A student comes to his master and says, “Everyday I have to sweep the floor, prepare my gruel and do laundry. How can I escape this routine?” The master replies, “Sweep the floor. Prepare your gruel, and do your laundry.”
After you read the paragraph above, did the clouds part for a shaft of light to come down upon your head? Probably not. This is because revelations are personal.
To me, those words pointed to a kernel of truth. They taught me an important lesson.
But the Buddhist koan above won’t have the same effect on everyone. To some, it might seem like a fun paragraph. Others might find it interesting, maybe even wise.
But many won’t see its message as a bolt from the blue because of the way the brain works.
Why are some tidbits of information highlighted and remembered more than others? How do we filter through the countless pieces of information we collect throughout our days making sure to only file away the important ones?
We use our emotions to prioritize certain pieces of information over others. This is why epiphanies are personal. Information can only be strung together when it’s something we care about.
That Buddhist story made sense to me because, like the student in the story, I find daily routines monotonous. Like the student, I sought freedom from the monotony by studying spiritual and religious paradigms.
Had I not been the one that does the laundry in my household, the master’s response would not have hit me the same way.
This is why we all have to gather our own information when searching for answers that are truly useful. It’s part of the process. Our personal inclinations filter not only what information we take in, but also the way we interpret it.
It may seem unfortunate sometimes that we all have to do our own homework, but the rewards are those “Aha!” moments — moments, when you’ve broken through the shell to the nut and the achievement is only yours.