Notes April 1999


Fine shades of depression.  Foreign critics and Japanese themselves have pointed out that a good deal of Japanese literature deals with fine shades of depression, though often it was made in a most aesthetic way. For instance, in one of the main anthologies of 250 poems there are only two or three that deal with fulfilled love. The others are of frustrated love or of despondency and disappointment or regret after an affair has ended. Although the literary tone may be sad, the fact is the Japanese are very energetic people.

Of course, the Chinese literature, which is much more optimistic, came from a background often characterized by a lethargic resignation for very long periods. Even the energy of the communist movement in China was in many ways very destructive and cost many millions of lives. It was destructive also culturally, by radically changing the language so that the young could not read, anymore, the classics in the old language. Furthermore, the new generation of young writers have more or less lost their education – although they have ideas, many of them are unable to express them.


Falling in love. In music, don’t fall in love with a particular note, however perfectly played. Don’t fall in love with any particular piece, however beautiful, with the feeling, ‘This is enough’. Don’t fall in love with the musician, however skilful. Don’t fall in love with a particular composer or composers, however wonderful. Fall in love with the source of the inspiration, which is struggling to express itself through the imperfect channel – imperfect, however technically adept the musician or composer may be.

John Lill, the virtuoso pianist, in a BBC interview in 1999, said, “After a concert, if people come to me and say, ‘What a wonderful pianist you are,’ I say, ‘Thank you very much’ – but I reckon I have failed. If they say to me, ‘What wonderful music that was. What wonderful pieces.’ Then I recognize I have at least partially fulfilled my role.”


The dō, the ways.  In what are called in Japan, the dō, the ways – the kendō, the way of the sword; kyūdō, the way of the archer; shodō, the way of the brush; chadō, the way of tea, and so on – there is an implement; and the way consists – in a long time – in getting skill in manipulating the instrument in the proper way. (The judo doesn’t have any implement, the whole body is used). In that sense, they are specialists. Where is the archer without his bow and arrow? Where is the swordsman without his sword? Where is the great calligrapher without his brush?

In all those dō, in all those ways, there was a tradition that one had to go beyond the implement – but many, even of the experts, failed to do this. Judo doesn’t have any implement and, in a way, it’s meant to teach the application of the whole body and mind to a particular purpose.  And that purpose was, as Dr. Kanō Jigorō said, “… not merely attack and defence but the whole business of life.”

The judo is meant to teach us to apply this in life and not to rely on some implement in which we’re skilful. It can be a particular technique of talking or arguing or behaving or even it could be a profession – but not to become enslaved by that, so that we are helpless without that.

You have to practise, sometimes, giving up and developing the whole of ourselves, instead of confining ourselves to skill in one particular aspect.  Periodically, deliberately not to use the special points which we have developed, but to meet life with the other aspects of the personality – and, in that way, to meet it with the whole of ourselves instead of with only a part. For instance, there are people who are very clever in argument and, in every case, they will try to exploit their skill in an argument with reasoning, and false reasoning, and bad reasoning too, if they can get away with it to get their way.  Well, those people [should] give it up and do not use it for a time.

There are other people who by the force of their attractive personality, could get their way. Again, give up using that for a time and try another way – perhaps by reasoning, instead of selfishly trying to get one’s way in every case, what Freud called, the reality of reasoning. In this way, we become developed as human beings – not with one thing enormously developed and some other aspects of us dwarfed, as my teacher used to say.


Still Water, Bright Mirror. When we look into a pool of clear water, if it’s agitated into waves, of course, we can’t see through to the bottom. In human terms, this corresponds to the mind agitated by desires and thoughts, which prevent us seeing through to what is at the basis, beyond the basis, of the mind.

If the water is perfectly still, it’s made perfectly still, then it is like ‘a bright mirror’, as the Chinese phrase has it.  We don’t see through to the bottom of the pool, you see instead reflections of ourselves and the surroundings.  So somebody like David Hume, claiming to look within himself, said, “I see nothing, but my ordinary mental activities and mental states.” He was seeing a reflection of himself. He’s not seeing through to the bottom, to the depths of the pool. Just so in the lake, you see the reflection in the clear water, the still water, on the surface. You don’t see even the fishes, let alone the bottom of the pool – but you are wrong to suppose they don’t exist.

