Mind Power

Mind is supposed to have limitations, but if we study history, as our teacher always recommended, we find that those limitations have been accepted in quite different places – in very different ways over long periods.  For instance, the great builders of the cathedrals in Europe from Notre Dame, each one a little higher than the last cathedral, up to Beauvais, which was so high it fell down.  They were master builders, but they couldn’t calculate more than 5 times 5 in their heads.  That was thought to be quite impossible.  Even accountants used to have on the walls of their offices, the tables above 5 times 5.  It all had to be written down – nobody could be expected to remember that – quite impossible.  Well, sometime they had to calculate while they were away from their tables and didn’t have a counting board with them.  How would you calculate then – 9 times 9? Well, the accountants used to hold up their hands – on the one hand 9 is 4 above 5, so put down 4 fingers; on the other hand 9 is 4 above 5, so put down 4 fingers.  Now add the fingers that are down – that’s 4 + 4 = 8; multiply the fingers that are up, that’s 1 x 1 = 1.  So the answer to 9 times 9 is 81.  Nobody could be expected to remember that, but they were experts at calculation – and we know how widespread this was, because there are references in the literature to the supple fingers of the accountants.  So they were constantly using these fingers.

In the same way, to read silently was a great achievement – you had to be more or less a genius to read silently, and it’s been argued that nobody could.  But we know that the astronomer, Ptolemy, he writes about reading silently, not verbalising the words as everyone else did.  To read silently, he said, is a very good exercise in concentration.  But he was regarded as a genius – it was almost impossible to do.  But now, anybody can do these things.  On the other hand, they had faculties which we regard as impossible.  For instance, memory – even a century ago people could remember.  Thackery, the author, in a storm at sea, to take his mind off the danger, recited the whole of Paradise Lost from memory.  We think, ‘Nobody could do that’ – but people could, it was not so exceptional.  So that the frontiers of what’s possible and what’s impossible vary quite considerably.

There are other faculties which we hear of – distance, for instance, some Tibetan monks practise as a form of discipline meditating in the snow.  Our teacher’s referred to this.  They’re able to do it and by practice they have been able to, by a special sort of concentration, they’ve been able to raise the temperature of the body by several degrees.  Our teacher has referred to this and said, “Well, one has passed through all these years of training, he can sit in the snow and meditate – but that’s all.”  The United State army sent a medical team to see whether these claims were true and they found that they were.  But, as an additional interest to this point, they asked one of the monks if he would come down to the plains and help them with some more elaborate tests.  He said “No” because, apparently, he said, “Now when I go down to a warm place and I sit in meditation, immediately the heat of the body goes up.”  It now happened automatically to him – he couldn’t control it.  So he had to meditate now in these very cold places and our teacher said there are no advantages in such things.  However they do exist and it is worth knowing that what is thought to be the frontiers of possibility are not as fixed as we imagine.

The ordinary mind is a battle and is represented here.  There is something to be done and we want to do it but, as we know, immediately that happens – ‘There’s something to be done; I’ve got to do it’ – all sorts of other considerations come in.  “Oh well, you can’t do it anyway for a bit” and “How’s this going to affect our relations with so and so? They might not like it here.”  Our normal method is, in this battle, to increase the force of “I’ve got to do it” and then these other considerations tend to increase too, and there’s a big battle.  Then in comes another big thought: “Why, you don’t want to bother with all these things.  Why get all excited? It doesn’t matter.”  Finally, sometimes, the need to do it will win and slowly, and rather ineffectively, it will happen.  It can be forced through.

This is completely different from the Yoga method of action.  It is not a question of building up more and more force, more and more passion and fury, in order to overcome this resistance.  Instead to take away these opposing thoughts, so there’s simply the action, which takes place without friction, without a battle.  That means the ability to give up casual thoughts and passionate thoughts – to make the mind empty except for this thought, this desire.  This is the Yoga method.  In this method, how are these things to be overcome and got rid of?  Our teacher often used to give a fundamental practice of Yoga – to sit, and as the thoughts come up to say, “Not wanted. Not wanted.  Unreal, unreal.”  The thoughts of opposition can be of different kinds.  Sometimes there’s something that will be good to do, but there’s an element which doesn’t want to do it, and that element says to the intellect, “Get me out of this.”

