Against The Stream ~ NOT JUST IN THE MIND

Measure not with words the Immeasurable,
Nor sink the string of thought into the Fathomless;
Who asks doth err, who answers errs;
Say nought.

THE INTELLECT IS VERY IMPORTANT, and we should use it as far as it can take us, but recognize its limits.

There is a little story to illustrate this: A certain proud and scholarly man sometimes used to cross a bay by ferry. Looking with scorn on the poor ferryman, one day he asked: "Have you ever studied meteorology?"

The ferryman replied: "No, sir, I haven’t".

"Oh, you poor fool", said the professor, "you have wasted a quarter of your life".

The next time he took the ferry, the scholar asked the boatman: "What do you know of oceanography?"

"Oceanography?" said the boatman, "What’s that?"

"You mean you don’t know what oceanography is?" said the scholar, haughtily; "You’ve wasted half of your life!"

"Have you learned about nautical engineering?" the scholar asked a few days later. The ferryman replied that he didn’t know anything about that, either, and in fact, had not even been to school. With a look of horror, the scholar said: "What a waste of three-quarters of your life, just ferrying people across the bay!" The ferryman was silent.

One day, when the scholar got into the boat and they were halfway across the bay, the ferryman said to him: "Sir, have you ever studied swimmingology?"

"No, why?" the man asked nervously.

"Because there is a storm coming, and if the boat capsizes, we’ll have to swim! Your whole life might be wasted!"

Intellectual analysis and speculation will not lead to enlightenment but only to further entanglement. J. Krishna-murti once said this about it: "The Immeasurable cannot be sought by thought, for thought has always a measure. The Sublime is not within the structure of thought and reason, nor is it the product of emotion and sentiment. If you are seeking the highest you will not find it; it must come to you, if you are lucky— and luck is the open window of your heart, not of thought".

We must allow our hearts to open, and this happens when we are in contact— gentle, not harsh contact— with life. Without joy in our lives, our hearts will never open; so there must be a tremendous interest in life, a willingness, as it were, to bend down and touch the earth, which hitherto we have considered unclean.

Truth— like the wind— cannot be caught in a bottle and stored up as a personal possession, to be gloated over as ‘mine, not yours!’ It cannot be preserved in formaldehyde. It is not something of the past, like the bones of dinosaurs, nor of the future, in some far-off time or place, but of the Here-and-Now, and must be experienced as such, continuously. To try to catch it in webs of words— as so many of us try to do— is as useless as trying to chain and hold the sea.

There were two famous teachers. One had gathered his knowledge in an academic way, from reading books and attending lectures, while the other had gained his from his own direct experience and observing the life around him.

One day, someone decided to test these teachers to see if they really knew what they were talking about. He went first to the one who had studied much and said: "Sir, would you, while standing on one foot, explain to me your teachings?"

The teacher was angry at the man’s impudence and scolded him, saying: "How can anyone expect me to explain in a few minutes what it has taken me a lifetime to learn? Get out of here, and don’t waste my time!"

He went to the other teacher and asked him the same question. This teacher smiled and said: "Yes, listen: What you don’t like others to do to you, don’t do that to others. Anything else that can be said is just commentary to this".

This is known as The Golden Rule; it is taught by most religions in one form or another, and is the monopoly of none. Christians like to think of it as theirs because Jesus taught it, so they might be surprised to learn that it was already old long before Jesus was born, and that both the Buddha and Confucius taught it, as well as many others! It worked then and it works now, if we care to apply it. It is the Great Key, and there is no mystery in it; it’s actually quite simple and effective to use in our relationships with others.

Suppose you go into a shop to buy something at— let’s say— $10, and you hand the shop-keeper a $50 bill. Thinking you gave him $20, he gives you only $10 change instead of $40. Would you think: "Oh, never mind; it’s only $30 difference", and leave without saying anything? Of course not! You would say: "Excuse me, but you’ve made a mistake and given me the wrong change", wouldn’t you?

Suppose, however, the shop-keeper makes a mistake the other way, and instead of giving you change for $50, gives you change for $100. Would you then tell him he had made a mistake and return the excess to him? Or would you think: "How lucky I am!" and leave quickly without revealing his mistake?

One day, Farmer A went to Farmer B to complain that his bull had gored one of his cows, and demanded compensation. Farmer B said: "Well, I’m sorry to hear about your cow, but animals are not responsible for their actions, so I can’t be held liable to pay compensation".

"Ah, so", said Farmer A, "but I’m afraid I stated the case wrongly. You see, it wasn’t your bull that gored my cow, but my bull that gored your cow!"

"What!" shouted Farmer B; "In that case, I must consult my lawyer to see if there’s a precedent for this; probably I’m entitled to compensation!"

Justice is a two-way street; if we want others to be fair with us, we must try to be fair with others; we cannot expect to reap where we have not sown. The problem is, people want others to respect their rights and freedom, but do not always respect the rights and freedom of others; they think laws are good if they protect them, but bad if they restrict them from doing just whatever they want to do.

If we wish to find Truth we must be honest. As Chuang Tsu said: "There is no Truth where there is no Truthful man", meaning that it is useless to seek Truth if we have not abandoned dishonesty.

Some people gather so much knowledge without using it that they become ‘intellectually constipated’ thereby; like this, knowledge becomes a useless burden. The Dharma must be applied if there are to be results; it is no use if it is just a matter of belief or an intellectual plaything.

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