In this Yoga we have to do quite a lot of study in order to think right through whether we feel that it is reasonable or not to practice; not to think, “Oh well, I might do a bit” and then three weeks later think, “How does anyone know there’s anything in it?” It has to be thought right through. Then it has to be felt right through – in the whirl of emotions to find out what we really do want; what it is that’s our central problem in life and whether we think the yogic ideal is what we really will aim for and sacrifice for. Only when those things have been thought through and felt through, shall we be able to keep up the yoga practice. In the end Yoga has to be brought to the individual self, otherwise it remains a theory up there as a comforting background; but when we are in trouble, we’re down here and it is not much help.
In the yogic practice we have the special practice at a particular time every day, and we have the general practice which we do throughout the day. This is the special practice we’re doing. First about posture – as was said, the traditional posture is sitting on the floor and young people can soon acquire the means of putting one foot up on the opposing thigh. And if they acquire that, which they can do in about three months quite easily unless the body has injuries, it’s an advantage. It’s not necessary, but it’s an advantage. But in any case, if the posture is the upright one in the chair, every time it should be the same, exactly the same, because we are laying down associations. The hands can be locked [in different ways] – but whichever we do, we should do exactly the same. The time will come when we are in difficulties, in a crisis, when we’re very nervous or disturbed – the hands and the feet and the face become agitated; then, if we have always kept the same posture in our meditation, to assume the posture will bring all the associations of calmness and spirituality and by itself will produce a pacification. So this is the first point – whatever the posture is, it should be the same each time. We can use other helpful associations in meditation – to have a picture of the divinity or the saint, or a rosary. But the time will come when we shall be without those things; but we shall never be without the body and, if we keep the bodily posture the same, it’s an advantage. Then, as you know, it’s to sit still and upright. The traditional posture on the ground is an easy one to keep still once it’s been mastered.
The next thing is that the Yoga must be brought to make a change in the body consciousness, otherwise it remains purely theoretical. Shankara says the realised man is like an actor who plays his part and feels his part, but underneath it he has a sense of his own real identity which is never lost. In the same way, there’s a real identity which has to be brought to light at the time of meditation and maintained as a background in the ordinary daily life.
If you’d like to try: [in between] the minister of the exterior and the minister of the interior [of the body] is the central line, what’s called in Buddhism the Middle Way, the centre line of consciousness. The first exercise for developing this central line of consciousness is to sit still in an upright, comfortable position and to breathe. Generally we breathe about 15 times per minute, so the breath should be made slower; and we feel that the breath is being brought in at the navel point. Touch the finger there and feel that the air is being sucked in, like through a straw, up the central line until, when the breath is full, it reaches [the crown of the head]. This is not physically what happens, but by directing attention here, that the breath is coming in at the navel, and being sucked slowly up the central line to the crown of the head, we become aware of something. Then on the slow outbreath, relaxation, no visualisation. Again, to feel the breath is coming in like a current and being slowly drawn up. Normally it can take four or five seconds for the inbreath. Sometimes your visualisation will not have reached the top by the time the breath finishes. There’s a sort of knack, and as it becomes more expert the breath will become slower and the visualisation will become clearer.
Let’s try this for a few minutes. We begin these practices by all together saying ‘OM’. We’re not going into it now, but it has an advantageous effect on the body and the mind. So we make a long ‘OM’, then breathe in, feel the breath coming up – on the outbreath, relaxation, emptiness – then again… I’ll ring the bell at the end of five or six minutes…
The next step in this meditation is to associate the body with light. This is a fundamental practice in this Yoga. This time, when the breath is taken in, we feel that a current of light is coming in and is travelling up the centre of the body, up the central line to the crown of the head. The references to light you will know, they come everywhere in the mystical traditions and the sacred texts of the world. In the New Testament at the beginning of the fourth Gospel you will find these references to light. So light which stands for us and is an experience of spiritual realisation comes in with the breath at the navel. Experience tells us that this is one of the easiest ways to feel it – brought in with the breath at the navel. It travels up so that it comes up like a column of light up the centre of the body, up to the crown of the head. When the inbreath is complete there’s a column of light. On the outbreath, no visualisation, relaxation; again brought up the central line.
