There's nothing to understand
by Carlos Castaneda
After a pause don Juan told me to get up because we were going to the water canyon. As we were getting into my car don Genaro came out from behind the house and joined us. I drove part of the way and then we walked into a deep ravine. Don Juan picked a place to rest in the shade of a large tree.
"You mentioned once," don Juan began, "that a friend of yours had said, when the two of you saw a leaf falling from the very top of a sycamore, that that same leaf will not fall again from that same sycamore ever in a whole eternity, remember?"
I remembered having told him about that incident.
"We are at the foot of a large tree," he continued, "and now if we look at that other tree in front of us we may see a leaf falling from the very top."
He signaled me to look. There was a large tree on the other side of the gully; its leaves were yellowish and dry. He urged me with a movement of his head to keep on looking at the tree. After a few minutes wait, a leaf cracked loose from the top and began falling to the ground; it hit other leaves and branches three times before it landed in the tall underbrush.
"Did you see it?"
"You would say that the same leaf will never again fall from that same tree, true?"
"To the best of your understanding that is true. But that is only to the best of your understanding. Look again."
I automatically looked and saw a leaf falling. It actually hit the same leaves and branches as the previous one. It was as if I were looking at an instant television replay. I followed the wavy falling of the leaf until it landed on the ground. I stood up to find out if there were two leaves, but the tall underbrush around the tree prevented me from seeing where the leaf had actually landed.
Don Juan laughed and told me to sit down.
"Look," he said, pointing with his head to the top of the tree. "There goes the same leaf again." I once more saw a leaf falling in exactly the same pattern as the previous two.
When it had landed I knew don Juan was about to signal me again to look at the top of the tree, but before he did I looked up. The leaf was again falling. I realized then that I had only seen the first leaf cracking loose, or, rather, the first time the leaf fell I saw it from the instant it became detached from the branch; the other three times the leaf was already falling when I lifted my head to look.
I told that to don Juan and I urged him to explain what he was doing.
"I don't understand how you're making me see a repetition of what I had seen before. What did you do to me, don Juan?"
He laughed but did not answer and I insisted that he should tell me how I could see that leaf falling over and over. I said that according to my reason that was impossible.
Don Juan said that his reason told him the same, yet I had witnessed the leaf falling over and over. He then turned to don Genaro.
"Isn't that so?" he asked. Don Genaro did not answer. His eyes were fixed on me.
"It is impossible!" I said. "You're chained!" don Juan exclaimed. "You're chained to your reason."
He explained that the leaf had fallen over and over from that same tree so I would stop trying to understand. In a confidential tone he told me that I had the whole thing pat and yet my mania always blinded me at the end.
"There's nothing to understand. Understanding is only a very small affair, so very small," he said.
excerpt from the book: A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda
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