.” He said they will accept this.

Now, I’m criticizing the character, the Chinese character they’ve written, but really I’m criticizing the man’s mind. If I say to him, “Your mind is ragged at the edges.” If I said to him, “You’re very timid.” If I said to him, “You start things off with a big bang and you can’t keep them up.” then they would get defensive, but because I’m criticizing the character, it’s much easier for them to accept. He said, “The students must understand that their meditation and their spiritual practice must spread out from the meditation period into their ordinary activities. One follows instructions, but that’s not enough.”

Of course, we never do these things, or hardly ever do these things now, but I had an experience of it where a teacher offered to show me something. I stood there and then he said, “Now, you cross the wrist over here.” I crossed the wrist over there and he slapped me on the face and he said, “You can’t just do that. You’re a judo man. You’re supposed to be awake. You’re not supposed to be doing that [just crossing a wrist and not paying attention]. I’m there!” The next time you do it, then you’re awake. Not just thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’ll just do this. This is what’s wanted. I’ll do that.’ No – the whole alertness. In the same way when the spiritual practice is done, he [Iida] said, “The whole life must be alert to it. Not just a question of following one thing.”

Then the next illness is: [Failure to Mature] that people, they practice and they get some fire in them, but it doesn’t mature. They’re satisfied and they think, ‘I’ve got something,’ and they go on and it doesn’t mature. One of the problems, as we know, is that if you’re told, “Oh, well, of course, it takes a long, long time, 20 years under the hammer, 30 years under the hammer,” (and you begin to wait for the auctioneer to say, ‘40 years under the hammer,’ don’t you?) before you’ll get anything.”

Well, one example is this. I knew a retired schoolmaster who was marvellous at chess problems. He used to win the national competition that they held at the time sometimes. He was well on in years. He used to set up the position in his house on a board and when he was walking about, he’d look at it for a few minutes and try one or two moves, and he’d write down a result that he’d got, then he’d pass on. He was getting on in years, he couldn’t concentrate for hours on it. I said to him, “How long does it take?” He said, “I reckon it’ll take about two days, then I’ll have the solution. We’re given a week.” But if each time he’d looked at it, he’d thought, ‘Oh, well, it’s going to take two days,’ he would never have solved it. Each time he looked at it, he had to think. ‘Now, now. Try this one now,’ and his experience was generally that it would be wrong, but he might be right. Therefore, Iida says, “Because you are told that it will take some time maturing, don’t think, ‘Oh, well, no, here we go, trudging along.’ No. Think: ‘today, today, today’.”

Well, some of the applications. One is, in this country, we tend to think that you can’t get really results unless it’s directly driven by some passion. They say, “You won’t win unless you’ve got the killer instinct. Nice people don’t win.” Well, it’s quite true that people who have a killer instinct often do win, but if you’ve ever seen in a competitive antagonistic [situation], someone who’s lost his temper up against a good technician who manages to keep his head, well, then you see an absolute massacre because ‘desire has no eyes’. This is one of the Zen sayings which Iida quotes, and ‘temper can’t wait’.

In one of Shaw’s players, the poet is in love with a wife of a big man who’s got a furious temper and then they hear him coming back. They hear him clamping about downstairs, and she says, “He’ll kill you!” and the poet says, “Oh no, I’m a poet, you know? Like all poets, I go in for boxing. It’s true I’m a lightweight. I’m a lightweight but I’m quite agile enough to keep out of your husband’s way until his temper gets him all puffed, and after that, I shall be all over him.” She said, “What do you mean by ‘all over him’?” He says, “Best not ask, dear.”

The killer [instinct], the temper, the fury, it does get results, but there is something higher, and one of the examples that’s given is the yacht. Nearly everybody– perhaps many people – think that the yacht goes fastest when the wind is directly behind blowing it forward, but the yacht can go faster if it’s across the wind. The mechanical principle involved is different, the inclined plane, and it can go faster than the wind, and most people find this incredible. It can be looked up and verified. There has to be a keel to hold it steady. This example is given in Zen. The passions are not directly opposed, but they’re crossed, and so they’re made use of in a spiritual way, but the yacht doesn’t or the boat doesn’t run directly before the passions. It runs across them. In the application of the spiritual principles, as in the judo techniques, they must work.

Now, Iida makes quite a point of this. He says, “Things may be very beautiful, things may be very appealing, things may be very touching, very kindly, but unless they work, they’re not Zen,” and perhaps we see this today. There is great kindliness with your welfare state, but it’s what Confucius used to call sentimentality, benevolence without wisdom. Something’s gone wrong. He says it must work, and in judo, I can remember a beautiful stylist. He said to me once, he said, “As I pick myself off the floor, they say, ‘Oh, but you’ve got such a lovely style’.” Iida says, “We have to find enlightenment in each instant. We can have a glimpse of this, and most of us haven’t been imprisoned, but people who have been imprisoned know that when you come out of prison, just to sit down, just to be able to go to the right, to the left, it’s like heaven.