When we do these practices they’re more successful on some days than on others. The effect is a definite one. Our teacher said this is not an imaginary light – there is a light there. But normally we are in such tension and disturbance that we’re not aware of it. If we practise (and we’re asking those who are serious in Yoga to practise for at least six weeks), if the effect is not clear, if there is not a definite awareness of a light which is felt to be realisation of divinity, (however faintly, but it must be definite), if that effect is not obtained, then the meditation has failed. But it doesn’t mean that the meditator is a failure. An archer who shoots at a target every day, he may miss the bullseye a thousand times. He has missed, but it doesn’t mean his archery practice is a failure. The final shots in the centre are part of the same process which made the thousand misses at first. In the same way with this meditation.
Then the third form of it is to touch with the finger [this spot between the eyebrows] and draw the finger down the centre line of the body to just below the navel point, and to use the aftersensation and then feel, realise, the line of light. If you’d like to try this, as we have done the preliminary practices, it will be a little easier. Pull the finger down, press a little bit, use the aftersensation to bring your attention on to the line of light in the centre of the body.
In these practices we feel we must create the light, but we’re told it’s realising light. These are the words of Christ: “When you pray, think you have received it.” Not pray that we will receive it. He says, “Think you have received it and you do receive it”. In the same way, not to think, “I must create the light. There will be a light. There is to be a light.” – but that there is light. This practice is given to us. When we have done a little at a special time, we can do it in the ordinary time of the day, when our mind is not busily engaged. When we have to wait in the cold and the wet, when we have to do monotonous jobs, like cleaning a large surface, when normally the mind races on something else, then these practices, especially this line of light practice, can be done. And it affects the movement, it becomes creative, spiritually creative. We may say, “I can’t paint pictures in oils”, but to arrange the furniture in a room can be spiritually creative. A person’s handwriting can be spiritually creative and give a peace to the people who read it. Our teacher told us when you have a little facility in this exercise you can practise it at the other times too, and if we practise it for six weeks, and then we read the Gospels with very close attention, we shall find a number of references to this practice concealed – half-concealed and half-revealed – in those texts and it will be a stimulus to our study and to our realisation.
Question: What is the idea of this creative light, perhaps this can be explained once more?
TPL: It’s better not to go into theoretical discussion on the practical point. It’s better to do the practice and learn the theory from doing the practice. If one is given the theoretical background, which exists, then it confuses one’s practice.
Question: Should one meditate on the breath or the text, (because this lady can’t do both)?
TPL: These are entirely different meditations and very often, in a traditional meditation period, we have a text first – to throw ourselves into the quest for truth and for worship. Then the breath practices remove the obstructions of the tension and excitement and distractions of the body and the mind.
Question: Is there a movement beyond the stage of the breath?
TPL: The same point applies, that if one’s told, “Oh, yes. There is another step beyond this,” then when one is practising one thinks, “When am I going to be promoted to the sixth form?” You are right; but it’s best to have a practice and do it. It’s not like a change, there is an inner development which we can find in the New Testament.
Question: Is meditation another word for thinking consciously?
Question: How does one know if the line of light is real or imaginary?
TPL: One test is this, that when the experience is had, it’s not the same as one had imagined that it would be. The description and our imagination is near enough for us to recognise it, but it’s not the same. It’s not an objectification of our imagination. All people who do this practice properly come to exactly the same experience, not to different experiences depending on their imagination.
Question: Why were [there Christian] references to these practices?
TPL: This was a method which Jesus used and which other teachers have used. He told them things that were half-concealed and half-revealed, like the parable of the sower. The disciples came to him afterwards and said, “What does it mean? What has it got to do with us?” He used more than fifty parables in the New Testament, and his explanation of why he used them is also in the New Testament. But it makes us think, and it makes us study and it makes us go into it.
Queston: Can meditation be dangerous?
TPL: There is a Chinese answer to this, in the humorous Chinese way – ‘It can be dangerous, but not nearly so dangerous as not to do meditation’.