Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Only an impure disciple would attempt to confine living wisdom in a jail of paper behind bars of ink."

This is another quote from the wonderful The Greatness of Saturn by Robert Svoboda. It is part of his exposition of the importance and meaning of oral tradition, but the quote has an additional meaning for me.

As a former journalist and lifelong writer,I was always keenly aware of the limitations of words to convey meaning and emotion. To me, the written word was a mere exercise or parlour game in which one attempted to convey one's thoughts and feelings, but could never be sure of words' effect on the reader.

Svoboda continues, "Literalists may cling to writing, but those who wish to truly comprehend the living wisdom within a text must seek it in a living oral tradition, for 'understanding the text does not necessarily mean attaining an intellectual mastery of its contents'."

Intellectual mastery of information or techniques does not necessarily result in understanding. This is one reason that students seek living masters and gurus. It is the reason that the student can often feel a flash of understanding and enlightenment in the presence of a great teacher. Sometimes that flash of understanding can come from something the teacher has said to the student, but often it comes from the example of the teacher or by her own presence, by the depth of her own knowledge or by her personal integrity.

Svoboda writes that recitation of myth transforms the teller into its image. The myth holder is then able to transform the lives of the hearer through the power of the gods whose tales are told. This is nothing but the old concept of catharsis. But imagine all of the ways we can access this connection to the divine and transformative in daily life.

Let's walk away from the computer screen and experience living wisdom in a story told by a friend, a walk through nature, darshan of a guru or teacher, or even a yoga class!

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