Chapter 7: Be a Light unto Yourself
We are the hollow men,
we are the stuffed men
leaning together headpiece filled with straw.
Alas! Our dried voices,
when we whisper together
are quiet and meaningless
as wind in dry grass
or rat’s feet over broken glass
in our dry cellar.
These beautiful lines from T. S. Eliot described exactly the situation of the man, of the mind, who has remained with knowledge. “stuffed with straw” and “our voices”.like “rat’s feet over broken glass.”
Look at your head - it is almost rubbish: a collection, accumulation, but not knowing at all. And unless you are free from this rubbish your eyes will not have clarity, you will remain blind. I can give you my lamp in your hand, it will not help. Sooner or later the flame will be gone. In fact, the flame goes immediately the moment I give my lamp to you. In the very transfer the flame goes out because the flame cannot be transferred. You will have to become a flame on your own accord.
You can learn how to kindle your flame but you cannot borrow it, it is not a thing that can be transferred. At the most I can give you a thirst to seek it, I can give you almost a madness to search for it. I can drive you crazy enough to go after it, but I cannot give it to you. Nobody has ever given it to anybody else, it is nontransferable.
Wittgenstein says: “Philosophy leaves everything as it is.” You can become a great philosopher, you can know much, but philosophy leaves everything as it is. Nothing changes through it, it has no revolution in it.
Belief is communal, knowledge is also communal; knowing is personal, trust is personal. You have to relate to God or to truth directly, immediately. You have to come to truth. And it is going to be arduous because each step will require tremendous changes in you. You cannot go to truth as you are, you will have to drop many things - and the first thing, Zen says, is to drop borrowed knowledge.
If you ask Christians what is to be dropped first, they will say sin. But they have forgotten what the original sin was. The original sin was that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. That story comes closer to Zen. They ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge - that became the fall. That is the real sin, the original sin. Sin has nothing to do with your acts - moral, immoral - sin has something to do with knowledge. The parable is so clear, but still Christian theologians have misinterpreted it for centuries.
So the original sin is to become knowledgeable, to eat from the tree of knowledge.