Prarabdha karma wears thin

(… continued from ‘Extraverts & Introverts 2)

… and this is one reason Manu says that the fourth quarter of life is especially favourable for this, because what’s called the prarabdha karma – the karma which has begun to go into effect to support our present lives – is now beginning to wear thin.  As I become old, the karma is now wearing thinner – and so it’s easier to see through. The veil is becoming thinner, it’s easier to catch a glimpse.

People think that there are other disadvantages to age.   You’re told, “Oh, well, if you didn’t solve it when you were young, you’re not going to be able to solve it when you’re old, are you? It stands to reason, doesn’t it?”  No, it doesn’t. The fourth quarter is a favourable one. There’s less energy, but there’s less distraction, and there’s a clearer inner vision, if we can turn our minds to it.

One important point in the yoga psychology is this, that however confused and evil our lives may be, the lives consist of a mixture of the three, what are called, strands of nature. We need not go into them now, but one of them is sattva, light, another one is passion struggle and the other one is darkness. They succeed each other. Now, if I’m mainly darkness – hate, and spite, and resentment, and jealousy, and laziness, and viciousness – still, at certain moments, there will be intervals of sattva, of clear vision, clear light.

Now, in the yoga sutras, the point is made, if you have one drop of milk in an enormous bath of acid, it’s going to disappear, isn’t it? It would simply be diluted, there would be nothing left. Is it like that? Everything consists of the three gunas. So, even if I’m a Stalin, there’s some sattva, there’s some light there.  The answer given by Vyasa and extended by Shankara in the newly-discovered commentary is: “Know that moment of clarity and clearness is unpolluted, it’s pure!”

Although it’s surrounded by a mass of darkness, there is a moment of clear vision – even in a man who is the most confused or sinful, there are moments of clear vision.   Therefore, however bad my life is, and however unfavourable it is, there are moments – very short – moments of clarity which can be taken. It’s as though I was in a prison cell and the door is unlocked just for three or four seconds every day.  But it is unlocked and if I can take advantage of those three or four seconds, I can get out. It’ll mean watching and waiting for it, but it’s possible to get out.

The man who lives largely in sattva, well, the door of his prison is unlocked most of the time, and as he becomes more expert, he can come in and go out.  Sometimes he’s locked in, but he has a certain amount of freedom.  Patanjali makes a point about this. There’s no life which is so darkened that there aren’t moments of absolute clarity and purity in it, and those moments can be taken. But we feel a moment’s clarity and then it’s lost.

They say, “Yes, the universe is designed by an intelligent creator.”  Now they’re raising this point more and more.  A famous communist like Dr Joseph Needham, a top-ranking scientist and scholar – now he’s preaching in churches, you see. Yes, he’s come to the conclusion that the universe has an intelligent designer. He’s talking next month on the anthropic principle, as it’s called – design in the universe, intelligent design.  Well, you hear these things and it seems quite likely just for a moment, and then you think, “Oh, well. You’ve got to get on with life as it is. It’s a pretty hard business, and you can, in fact, only get on by treading other people down, put bluntly.”  And then the moment of clarity has been lost – and then I go back.

Now, one teacher, he used to give a discourse regularly to a congregation, and one of the things he said was that spiritual study and concentration and spiritual aspiration was like filling a sieve with water.   One of his audience was very struck with this, and they discussed it afterwards.  Some of the audience said, “Yes, that’s exactly what it is. We listen to the teacher, don’t we, and for a moment you actually feel there are these spiritual realities – that it’s true, that there is something, that we could penetrate through to spiritual experience.  You feel that for about, oh, sometimes an hour it goes on.  Then you go on in the same old way for another month. You think, ‘Oh, it’s not practical.’ Then it comes again and momentarily you feel this.”  The teacher said, “Yes, that’s exactly what it is. You’ve got your little sieve and you’ve got your water, and the teacher’s pouring these wonderful spiritual thoughts in. The teacher himself is filling the sieve.”

But one of them, she was a girl, thought, “There must be more in it than that. The teacher wouldn’t have been making a cynical remark like that. It does seem to be true, what he says, but there must be more than that.”  So she thought about it a lot and the next time the teacher came around, she said, “Teacher, you told us, didn’t you, that spiritual practice was like filling a sieve with water, and that’s what happens to us. You come here and you fill our sieves with these wonderful discourses.  But what did you mean? Do you mean it’s impossible for us to make progress?”

© Trevor Leggett

(Continued in ‘Spiritual truth is being poured into you’)

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Extraverts & Introverts 2

Part 2: Prarabdha karma wears thin

Part 3: Spiritual truth is being poured into you

Part 4: We are seeing shapes of light

Part 5: Seeds of truth

Part 6: Practices are directed inwardly