Shankara on the Yoga Sutras
Shankara on the Yoga Sutras: The Goal of Self-Realization
This is the third book on Shankara I’m to talk about this evening. It’s a text which was discovered about 25 years ago and published from a single manuscript. It’s enormously exciting. Generally, lecturers in these cases just talk about what interests them, but although it’s got many very important points in it, the use of the phrase Tatha Sheshena which comes in some of Shankara’s other works, tremendously exciting, quoting from Gautama smrti. It all means nothing except to the lecturer. I don’t propose to do that.
There are a number of important points on authenticity, adoption, and so on. What I’m going to do is tell some of the points which are useful to us in training. Of course, they are the same points which come in any traditional training, but sometimes it’s a stimulus to hear them presented in a different way.
Now, these books in the Sanskrit on the traditional yoga are presented in the Indian style, in a scientific, analytical style. We can say that the Indian mind in its culture has been scientific and analytical. It doesn’t follow this is the only way to do things, but it’s one way. Before 300 BC, the classical language of India – Sanskrit – had been analysed minutely in its grammatical form and that analysis is still the best. Our present philology doesn’t improve on it. It was a masterpiece of analysis, and it dominated the language and held the language together so that after 2000 years, those old texts can still be read easily.
Other languages – for instance, the Greeks – they never thought of developing a grammar of analysing their language although they wrote so beautifully. It never occurred to them. The first Greek grammars were produced when it was a question of teaching Greek to foreigners. The Japanese, which is a language of poets, there are more poets in the Japanese language, and especially women poets, than in any other literature, they never had a grammar, never occurred to them to study the structure of their own language until about 1500 AD, and yet it was highly developed. This is one way of studying a subject, to analyse it minutely and carefully. We can say that the Indian mind was not satisfied to practice something unless the theoretical background was intellectually satisfactory. Now, whether this applies to us here remains to be seen.
Some people are willing to practice without having an intellectual background. They’re told by a teacher, “This is what you do,” and they’re willing to do it. Others are not willing. They think, ‘No, you’ve got to know the reason. There’s got to be a basis. You’ve got to be satisfied that it is right and everything’s got to be explained.’ Now, these are two different attitudes. If we belong to one attitude saying, “Well, I want to practice, I don’t care about the theory.” Rather like the Debussy school of piano playing. He told his pupils never to look inside a piano. Once you get the idea it’s a percussion instrument, you won’t be able to play. Think of stroking the piano, but others, intellectually, they want a clear picture.
Now, we can say the Shankara’s teaching is analytical. It’s very carefully and scientifically presented, but at the same time, that it is for the purpose of making us practice. He says at the beginning of his commentary that until we are satisfied that the system that’s being taught is self-consistent and will lead to a definite and clear result, people will not be inclined to practice it.
Now, in this second volume – the first volume is the volume on the part on samadhi meditation for people whose mind is already calm and concentrated. This second part is called the part of the means and it is for people in the world whose minds are extroverted. He discusses in this book two kinds of people. One who are living in their families who are in business, who have some occupation – he gives the occupations of a fisherman, or a warrior, or a farmer. He gives those three examples and the other set of methods is for people who have renounced the world. Now, renunciation meant something different. In India, with the extended family and no police force to speak of, the family was the only defence, and as Shankara says in one of his other works, “The people in a family are ceaselessly engaged in helping each other, defending each other, and working together.” This is one reason why in the Indian classics, renunciation, leaving the family, was often regarded as a great advantage to practise yoga, but today in the big city, we have often very few social responsibilities. These days the old parents are left. That responsibility also is not accepted. We are relatively free. We have relatively good control of our time and to that extent, the people living in the world are favourably placed for practising yoga, but comfort itself is an obstacle. If we are too well off, if we are too comfortable, we start thinking, ‘Well, next year.’
He gives three basic practices for the people in the world. They’re called tapas, which is translated, sadly, as austerity. In the East, we tend to think of some naked man standing between four fires under the blazing sun or on a bed of nails, or in the West, we think of monks, cadaverous and determined, flogging themselves in damp dark cells, but it doesn’t mean that. Tapas comes from a root meaning to heat, and it meant to energize the body and the mind and the will to become independent, not merely physically independent, but mentally independent.
