There are various spiritual traditions and we should respect them – but, generally, one should train on one particular line. If you’re going to do athletics, you do a lot of different things – but, generally, you have one line on which you train and then you can get skilled and balanced in that line. In the tradition of study, we have a book like this one, ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’ or we have something like the New Testament. How do we study it? We think, “Well you just read it,” but actually that generally makes no impression at all. People who do that, they just pick out some text that they fancy and say, “That’s enough for me.” Then they avoid texts that they don’t care for. In fact, they succeed in persuading themselves that such texts don’t exist. Jesus said to the masses, “If one comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother and his brothers and even his life, he cannot be a disciple of mine.” Well not many Christians recognise that text because it’s an uncomfortable one. This is not the way to study, to pick up some text that one fancies or to shun and avoid a text one doesn’t like, or pretend it doesn’t exist.
What are we to do then? When we have a spiritual text like the Lotus of the Law, Saddharma Pundarika Sutra, or the New Testament or for instance this book ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’ we read through it. Now, the thing is to notice where the author of the text says, “Now I am giving you my main teaching.” These are the places to notice very carefully, because here he says, “These are my main teachings” – otherwise one will get lost in contradictions. In this book, in one place he says, “wrestle with the mind”, but in another place he says, “don’t wrestle with the mind.”
Jesus said, “He who is not with us is against us” – it means the world is full of enemies. But he also said, “He who is not against us is with us” – it means the world is full of friends. We can’t pick on one of these texts and say, “Yes,” and then forget the other ones. The thing is to find out where does the teacher say, “These are my main teachings”, or he’ll say in some places, “I have told you today a very important part of my teaching”, or in another place he’ll say, “The special point of the teaching, of my own teacher, Swami Krishnanandaji, was this.”
These are the places to notice and make them the central part of our study and then see how they will come up. They provide a framework and when we read the other incidents and the other teachings in the book, we have a framework in which we can put them – a framework which is provided not by me but by the teacher. It’s not something that I’ve selected but something that the teacher himself says, “This is the central part of my teaching.” When we find that place or those places where he says, “These are my main teachings” we should go into those as deeply as we can.
If you say, “Well what is the centre of Christ’s teaching?”, people say, “The sermon on the mount.” If you say, “Well what does the sermon on the mount say?”, they say, “Well something about a good Samaritan I think.” No, that’s not in the sermon on the mount, unfortunately. That’s much too vague. Now he was asked what is the greatest commandment. Then he made two quotations from the Old Testament, “Here, O Israel, thou shall love the Lord. Thy God is one. Thou shall love the Lord with all thy heart and soul and might.” The second commandment, which is like it, again quoting from the Old Testament, “Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.” These he’s giving as the greatest commandments. This is a central part of his teaching and this we should concentrate on it. If we concentrate on it, we shall find something very surprising.
The first phrase, “Here, O Israel, your God is one. You shall love the Lord with all your heart and soul and might or strength” – this is probably the most famous phrase in the Old Testament. Every pious Jew had to repeat it, or did repeat it, twice or three times every single day – but if we look at the text, we shall see that Jesus changed it. The Old Testament version has gone into our language. Do a thing, put your heart and soul into it – do it with all your might. But Jesus changed it. Well it’s best actually to leave us to find out, isn’t it, how he changed it. If this was a lecture on Christianity, that would be the thing to do. However, he changed it and he put in ‘mind’. “You shall love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind.” – that is not in the Old Testament.
Now why did he do that? If we examine, we’ll see. He doesn’t reproach his disciples with their sins but he repeatedly says, “How dull you are.” He says to Peter, “Are you as dull as the rest?” After the Parable of the Sower, they say to him, “What does it mean?” He says, “How dull you are if you don’t understand this parable. How will you understand any parable?” He didn’t mean learn it. He meant that they weren’t going deeply into these simple words. If you think of it, the Parable of the Sower is pretty extraordinary. What is this sower doing? Sowing so that the seed falls on the wayside or on rocks. What’s he doing? You make a furrow in the ground, you put the seed in and you cover it over. You don’t chuck it on the road. Well he expected them to think and to go deeply into it, not to be learned but to think about what he was saying.
In the same way with this [book], we can look through this and we shall find one place he says what his main teachings are for. He says, “Perhaps they will ask you what does this old Pundit teach you that you spend so much time listening to him, give so much attention to him? My main teachings are these; study, pray, discipline yourself and meditate.” Study doesn’t just mean studying in the books. That’s a very limited value. Shri Dada himself was not a learned man. His teacher was very learned and his disciple, my own teacher, was a very learned man, but Shri Dada himself was not learned. If you have a very active mind and an enquiring personality, then you need to study. There is one humorous saying, it says that bad people ought to study a lot. It keeps them out of mischief – which it does.
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are:
Part 1: Mysticism of the heart
Part 2: Study the nature of yourself
Part 3: The cosmic plan
Part 5: Mediate on the form of the lord
Part 6: Slip out of the mind cage
Part 7: Honesty and Religious practice