Mysticism of the Heart 3: Upadhi or false association

‘Upadhi’ means ‘association on a false basis’


The Sanskrit word is ‘upadhi’, which means something like ‘putting near’ and that means ‘associating with on a false basis’.  Now, to give a sort of English example, in Westminster Abbey there’s the tomb of King Edward I. He was a pretty tough king, you might say. In the Middle Ages, wars were fought normally with banners depicting the various sides. If you went in with red banners, it meant there was no quarter given; you were going to kill every man, woman and child in the land you were invading.  Edward I went into Scotland with red banners. That was a long time ago, about 1292.  He was also the king who first, of all the European nations, expelled the Jews.  They didn’t get back until Cromwell, so it’s not clear where Shakespeare would ever have seen a Jew as the model for his Shylock.  Anyway, Edward I was no clement – but in his tomb in Westminster Abbey, there is a motto carved: ‘pactum est factum’; ‘promised is done’.   From that, he had the reputation of being a very sincere and honest and truth-loving king, who kept his word – but actually, the thing was put up – carved centuries later, about someone else, and in another connection. It just happens to be there…

That would be a case of upadhi. There is a conjunction, a coming together, of two things, which gives a completely false impression of association between them. In Yoga it is said that the association of the body and mind with the Spirit is of this nature; that it’s what you might call a conjunction, but there’s no actual connection or association whatever. But it seems that there is.

[If you take some blocks of colours, say, from dark blue to light blue, they each quite appear separate, each a separate colour. But when put next to each other, on the boundary – that’s to say between the light blue and an even lighter blue – on the edge it seems that there is a strip which is darker.   Now, if you cover it over, you can see that it’s not a darker strip at all.  It’s just the conjunction, the juxtaposition, the upadhi, which makes it seem darker, which makes it seem to change.]

This is an example from our physics today of the theme; that the Self, the pure Self, which is beyond the limitations of body and mind, the quilt, or the mind-cage, body and mind, seems to be limited by its, so to speak, its juxtaposition.  The main aim of Yoga is to become free, to become aware that this is no true association at all, and to become aware of the separateness of the two.

In a number of the practices, the purpose, for instance, of this posture, is that finally the body is forgotten – and if you persist, you lose the sense of the body. I don’t want to go into details, because if you go into details, people get very excited, and think, “Oh, is this happening? Is this right? That hasn’t happened.” But, for instance, one of the things that happens is that the consciousness of the hands, if they’re locked in this formal way, quite often disappears first.  He feels himself like a shell and there’s a loss of the separate awareness of the hands.

The aim is to forget the body.  You say, “Oh, you can’t forget the body.” Yes, you do. We forget the body every night when we go to sleep.   When we’re dreaming, we have a dream body – and we forget it when we wake up, completely.  The dream body is often quite different from our waking body. Sometimes I dream that I have perfect vision. Sometimes I dream that I am extremely athletic.  I can hardly move now, but I have been athletic.  The dream body is different from the waking body.  Similarly, you can dream that you’re sinking in mud; you can’t get out, you’re going to drown. Then you wake up; body situation’s quite different, and the body’s different. So in principle, we are familiar with this.

Now, these are accounts of meditation which has been pursued:

“The primary condition is a feeling: ‘I am not the body.’ The complete relinquishment of body consciousness marks attainment of Samadhi. If you meditate on God in this way for 18 months, and now and then devote a week entirely to it, you will lose consciousness of both the world and yourself, and experience only the object of meditation.”

For a long time, the body and the mind are real. The object of meditation is a sort of idea, which we conjure up and which we have to keep supporting. The word is ‘dhāraṇā’ – it’s from a Sanskrit root, dhr – which means to support, to hold firm.   Dhāraṇā is holding the idea of the meditation – for instance, the blue sky, as we did – and holding that. When the mind wanders off to something else, to bring it back to the blue sky. When it wanders off again, bring it back patiently – like pulling in a puppy. Finally he’ll come in and he’ll stay, but he’ll run off a good many times.  It’s no use frightening him by getting angry, but on the other hand, you can’t just let him go. So keep pulling him in, and he’ll come in when you call his name. Call his name and pull him in, let him go off, call his name, pull him in, and so on.

For a long time – or a time depending on the person, how much control they’ve got – the mind will wander off, and then it’s brought back again. It can always be brought back again, because the energy with which it wanders off is my own energy, and I can apply that energy to bring it back – holding it steadily, pulling back and back and back.  Then the time comes when the meditation changes, into what’s called ‘dhyana’ – and this is true meditation.  Now the thoughts are held onto the one subject. They’re similar – they change, but they’re similar. They’re not exactly the same, but they’re like each other.  Supposing I was a Buddhist, if it was on the form of the Buddha, then sometimes it would be on the head, or the crown or on the eyes, or it would be on the hands or on the posture – but it would be on the same object.  The thoughts would change, but they would be similar.

© Trevor Leggett

Formerly “Mysticism of the Heart 3”

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Mysticism of the Heart 3

Part 2: Consciousness of the world disappears

Part 3: Conjoin doing good with spiritual practice

Part 4: Honen worshiped Amida Buddha



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