One of the points which HG Wells made was that, when we hear an important statement very often we never actually come face-to-face with it. As an example, in a very successful play early this century, there was an expedition going off to South Africa. They were seeing them off the door with all the luggage, and the little maid was there. She said to one of the others, “Where is South Africa?” The senior maid said, “Well, you know where it is on the map.” The maid replied, “Oh yes, I know where it is on the map.” Then she looked down the street and said, “But where is it?” In the same way, we can know where things are on the spiritual map, on the cosmological map, on the psychological map, without actually knowing where they are. They’re just names, shapes on a map.
Shaw remarked, again at the beginning of this century, that whenever there’s a fuss about the allowances for royalty, they should immediately be doubled. He said that these are the fools who, in vestry meetings, pass items of hundreds of pounds without discussion, and then save money by knocking sixpence off the char woman’s wages. They have no idea of the large sums, but they know what they could do with the very small ones.
Wells said that the ordinary man ought to know something about science, something about society. But he meets words like ‘billions’ and ‘light-years’ and he can go on reading, thinking and hearing ‘billions’ with no idea of what these things really are. He doesn’t know what a billion is, he’s never actually sat and thought what a billion is. What he should do is sit down for half-an-hour, and stretch his mind in conscious concentration and imagination, till he’s got a concept of a billion. Then he can use the memory of that, then his talk about billions of pounds will be sensible, and his talk about light-years will be sensible. He said the ordinary man tends never to do that.
If we think from here to China is 10,000 miles roughly, to the far coast. Now, Wells gives this example – he says to think of the distance from the Earth to the sun, 93 million miles. Then to stretch the imagination (it’s easier now we’ve had some experience of air travel) – from here to China is 10,000 miles; then, in imagination, stretch it out again, from London to China; then again, London to China. In this way you can get up to an idea of what 100 of those would be. Then he said that the imagination can be stretched till we can get up to 93 million. It’s the distance, in miles, from the Earth’s orbit to the sun – eight light minutes. From that, he said, if we sit down and think, we can get an idea of a light-year.
The Earth’s orbit around the sun is an ellipse. If the orbit was just 10,000 miles (that’s the distance from here to China) nearer the sun, all the water would boil away. If it was 10,000 miles further from the sun (from here to China further from the sun), all the water would be ice. In either case, life as we know it would be impossible. It’s very exact.
This is one of the things that made Newton, and is now making the astronomers, feel that perhaps there is a design. It’s so exact. Again, the orbit is very exact. If it were just two degrees different, it would soon become chaotic. These exactitudes are making us now think that there is some design in the universe.
Now, this doesn’t prove anything yogic, but it does show that the yogic idea that the universe is designed by an intelligent creator and controller is not opposed by science, as it used to be. These very exact conditions for the existence and continuation of life on Earth, are now being put together, and it’s not thought that they could happen by chance. The diehards are still saying if a thing can happen by chance, you mustn’t impute intelligence: “It’s unscientific to suppose intelligence!” – but that’s obviously wrong. If you play cards with somebody, and every time the man deals, he deals himself or his partner a lot of aces and kings, it could happen by chance – but you begin to think there’s an intelligence at work.
It’s not unscientific to go beyond the limitations of the mind and to become conscious, to expand the consciousness to the Spirit, which is all-pervading. This is called adhyatma. There are two descriptions of adhyatma in the Bhagavad Gita, which is the text we follow here. The first one is in chapter eight, where Arjuna asks, “What is adhyatma?” The answer is, “It is the Universal Spirit considered as encased within a particular body-mind. It is first, in meditation, known as a witness-self, an unmoving immutable. An unchanging witness-self is found within the changing mind. This is only the beginning, and it comes down in the end to a realization that that witness-self is the Universal Self, the Self of the whole universe, which creates the universe and also transcends it, lies beyond it.
Shankara makes an important point here. He says that there are mystics who do attain a consciousness of something unchanging, unmoving and eternal within themselves – but he said they don’t succeed in expanding the consciousness to the Universal. He says this 2 or 3 times. The adhyatma is not only something immortal and unchanging within the mortal and changing body and mind, but it is also universal. Now, the adhyatma doctrine is taught in chapter 10 of the Gita at the end. It is called there the adhyatma-vidya or the adhyatma doctrine. If we read some verses, Arjuna the pupil is asking the questions:
“Forever in meditation, how shall I ever know thee? In what manifestation shall I think of thee, my Lord? Speak to me again, in full of thy power and of thy glory, for I never tire, never weary of thy words of life.” Krishna replies, “Listen and I shall reveal today some manifestations of my divine glory, only the greatest, Arjuna, for there is no end to my infinite greatness.
