Why is childlikeness compared to meditation?
When a man is reborn, only then he understands the beauty and the grandeur of childhood. The child is ignorant; hence he is unable to understand the tremendous innocence that surrounds him. Once a child becomes aware of his own innocence, there is no difference between the child and the sage. The sage is not higher and the child is not lower. The only difference is, the child knows not what he is and the sage knows it.
I am reminded of Socrates. In his very last moments of life he said to his disciples, “When I was young I used to think I knew much. As I became older, as I knew more, a strange thing started happening: an awareness that knowing more was bringing me to knowing less.”
And finally, when the Oracle of Delphi declared Socrates to be the wisest man in the world…the people of Athens were very happy and they went to Socrates, but Socrates said, “Go back and tell the Oracle that at least for once its prophecy has been wrong. Socrates knows nothing.”
The people were shocked. They went to the Oracle…but the Oracle laughed and said, “That’s why I have declared him the wisest man in the world! It is only the ignorant people who think they know.” The more you know, the more you become innocent.
According to the Socratic division, there are two categories of people: the ignorant knowers and the knowing ignorants. The world is dominated by the second category. These are your priests, your professors; these are your leaders, these are your saints, these are your religious messiahs, saviors, prophets, all proclaiming that they know. But their very proclamation destroys the utter simplicity and innocence of a child.
Bodhidharma remained in China for fourteen years. He was sent by his master to spread the message of meditation. After fourteen years, he wanted to come back to the Himalayas; he was old and was ready to disappear into the eternal snows. He had thousands of disciples – he was one of the rarest people who have existed on the earth – but he called only four disciples and he said, “I will ask only one question: what is the essence of my teaching? Whoever gives me the right answer will be my successor.”
There was great silence, tremendous expectation. Everybody looked at the first disciple, who was the most learned, most scholarly. The first disciple said, “Going beyond the mind is what all your teaching can be reduced to.”
Bodhidharma said, “You have my skin, but not more than that.”