The Needle in the Haystack
A spiritual teacher in India said to two pupils: ‘Imagine that what you are seeking is represented by an iron needle buried somewhere in a haystack. You must find that needle. Think it over, and tell me tomorrow how you would go about looking for it – this will give you an insight into the spiritual search.’
When they came back the next day, one said: ‘I should set fire to the haystack and watch it burn to ashes, and then wait for the wind to blow them away. In the end I should see the needle lying before me.’
‘That is the path of the recluse,’ commented the teacher, ‘who gives up everything. It is a true path if heroically pursued right to the end – but from one point of view it might seem a pity to waste all the hay.’
Then the other pupil gave his answer: ‘I should take the straws one by one from the stack, look at each and feel it with my fingers, and put it behind me. Finally I must find the needle, even if I have to transfer the whole haystack from in front of me to behind me.’
‘That is the path of pure philosophical analysis,’ said the teacher. ‘It too is a true path; each incident, each thought, of the haystack of life, is scrutinized carefully as it passes from future to past time; it is seen clearly and then put aside. The path requires immense patience and detachment, combined with a power of continuous awareness.’
‘Is there any other way?’ they asked.
‘There is. It makes use of yet another fact about the iron needle. One of you took advantage of the power of iron to survive fire; relative to the hay, it is immortal. The other one used the fact that iron has a certain colour, and that it is hard in the fingers. But there is something else about the thing you are looking for, which is, that it is magnetic. And this is something which the seeker can acquire also. If you spend some time creating a powerful magnet, then suspend it on a thread from your hand and walk round the haystack, pausing frequently to stand quite still, after not very long there will be a tiny quiver in the magnet you hold. (There is a quiver too in the iron you are seeking, but you do not know about that.) If you follow the tiny movement of your magnet, it will become stronger. If you do not follow it, it will disappear. Following the path so indicated, you will be drawn directly to where the needle is hidden; with a little digging you will come close to it. Then the magnet you hold and the needle you are seeking will leap joyously to become one, and your search will be rewarded.
‘In our ancient Sanskrit language, one word for magnet is ayas-kanta-mani, which means the mani or precious stone which is loved by iron, and which loves iron. Create and cultivate a great love in yourself for what you are spiritually seeking, using the traditional forms which are given to you for just that purpose. Know that the quiver of love in you is being met by a quiver of love from the Beyond. If there were no quiver of love there, you would feel no quiver of love here, just as the magnet would not tremble unless there were also a response in the iron. The attraction of love, as you develop it in yourself, will lead you, and become stronger and stronger. At first you will perceive it most clearly when you are very still in meditation, like the man standing very still holding the magnet; but soon you will feel it all the time. You will still have to do some digging into your haystack, but you will know where to dig. Finally what you are longing for will leap joyously to meet you, and you will leap joyously to meet it, and you will become what you have been seeking.’
© Trevor Leggett