Meditation in Action
(A talk on the line of light practice given in 1989)
Meditation in action means spreading out the meditation from the experience and insight of the meditation period into, first of all, simple repetitive tasks like cleaning and sweeping and so on and later on into ordinary life. Now, we can say, ‘Oh, we can’t do this’. It was recommended that we should practise the line of light. For instance, if we are waiting in a queue at a bus-stop we may have to wait about ten minutes on a little step with other people so we think, ‘Oh alright, I’ll do the line of light. I’ll try it while I’m waiting’. Then from the back some kid’s ball has hit the top of the metal stop. ‘Oh, what was that? Line of light…’ Then a fire engine goes by, bells clanging. ‘Oh, line of light’. Then a parked bicycle falls over with a tremendous clatter. Well, by that time it’s all gone. After three, it’s all gone and that’s the fact of the matter.
Well, now, our teacher has said that when some facility has been attained in this practice – we must be able to locate these points -– when there is some facility, it can be extended. So, by repeated practise, not necessarily for long periods, but just for short times of the day, bring it back, go apart for a moment, look out of the window for a moment, come back to it. Now, let us try repeating this for a very short period of time, for two or three minutes and try to bring the attention back to the line of light. The finger at the top of the forehead helps as it does generally, bring it down the central line. Close the eyes, think of the central line of light. Bring the attention back to the central line of light. A clapping noise: bring the attention to the central line of light. A bell rings: bring the attention back to the central line of light. A chair or stool falls over: bring the attention back to the central line of light. (Practice begins and ends with OM).
The Gita says: ‘He who renounces actions in the Lord, free from selfishness, from hopes, from fever, he is a wise man’. Our actions are not pure; they are full of selfish purposes. If our actions are pure, they are efficient but they are not pure so they have become distorted and they become inefficient. Now, as an example, we can perform an action for a completely different purpose than the action. A good time ago a parliamentary reporter, a short-hand reporter, had to achieve one hundred and sixty words a minute, at least, and the check was not writing with the hand but the check was hearing the word and getting the image, the short-hand image in writing. So they practised – this was before radio was popular – visualising or thinking of a word and then the outline.
Well, there was a club and they were recommended to cultivate compulsive bores and the parliamentary reporter would talk to the bore, a compulsive speaker, whom no-one else wanted to talk to, and he would just listen: ‘Oh, do go on’ and all the time he is talking the stream of words the short-hand reporter is visualising the short-hand outline. ‘Oh, very interesting…’ They were using him to practise. This is action for a purpose entirely different from the action of sympathetic listening and of course sooner or later it becomes exposed.
The human body is not symmetrical and all actors, or nearly all, have a good side and a bad side and they battle on the stage who will be facing the good side to the audience. If one’s right side is good and the other left side is good that is fine but if both actors have a good right side then they manoeuvre to share that side. Now, sometimes these manoeuvres are very effective dramatically. One famous actress, when there was a moment when she had to take a decision, she would suddenly walk across the stage as she took it and that was dramatically very effective –‘No!’ – but the purpose was so that she could turn round and show the good side. In this way the actions, although they may seem very effective, they are impure and they are not perfectly effective and the time comes when they are simply disastrous.
Now, an example. Supposing we want an undertaking in the world and to do those actions which will take us straight across the path from here to there (diagram on the board). If I am a missionary then it is the Lord’s work but some missionaries have been known to be rather aggressive. One missionary is rather quarrelsome with missionaries of another sect. A missionary says to him: ‘Why should we quarrel? We’re both doing the Lord’s work,’ and he says, ‘Yes, we are both doing the Lord’s work. You in your way and I in His’. This means that the action now has a subsidiary purpose to score off someone else. It is not a straight action and the direction has already been distorted. The immediate effect of the action is not very successful. Instead of correcting the direction he begins to blame others.