The brilliant writer, de Quincy, heard a pianist play.  He was fascinated, wonderful and he determined, he told his friends, “I am going to master the piano and be able to play!”  Then he found that it would mean a lot of practice for many hours every day; but he’d already told a lot of people, so it would be a terrible loss of face.  So he said to his intellect, “Get me out of this!”  So the intellect said, “Well, suppose you go to a concert, you have a free ticket, but there’s just one condition, that at a particular point in the piece you have to knock the table twice.  That’s all.  It’ll ruin the concert for you, won’t it?  You’ll be waiting for your bit, you’ll be tense, and then you’ll do it and think, “Ok, that’s done’.  You won’t enjoy the concert, because you’ve got this to do.  Now think of the musicians – they’ve got things to do all the time.  It means they can’t enjoy the music at all. They’re just slaves producing the music for us to sit in serenity and enjoy.  So it will be a great mistake to take up the piano and do all that practising, wouldn’t it?  It’ll be much better letting other people do it and enjoy.”

So his intellect got him out of that, but it was not exactly a constructive thing.  To give up the thoughts in meditation – but also there are practices.  You can’t just sit in meditation doing these practices, and then run wild with instant reactions in the daytime.  Now we’re told, for instance, in nearly all schools of good behaviour, when you’re annoyed and you feel you want to say something, count backwards from 19 before you speak – or sometimes it’s 99; or sometimes people say count up to 10 before you speak.  Most people have heard of these things in the nursery, but nobody does them.  However, if they were shown, or if it was known, that it could have an effect, then…

There’s a spiritual version of this which would be worth trying.  But first I’ll give an example from the world of how effective this is.  A man published an advertisement which he put in one of the highly respectable papers, how to give up smoking without using will power.  The paper wrote back to him and said “We’re not going to print this unless you tell us what your method is.  So he wrote and told them and then they printed it and he did quite well out of this.  His method was, it’s a booklet, and it’s a little hourglass of sand for boiling an egg – three and a half minutes.  He said ,“You don’t have to use will power in my method.  You can have a cigarette when you like. But when you decide you want a cigarette, take out the hourglass, put it down and wait for three and a half minutes, then have your cigarette.  I saw some of the letters that he received and even this first step was often quite effective. The sudden wish for a cigarette is a quick thing.  They want it now.  They didn’t feel frustrated, because they knew they could have a cigarette; but after the three and a half minutes quite often they didn’t want it – or if he had it, it didn’t seem very interesting or attractive.

Then he said, “Now, extend this.  Wait for three minutes and then have your cigarette.  But when you have your cigarette, you mustn’t do anything else.  You mustn’t talk to people, you mustn’t look at anything, you mustn’t listen to anything, you mustn’t read the paper.  Just go into a corner and enjoy your cigarette.  What they experienced was that they’d wait for three minutes, go to the corner take out the cigarette and enjoy it. But after a few puffs it wasn’t enjoyable, and they’d find themselves putting it out halfway through.  I won’t go into the further steps, but anyway he was fairly successful.

Now there is a spiritual account of this which is referred to in our teacher’s book – just hinted at. When something happens, suddenly causes anger, fear – I give one of the versions from the far East – you can have your anger; but wait for three minutes and then have your anger. Then you won’t feel frustrated.  When it happens, bring your attention to the point between the eyebrows – wait three minutes, then you can have your anger.  You can make your angry reply then, as angry as you like. Or something happens that frightens you – in the same way, bring your attention here, wait for three minutes and then have your fear.