The examples he gives are not necessarily to impose difficult conditions on ourselves, but to practise not being disturbed by the changes in the environment. It’s an important point that Shankara follows the Gita in saying that self-torture is not a valid form of spiritual austerity. It depends on the strength of pride, and also lust. This is a profound, psychological insight in the Gita itself. Self-torture is often a perversion of lust, and this is not the method of tapas. The method of tapas is to practise mental calm, not enduring by force of will.
To give an example from the Zen School, when the people sit in meditation, a man walks either in front of them or behind them with a big stick. After some practise, people can sit quite well and after still more practise, a lot of practise, some of them can even go to sleep sitting like that, but the jaw drops when they sleep. When the man’s asleep. That man with the stick was a man of great experience, taps the shoulder, and then hits. It can hurt a lot. Now, he may hit because he sees not that the man’s asleep necessarily, but that he’s distracted or that he’s slack or something.
Now, I remember a teacher – there were many beginners sitting there and he was passing behind them, and he hit one or two. Then when he came to the end of the row, he said, “As I walk along, I can see some of you thinking, ‘Because I’m going to get hit,’ and I can see your shoulders going up like that.” He said, “Don’t do that. Practise mental calmness. Whether you are hit or not hit, let your shoulders drop.” He said, “If I see the shoulders are dropped, perhaps I won’t hit you at all,” and everybody went like that. He said, “Perhaps I’ll hit you twice as hard!”
Now, the practice is when we have to wait for a bus and it’s raining, this is the time to practise. Well, only half an hour perhaps, the next one’s bound to come. That’s the time to practise tapas. When we’ve done something with enormous trouble, and then accidentally it’s destroyed, these are the moments to practise independence, throwing it away. Sounds easy, but it’s not easy and when we’ve done something with enormous trouble, and devotion, and then somebody viciously destroys it, not so easy, but these are the important occasions of tapas and it’s essential in yoga.
This is the first point. Not that we shouldn’t necessarily put sugar in the tea but if there’s no sugar, then not to be disturbed even at all, to be able to drink the tea. Sometimes, when we’re just going to drink the tea, and it drops – this happens sometimes in Zen – the man is disturbed. No, we can accept this. These tiny little things, to practise serenity, and then when the great thing comes, the practice in serenity, which we’ve done in the small things, will suddenly come. It’s called a breath from the Absolute. When some great crisis faces us, some great temptation, some great fear, then those small practices of tapas which have been done, suddenly will come, and without the man knowing where it comes from, he’ll suddenly feel a calm. This is the first practice, tapas. In addition, Shankara says everybody must impose some restriction or limitation on himself to get up early without thinking, ‘Should I get up? Yes, no.’ To be able to get up, leaving the bed as if it was a pair of old shoes. Such things are important for tapas.
The next one after tapas is svādhyāya. This means studying the holy texts as the man’s own self, to read the New Testament as a description of what is happening in his own self. Not so easy. We think all this is something that happened long ago and may not have happened after all. They are saying now, “Oh well, this is a religion of vanished dead bodies and winding sheets, and so on,” all that. They may be wrong historically, but something in our own selves. If we read these stories with great attention, something will stir. They correspond to something in ourselves. We can think of a few obvious correspondences, but some of them are not so easy to think of. If we think of the text with great attention, something will stir in us, not to read the text and simply so I expect it means something, but to read it with great attention.
The story of the woman who was taken in adultery, brought in the temple before Christ. He bent down and wrote in the sand. They said, “She should be stoned, what is your decision?” He looked at them, bent down and wrote in the sand. What did he write in the sand? Doesn’t say, but they all went away. He said, “The one who is without sin should cast the first stone,” and they all went away. What did he write? These are riddles. “Strive to enter by the narrow gate.” “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to salvation and few there are that find it.” What does it mean? What does it refer to?