“I am the soul which dwells in the heart of all things. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all that live. Among the sons of light, I am Vishnu and of luminaries, the radiant sun. I am the Lord of the winds and storms, and of the light in the night, I am the womb. Of the Vedas, I’m the Veda of songs. I am Indra, the chief of the gods. Above man’s senses, I am the mind and in all living beings, I am the light of consciousness. Among the great seers, I am Bhrigu and of words, I am OM, the word of eternity. Of prayers. I am the prayer of silence. Of things that move not, I am the Himalayas. I am the cleverness in the gambler’s dice. I’m the beauty of all things beautiful. I am victory and the struggle for victory. I’m the goodness of those who are good.
Know, Arjuna, that I am the seed of all things that are, and that no being that moves or moves not can ever be without me. There’s no end of my divine greatness, Arjuna. What I’ve spoken here to thee shows only a small part of my infinity. Know that whatever is beautiful and good, whatever has glory and power, is only a portion of my own radiance. But of what help is it to thee to know this diversity? Know that with one single fraction of my being, I pervade and support the universe – and know that I am.”
This is the adhyatma doctrine. Arjuna says in the beginning of the next chapter, “I have heard this teaching of the great Self, the adhyatma, and my delusion has gone.” This is just over halfway through the Gita and it’s one of the subtle indications that the Gita gives of the path of yoga, that the time can come when people feel “My delusion is gone, I have realized…”. But, as in this case, it turns out it has only been a partial realization and there’s still more that he has to do.
This vision and declaration of the controlling spirit of the universe used to be violently opposed by the materialists. For instance, Monod, a great biologist, has a Nobel prize for medicine (although he smoked furiously and died in his early 60s, which proved something). He says about the world, “Man lives on the boundary of an alien world, a world that is deaf to his music, just as indifferent to the suffering or his crimes.” There’s one by another physicist, Weinberg: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.”
These were the views up to about 1970, but they have changed. In the last century, it was thought that the world structure had been disentangled. It was a glittering mechanism: “Find the mechanism.” All the complexities were reduced to the atom – the proton and the electron, just two. This was held to be the test of truth in science, that complexity was reduced to simplicity – just the two. Then the neutron turned up! “Well, three then. Anyway, it’s extremely simple.” It was held that things that seemed chance or random or which we couldn’t explain, that was only due to our ignorance.
“The result of such things as flipping a coin are not predictable, but is that because some facts are hidden from us so that their behaviour simply appears random to us. Before this century, most scientists would have answered ‘Yes’. They supposed that at rock bottom, the world was entirely deterministic. The appearance of random or chance events simply derived from ignorance of the details of the system concerned. This point of view was largely abandoned in the late 1920s. Indeterminism is built-in at a fundamental level.”
Well, one of the great challenges now is how the indeterminism, the chaos at the fundamental level, ever becomes the ordered universe as we seem to know it. The yogic explanation is that at the fundamental level, Prakriti – nature – is a mass of potentiality. There’s a directing agency which forms those potentialities into an ordered system in order to facilitate experience for man. The exactitudes which we find, for instance, in the orbit of the planet are evidence of that control. There is a gap and the yoga explains this gap as due to the action of the determining intelligence and this is the great challenge facing physics now according to the present-day physicist.
The adhyatma then is a yogic doctrine supported by experiment. Those experiments culminate in meditation on Truth, leading to the particular deep meditation, where the mind, as the Gita says, is unmoving and stable in samadhi. This is in the second chapter.
In our teacher’s practical textbook, he says that the primary condition in entering on the yogic path is the feeling, “I am not the body.” This is intensified and made a fact of experience in meditation, and the complete loss of the body consciousness marks the attainment of samadhi. He gives experiments in the text, The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching. He gives a meditation: “Now, if you practice for few hours a day for 18 months, and now and again, devote a week or two entirely to it, you will in your meditation, forget, lose consciousness of, both the world and yourself, and experience only the object of meditation.” There are many passages like this, and there are hints at the method for confirming these doctrines of adhyatma.
The realization is described in the Gita in different forms. One of them is, “Me in all. He will see Me in all and all in Me.” “Me, the Self in all and all in the Self.” Now, this is an example of what Wells is saying, that one hears these wonderful phrases. If one’s British, one tends to say, “Oh really?” Then it is never actually faced what it means, what it could mean.
There’s a story about Ramakrishna. He was asked something about what effect the realization would have on other people. He said, “There are no others.” There was a silence. Then some crude individual said, “Well, who was he talking to then? If there are no others, who’s he talking to?” Well, nobody had thought of that.
