Our teacher often began these lectures by recommending that we should make our mind one-pointed. The Gita says many-branched and endless are the thoughts of the irresolute. The yogi must make his mind one-pointed. One of the means of doing this is to touch the point between the eyebrows, put the fingernail on there, pinch and then use the after-sensation to bring your mind to this one point. So throwing away, as he said, the minister of the exterior (the external thought, thoughts of the exterior) and the minister of the interior (thoughts about the interior mental life) – throwing them both away, bringing the thought and the attention to this one point. Now, if you would like to try for three minutes, I will say the ‘Om’, and if you would like just to touch here, or if you don’t need it, just bring the attention here. Om.
One of the themes of the lecture this evening was to be ‘force’. Physical force, mental force and spiritual force, and these are mentioned and discussed a little in the meditation handbook, which we will follow.
First the physical force – this passionate, forceful action is described in the last chapter of the Gita as, “done by man who is eager to achieve the fruit of action at any cost, who is greedy for the fruit.” He can’t wait. It’s done with tiring endeavour. Our teacher comments on this because unnatural ways are employed. Because he is so eager and determined to get the results and fruits quickly, he can’t wait for the natural course of things. He wants to, as we say, force it through.
These are people who use unnecessary force – who bang the keys of a typewriter, who chop wood across the grain and who try to conquer other people physically. They subdue them physically but not in their inner being. They are hated by their slaves. The Roman proverb says that as many slaves as you have, you have that number of enemies. That applied even to good masters, like Pliny. But this is forceful, tiring and ultimately misapplied action, because it goes against the nature of the thing.
When there is spiritual inspiration, this physical action changes. Then it becomes adapted to the object. Some force has to be used in typing, but to use just so much as is necessary. Not to bang the keys, nor to press them so lightly that they won’t register – but just so much. There is a love of the instrument which is being used, and you sometimes see a good workman with the wood. With his fingers, he will stroke the wood, and he will use the grain of the wood in his work. There is a fruitful cooperation between the actor who does the action, who uses the force, and the thing he is working on.
Then the mental force – a comparison has been made that mostly we think in boxing gloves. It is as though we are doing everything with our hands covered in boxing gloves. Imagine trying to write or cook or mend something with your hands in boxing gloves. In the same way we have wads of like and dislike and fear and anticipation and greed and hate over our instrument. So what we do is clumsy and ill-adapted, and our very thoughts are in boxing gloves!
How many people say, “Oh, yes, I was getting on well at maths at school, and then we changed class. I didn’t like the new teacher, and then I didn’t make any more progress.”? “Was he a good teacher?” “Yes, I believe so, yes, but I didn’t like him.” In one country I heard someone say, “Well, I am from the East, you see, and the teacher was from the West. He used to occasionally make little comments about ‘our Eastern friends’ and my Eastern accent; and I didn’t make progress in his class.” Well, this is a boxing glove, it is meaningless, but we can’t take it off.
The idea is to be able to take off these meaningless accretions that we have over our thoughts and our actions and simply to be able to do the thing for its own sake – not because I want to get something out of it, not because I am afraid of what will happen if it goes wrong, not because I want to show off, but to do the thing for its own sake.
The Gita has a very revealing verse on this: “When people perform the actions they should be performing, without desire and hate, then the actions give a sort of delight”. The actions become pure and they give a ‘delight’ – the word used is very strong. So our lives can become delight in the action itself – not looking for the result, but in the very action itself.
Our teacher used to say that to be able to do things and do them effectively, the Gita says to do them firmly and to do them vigorously, but to do them without the masses of feelings and prejudices and instinctive fears and hopes. Then it will give a delight. When we can’t do this, we try to force things because our thoughts are not free. Then we become what our teacher called ‘shouters’. “You have got to give way to me or I will destroy everything.” This is basically the attitude of the terrorist.
The spiritual aspect of the mental action is calm, decisive – and then it is dropped afterwards. When the thing has been done, then it is dropped, the memory of it is dropped. It is not always thinking, “What am I going to get out of it?” and “How shall I make something?” or “How shall I avoid something if it goes wrong?” or “Won’t it be awful if it goes wrong?”
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
(Continued in ‘An example of spiritual inspiration’)
Part 1: Spiritual force
Part 3: King Ashwapati