Wilde was a genius but he wrote some poor things and one of his plays was booed. He was asked afterwards and he said, ‘Yes, the play was a success but the audience was a failure’. His own egoism had to be satisfied. The action had to pass through the loop of his own egoism. Then (suppose) trying to get back again (the original direction of an action) there is a group of people here who could help but it will mean, if we ask help of them, a considerable loss of reputation for ourselves. ‘I don’t like them!’ Then there is another group of people whom I do like because they flatter me. They do not know much about it but it will be very encouraging for them to be asked their opinion. Then we are now taking a very long time to do the action and there begins to be a fever.
The Gita says an action done with fever, dashing about in all directions, whereas efficient action means not continuous activity and not continuous relaxation but the ability to alternate the two skilfully and appropriately. Every athlete knows this. Beginners become exhausted because they use too much energy all of the time. But an expert knows when he can relax and when he must be tremendously energetic. But they are in a fever. Then comes fear: ‘Supposing it goes wrong. That would be terrible. Perhaps it would be better not to try it at all’. Finally managing to get past that fear, then it becomes boring. Boring jobs: ‘I don’t want to do copy-typing. You do it’. ‘I don’t want to take the milk round in the morning. You take it’. How is it going to be brought to life? Finally, perhaps, I manage somehow to get past this but I am going to be very late and there is certainly a failure, then there is an explosion of anger. An efficient action will go straight across (diagram).
And if it turns out that at the end that result is not needed or that the thing has disappeared, then, because the action has been pure and not mixed up with these hopes and fears, expectations and self-love, then without any excitement you will be able to come back. This is what the Gita calls pure action and it says it can only be done when these actions are done in consciousness of being a servant of the Lord. To be a servant of the Lord frees him from the necessity of hitting at rivals, from the necessity of bolstering up his own reputation, from the dislike of some people, from the special like of other people, frees him from this fever, frees him from the fear, frees him from the boring attitude to go straight across. We can say, ‘How is this possible? How can it be done?’
Our teacher says there are three aspects of action. He quotes the Gita. The first is this action which is performed in service of the Lord, as a servant. And this will free him from many of these obstructions. It will enable vast undertakings to be carried through that could not have been done by any effort of will or intellectual cleverness or cunning. This is the first stage as a servant. Then the mind begins to become pure of these things. The Gita says he begins to find that the Lord is no longer a master whom he serves. He begins to find in the very action itself that the Lord is a companion. He begins to see the finger of the Lord in the events that take place. The Lord becomes a companion and if he practises this meditation in action as a servant and he practises at the special periods of meditations on the Lord, the Lord will become from being ‘He’, the Lord will become ‘Thou’ and he will have glimpses of a companion.
One more thing and this, too, will finally change. The Gita gives the example, which would perhaps correspond today to somebody cooking: God is the fire, God is the ladle, God is the thing which is ladled, God is the action of ladling. He no longer feels ‘I am doing this’. He begins to feel divine energy doing it through him and this is called the samadhi of God in action, God as action.
Our teacher wrote the book which is now called ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teachings’ and it was a biography of his teacher, Shri Dada, who, unlike our own teacher, was not a great scholar, was not a very famous man in India, China and Japan, who did not know so many of these oriental languages and translations but he gave incidences of the application of the yoga of meditation to daily life, what actually happens.
Now, for instance, a case of blackmail. In India it is a very old custom that if you have been wronged by some powerful man, and it goes back 2000 years at least, there is a custom called ‘sitting down’ and the wronged man sits in front of the gate of the rich man who has wronged him and starves. He is seen. People know and the rich man is shamed. He is being, in fact, blackmailed to do something, to put the matter right, and this can be abused.
Now, a party of five renunciates, who had nothing, came to the town where Shri Dada was and they stayed in the garden of a very rich man, a big garden which he used to throw open to the public. Shri Dada and others gave them some food and helped them as they were making a long journey. Well, the anniversary of the death of their guru came round and these renunciates, decided that this ought to be celebrated, but it ought to be celebrated by a feast for the poor so they approached the owner of the garden, the rich man, but he said, ‘No. You’re not of the neighbourhood and I’ve never heard of your guru and I’m not interested in the matter’. They did not take this calmly. They began this sitting down, starving.
