The Servant


Word spread across the countryside about the wise Holy Man who lived in a small house atop the mountain.  A man from one of the villages nearby decided to make the arduous journey up the mountain to consult with him.  When he arrived at the house he was met by an old servant who greeted him, “I’ve come to see the wise Holy Man”, said the villager, “I wish to have his counsel”.  The old servant smiled and nodded, and gestured for the man to step inside.  As the servant led him into the house, the man looked around in great excitement and anticipation, awaiting his first glimpse of the Holy Man.   Before he knew it he had been led right through the house and out the back door.  “But I want to see the Holy Man”, he exclaimed.  “You already have”, said the old servant, and he promptly shut the door…

Everyone we meet is a “Holy Man”, and there are a few ways of looking at this one.  From the perspective that the world is a mirror, there is always something to observe and glean from everyone who crosses our path.  The totality is present in all, not just a chosen few, and the recognition of this is always handy, especially when we encounter people that we may have difficulties with.  It is far easier to judge than to look beyond the surface, which is what the villager did when he was greeted by the old man.  But all is the Self, as Ramana Maharshi would say, and in truth nothing else exists; all is the “whole”, all is the “Holy”; therefore we are all the “Holy Man”.

 

 

 

 

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Overflowing


A university lecturer arranged to visit a master, in order that he could get an insight into Zen.  He arrived at the master’s house and was graciously invited to enter the modest abode.  He immediately started to talk about Zen; barely pausing for breath.  The master remained silent, but gestured for the man to take tea with him.  They sat down and the master started to pour tea into the lecturer’s cup.  He poured and he poured some more until the cup was overflowing.  “Stop, stop; the cup is overflowing”, exclaimed the flustered lecturer.  “Yes it is”, replied the master, “as are you; overflowing with words.  You came here to ask me about Zen, but you haven’t stopped talking since you arrived.  How do you expect me to tell you about Zen if you do not stop talking?”

This is quite a thing for many people; too many words, too much lecturing, too much philosophising and not enough listening.  A Zen master will not teach you anything; in fact, he/she will probably tell you that there is nothing to be taught.  The job of the master is not to teach, but to give you the key to the door of your own unlearning.  The unlearning of all the bad habits brought about by years of conditioning and listening to YOUR truth as told to you by others.  The master will tell you that the only voice to be listened to is your own inner voice, and that the only master you have is you; your very soul.

A philosopher is someone who wants to be a master, but cannot see that it is his constant penchant for philosophising that prevents his mastery.  The mind is constantly overflowing (just like the cup) with chatter (philosophy) that has to be expounded.  Hence, an overflowing mind cannot be a master-mind.

As Miserable As Ever


A master announced that one of the young monks had attained enlightenment.  This created a great buzz around the temple; and naturally aroused the curiosity of many of the young monk’s peers.  He was asked:

“We hear you have attained enlightenment?”

“Yes”

“How do you feel?”

“Still as miserable as ever.”

This beautiful tongue in cheek parable tells us that enlightenment is not something to be attained; it is our natural state and we are always that.  When we talk of “attaining”, it is simply for the sake of using vocabulary that can be understood in discussion.  From the perspective of the ego, there most certainly is something to attain.  But, this parable is telling us that when we “attain” enlightenment, it is nothing more than the realisation that we are already enlightened, always have been and always will be.  It is the dissolution of the ego, the removal of ignorance, revealing what was always there.

Here are three more examples that say exactly the same thing.  Firstly, there is this lovely ancient Chinese proverb:

Before enlightenment

Chopping wood, carrying water

After enlightenment

Chopping wood, carrying water

 

Secondly, one of my favourite sages, Ramana Maharshi reminds us that:

“You are already that which you seek”

 

And finally, this very eloquent quote from Sri Sathya Sai Baba:

“When the road ends and the Goal is gained the pilgrim finds that he has travelled only from himself to himself, that the way was long and lonesome, but, that the God whom he reached was all the while in him, around him, with him, and beside him! He himself was always Divine. His yearning to merge in God was but the sea calling out to the ocean!” 

This Too Will Pass


I’m off on my travels again in a few days.  As I’ve got a bit of time on my hands before I go, I thought I would try to rattle off a couple more blog posts keeping with the Zen parable trend of late.  This is another one destined to grace my up coming book…

There was once a king who lacked confidence and was constantly worried that an army would one day come and take his kingdom.  He heard that there was a great Zen master in the region and he sent one of his servants to go and bring him to the palace. Sure enough, the master did as the king requested and he accompanied the servant to the palace.  The king said, “I have heard that you are a great Zen master and I want you to make me as wise as you”.  The master said, “that is impossible your majesty, I can’t do that.  However, I would like to help you but it means that I have to return tomorrow”.

The master was true to his word and he duly returned the next day.  He produced a small wooden box from his robe and on giving it to the king said, “what is contained in this box is so important that you must never open it unless you find yourself in dire circumstances with all hope lost”.  The king thought it rather strange, but nonetheless he thanked the master, who went on his way.