In the past, people have looked – as they thought – at the depths, but they’ve seen only themselves.  Sometimes the illusion of depth is so clear, they thought they saw a god there, but then they make a god in their own image, in their own thought. It’s not God that makes man in His image; but man that makes God in his image – and it has led as we know to the disastrous results.

In fact, there is a means to see the bottom. We go out in a boat with what is like a small bucket. At the bottom of the bucket is a sheet of glass, a circular sheet of glass. We push that through the surface of the water, and now we can see the little fishes swimming about, and we could see down to the bottom of the pool.

In something of the same way, the meditation technique is first to calm the desires and thoughts so that the surface of the mind becomes calm and serene.  But then we break through, by our meditation technique, that surface and we are able to penetrate through, what we might call, the skin of the mind’s habitual attitudes, convictions and concerns.  Then we begin to see the depths; then we can find the valuable ring, which has been dropped by accident from the boat and is lying at the bottom of the pool. This corresponds to the Atman, the Supreme Self; the pearl of great price in the parable of Jesus.


‘What does the Absolute mean by this?’  In an account of one of his pilgrimages in the high mountains of India, the teacher relates that there was a storm or avalanche that barred the way. He says they waited for it, to see, in his own words, what the Absolute meant by this. After a time, they found a way around. When we are faced with difficulty, with obstruction, obstacles, illness, we can remember this phrase, “What does the Absolute mean by this?” If we meditate on it, we can find a constructive means by which we can go forward in accordance then with the cosmic purpose.

In the case of the yogis, they are not to think, “Oh, this is a mindless, meaningless obstacle”; but they’re to find in it, purpose and then a way. It does not mean that when illness comes, we’re not to struggle against the illness for health.  But it means that the recovery can never be completed, we can never have perfect health – and so to be calm and retain an evenness of mind, whether the illness or health is in the ascendancy.

The yogi doctrine is that this increases the amount of sattva, not only in the individual but also in the cosmic sphere, affecting the lives of others all over the world. Generally, unconsciously, they don’t know why, but they find there’s a little comfort, a little breath of peace comes to them and this can help them in their conduct. In this way, illness and other obstacles do not become wasted or harmful experiences but become fruitful.


Reflections. The punishment of the liar is that he sees himself reflected in everyone else. He says that the whole world is full of liars and he can never believe anyone else. Stalin was warned that Hitler was going to attack him, warned by British intelligence, but he did not believe it. Then he was warned later by his own intelligence, and he did not believe them either.

Egoists – to them the whole world is full of egoists, they see themselves reflected anywhere, everywhere, so that they can never imagine a job done for its own sake. Everything is done by egoists in order to boost themselves or to save themselves from some humiliation or for some personal reason. They see the whole world like that.


‘I am a channel’   John Lill, a great virtuoso pianist, said in a BBC interview in 1999, “If after a concert, people come up to me and say, ‘What a wonderful pianist you are.’ I say, ‘Thank you very much’, but I know that I have failed. If they come up to me afterwards and say, ‘What wonderful music that was, you played.’ Then I know that I have at least partially fulfilled my role. I am a channel.”

The full conclusion was brilliantly drawn in the 1880s by Bernard Shaw, then a famous music critic reviewing the complete Beethoven sonata cycle played by Edmund Halle. This was the first time the whole cycle had been played in public. It was also a time in which piano virtuosi were dazzling the public with displays and technique and immense egoism, as one might say.  But Shaw, in his review, made a point that in these concerts, we are getting not so much Halle, but we are getting Beethoven and this, he added, is a sign that Halle is a really great pianist.


Worse and worse. There are many habitual actions in life like driving a car or writing, which become habitual and drop away from the surface of consciousness. We can do them without much effort and become at ease with them. Because we are at ease with them, we have the illusion that they get better.

We see this clearly, for instance, in the case of handwriting, which steadily degenerates from the carefully formed letters that we make at school, through the scrawls of the student days, then the almost incomprehensible jottings, later on, where we no longer form many of the letters properly, or dot the ‘I’s or cross the ‘T’s, and they are often difficult to read except by someone who is quite familiar with the writing.

Without conscious practice towards a definite model, the edges of precision become gradually blunted. Moreover, the monitoring function is not used and becomes dull and this can apply in the moral field also. When we are young, we often have a keen sense of right and wrong. Then we go to a company, we find everybody is receiving some of the paper and the envelopes and so on. As everybody’s doing it, the edges, so to speak, of our moral sense become blunted. We think, ‘Well, we have to get on with people’.

