“A hundred hearings are not like one seeing” is a classical Chinese saying, but it applies to what can be seen, not to abstractions or other things beyond the senses.
There the hearings are worth a hundred readings, for reading is often too fast and superficial. Especially when re-reading a revered text, the eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed.
Today the tape recorder offers a new aid to study: record the main texts, and play them every morning. The reading will reveal new depths. Clara Schumann, the world famous pianist, played the Chopin study in C sharp minor every morning for eighteen years, and found new depths in it. It can be the same with the sacred texts.
How many have read the Gospel of John with, as they thought, attention and reverence, and yet not noticed the apparent contradiction:
in the last teachings of chapter 14:
“If I do not go, the Holy Spirit will not come to you”
“The Father will send another, the Holy Spirit of Truth, to you”
“You know him: he is in you.”
“The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything.”
“If I do not go, the Spirit of Truth will not come, whereas if I go, I will send him to you.”
This is one of the great riddles of the New Testament; since the Spirit of Truth is already with you and in you, what is this talk of going away and sending him? Like the koan, it has to be solved. This is not done by some form of words, which do not affect the depths of the seeker’s own being; when it is solved, the life is changed. The change is not something expected or even predictable; it is part of the cosmic, not individual, purpose.
© 1999 Trevor Leggett