Once there was a well known philosopher and scholar who devoted himself to the study
of Zen for many years. On the day that he finally attained enlightenment, he took
all of his books out into the yard, and burned them all.
People's reactions to this story:
"The most important things in life you can't learn through books. You have to learn
them through experience."
"Life's most important lessons have to be learned for oneself, not from what other
people have said."
"It's your own thoughts that are important. Everything else is indoctrination from
"Once you have gained a true understanding of something, the knowledge will be with
you for the rest of your life. You'll never have to study it again."
"The reason that he burned the books was because he felt that he had learned all that he could possibly could from them and that it was time to move on and learn from life itself."
"One you attain a goal, you no longer need the methods that helped you get there."
"Did he burn the books because he realized their uselessness. Or did he burn them
because he thought there was no more knowledge left in them to gain? I get the feeling
that maybe he WASN'T very enlightened."
"I guess the scholar felt he was done with his studies, and didn't need his books
"All systems of knowledge (conceptual beliefs), including this one, limit perception."
"I don't know what enlightenment is, but I do know that you never stop learning and
growing. Besides, what if the Zen master forgets something later on, and has to look
"Sounds like he wanted to rid himself of his former life."
"Nothing wrong with that. I'm sure the fire was pretty cool."
"This story stirs up mixed feelings in me about school. Will it all be worth it when
Sometimes I just feel like giving up."
"This reminds me of the Pearl of Great Price story from the Bible. A man sold everything
he owned to buy this pearl, and did so joyfully."
"I guess once you attain perfect knowledge, you don't need to read anymore."
"Why burn the knowledge attained?! Knowledge must be saved for the future. A mind
can only store away so much information."
"Learn it, know it _LIVE_ it!" My drill instructor in basic training knew & taught this. I do recall that he felt the need to add a few extra embellishments to be sure we were paying attention :-) "
"Maybe he realized with his enlightened mind that he was cold."
"I could never bring myself to burn a book! It's almost like burning the person who
"Words, words, words..... They're not reality anyhow. They're just words."
|| Most Important Teaching || Elephant and Flea || Empty Your Cup ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.