Bristles in Adhyatma Teachings

When someone who has a hope of getting some advantage lavishes praise and compliments on us, we feel quite unaffected, because we know that it’s simply turned on like a tap, to get something from us. It might as well be a tape recording. We think “Words, words, what do words matter? Nothing at all.”

But then when his request is refused perhaps he becomes furious. He begins calling us all the bad names he can think of, and we know that all of this abuse is just out of his disappointment and anger. Nothing in it – turned on like a tap or a tape recorder. And yet this time it’s quite difficult not to be affected by it, though it is known to be completely false.

These are little hints for meeting attractions and repulses from the world. A great Indian teacher used to say that adverse criticism should be like a shave really. He said that unconsciously there are little bristles of egoism and pride and self-satisfaction and conceit and ambition growing in us and the adverse criticism should be used as a razor to shave them off.

One Zen Master, not so very long ago, on rising in the morning used to speak in two voices, himself to himself as it were.

“Now don’t get tangled up in the world today!”
“No, no I won’t”
Then the first voice would say:
“And don’t get fooled by people and things today.”
“No, I won’t”
Then the first voice in a gentler tone would say:
“Then you’ll be free today”
And the second voice would say:
“Yes, free today, free”


© 1999 Trevor Leggett