Questions and answers after a talk

 The Need of the World

(13 January 1989)


TPL: Some days, the meditations will be good, 80%. Some days they’ll only be 20%, but we do it every day and then, finally, the mind will come with joy to the meditation period.

The monks in Japan meditate in the summer at 3:30 in the morning for two hours. Some of them tell you, some of the ones who’ve been there some years, they say, “Sometimes you wake up at 2:30 and you’re just waiting there for the meditation. The mind already becomes calm and wants to sit in this.” From that, there’s a calming and a rejuvenating.

It’s noticeable at the end of the meditation period in the morning at 5:00 or 5:30 you have just a cup of bitter tea. It tastes delicious. When the mind is calm, has been calmed and you just have that tea, in that calm atmosphere the taste is very intense.

In the same way your perception of colour is intense and pure and calm. You begin to actually see things and actually able to appreciate them. This comes from experience, but sometimes, quite soon, one can have a glimpse of it.

Frida: When you spoke about the parable of the sower and you said that Jesus said, amen, Jesus said when they asked him, “Why do you say this?” Then, he said, “For those who have eyes to see and those who have ears to hear” but obviously, he was referring to our subtle eyes and ears which come from the heart.

So, in our ordinary life, what if the eyes of the heart or the ears of the heart are closed? It means that only special people can understand this.

TPL: No. We must develop. If we feel the impulse, we should develop it. It depends whether there’s a will that wants to do something or not. If one wants to do something, then it can be done.

Frida: What about how you said we never are prepared to work for nothing? We always want reward or praise. When we start working – when I say “working” also working for nothing. Could that be a start, I mean to clear, some of the bondage with a start or within the start?

TPL: Well, anyway, not to be dominated by these lines like praise, yes, and blame outside ourselves. Yes, it might be a little start, but the main thing is to search and find within our own heart these springs of water by digging deep.

Mr. Bridger: I’d like to know, the point about the relative to you. For example, people’s earning power if you want to use that as an analogy..

TPL: All right, yes.

Mr. Bridger: You could argue that for some individuals to make that connection would be, in a sense, a liberation from being exploited or being in a kind of bondage. Would you accept that that can ever be so?

TPL: I don’t quite get the point.

Mr. Bridger: There’s the old idea about how happy one is sweeping the leaves, this idea expressed in Buddhism and the fact that the individual sweeping probably isn’t very well paid. Certainly, a communist would say that that individual is being exploited by the boss to work for no money and was in a kind of false paradise.

TPL: Ah.  I’m not sure either that the unhappy state of the bosses is always borne out either if you practice in that relative scheme of things. I wonder if you can comment?

TPL: This communist view is based on the idea that our happiness and our consciousness, indeed, is determined by economic factors. But the spiritual principle, basically, is that there’s the one bowl of rice and the two bowls of rice. When you start moving into the luxuries, well, then these things are not actually necessary.

Now, if you want them and can’t get them, that’s one situation. And then I shall feel then I’m being exploited, while I haven’t got as big a car as you have, I am being exploited if I want it. The situation is not favourable. I must get a better one.

If I can realize I don’t in fact need a car and I’ll be a lot healthier if I walk – but do something else, something creative. Now, then, I’m becoming free from this constant idea that I must make my life longer because other people’s lives are longer. Communists always tell us that we’re exploited if we don’t have a car, but their view is a very narrow one and it doesn’t in fact work very well.

Mr. Bridger: No, but without healthy economic…

TPL: You’ve got to have the two bowls of rice, but that doesn’t mean all the other things which are demanded. The development should be in another direction.

Mr. Bridger It’s interesting that the Buddha, for example, came from quite a well-to-do family. Christ, for example, probably came from quite a well-to-do family–

TPL: Well, now, we won’t discuss it. So, what are we saying? The Buddha deliberately gave up that wealth, didn’t he, and so did Christ?

Mr. Bridger: Yes, but it’s one thing giving it up and it’s another thing never having had it to give up.

TPL: Well, is it? Actually, giving it up shows definitely what you think of it, doesn’t it? If you’ve never had it to give up, then you’re not able to make a gesture saying what you think of it.

Mr. Bridger: They were giving up having had the space to make a decision. The people who have never had a choice have never had that space.

TPL: They don’t know whether they’re free from it or not, whereas the Buddha could demonstrate that he was free from it. I see your point, yes. This comes, doesn’t it, where the man who loses all his money is very bitter. And there’s the cynic philosopher who says, “Money’s worth nothing,” and the former rich man says to him, “Of course, you had to take that line because you’ve never had any, but I’ve had this money and I’ve been exploited by it.”

Rose: During this evening, more than once you’ve said we must go down deep, deep. Recently, I’ve been following a very interesting series of programmes on the BBC Radio on creativity.

What’s coming out of it is the ability of creative people to latch on to the deeper levels of consciousness and awareness. Could you say something about the role of meditation in bringing together all the different levels and possibly increasing our access to this layer of creativity?

