(… continued from ‘We are seeing shapes of light’)
Freud was able to show that there were certain elements in the unmanifest, which he called the unconscious wishes. He thought it consisted solely of wishes – but this isn’t so. It consists of far more than wishes, but there are the wish elements in it. Now, the yoga psychology is this. It’s rather like grass. I perform an action and then that action, that grass, has seeds. The seeds drop down and then they take root. And that results, when the conditions are favourable, in a dynamic impression. If there’s a stone in the way, maybe it can’t come up for quite a long time. The stone may be removed or the shoot may go round. So, there are these tendencies in the unmanifest which tend to shoot up and reproduce themselves. There are many different kinds. Some are good, some are bad, and there’s this tremendous mixture where they intertwine with each other, and they reinforce each other, and sometimes they conflict with each other.
But there are some tendencies for the action to create these dynamic impressions below the surface. These dynamic impressions then try to come up and, when the occasion is favourable, they will shoot up and try and reproduce themselves. Some are unfavourable: “I’ve got some shocking habits which I’ve become aware of, so I want to get rid of them.” So I get rid of them, I give up these actions, these unfavourable actions. Perhaps it’s a habit of running people down. I don’t like it if they do better than I do. We have a pleasant phrase, ‘to pull someone’s leg’ and make fun of them, make a joke of them. But in some far-eastern languages, ‘pull the leg’ means that you’re all climbing a mountain and he’s going up faster than I am – so I pull his leg to pull him down to my level. I don’t want anyone surpassing me.
Well, alright, I decide I won’t do that anymore, so I’ve cleared my resolve not to perform those actions, but there’s something constantly trying to come up. I got rid of them, and it keeps coming up again, and then I get rid of them again. “No, I won’t do that, I definitely won’t do that.” Some of them turn into action. “That’s just me, I suppose. I can’t stop them.”
Well, the yogic account of this is that we can change our surface behaviour and our surface thinking. I can come to realise what a shocking, mean and childish habit it is to run people down who are successful, and I’m repelled by it, I don’t like it. But, still, these impulses constantly arise from the seed bed which is full of these dynamic impressions.
Some people go in for a saintly life. The yoga psychology is that the impressions of the yoga truth consist of actions and thoughts and they, too, will tend to reproduce themselves. But in the meantime, below the surface, is the conflict between the desire to do good and the desire to do evil, to do wrong. I may solve that battle on the top level by eliminating this conduct – but there’s something below always crying. A Chinese verse (I’m going to quote it later on) says “When a man’s a wolf, even in his laughter you can hear a growl.” Even though there’s nothing on the surface, there’s that growl below. So, it leads to a sort of stalemate in which the life is going to be divided into good and bad.
Now, there’s one more point, and that is the special nature of these yoga impressions that are put down. Patanjali says, in a very important sutra, that the yoga impressions are hostile on the 0pponent. Below the surface, when they have been laid down, the yoga impressions will fight these conflicting desires on the surface and they will begin to thin them out and to destroy them. An opponent says, “Well, why should the yoga ones destroy the worldly ones and not the worldly ones destroy the yoga impressions?” Shankara says, “Because the impressions of yoga are impressions of truth.” So, you think, “Why should truth conquer illusion, something unreal?” Well, it does, because what is illusory can’t maintain itself, and this, in fact, is our definition of an illusion.
Supposing I see a large and furious bulldog in the street – I look down and suddenly see him by my leg. I get quite a turn. Then when I look carefully, I see he’s stuffed. The spirit, which is in man, is the basis of his being – and the darkness is like an illusory covering over it.
Another example – I don’t know if you can remember – is that they used to have great slabs of chocolate in sweet shops. Sometimes they were put by the door, and as the small kids of about five would go out, they’d pass this great slab of chocolate in the window, just by the door, on the shelf, and you’d think, “I wonder if I could grab that. But every time you came out, you’d think, “The girl’s watching.” Then one day, by chance, you happen to see that it wasn’t chocolate at all. It was a piece of tin – tin made to look like chocolate. Just a display thing. Then the temptation disappears. You’ve no temptation to snatch a piece of tin painted to look like chocolate. It’s illusory.
© Trevor Leggett
(Continued in ‘Practices are directed inwardly’)
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