Sometimes people come out and they walk together and they say, “We’ll go to the right.” “No, we won’t. We’ll go to the left. We can go straight on,” and they’re so happy with this, and then they’ll sit down and they’ll just have a coffee and it’s enough. There’s a perfect peace, but that only lasts two or three days. Now, what happens? We all have this. What happened? It’s been lost. Now, he says, “We have to find these things.”

We all know this experience. We go to a beautiful place in the country, we say, “Oh, this will be heaven.” After three or four days, “Oh, no.” It gets humpy. Nothing doing.  A modern Zen teacher, he shouted at his audience. He said, “Hakuin’s Song of Meditation says the place where you are, that is the Lotus Paradise. You are in air- polluted Tokyo, so Tokyo is the Lotus paradise.”

We have to find these things in ourselves, in the ordinary movements. If we look at children, we see they’ve got a joy in movement. The baby this afternoon, he sees this coloured ball going along and he kicks it and he’s laughing – the yellow moving on the green and he’s getting the pleasure out of running. ‘Oh, it’s just a ball’… What’s gone wrong? What have we lost? We had these things.

Now, he tells us there’s something which we are missing. This room, we describe everything in it and they say, “No, you’ve left something out. Describe more detail. No, you’ve left something out.” Every time, “No, you’ve left something out.” “Now, what is it?” Light. Nobody ever describes light. They don’t say, “Oh, we are seeing light, and yet everything we see is light. An artist does. He’s the only person who describes the light, but all that we see is light. In the same way, there’s a stillness and movement and there’s a joy in these two things, but we don’t think of that, we don’t feel a joy in movement. All we think is, ‘I’ve got to do this and that’. Babies feel it. He [Iida] says,  “There’s something in our ordinary experience which we miss and which we must recover.”

The last thing is just a tail end of a traditional story called Proclaimed Wisdom. It’s a long story which we won’t go into, but in the end, the heavenly messenger has this little vase of the nectar which gives proclaimed wisdom, wisdom which will be proclaimed to the world. By the circumstances, he comes to give it to a saint, but the people around this area are such terrible backbiters and slanderers and gossips that the saint has taken a vow of silence, but the heavenly messenger has to give it to him. Unknown to himself it’s put in his evening, herbal drink, and he drinks it. Now, he has proclaimed wisdom but he’s vowed to silence.

Well, then there’s a man who’s in the town who’s overwhelmed with a mass of absolute torrent of worries, anxieties, responsibilities, people constantly nagging at him and he feels he’s collapsing. One day there’s a storm and he stands, this man stands under the eaves of the house as you do in the monsoon. You try to keep dry. Actually, you’ll get wet. Then he saw the saint, who was going to see someone sick, walking down the middle of the road through the rain.

It’s a strange sight to see a man walking quite unmoved through the rain. He saw this and this vivid picture went into his heart and as the weeks went by, he found that he was thinking of all his worries and his anxieties and responsibilities like that rain. He found something in himself was beginning to walk calmly through the rain.

Well, the other case is this same town with the saint is next to a desert and when that happens and the wind blows in a certain way, the sand covers everything. The saint had this little house and little garden and the sand had blown in and it means even the leaves of the plants get covered with the sand. This man had a tremendous long job to do, one of those jobs that take years and years and years, and what happens there is that you think right and you tackle it very energetically, but it doesn’t make any difference. There’s still almost an infinite amount to do, then you lose heart you think, ‘Oh.’ Then you start up again, you blow the trumpets, off you go again, and you get something done and still no difference, and it can be very wearing and taxing.

Nothing seems to make any difference. You work hard, no difference. You don’t work, no difference. There’s still this vast extent. This man had a great responsibility to discharge, but he felt he couldn’t manage to do it and he passed by the saint’s house after the sandstorm. He saw that saint with a little tray, a little brush. He was brushing the leaves, brushing the sand off each leaf in turn and then brushing from the ground underneath the bush. He looked at him and he thought, ‘It’ll take him weeks to clear his garden that way.’ He looked at him.

Then in the next garden, he saw a little boy, about two, playing with the sand and he was piling it up and putting a little bit more on and then the little mountain would collapse and he was running his fingers through and enjoying the patterns. He looked back and he saw that saint was enjoying the patterns made by the sand. This vivid picture went into his heart and when he got back he found he was able to tackle his long job not by thinking of this endless amount, but by finding a joy in each little piece he was doing.

Well, this is the example given of proclaimed wisdom without words. The last thing Iida says is if you talk too much the universe begins to yawn!




Trevor Leggett’s Sparks from the Heart Flint talk can also be found in the book of talks entitled Fingers and Moons, published by the Buddhist Publishing Group, 1988. The talk given here contains minor word differences to that appearing in Fingers and Moons and contains the additional Proclaimed Wisdom story with practical life applications.


Similar Posts