Now we’re asked to think and to try to bring these points to face each other. Very often they’re evaded – it’s sort of slip, what the boxers call the ‘slip’. In the soap opera called The Archers, one of the characters, a girl, Susan, was unfortunate and she had to go to prison because she had committed an offence, but under fear and stress. She had to go to prison and her children whom she left, of course, were very distressed.
Some addicts of the program formed a group, and they arranged a petition to go to their MP to get the BBC to bring pressure on the scriptwriter to get Susan out of prison. There are two points there. They know that they’re writing to the BBC on the one hand and that all this is simply characters in a play. On the other side, there are the children weeping, poor little mites. “You say they’re just characters in a play, don’t you feel the children?” Bewildered. The things are never brought face to face. If they’re ever thought through, they would be able to enjoy the program without being bound up in it.
Now, this “Me in all and all in Me” – how can there be me, but also others? One of the traditions of this yoga is that examples are given from the ordinary world. Shankara gives many examples from village life. The Buddhist examples are mostly from town life, but Shankara’s are from a village life. This one is from music. The great pianist of the last century, Schumann – a virtuoso pianist – became frustrated as all pianists do. The most important finger in the piano is the little finger of the right hand, which generally carries the melody. But it’s not completely independent – when you bend it forward, this one comes down too, it’s very difficult to stop it. He invented a machine, the details are not quite clear, to hold the other one back. He hoped in that way to make the fingers completely independent. He ruined his hand. He ruined his touch. The little finger has to be trained so that, although the other fingers are placed on the board, that little finger can hit hard. It’s done by training. He was treating the hand as an enemy although it was him. In his little note on it, he says, “I have injured myself.”
Before realization, the world is a practical reality and the adhyatma is theoretical. After realization, the adhyatma, the Universal Self is practical and the separate body and mind are theoretical. They can still be treated with, but they’re theoretical. Our teacher repeatedly said, for instance, “Man is connected by thousands of ties with others, with the world, with the remotest stars.” One thinks, “Oh, how beautiful, poetry. At night you can look up at the stars and you can feel a sort of oneness with them. Most exalting and beautiful. Well, what’s on the television?” It all just vanishes.
Now, if we look for one passage from very recent publication – this is 1992:
“The atoms in our bodies are made up of particles that were once in close proximity to the cosmic fireball, and other particles that integrated at that time into a single quantum state. They can be found in the most distant star. This means, however strange or bizarre it might seem, that the quantum that make up our bodies are as much a part of a unified system as the photons in the aspect experiment. Non-locality or non-separability are factual conditions in the entire universe. One is all, all is one.”
He says humorously, this modern physicist, that most scientists, it’s not that they actually disbelieve it, they just don’t want to hear about it – because physics, which was regarded as the whole basis of science, was the queen of the sciences, is now becoming highly unstable. Non-locality – the atoms in our body are connected with the most distant stars. It’s inconceivable, even more inconceivable perhaps than the raising of the dead. Yet, it’s based on experiment, the aspect experiment that was referred to there.
We can see an example of nonlocality in a dream. In a dream, there are the different objects. Things have causes and effects – you try and get an effect by doing this and that. In actual fact, all these things are not separate. The Japanese used to sleep on the floor and some still do. It’s hard. When they came here from a village, one of them told me, “I got into one of your soft beds, with your soft pillow and when I fell asleep, I dreamed I was sinking in a mire, and this mire was closing up on me. I woke up and I found I was sinking into the bed and the pillow was coming up around my face. It was dreadful.”
Then he fell asleep again and had the same dream. He said that he was sinking into this thing, and he was catching at branches and they were breaking off. Now, all that cause and effect in the dream – sinking, catching at the branches and the branch is too weak and it collapses – these things seem to be a succession. They seem to be separate but, actually, they’re all one. There’s a nonlocality which we can see in the dream.
Now we’re given experiments in the textbooks and in the instructions from the teachers to try to verify for ourselves in our own experience some of these things. It is no use, again, simply having them as great statements, wonderfully exhorting, and then passing away. One of the practices which our teacher repeatedly gave is repetition of the name of God or the names of God. This is traditional and there are traditional ways of doing it, but it is sometimes discovered independently by somebody who practices very hard.
One such, was a clergyman or priest, a Protestant clergyman in Romania, under the communist regime. He was arrested for distributing copies of the Bible. He said in the account he wrote, “When I was arrested, I thought, ‘Up till now, to some extent I’ve been an actor. I’ve been saying the words, giving the blessing and I’ve been praying. I’ve never actually known how much I was committed to this. How much I believed it. Now I’m going to find out.’” He was thrown into prison, kept in solitary confinement under terrible circumstances for quite a long time.
