The Power of Formlessness
There is a
story in many forms, in different cultures and traditions. It is a very old one
Then the God of the wind goes and the same happens. ‘Who are you, what is your power?’ ‘Wind. I can move anything with my energy, its impetus.’ ‘Move that straw.’ He finds he cannot move it.
So the story continues. One after one, Indra sends his messengers, all these great irresistible powers which serve him, yet they can do absolutely nothing. Finally he goes himself – the interview which follows does not matter, but the point of the story is that even our most powerful instruments and agents will fail before that which is formless. They can affect anything that has form, but before the formless and what is blessed by the formless, they are completely helpless.
Such traditional myths and stories are universal and have very practical applications. We have the same also in the Christian tradition. What is formless? In Exodus, I think it is 22, they went up the mountain and saw the God of Israel – his body, as it were, the clearness of Heaven – clearness of space. Well, that part is generally hastily passed over, but it is perhaps a little hint that the same experience and teaching is there.
(The trustees of the Trevor Leggett Adhyatma Yoga Trust gratefully acknowledge the permission of The Zen Centre in London to reproduce this article which appeared in their magazine Zen Traces, Volume 12 number 4, September 1990.)