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Chapter 5: On the Qualities of the Taoist

In Zen they use many methods to teach people meditation. They use art also: painting, calligraphy and other things. A student will learn painting for ten or twelve years ( until he becomes absolutely technical, with not even a single error in the technology of the art. When he becomes perfectly technical then the master says, “Now drop it. For two or three years completely forget it. Throw away your brushes, forget anything that you know about painting and when you have forgotten it completely, then come to me.”

Two, three, four, five, sometimes even more, years are needed to forget. It is very difficult. It is difficult first to learn a thing, and more difficult to unlearn it once you have learned it. The second part is very, very essential, fundamental; otherwise you will be a technician, not an artist.

It is said it happened that a great archer trained his disciple to the very perfection in archery. And then he told him, “Now forget everything about it.” For twenty years the disciple used to come and go to the master but the master would not say anything, so the disciple had to wait patiently. By and by he completely forgot everything about archery ( twenty years is a long time, he had become almost an old man.

Then one day he came and as he entered the master’s room he saw a bow, but he did not recognize what it was. The master came near him, embraced him and said, “Now you have become a perfect archer, you have forgotten even the bow. Now just go out and look at the flying birds and with just the idea that they should drop, they will.”

The archer went out and he couldn’t believe it. He looked at the birds flying, almost a dozen birds, and they fell immediately to the ground. The master said, “Now there is no more to do. I was just showing you that when one forgets the technique only then does one become perfect. Now the bow and arrow are not needed, they are needed only for amateurs.”

A perfect painter does not need the brush and the canvas; a perfect musician does not need the sitar or the violin or the guitar. No, that is for the amateur.

I have come across a very old musician ( he is dead now ( he was one hundred and ten years old. Ravi Shankar is his disciple. He could create music with anything, with anything whatsoever. He would be passing and find two rocks and he could create music with them; he would find a piece of iron and he would start playing with it and you could hear beautiful music, such as you have never heard. This was a musician. Now even his touch was musical. If he touched you, you would see that he had touched the innermost instrument of your inner harmony and music ( suddenly you would start vibrating.

When anything becomes perfect the effort that you have made to learn it has to be forgotten, otherwise the very effort remains heavy on the head.

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