Later on, he puts it in another way: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate for I tell you, many will strive and not be able to get in.” Before, he said, “…few there are that find it.” Now he says many will try to enter and not be able to get in. Why? “Well, perhaps it was written, made a mistake.” No. There’s something in it which corresponds to something in ourselves. This is called svādhyāya, that the holy texts are corresponding to something in ourselves. The last one is Īśvarapraṇidhāna: a surrender of our actions to the Lord. We think, ‘Oh, well, how do we know there is a Lord? Might be a bit doubtful.’
There are two methods of verification. One is to consult our own experience, and to penetrate with the needlepoint of meditation deeper and deeper, and find out whether there is a Lord. If He is all-pervading, if, as the Quran says, He is nearer to you than the neck vein, then we must be able to see Him. Somehow we don’t see Him. To surrender the actions to the Lord. Not so easy. You think, ‘Oh, well, I’ll surrender the actions to the Lord.’ Then I go on and do it and cook the dinner, but supposing I can’t eat the dinner. Say I’m pulled away, have to leave. Now I find out whether I have surrendered that to the Lord or not. If I have, I should be independent. People now and in Shankara’s day are not independent. Tired nerves. ‘This is how I am.’ Settling down into a particular position. ‘This, I can do. That, I won’t. No, I’d never do that. I can’t do that.’
People speaking all the time, can’t keep quiet. Other people can’t speak. People who are Speaking all the Time, constantly chattering, what he calls “identified with speech”, and Less Speaking – he doesn’t feel he exists. He’s identified with speech and yet, so many words come out, and then… Now, here’s a man who’s going to commit suicide. “Now say something!” “Can’t think of anything.” All that speaking! Another man might say one word and that man’s life would be changed. So, a great part of discipline is to free to become more and more independent of the fixed attitudes. The fixed convictions of ourselves, how we can see this running through the whole of our lives. It’s a fixed attitude.
There are some people who are always inching ahead. If they’re talking to someone they’re looking to see whether anyone more interesting is moving around. ‘No? Oh, well, I’ll talk to you then.’ Always like that. When they play chess, they attack from the very beginning. They play judo, they attack from the very beginning, constantly pitching in. There’s another type. He waits. ‘Just wait. Just wait. Let them dash about then they’ll all fall down. They’ll all miss it, then I’ll come in.’ His chess is just the same, sets up what’s called the Hedgehog. Lets the opponent attack, make a mistake. His judo’s just the same. His conversation’s just the same. Sits back, ‘his little mistake’, then he pounces.
These are all fixed attitudes, and they run right through. They have to be changed. We have to become independent of them like a man who’s strongly right-handed, so cut out the right hand for a bit and only use the left hand. “Oh, I can’t do that.” “Yes, you can.” It can be developed. Now, he [Shankara] applies this mentally. He says we must practise independence of our desires, our hates, our prejudices, and he makes an interesting remark. He says people who are not free from desires and aversions, like and aversion, are not successful even in the world. Somebody they like, they overestimate them. They promote them. Somebody they don’t like, oh, no, he’s able but they don’t get on. They can’t praise. He says you can’t praise somebody that you like too much. Nor can you praise somebody you dislike. That’ll be too little. Somebody you like, you praise them too much.
In the same way, to reprimand. Reprimand somebody you like, you think, ‘Oh well. You mightn’t well ask me.’ Somebody you dislike you think, ‘Now’s my chance!’ The reprimand will be no good and the praise will be no good, and a good teacher knows that. He can’t teach unless he can see your pupils objectively, free from liking and disliking. The great practice is independence. It’s very difficult to become independent. Not many scientists manage it. Most scientists at the beginning of their careers have a very pure desire for truth and they make one great discovery, but after that, no more. One of them, in an analysis of this, he says it’s because when you’ve made a great discovery, you start thinking, ‘I have a special way of looking at the world. Then your pride comes up and then you’re no longer able to accept new ideas.’ He points out how, for instance, Einstein, all the great discoveries were at the beginning. After that, there’s no indication of any development in insight. In saying, he quotes other examples.
