There was once a father who had high ambitions for his son and yet his son’s heart was taken by the working of wood and he wished to be a carpenter. The father could not accept his son’s passion, they argued and argued. Tragically for the father the son left home and did not return.
Many years later the father received a package by post. Inside was a small wooden box, exquisitely made. Inside the box was a curled wood-shaving, just that. There was no note. It was clear that this was a message to the father from the son. Certainly the craftsmanship of the box showed his father that his son had mastered the craft for which he had left home but what was the message of the shaving? The traditional interpretation is that the shaving was a way of honouring the craft in and of itself over and above the result gained. The shaving expresses this very beautifully, for sure, and I think more besides. These were the days when people were still looking for deep spiritual practice and truth through such crafts. Within a patient, spiritual mind there can be the precision of the task and the emerging result of the work, creativity that listens as it works. There is also the beauty of the task itself and yet furthermore there can be the bliss of the silent, spacious mind. To me the deeper message of the shaving is the beauty of that which is left behind, what we let go of as we work, both internally and externally, that opens this space. Thus the shaving is ultimately a symbol of this letting go and of the joy and the freedom of the open mind. The bliss of such letting go makes the things we let go of the most beautiful things in the world. We do not hang on to these things either, these signs of freedom, but can offer them to others like the son to his father.
The shaving and its presentation within the box is to me a statement that the beauty of letting go, of renunciation, can become the greatest prize and joy. For this is a renunciation that is not a negation of the world but is rather a growing greater than the world. This is the highest joy, of a freedom within the world, active and capable, creative within that world and also beyond the world.
This freedom was, I believe, the gift that the son would have wished for his father. It was offered in a way beyond words because this very offering of truth is itself beyond words. Let us hope that the father’s love for his son led him to treasure the gift and search deeply in his mind and heart for its deepest message.
Perhaps this gift can also be a message to every aspiring master of the wood that the ultimate value of the craft may be far higher, far deeper, far wider than it may have appeared to be in the beginning. I am not a carpenter but a mere contemplative. To me this story speaks of the joy and meaning of silence and space, of freedom and of resolution won by the craft of the thinker, there in the open, peaceful, creative mind and I offer you these words, these reflections as a gift with the love of a son for his father and let go. I won’t be trying to persuade you to take up carpentry. Its up to you.
I offer this for your reflection