Time passed and the king’s greatest fears were realised.  A rival army did indeed attack and take his kingdom, and the king had to flee for his life.  He took to the forest and ran for all he was worth.  As he ran he could hear the sound of the chasing soldiers on their horses.  As the horses gained ground on him he could hear the sound getting steadily louder.  He kept on running, but suddenly; to the king’s horror, he was faced with a ravine, which was as deep as it was wide.  He had nowhere to run, and as he contemplated his fate, he suddenly remembered the small wooden box that the master had given him.  He took it out of his pocket and opened it.  Inside, underneath the lid, was an inscription of four words, which the king read to himself, “this too will pass”.  He stared at the inscription, and trying to understand what it meant, repeated the words in his mind, “this too will pass, this too will pass”.

The king suddenly realised that he had been so engrossed in contemplating the inscription, he hadn’t noticed that the sound of the galloping horses was fading into the distance.  He couldn’t believe it; the chasing soldiers must have taken a wrong fork in the road and were now long gone.  The king lay low for a few days and then traced his tracks back and found an alternative route.  He travelled for many weeks, foraging for food on the way, until he came to a village.  Nobody knew him as a king and the villagers were friendly, inviting him to stay.  He settled down, and as time went by he eventually married and had a couple of children.  He was extremely happy and contented.

One day, after some years had passed, the former king was sorting through some of his belongings.  He came across a small wooden box that looked vaguely familiar.  Out of curiosity he opened it, and underneath the lid he saw the inscription, “this too will pass”.

This parable is a reminder of the impermanent nature of the world.  The only thing that never changes is change itself.  We live in a world that is in a constant state of flux; that is forever moving in cycles.  It is a reminder that we ourselves are not these forms that we call bodies, but rather the substratum on which “the dance of life” is played out.  The parable is not telling us that we should not enjoy the dance, but simply reminding us that we shouldn’t get too attached to the things that we perceive to be “nice”.  What rises up must surely one day dissolve away.  Enjoy the adventure, whilst at the same time understanding that life is like a river constantly flowing towards the ocean and that, “this too will pass”.

 

The Ten Fools


Well, I’ve started work on my next book; much quicker than I anticipated.  If all goes to plan, it will be a pocket-sized book of 12 Zen parables, set out in my own words and with my own spin.  I wanted to call it, “Zen for Cockneys”, because it is aimed at ordinary salt-of-the-earth people (like me) who are not exactly what you would call intellectual and do not want rambling philosophies, but simple and easy to understand literature that speaks volumes in its simplicity.  Then I thought to myself that a lot of people might take the title literally and think, “I’m not a Cockney, so this book can’t be for me”.  So, as things stand, I’m looking to call it, “Twelve Steps for the Pathless Path”. As with my last offering, I’m going to showcase it here on my blog as I write it and then put it into book form.  So, ladeeeeeez an’ gennelmen… I give to you… The Ten Fools.

Ten fools were on their way to a neighbouring town.  They came to a river, which was quite fast flowing, and had to cross it in order to reach their destination.  When they got to the other side, one of them decided it would be a good idea to do a head-count; just to make sure they were all safe.  He counted, one, two, three etc. and only counted nine; forgetting to count himself in the process.  Alarmed, he shouted, “I can only account for nine of us”.  Another shouted, “let me count, just to make sure”.  He also forgot himself and only counted nine.  They all did the same and became very distressed at having “lost” one.  In their distressed state they tried to work out which one of them had been swept away, As they did so, a sympathetic traveller happened along.  Seeing their distress, he enquired as to what was wrong.

As they blurted out their tale of woe, the traveller immediately saw what the problem was.  He said, “OK, I have an idea.  I want you all to count yourselves individually”, and he got them all to line up in front of him.  He said, “I will go along the line and give each of you a blow on the head”.  “As I do so, I want you each to shout, one, two, three etc as we go; this way we make sure that nobody is counted twice”.  So, the traveller went along the line, delivering a blow to each one as he did so.  When he got to the end the last man shouted “TEN”.  They were all so relieved and couldn’t thank the traveller enough.

The ten fools were the cause of their own grief.  They were always ten, but their ignorance led them to believe that one of them had been swept away and drowned.  This is classic egoic behaviour.  They did not gain anything new when they realised no one was lost.  We are always pure, infinite being and have no reason to suffer.  But we impose imaginary limitations on ourselves by losing sight of our true nature, and then complain when these imaginary limitations cause us pain and suffering.  We then engage in spiritual practise in order to attain something that we already have.  Ironically, the spiritual practises themselves have to affirm the limitations in order to function.  It is a case of the blind leading the blind, with the ego being the only winner.

We are always pure consciousness, existing in a state of infinite bliss.  The letting go of the idea that we are not, is an end to suffering.

The Court Jester


Here is another Zen parable for you.  As with my previous post, I’m putting my own spin on it.

