Chapter 7: Be a Light unto Yourself
Long ago, in Japan, a blind man visiting a friend one night was offered a paper-and-bamboo lantern to carry home with him.
“I do not need a lantern,” he said, “darkness or light is all the same to me.”
“I know you do not need a lantern to find your way,” his friend replied, “but you must take it because if you don’t have one someone else may run into you.”
The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him. “Look out where you are going!” he exclaimed to the stranger. “Can’t you see this lantern?”
“Your candle has burnt out, brother,” replied the stranger.
Knowledge is not enough, to rely on it is dangerous. Knowledge is borrowed, it is not knowing. Knowing grows with you, knowing is a growth, an evolution; knowledge is implanted within you from the outside, knowledge is borrowed, it is counterfeit. It looks like knowing, it is not. It deceives, it gives you a feeling that you know. And yet you don’t.
On the path of Zen the first thing to be aware of is knowledge: the tradition, the scripture, that which has been handed over to you others. Those eyes are not yours, that light is not yours, and it is better to remain ignorant than to become knowledgeable - because at least ignorance is yours. A least it is authentic, at least it is true, at least it belongs to you
Out of the truth of ignorance knowing can grow, but out of the falsity of knowledge you will be lost, nothing can grow out of it. Knowledge is an accumulation of dead facts and information. It has no life in it. It is like stones piled up, one upon another. It can rise to a very great height, but it has no growth because it has no sap of life in it.
A tree is totally different. It so goes higher and higher but it has an organic growth, a sap of life, running through it. It is growing on its own accord. It is rooted in life. It is an alive process. You can keep a plastic tree and it will look just like any other tree: it can be even more green, it can be even more deceptive, more beautiful - but it will be dead. It will not have any roots anywhere, it will not be grounded in existence, it will not be at ease and at home, it will not be an insider. It will be a foreigner, it will be alien.
This is the first thing to understand - then only can you understand the radical attitude of Zen. It is very easy to borrow knowledge. That’s what the schools, the colleges, the universities, are doing. They go on transferring information from one generation to another. They are the via media. And people who collect knowledge from them start feeling that they know. But how can you know if you have not known it?
I can talk about love to you, you can listen to me, you can even agree with me, but your agreement is not the point. I may be logical and clever enough to persuade you to agree with me, but that will not give you any taste of love. To know love, you will have to fall in love. To know love, you will have to travel the path of love. To know love, you will have to take the dangerous journey.