Learning to Learn
From If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!
Articles By Sheldon Kopp
"No Plain not followed by a slope. No going not followed by a return. He who remains persevering in danger Is without blame. Do not complain about this truth; Enjoy the good fortune you still posses."
Whether pilgrim or wayfarer, while seeking to be taught the Truth (or something), the disciple learns only that there is nothing that anyone else can teach him. He learns, once he is willing to give up being taught,
that he already knows how to live, that it is implied in his own tale. The secret is that there is no secret.
Everything is just what it seems to be. That is it! There are no hidden meanings. Before he is enlightened, a man gets up each morning to spend the day tending his fields, returns home to eat his supper, goes to bed, makes love to his woman, and falls asleep. But once he has attained enlightenment, then a man gets up each morning to spend the day tending his fields, returns home to eat his supper, goes to bed, makes love to his woman, and falls asleep.
The Zen way to see the truth is through your everyday eyes. It is only the heartless questioning of life-as-it-is that ties a man in knots. A man does not need an answer in order to find peace. He needs only to surrender to his existence, to cease the needless, empty questioning. The secret of enlightenment is when you are hungry, eat; and when you are tired, sleep.
The Zen Master warns: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" This admonition points up that no meaning comes from outside ourselves is real. The Buddhahood of each of us has already been obtained. We need only recognize it. Philosophy, religion, patriotism, all are empty idols. The only meaning in our lives is what we each bring to them. Killing the Buddha on the road means destroying the hope that anything outside of ourselves can be our master. No one is any bigger than anyone else. There are no mothers or fathers for grown-ups, only sisters and brothers.
Once a patient realizes that he has no disease, and so can never be cured, he might as well terminate his treatment. He may have been put in touch with good things in himself, and may even still be benefiting from the relationship with the therapist, but once he realizes that he can continue as a disciple in psychotherapy forever, only then can he see the absurdity of remaining a patient, only then does he feel free to leave. We must each give up the master, without giving up the search. If no one is really any bigger than anyone else, to whom then can a man turn? If we are each equally weak and equally strong, as good and as bad as one another, then what is left to us? We must learn that each of our lives can itself become a spiritual pilgrimage, an exiled searching without end. Our only comfort on this lonely journey is that for each man it is the same.
But if there is nothing to be gained, and nothing to be lost, why search? Why go on trying? The Yaqui Indian brujo that medicine man, sorcerer, and the shaman who is a Man of Knowledge, teaches that knowledge is not something to be finally had, to be kept in a man's pocket. "To be a man of knowledge has no permanence." Rather, there are natural enemies to be challenged, dangers to which most men succumb, such as the first foe, Fear. If a man overcomes fear, he acquires clarity of mind. But this very achievement of clarity becomes the next opponent to be faced. Once fear has been dispelled, clarity becomes the next enemy by tempting a man to give up ever doubting himself. And so it goes. Each accomplishment, itself, becomes the next obstacle to be overcome.
The learning experience through which a man may challenge such enemies are many. When his apprentice wants to know which route he should choose, the Yaqui brujo answers: " .any path is only a path.All paths are the same: they [all] lead nowhere." The only important question you must ask is: "Does this path have heart?" If it has heart for you, then dare to follow it.
It is important to give up on irrelevant questioning, to take care not to waste yourself. Whenever the brujo's apprentice would ask for explanations or try to reason his way to knowledge, his teacher would turn him round, unhooking him from his head so that he might tumble into wisdom. At one point the brujo turns the would-be disciple on to the "little smoke" (hallucinogenic magic mushrooms), and teaches him how to change himself into a crow so that he might fly into the sky and broaden his vision. Later the young man asks: "
Did I really become a crow? I mean would anyone seeing me have thought I was an ordinary crow?" In essence, the teacher tells his that no proper crow would ask such a question. "Such questions make no sense. Maybe if you were not so afraid of becoming mad, or of losing your body, you would understand this marvellous secret. But perhaps you must wait until you lose your fear to understand what I mean."
But some men never lose their fear. Instead they succumb to it and try to give up the search. Such a withdrawal is not an uncommon phase of apprenticeship, a phase that may even last all the rest of a man's life.
And the brujo-sorcerer himself is never fully beyond his own follies. But he has learned to act with controlled folly. His acts are sincere, but they are "only the acts of an actor." Once he has learned to see with out trying to control his vision with judgmental thoughts, he comes to know that all things are the same. In a sense, nothing really matters, in and of itself, because the importance of being lies in the ways you have learned to think about them.
Keywords: Learning to Learn, pilgrim seeking, Zen Master, Truth, Sheldon Kopp, intuitive, Intuition, Articles, UK, South Africa, Cape Town