With artists, it’s different, because they have this reverence, not necessarily for God although most of them were religious, but for inspiration. They don’t think, ‘I’ve got this special way of looking.’ Beethoven said at 47, “Now I know how to compose.” Wagner in his 40s, he began his entirely new notion of Music Drama. They developed. They were able to change because they had reverence for something – an inspiration – they called it the Muse. The scientist tends to think, ‘I have been successful. I have done it.’ Very many of them are caught in that fixed casing. Shankara says the main training of yoga is to make the mind free from what he calls these taints, and the main one is, ‘I am this.’ Once we begin to say, “Yes, I am,” then it’s difficult to change. If he worships and he says, “Thou art, Thou art”, then his mind becomes flexible and he can concentrate it.
In the Yoga Sutras, to get detachment from the world, we have to do what, in this country, is called a sporting attitude: to play life as if it was a sport. Not so easy. Yet, many of us find it difficult to play sport as if it were a sport. We have this tradition, and it’s been developed in this country. If you play chess in some countries in the Middle East and you win, you may get crowned with the chessboard, because it’s not taken as a sport. One of the Shahs of old Persia, he played chess with his jester who was a better player. The jester said, “Checkmate,” and the emperor picked the pieces up and threw them at him, one by one. Then he put them up again, they played again. The jester made a move, and then he ran into a corner of the room and he covered himself with cushions and carpets and he said, “Checkmate.”
It’s not so easy, even in a sport, to be independent of that. Shankara says our life is like this. It doesn’t have ultimate reality. It has a provisional reality, like a game of sport, and it must be played in the same way. We have to verify this from experience. He says, if we can become independent of the course of our mind, then the mind can be brought to a centre. When it’s brought to a centre on one of these stories in the New Testament, or on a form of the Lord, or on the central line of the body, it’s brought there again and again and again. This is the process called intensification: an independence in our lives and then an intensification of meditation. Then one day, there’s transformation.
Another example he gives is called putting the same point in a different way. Our mind is a tangle. It’s like a tangle of threads. You can’t see anything except just the mind itself. By these disciplines, by this becoming independent, the mind is thinned and ordered, and then it becomes like this. It’s still there, but we begin to be able to see something beyond it. Finally, it’s thinned more and more. Then he can see clearly, then he knows where he is. He knows what’s happening, he knows the purpose of where he is. Then even when the mind is picked up again, it can easily be separated, and the light can come in.
In his view, the world has a purpose. We can believe it has a purpose. Then something happens, and we think, ‘I don’t know. Why has this happened to me?’ Somebody else is thinking, ‘Sooner you than me.’ We think, ‘Oh no, the world is cruel.’ By meditation, by becoming independent, and independent not only in our thinking, but in our action, we can come to know, he says, the purpose. Then we can cooperate and take part in that purpose. Then our centre will change.
He says, people say prayers are not answered. A great Buddhist said, “People are spitting in the face of the Buddha all day. Then in the evening, they pray to the Buddha for good health, prosperity, and then they say, ‘My prayer is not answered,’ but they forget no is an answer.” We have to bring our mind, our thinking, our nerves, and our actions into line with our prayer. Then our prayer will begin to change. We will become aware of the purpose.
When we are children, we don’t know the purposes of our parents. When we are children, our parents make us play games and they say, “Try to win, you try to win.” We try like mad. If we lose, we cry. If we win, we shout with joy. The parents encourage this, but this is not the real purpose. The real purpose is that the children should become energetic, learn balance, speed, and precision. Then a little bit later, the children are taught not to cry when they lose, not to exult. At first, it’s a terrible strain, but afterwards, there’s a transformation. That self-control which was exerted, not to cry, not to shout with exultation when you win, it becomes transformed. Then that very intense competition becomes a means of joining together, and we can appreciate. If the opponent wins, we can appreciate his skill. You could say, “Oh yes, you can do that in sport,” because it doesn’t actually matter. Sometimes it does. There are very rough sports which can injure you and even kill you. Still, that spirit can be cultivated.
He says, in the end, we have to become independent, even of the ultimate change, which will take place to us, which is death. “By meditation,” he says, “there will become a perception.” He will have a direct perception of something in himself which doesn’t die. Everything is dying in us. The body’s changing, it’s dying. Even the thoughts we have are dying. We speak the words and they’re gone. It’s all vanishing and dying. The sadness of the passing of things. So many Chinese poems on this. We’re hanging on. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me. No, it’s gone. Holding on, holding on, holding on, don’t go. It’s gone.
In judo, it’s a great mistake to hold on. When it’s gone, then go. Then you retain balance. Spiritually, the same thing. To know the passing of the world – go. And then you find an inner vitality and an inner vision. This is given at the end of his commentary. There is something which has to be discovered, which is an inner life and an inner inspiration, which can change us. Some of us, if we’re fortunate enough, we can meet a great spiritual figure. We may meet him and perhaps he says nothing. No great inspiring words at all, but when we come away to our ordinary life, we find that things which we couldn’t do before, things which frightened us, things which tempted us, their force has been lost. We find somehow we’re free. Not necessarily for long, but at least we know that it’s possible to become free. Even the very brief contact, sometimes, with a spiritual man, can show that.
He [Shankara] gives certain practices for the renunciate, the man who’s given up home and given up all responsibilities. For the householder, he says he should practise these as far as his circumstances allow. For instance, one of the great virtues is not to harm people, but he says a fisherman, a man who lives as a fisherman has to harm the fish. Those fish will be born again. He doesn’t ultimately harm them, but he does offend against the principle of harm. He says, as a fisherman, he has to do that. That’s how he lives. Outside that, he should not do harm. The same he says, a warrior has to fight to protect the country. Off the battlefield, he mustn’t become a bully. And St John the Baptist told the soldiers the same thing. As their profession, they might fight to defend their country, but they were not to become bullies and fighters outside that.
He says these practices for the householder must be done, held to as best he can, but if he practises the three for the householder, the tapas, the svādhyāya, the studying of the holy texts with finding something in himself. We think, well, we know what’s in ourselves. What is there to find? The philosopher Hume said that. He said, “I look in. I see a lot of changing thoughts. There’s nothing else. There is no permanent self.” He said sarcastically, “Perhaps other people have been more lucky, but I see none.” It is what happens when the medical teams go to, or used to go to some very ignorant country. They used to talk about bacteria, boiling the water. The people said, “Look, all they tell you – they’re telling you not to eat insects, but we don’t eat insects.” They couldn’t imagine something which they couldn’t see which could yet kill them.
Our process in yoga, Shankara says, is from shruti, from the revelation, to anubhūti, to direct experience. If it’s just faith: “Well, I believe,” he says, “I’m sure it’s all true.” There’s no attempt to confirm, then it’s largely futile, and it’s always liable to crumble. He gives some of the practices. For instance, the breathing practice. He says this is for renunciates because unless the practice is done by a man whose life, whose mind is thinned, then it can produce a commotion. The mind has to be purified. We don’t care much for these words today. He quotes the example of one theory, which was going in 700 AD, “You must fulfill yourself. If you feel angry, then blaze away. If you want to have a good time, have a good time, but pass on to something else. Fulfill yourself. Be yourself.” That was going 700 AD. Shankara pointed out what a bad time these people generally have. They look terrible. Very little vitality. The nerves are tired. They live in fixed habits. They can’t get out of them. There’s no independence. There’s no inspiration.
The control of two things: the anger and the sex impulse, are stressed by Shankara to have energy. Energy doesn’t mean simply to be active. It means to be active or absolutely passive at will. Not so easy, but he makes a great point of this. The yogi must be able to be active. He must meditate on maitri, which is friendliness. It doesn’t mean becoming a friend, taking somebody’s side against others, but a general friendliness, then indifference and ability to be indifferent, not to be enslaved by other people’s demands.
In that way, he says there will spring up what he calls the ever-youthful life. We hear, “Well, I’m not young anymore.” No. There can be a youthful life. The manifestation may be restricted, but it can be bright and it can be an inspiration. Now, he says one or two more things that when the yogic practices become established. By established, he means that it’s no longer a struggle. There’s a duality between what I am and what my ideals are. If we examine the course of our tapas, we can get a very useful indication. I’m not very good at getting up in the morning. I say, “As a tapas now, for 40 days, I’ll get up five o’clock and I’ll practice meditation. Have a cup of tea after an hour, then I’ll do an hour’s study.” That’s quite an undertaking. Most people keep it up about 5 or 10 days. They think, ‘Oh, for goodness sake. What’s this got to do with anything spiritual at all?’ and they give it up.
