Even MORE reactions to "Books"
Knowledge not put to use remains useless until it is put to use.
Didn't it occur to him that someone less enlightened might have had a
use for them, - anyway, wetware doesn't make backups.
The first thing that came to my mind was "How did he know that he was
enlightened?"...I think the story is fundamentally flawed and leaves
many unanswered questions...
I am wondering about the burning. Perhaps by burning the books he was
releasing the knowledge into the universe. Like we used to make a wish
by writing it on a piece of paper and then burning it.
In his enlightenment he learned that his books were written by other men
just like him no better, no smarter, and no more
perfect. After burning his books,
he probably went out and authored his own.
As soon as the scholar burned his books, he became uncivilized and no
longer enlightened. The fire of the burning books would soon go out and
there he'd sit--butt cold, unenlightened, and without a library to
sustain him because nobody wants no scholar whats got no books!
I think there are two different meanings of this story. One, like the
Buddha taught, is that you need not to carry your boat (books or rules)
after crossing a river (enlightment or goal). Two, he finally realized
that books after all are a bunch of words that cannot trully describe the
reality. It's good to learn from book, but reading it and trying to find
the meaning of each word and so on will sink you into a sea of
philosophical game without any reality.
In my humble, upon reaching enlightenment, he finally learned that
enlightenment does not come from books or sources outside oneself. For
true enlightenment, one must look inside, not out, for the answers.
Furthermore, the idea of zen is total clarity while living in the moment.
You can't see what's happening in the moment if your mind is elsewhere,
for example reading the thougts of others.
Once he attained enlightenment, he realized that the books contributed
nothing it, only meditation and hard work.
Experience cannot be given or taught.
The Zen monk who attains enlightenment feels compelled to pass that
enlightenment on somehow. Some do it by writing poetry, others become
teachers. This man realized that, being truly enlightened, he could do
more for society by being a teacher than being a writer of words.
I find this story sad. I also do not understand the concept of one day
'reaching' enlightenment. Surely enlightenment happens daily and is an
ongoing process?? We are programmed to learn constantly, and reading
books is one way of teaching ourselves. I agree that everything cannot
be learned from books, but why burn them? If one becomes enlightenend
does that mean that he has reached his peak and does not need to learn
Books should be respected the are a form of knowledge. Hinduism encourage
anyone who disrespects a book is disrespecting himself and will never gain
knowledge. True not everything can be found in books but that is no reason
for destroying knowledge. He is not a Zen master to me.
One must not look upon books for answers. As Ralph Waldon Emerson and
Thoreau and the naturalist advocated- "think for your self don't parrot
simply throw up everything that is books and the master is advocating
thinking for yourself.
You can not describe enlightenment, and every book that
attempts to explain it is just confusing the reader. You become
enlightened by DOING.
All experience is diminished and trivialized in the retelling, and
enlightenment is necessarily an individual path.
If he was truly enlightened he understood he understood nothing and
could learn nothing from those who claimed they did.
He learned everything the books could teach him, and it was not
everything. Strange, but he felt betrayed by them. That's why he
He burn the books because he realise that reading or memorise the books do
not help the enlightment but to apply what he had read from the books is
the way right way to attain enlightment.
He reached enlightenment not when he finished reading all the books but
when he discovered that his books where out of circulation so he could
not sell them back to the Bookstore.
Said well known scholar may have done better to donate his books to a
library. I find that the act of giving frees me of attachments much
more than the act of destroying.
The attainment of enlightment sets a person free of this material plane.
He is merely practising what he has learnt: non-attachment to things the
he once held dear...
A quest for knowledge (perfect, or otherwise ) is never over. There is no
goal, there is only the path. Another thing altogether is looking up a
As Socrates said "Only one thing do I know, and that is that I know
nothing"; or a man who knows nothing and knows he knows nothing, knows
more than a man who knows nothing but thinks he knows something. The
books can only offer other opinions, work it out yourself.
Why not pass them on, or leave them for the next student? I think
torching the books was selfish.
"He who clasps to his breast a joy
Does it's winged life destroy.
... " -- - Blake
In life we all come to the edge of a cliff. Stopping immediately at
the edge and in our faces is the cold thick fog bank. We can not see
six inches into the fog bank. The books bring us to the edge and tell
us that nor more than 24 inches into the fog bank is the other side of
the deep canyon and enlightenment; but, it is only we who may choose to
make the jump.
When something is truly mastered, it stays with you. Once it is
mastered, you "distill" the knowledge gained and rarely --if ever--
do you need to retrace your steps.
Egoistic. The books seemed to work for him; somebody else could have
used them for the same purpose. Or, probably, he realized the books
were a hindrance on his path to enlightment, and did not want someone
else to make the same mistake.
My reaction to the story books is that the man finally decided that he
had passed the point of learning so he burned his books. I think that
maybe he has decided that instead of learning...he should now start
Let deeds not words be your adorning. It's what we do, not what we know
that has true value. Education is a tool, not an end in itself. It
prepares us to go out and do something. Revere not the book but the
inspiration gleaned from the book.
Perhaps this Zen master had not actually attained enlightenment. perhaps
enlightenment is not attianable and anyone who believes they have reached
it has actually gone insane. After all, only one who is insane would
burn a book. One can never know everything, therefore there is no reason
to ever burn a book.
The reactions to this story are far more interesting than the story itself.
I particularly like the comment that "I could never bring myself to burn a
I wonder why?
Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst.
|| Most Important Teaching || Elephant and Flea || Empty Your Cup ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.