Someone who is very honest is often not much liked. Of course, we have no need to preach honesty, but we should not do things, our teacher said, which we feel degrade us, but we must also be prepared to be disliked for it.

I remember a brief conversation with a wing commander in the Royal Air Force in wartime, a very heroic character, who was also a pupil of the same teacher. He asked the teacher, he said, “When I’m flying, many birds are killed. I feel a certain sense of regret at this. Do you think that in any way it is wrong?”  The teacher said to him, “Do you feel that you are degraded by doing this at this time?” To which the airman replied, “Well, no, there’s a war, which is in my opinion applied to the question of principle and I don’t feel degraded.” The teacher said, “Then it is all right. Do not do things voluntarily which you feel degrade you.”


‘Don’t interfere’.  A great Zen Master who came from China to Japan in the 13th century had as a doctrine, “Don’t interfere. Don’t interfere. The great course of life is perfect as it is.” He was asked, “Well then, in that case, why do you keep servants?” To which he replied, “To a blind person, you show the gate by knocking on it. To the deaf person, you show the gate by pointing at it.”

We think, “But these are very, very rare, exceptional cases. Normally, people can see the gate. You don’t have to go around catching people by the sleeve and pointing to the gate if it’s a deaf man; or, if it’s a blind man, banging away, hammering away. No way. Nearly everybody can see the gate.”

“Don’t interfere.  If they go through or not go through or stand halfway irresolute, trying to make up their mind, whether they go through or not to go through.  Don’t interfere.” He said, humorously, “Even though old Bodhidharma missed the point – taking the boat from India to Sri Lanka and then another boat sailing to China, and then hammering away at the gate there!  If these were personal actions, yes, they are interfering meaninglessly – but they were not personal actions.”

On another occasion, the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday, Bukko, the same Bukko, was asked for a sermon and he said, “The Absolute had a pain in the chest and he rubbed the chest, and then everything was all right again.”


Life sentence.   In yogic terms, the supreme penalty is not death, but life after life after life in imprisonment by restrictive conditions and with always the suffering caused by transience, even when there are periods of relative happiness. The purpose of Yoga is to be free from both death and life and to attain supreme awareness, consciousness, and bliss beyond concepts and the waves of mind.


Last ditch resistance. A somewhat nervous Yoga student asked a senior what to do. “What Do I do? What can I do? When I sit down in meditation, there’s an absolute storm of feelings and distractions and emotions and anticipations and fears.” The senior said, “Well, it really is a storm. Get up and go for a brisk walk for 10 minutes, reciting your mantra or another method of focusing your mind on the Lord. Then come back and do your meditation.”  The student said, “Oh, with my rheumatism, I can’t walk like that. I can’t walk.”

The teacher said, “Well, if you can’t walk, then stand and stretch up fully to the ceiling several times, push your hands up towards the ceiling. Do this several times, fully stretched. Then in relaxation, sit down and begin to meditate again.” The pupil said, “Oh, when I was a girl, I did a very full stretch like that in the gym class and I pulled a muscle. It was very painful for a time. Now, I can’t stretch.”  The teacher said, “Well, then, seated there as you are, take a few deep, slow breaths.” The pupil said, “Oh, well, with my asthma, I can’t breathe.”

These things are not a cry for help. They’re a cry of, ‘No-one can help me’. It is a technique of cultivated helplessness whose aim is to get attention, basically, while other people propose remedies which are always rejected.

In 1970, the suicides in the UK were 7.9 per 100,000 according to the official handbook of Britain today. In 1998, the figure was 10.


Notes from Bukko, page 86 – the second scroll:  “To men, it is like something joyful, again, like something grievous. Then it is like a fist, or again, like a soft palm. A hundred autumns cannot make a winter. A hundred springs cannot make a summer. When the autumn comes the old bamboo shrivels up.  When the rain comes, the tall pine tree reaches up. They’re singing the same song without self-hood, without idle thoughts.

Some of them think, ‘Well, I have not realized it on the eastern mountain, so let me go to the west mountain. Perhaps I’ll realize it there.’”

Bukko in 86. “Even the hot sun cannot warm up dead ashes. Even Ambrosia cannot repair an old cracked jar.”