Shri Dada heard of it on the fourth day and he reasoned with them. They were wanting to give away somebody else’s money by blackmail but they would not give in and in the end what do you suppose he did? How was that resolved? If you give in to this sort of blackmail they will do it again, and they will do it again.
In another case a man came to him and asked about anger. Most people who have been interested in spiritual things have a pretty good idea of a lot of things one’s told about anger. The southern Buddhists say, ‘Observe, observe anger rising in the mind, notice ‘Now I am angry’, observe from a detached standpoint, but when this is actually tried the man thinks, ‘Yes, yes, I am angry and I have good reason’ and it does not have any effect on his anger or hardly. Or he is told you must, ‘Forgive, and forgive, and forgive, and forgive’, and he says, ‘What? These people trampling all over everybody and I’ve got to forgive them and then they’re trampling on other people. These are wrongun’s and they’ve got to be…’
The man asked Shri Dada (about anger). In this book (The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teachings) the instructions are very terse, sometimes it is a single sentence, Shri Dada sometimes gives a single sentence, something which is completely unknown to our science of psychology, if it is a science, completely unknown in the West – it is given in one sentence. The man came to Shri Dada who was well up, this was the turn of the (nineteenth) century, in the materialism of the time and he said,’ I believe in the scientific outlook – nature and the laws of nature. That’s it. You don’t need a Controller God’. Well, Shri Dada answered him in three sentences. A very important book, a big one, has just been published by Oxford University Press by two well-known physicists called ‘The Cosmic Anthropic Principle’ which is, in effect, a development of those ideas in those three sentences which Shri Dada gave, with the evidences that have now been collected from not only physics and astronomy but from biology. Shri Dada was not speaking speculatively. He was speaking from his own experience but now, after eighty-six years, this can be shown to be not contrary to the present day anthropic principle which is now being developed by scientists.
Shri Dada spoke of a temple cleaner who came to him. Quite often in the East a small temple or shrine is looked after by some local business man who voluntarily himself cleans the place, puts it tidy and looks after it. It is a well-known fact that after some ten years or so or twenty years these temple cleaners nearly always have a very bad temper. The exaltation of serving the god, of tidying up the temple, of cleaning it, perhaps early in the morning before he goes to his shop; that gives a sense of service of God, of holiness – but it wears off. After about ten years all he is thinking of is, ‘These worshippers who come. Of course, there are slippers but some of them don’t bother with that, no, they just walk into the temple with their dirty feet. I’ve got to clean up afterwards, they leave everything all over the place, I’ve got to put it right afterwards and then they just chuck a copper in – that’s for the cleaning.’
And this happens with so many religious practices. For a year or two it is very devotional, it is very intense, it is very beautiful then gradually it wears off, then it becomes mechanical and then it can become resentful. It was one such temple cleaner who put this point to Shri Dada. ‘This is holy service. What’s gone wrong? My heart is not calm’. Our teacher collected such cases. If one simply gives an answer now it would be of no use to us. We should think ‘What is the problem?’, find the parallel problem in our own lives, try to see what the answer would be and then to look. In that book, or in other books, we should find it. Very often it is one sentence or two sentences which can give us our answer. Then in these ways meditation and meditation experience spreads out into ordinary life.
We can say, ‘You can’t do it – the line of light. How can you do that? Admittedly, you might do it waiting at a bus stop. You might do it just when you’re sweeping or cleaning. How can you do it when you’re adding figures? How can you do it when you’re answering the telephone? How can you do it at a parent-teacher meeting? It is impossible. You bring your mind back to it and you miss what they’re saying. You attend to what they’re saying and it’s all gone. It’s impossible, clearly, isn’t it?’ But if we just think, we can see that every day that it is completely possible.
