Learning how to handle one’s own heart
In the end, one of the teachers says, “It comes to this. ”In the old fishing villages, they used to have these long boats and they’d have to be turned over. Now it took, they used to say, 12 men to turn the boat. And there was a proverb in the fishing villages. You get 12 men and you’re all going to make this joint effort to turn the boat over. Of those 12 men, one will be foxing; actually he’s not putting any force in at all. The other 11 are. Now, the teacher said, “When you know somebody else is getting away with it, can you still do your work with the same satisfaction and peace? Your work is the same, but the knowledge that somebody else there is getting away with it free, can that poison your work? If it can, then you have no mental control at all. And the main thing is to acquire the mental control, which you can say, ‘this is mine, what I’ve taken on and I’ll do it with satisfaction and with a happiness, irrespective what they’re doing’.”
He said, “This is the first lesson in one’s learning how to handle one’s own heart.” But everything so far has been on, what is called, the mental control in the world. And it will improve our lives, can make our lives peaceful, but it won’t solve the problem of life. The teachers say, “Now for those people who feel that they must solve the problem of life, that this is what they really need, normally what we want is not the same as what we need.” You get an old girl who’s terribly thirsty all the time, drinking and drinking, and what she wants is to drink. So you keep bringing her lemonades and so on because it’s what she wants to drink, but actually she’s got diabetes and what she needs is insulin, which she’s never heard of and that will relieve this terrible burning thirsts. The thirst can be so strong that they want to batten down the windows and, “Must drink.” What we want and what we need, again, to find out in our heart. On the surface I know what I want, but that’s not what I need.
“There are two things,” the teacher says. “We must have a glimpse of immortality. Without that our lives are short and limited. And while we can do something significant in the short space of limitation, we find that in the end, there’s a hunger for something beyond this enclosure.” If you see very small children in imprisonment, when they’re two or three, they’re quite happy. It’s big enough. The camp is big enough. They got a ball and they can throw the ball against the wall and they can scamper along here. It’s big enough. They don’t feel any constriction at all. When they need to grow up and they begin to look beyond, then they finally feel, they must get out; well, in the same way, there are people who are beginning, spiritually, to feel the limitations. Before that, we feel, “Oh, well, if only things were adjusted a bit better, I’d be quite happy inside this small space.” But when we begin to grow spiritually, the Indians say the elephant gets too big for the little house.
Well, there are two practices. One is defined, a flash of immortality. And the second, is to find the purpose – that there’s a purpose in the universe, otherwise, our actions just seem to be like cleaning a little space in the jungle, making that tidy but the rest of it, completely devoid of purpose or order. There are two practices which the teachers give and which I’ll pass on here. The elements from which glass is made – sand and silica. You can’t see through them, but when they’re mixed, purified in a particular way, becomes transparent glass. You can see right through. You think, “Well, how can that be? You can’t see through sand,” but when they’re mixed, you have this transparent glass. But how is it that something which is opaque becomes transparent?
Now, this is an analogy. When we look into our minds, what we see – as Hume said – is some feeling, some memory, some impulse or perhaps sleep. That’s all. But by a process of meditation, the elements can be – so to speak – arranged. And then it’s possible to see through the mind, to have a glimpse of something beyond. Before, when it’s knotted, you can’t see through it, but when it’s arranged, [it’s transparent]. Now, the practice is to sit still and then to observe the changing moves of the mind. Normally, when a figure comes up, somebody I dislike, I [think something bad, or the opposite when it’s] somebody I like. Now, instead of that, when the ideas come up, simply to see them without catching their eye so to speak; passing. You would see people passing because [you’re] sitting still, with people passing in front.
If you don’t address them, don’t catch their eye, don’t speak to them, they’ll pass on. The thoughts will pass on. Pass on. Not wanted. No interest. Not wanted. No interest. Now, in Freud’s view, they would simply continue to come. But if we are alert, finally, the thoughts will become fewer. Instead of an endless stream, they’ll gradually become fewer and we can see through them.
Now, one of the classic forms of this is to imagine that you’re sitting on top of a hill and you have a cloth full of pebbles in your lap. As a thought comes up, throw it away with a pebble. Another thought comes up, throw it away with the pebble. Some students actually do this. They go to a hilltop, at dawn, if possible. The saying is ‘enlightenment comes with the dawn’: sitting on a hilltop with the pebbles. A thought comes up, throw it; another thought comes up, throw it. Another, throw it. Another… A row I had yesterday; an attractive offer that’s come; my house. Throw it. “I’ve been sacked,” throw it.
Practising like that, they all become fewer and we can catch a glimpse of something which doesn’t change. There is an element which doesn’t change. When the mind changes, there’s something which doesn’t. This is a glimpse of something immortal, which doesn’t change. It’s only a glimpse, but that glimpse can set him free from complete dependence on the things of the world.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: The Need of the World
Part 2: Evil in the world
Part 5: Creativity in Life
Part 6: Meditate on the cosmic purpose