Now, before I finish that little account, let’s hear a brief description by our teacher for Christians about saying the name of God:
“Love the Infinite through the finite. Love the rays of the moon coming through the cloud. When the cloud passes away, the rays will be still with you. The touch of the Infinite must make all the calls of our life by grace and love and knowledge. If we sit in relaxation in the group, taking the holy name of Jesus, imagine that our mind is Jesus, our eyesight is Jesus, the beats of our heart are Jesus, our soul is Jesus. If we melt away in Jesus, our whole being will vibrate with love and knowledge.”
Now, this priest found in prison, when he was being beaten, that, “He learned to breathe with the breath of Jesus.” He doesn’t explain it anymore, but we can see what is meant, or what he experienced, from the description which our teacher gave there. He had some inspiration in his cell, in the prison, but he said, “I’m not going to write about it. I can’t write about it.” But some of these truths were conveyed to him. He found, even under these terrible conditions, that he had an inner inspiration and strength. Finally, even his communist guards and the minister who finally interviewed him came to respect him. He said, ” You know, we’re on opposite sides but we like you.”
We can say, “Well, what effect is all this going to have on daily life?” The teacher said that it will tranquilize and it will purify the higher part of the mind called the buddhi. This is a great advantage, even in daily life, because the actions and the judgments are no longer slaves to circumstances or irrational emotions, but they can be judged freely. So many people find it impossible to learn from somebody whom they don’t like. On the other hand, well, the humorous thing is that, when you do like them, you form quite a wrong judgment. “The ship can’t be sinking, because the captain is such a nice man.”
When the buddhi becomes pure, it becomes free from those distortions and people are able to see clearly. Then he says he will know what to do, and what not to do. Not necessarily cleverness, but the actions will be in accord with the cosmic purpose, and they’ll be fruitful spiritually. Now, if the buddhi is not pure, it can be rajasic or tamasic. Rajasic means tremendously active in struggle and tamasic means dull and inert. If there is rajas, he says, “He will make mistakes. He will not be able to see clearly what to do or what not to do.” Some of the things can be quite reasonable or sound good but somehow, they’re not in accord with the cosmic purpose and they don’t work.
All sorts of unspoken assumptions are taken in. For instance, the other day, there was a girl who was studying music, and she was due to have lessons in composition. Then it didn’t come off, for some reason it was impossible. Later, she met the professor who would have coached her, and he said, “I’m glad that you couldn’t come to me for lessons.” She said, “Oh, why? I was looking forward to it.” He said, “No, if you’d come to me for lessons, I’d have had to teach you to compose like Arensky. It wouldn’t have been you, but now you’re free to do whatever you want.” Somehow the assumption is put in that it would be any good – but, as a matter of fact, when people are untrained and do just as they like, they keep on repeating the things that come naturally to them and they never extend their range.
We become hypnotized by these slogans: ‘develop naturally’. You can see if people have to learn a keyboard for a tablet or a computer. If they’re left to find out for themselves, they start with two fingers; but then they don’t gradually go on to three fingers, and four, and then finally the whole hand. No, they remain with two fingers all the time and it’s very fast sometimes, but it’s like two mad hens. To learn properly, you have to cover the keyboard. It’s quite a business visualizing but finally, the whole hand can be used smoothly, and then very high speeds can be reached.
In this way, these slogans which sound fine, ‘Oh, let people find out for themselves, let them be natural’ and so on, have concealed assumptions, which are not truthful at all. If children don’t like a particular school, or part of the curriculum at school, we say “Oh, we’re not meeting the needs of the child. He’s not interested. We’re not meeting his needs.” We’re confusing wishes with needs – what he needs is pressure. People say, “Oh, he’s doing his best.” No, he’s not. Very few of us do our best without some pressure. Then we show what we can do. These assumptions are made and as the Chinese say, “The false assumption is made that every rung of the ladder leading to the treasury should be itself of gold” – but that’s not so. When you work in the world for an ambition, some of the steps are extremely steep and difficult to climb. We can’t find out for ourselves so easily.
Now, our teacher said apart from the rajasic nature, the struggle, there is the tamasic. The Gita gives an account of the tamasic people. They’re really unlucky. It’s not just that they make mistakes with what to do or what not to do – they always get it wrong. It says everything they see is reversed. If there’s a big success, suppose, in their little business, that person says, “Oh, we don’t want spectacular successes – there’s something fairground about that. Is it sound? No. Sound progress is slow and steady.” Then if somebody is doing it slowly and steadily making progress, they say, “Oh, they’re always pegging away and so on. We want to change. We want variety. If it’s still, nothing’s happening at all.” Well, as Herbert Spencer said, “The imperceptible because of the inevitability of gradualness.” When it starts getting smaller and smaller, they say, “Oh, well, we can’t trust figures.”