Bare Fact and the Deeper Truth – M.S. Srinivasan

A group of monks are sitting in silent meditation in a Zen monastery. A young monk hears a sound and says “I think something is flapping”. Another young monk says “I think a flag is flapping”. A third monk, a little older says “I think wind is flapping”. A fourth monk, a senior member of the community says “I think mind is flapping”. The fifth monk, one of the oldest and wisest in the monastery says calmly “mouths are flapping”

This Zen story bring out with a sparkling humour the spirit of Zen philosophy and Yoga, which is to focus on the simple and bare facts of life keeping the verbal , speculative and imaginative mind silent. In this story, first four monks say something from their speculative mind and the fifth monk brings them down from their minds to the bare fact. He didn’t say like other monks. “I think” because he is not speculating but utters the simple fact. This brings us to the question: if we are always focussed on the facts how can we know the deeper truth behind the appearances? Teachers like Krishnamurthy seem to believe that if we can simply observe the bare fact with a silent mind without imposing our own ideas, imaginations and opinions on them, there is no need to seek the deeper truth; it will reveal itself in the silent mind.

However this may not be the only way to know the deeper truth. The other paths through deep meditation or intense concentration or creative imagination may also have their own validity. For example most of the Einstein’s discoveries come not by silent mind but through active imagination and intuition like imagining what will happen when you travel in space riding on a light-beam. Even strong vital passions can sometimes stumble upon hidden truths. Sri Aurobindo, in a significant verse on the mind of desire, says “its passion caught what the calm intelligence missed”. For example, Vaishnava mystics of India by turning all the feelings and passions of the heart to the Divine Beloved found a new path of Yoga and some important truths of the Divine Personality, which the earlier sages and seers seems to have missed.It seems what matters is not the path or the method but the sincerity and persistence in the aspiration and the quest.

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