‘Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength’.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
In the last year of living in Britain I was invited as a guest speaker for an enterprising and newly formed Three Principles organisation on the south coast. As we walked towards the talk venue after a shared meal at a local Indian restaurant, I was asked an intriguing yet often asked question: “Do you really never prepare for a talk, at all?” I laughed and replied that no, I hadn’t ever prepared anything for any talk I had given on the Three Principles, adding that it would be impossible to do so. Because how can one prepare for the unknown?
I have no memory of what I spoke of that evening, but I do remember one of the questions asked when I had finished. The question was: “How did you draw that circle? It seems so perfect!” This was in response to my having put a circle around the words Mind, Consciousness and Thought during the presentation. I think my hosts were concerned that being a more distinctive and genuinely diverse question than is often asked, as it was not about the content of the circle and thus the content of the talk, but the circle itself, I might be thrown off track as it were. There was a moments silence where my mind simply went blank, not in panic, purely a beautiful emptiness, and then out of my mouth came the following words:
“It comes from a place of softness”.
There was another few moments of silence and a few looks of confusion, except from the person that asked the question. Being of an artistic nature, it made complete sense to them. It was one of those magical moments that happen when talking about the Principles where we become the student once more, ever at the beginning, as we will always be. An eternal cycle of returning to start, what in Buddhism is known as ‘beginners mind’.
I recognised in an instant that all we are in essence comes from a place beyond all words, from a place of softness, a gentle strength. That someone in an audience could see and feel something simply by witnessing a circle being drawn during a presentation was a deeply beautiful reminder for me that the words are merely a guide. As Sydney Banks puts it: ‘Words are the echo of Truth’. When we surrender to that beautiful feeling of softness, we convey something that is beyond simply ‘useful’ for the world, because we point towards the quiet still voice of wisdom within. As Oscar Wilde once posited: ‘All art is quite useless’. Rendered useless by the fact that we may only luxuriate in its symmetry and spellbinding magic. We cannot ‘use’ it in the way other things are functional. It is simply for divine pleasure alone*.
I have often asked high school students if they can tell when someone is being genuine with them or inauthentic. Their answer has always unanimously been “yes”. This gives us a clue in terms of presenting a talk concerning The Principles, for it is only possible to talk from the Principles if we wish it to be genuine, i.e., from our personal experience of them, and thus the content of the talk arises in the moment based on this and not our learned knowledge. However, if we were to plan a talk, we would need to talk only about the Principles, and this would become technical, concept based and have very little to do with the experience of the formless nature of life.
If we can but relax and return to a gentle place of softness that lies deep within our own nature, we begin to see all the beauty that this short life has to offer. Then each moment that arises becomes filled with the magic, brilliance and majesty of being.
Now go and have a beauty filled day, for it is time to step through that gateway back into the softness, to which we were born, to return home once again.
* From ideas expressed in the Documentary Why Beauty Matters by Roger Scruton: