On no basis

Question: I get dissatisfied when I’m told that at the beginning of the training one has to have faith. It seems to me that one is being asked to believe something at the beginning that they admit is only proved at the end. If indeed, it is going to be proved at all, I can’t help thinking. My feeling is that the instructions have got to pass the test of my reason before I can follow them whole-heartedly. And some of them, as a matter of fact, seem to be in conflict with my reason.

Answer:  This sounds all right, but the question is, On what basis is this beginner’s reason going to work? By definition the beginner has no experience of the field. So his judgement is based on what he imagines rather than on any facts. Take the case of learning a system of shorthand. In the British Pitman, some of the commonest sounds such as T and D, are represented by straight lines, often joined at sharp angles. The word charge, for instance, is written with three straight lines forming spikes. It is a distinctive outline which can be written very fast and precisely. The system consists of flowing lines frequently interrupted by sharp angles. In the Gregg system there are more curves and flowing movements. Surely the Gregg system must be superior, because the occasional sharp angles of the Pitman system will check the flow. It would seem obvious that it is easier and quicker to write in continuously flowing lines.

But practical experience shows that though the continuously flowing lines are indeed quicker and easier to write, they are more difficult to control and may become a wild scrawl. A little experiment convinces one that for exactness, the sharp angles are an advantage. Hence the conclusion of experts is that the Gregg system is indeed a bit faster, but it is more difficult to read back. In Yoga practice too, the time for reason is when there has been considerable experience, so that there is some basis to work on. Till then it is pointless trying to make judgements.

© Trevor Leggett

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