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Chapter 11: The Whole and Holy Circle

But people go on carrying the scriptures, believing the scriptures, hoping that their life will remain full of light because they are carrying a message from a great master. That message is nothing more than words; it is an unnecessary burden. If all the scriptures of the world disappear, man may become more cautious, may become more alert, may start looking for the source of light on his own. Because there will be nothing to lean on, he will have to learn to stand on his own feet.

Lung-t’an was once visited by Te-shan, who, seeking further and further elucidation, remained until it grew late. Lung-t’an finally said, “The night deepens. Why don’t you retire?”

Te-shan, taking his leave, raised the bamboo blind and went out. Seeing the intense darkness without, he returned and said, “It is dark outside.”

Lung-t’an then lit a lantern and offered it to Te-shan. Just as Te-shan was about to take it, Lung-t’an abruptly blew it out. With this, Te-shan suddenly attained awakening, whereupon he bowed.

Lung-t’an said, “What kind of truth did you see?”

Te-shan said, “Never after today shall I doubt the utterances of all the old masters under heaven.”

The next day Lung-t’an went before the disciples and said, “Within this group there is a man whose canine teeth are like sword trees, whose mouth resembles a bloody plate, and who won’t turn his head even when given a blow with a stick. One day he will establish my way on the top of a solitary mountain peak.”

Te-shan then took out his sutra commentaries and in front of the meditation hall, raised a torch and said, “Endless deep analysis is like placing a single hair in the emptiness of space; worldly power is like throwing one drop of water into an immense gorge.”

So saying, he took his commentaries and burned them.

Now, if you don’t have eyes even light is useless; a lantern in your hands is nothing, utterly nothing. But if you have eyes, even the blowing out of a candle can become an experience of enlightenment. The question is of eyes.

This man Lung-t’an was visited by Te-shan. Lung-t’an is the Master, Te-shan is his disciple. Seeing the darkness outside, the disciple said to the master, “It is too dark.”

The master lit a candle and gave it to the disciple, and as he was going to take it, he blew it out. Suddenly, all became dark again, more dark than it was before. And this abrupt blowing-out of the candle must have been a shock - unexpected. For a moment the disciple must have fallen into the interval between two thoughts. For a moment thinking disappeared and there was contemplation. For a moment there was utter silence. In that silence he could see the point.

The next day he burned all his scriptures. Now they were no longer needed; now he knew the truth through his own experience.

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