TPL: Well, it does, but there’s a certain danger in talking about it much, like talking about digestion. Once one starts worrying about one’s digestion or about one’s going to sleep, one interferes with the natural process.

Meditation, if it has got the idea, “This is going to lead to creativity,” that will begin to disturb the meditation, just like if people worry because it’s time to go to sleep and they’re not asleep. Some rather neurotic people do this or some people who are very worried. They start worrying about going to sleep, thinking, “I must go to sleep.”

Then, there are other people who are worried about their digestion and they eat something and they think, “I do hope this is going to agree with me,” and then it doesn’t because there’s a spasm.

Now, your point is a valid one, but I’ll just say this, not as anything very definite, but there’s a certain lack of creativity in this century, in music, in painting, in literature and it may be that one of the reasons is, that we have lost this reverence for the Muse, the goddess who presides over creativity, and that the former great artists, musicians and creators used to have this reverence for the Muse and that set them free from much of the selfishness which tends to infect our thinking.

Now this idea has been lost and we talk instead about the collective unconscious and it’s a sort of secularization and there’s a loss of reverence and it means that our minds tend to get disturbed. I don’t know the programmes. I don’t listen, I’m afraid, to the radio hardly but if this sense of reverence is maintained it’ll be a very good thing and if it’s attempted to explain it.

Rose: One of the interesting things that was said in the programme, which I think is in tune with your appeal to the Muse is that experience tended to say that if the creative person encountered a problem, they did not continue to cut away at it and worry at it. They tended to drop it, go away and do something else and then come back to it later or go to sleep.

Then sometimes they would find an answer or part of the answer when they woke up again or they came back to it later. It’s as though they were trusting the Muse to let things happen at an unconscious level.

TPL: Some of them, or nearly all, have this technique but they no longer interpret it in a reverential way always and one example is Bertrand Russell who, in his essay How I Write, although he was such a great philosopher or said to have been, he gives this example. He had a very difficult series of lectures to plan and he couldn’t get it at all and the time was getting short. Then he dropped it and he went for a long walk. He came back and suddenly, he says, “I came in through the door. The whole thing was clear before me.”

He had this experience of inspiration. He said, “It wasn’t perfect but it was far better than anything else I could do at the time.” He said, “I suppose I sowed the seeds and then they germinated underground and they came up.”

This is an example of a great philosopher completely missing the point because when you sow seeds, you know what’s going to come up. The form is already determined but this was a new, an entirely new form which came to him. It’s as though you sow red, white and blue seeds, flowers just at random and they came up in the Union Jack. What put that order, then?

Russell didn’t see this because he was very opposed to anything religious. And so he shut that out from his mind. He said, “I suppose I planted the seeds and they germinated.” He missed the point. Something arranged them.

The great mathematician Poincare – there’s a recent autobiography on him, just how great he was; he anticipated Einstein in many ways – he saw this. He said, “This happens to me with mathematical problems.” When he couldn’t solve it, he’d put it away and go to sleep and sometimes it would come up and he said, “It means there is something there which is more intelligent than I am.” He said, “I should hate to admit that.” He was a sceptic but he saw the point, which Russell didn’t. There is something there which is more intelligent, but there has to be a reverence for it otherwise we shall start thinking, “Well, I’ll try and exploit this and I’ll try and do better.”

Rose: Apparently Transcendental Meditation is used to make claims that if, I think it was one percent of the population of a city meditating, peace would come to the city. Do you feel that if a small nucleus of mankind can be at peace or does each blade of grass need to be enlightened?

TPL: Well, the example that’s given now is of the antibiotic, that by putting something here there is, so to speak, a cosmic bloodstream and it can purify it. Yes, if a few people are really self-sacrificing, they’re willing to purify their own lives and to meditate then it will have an effect on the consciousness of many people, who will be affected without their being aware of it.

As to what the Transcendental Meditation people do, I don’t know, but this is certainly the tradition of the mystical schools; that we can contribute to the change of consciousness of the world.

Unless the consciousness of the world is changed, Bakunin said, “You put new people on top, they will behave just as badly as the old ones did until their consciousness is changed.”

One more modern teacher said, “You see, however much you shuffle a pack of cards you’ll still only have the four aces and the four kings.” He said, “You can arrange it in different ways,” and he said, “While mankind, unless their hearts change, unless the consciousness is changed at the basis beyond the mind, then however much you reform the structure of society you won’t bring peace and progress.”

John: I was thinking that this is part of a seminar series on peace and I was wondering if one could question the role of violence as a means of attaining peace and could you ever envisage including violence as a creative impulse towards peace?

TPL: There are people who can be struck and stand it. I strike myself. It stings a bit but I’m not insulted. I’m not hurt. If people are brave enough and have a wide enough consciousness to begin to see the whole universe as a Spirit or as animated by a Spirit, then that blow they will feel in a certain sense comes from themselves but not many of us are brave enough or able to maintain this.