One of the most dramatic examples is of a chain-smoker. They are puffing away all the time, while they are telephoning, while they are copy-typing, while they are adding figures, while they are at a parent-teacher’s meeting. They have no difficulty. They take out the cigarette, tap it down, put it back, get out the packet, still listening and answering, too – very sharply, coughing; they are still listening. They are running through their routines all day; no difficulty there. Well, instead of chain-smoking we can replace it with one of these yoga practices and this is one of the central points: in bringing yoga into daily life: the realisation that we do not have to throw it away when we leave the meditation room but it can fill our lives and it can bring inspiration, just in glimpses, just in little flashes, just in a little bit of calmness in the middle of a storm and that will be the beginning of a new spring, it is called by the Japanese poets the spring-time, in the heart. Well, thank you for your kind attention.
Then this time we will make the breathing practice go a little deeper. We did it before from the navel point up to the point between the eyebrows, feeling as if the breath came in. The breath itself does not come in with the in-breath but there is a current which comes up. So, it is a long, slow breath, not straining ourselves and feeling that the breath is coming in up here. These things are not arbitrary. Our teacher said in one place it is like a radio enthusiast putting up the aerial. He says in his little book on meditation (Meditation: Its Theory and Practice) on page 41 about this practice: ‘Man is a replica of the Universe: as there are solar systems and galactic and other systems in the Universe, so are they represented in man. Not only that, but there is a direct correspondence between man and all the centres of the Universe’.
These are not meant to be dogmas but it is a basis to give life to our experiments. So now, if you would like to try, bunch the fingers and touch just below the navel, pressing just a tiny little bit to give an after-sensation, then just touch here (the point between the eyebrows). Now, you have those two points (the point below the navel and the point between the eyebrows). Now, breathe in slowly and feel the current of the breath is coming up through the navel as though it was sucked up through a straw, up to this point here, finishing here (the point between the eyebrows) on the in-breath. On the out-breath there is no visualisation. The breath goes and again is drawn in. It’s traditionally done about 21 times but if we do it for 2 or 3 minutes here then we can have done that much together. Now I will say OM, the name of God at the beginning and then OM, the name of God at the end.
OM BREATHING PRACTICE OM
If we practise this regularly we must expect that some days it will be bright and clear, some days it will not be, just like an athlete. He practices every day. Some days the body feels heavy and awkward, some days it is brilliantly precise and energetic but each day he practices and gradually the whole level of ability goes up. This is a calming exercise and also a centring exercise and it’s very useful if we have time before some task, some important task and we have the privacy and are able to do it, to perform this exercise. The Japanese factory worker does four or five minutes warming up exercises at the beginning of the day and so they have fewer accidents in the factories, but here we have had a certain resistance to doing this, perhaps a suspicion of what it might be, but it’s a very useful thing to warm the body up before you handle the machines and, yogically, it is a very useful thing to calm the body and the mind down before tackling anything.
Line of light practice
Then the next exercise which we did was the line of light practice. The subjects of concentration in yoga are realities. They are not beautiful dreams. They are actual realities and it is a question of bringing them to clear awareness in us by persistent practise and this exercise, you remember, consisted in visualising and feeling the centre line as a line of light, to touch the finger on the forehead and then to bring it down the centre line and use the after- sensation down to the navel, feel this centre as a line of light here, throwing away the sensations from the exterior, throwing away the memories and associations from the interior, coming to the centre line.
This is one example that is given. Examples are only meant as illustrations, they can’t be taken too far or too exactly, but these red lines (diagram) are associated with these dark lines which do not actually touch them but, nevertheless, to many people with normal vision it seems to affect the length of the lines, the association with these things. In the same way, yoga tells us that the association with external things which do not actually touch us, which have no concern really with us, can affect us and affect our awareness of our consciousness and the purpose is to remove these accidental circumstances and memories and associations which do not actually have anything to do with us and become aware, simply, of the central line.
