To Make The Desert Bloom: the talk this evening is not meant as an entertainment. It’s for people who are in the desert. A great Zen master was approached by three people who wanted to do some Zen, two men and one woman. He said to them, (and one of them told me this) he said, “Why have you come?” One of them said, ” I was rich and then my business collapsed and, well, I was in jail for a bit. My reputation’s gone, I’m hated and despised by everybody and I’ve come here.” The teacher said, “Next one.” The next one said, “I was very fond of my wife and she’s died now. I don’t know how I can stand the grief so I’ve come here.” The third one, she was a brilliant scholar of Buddhism. She said, “I’ve studied Buddhism. I know the theories very well but I thought I would like to do some actual practice so I’ve come here.”
She told me, actually, that the teacher said, the first man’s life had been smashed to pieces. “Yes, you’ll do something in Zen.” The second man who’d had this terrible bereavement, “Yes, you can do something in Zen.” The third one, you’d think, ‘Oh, this brilliant scholar who knows all the theory of Buddhism’, but he said, “You won’t do anything,” and she didn’t.
The teachings are meant for people in distress, in difficulty, or in despair – in a desert. Not for people who are comfortably off who want to be entertained. Not for people who are great scholars and want to learn a bit more about it. Well, if you’ve been in the desert, you know that occasionally, in this mass of sand, and it’s not all smooth, but you see a tree and you think, “How could it live?” A tamarisk – it can’t live! There’s hardly any rainfall here. How can it live?
Well, its roots can go down, thirty feet, fifty feet, and they find water under the desert. That water is not on the surface. There’s nothing there but it can go deep, deep, deep and it can find life in the desert. But it’s only one tree and then you go on and then there’s nothing.
When we look back over our lives, or we observe the lives of other people, we’ll see that mostly it’s suffering. Even the moments of triumph, of great success are suffering. If you’re very successful, you’ll be hated by people who failed. If you fail, you’ll be despised and ignored. But there are moments sometimes, when we think back, when there was peace, not dependent on anything outside. Often it was at some walk in the country and then we sat on a stone with no worries in our mind, that time, when suddenly there was a peace and there was a feeling of something beyond.
Now, Tagore in one of his poems, he refers to these states. He says, “I never realised them when they came. Then they went and I was back again in the excitements and disappointments and frustrations and fights. But when I look back, I can see there were these moments of peace and transcendence, which had no explanation, which didn’t depend on anything external.” He said, “Now when I look back on them, I see the signet ring of the Lord imprinted on those moments. I realise that was when the Lord visited me.” I didn’t recognise it at the time, I only knew there was peace, but now,” he said, “when I look back, I can see these moments.” He said, “I never chose to try to follow them up. I just have memories of them.” But in the spiritual traditions, we’re told that these are just hints. They’re hints, like the tree in the desert, that there is water below the desert of this life of disappointments, and frustrations. Sometimes those moments can come. They can be arranged for if we’re sensitive enough. If you went, in the old days anyway, and still, I believe, to a traditional Japanese hotel, one evening the maid will come to your room and say, “Do you want to see the moon rise?” and you say, “Eh? Seeing the moon rise? Oh well, yes.”
Well, there’s a little balcony in the hotel. On that balcony, at the particular time at which the maids call you, you sit there in silence. Beyond the hill, you look out and then the moon will come. People don’t talk. They don’t fidget. They sit there. There’s a poem [Japanese]… It’s just coming. That’s all. The great harvest moon. They sit there and then you see this moon come, rising, and you have peace. There are no words. It’s too big for words. You sit there in peace and then after a little bit, you go back.
Well, there are some civilizations, and that is one where they understand a little bit how to create some of these moments of peace but those things are still dependent on external circumstances. We have to find something beyond dependence on external circumstances. Now, there’s a great desert in Pakistan called the Thar Desert. Traditionally, there are three great rivers which take their source in the Himalayas, what we call the Ganges and what we call the Jamuna. Then, there was another one, which we don’t see, which is called Saraswati, meaning ‘the swift flowing’. The tradition, the ancient tradition from the Vedas, is that this is the source we get that goes underground.