A king became exasperated with his court jester, who simply wouldn’t stop jesting.  Seemingly every minute of every day, the jester would be cracking jokes and playing the fool.  Eventually, the king decided he’d had enough and he condemned the jester to be hanged; ordering that he be taken to the dungeon to await his fate.  The day of the execution arrived and the king started to have second thoughts.  He felt that good court jesters were hard to come by, and after all, the poor bloke had only been doing his job.  But the king also felt that he couldn’t go back to the way things were, so he wrote out the royal pardon on official parchment and added the condition that the jester was not allowed to ever crack a joke again.  He put the royal seal on it and gave it to one of his courtiers to take to the executioner.  The courtier ran to the gallows, and arrived in the nick of time to see the jester already standing on the trap door with the noose around his neck.  The courtier blurted out that the king had changed his mind and that the execution should be halted; he then proceeded to read out the pardon.  As the reading of the pardon came to an end, the jester just couldn’t contain himself and quipped, “no noose is good news”.  He was hanged.

Of course that rather amusing story isn’t actually true, but it aptly explains how we function in accordance with our conditioning, as opposed to our true nature.  When we are born into this world, we are pure, open and still aware of the love that we are.  Gradually, as the years pass, we become conditioned; we are told that we are good or bad, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or thick etc, etc; and we become what we believe (or at least we THINK we have become what we believe).  Then we enter adulthood and we get a job or career, adding that to “who I am” as we go along.  In the case of the jester, “jestering” was what he did, it was not who he was.  However, he was not able to drop the egoic belief that, “I am a jester”, so when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t resist the quip and was promptly executed.

Whether you are an ugly professor, a beautiful cleaner or a good retail assistant, the professor, the cleaner and the retail assistant are what you DO, they are not who you are.  As to whether you are ugly, beautiful, good or bad, these are only judgements made by other people that you may or may not believe.  They are also not who you are and do not have to define you.  So, in life don’t be a silly jester; or the joke will be on you!

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The Man On The Hill


As you know, if we see a snowflake in the UK the whole country grinds to a halt, and today we have a little more than that (hope you like the pics and short video of my back garden).  So, it is appropriate, that since my place of work sits up on high ground six miles from here, and my place of work is shut because of the snow, I have got the chance to write a blog post called, “The Man On The Hill”.  It is an old Zen parable, but I have put my own spin on it and will relate it in my own way of speaking.

Three friends were out walking, and in the distance, high up on a hill, they could see a man, seemingly just standing there.  As they walked, they started to speculate amongst themselves as to what he was doing.  The first man said, “I think he is looking for his dog”.  The second man said, “no, I think he is looking for his friend”.  The third man said, “no, you are both wrong, I think he is just getting some fresh air”.  As they walked, they continued to have the discussion and eventually they found themselves following the path leading up the hill.

After a while they reached where the man was standing and curiosity got the better of them.  “Excuse me”, said the first man, “but we couldn’t help but wonder what you are doing, are you looking for your dog”?  “No, I’m not”, came the reply.  The second man spoke up, “then are you looking for your friend”?  “No”, came the reply again.  The third man then asked, “are you just enjoying the fresh air”?  For the third time, the man answered, “no I’m not”.  The three friends, completely baffled, then asked, “If you are not engaged in any of those things can you please tell us what you are doing”?  “I’m just standing”, replied the man.

“Just standing”, could be “just chopping wood”, “just washing up”, “just cutting the grass”, but what the man is really saying is, “I’m just being”.  The three friends are typical of the monkey-like chatter of the egoic mind.  It didn’t even occur to them that the man could be “just standing”, they had to pigeonhole what he was doing.  So, they created several imaginary stories as they speculated their way along the path.  It is no    coincidence that there are three of them; the three friends being symbolic of the holy trinity of the physical world.  We can also relate the three friends to the three states that we experience in this world of matter; waking, dream and deep sleep.  The man “just standing” represents the “God-state” of Turiya, which exists beyond all triads.

This is what makes Zen so wonderfully unique in relation to other religions.  Zen, “The Experience of Pure Knowing”, will awaken within you when you are ready.  A Zen master will simply give you the key to open up the knowing that has always existed within you.  Whereas, a teacher of religion will fill your head with knowledge based on the past.  Knowledge = Non-sense; Knowing = God-sense.

I will just finish off by sharing with you something rather ironic that occurred to me as I was pondering writing this post.  All the great spiritual masters who founded the religions of the world, were exceptional souls who broke the mould.  They did not follow the crowd; on the contrary, they were inspirational leaders and exceptional individuals.  But to be a follower of an organised religion means that you have to be the exact opposite of the religion’s founder; in other words you have to conform to convention.  To be a Christian for example, you have to be an Anti-Christ, you have to become a sheep and follow the crowd.  Christ himself did not advocate hierarchy; all were equal in his eyes.  Now there are hundreds and hundreds of Christian cults and sects, all run by committees and people (mainly men) with titles, who dictate to the masses in accordance with their own limited understanding.  This is an indication of the man-made, egoic nature of organised religion.  I have written many times about this.  The spirit evolves via the adventure of experience, not by conforming to outdated, fear-based, man-made rules, regulations and rituals.  CAN I GET AN AMEN?  Maybe not…