Look for extraordinary inspirations
Another point brought out by our teacher, not stressed in the Gita itself, though is there, was: creativity. Yoga must make us creative. He used to give examples from the history of science and literature of extraordinary inspirations and told us to look out for them. One such, which happened after he died was a great discovery by the physicist Enrico Fermi. His name is commemorated in the famous Fermilab in America and a fundamental particle is named after him, the fermion. In an interview with Chandrasekhar, another noted physicist, he said, “I will tell how I came to make what people say is my greatest discovery, the results we were getting from the path of neutrons were not making sense. And then suddenly the idea came to me let me put a bit of lead in front of the path of neutrons. So I had this idea but I was very fussy about the lead, and when they brought me a piece of lead to do it I said, No I want this machined. There was no possible reason why I wanted it shaped and I sent it back three times, there was something in me that did not want that lead and then finally I had to have it back, they had done everything required of them, and then suddenly a thought came, “No I don’t want a piece of lead I want a piece of paraffin wax”, and I got hold of any old piece of wax that was lying around and that gave the clue.” And he said, “There was no prior thought, there was no logical cause or reason for it.” It wasn’t just a question of trying things at random, it was something that prompted him to do that.
Our teacher used to give this sort of example, but of course we used to say: “We are not famous physicists, we are not these wonderful people. You can’t expect this sort of thing from ordinary people.” But he said “No the ordinary people can have these inspirations”. And in public lectures, he said, “People here, everyone here, can think the thoughts of Plato and of Shakespeare, they will not necessarily express it with the same brilliance, but if the inspiration comes from the cosmic mind, the inspiration will come through the channels that are there in them. If they meditate and come into contact with that mind they will be inspired.
Now as an example at the end of the war Japan was in ruins. It was the custom that the Emperor on New Year’s day would give a poem, something like the Queen’s Xmas message in Britain today. That Emperor, Hirohito who died not long ago was a scientist, a marine biologist, and became an Honorary Member of our Royal Society for his work on some pacific marine crabs. He was not distinguished as a poet at all but he had to present a poet to a country in ruins, under an allied occupation, largely American. It did do some good but it was also a heavy burden, and there was a lot of corruption, as was later admitted. Some commentators thought that Japan would never recover, and would have to become a sort of lotus-land for tourists.
Now this undistinguished figure in the world of poetry was inspired to make a poem which became famous though it was in very simple words:
‘Under the weight of snow,
The pine tree keeps its green,
This poem was an inspiration to the people. Many observers thought they would never recover, but the poem telling them ‘under the heavy snow of the Occupation the green of the pine, spirit of the people, remains hidden by the snow but is always there, and finally the snow will melt and the green show itself.’
This was a famous poem which was written by an ordinary man, and our teacher used to recite an example of some of these poems he said, ‘they were in very simple language and the ordinary people can write them and they can have inspiration.’ There is one poem which was written by a woman on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday. On the Buddha’s birthday in the temples there was a hall of flowers and the little image of the newborn Buddha was put in the middle. The poem was ‘decorate the flower hall, the flower hall is your own heart. Listen to the cry of the newly born Buddha in it.’ This was a famous poem with very simple language which was written by one of the attendants at a small temple near Kyoto.
Well then another poem a short one which can be of a great help to us, as when our teacher said we are overwhelmed with a torrent of abuse and hatred and false rumours about us, they will hate you and curse you, they will circulate rumours around. The poem is ‘we sweep up the leaves in the courtyard every day but we do not hate the trees for dropping them,’ and the Indian proverb is ‘jar leaks, what is in it?’ and this venom of slander and spite comes from people, like the trees dropping the leaves. We sweep it up, we ignore it on the ground but we try not to hate the trees for dropping it.
© Trevor Leggett