Hasten Slowly

A young man once came to a venerable master and asked, ‘How long will it take to reach enlightenment?’ The master said, ‘Ten years.’ The young man blurted out, ‘So long!’ The master said, ‘No, I was mistaken. It will take you twenty years.’ The young man asked, ‘Why do you keep adding to it!’ The master answered, ‘Come to think of it, in your case it will probably be 30 years.’ (Philip Kapleau, Readers Digest, 1983)

A goal can be achieved in the course of ten years, but you want to attain it in just ten days. This means that you want to reach your destination in leaps and bounds. But there is an old saying: “The more hurry, the less speed.”

A traveller who wants to dash straight as an arrow, without allowing time for twists and turns, will collide with many obstacles in his headlong flight. Far from reaching his destination faster, he will surely come to grief and fall by the wayside. He shall then have to retrace his steps to the starting point, heal his wounds and only then set forth again. All of this will take time, precious time—time which should have been spent on the onward journey. Had he proceeded in a normal, unhurried way, he would have reached his destination all in good time.

Just as it is wrong to delay, it is equally wrong to be in too much of a hurry. All work can be completed in due course. To delay work is idle and irresponsible, but to do it with unseemly and unwarrantable haste is a sign of crass impatience. In the world of God, where each event has its allotted time, both extremes are doomed to failure.