Some hydrologists have been using in the Thar Desert, a system whereby a helicopter flies over a given area. It’s an elaborate technical presentation, but briefly, as a transmitter sends out radio signals and then that sets up a current in our aerial and then we receive it from a radio, in the same way, by broadcasting so to speak, from the helicopter as it travels around, they’re sending out the radio waves. That strikes the ground and what is beneath the ground. That sets up induced currents and that sets up an electromagnetic radiation which can be sensed by incredibly delicate instruments in the things which are attached and being towed by the helicopter.
Anyway, the technique doesn’t matter, but they can find out whether there is water below the surface of that desert. They recently conducted, German hydrologists in conjunction with the Pakistani ones, a scheme. They surveyed a very large area and they found a huge freshwater aquifer thirty metres deep to a hundred metres deep and kilometers in length. There’s all that freshwater. You can tell it’s fresh because the resistance is different. Saline water and freshwater resistance is different and that’s registered on the machine.
So, it’s then known that there is this vast body of freshwater, which can make the desert bloom. The German hydrologist said, “There’s enough water there to supply a great city like Hamburg of 1.5 million inhabitants all their water needs for over a century.” It’s a huge mass of water there. Now they are drilling for it, much more valuable than oil, but it’s got to be brought up, and it can make the desert bloom. It’s got to be explored and then the people have got to understand and be able to record the very sensitive indications which are given.
The spiritual discipline tells us that beneath the desert of our lives, there’s a living water, a living stream. Perhaps, it’s speculated, this enormous fresh water under the Thar Desert is something to do with the Saraswati, the mysterious Saraswati River, which is supposed to go underground from the Himalayas. It was always thought to be just a mere myth, but perhaps it has something to do with it. It is enough to convince that the water is there and then there’s the labour and the expense of drilling, perhaps through rock, to find the gushing stream and then bring it to the surface.
Well, these are analogies. They can be useful, and they can be a stimulus. Of course, they’re not exact in every point, but in a way, if we do spiritual study in one tradition over a definite area – not just here and there and here and there – but over the area and we do it with attention, then we can begin to pick up these very fine signals from something deep within ourselves: a living water below the surface of the desert of our lives. There’s a living stream, which can make the desert bloom.
I just want to say something about studying. You have to be reasonably convinced otherwise one will never do the special practices which can sensitise us to the existence of those hidden streams. Unless we’re fairly convinced that they exist, we’ll never have the patience to keep on with the practices. From that point of view, to study, not in vast detail of with a lot of names and dates, but to study the subject in one tradition, not in a lot of different traditions but in one main tradition so that we have a grasp of it.
I’ll just give one example. My mother at the beginning of the century, she was a girl. She was of a rich family. She married my father who was a poor man. It was a love match. She told me they were brought up in this rich family like dolls. They were taught to be entertaining and have many graces and so on but they couldn’t earn their living. She rebelled against this, against the strong-minded mother and she said, “Well, I’ll leave home.” There were only two ways that then a girl could earn her living, one was by nursing, typewriting wasn’t yet going, one was by nursing and the other was something I don’t want to mention.
She chose nursing, and she completed the nursing training. She never practised. The mother, when the training was completed, recognized the same strong will in the daughter that she had in herself, and she was welcomed back in the home. Now, I’m just saying that later on in her life, I looked after her the last twenty years and she became diabetic. Because she had been a nurse, she followed the instructions exactly.
In the first year, we had to weigh everything. When you eat a slice the bread, you had to weigh it. We had to take the tests every morning with the paper. We had to inject every morning just so much and follow it. The diabetic diet is a very healthy one. Alcohol is controlled. Smoking is controlled. The sweet things are controlled. Although she was diabetic and had to have these injections, her general health improved. She was very vigorous up to eighty two, eighty three.
