Rules for a Knight
Author: Ethan Hawke (yes, the actor)
Last Read: September 2016
Quick Summary: Rules for a Knight is a short book is a collection of "knightly wisdom" told in short stories. The overall book is framed as a letter from a knight to his children, sent on the eve of a battle from which he expects not to return. The book is full of lessons from the Buddhist cannon - if you are familiar with other philosophical works, the stories will likely be very familiar to you.
When I re-read the passages I have highlighted, I realize that Rules for a Knight repeatedly speaks to the very things I am seeking. There is much wisdom contained in these pages - it is a shame to realize I have blown through this book and have not spent time to reflect upon it. How many other lessons have been ignored?
Pay attention: what you need to know is usually in front of you. There are no secrets, just things people choose not to notice.
For this I am most sad, but none of you children yet know me as anything but the tall person who scolds or encourages you, or as a voice talking to your mother as you fall asleep. I have worked too hard in the last ten years and traveled too much, and now it seems I may miss your childhoods entirely. This comes as a blow. I have been looking forward to your growing up and hoped that we could, over time, know one another in a more meaningful way. --loc 100
My grandfather set down two blue cups and poured some tea into the first, but he did not stop when the cup was full. He kept pouring and pouring until the hot tea spilled all over the table and splattered onto the floor.
“What are you doing?” I shouted, jumping up, hot tea scalding my legs.
“You are like that cup spilling over,” said my grandfather. “You cannot retain anything. There is too much going on and you are splashing everywhere, burning what you touch.”
Answers to your questions will come, but if you are not still and empty, you will never be able to retain anything. --loc 132
But the first thing you must understand is that you need not have gone anywhere. You are always in the right place at exactly the right time, and you always have been.” --loc 138
CREATE time alone with yourself. When seeking the wisdom and clarity of your own mind, silence is a helpful tool. The voice of our spirit is gentle and cannot be heard when it has to compete with others. Just as it is impossible to see your reflection in troubled water, so too is it with the soul. In silence, we can sense eternity sleeping inside us. --loc 151
Humility is the ability to see yourself in the context of a much larger world. --loc 184
The stars are magnificent. They are always there whether you see them or not. --loc 185
Aspire to be like the soil after the March rains, wet, open, and receptive. --loc 185
“When people speak, listen.” This was a point he would consistently stress. “As much as you like to be heard and understood, so does everyone else.” --loc 188
THE only intelligent response to the ongoing gift of life is gratitude. For all that has been, a knight says, “Thank you.” For all that is to come, a knight says, “Yes!” --loc 229
The quiet of each morning, the tangible bond of friendship, a snowball fight, warm water on your skin, laughing until your stomach hurts, a job well done, a shooting star that you witness alone; the simple joys are the great ones. Pleasure is not complicated. --loc 243
Constant awareness of even the smallest detail trains your mind to be observant and conscientious. --loc 264
Responsibility, awareness, and self-knowledge are his allies. Forgetfulness is his enemy. His mind is not in the future. He is fully engaged in what he is doing. --loc 265
I learned that evening that rain falls equally on all things. Jealousy, fear, and anger are obstacles to a knight’s first goal: a clear mind. Through his practice a knight should cultivate an open, unclouded mind, so that his instincts will guide him and he is free to act spontaneously. Understanding that our “talents” are simply gifts we have received brings humility to our actions. It also allows us to appreciate the “talents” we see in others as expressions from the same universal source. There are only two possible outcomes whenever you compare yourself to another, vanity or bitterness, and both are without value. --loc 310
THE quality of your life will, to a large extent, be decided by with whom you elect to spend your time. --loc 330
The skeptic shouted out, mocking the knight for believing that his ancient whispers and primitive style of healing could have any power. In front of all the townspeople, Sir Richard answered, “You are an ignorant fool.” The skeptic’s derision became angry. His face reddened, and his hands began to shake with humiliation and rage. Before the skeptic could gather himself to shout back or raise his fist in violence, Sir Richard spoke again. “When a few words have the power to make you so angry, why would others not have the power to heal?” --loc 342
Remember, a friend does not need you to impress him. A friend loves you because you are true to yourself, not because you agree with him. Beware of grand gestures; the real mettle of friendship is forged in life’s daily workings. --loc 350
A DISHONEST tongue and a dishonest mind waste time, and therefore waste our lives. We are here to grow, and the truth is the water, the light, and the soil from which we rise. The armor of falsehood is subtly wrought out of the darkness and hides us not only from others but from our own soul. --loc 389
Don’t fear suffering. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. The facts are always friendly. Without a little agony, none of us would bother to learn a thing. The earth has to be tilled before the seeds can be planted. In much the same way, sometimes we have to be stirred and ripped apart so that the seeds of compassion, wisdom, and understanding can be firmly planted in us. --loc 407
Pay attention: what you need to know is usually in front of you. There are no secrets, just things people choose not to notice. --loc 427
Later he told me when he was younger he learned the secret to performing under pressure: don’t do it for yourself. Do it for someone else. “I know your grandfather always tells us to think of nothing. But when I get scared I just think of someone I love.” --loc 460
GRACE is the ability to accept change. Be open and supple; the brittle break. --loc 482
Young people, women and men, often use the possession of beauty or wealth as permission to be uninteresting, undisciplined, and ill-informed. If they are fortunate enough to reach the age of twenty-eight or so, they become like coddled coyotes. Cute when little, but, upon adulthood, nasty, fearful, and living off the scraps of others. --loc 497
All of us are asked to surrender the superficial beauty of youth and step towards something greater. We are being made ready for the spirit world. Each wrinkle is a crack in the shell of our conceit. Our conceit must be pulverized for the soul to fly. --loc 511
YOU were born owning nothing and with nothing you will pass out of this life. Be frugal and you can be generous. --loc 586
There have always been two ways to be rich: by accumulating vast sums or by needing very little. --loc 591
Often we imagine that we will work hard until we arrive at some distant goal, and then we will be happy. This is a delusion. Happiness is the result of a life lived with purpose. Happiness is not an objective. It is the movement of life itself, a process, and an activity. It arises from curiosity and discovery. Seek pleasure and you will quickly discover the shortest path to suffering. Other people, friends, brothers, sisters, neighbors, spouses, even your mother and I are not responsible for your happiness. Your life is your responsibility, and you always have the choice to do your best. Doing your best will bring happiness. Do not be overconcerned with avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. If you are concentrating on the results of your actions, you are not dedicated to your task. --loc 645
Be resolute in your beliefs, my children. Your friendship cannot be bought. --loc 673
Be cautious when anyone, even family, has too extreme an expectation from your behavior. Under the guise of love or loyalty, people can use guilt or fear to manipulate. A healthy conscience should be used like an internal compass: it is yours, not an instrument for others to play. --loc 673
A knight does not whine. He concerns himself with affecting change, not burdening the world with his grievances. --loc 716
In courtship, honesty is the first requisite. To achieve honesty, a knight must first be intimate with his own soul. This is difficult and takes time. Just as we all have secret thoughts and concerns inside ourselves, which we would share only with a person we value, respect, and trust, so too is it with the body. There are secret places that we need not share, which need not to be shared. --loc 866
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