In the Zen interviews, it’s not allowed just to quote. To quote the right thing without understanding it, is the same as saying the wrong thing.

“Slowly, slowly, the ice and frost melt, and yet one blow can shatter a thousand-year-old stone.”

The discipline of meditation and intense concentration go only on the melting of the ice and snow.

“Our school does not teach outside that. What is outside that?”

That’s the end of the second scroll.


I want to enjoy life   “I want to enjoy life: happiness is the purpose of life. Life is to be enjoyed”. The only trouble is that this view, so strongly recommended, seems to be so lacking. The gourmet becomes expert in cooking, to enjoy the food – but it becomes more and more of a pain.  It’s never quite perfect and even if it is perfect and he eats it and enjoys it, it’s quite a rare event. So he ends up with dyspepsia and can’t enjoy anything. Now, why is this? What goes wrong?

The healthy, energetic man never shows much interest in his food, but has a strong appetite, and often that’s the very reason he enjoys the food. But he never thinks of it, or the fact that someone has to prepare it for him.

But the yogic analysis will be there’s no happiness while there’s strong attachment to happiness or sense-satisfaction or emotional satisfaction. The ones who are so keen to enjoy life, in fact, enjoy it comparatively little. Most of it is unsatisfactory, and they struggle to manoeuvre and create circumstances where the brief spells of satisfaction occur. The rest of it is uninteresting or frankly unpleasant.

Now, let’s look at some of this from the point of view of the yogic analysis. One of the best examples to bring up a point clearly is that of a game. If you take a game like tennis or bridge, golf, or something like that, we all have a range. We have good days and we had bad days and the analysis shows that our good days are when our minds are set evenly and not plagued by furious emotions.

But the bad loser can’t bear to lose, and that affects his game. Generally, he’s playing below his capacity because his capacity is impaired by the emotional stress, the fear of losing and the passion and desire to win and triumph.  But even that passionate desire to win and triumph will impede very often his actions and his technique.

What happens is this: he has of course a range, but he’s playing mostly because his mind is disturbed. He’s playing mostly well below the centre of his range. He’s playing below his capacity and that makes him even more annoyed, makes him play even worse. Very, very occasionally he will have a good day when his mind is calm, for some reason, his condition is good, the tone is good – then he’ll have a good day.

He knows what he can do.  But being a bad loser and emotionally disturbed, he sees that he very rarely plays up to the best of his capacity.  So when he plays this game, he’s mostly in a state of annoyance and not enjoying it. He enjoys the successes when he’s playing well – not necessarily winning, but playing well – and he does not enjoy the failures.

On the other hand, the good sportsman tries very hard, but there’s a fundamental basis of evenness of mind. He too has a top range and a bottom range. He can’t do superhuman feats, but he can play near the top of his range. Because his mind is even, he plays well near the top of his range and that – quite apart from the objective results – is itself an enjoyment. Even if he loses the match, he’s not disturbed by it. He still enjoys because he knows he has played well. It’s been a good struggle. He’s not cursing himself for mistakes or blunders caused unnecessarily. “I don’t why I did that,” says the bad loser. The good loser, when he loses, he says, “Well, that was a good fight. I enjoyed that.”  He’s calm.

Now, in life, we can enjoy whether objectively we are successful, or whether we fail. We enjoy both because we know that we did something near the top of our capacity. But the man whose mind is disturbed, he’s constantly in life blaming himself, for failures. He’s crying, “Why did I do that? Why couldn’t I keep my temper? Why didn’t I see that? I was too obsessed with that idea. Why couldn’t I just change a bit or develop my idea? Why did I have to cling to it so furiously and obstinately? Just because I don’t like the people on the other side, that’s no reason why I shouldn’t see that they may have a point as well.”

He’s constantly living life not at his best, but somewhere near the lower part of his range, and as a result he enjoys it rather little. The fact is he’s generally not at his best and he knows, “I could have done better. I could have done better. I could have done much better.”

The yoga analysis has one thing more. That is when the mind is calm, when the agent is not obsessed with the attachment to the actual results, but can be at his best, irrespective of those results. If he’s not making a claim to the results, then he will receive some inspiration, then he will even be sometimes above his normal capacity, his normal range. This is a separate point – but you see that there is the real enjoyment of life.

