It is worth knowing that if you have a bad character, you have to do a lot of study. This does not mean that everyone who studies has a bad character, but if you have a bad character and try to do good, what you do will usually be disastrous—you will take over things, you will boss people around, you will hate and destroy people who stand against you; it will be awful. If you study the holy texts, it will at least keep you out of mischief, which is a great advantage for the world! But you have to study properly.
As an example, most Christians know the parable of the sower. The sower went forth to sow and as he sowed, some of the seed fell on the wayside and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell among the stones, others among thistles, and some on the good soil. This is a riddle. The disciples asked Jesus, ‘What does it mean? What is this sower doing? Why isn’t he sowing on the good soil? What is he doing sowing among the stones and thistles? Look at the seed that fell on the wayside. The birds came and ate it up.’ Just as the bird is a little bit stronger because of that, so those people of bad character who read the holy texts, can turn them to serve their own purposes. They can make use of them for prestige or to make money.
So we must not study like bird-people where the potential of the seed is completely lost. We must study under proper direction, and study so that the text enters us and manifests its potential.
On this point of keeping one out of mischief, my private demon or Mephistopheles comes—not too often now—and says, ‘There’s a chance to do them down. You’ve never liked them. Now is your chance.’
And I say, ‘I haven’t got time. I have to finish this off.’
He says, ‘You’ve never got time. Last year you had a chance to put a spoke in the wheel and what did you do? Messing about with your texts!’
And I say, ‘I can’t do everything. Doing these texts, I haven’t got time to do the things you’re suggesting.’
He tends to say now, ‘I’m not wasting my time on you!’ and keeps away for quite a while. Study does keep one out of mischief! If we study the holy texts, gradually they will show something which is not actually in the texts themselves. We study them, and if we continue practising, we can become aware of something else. We read about suffering, and it becomes suffering… and something else. Sickness … and something else. Old age … and something else. Death … and something else.
The teacher who said this went on to say, ‘I had better stop now, or you will have me in a lunatic asylum.’
Studying the Holy Texts from the Old Zen Master
© Trevor Leggett