In ancient times writers did not use many words.
If we look at the old Indian and Chinese scriptures, we will see that the wise men back then passed on their wisdom in short sentences called sutras in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India).
Also old Chinese books of wisdom passed their messages in brief sentences, as does the most famous of all, the Tao Book, (which teaches about the inner balance between the yin and the yan).
If we look at all the original scriptures of the Buddha, they were also condensed into short chapters called sutas, the same word for sutra in Pali, the language the Buddha spoke.
Those wise men did this because they believed in simplicity, and made the brevity of the message into a real art. They became perfect at passing on messages full of wisdom and good advice with as few words as possible. But why? You may wonder.
All those sages based their words on the feeling that an important message is better delivered in short and strong words rather than with a sea of interpretations and explanations. They believed that the human being has the ability to intuitively understand the heart of a message and therefore they always checked themselves from falling into the ‘’trap of using [too many] words’’ (quotation from The Way of the Tao, translated by Nissim Ammon).
I feel that in our generation we’ve lost something of this pure and beautiful simplicity.
In our times everything we say or teach requires extensive explanations. On one hand this scholarship is undeniably important. Surely it’s important to become knowledgeable about a subject when we study it.
At the same time though, I feel that on the other hand we often fall into the trap of having a lot of intellectual knowledge while we forget to experience for ourselves what is written.
Using an example I’ve heard many times, it’s like looking at the finger pointing to the moon, focusing on the finger rather than on where it points.
For instance, when the Chinese sage Lao Tzu wrote that the wise man is flexible like the water, he meant to make us feel that true wisdom is sometimes to live consciously even during uncomfortable times and thus developing in us the characteristics of the water. Like water, the wise man has incredible strength to withstand obstacles along his way. Additionally he has the lightness and the humility to quietly flow past them (without taking anything personally and always remembering ‘’This too will pass’’).
That comparison with the water is meant to give us a clue which we can reflect and meditate on in order to understand what it means uniquely for us to be like water.
Unfortunately though, it can be very easy to fall into the mistake of reading what Lao Tzu said and staying on the surface of its message. Maybe arguing with its meaning or bringing quotes of other scholars and so on, and eventually missing the intention for which the sentence was given in the first place. In other words, focusing on the wrong thing, like in the example of the finger pointing to the moon.
This happens because in the business of our modern times we have lost the habit of stopping for a moment and feeling. We no longer listen to what the written text awakens in us, which feelings, what understandings about ourselves? So, we forget that the sentence was written as a guide to look inside and was not meant to become an intellectual debate. Words alone remain empty when we don’t create the space to feel them. But if we read calmly and give space to the words, they can become alive in our hearts.
In this respect I feel that children are much more open than us grown ups.
Young ones are full of curiosity and in many ways their experience is stronger. That is because everything is still new for them and their minds are much less conditioned by preconceived ideas. Every sentence you read to them, every picture they watch, and every view that they see, for them is new and fresh, and because of that they experience it in its full power. Here I believe we can learn a lot from them, such as to let go of all the conditioning we have accumulated about every given subject in our life, and allowing ourselves to see what the experience awakens in us this time, leaving on the side anything we’ve heard or studied before.
This connection to the present moment that is so natural for kids to experience, is a subject that now a lot of adults are trying to study.
For families interested in reading a different illustrated audiobook of ours for their kids every month, we are now offering a no-commitment monthly subscription. Besides being able to watch & read our inspiring illustrated audiobook with music, your child will also receive a monthly mindful gift, and you’ll get an article on a relevant topic as well.
This is what is taught in every school of meditation and mindfulness of every kind, and the spiritual teacher Eckhar Tolle has even made this connection to the present moment the core of his teachings. He shows us that true connection to the present moment can relieve emotional (and even physical) suffering and bring a very profound experience of life.
In other words, when the child sees an apple, she doesn’t see that same fruit she’s seen in the grocery store so many times. For her that apple is alive, full of healing vitality, unique and its taste is flavorful and different every time.
By bringing our mind to the present moment and freeing it from conditioned automatic thinking, we can all go back to experience the freshness of the state of being a child experiences in front of the apple, as in the example above. It’s a state we feel we’ve forgotten though it can be recalled (but that is a subject for another article).
I’ve always felt that children books are a little bit like the sutras full of wisdom from the past. Of course, the more I grew up, the more I enjoyed studying longer and more sophisticated books which were challenging and developed my knowledge. Though something in me has always missed the simplicity and the straightforwardness that exists in good literature for children.
I felt that in many cases children books somehow trusted my ability to understand by myself, without trying to feed me too many explanations.
This space giving straighforwardness, that has in it a combination of innocence and wisdom, has always reminded me of the way the wise men taught in the sutras I studied much later in my life.
Our books in Inspiring Reads for Kids are, for me, like small sutras for children, stories that are conveying simple truths and messages in an experiential way. The wish behind them is to help children grow up feeling good about themselves, with others and with their surroundings, by combining pictures and music with, of course, words… but not too many.
Thank you for stopping by, in Joy and Consciousness,
Ori and the team