A man who is strongly attached, the one who’s strongly attached, enjoys only brief successes – but mostly is dissatisfied and angry at the overwhelming mass of failures, that he is not at his best. The balanced man, the calm one, enjoys being at his best, enjoys equally success and failure.  There is the further stage where there is Truth and much higher enjoyment, and that is inspiration coming into touch with the cosmic purpose, where the actions become only a game.  This is deeply powerful and significant in a way that no mere mental analysis can show.

The bad loser, the mentally agitated man, he’s always saying, “I’m off my game today.” I once made an enemy for life when I was young and even more tactless than I am today, by answering a man who said this, “I’m off my game today.” I said, “No, this is your game. You nearly always play like this.” And so he did. He knew, and from experience, he knew that he could play well, but he hardly ever did.  His idea was somehow he was off his game that day. The fact was his game was what he was doing almost every time. It was not the occasional fine performances that he’d had on the happy occasions when his mind had been calm.

We have a myth that in competitive sports, you have to be in a rage in order to get the necessary adrenaline going as it’s called but that’s not so. People in a rage lose their judgment.  In a very limited sphere, that may not matter so much.  But in any activity where there’s complexity, if you’ve ever seen a man in a rage – however skilful he is normally – if he’s in a temper, you can see him torn to pieces by a calm technician. That’s a terrible sight. Of course, sometimes the technician is overwhelmed by the raging opponent. Then the angry man will indeed win; but if the technician can keep his balance, calm, he can wait. The man in a temper cannot wait and he runs into the trap.

Expert boxers often don’t do well in a brawl because the opponents don’t keep to the rules. One boxer told me, he said, “If the other man keeps his head and just picks up a chair or something,” he said, “What can I do? But before that happens,” he says, “I spit in his face, then he loses his temper then he rushes forward onto my fist.”


Adapted from Sogen. To quote the right thing without understanding it, is the same as saying the wrong thing, in that both are expressions of ignorance. It is just that one sounds more respectable than the other.


Bukko – page 89.    “When moving, it is like clouds. When stopping, it is like a pool in a valley. This is neither this nor that.”

Someone said, “Now you’ve come from China to Japan. How will your teaching differ?” The teacher said, “Well, it does not. It’s all the same. It’s the same teaching.”

The questioner said, “But in fact, you do teach differently here – for instance, it is through an interpreter and so on.” The teacher said, “Well, there’s some difference between mist and rain.”


Bodhidharma  The first patriarch Bodhidharma crossed the ocean and brought the holy truth to China. Today the Shogun, the martial ruler of Japan has invited this mountain priest.

It is not that the mountain priest himself has initiated anything. A dragon gives birth to the Phoenix. A phoenix gives birth to dragons.


Walking   The Zen monk walks silently.  Often he’s barefoot, but even in straw sandals, he can walk almost noiselessly. You are to meet him and you look away, perhaps at the garden. When you turn back, he’s there – you have not heard him come in. on the other hand, there is the warrior, the Samurai, the noble Samurai.  On his straw sandals at the front tip of them, there was a little metal strip, a light metal strip. It has nothing to do with the sandals, of course, it’s no advantage. It makes a sharp sound, a sharp, light sound as he walks. The meaning was that the truly noble Samurai will never steal up on someone unnoticed, but he will always give warning of his approach. He will never make a cowardly attack on someone unprepared. On the other hand, it’s a courtesy to tell people, even friends, that he’s coming.


Slave and master. The slave can be at first, just an additional something; then he can become useful; then he can become extremely useful; then he can become indispensable. When he becomes indispensable, the slave becomes the master.

In a country where poetry was a great tradition, when every event or celebration had to have a poem commissioned for it, there were, of course, famous poets. One of them – we should call him Siki – used to often receive such commissions. He worked in a little retreat that he had built of two rooms.  He would retire there away from all the relations or human contacts, and he would produce his poems there. The commissions grew more and more numerous.

In the deep country, there was a young man who was an aspiring poet.  Although he was far from the capital, his uncle had been a cultivated man and, in particular, he had all the works of the poet Siki. The young man soaked himself in these as he was an aspiring poet – but he had, of course, no chance of getting any commissions from the wealthy patrons in the capital.

