Practices are directed inwardly
(… continued from ‘Seeds of truth’)
Sometimes I can’t put these unwanted thoughts aside. I don’t need this, but I can’t put it aside. Well, now I want to write a letter [but along comes another thought to distract us]. It’s just in the way. Very often, this happens. It’s a worry, it’s an ambition, it’s a hope, a fear… You can’t put it away. “How are we going to…?” Well there are yogic practices for this. In the yoga for the introverts, which is the more advanced form of yoga than karma yoga, the practices now are directed inwardly. Study – to study the holy texts to find the riddles in them, to think about them, to compare them with other texts. Perhaps to get a hint of the riddle, to recognise the meaning of the riddle when it’s been half-grasped. This is external and it purifies the mind and it purifies the conduct.
There is the higher yoga (and I don’t mean ‘higher’ in a snobbish sense of, “Oh, well, of course, you’re down there and I’m up here. Very good, you know, at your stage, for you to do that, but, of course, I don’t.” No. There’s the lower yoga and the higher yoga in oneself. When I’m obsessed with external things or I’m in great difficulties, then it’ll be external yoga for me, karma yoga. But when there is a calm, favourable, meditation period – or favourable periods in life – or if I can create a meditation week in solitude – these are the times when the study will be not of external texts, it will be the book of the heart.
Discipline will not be about getting up at a fixed time, establishing a rhythm, doing this, doing that, not doing too much of that, doing enough of it – but it will be internal. Our teacher’s teacher, Shri Dada, has some of these teachings as applied internally. Now, I explained at the beginning, in the tradition in which I am, my teacher used to ask us to be very careful not to make the teaching anything to do with a particular person. One of the points of this kind of presentation is that it doesn’t change with time. Presentation through topical circumstances, or examples, or events, changes with time.
For instance, in Zen, the golden age of Zen in China was the T’ang dynasty – 600 or 700 AD. The great Zen masters then wanted to speak directly to the Chinese people. The Chinese are a literary people, tremendous quoters, and they compose marvellous poems. The Buddhist texts in Chinese are the most beautiful prose and verse sometimes. The Chinese had a habit of quoting some wonderful verse and feeling, “Well, that’s it! That’s it!” A French writer said, “When the sparrow says ‘tweet’, he thinks he has said everything.” Well, now, there’s a certain danger, if you’re a literary, aesthetic people, in feeling that if your expression is beautiful, that’s enough.
Now, the Zen masters wanted to get the Chinese away from this, so they taught in very direct and often very unpolished language. They used popular songs of the time, and popular jokes that were going around, and expressions like ‘pulling the leg’ in their teaching. That made a tremendous impact on the ordinary people as distinct from the very highly-literate quoters. But it does mean that today, over 1,000 years later, the Zen texts of those T’ang dynasty sermons are much more difficult for us to understand than the most difficult classical Chinese prose of the sutras – because they refer to things, to expressions, like ‘pulling the leg’ which no longer exist in Chinese. So, the very colloquial, and modern, and fashionable, so to speak, allusions (although they make a great impact when one’s familiar with them) are not so good as a permanent teaching, because they’ll soon go out.
This kind of traditional teaching – Upanishadic teaching – we can recognise that it’s unchanging, and it will be the same in 2,000 years’ time. This is quite an important point. The good speaker, or a good poet or an entertainer, can attract to the truth. But there’s a certain danger in mixing up the truth with the way in which it’s presented, and we have to be careful to go behind the presentation.
Just as in Christ’s parables – some of them are so beautiful and so striking. ‘Wide is the gate, broad is the way, that leads to destruction. But straight is the gate, narrow is the way, that leads to eternal life.’ Well, it’s beautiful poem, and somehow you feel, “Yes, that’s right.” And then you think no more about it, that’s just a beautiful poetic… But if anyone should happen to think about it, they would think, “Well, why? Why is the gate narrow that leads to eternal life?” People who do the line of the light practice might get a little indication.
The words of the King James’ translation, the Authorised version, are so beautiful. Now it’s regarded as one of the masterpieces of English prose (although Shakespeare’s contemporaries weren’t so impressed by it). But still it is now axiomatic with the Bible. The English of that Bible is wonderful. But there’s a tendency to hear these sonorous syllables coming out from a wonderful temple, great hangings and clanging bells, and incense, and so on. But the Gods have departed. It’s just very, very impressive, that’s all. And one of the things in Shri Dada’s presentation model, in the traditional form, in extremely simple language, is that it’s meant to bring us back to something within.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Extraverts & Introverts 2
Part 2: Prarabdha karma wears thin
Part 4: We are seeing shapes of light
Part 5: Seeds of truth
Part 6: Practices are directed inwardly