Bodhi (zenbodhi) wrote,

A source of sometimes.

Only one who bursts with
Enthusiasm do I instruct;
Only one who bubbles with
Excitement do I enlighten.
If I hold up one corner
And you do not come back
To me with the other three,
I do not continue the lesson.

                                          - Confucius

Let me first preface this by saying that Confucius is not one of my favorite writers.  I really didn't agree with enough of his views to leave a sense of distaste in my system, but that doesn't mean that he didn't leave pearls of wisdom that have crossed oceans of time and can still give deep and personal meaning today.

I find it interesting that the sour-faced Confucius writes that he only teaches those who burst with enthusiasm and excitement.  But, that's beside the point.  He writes about people with energy and enthusiasm being the ones that he teaches and that he brings enlightenment to, and then he states that if he holds up one corner and you don't come back with the other three, he doesn't continue the lesson.  That seems very Confucius.  He's willing to teach those who really want to be taught - those who are willing to come to him.  While I personally object to this mentality about teaching, I see something deeper here, and I'm hoping that I can express it properly.

Those who are willing to seek enlightenment, who are truly willing to work at it - those will be the ones who find it.  Those who are able to assist you in finding your own enlightenment, but you have to do the work yourself.  You can be shown the way.  You can be given tools.  However, if you're not willing to take up everything else, you'll never make it to where you want to go, and that's why Confucius doesn't continue the lesson.  It's the same thing that we hear about when we talk about the American Dream.  Work harder than everyone else.  Be the "self made" individual.  Put all of your resources into succeeding.

Never mind that gathering three corners with two hands represents a difficult task.  You think about picking up a sheet and you're saying to yourself, "No, not really.  I can pick up three corners of a sheet very easily."  That's not really the point, though.  Confucius didn't write about the supplicant picking up two corners, or the opposite corner.  He didn't make it an equivalent situation, because in all honesty, it's not.  Each person is ultimately responsible for their own successes and, ultimately, their own failures as well.  Or...  Maybe not so much.

You see, upon further reflection, I realize that Confucius is also stating very clearly the terms of success, and the consequence of failure.  We hear about it all the time, and yet our eyes and ears pass on.  The consequence of failure.  Did you, in reading it, focus on that?  I know I sure don't want to.  I want to focus on success!  Sure, we'd all like an easier path, one where our excitement and enthusiasm will get us through, but it's simply not enough.  Granted, it's critically important for success, but it's just not enough, and Confucius knew it.  It burns me just a little to say it, but Confucius knew it.  We all know it.  There is no quick fix for success, and certainly not one for enlightenment.  Even my own journal that you're reading right now says, "Exploring a way to enlightenment through oneself."  I'm nowhere near there yet, but I've got three corners in hand.  Good thing it's not Confucius that has the fourth.
Tags: zen
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