The Inexpressible Truth

Photo by Jimilee Kalu
The master had a disciple who diligently took notes on what he said.

At night, he would study these notes, organize them and discuss the teachings with other disciples. He would often argue and debate on the meaning of ambiguous statements. He would ask the master to clarify certain thoughts, which the master sometimes did, but he often mentioned something else that would make the disciple more confused. But the disciple was persistent and would not stop until he was satisfied with an answer. Then he would write his own notes to synthesize what he had learned. He would then go to the other people and begin teaching them based on his writings.

This went on for a few years and the disciples notes had spanned several booklets. One morning, the disciple woke up and found his notes gone. He searched and searched but could not find his beloved notes. The master saw him in this agitated state and asked, “What’s the matter?”

The disciple replied, “My notes! Someone took my notes. All your precious teachings were there. I recorded them and preserved them so I would not forget them. And now they’re gone.”

“Oh,” said the master, “I took them.”

“What? What did you do with them?” said the disciple.

“It was cold last night and we had run out of wood. I needed fuel for the fire,” said the master.

“But…but…” sputtered the disciple.

“You think you have lost your life’s work and meaning. But no. In truth, I threw away your notes because they were consuming you. You think they help you understand, but in truth, they were hindering you from moving forward. When you listen to my words, don’t seize on them and make teachings out of them. My words merely hint at a truth that is inexpressible. Seek out that truth,” said the master.

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