Now, some of her friends who were also diabetic, they knew, but they couldn’t manage to follow the rules. They knew but somehow they thought, “Oh, just one sweet thing doesn’t matter.” I can remember one of them. She was a woman historian, brilliant woman, but she had diabetes. She had a corner cupboard, corner of the room. Sometimes they’re talking something, and then she’d get quietly while the others were talking and just go across the corner cupboard and just open the door just a tiny little bit and pick out a chocolate as though it wouldn’t count. If nobody saw, it, it wouldn’t count.
Well, she died, and the others died who didn’t follow the rules although they knew. You have to do enough study to convince yourself to be able to follow the discipline and that varies with different people. Some people need more study but you have to do this. If you’ve got diabetes, you must read all the points on diabetes. Don’t smoke. Be very careful of your feet. Be very careful of the eyes and so on. A small cut in the foot of a diabetic can be disastrous.
You have to read the whole thing and study it and become convinced. Now in the same way, if you take up a spiritual discipline to bring living streams into the desert of one’s life, one has to study one tradition. Not only one tradition, but one does have to study one tradition and follow one system of practice and be prepared to go on drilling, and drilling, and drilling, and drilling, and drilling.
As you can see, the figures, which the helicopter people bring back, scientists bring back, they will mean nothing to the ordinary person. If they were presented to us, they wouldn’t make us go and spend the money to drill in the desert. You’d just think, “Well, it’s a lot of figures.” It has to be explained carefully. In the same way, with spiritual study, the analysis of the mind can be made very exact but not everyone can follow that. Some things we should go to a reliable source and be prepared to take some things on faith, not blind faith but experimental faith. You have a faith enough to enable you to go on making experiments, then you will begin to get little confirmations, and then it will seem reasonable to you that if you go on still further, you’ll get bigger confirmations.
Just one example of this – a businessman. He made a lot of money suddenly, got a new house and he wanted to show it off to all his new friends. His sister had been abroad where she had married, lived abroad. When she came back, he thought, ‘I’ll throw a big party to introduce her to my friends.’ He did that and about 40 or 50 people were there. One of them was a young mathematician and the host – the businessman was very contemptuous of mathematics. He said, “Oh, pure mathematics is a waste of time, fiddling about with these figures.” The mathematician said, “Well, it can be a help in life.” “Yes, but not the sort of things you study. Why are prime numbers often in pairs, 11 and 13 and 17 and 19? What good is that? It’s useless.”
The mathematician was too embarrassed to argue about it. Well, then the sister introduced her husband and it came out that he’d been in the East and he was interested in astrology. The host then was very contemptuous. He said, “Typical of you people. You just live on superstitions. There’s never any test, and never any scientific test, nothing definite at all.” The astrologer said, “Well, how can we? We make a prediction, but you have to wait to see whether it’s true. And then if something happens, and I say I predicted it, you say, ‘Well, how do I know?’”
He said there can be occasions where there’s a definite test here and now. He said, “Of course this isn’t one of the occasions, is it?” The astrologer said, “As a matter of fact it is. People all born on the same birthday have a sort of resonance. It doesn’t mean they’ve got the same character exactly but there’s a resonance between them. Now, I’ve had some training in astrology and as a matter of fact, there are, what, 50 of us here. There are 365 days in the year, so it’s not very likely that two of them are born on the same day, is it?” and the host said, “No, 50, 365, about one in seven chance.”
The astrologer said, “Well, now I’ll make a prediction. You asked for a definite test and I’ll make a prediction. I can feel there’s a resonance here. There are two people here who have been born on the same day. Now you know that I’ve just come from abroad. I don’t know anybody here except my wife, your sister.” The host said, “Yes. Yes, let’s have a test then. We’ll get everyone to line up and say what their birthday was. That will test it. When you fail, you’ll have some excuse, won’t you?”
