A teacher once pointed out that there is an instruction in Buddhist training about going on one straight line, about keeping to one thing, and yet at the same time: ‘You’ve got to accept things; you’ve got to be flexible.’ The example he gave was of a spinning top or gyroscope. If you have ever played with a gyroscope as a child or seen one spinning, you will know that its balance is so good that when it is revolving, it can travel down a string on the little notch at its base whilst keeping a balance on that string. It couldn’t do that unless it was spinning. But because it is revolving about its centre, it can keep a perfect balance. And if you blow the gyroscope it will bow, but come back to its balance again; it will give way to passing things, but will come back very strongly to its point of balance and settle itself.
Then the teacher said, ‘In the same way, there is something in the training which keeps on the same line and keeps perfectly balanced, but at the same time it can adapt quite freely and softly to the impulses ― the momentary impulses from outside ― and adjust to the circumstances. Then it will resume its balance and go forward.’
Another teacher said, ‘The gyroscope adapts gently but comes back firmly,’ and he added, ‘It does not react forcefully.’ Then he gave the example of a man trying to calm a lake, or perhaps the waves in his bath. The man wants the bath water to be calm so he smacks down the waves as they come up. The teacher said, ‘That’s like trying to smack down your thoughts as they arise. But that will just create new ones! If, instead, you simply keep still and watch the waves, they will die down of themselves.’
From Fingers and Moons
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