Mistakes are not forward steps

A pupil who lived rather carelessly remarked: ‘Mistakes are a necessary part of the path of training. If you read the biographies of even the greatest, they all say that they made many mistakes. Some of them say that mistakes are necessary – one learns from them. So I don’t worry about my own conduct: let the mistakes come, I think, let ’em all come. I’ll go through them and come out the other side. It is all part of the path.’

This was put to a senior pupil, a business woman, for her opinion. She remarked: ‘You need not tell him I said this, but I don’t think our teacher would rate the idea very high in terms of clear thinking. It’s easy to get woolly about spiritual things. I remember when I learnt to type. It was in a class. Of course we made mistakes, but the teacher always stressed the importance of getting the habit of absolutely accurate typing. He never said that as mistakes are inevitable in learning to type, let ’em all come. He told us we should type very slowly, if necessary, to reduce the mistakes to almost nil. Those of us who followed his advice finally learnt to type with perfect accuracy without thinking about it. The others, though at first they typed a bit quicker, were always subject to occasional lapses and never became good typists.

‘Mistakes are like the falls when one is taking up skating. Some are inevitable, but we should make them as few as possible. They are part of the path, it is true, but they are stumbles, not forward steps

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