The process in Yoga is of having a theory and confirming it. It is not having a theory and then performing experiments which may then upset the theory completely, but the steps are known.
Our teacher often mentioned that the upadhis – so to speak, the associations – affect what we think we are, and affect the results of our life and our efforts. He often said that, for instance, if one becomes obsessed with something, it will affect the world and it will affect oneself.
The Japanese researchers say, “The blind spot in medicine is what we call now the ‘placebo effect’” – namely that, if you give some remedy with sufficiently impressive background, even if it’s simply a sugar pill, it will have, very often, a marked beneficial effect.
How can it possibly work? It’s rather difficult to perform research on it, but there can be also… ‘Placebo’ means ‘I will please’. “There can also be,” our teacher said, though he didn’t use the word, “A sort of nocebo effect,” meaning ‘I will do harm’. He said, “The concentration on illness, or the possibility of illness, does, in fact, produce an effect, and which can do harm.”
One of the examples that is given quite often is that we’re all sitting comfortably at a concert, and then somebody coughs. Quite often, a number of other people, though trying to suppress it, begin coughing. One of the explanations is that there are little minor discomforts in the throat which normally we don’t notice, but, when somebody coughs, that takes our attention to our own throat and we start feeling a discomfort there. Then we finally feel an overwhelming necessity to cough.
He was in favour of not discussing, or concentrating, or giving attention to the body more than strictly necessary, because, he said, “It has this subsidiary effect, and which is often unfavourable.” He took this. This was on the physical level, but he took it on the psychological level. People who are very concerned with egoism, they see it absolutely everywhere. If anything is done well, they immediately say, “Showing off, pushing themselves forward.”
There’s a story given in the… A traditional story given in one of the books by a former warden of Shanti Sadan of a man and his wife on a pilgrimage in the Himalayas. The man is leading and the wife is following, and he sees a gold coin on the path. A gold coin means quite a lot. Lest his wife should be tempted, he puts his foot on it and he says to her, “You go ahead.”
She looks at him and she says, “What are you doing? Why are you standing there?” He says, “Go on ahead.” She says, “Why are you standing there?” so he
says… He shows. He takes his foot away and he shows the coin. He said, “So that you wouldn’t be tempted.” She says, “No, it’s you that are tempted when you’re controlling it, but I’m not tempted at all. I will, indeed, lead from now on,” and she walks up ahead.
In the same way, we can very easily project something onto others. People who are egoistic can never imagine someone doing a job for its own sake. They always think, “No, it must be done. They must be doing it for themselves, somehow to make an effect or to get a reward,” but one of the points of the Gita is karya: the thing is to be done. Part of the Yoga training is to do it for its own sake, because it is to be done, and to be independent as regards anything personal.
There is another form of this which our teacher did comment on. There can be a sort of egoism which is above – above making efforts. It simply looks down, so to speak, as a critic or an independent, somebody independent of all these little things that people try for, try to do.
Our teacher pointed out that this can be one of the abuses of the Taoist doctrine. A Taoist, a Chinese Taoist – quite a famous one – he was a good poet and he wrote a book and it was published in the West. One of the things he said was, ‘You see, in the West you’re all so excited about things that simply, they’re nothing.’ He says, ‘You know, in China the editor of a small magazine, for instance, and he’s publishing a serial, quite an interesting one, and then he forgets to publish the last instalment. But,’ he said, ‘Nobody in China’s bothered. Nobody . There’s no indignation.’ Then he said, ‘It doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t matter.’ It doesn’t matter whether you know what happens to the characters or not, so why get excited? It doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t matter.
Our teacher condemned this attitude. He said, “No. If a thing has been taken on, it must be carried out properly.” This is one of the messages of the Gita. Arjuna, at the beginning, begins his attempt to get out of what he’s got to do, what he is to do, by citing a lot of wise words. Krishna says, ‘Yes, these words are, indeed, wise, but you have taken on this responsibility. This is a war which is unsought. It’s not a war of ambition. This word comes in the Gita. It’s not sought. It’s not a war of conquest. It’s forced, and he’s defending justice with it. Now you have taken on this war. People have come together in reliance on your word. Now you have got to carry it through.’
Then he says, ‘But fight, do it in a yogic way, without a personal involvement. Do it because it is to be done.’ Our teacher said, “It is not allowed to take on something, and then not to do it properly, and then to make excuses and say, ‘Well, after all, what does it matter?’ If the thing has been undertaken, it must be carried through.”
The Gita has a special… Makes a special point of this in one of the pairs of verses. There’s a tendency to think, because the Gita says, ‘Perform the action which is to be done, but in independence of the results, independence of the fruits.’ That that would mean, if you do it carelessly, you’re independent of the fruits. It doesn’t matter. The Gita makes this point very carefully and very exactly.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Karma – Kill Not the Self
Part 2: Cohesion of the universe
Part 4: Kill Not the Self – Karma
Part 5: The true self is unseen