They lined the people up and they had two chairs in the middle and they asked to pass through the chairs and as they passed between them to say their birthday. When about something like half of them had come, somebody said October the 10th and then somebody in the crowd behind who hadn’t come through said, “I’m October the 10th.” There was a sort of silence and the host said, “Well, that’s just a fluke. That can happen?” The astrologer said, “Do you remember what you said about finding some excuse when you…?” and the host was silenced.
Well, afterwards the shy mathematician went up to the astrologer and he said, “It’s about 97% on, isn’t it?” The astrologer, said, “This is not astrology,” he said, “but what can I say when I’m talking to fools?”
A lot of people will study astrology seriously as a science. It’s got some failures and some successes, but they won’t listen, but now quite a few people will listen. Well now, to work out the mathematics of that – it sounds incredible, doesn’t it? The 50 people, there are 365 days in the year. It’s 95 to 1 that two of them will have been born on the same day. Now, most of us simply couldn’t follow that argument. Even if the mathematician explained it to us, we wouldn’t be convinced by it but we are convinced by the astrologer when he says, “Yes, I sense a resonance.” Well, he was right.
I just want to say this: that we don’t have to plunge deeply into scholastic and academic study, but we must have a general idea of the tradition that we’re going to follow and work with to bore into the desert to find the water that flows. What I’ve been talking about is really to say that if we study and look at our lives for these moments of peace, which come for no reason at all, we will begin to get hints that there is something deep beneath the desert, which can make it bloom. Simply to know this, although in a way it’s sort of comforting but it doesn’t solve that problem. We’re still in the desert.
We need to find some definite practice which we can do and that’s going to take some time. I’ve asked a colleague, he’ll just explain one of the meditation practices which I received from my teacher.
Well just for people’s interest, we’ve prepared some sheets for you to do some practices at home. They’re practices that Dr. Shastri recommended for people to do the mining on themselves. They are well proven. They are totally reliable. The book that they come out of is this: Meditation, Its Theory and Practice, which was written by Dr. Shastri. We’ve got some copies here if anybody would like to a look at them afterwards but the main thing is to have just something that one can do.
I could be showered with different practices or different presentations but if one is doing something, then we’re told there’s a chance for their response to come, an invitation to make the practices go further. Unless we start to do something, there won’t be any response. There’s no rapport. When we lay down a particular time for meditation, we recommend first thing in the morning, when the mind is calm. It might mean you have to get up a bit earlier to find the calm. It’s not when you’re dashing out to catch the train. To find the time in the day, preferably in the morning, or perhaps the last thing in the evening, some time for yourself.
It’s sacrosanct, nobody should interfere with it – to have a corner where you have a perhaps a cushion, you can light a candle, a picture of something you revere, then to read a text, a holy text. It might be the Bible, or the Bhagavad Gita, just a few verses, just something to bring the mind into tune with something which is greater than what we normally perceive as our daily lot. There is something there, as Trevor has been saying. We’re trying to bore through but all we seem to be getting is the lot of gravel. Doesn’t seem to be anything there but these sort of practices, particularly the meditation practice, which we’ll come to later on, there is an affirmation. It’s not something which is imagination. When it starts off we have to support it in imagination, but it is reinforcing the statement that there is light within us. What are we looking for? That’s described in the meditation: In me, there is a light, which lights the whole world. How can we tell what that is representing? How are we going to recognize what we’re looking for? It is radiating now, peace and understanding. It’s not something arbitrary. It’s something that one actually finds, that we only find after one’s done the boring, the drilling. We have to go down into ourselves to find it. Those are the first signs that in fact, there’s something there, that we’re striking pay dirt.