Finally, he wrote a letter to Siki, enclosing some of his poems and asking him for an opinion on them and whether he could help him – if they were any good – to get some of them known a little bit. Siki received these and he was favourably impressed. He invited the young man to meet him. He told him, he said, “I have many commissions now – more than I can comfortably manage and yet I don’t like to turn them down. I need somebody who can write passable poetry and yours is certainly passable. It’s talented in places, rather in my style. I would send these out under my name – without my name, of course, they could never have any chance. They’ll be accepted. You could, if you wish, live here as my copyist formally; but in fact, some of your poems would get out. There might be a future where you would learn a good deal.”

Then he named a fee, not much more than a copyist’s fee. The young man was taken aback and he said, “But I would actually be writing these poems. Surely the fee could be a little higher than that.” The eloquent court poet said, “Well, that is the offer. You can say ‘yes’, or you can say ‘no’.” The young man considered and then he said, humbly, “Well, yes, I accept it.” So they worked on this basis. For the less important commissions, the young poet’s verses were sent, and for the important ones, Siki sent his own – but, of course, all appeared under the name of Siki.

Well, then a rather disturbing series of letters began to arrive, or sometimes conversations, in which, one or two of the patrons said that they had read one of Siki’s poems in quite a small journal and they’d been very impressed with it. They said, “We would’ve liked this poem. Why are you sending all your best work elsewhere, without giving us the first choice, first option?”

This so disturbed Siki as he realized that some of the young poet’s verses had been very much appreciated. He began a mixture. He would sometimes send his own, but sometimes – even to an important commission – he would send the young poet’s verses, and these were much appreciated. Then after a time, the young man said to the poet, Siki: “Sir, it does seem, does it not, that the poems which I write are the ones which are getting the highest accolade? It does seem so, does it not, that I am Siki? You remember how they said you were sending your best work elsewhere? I am the best work.”

Siki, the court poet was dumbfounded – and the young man went on, “Now, in fact, I am Siki. From this little retreat, no one knows what’s been going on.  But if I were to leave, you would not get many commissions with what you produce.  I am necessary. I am Siki, but the fact is I need somebody who can write, in my style, reasonably talented verses for the less important commission. I would be prepared to offer the job to you.”  He named the same fee for which he had been writing. The court poet was astounded and objected, but the young man said, “Well, there is the offer. Take it, ‘yes’, or say ‘no’.” The formerly great poet said humbly, “Yes, I’ll take it.”


Prayers answered and unanswered   Saint Teresa of Avila remarked: “There are more tears from prayers that are answered than there are from prayers unanswered”. When we pray for something, we pray for some definite factor to be brought into our lives. Of course, we don’t control or even know about so many other factors and very often the introduction of this one factor disturbs natural course of events and leads to, as we say, tears.

One of the reasons is that when the prayer is made, there is a reliance on the invisible God. If it’s answered, the new thing which is brought into existence for the one who prayed now becomes the object of dependence. If he has prayed for money and he gets, inherits perhaps, a lot of money, now he begins to think, “Of course, this came from God, I am dependent on God. If for any reason God should be busy or otherwise engaged, would I have my cheque book?” That means he’s depending on something in the world, that means he’s depending on something which may vanish as suddenly as it came and that leads to anxiety and suffering.

The yogi does not pray for anything either for himself or others. He works to bring things about, but he relies on the cosmic purpose to make his actions fruitful. If they are successful, he doesn’t feel that he is depending down on the fruits of the success. He’s still dependent on his own universal Self, the cosmic purpose. When things are unsuccessful, he accepts it without suffering or anxiety.


Reward   A very rich man was touring in the countryside for pleasure.  He stopped the car by a river and walked out onto what he thought was a solid piece of rock, but it gave way and he was pitched into a river. He could not swim, but the owner of a little farm saw him go in. The farmer could swim and plunged in after him and at some risk, managed to get him back out of the swift current.

The rich man was very grateful. He said, “What can I do for you?” The farmer said, “No, I’m content here. My wife’s ill, it’s true, but you couldn’t change that. The little farm here supplies all our wants. We can fish in the river. My boy – I have one boy who’s 16 – he’s looking forward to carrying on the farm. We recognize that God has been good to us, and we rely on him.”

The rich man was quite impressed, but he went away saying, “Well, I’ll see the nearby town for something.” A little later the peasant was visited by the manager of the local branch of the bank, who told him that a large sum of shares and cash had been deposited in the head office and that he’d been instructed to call on the farmer, tell him of this, and to take in his instructions.  He said, “Well, I don’t think I have anything to say. Thank you very much.”

