This isn’t meant to be an academic presentation of the texts, but it’s more to do with the practice. And the instruction and practice is more like a series of thrusts which we receive from a teacher or somebody who’s experienced, and one or two of them may register on us and then we’re expected to react constructively to it. So it’s making a few points with vivid examples, what’s called in Sanskrit, drishtanta, the visible example. When you present in the Indian logic, which is very old, when you present something you present the principle and you present the conclusion, and then you present an instance of it from daily life. For instance, where there is smoke there is fire. To demonstrate that you’d say well, fiery things, smoke. Then the drishtanta is as in a kitchen, that’s to say you’re given something definite from daily life, it anchors the reasoning to daily life by showing that such things occur and they’re accepted in our ordinary life and it’s not simply an abstract situation which doesn’t occur. One of the first things is this, the Supreme Self is to be meditated upon and realised as the Self, not the God which the people worship.
We tend to worship something which is distant from ourselves and that’s because we’re not really sure whether it’s there or not. As my teacher once said, people say God, but it’s only a name that they use when they happen to drop something – oh God! – and then it’s forgotten. Now people feel, well if there’s God one ought to be able to see a tiny little finger now and then intervening in affairs shouldn’t one, if there’s a God who is interested and takes part in our world as we’re told. And one has to think carefully about this: where is this God? Whenever we look at something and we analyse it carefully in detail we don’t find a God. It’s true that people like Einstein were, well, semi mystical, but in his book on relativity, which of course no one would actually read, Einstein’s own book, there’s nothing about God in that. What is the evidence that there is a God? Oh, we can say well, there’s design in the universe. Oh, but whether there’s a design or not it’s a question of opinion. Now, in completely materialistic books like Dawkins’, The Selfish Gene and The River of Time, he uses phrases like in the embryo the development is orchestrated. And they use these words unwittingly without realising what they’re saying. Orchestrated. Now, if we hear an orchestra. (music: Ride of the Valkyries) Now, this is the Valkyries. The conductor is Tennstedt. But if you listen to this music, minutely, you will never hear Tennstedt, you will hear the violins, all of whom can be named, in that, especially the violins, and there are harps there, the harpists can all be named.
They all have a specific sound which they’re making, which is on the score, but you will never hear the conductor, and yet, it’s the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, every one of them could be named, listed, and if you look at the score you could find out exactly what the man, if he’s a flute, well Wagner has a bass flute even, you can hear what the bass flute is playing and identify it, and the man, but you cannot hear the conductor. Now, lots of people think that an orchestra could play without a conductor, he does nothing after all, he just gives the tempo and if you had Böhm playing the same music it would be a bit slower I suppose but there wouldn’t be much difference. What does the conductor do? You never find him here in the music, you can’t hear him. But if you’ve ever played in an orchestra you know what a conductor does. Supposing you’re playing a glockenspiel or something like that, you’ve got 28 bars rest and you’re counting them, one, two, three, four, then the music slips or something and you, oh, was I four or five? Oh, six, seven? You listen to what the others are playing but you can’t remember what corresponded to bar seven. Supposing I come in a bar too soon, or a bar too late, what am I going to do? You try to listen to the music thinking, where do I come in, where do I come in? And if you’re about 15 you start sweating like mad, and then well, you’re still counting but you’re not sure whether you’re one out. You’re coming in after 28 bars rest, and about bar 26 the conductor looks at you and then he brings you in. That’s what the conductor’s for, he holds the orchestra together and if he wasn’t holding the orchestra together it would soon run wild, people would miss their cues. Well, the glockenspiel might not matter so much, but if some of the others, the trumpets, start making a false entry, well then, they’ll collapse. Now, people think, oh no it wouldn’t. Yes, it would.
There’s a very famous case in 1912 when Debussy, who was a rotten conductor, used to come over from France and conduct his set of three pieces, Images, with one of the London orchestras, and Sir Henry Wood had rehearsed these pieces. Now, the first one is Clouds, it’s very quiet and harmless, the second one is called Fêtes and it’s meant to be a festival at night and the torches suddenly break through the trees, the brilliance of the torches and then they’re gone again. So there are very quick changes of tempo and this brilliant thing and then it stops. Now, Henry Wood had rehearsed the orchestra again and again and again, and then Debussy came over. But he was a very poor conductor and he failed to give one of the entries and then failed to give another one, and the result was that half the orchestra ended a bar before the other half and the audience sat absolutely stunned at the end of it, it was awful. Well now, this is in the history books, you can look it up, somebody shouted, “encore!” and then others took it up, “encore, encore!” and Debussy shaking, looked at the orchestra and they played it through again and this time he held them together and it was a great success. Now, that cry of “encore.” My father was the leader of that orchestra and he told me Sir Henry Wood was conducting the little group of singers who were to come in the third piece and it was Henry Wood who shouted, “encore, encore!” and then the orchestra took it up. But it was a vivid example of how necessary the conductor is.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 2: Life needs a conductor
Part 3: We must study some theory