If you’d like to try the first practice I’ll just read the practice once and we can do it just for a couple of minutes. We’ll do all the practices now but there’ll be a little abbreviated to get them into our time slot. Focus the mind on the navel. Take a deep breath in relaxation. As you breathe in, imagine that you are drawing the breath up from the navel so that you end the breath by thinking of the space between your eyebrows. We can take 11 breaths. We don’t obviously breathe through the navel but we can imagine that as we’re breathing in, we’re drawing the breath up as though one’s drawing milk in through a straw. Not straining to make it very slow – just breathing gently, comfortably. To draw the breath in as it were, up the body, drawing the breath up from the navel, in the breath in your lungs, ending at the spot between the eyebrows. Then you finish the visualisation and you breathe out normally. Then you bring in the next breath. Breathing slowly in, feeling the breath as it were, drawing up like milk through a straw to the spot between the eyebrows and then breathing out with no visualisation. Let’s just try that for 11 times.
There will be probably things that fall over and there are noises and there’s things that happen during every meditation practice – just ignore them, just carry on. I’ll say OM to start and OM to finish.
As Trevor was saying, the important thing is to do it regularly, to keep the drilling going because if one does it at the same time in the same place, you do the practices in the same order, you’re laying down a habit, a sanskara, which is self-reinforcing. It actually will help you, once it’s established, on those occasions when one’s feeling tired or disinclined. If you keep it at the same time, in the same place, it gets stronger, it gets a momentum of its own.
The next practice is the line of light practice. Dr. Shastri used to recommend this practice very, very firmly, very warmly. He said that each one of us can be inspired as a Goethe, can be inspired as an Aristotle, but we need to have the ability to focus the attention. This line of light practice is one of those key practices, which bring the mind to a point.
He says, “Make your mind balanced.” How? “Don’t run after each and every desire. Have very few desires. Have one great master passion.” If you have one great master passion, then all little desires don’t mean anything at all whatsoever. It is only then you can concentrate and you can create something which is worthwhile when you have a master passion. That master passion is called devotion to the cosmic eye, of which your eye is a little reflection. Merely listening to the truth, you cannot come to the great stream of the middle consciousness.
Now I tell you one experiment and you can try it whenever you like. Draw an imaginary line from this point right through the heart centre, right out to the navel. Draw an imaginary line and concentrate on that line as much as you can while walking, reading, going – whenever you’re not doing anything, which you ought to do, concentrate your mind on this and then you will find that your concentration becomes creative. It becomes creative. That you begin to have glimpses of peace and then you can very easily control your mind instead of riding the wild horse. This is the pointer to that deep sense, that deep well that we’re trying to find within us and this is a practice that he recommended.
If you’d like to try, now with a tip of the finger, if you just touch the spot between your eyebrows, and then just run the finger down the centre of the body, down over the throat, down to the heart, and then down to the navel. Now just imagine, focus on that after sensation, that touch that you experienced and imagine that it’s a line of light, a line within the body towards the front of the body. Imagine it, just a line, a thin line of light and focus your mind on that line. We’ll do it for two or three minutes and I’ll say OM to start and OM to finish.
I will read the practice again.
Line of light practice
OM Draw an imaginary line of light, from the top of the forehead, down between the eyebrows, down the nose, lips, throat, heart region to the navel. Imagine this line to be a line of light, and concentrate on it. OM.
The desert begins to bloom, those little reflections, as it were, of inspiration that can arise in our daily life. The life that can seem like a desert at times, they get a resonance. Something begins to start to stir and we suddenly, we find we are released from habitual trains of thought, “I always do this way, I have to do it this way. It’s got to be so.” You become freer. There’s an opportunity for new ways of looking at things which comes into the mind. There’s a freedom and a mobility.
Then the text for meditation. In me, there is a light, which lights the whole world. It is radiating now, peace and understanding. We’ve been talking about light, the light within the body. The Gita says, “The Light even of lights, That is said to be beyond darkness. Knowledge, the Knowable and Goal of knowledge. It is implanted in the heart of everyone.” [Chapter 13, v.17] In Chapter 15, “The light which residing in the sun illuminates the whole world, that which is in the moon and in the fire, that light know to be Mine.” It is an affirmation. It’s a statement that, to start with, we have to hold by imagination.
