“Butter heated in a pan makes a sizzling sound until the water is gone. Then, as clarified butter, it is silent. Put a rice cake on it and it again sizzles. Like this, a man gets realized, becomes silent, then returns to the world to teach.”
When seekers after enlightenment look out upon the many gurus offering to teach spiritual lessons, they are bound to behold a vast difference in them. Some speak loud and long while actually saying little. Some are sparing in what they say, which is nevertheless quite implicit. Others exude an aura of peace accompanied by a rush of teachings and a sparsity of words in turns. Some, again, are silent, either due to a tacit fullness of wisdom or possibly even a lack of knowledge. This is due to the varying levels of manifestation in human beings.
But in this teaching the Great Master is describing the fully enlightened preceptor, like Himself. In the initial phase of seeking there must be analysis, a search for meaning, and arrival at a definite conclusion. After realization begins to dawn, peace descends upon the mind and there is little to say and nothing to explain. All is then perfectly clear. Attracted by such a condition, sincere seekers approach the guru who attempts to put into words the profound truths gleaned from years of sadhana. Spiritual discourse is the result — wisdom transmission.
After the sadhana phase is accomplished, the teacher must discover the art of expressing Truth for the benefit of sincere aspirants. Disquisition, elocution, explication, exposition, and extrapolation are the five elements in this artform. Disquisition is the open way of formal discourse. A certain cogency and majesty which does not occur in informal talks accompanies this part of the transmission. Elocution is next, which is the ability to communicate directly with the listener’s mind so that the issuance of wisdom may have its full effect in the heart. Explication is a thorough presentation of all the details and minutia of any given topic in order that the student have a firm ground for understanding what is to come. Exposition then renders what has been explained in a cogent and comprehensible fashion which clears up any doubts or misunderstandings that may duly arise. Extrapolation, a subtle and superlative refinement to the art of speaking Truth, follows, for many finer aspects of the subject get revealed. This is the realm of transmission from heart to heart, soul to soul. Victory over the ills of relativity is thereby gained by the aspirant who thus wins the goal. Ignorance, in all its forms, is the loser.
The “butter heated in a pan” represents knowledge to be known. The “sizzling sound” is the effort at realizing this knowledge, while the “water” that evaporates symbolizes the disappearance of ignorance. The “clarified butter that is silent” indicates personal realization from which no explanation is needed or forthcoming. The “rice cake” placed on the clarified butter describes the mind of the student which causes the guru to “sizzle” once again with sagacious good-will and heartfelt concern. It is out of compassion, then, that a silent sage returns to the arena of verbal tutelage, though the stillness within remains undisturbed.