Zen Talk: Getting What We Need to Get What We Need

“When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.” – Fen-Yang

I love the extremes provided in this quote, considering that it comes from a religion and school of thought so steeped in moderation. But in essence, isn’t it telling us the value of moderation?

In the first place, these aren’t extremes. They are steps one shy of extremes. That is, when a thousand books of scripture are not enough, we have not reached the extreme we desire. Will more do it? Similarly, when we have achieved understanding, one word is too much, but the extreme – not a single word – is that actually going to be the right path?

In short, no words and all the words are never the solutions because in a certain mental state, neither has the value we need it to have. Scripture is always there, but understanding is not about the scripture. It is about us – what is within us. When we are deluded and full of doubt we have nothing, but when we understand we need nothing. But we always know something in either state and can’t forget to separate the two – knowledge and understanding – in order to achieve the latter and appreciate the former.

When we have buried ourselves in our books of faith and still struggle, it is important to remember that the struggle is within us and not about the knowledge and the book and the faith and the scripture. Likewise, when we have achieved understanding with calm and certitude we cannot neglect that which now has value to offer us because we are not looking to it for things that are not about it. We have looked to ourselves and found what we needed.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think about?

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