We have to take it on the trust of the people like Dr. Shastri and other sages who’ve experienced it in their own lives. What Dr. Shastri recommended was that we repeat it to ourselves internally three times and if one’s forgotten, to repeat it another three times. The point is to hold the mind on the flavour of that text. That you are holding an image of a light that is within one, and that it is actually radiating now, peace and understanding.
There are many days, particularly on a Monday morning, when one does not feel one is radiating peace and understanding but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. This is where the teachers of old, if one has a chance to read some of the biographies of the sufferings that they’ve gone through, unless they had that inner spark or that inner fire, which they had found, they wouldn’t have been able to carry on. This is an affirmation of truth and we have a chance to follow what Dr. Shastri and many other teachers of truth offered.
If you’d like to try just for two or three minutes, imagine the line of light, which is radiating within one, which is radiating now peace and understanding. I’ll read the holy text a couple of times. OM to start and OM to finish.
OM In me, there is a light, which lights the whole world. It is radiating now, peace and understanding. OM
OM In me, there is a light, which lights the whole world. It is radiating now, peace and understanding. OM
Finally, sit in the calm which these practices will bring and give your friendliness and forgiveness to all, so those people that you feel that you’ve- -either hurt or that they’ve hurt you, just in those final moments of the meditation practice, just offer a sense of forgiveness to them. If you’d just like to, 30 seconds or so, sit in the calm, which these practices will bring and give your friendliness and forgiveness to all. OM
Trevor: One has to practice on a definite line but we revere all the great traditions and all the great schools. My teacher often used to refer to the great Muslim mystic, Rumi. This is a little poem on the subject. You’ll see the presentation is slightly different, but you’ll see the light, the water, the living stream, which is below the desert. It’s presented in the form of Islamic mysticism.
A certain man was crying, “Allah!” all night until his lips grew sweet from praise of him. The devil said, “Oh, garrulous man. What is all this “Allah!”? Not a single response is coming from the throne. How long will you go on crying, “Allah!” with grim face?” He became brokenhearted and lay down and slept. In a dream, he saw the prophet Elijah in a garden, who said to him, “Hark, you have held back from praising God. Why do you repent of having called on Him?” He said, “No ‘Here am I’ is coming in response. Hence, I fear I’m turned away from the door.”
Elijah said, “Nay. God sayeth that “Allah!” of thine is my ‘Here am I’ and that ardent grief and supplication of thine are My messenger to thee. Thy fear and love are the noose to catch my favour. Beneath every “Allah!” of thine is many a ‘Here am I’ from me.”
We pray and we revere externally but in the Yoga training and spiritual training, we are taught the Lord is not only outside, he is stirring within us and that stirring is the spiritual quest.
It’s wrong to think, ‘Oh special practice is just when circumstances are favourable and one’s got time and the energy and facilities.’ No. As pointed out at the very beginning, it is for when everything has collapsed, when we’re disappointed, when our lives have been shattered. Now’s the time. We’re no longer dependent on external things. They have collapsed. They have betrayed us. Now, we can easily turn one-pointedly within and in our turning not just to revere what is outside but to find that stirring within us.
I’ll recite the story again if you can follow in this sense. A certain man was crying, “Allah!” all night until his lips grew sweet from praise of Him. The devil said, “Oh garrulous man. Where is the ‘Here am I’ to all this “Allah!” of thine? Not a single response is coming from the throne. How long will you cry, “Allah!” with grim face?” He became brokenhearted and lay down and slept. In a dream, he saw Elijah in a garden who said to him, “Hark, you’ve held back from praising God. Why do you repent of having called on him?” He said, “No ‘Here am I’ is coming in response. Hence, I fear I’m turned away from the door.”
Elijah said, “Nay. God sayeth that “Allah!” of thine is My ‘Here am I’ and that ardent grief and supplication of thine are my messenger to thee. Thy fear and love are the noose to catch my favour. Beneath every “Allah!” of thine is many a ‘Here am I’ from me.”
Thank you for your attention.