This is given in one of Christ’s riddles which is known as the Labourers in the Vineyard, where the labourers agree to work for a day for a denarius. They are selected from the casual labourers and they must be glad to get the job because others do not get it. They agree to do it. Later in the day he (the vineyard owner) takes on other casual labourers who will only work for half day and in the evening he takes on some others who will only work for an hour, but at the end he pays them all one denarius. The labourers who worked all day grumble and complain. They say, ‘No, this is not fair’, and the owner of the vineyard says, ‘Why? You agreed to do this. You were happy to get the job. You’re not getting any less’. ‘No, it’s not fair that they should get the same as we got when they only work half a day or only one hour’. Now, these are circumstances which had nothing to do with them but which, nevertheless, soured their perceptions. I can hear: ‘I can be satisfied with something then I hear someone with something a little bit better, then I become envious and dissatisfied’, so these accidental things which do not actually touch me at all can, nevertheless, make me look and feel different, and part of this exercise is to remove them and to be what I am.
Then, if you would like to try the centre line practice, touching the finger on the forehead, bringing it down the centre line to the navel and using that brief after-sensation to bring the attention to a line of light, a column of light in the middle of the body, to do it for about 4 or 5 minutes…
OM LINE OF LIGHT PRACTICE OM
These are methods, among other things, of controlling the mind. People say the mind is uncontrollable. A man said that to a teacher and the teacher said, ‘No, your mind is controlled all the time – by others – by advertisements, by your television, by people saying you should do this. Yes, I know it’s a rotten paper but everyone’s reading it. Your mind is controlled all the time and you can control it yourself’. One of the illustrations about this practice is when one is very nervous or something happens suddenly – a shattering disappointment – even a tremendous elation there is no time to philosophise. Then, if we have practised this – come to the centre – there are advantages, even physically. There are certain branches of athletics where the performers, the top performers, know this, and it improves their physical performance but this is certainly not the yogic purpose of the exercise. It is by effect.
Then the last thing was the text. Well, here again an illustration can be provided: Within me there is a light, there is a consciousness which lights the whole world. One can feel, ‘Well, it isn’t so, one’s consciousness is not like that. Consciousness is not this universal, stable, unmoving, all-pervading consciousness. It’s a limited thing’. The blue represents here (diagram) the consciousness as we feel it, and the grey is the things we know immediately, which is quite a small area, and then there is a vast black area of the unknown and this is the actual position one can feel. We can feel that our consciousness moves. We see and feel our consciousness moving and it may begin to disappear and we have to be very careful to keep in the circle of the known. We can see and feel the consciousness moving. It is no use talking about this being a universal consciousness which does not move, which is all pervading but in yoga practice this individuality and this vast area of the unknown, these are not completely real.
These are things which are built up which seem to imprison us but are not, in fact, real and that the reality is this: children think that a spot of blue in the cloudy sky is moving, the clouds move and they see the spot of blue moving, they think it’s a thing which moves. In fact we know that it is the clouds that are moving. In the same way we can feel the consciousness is moving but in fact it is not so and this yogic meditation is to discard, for the time at least, these convictions of individual limitations and world limitations and to give ourselves up into this Universal Consciousness.
Now, if you like to try, we will do the meditation in this form.
OM In me there is a light which lights the whole world.
It is radiating now peace and understanding. OM
Well, we have done these exercises. We cannot expect that in a strange place, among people one does not know, not at a regular time, that necessarily we should be able to go very deeply into them. It can happen, but we do not have a claim on it but anyway we have done them together and if you feel an impulse and interest in them we hope that we are providing a practice sheet about them. We hope that you keep them up at home for the traditional period at least of 40 days and see whether our expectations and the expectations of our teacher of the inherent benefit of these exercises will manifest in you. Thank you for your attention.