Well, we could just try for a moment.  I’ve got a little timer (I haven’t got an egg-timer, they don’t seem to make them now.)  This practice is given in the book called, ‘Training the Mind through Yoga’, where the body is to be made an instrument and a servant, and one of the methods is to imagine the circumstances and then the body is to be a servant.  So we sit there and we imagine vividly that somebody has smacked us on the face or insulted us.  Or there’s a beautiful flowerbed that I’ve cultivated, and someone comes along and tramples all over it. “Why did you do that?”  “Well, I don’t need a reason.  I just felt like it, that’s all.  I wanted to see you go, ‘Oh, you’ve ruined it!!’” Vividly imagine it, and then bring the mind to the point between the eyebrows, just for three minutes.

Another exercise that is given in the same book – imagine that we have to undertake an important errand, and to do that we have to walk down a very dark street at night.  There’s something that needs to be done.  Imagine ourselves walking down that very dark street.  Bring the attention between the eyebrows and feel that the spirit is independent of the body – the body is an instrument.  So if you’d like to try:  ‘We’re walking down a dark street, the attention between the eyebrows, the spirit is independent. Do this for three minutes.

Then after that pause we can have our anger, have our fear, as the man can have his cigarette; but now we’re in the position that we can look at the anger, look at the fear.  The point is to make a gap in the immediate reaction, to be able to make that gap.  There is a story on these lines of a monk who recommended this; so they thought they would try [to test him] when he was carrying a bowl.  It had to be carried carefully and he was carrying it down a long corridor.  There was a turn in the corridor and as he turned round, they jumped out on him, and yelled.  He went on and put the bowl down very carefully – and then he went, “Oh, oh, oh!”  In that way he was demonstrating, to make a gap and then we can have our anger or our fear at the right time.

Then when we become a little bit experienced at making this gap in the chain of action and reaction in everyday life, we will find it much easier to begin to give up, to shed these reactions at the time of meditation and then our actions will become free and pure from them. We are asked to study the holy texts in order to furnish our yoga with a conviction. If we don’t study, we won’t have conviction and if we don’t have conviction, we will never be able to keep up the practice of meditation and of yoga.

One of the examples given is this – interrogators use this. You are in a lighted room and there is a mirror.  You are just by yourself. The mirror, in fact, is two sheets of plate glass and the further one is lightly silvered. Now, in fact, it’s a one-way mirror. It reflects. You are in your lighted room, and it reflects. But there is a room beyond the mirror which is completely dark. So when you look at this mirror, this plate glass, you just see the reflection of yourself.

Now, this example has been given about a spiritual meditation. While the whole of the light of our interest is in this room, in our worldly activities and engagements, then the light is all here. When we try to look beyond, we shall only see reflections of ourselves. So the teachers say, “You may see something beautiful, but it is an idea that you have created. This is the reflection of yourself.” – and so you soon get bored of it.  But if, through study and through interest and search, the far room begins to become lighted – if your vital energy begins to go into the far room and light it – then you see through into what is actually in the far room. You are no longer seeing reflections of your own ideas, but you are seeing realities in the far room. This is the principle on which the meditation brings us to the realities which are beyond this mirage of the world.

If we just read a short passage from one of the training books, which our teacher wrote, called, ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’:

“Choose a picture of the object of your meditation, whether Shiva, Rama or Krishna, and install it in the region of your heart; then think of it with all love; or look at a flame carefully and endow it with the form of the object of your meditation and concentrate on it in your heart. You may have seen, if a little child has shut himself up in a room, with what great love the mother tries to induce him to open the door.

“The Lord is hidden in the chamber of one’s heart; so let the jiva, by loving meditation for a few hours daily, induce Him to manifest Himself in the region of the mind. The rest of the day should be spent in reading about Him, discussing Him with fellow devotees and in trying in practice to imitate His great virtues. This is a most important aid to meditation. May I tell you that my own object of worship was my holy Guru Bhagavan, who I saw as Shiva and as Krishna.

