Chapter 4: Buddhas Don’t Practice Nonsense
So nearabout twenty or twenty-five poets gathered in Yeats’ house to listen to Rabindranath’s recitation. They were all immensely impressed, and unanimously they wanted to make an appeal to the Nobel prize committee that the book should be honored by a Nobel prize. But Yeats himself had a little reservation. He said, “Everything is perfectly right, except for four words.” Rabindranath could not believe it - these were exactly the four words that C.F. Andrews had suggested!
Yeats said, “They are perfectly grammatical, but they are not poetic. They look as if somebody else has interfered; they prevent the flow of poetic beauty. Rather than being a help, they are hindrances and I would suggest that you change these words.
“Where did you get them? Because I have every certainty in my being that they are not your words. No poet can use those words in the places where they have been used. A linguist, yes; a man who wants to be perfect in grammar and language will use them. But a poet has a certain freedom; he has a poetic license to go a little off the track with grammar because poetry is a higher value than prose. For prose, grammar is okay, but for poetry, grammar can be a disturbance.”
Rabindranath could not believe it, but he said, “You are right, these are not my words; these words are from C.F. Andrews. I will tell you the words that I originally used.”
And he gave his words and Yeats was immensely happy. He said, “Now everything is okay. Those four rocks are removed from the river-like flow. Your words are not grammatical but they are poetic, and they are coming from your very heart.”
Grammar is a game of the mind and poetry is not part of the mind; mind is essentially prose, poetry belongs to the heart.
Grammatically wrong, but poetically right, Gitanjali was presented to the Nobel prize committee and was accepted unanimously for the prize.
This instance shows that the people who have been writing these sutras of Bodhidharma were good as far as language was concerned, but they were not at all in tune with the experience of enlightenment - not at all. So there are many false statements, very confused statements, along with absolutely right statements from Bodhidharma.
So one has to read with a very sharp awareness; otherwise it is very difficult to find where Bodhidharma ends and the disciple comes in, and where the disciple ends and Bodhidharma comes in. It is so mixed, and I feel sad because Bodhidharma deserves better disciples. He is one of the greatest masters the world has known. But perhaps he was so great a master that very few disciples could even reach close to him. And those who reached close to him have not written any notes.