Hidden hindrances

When you discover  these hidden hindrances, how do you meet them?

One of the examples given is of a watch. Now, the true working of the watch will be that the parts are separate and they come together and they work together, then they separate again. If the watch has been magnetized from a distance they’ll come together suddenly; but when it’s time to separate, they won’t want to separate.  The only way to demagnetize the watch is to separate it, for a time, from the source of magnetization.

Now you could say, “When you discover these hidden desires, these hidden hindrances, how do you meet them?” In Alice In Wonderland the hatter is very nervous, isn’t he? The queen says, “Don’t be nervous, I’ll have your head off if you’re nervous.”  Well, we can see how ridiculous this is, “Don’t be nervous, I’ll hack your head off if you’re nervous.” They really have to try not to be nervous then. “One command, I give you, that you love one another. Practise kindness, compassion, fellow feeling.” “Well, I can do it, but I’m like a ham actor: ‘Oh, how terrible for you. Oh, dear, I’m so sorry’. ‘No, how awful, how can you bear it?’”

How do we do it? A friend of mine had two daughters. When one of them was about five, she was at the school. He went to a sports day and a little boy of about five came out. He was a very good father and the girls were very fond of him. He gave very few orders, but they always had to be obeyed and they always were, and they very much appreciate their upbringing now.  This little boy came up and he said, “Are you Sophie’s father?” He said, “Yes.” So the boy replied, “Sophie says she always does what you tell her. Well, tell her to love me, I love her, but she thinks I’m terrible.”

How can you command love? This is one of the riddles in all forms of training. How can you?  We can look at a Western example because we’re familiar with these training traditions in the West. The religious training tradition has rather tended to be obscured and not many people know it, but they know of some others.  One of them that’s close to the inner training, is the training in music because it must be practised every day without exception. “Well, I got a headache.” “Well, I’ve got a stomach-ache.” “I’m too damn tired.” I’ve still got to do my exercises on the violin, or those that the ballet dancer has to do.

When you’re about seven or eight and you’re keen on the piano, what you like is Johann Strauss waltzes. You don’t like Beethoven, it’s all ponderous stuff. This is not just about children.  At Beethoven’s a benefit concert in Vienna, a lot of the audience walked out, this was near the end of Beethoven’s life. In the review, which I’ve read, which appeared in one of the top Viennese papers the next day, it said that the Beethoven followers made a great to-do.  They all clapped like mad, but most of the audience walked out and the fact is that Beethoven could not write a good tune like Johann Strauss.

We feel that as a child we want tunes, we want the Blue Danube, or something; not these grinding Beethoven sonatas. Now, an experienced teacher, he says, “I know how you feel, you can play your stuff – in my time it was jazz. You want to play the Vienna waltzes by Gounod.  Do the technical exercises and play these pieces by Beethoven that I give you and don’t hate them. When you’re playing, just try to appreciate a little bit, and then you can forget it.”  He knows that if you play and you grow up, suddenly Beethoven will click. He knows that there’s something inside, it’s not forcing oneself to like Beethoven, when you actually think it’s nonsense. He knows there’s something inside, something which will awaken if certain amount of practice is done, and not to feel, “Oh, I don’t like this.” With a certain attention, he knows there’ll be a clear awakening in any child who’s got any musical talents at all.

In the same way, they’re not telling us that the virtues of friendliness, compassion, and love are something that have to be imposed by force, by commandment; but that the practice, although grinding, and artificial and awkward, will gradually awaken something which is inside. It’s a partial refinement.

My teacher told me to read poetry every day and I thought, “Oh, not that stuff?” I couldn’t stand it. At school, we were put off poetry more or less for life.  He said, “You should read poetry.” To please him, I thought if I read Japanese poetry against the translation, at least I’d learn some Japanese. It’d be awful reading the poetry but how good that I’d learn some Japanese.  Gradually, I came to appreciate the poetry and even became able to appreciate some of the Western poetry. There’s something which will awaken – it’s a process of awakening, not of imposing.  The word “command” is, of course, right: “I command you; love one another.” It’s not so strong in Buddhism, it’s bhavana, which means causing something to be – causing fellow-feeling and compassion to be in yourself, and you change gradually.

If some attention is given to this, when somebody tells you they’re in some serious trouble, first, you’re thinking, “Well, better you than me.”  But gradually, something will change; and you’ll see something else, not just the suffering person but something else, something beyond.

Our teacher told us that people like smoking, he wasn’t promoting smoking at all. There are various theories about it, that it’s something to do with breastfeeding or something like that. This is not so because if you go blind, and I have experienced this, you lose the desire to smoke, it’s no pleasure. People don’t enjoy smoking in the dark, either.  There’s something about watching the smoke go away. In the same way, if you’re on a hilltop or on a beach, in men at least (I don’t know if women have this) there’s an impulse to take a stone and throw it into the sea down below. The teacher said this is a physical expression of a deep instinct to be free of the entanglements, and the desires, and all the heavy responsibilities – to smoke and see it all curl away.  I’ve just passed that on, as a hint which was given. I’ll leave you to guess who said: “Poor is he who has many desires.”  Just sometimes we can be free from desires, to throw them, one by one – and then afterwards we can take them up again.

Talks in this series are:

1. The five hindrances are desire, anger, sloth, restlessness, and doubt

2. Hidden hindrances

3. Anger is a hindrance

4. Restlessness and doubt are hindrances

The full talk is The Five Hindrances

© Trevor Leggett


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