We can say, “Oh, surely, intelligent people are not affected by these things” – but they are. We can see, if we look at history, a novel like Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther was followed by a wave of suicide and there was pre-war a popular song called ‘Gloomy Sunday’, an extremely powerful piece of music. It was forbidden to be played on the continent – whether it was forbidden here, I don’t know – but it was also followed by suicide. People knew it was unreal, but nevertheless they were powerfully affected by it. We can say “Well, see the world as a beautiful rainbow.” We know the rainbow’s unreal, but we enjoy it. Our teacher said, adapting it to the play, still to take part in the play but to know that it’s unreal, that one is an actor in it. One can say, “Well, this is alright – this beautiful rainbow’s alright, provided things go reasonably well. But supposing they’re not going well. The beautiful rainbow – we’ll go to the Lake District and see that wonderful scenery, oh yes! But what about my arthritis – is that a beautiful rainbow? Lake District – yes; arthritis – no.”
Now this has to be met and there was a hint, by the practice which Suzuki adopted, of getting his patients to sit in a set posture every day at a regular time. One of the first things in Yoga is to calm the whole mental process and then to be able to see through. You can say, “Well how can you see through disasters and calamities?” There is a story of two incidents in the life of Swami Rama Tirtha, a fellow disciple of our own teacher. He was an inspired, ecstatic God-Realised saint, who used to dance sometimes on the banks of the river for hours. People came to see him dance and some of them said they saw a god dancing there. He took no interest in food and, as he didn’t have any regular disciples and there was no-one really to look after him and to prompt him to take food regularly, he used to have these internal colic spasms occasionally.
A young disciple, a brahmachari, was appointed to look after Swami Rama Tirtha when he was in the city – he lived mostly in the mountains in the later part of his short life. Once when the brahmachari was there with him this terrible colic spasm began. The brahmachari saw the mahatma, this great God-realised saint, his body twisting and turning. He thought that this was terrible and there was nothing that he could do and he burst into tears. Swami Rama Tirtha said to him, “Don’t cry” and the brahmachari said “Master, we saw a god dancing on the sands there and now this”. Swami Rama, according to the accounts, said to him, “You know the festival time – the statue of the god Rama is paraded through the city; and then there’s a band and then afterwards there are the acrobats and the tumblers who show off their skills in the procession; and lastly there are the clowns who jump about and make all sorts of weird gestures and stand on their heads to amuse the children. This is all part of the procession of the god Rama through the city. Now, this procession is taking place through the body of Rama. When you saw the dance by the river, that was the passing of the statue of the god with the band; then come the acrobats, twisting and turning, as the body of Rama now is twisting and turning; and then there are the clowns who amuse the children, in the same way the body of Rama is thrown into these convulsions.” He patted his head, “Rama is above all this, and enjoys it. This is a procession through the body of Rama. Rama is above all this and enjoys it.”
Our teacher was asked about this story by a person who had passed through a period of very intense pain. He said, “Well, I couldn’t control my mind”. Our teacher said, “You cannot expect that, at the beginning, you will be able to be an expert. How long did the upset last?” The disciple said, “Only while the pain was on. After the pain was over, it was alright, it had gone, it stopped.” Our teacher said, “Well, that’s already a progress, because with some people they’re upset for days or weeks. But you cannot expect to complete the full course until you have trained for a long time.” The statement of Swami Mangalnath, with which we began, is in the book called The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching by our teacher, about his own teacher: “You will not have the mature meditation called samadhi until you can see clearly the whole world as a beautiful rainbow.”
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 4: World as an illusion
Part 5: Powerful effects of the unreal