Trevor Leggett’s last talk – Scattering the Pearls 9 June 2000

A string of jewels, a string of pearls, is an image used in the Gita. The fact is that if pearls individually and scattered all over the place in dusty corners, have no beauty.    They are of no ornamental value, and of little other value.  But when they are brought together in a string they make a most beautiful necklace. They can be strung together in various ways.  If you see black pearls they are very valuable especially the big ones, but they look horrible. They look like ordinary pearls rinsed in ink, but they are very valuable.  Sometimes the necklace has a big black pearl and two or three ordinary pearls and another black pearl, sometimes all the black pearls are put together and are arranged in gradation of size.  There are many such ways of arranging them on a string to make a necklace. In the same way, …

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A Summer School talk by Trevor Leggett 7 August 1985

The judo teacher. He says, “You may get technical excellence, but it will be of no use to you as a training for life” . When we move from judo to life we have to be able to extend this. In a judo club it’s very important for all the members to take part. Not to have the accounts done by a chartered accountant who is a member, so that he takes over and does them marvellously and the ordinary members don’t do anything. No. The ordinary members too must take part in that, under his supervision, but they must take part in that. And you’ll get somebody who’s more or less fearless. For when it comes to accounts he says, “Oh I’ve never done that. Oh no I don’t think I could do that ! ” You say, “Come on, where’s that fighting spirit you’re always talking about?” Oh …

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The Transformation of Karma Yoga   Chapter II, verse 39 of the Gita says: “After the instruction on the Supreme Self, this which has been taught to thee is wisdom concerning Samkhya.  Now listen to wisdom concerning Yoga, which possessing, thou wilt cast off the bond of action.”  This is the first time Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita and Shankara, as a commentator, the first time a term is mentioned he gives a definition of it – and the readers are expected to remember the definition afterwards.  His definition is that it consists of three elements:  the endurance of the opposites – the examples given are heat and cold, pleasure and pain – patient endurance of the opposites.  The second one is undertaking actions for the sake of worshipping God, and the third one is Samadhi Yoga.  These three elements constitute his first definition of Karma Yoga, which the students are expected …

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The Gentleman does not swagger

As a small boy of five years, I was sometimes taken by my mother along with her to a nearby grocer’s shop. While she was buying the things, I looked at the jars and tins in which the grocers then kept their goods: tea, sugar and so on. I could read, and I noticed that everything in the shop was very good. Finest Demerara Sugar, Choice Darjeeling Tea, Selected Brazilian Coffee Beans., and so on. I did not know what Demerara or Darjeeling was, but I wondered what happened to the sugar and tea which was not so fine, or to the beans which were not selected. I had seen in one of my father’s books a picture of the Greek Judge of the Dead; his name was Rhadamanthus, and he has a face like an iron mask, stern and unrelenting. (Many years later in Japan, when I saw a painting …

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Trevor Leggett: My spiritual friend

Trevor Leggett: My spiritual friend  Wherever I am my heart is my refuge; In the real of existence my heart is king When I despair of reason’s mischief. God knows I am grateful to my heart. -Ustad Khalilullah Khalili- I first met Trevor at Shanti Sadan, the meditation centre set up by his guru, Dr. Shastri, in Notting Hill Gate. Our initial connection was through judo and our shared conviction that judo was somehow more than just a sport. Trevor had articulated this idea in his talks and his books, particularly Zen And the Ways and the Spirit of Budo. I had assumed that Trevor’s interest in Zen and meditation practice had developed as a consequence of his interest in judo as ‘shugyo’, a Japanese term to denote a character building activity, and his judo practice his. In some ways, I placed him in the sort of category of wise …

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Shankara on the Yoga Sutras for Yoga Practise

Here is Trevor leggett’s original specification using links (1) Read the Introduction for the General Reader: at this stage pass over the Technical Introduction. Then read the following passages of the sūtra and commentaries from part 1 only:- (2) 1.02– 1.06 then jump to 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 back (3) 1.12 – 1.22 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 back (4) 1.23 – 26, God. Sūtra-s only – pass over the elaborate proofs. Take it as a working hypothesis to be confirmed by experiment. 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 back (5) 1.27 -32 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 back (6) 1.33 – 40 1.33 1.34 1.35 1.36 1.37 1.38 1.39 1.40 back (7) 1.41 – 49. Note the conditions for inspiration given in 1.43 and 1.47. Not all Samādhi-s are Truth-bearing. 1.41 1.42 1.43 1.44 1.45 1.46 1.47 1.48 1.49 back (8) 1.50 and …

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Michael O’Neill remembers Trevor Leggett

An unscripted Dharma Talk – given by Michael O’Neill in January 2017 I’m going to tell a little story that I read in a book from Trevor Leggett called The Old Zen Master.             Just by way of introduction, this really began before Christmas 2016. As we were leaving the Buddhist Society, we met the people from the Trevor Leggett group. They were a very serious group of people, about half a dozen mostly elderly gentlemen who obviously sat with Trevor Leggett back in the day. .             I actually had come across Trevor Leggett already, as most of us have done over the years. I came across him very early on and his was probably the first or second book about Buddhism that I ever read. He also wrote books about judo and he was a very accomplished judoka. So many many years ago I had read Zen and …

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Afternoons spent with Trevor Leggett