The Buddha said that monks should be pacifists and they’ve got to be prepared to lose their life and that’s why they should be monks and nuns – so they can sacrifice their own lives, no one dependent on them – and he said the people in the world should defend their city and their family but they should defend without hatred and with a minimum of violence. He didn’t think that most people would be brave enough or have clear enough consciousness to be able to maintain non-violence but he said  violence can be ordered and controlled and to that extent it’s allowable. Yes.

John: And creative.

TPL: It can be creative, yes, too. Not simply to hate, but to seek to change. In a little sense, we can find it in our own lives. I had a certain talent for music when I was a boy and I played piano. I made rapid progress and my father arranged a very good teacher for me, but I wanted to play the Strauss waltzes. I can remember. I was actually captivated by them when I was around eight or nine and I could strum them quite well. That was what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to play Haydn and Beethoven and all that lot.

My father had to use force. Not very much, but some. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. And the same way to learn the technique. [noise]. I got to play the waltzes quite easily. I had enough technique for that but to develop a technique and to bring up the little finger, that takes years. And he had to use some force but it did mean that finally I got a technique. Was he wrong to use the force? No, because the basis of the force was love. It did have to be used, and I cried at the time, sometimes, but the basis was that he saw I could get on in music. Well, if the force is used in this way, it’s got to be used by people who’ve got to change their own hearts. Otherwise, the force will simply be an expression of my own heart, and that won’t be too good. So,he [Buddha] thought people should practice devotion and meditation.

Chairman: How does the educationalist receive that, John?

John: It’s a very, very difficult problem. It’s all very well speaking at assemblies in school about the fights that go on in the playground and one doesn’t want the children not to stand up and be able to cope with life themselves and knocks, and yet one doesn’t want them to pay the price for the fights or to encourage them. It’s a fairly difficult line to take because it’s so easily misunderstood.

It’s very difficult trying to explain to parents as well because parents take the line, “If so and so hits you, you hit them back and if you don’t hit them back then you’re a coward etcetera, etcetera.” There’s no way one can sanction that. These are behavioural issues. Mayhem issues.

TPL: Well, these are the cases where the Buddha says the educationalist himself trains his own heart, and then he’ll receive inspiration. Without consciously instructing, people who train themselves will have an effect on others. The conscious instruction’s often the least part of it.

That Matsushita [Konosoke Matsushita] –founder of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. Mentioned in the preceding talk] – I explained about the scrubbing. Now, that gesture, when he went down in his frock coat, striped trousers on the floor and scrubbed himself. That had a tremendous effect throughout the company.

Chairman: What does the art teacher think about compelling young ones?

Rose: Oh, children, when they’re painting or drawing, they seem to get to a stage where they can’t see the potential for a general movement and you know if they could just work that little bit harder, if they could get over the blocks, because they do get a block, they get tired and it’s all such an effort, but if you could [chuckles] metaphorically give them a kick, they actually do get over it and produce something wonderful, which they’re proud of, so I think I’d agree, actually there is a basis for the kick.

TPL: Well, it depends on the basis of the kick. That’s right. If the basis is love and to bring something out, it’s effective, but kicking can be just for the pleasure of kicking. Unless I purify my heart, that’s what I’m liable to drop into, but it need not be so.

Frida: You were talking about the way we might look at somebody else and say they’ve got more than us and I was wondering, you talked about relaxing, I was wondering, if letting go and relaxing, is that the same as trusting in your life, trusting in your lot?

TPL: You need a little bit of background to one’s practice, and this is one of the points. We generally recommend that somebody should study some small book, like the Gita or it could be one of the Gospels and try to get a background against which to practice. Well now, in the Gospels, it’s a trust in the Lord.

Now, there are other ones in Buddhism. Sometimes it’s the trust in one’s past efforts, of karma and so on. Generally, one wants a little bit of background, but it’s a bit like… well, when you’re learning an activity, you want just a little bit of theory, but not very much. Golfers don’t want too much theory – just play – but you can be told a little bit how to… about the basic to equip you.

Frida: Can you always trust what people would say would be actually right for you? You wouldn’t always want what somebody else had, would you? You could be satisfied with what you’d got and maybe that’s important to you.

TPL: A Christian would say, “This is what the Lord has given me. I’ve made efforts, but they haven’t brought me more.”

Now, it’s not just to be satisfied, but the Lord is offering me something to do. Now let me do that. Let me do that with what I have. Bernard Shaw used to say, “I woke up in the morning and I think hoorah, I’m the great George Bernard Shaw.”

We would modify that and say, “I wake up in the morning and I think, yes, I’ve got shelter. I’ve got some clothes, know where the next meal is coming from. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t have these things. People who’ve just been in an earthquake. They’ve got no home. They’ve got no shelter. They’ve got no clothes, some of them, and they don’t know where the next meal is coming from. So, I’m pretty well off now. With that, let me do something, and then that is the task that’s before me.”


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