Some years later, the businessman visited the farmer. The little shack had been replaced by a small attractive house. He went in, but the farmer had completely lost his calm and out-of-doors look.  He was now pinched and pale-faced, and he was pouring over documents and accounts.

The rich man said, “What are you doing?” The peasant said, “I have to look after this estate.” The rich man said. “Look, this was given to you to free you from any anxiety about money.” The farmer said, “Oh, no, it hasn’t. My wife died. Then the boy demanded his share and went off on a whim and I haven’t heard from him or seen him since.  I’m concerned now to preserve the estate, to preserve the money, because I’m told that once it begins to slide, everything could go. Furthermore, if you lose your credit, you can be swindled and you can lose not only your house and everything, but you can end up in prison. I have to be constantly watchful. Of course, I have these friends who come around to help me manage the estate.”

The rich man said, “Well, I gave you that money to free you from worrying over money but on the contrary, for the first time it has created worry over money for you.”


Labours of Love      The other day, I got tipped by a taxi driver. I got in.  He was talking about the weather and I said, “Well, at least we don’t have earthquakes and typhoons in this country.” We talked for a bit and then stopped talking. He took me to the destination, which is £1.40. I got out the money, he said, “Governor, make it a pound.” Governor is a word that’s used for very senior people. I said, “It’s £1.40, isn’t it?” He said, “Make it a pound, governor, a pound’s all right.” I said, “Thank you very much.” I paid him a pound, so I was tipped. It was a labour of love.

In the 1920s, the musical director of Sadler’s Wells, Vernon Corri, wanted to put on a performance of Tristan. it was a struggling opera centre then so, of course, his orchestra was very small, and he spent over a year re-orchestrating the full score of Tristan for his little orchestra of 26. He wrote out all the parts himself for one single performance. It’s this sort of unselfish idealism that perhaps produced the final effect of the big grants, which were made to Sadler’s Wells, and which gave it the impetus to continue today.


Unsaid          There was an advertisement a little time back, which ran to the effect that if you subscribed a pound a week now, your small children age, say, five and six, would be seen through a private school and a university by the company concerned. I thought, “Well, a pound a week, even if it’s for 10 years, that’s only £3,000. Surely, how could the company do this?” I asked the man well up in finance and he said, “Oh, yes, they’ll do it.” I said, “Well, how can they do it? How can they make a profit and how can they afford to do it? How could they pay it?” He said, “Well, there’s just one thing, you’ll be dead. It’s a life insurance policy.” That’s an example of something which is left unsaid.

Another example is the cat and the monkey in the fable. The monkey shouts at the cat, “Come on, get those chestnuts out of the fire.” The cat said, “Well, it burns my paws.” “The monkey shouts, “I always seem to be associated with absolute idiots and cowards bleating and whining about it.  Why are the chestnuts in there? They’re there to be got out, to be eaten. Why don’t you get them out?”  So he shouts and the poor cat finally is pushed into getting them out and burning his paws. Something’s left unsaid. It’s covered up by the monkey’s shouting, which is that you are going to eat the chestnuts too, why shouldn’t you get some of them out?

In the same way, the demands of the world sometimes are shouting at us so powerfully and overbearing, mixed up with insults and challenges and so on and we quite often, are unable to sit for a moment and just think what the actual situation is.


Free lessons           I’ve never learned to draw. One time in middle life, I thought, “Well, I’ll take a few lessons and it will enable me, help me, to appreciate art and so on.” I went to a friend who’s an extremely good amateur artist. After retirement, he’s become a professional and quite a successful one, but at that time, I just knew he was a very good amateur. I told him I wanted to draw heads and I had drawn a few. I showed them to him. He looked at them. He said, “Well, before you learn to heads you’ve got to learn to draw a box. Practice drawing a box and show it to me.” I started this and then I thought, “I don’t want to do this. This is ridiculous, you see. I can see the block of the head all right.  Marcus, of course, he’s an engineer, he’s probably got a bit engineering-oriented. I don’t want to do that. I’ll draw heads.” I drew the heads, and I made no progress at all, but I realized I wasn’t going to listen to him.