Memories and thoughts about afternoons spent with Trevor Leggett in my student days: Carrying water and chopping wood or rather making tea and cheese sandwiches.  “Look on this time of friendship as a lucky windfall, for after this time has passed, the wheel of heaven will make many a turn and bring another day and another night.”- Hafez  It was a spring afternoon and I had finished my lectures for the day. It was a short walk from SOAS to Tottenham Court Road tube station and then a 15-minute ride to Notting Hill Gate. I have always had an excess of energy and usually ran up the stairs at underground stations rather than using the escalator or the lifts. Today was no different. I bounded up the stairs and out into the street.  I walked into the fishmonger and picked up Trevor’s order of smoked salmon. He ordered it every …

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My friendship with Trevor Leggett

I first had the good fortune to meet Trevor in the early 1970’s when, with my wife-to-be, we made weekly trips from Kent to London to attend talks given by speakers from Shanti Sadan at the Friends’ Meeting House in Hampstead.  A different speaker was chosen for each talk throughout the six week termly series and as – unsurprisingly, since most members of Shanti Sadan had no prior experience of public speaking – the quality varied greatly, it was always with delight that we saw Trevor taking the chair. And anyone who has listened to the recordings of Trevor speaking on this website will readily appreciate just how much his audiences enjoyed his talks. At that time Trevor was in his fifties with a personality and presence that inspired both awe and attraction.  In our early years as members of Shanti Sadan, although he was always approachable, we spent little …

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Om for realization of the Self

Practice The practice is to be done first of all in a meditation posture, preferably on a cushion or folded blanket on the floor, with one foot up on the opposite thigh and the other foot underneath, forming a triangle on which the body can be supported for a long time. Failing this, the practitioner may sit on a chair, but without supporting himself on the back of it. The general posture of the back is something like that of a horseman looking into the distance. The spine is balanced, which means fairly straight, and the weight of shoulders and head should be felt to rest on the loins. Hands are locked together in some way, and eyes half shut or, if there is no tendency to sleep, fully closed. Westerners should cultivate where possible a seated position on the floor; it does not have associations of sleep for them …

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Meditations on four feelings

13 The Four Feelings The meditations on four feelings which are to be intensified through meditation are called bhavana: they are friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the suffering, goodwill towards virtue, and overlooking sin. Shankara in his commentary explains that these are meditations which must actualize themselves. Until the reactions in ordinary life have begun to modify themselves along the lines of the meditations, the cultivation of intensity has only begun. Friendliness – maitri, a great word in Buddhism – is explained as a general gladness at the good fortune and happiness of another. The Mahatma Balarama Udasin, whom Dr Shastri knew and held in great regard, remarks that this friendliness must not be partisanship, what the world calls friendship. It has to be something like the friendliness of the Lord towards all beings – not taking the side of one against another. Shankara in his Gita commentary (to …

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Trevor Leggett’s Notes and Observations series 1

Miracles In Shaw’s St. Joan, the miracles were no use to the main leaders, who took advantage of them and then explained them away as luck.  They themselves did not change. The powers of grown-ups are miraculous to the child; but they are not granted as the child’s demands. He wonders why not. As he grows up, he can perform more and more of them himself, but also gets to know their limitations.  If they do not conduce to inner growth they are of little use.  To do the child’s homework for him produces a miraculous result, but it has no lasting value; in fact in the slightly longer run it holds up his development. For vairagya The attractions of the world are like stage characters – a creation of lights and make-up and stage props (e.g. money, power etc.), on top of the real character of the performer.  To fall …

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Trevor Pryce Leggett

Trevor Pryce Leggett was a multi-talented man who excelled in whatever he seriously set his mind upon. His major interests were Adhyatma Yoga, a well-trodden classical path to the realization of the infinite and all-pervasive Supreme Self, and its non-dualist philosophical basis, Advaita Vedanta; Zen Buddhism; Judo and Japanese culture. His creative genius gave rise to the production of scholarly and instructive works, Yoga and Zen teaching stories, practical manuals, Sanskrit and Japanese translations and transcriptions as well as his broadcasts to Japan, in his professional capacity as head of the BBC’s Japanese service. Among the set of brilliant talents that  constituted his personality, two qualities in particular enabled Trevor Leggett to succeed in making a profound contribution, not only in terms of his life’s productive output, but upon the lives of others. His intelligence determined the effort, training and discipline necessary in a given field, born of the ability …

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Naming and understanding

There is a mediaeval Japanese story about learning which is quite revealing. A man turns up at a mediaeval court, supposed to be about 13th century, and it is noteworthy that the local lords are, in the cheerful, democratic, traditional Japanese way, often presented as  fools. Anyway, the local lord is there and the man turns up at his court and asks for a job of employment. The local lord says, ‘What can you do?’ The man replies, ‘I know the unusual things that other people don’t know’. ‘Oh, oh, well, that might be useful, mightn’t it?’ so the lord takes him on. Well, the man’s at the court and periodically there are court crises when the accounts are miles behind and they ask him to lend a hand. He says, ‘No, no, the accountants can do the accounts, clerks can do the accounts. I do the things that no one …

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The true nature of man is that he wants to create beauty

This is an example of how we can strike some attitude of defiance perhaps, or too much conformity, and we can forget the true nature of the man, which is that he appreciates beauty, and he wants to create beauty.