It is said that this is the first mystic treatise ever written down as a book. It is not much of a book, not more than one and a half pages, but it existed for thousands of years before it was written. It existed through private and personal communion. That has been always the most significant way to transmit truth. To write it down makes it more difficult because then one never knows who will be reading it; it loses all personal contact and touch.
In Egypt, in India, in China, in all the ancient civilizations, for thousands of years the mystic message was carried from one person to another, from the master to the disciple. And the master would say these things only when the disciple was ready, or he would say only as much as the disciple could digest. Otherwise words can also produce diarrhea they certainly do produce it – our century suffers very much from it. All the mystics for centuries resisted writing down their insights.
This was the first treatise ever written; that’s its significance. It marks a certain change in human consciousness, a change which was going to prove of great importance later on because even though it is beautiful to commune directly, person to person, the message cannot reach many people; many are bound to miss. Yes, it will not fall in the wrong hands, but many right hands will also remain empty. And one should think more of the right hands than of the wrong hands. The wrong people are going to be wrong whether some profound insight falls in their hands or not, but the right people will be missing something which can transform their being.
Ko Hsuan, who wrote this small treatise, marks a milestone in the consciousness of humanity. He understood the significance of the written word, knowing all its dangers. In the preface he writes: “Before writing down these words I contemplated ten thousand times whether to write or not, because I was taking a dangerous step.” Nobody had gathered that much courage before.
Ko Hsuan was preceded by Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu. Even they had not written anything; their message was remembered by their disciples. It was only written after Ko Hsuan took the dangerous step. But he also says, “Ten thousand times I contemplated,” because it is no ordinary matter. Up to that moment in history no master had ever dared to write anything down, just to avoid the wrong people.
Even a man like Buddha contemplated for seven days before uttering a single word. When he attained to enlightenment for seven days he remained utterly silent, wavering whether to say anything or not. The question was: Those who cannot understand, what is the point of saying to them such profound insights? They will misunderstand, they will misinterpret, they w ill do harm to the message. Rather than allowing the message to heal them they will wound the message itself – they will manipulate the message according to their minds, prejudices. Is it right to allow the message to be polluted by foolish people, by mediocre people, by stupid people?