So I asked another friend, who’s a crack architect. I said to him, “Now, will you find me a first-rate art teacher, a teacher of drawing, who would give me a lesson and I don’t mind if it’s expensive, once a week.” He found me this man. I went to his studio. He’s a well-known artist, but he agreed to give a lesson.  He sat me down in the studio. He said, “Well, you’ve got to learn just to draw ordinary things first, before you get onto your heads. Now, look at that box and draw it.” I drew the box and then I drew the chairs and the tables because I was paying heavily for this. It was no use paying if you don’t do what he says.

When it was a question of instruction from a friend, although it was exactly the same instruction, because he was a friend and I wasn’t paying anything, I thought, “Well, it doesn’t matter. I’ll do as I like.” In the same way with teachers in anything, it’s very often better to be on a formal basis, than someone one knows well.


‘Take it up’    Sir Wilfred Trotter, a great surgeon and philosopher of a bit earlier this century, a pupil of his told me a story about him. A neurologist named Marsh, I think, had diagnosed a tumour on the left side of the brain, but Trotter looking at the symptoms decided it should be on the right. They had a dispute, not in front of the patient, of course. Trotter said, “Well, I’m the surgeon, I’m going to operate on the right.” The neurologist Marsh said, “Well, may I come and watch the operation?” “Certainly.” He operated on the right with the neurologist watching and the tumour was there – it  looks like a little pigeon’s egg, according to the surgeon who told me. There it was where Trotter had predicted.

The neurologist said, “I’m going to give up neurology,” and Trotter without moving a muscle, just carrying on with his operation and without looking up, just said, “Don’t give it up, take it up.”


Beds of Roses        People in this country live in a bed of roses, but they tend to say, “I don’t like pink.”


Decorators    A lot of jobs now are done by very small firms of two or three people, often a single operator. The house next to me was going to be repainted by a man working alone. He brought with him a sizable cassette player. So I thought, “Well, we are going to have to put up with something, perhaps for a week or so.”  But in fact, it was nearly all Bruckner symphonies.


Conviction     A very good scholar of the Indian philosophy, Vedanta, told a spiritual teacher who he knew well, “I think now I can meet any doubt that can possibly come up. I know how to meet it.” The teacher didn’t look very impressed with this. The scholar repeated emphatically, “Any possible doubt that comes up, I’m sure I can meet.” The Yogi, again, looked doubtful, but he didn’t say anything, and the subject was dropped.

Later on the scholar lost his daughter of whom he was very fond and he found that his faith was disturbed.  He went to the Yogi and he explained what had happened. The Yogi said, “Yes, the real doubts come not from the minds of other people, but from within ourselves. The real question for a scholar is not whether he can convince other people, but whether he convinces himself.”


Computers    Roger Penrose at the Oxford Mathematical Institute, says that many people tend to be overawed by computers. They think that because computers can perform routine calculations so much more quickly than they can, that the computers must be cleverer than they are. In fact, despite their incredible speed, the computers of today are almost unbelievably stupid, if such a concept can be applied to them at all, and are totally lacking in any kind of common sense. They are just so much faster at being mindlessly stupid than any of us can hope to be.


A practical program Get up an early an hour earlier than usual and determine to keep this for six weeks in order to give yoga a fair trial. Wash the hands and feet on rising, stretch all over and then sit in the meditation posture or as near as you can, facing the east. Read some holy scripture for five minutes slowly.  Breathe deeply five times. Relax the body and mentally offer the meditation you are going to do to the Lord.

Now, take a text for meditation and read it in a soft voice three times, then repeat it mentally three times more. “In him, the heaven, the earth and the sky are woven, the mind also with all the senses.  Know him alone as the Self and leave other thoughts.” With patience, support it in the mind, discarding without agitation interruptions from the senses or the mind itself. Remain calm in the meditation for 10 minutes. After the meditation, do the ‘line of light’ practice for another 10 minutes.

At the end, repeat OM very slowly and softly, 108 times. Make 54 knots in a string and use it as a rosary going around it twice. Do it with reverence, knowing that it is the highest name of truth and of God. It does not matter whether you fully understand this practice or not. It has been hallowed by the great yogis of many thousands of years and will produce its effect. Finally, sit in the calm, which these practices will bring and give your friendliness and forgiveness to all.

By this practice alone, most nervous and emotional illnesses will be healed. Return for another five minutes to the scripture with which you began. During the day, make a break about midday and again in the evening and in silence, return to the thought of the meditation for a minute or more. Whenever you have nothing to do, practice the line of light. In the evening, read one of the yogi texts for a quarter of an hour.


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