The text, the holy text, on which our teacher based much of his instruction is called a Bhagavad Gita. Now one of the verses of chapter two says, in rough translation, ‘when you begin to pass beyond the tangle of illusions you will get adverse to, our teacher said sometimes you will get sick of all you have been told and all that they are going to tell you, the tangle of words, and then you will turn away from words and you will bring your mind within and then you will bring it to a stationary unmoving concentration called samadhi’. This is in Chapter II verse 52 and two verses later the disciple Arjuna asked ‘what is this man like who has brought his mind to steadiness and who is practising samadhi?’ That last phrase often gets left out, they often say ‘what is this man like the man who has brought his mind to steadiness?’ and they don’t say he is practising samadhi? Then the words form a tangle because they form a chain of associations, just as we can’t do a simple action. In Zen they say ‘yes, it is to eat when you are hungry and rest when you are tired,’ but people don’t just eat when they are hungry, they eat and they are boiling with thoughts of revenge, or jealousy, or spite, or inertia, or resentment, or what they are going to do, or where they have come from, or where they are going to, and they don’t just lie down to sleep and when they do get to sleep after all those thoughts they start dreaming about where they have come from, where they are going to, what they should have said and all those things. So the thing is to cut down the thoughts and cut down the words. Our teacher said ‘I beg you to use as few words as possible.’
For instance words form a tangle, we are given a single sentence – practise contentment with things as they are. But that gets tangled up and that is read, don’t try and change anything be content with things as they are, but that is not what is said. If you are building a little wall you lay three rows of bricks in the evening and then you are tired, now you have laid the three rows of bricks and you are content with that you have done it well, but it does not mean you are not going to lay some more bricks. To be content it doesn’t mean to leave things as they are, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go on to something else, and in this way words form a tangle and they attract other words and other feelings, and then one can get drunk on words people can say in the morning ‘all efforts at yoga are simply assertions of egoism.
It stands to reason we are in illusion we are given instructions on yoga but because we are in illusion we are ruled by egoism so we shall perform the instructions on yoga in a spirit of egoism so we shall be strengthening egoism the very thing that yoga is meant to uproot, so it is a great mistake to do any practise of yoga at all, we should leave everything to the great cosmic spirit,’ and the example sometimes given is like little kittens which make no effort they just hang from the mouth of the mother as she lifts them to the more desirable place, but people are drunk on words and quite soon when they finish saying that they start making breakfast and somebody says to them ‘surely you are not going to make breakfast would that not mean an assertion of egoism, that would be your individuality would it not? Should you not be waiting for the cosmic power to feed you?’ Well the people who have been drunk on words sober up very quickly and they say ‘you have got to be a bit practical you know.’
Words can have power. In a book just out there is an account of an operation for extracting a wisdom tooth, well one of the effects is it is extremely painful. After the operation there is a big swelling and as a result of that quite often it is impossible to close the mouth by the reaction. Now they have been experimenting the various ways of trying to reduce these consequences, one of them was to use ultra sound produced by machine, well they tried in various ways but just to read the conclusion of one experiment he gives:
Next they tested whether the massage was having the effect and trained the patients to massage themselves in the way the doctor moved the machine. This self administered massage had no effect up to this point they had shown a typical placebo effect in which a doctor in a white coat massaging the face with an impressive machine had a marked effect irrespective of whether the machine was turned on or not. Furthermore there was no effect if the patient applied the machine. The pain was reduced by doctor applied treatment. They went further and the swelling of the face was markedly reduced and the ability to open the mouth was improved. This placebo effect was the same as that of a substantial dose of anti inflammatory steroid. The reason for choosing this example for many is that the effect was not only on the pain, which unthinking duellists would say is only mental, but also on the swelling and on the muscle spasm, evidently this placebo response required a doctor in a white coat with an impressive machine and this combination improved not only the patient’s subjective rapport but two objective signs of inflammation that are usually assigned to mechanical body processes.
One of the things he says there is with all an……. the expectation of the patient is a big factor in the final effect and he also says that when the attention is drawn to the pain by a negative suggestion this is terrible, it makes the pain worse and he says all these painful situations are either made better or worse by the way our mind attends to them and the best remedy for them is distraction of the mind.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Beyond the tangle of words