Hoan said: “The past and future Buddhas, both are his servants. Who is he?”

Mumon’s comment: If you realize clearly who he is, it is as if you met your own father on a busy street.

There is no need to ask anyone whether or not your recognition is true.

Do not fight with another’s bow and arrow.

Do not ride on another’s horse.

Do not discuss another’s faults.

Do not interfere with another’s work.

Accept Yourself

It’s not only Hoan, but we all want approval from others. We cannot accept ourselves as we are.

Why is it that we feel we need to have approval and be recognized.

It has to be remembered that the need to have approval and be recognized is everybody’s question. Our whole life’s structure is such that we are taught that unless there is a recognition we are nobody, we are worthless. The work is not important, but the recognition. And this is putting things upside down. The work should be important…a joy in itself. You should work, not to be recognized but because you enjoy being creative; you love the work for its own sake.

There have been very few people who have been able to escape from the trap the society puts you in, like Vincent Van Gogh. He went on painting – hungry, without house, without clothes, without medicine, sick, but he went on painting. Not a single painting was being sold, there was no recognition from anywhere, but the strange thing was that in these conditions he was still happy…happy because what he wanted to paint he has been able to paint. Recognition or no recognition, his work is valuable intrinsically.

By the age of thirty-three he had committed suicide – not because of any misery, anguish, no, but simply because he had painted his last painting, on which he had been working for almost one year, a sunset. He tried dozens of times, but it was not up to his standard and he destroyed it. Finally he managed to paint the sunset the way he had longed to.

He committed suicide, writing a letter to his brother, “I am not committing suicide out of despair. I am committing suicide because now there is no point in living; my work is done. Moreover, it has been difficult to find ways of livelihood. But it was okay because I had some work to do, some potential in me needed to become actual. It has blossomed, so now it is pointless to live like a beggar.

Up to now I had not even thought about it, I had not even looked at it. But now that is the only thing. I have blossomed to my utmost; I am fulfilled, and now to drag on, finding ways of livelihood, seems to be just stupid. For what? So it is not a suicide according to me, but just that I have come to a fulfillment, a full stop, and joyously I am leaving the world. Joyously I lived, joyously I am leaving the world.”

Now, almost a century afterwards, each of his paintings is worth millions of dollars. There are only two hundred paintings available. He must have painted thousands, but they have been destroyed; nobody took any note of them.

Now to have a Van Gogh painting means you have an aesthetic sense. His painting gives you recognition. The world never gave any recognition to his work, but he never cared. And this should be the way to look at things.

Learning from the story Approval: Accept Yourself

Experience Learning

You work if you love it. Don’t ask for recognition. If it comes, take it easily; if it does not come, do not think about it. Your fulfillment should be in the work itself. And if everybody learns this simple art of loving his work, whatever it is, enjoying it without asking for any recognition, we would have a more beautiful and celebrating world. As it is, the world has trapped you in a miserable pattern: What you are doing is not good because you love it, because you do it perfectly, but because the world recognizes it, rewards it, gives you gold medals, Nobel prizes.

They have taken away the whole intrinsic value of creativity and destroyed millions of people – because you cannot give millions of people Nobel prizes. And you have created the desire for recognition in everybody, so nobody can work peacefully, silently, enjoying whatever he is doing. And life consists of small things. For those small things there are no rewards, not titles given by the governments, not honorary degrees given by the universities.

One of the great poets of this century, Rabindranath Tagore, lived in Bengal, India. He had published his poetry, his novels, in Bengali – but no recognition came to him. Then he translated a small book, Gitanjali, “Offering of Songs,” into English. And he was aware that the original has a beauty which the translation does not have and cannot have – because these two languages, Bengali and English, have different structures, different ways of expression.

Bengali is very sweet. Even if you fight, it seems you are engaged in a nice conversation. It is very musical; each word is musical. That quality is not in English, and cannot be brought to it; it has different qualities. But somehow he managed to translate it, and the translation – which is a poor thing compared to the original – received the Nobel prize. Then suddenly the whole of India became aware…. The book had been available in Bengali, in other Indian languages, for years and nobody had taken any note of it.

Every university wanted to give him a D.Litt. Calcutta, where he lived, was the first university, obviously, to offer him an honorary degree. He refused. He said, “You are not giving a degree to me; you are not giving a recognition to my work, you are giving recognition to the Nobel prize, because the book has been here in a far more beautiful way, and nobody has bothered even to write an appraisal.”

He refused to take any D.Litts. He said, “It is insulting to me.” Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the great novelists, and a man of tremendous insight into human psychology, refused the Nobel prize. He said, “I have received enough reward while I was creating my work. A Nobel prize cannot add anything to it; on the contrary, it pulls me down. It is good for amateurs who are in search of recognition; I am old enough, and I have enjoyed enough. I have loved whatever I have done. It was its own reward, and I don’t want any other reward, because nothing can be better than that which I have already received.” And he was right. But the right people are so few in the world, and the world is full of wrong people living in traps.

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