This (drawing) is one of these patterns. People can look at this. Some people see bent lines. To some people, the centre seems to stand out as though it was a sort of mound running down the middle of a picture. Some people see more than that. This is an example of what in the yoga perception theory, is called the yogi-vasana – the fact that you have got the external object, the sense organ, and then you have what you might call the internal ‘set’ or ‘make-up’ which can strike. People see various things. If you have done quite a lot of sunbathing, you may see that more than just that the centre is raised. There are a lot of these visual illusions and some of them were known in India and some of them were used. Well, I have just put this up. It is an example of the fact that we are not passive receivers of impacts, stimuluses from the outer world; but we, ourselves, contribute to the final formation.
We’re considering the five levels which the man saw in the universe through his meditation practice. ‘Practise meditation. Find that from which they all come forth, by which they are sustained, into which they finally merge.’
His first realisation of this was food – which is the technical word for matter – and this is the materialist’s view. Then energy. Then mind. Energy which integrates, purposive energy in the universe. Then vijñāna, higher intelligence – purpose. And, lastly, there was a hint of bliss and light, an example of the cinema screen was given. In this same Upanishad, this series is given again, but as applied to oneself.
Generally, these things, when they are discussed, you begin with food, matter. ‘Man is what he eats. I am the body.’ Quite often, some argument is raised: “Well, you see, the fact that you say, ‘My body’, means that I am different from the body. If it is my body, it is something that I own. Therefore, that shows that the Self is different from the body. So, the Self is not the body. Fine. Well, we now pass on ‘Is the self, the mind?'” Then nobody has the cheek actually to say it, but people are thinking, “Let’s not pass on. Let’s come back to it.” Supposing somebody pushes you or you have a toothache, can you say, “Well, this is my toothache, so I am separate from the toothache.”? “Don’t let’s get too theoretical, let’s get a little bit practical.”
The Indian tradition is a tradition of logic and if you study the presentation of Yoga in India, it has to be presented in a logically satisfactory form. This wasn’t so in China. The Chinese couldn’t understand the logic. It became literary. It became beautiful. But then it meant in China that people began quoting things that they didn’t understand. And so the Zen developed, in which riddles were asked, and presented, and situations created which couldn’t be answered by just quoting something one doesn’t understand. But, in India, logic was understood and very highly developed, and they had immense confidence in analysis.
Recently – you probably know – some of the fire-walking has been studied a little bit and Professor Jearl Walker, who has has written a couple of books on the physics of everyday life, studied this and he came to this conclusion. On a hot plate, when you drop some water, it forms into little bubbles and they skid about the plate before they finally evaporate. They skid about for quite a time. This was known in ancient India. Shankara refers to it, and the commentator on Patanjali, Vyasa, he refers to it, in 300, 400, or 500 AD. Well, Jearl Walker calculated that the sweat from the feet would vaporise and would form a cushion, enough for three steps, on a hot plate, to keep the feet away from the burn.
Rather engagingly, he describes this. He made these calculations – and he is an experimenter. He was the chief experimenter for the Scientific American – he said, “Yes, I made the calculation and in my laboratory I heated up this plate. Now, I had made my calculations, so I knew that this was so. If I took these three steps, I would be insulated from the heat.” He said, “And then I looked at that hotplate and I thought… And I went back to my calculations.” He said, “I made them again, and they came out the same.” So he said, “Finally, I walked across it, and I didn’t get burnt.”
He then suggested that for PhDs in physics, this problem should be given. And that, finally, when they made the calculations and established the correct answer, they should have a hotplate and on the far side should be the dean with the diploma and the applicant should have to take these three steps to pick up his diploma for his PhD. He said, “You can be absolutely convinced intellectually, but it can be quite a thing to put your weight on it.”
Now, in India, they were more inclined to do this. They had tremendous reverence for analysis and logic. The Indian civilisation is unique in that at least 400 BC they had worked out a most elaborate and scientific grammar of Sanskrit language – far superior to anything that was produced anywhere in the world until the end of the 19th century here. In fact, quite a lot of our work was stimulated by the work of the Sanskrit philologists in 400 BC. They had this tremendous interest in analysis.
Other very intelligent people, like the Greeks – it never occurred to them to make a grammar of Greek. They taught rhetoric, but they never made a grammar until they started teaching Greek to foreigners. The Chinese didn’t make a grammar. Neither did the Japanese, a nation of poets, until about the 18th century.
But the Indian mind and tradition was very keen on analysis and logic. In places, they would say, with something like pain, for example: “Penetrate by analysis and you will become separated from the pain.” This is read by the commentators as meaning the analysis will throw the man into a state of Samādhi, and then he would become separate from the body. His consciousness will not be, “I am the body.” He would be separate from it. Now, that is something that requires great sincerity of purpose in practice. It is too late when confronted with pain to start thinking, “Now, what was it he said?” But to practise now.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are
Part 4: A system of training the mind
Part 5: Overcoming pain of body and mind
Part 6: Independence of outer things