Thursday, February 5, 2009

Circles and dots

The teacher drew a large circle on a paper pasted to a board. Then he turned to his students and said, This is the great circle of being. Nobody and nothing is outside it.

The students listened with rapt attention, some nodding their heads in understanding, and others closing their eyes in meditation.

Each one of you is fully contained within this circle. See this very clearly, each one of you, continued the teacher, scanning all the faces before him intently.

Suddenly a tentative hand raised itself. And a young new student stood up and cleared his throat nervously. Sir, may I share what I am seeing and ask a question? he asked, hesitatingly. The teacher's eyes bore into the young man's even as he nodded his assent.

Well, began the student, clearing his throat again, for two days now you have shown us this circle of being and told us to see that we are each inside it. But I don't see that.... He paused to take note of the teacher's expression, and finding only an even intensity there he made bold to continue. I see myself as being outside the circle, he said a little more confidently.

The teacher's expression softened a bit as he turned to the board and picked up the pen. He drew a small dot outside the circle. Then pointing his pen at the student, he smiled and said, Is this where you find yourself? The student nodded and looked around at the other students. Most of them were now paying close attention. Then the teacher turned back to the board and with great flourish, drew another larger circle, so that the dot was inside this new circle. There now, it is fixed, he said beaming at the student, You are fully within the circle of being.

Some of the students chuckled and others nodded in appreciation.

The student looked nonplussed, then started to sit down as if this was as far as he could get, when the teacher stabbed the air with his pen and said No, no, don't believe me. Look inside again and see what you find this time. Then turning to the other students, he said, All of you - I want you to look inside again. But first, is there anyone here who has never had the same question as this young man? Maybe some of you found the answer sometime back. But allow the answer to refresh itself in this moment. Don't bank on past memories of an answer. See what is true right now.

The students all became very quiet, and a period of silence followed. At one point the teacher called out to the young student and said, I see you are ready to share something. What do you find?. The student stood up and said, a bit sheepishly, I still see myself as being outside that new circle, Sir. He bit his lip anxiously. But the teacher only smiled and drawing another dot outside the second circle, asked, Like this? When the student nodded, the teacher nodded too and again with great flourish drew a third circle on the board such that the new dot was inside it. Then without a word, he turned to the student again and raised his eyebrow. The student nodded slightly, sat down and closed his eyes.

This scene was faithfully repeated many times over the next few days. During this time some of the students went from great discomfort to a kind of settling down. Still others, like the young student, seemed to be ok and took this chance to look within. And then there were a few who seethed about this complete waste of time, but stuck it out for their own reasons. One student left in pure frustration.

The fifth day commenced. On the board were a set of concentric circles, each with a little dot inside. The teacher sat beside the board, immersed in the silence, eyes opening sometimes and closing sometimes. Finally the young student raised his hand again, stood up confidently and said, Sir, I am fully within the circle. And..., he paused, a bit unsure again. Yes? asked the teacher, and what? The student continued, eyes shining, And the circle is fully within me. I am the paper and the circle and the dot.

At that instant many of the students felt an arrow pierce their hearts, but what spilled out was love, not blood.

The teacher turned and began to pack away the board and paper and pen. Good, he said, because I was really getting tired of drawing so many circles.

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