“If you meditate daily in this way for eighteen months and every now and then devote a week or two entirely to it, you will, in your meditation, lose consciousness of both the world and yourself and experience only the object of meditation. You will see an extraordinary light resembling the colour of a lotus in its intensified form in your heart and all mental limitations will disappear. This state is called samadhi.”

This is a summary of one of the programmes which our teacher gave. It is for people who are, so to speak, desperate. ‘Oh, we haven’t got time to do this.’ Well, the average television time now we are watching each day is three hours. It would mean watching less television and it would mean throwing the centre of interest. When this happens, even partially, the meditator comes into touch with the cosmic purpose. Before that, our actions seem reasonable at the time, seem good at the time, but somehow they don’t come off.  They don’t work if they are not in accordance with the cosmic purpose.

This little diagram is given. The cosmic purpose is, so to speak, a circle which is almost infinite. The circumference is almost infinite, and it’s this long line across the top that is the comic purpose. Now, if we are individuals, we can, for a moment, for a little bit, be in touch with the cosmic purpose moving here.  But because we are rooted by an invisible cord onto individual personality, quite soon our movement begins to leave the cosmic purpose and begins to circle about ourselves. For a time we can say, “Oh well, of course, there are obviously some variations,” but gradually our movement comes further and further away, from the cosmic purpose. Finally, it becomes completely the opposite, and then finally it will come around and then again, we will have another go.

Unless we can break this cord holding us at the centre of the personality, we will not be able to follow the cosmic purpose. If we belong to a group, a clique, then the centre can be wider. We can see into being in conformity with the cosmic purpose longer, but soon it begins to change and finally it goes completely in the opposite direction, which so often happens. The French Revolution, to Voltaire and those like him, thought the violence would be quite justified to get rid of the aristocrats and have a fair society.  In fact, only about 3% of the people who were guillotined were aristocrats. They turned on themselves. The violence, which had been supposed to have been just a means to break the tyranny, continued and then they were executing each other.

The basis of the cosmic purpose, we can feel that the world is a huge, glittering mechanism and consciousness is only a tiny little thing.  There’s a short story called, ‘The Man Who Saw Through Heaven’, about a missionary who went to see the great telescope and he was shown these massive galaxies. Then the astronomer said to him, “You are just a tiny little thing in a tiny little earth, which is itself only in a tiny galaxy. You’re nothing.” and the missionary went mad. There is a continuation to the story, which we needn’t go into now, but the shock was very great.

This is an illusion. The basis of the yoga is that the world is mental. The Gita says in chapter 13, one of the accounts of the creation, the great elements, that they are caused with the mind, not of man, but the mind of God. The great elements, then the cosmic purpose, and then the cosmic intelligence and beyond that, a mass of seething possibilities, the unmanifest. It is a mental thing. Now, if we put up two pictures – this one shows a great distance, the sea, and many miles beyond it, just the tip of Mount Fuji in the dawn. This one is a corner, a little corner, of a temple. So there are vast distances in that far picture and a very short distance here – but the pictures are the same size. The vastness, the great distances, and the closeness are part of a projection which our minds are putting on the pictures. We are putting a perspective onto the pictures. We seem to see something, that Fuji is distant, but actually it’s not. In the same way, the vastness of the universe is mental.

We think of consciousness as a tiny little thing inside a human brain, but this is not at all the yogic view – consciousness is universal. So the cosmic purpose is a universal purpose; and we are not to be confused by the fact that, on this earth as we see it, physically, we are very small. It doesn’t mean that from the point of view of consciousness, that has any more relation to the truth than the false perspective which we see in those pictures here.

Our teacher said we can find a role in this great consciousness; and if we meditate and if we practise freeing ourselves from the compulsion of instant reactions and the like, we can find out what that role is. We can say, “Oh well, that must be very small.”  No, there are trigger effects. The movement which sets off a gun is very small – the effect is tremendous.   In the same way, he said those who have the opportunity of practising meditation and coming into touch with the cosmic purpose will find a role; and they will be able to play the role, which is a significant contribution to the whole cosmic purpose.








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