Patanjali and meditation on God
Patanjali says that for anyone who practices meditation seriously on the Lord, some of these powers will occasionally come and they will speak. When they come, they may be used, but they must not be held onto. They must be given up, because they came from the Lord and they go back to the Lord. He makes a great point of this. He says people will be tempted. People who practice meditation sincerely will be tempted with power, prestige, fame, and brilliance of various kinds. They must be able to find out what is really important, and not these personal glories, as he calls them – like that girl who was saying, “I’m going to give my whole life to following you and helping the people here and joining with you.”
There’s the technique of living, changing our ordinary passion, Rajas, and our inertia, Tamas, into Sattva of clear-sightedness, being able to use stillness, Tamas, or energy Rajas, at will. Secondly, there is the technique of meditation; of bringing thoughts together. First of all, discarding these irrelevant thoughts, and practicing meditation where they’re all of one kind, and then the time will come when the crests will be together.
There’s a technique, but also, there’s something more. In all these techniques, people can get rather good at meditation and can sit for quite long periods without moving. They don’t necessarily find truth through it, though they may be very impressive in the world. I give you a western form of it, and this is an example that’s given in the east. A musician has to practice very hard to get his technique. When you’re young, quite often, the technique is rather like an athletic competition. You want to see if you can play Chopin’s minute waltz in a minute. That means playing about 16 notes to the second. I don’t know if you’ve got anywhere near that. It’s an athletic competition. The students time each other. This is technique, but it’s got nothing to do with the music itself. It’s necessary. A certain amount of technique is necessary, but it doesn’t give you the music itself. You get musicians, and some used to come to Leschetizky, the great teacher of the last century, with wonderful technique, and he’d refuse to teach them. He said, “No, you’re not interested in music, are you? You’re interested in showing off your technique, aren’t you?” He wouldn’t teach them.
Now there’s a Chopin study, which is not necessarily so easy, that Clara Schumann used to play every day for 20 years. She could play, but she found something new in it every day, she said. The same way with the yoga study and the meditation. There’s something new, something quite different. Just as in music, there’s a technique, and then there’s something quite different, entirely different, which is the beauty of the music. Czerny wrote pieces that are extremely difficult technically. You can play them if you spend some years on them, but at the end of it, it’s not music if you just play the notes very, very fast and accurately. Czerny thought they were very good. He didn’t think Beethoven’s Sonatas were worth playing in public. In his own words, he thought, ‘I can do a lot more than Beethoven’.
Technique is way of living, but then there must be the search for something new in it. My teacher said that the spirit of search is going deeper and deeper. Meditation can give us calm. It can give an independence. It can give strength of character. It can make the mind brilliant. But these are not the objects of meditation. If they are pursued, it will detract from the meditation and we shall miss the point. He said, “Go deeper, deeper, and deeper and you’ll find something quite different.
Well, you can read some of his words in the little book (Meditation: Its Theory and Practice). He was a very learned man. He’s done the official translation of the great epic Ramayana, which is used in all the universities all over the world. He was also two years in Japan, six years in China. He’s a most learned man, but his teacher, although not illiterate, didn’t know more than a few words of Sanskrit. This shows us that although learning can be a help, it’s not the essential thing. That too can be a distraction. While my teacher recommended a certain amount of study, he said, “If we become caught up in the study, then that too can stop our search.” He said, “Go deep and deeper.”
He wrote this biography of his own teacher (The Heart of the Indian Mystical Teachings), which gives you an idea of life at the end of the last century in India, of a Mahatma, a fully realized man. He was a poor man. He had rich disciples but he wouldn’t take anything from them. He held a minor job in the Indian Railways. His life was a demonstration that you don’t have to be famous in the world. You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be highly educated or brilliant in eloquence in order to carry out the yoga path.
Well, this was the talk on meditation. It’s not an easy subject, because it’s meant to be practised. To some extent, it’s a bit like talking about, well, about music. It can be an encouragement but it can’t actually play for us. We still have to practise ourselves. If it’s been an encouragement to anybody to increase their practice, then it will have achieved its object. Thank you for your attention.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: The gunas
Part 2: Patanjali and Sattva
Part 4: Do not think in long waves
Part 5: Intense karma fructifies quickly
Part 6: Patanjali and meditation on God