The Pole Star Within was the title chosen for a group of lectures by a fellow disciple of our teacher and the implication is, which he developed in the lectures, an unfailing direction which we can know, by which we can guide our life and our experience in this world and our spiritual experience.
The Pole Star is in the north, the sun rises in a different place every day. We can direct ourselves by the locality known to us but if we travel abroad, we don’t know the locality. The fixed direction is a Pole Star in the north. We say, “North, south, east, west.” North is the important direction.
A Chinese is amazed to hear that, “North? There’s nothing north but a lot of snow and ice.” The Chinese would say, “East, west, south, north”, north comes at the end. Why do you British people get fascinated by the north? The Japanese says, “Ah, because they travelled in ships round the world, they were Vikings. They had no local features to guide them, they had to go by the north star.”
The crest of Drake shows a star, then the waves, then the star reflected in the water. You think, “Oh, it’s the sort of thing the Japanese know and that none of us know.” He said, “You travelled round the world, you were searching and plundering and robbing. The British Museum is the biggest robber’s cave in history.”
“I admit,” he says, “You preserved and catalogued the things nicely, but you stole them, but you needed a fixed direction, the Pole Star.” The Pole Star you can only take at night, in the day it vanishes and the Pole Star has to be free of clouds. There is a more interior Pole Star which is what we now call the compass. That little needle points to the north. The Chinese say it points to the south, nothing in the north, south is the interesting direction.
Anyway, it points in that fixed direction. There are two conditions, it mustn’t be shaken and it must be protected from masses of metal nearby which will deflect it. Well now Pole Star Within, the Yogis tell us that we can find something within which will give us a fixed direction but that must be protected from being shaken.
The mind must be calm before it can be known and it must be protected like the compass from the masses of metal nearby. This must be protected from masses of passions and illusions and the process is called living a life of yoga and practicing meditation. Reducing the passions and illusions and making the life steady.
Then there is an inner Pole Star, an inner compass, so to say, an inner direction that becomes available. Now these are the words of our teacher’s teacher Shri Dada where on page 49 of the book called ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’: “Every man must be able to go into mental and nervous relaxation and concentrate his mind on a symbol of God, whether a word, a concepet or an image.
It is this prolonged silence of the soul that brings before him the patterns of what he is to create, [the architypes of] his contribution to the inner and outer world.” This is a process of meditation. To be able to go into voluntary mental and nervous relaxation, not involuntary, but controlled, and then to concentrate on a symbol of God. This will bring before him the inner lines of the world process as overseen by God.
We go by the outer line, we go by external indications, but this will tell us the inner lines. All the virtues will be useless, even disadvantageous, if our direction is taken from the external. Our teacher knew, at the beginning of this century in Japan, a terrorist. His programme was to bring about changes in one of the countries of the East by assassination.
Our teacher asked him one day – he met him by chance, and he asked him, “How did you come to be so interested in this? You have given tremendous loyalty to it, you have risked your life for it and you have no ambitions, no personal ambitions, at all.” The man told him, “I was walking in Tokyo, one afternoon, nothing particular to do, and I saw that a lecture was advertised at a hall. So, I went in and I was the only person in the audience. The lecture was about to begin.
“Then a Japanese came forward, rather poorly dressed, and apologised and said, “Unfortunately the interpreter is ill, so, the lecture will be in English.” A man from this country came and delivered an impassioned speech with as much intensity as if he had been speaking to thousands, to this one man.”
At the end of the lecture, the speaker came up to the Japanese and said something to him in English. The Japanese, he went away. He said, “I was so impressed by the sincerity and devotion of that man, addressing an audience of one person, I decided to find out what it was he was speaking about and give my life to it”, which he did with tremendous enthusiasm and loyalty and self-sacrifice.
The net result was disastrous for the particular country. The programme was partially successful and it led to the deaths of many, many, thousands of people. This was taking a direction from something external. He had been enormously impressed by that speaker, then it was followed out with all the virtues, but the net result was disastrous.
In the 13th century a great Zen teacher in Japan was visited by a mountain ascetic who said to him, “I’ve spent 20 years studying the secret arts of the Chinese mountain aesthetics and after 20 years now I can read the hearts of others. What can you do?” So, the Zen master said, “I have spent 20 years here, studying the secret arts of Zen which came from India and I can read my own heart.”
We think we know our own heart but we don’t. People who are against tyranny, if you ask them and say, “If you, yourself, got power, what would you do? Would you be a tyrant?” They say, “No, I’m against tyranny.” They were all against tyranny. If you read their early speeches, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Chairman Mao, Kim Il-Sung, they were all against tyranny but when power came, they didn’t know their own hearts.
The Lotus Sutra says ‘The cow drinks the water and turns it into milk. The snake drinks the same water and turns it into poison.’ While we keep our identity, our limited identities, then we shall convert all the external indications simply into extensions of ourselves. The purpose of devotion and meditation is to change that snake-hood, so to say, in which we have imprisoned ourselves and to go beyond it into the light which we really are.
© Trevor Leggett
(Continued in ‘Holy texts give us general principles’)
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: A Pole Star Within
Part 3: The riddle of the Self