Those who persist will find this a change. That it’s no longer such a terrible business shambling out of bed but it changes after two months, three months. Then, there’s a vigour and a joy. Mostly, when we begin these things, we think, ‘Oh, it’s always going to be like this. It’s always going to be like this,’ but it isn’t. We find there’s a new life and a new vigour. Then intensification, and then transformation. Then he wouldn’t miss it for anything.
We can get in a small way an indication of this intensification and then transformation. Lastly, he says when the practices become established, there will begin to be revelations and semi-divine experiences. He says that if the man has one of these experiences and then becomes excited, then all his asmita: ‘I am,’ will come up. Again, his mind will become tainted. He will be thrown back. Although they are mentioned, they are mentioned because if they are not mentioned and one of them happens, then people will become very excited. Also, they may be frightened. They will think this is not known to anybody. Nearly everybody who does intense spiritual practice will have some such experience. They will always find these experiences limited and passing, as Shankara says. They are simply mentioned so that people will know. They will know something that’s going to happen, something very unlikely, and then it will happen.
Some teachers teach by humour. I just give this story. You can make what you like out of it. A teacher saw the list of horses in a great horse race. He told a pupil, he looked at them and he said, “That one will win.” That one did win. The next year when that great horse race came around, he saw the list again. It seemed by chance. He told the pupil, “That one will win.” That pupil thought, ‘Oh, I can do a little bit of good.’ She told a number of people who weren’t very well off but whom she knew. “Listen, I’ve got a hot tip. This is going to win.” She thought, ‘It’ll be good for them. They’ll win some money.’ She didn’t bet herself, but she told them. The horse came in third. The teacher said, “Oh, isn’t that a win? I thought the first three were all winners.” That pupil had to go round to all the people to whom she’d given the hot tip and pay them back their stake.
Now, this was a humorous example which was given by a teacher for people not to try to rely on such experiences that they have. Not when the asmita, the I-ness, all the desires, will come up again. They are to be independent of them. The conclusion of the yogic texts – he gives a number of these things which are these powers or visions which are likely to happen as a flash sometimes to a pupil. He warns them against it. People think, ‘Oh, if I had that I’d really…’ As a matter of fact, it isn’t so.
The course of our karma is to work within our karma. Most of us think that if we suddenly got authority, we’d be all right. Nearly everybody thinks that. As a matter of fact, when anybody suddenly gets power – as you see in the army when a Private is promoted to Corporal, he becomes an absolute demon, because it’s the first experience of power. After he’s had some experience of it, he begins to know, power has its limitations, power has its disadvantages. Then he’s no longer excited by power and doesn’t hang on to it. But at the beginning, it’s a constant excitement, and many people are never able to adjust to it. This is one of the yoga points, which comes up and all the texts explain about it. We feel, ‘Oh, what a sell to tell you these things that are going to happen, and then you’re not allowed to use them.
This is the baby’s point of view. People who don’t know judo think, ‘It’d be lovely if I knew judo. The head waiter would say, “I’m afraid there’s no table,” and I should just with a flick of the wrist, throw him across the floor and go and take one.’ Life is not quite like that. A real judo expert, if you have to spit in somebody’s face, probably the best man to spit at would be a senior judo expert, not a young man, he might not be able to control himself. The senior man will probably take it. He has power. He can do these things. He also knows about the order of the world. He knows the importance of maintaining that order.
At a village in India, the river comes out from the mountain and it separates into two streams, which run along more or less parallel for a long way and then join up, and there are [other] villages. Now, near where it comes out, there’s a gorge. On some occasion, there was a landslide, and the water got diverted down to the gorge so the villages had no water at all. The villagers all got together. They cleared away the debris and they set the course of the river going again.
The village which was at the junction, just where the river came out, realized that at any time they wanted, they could fell a few trees and divert the water again, take it away from the villages. They created themselves into an armed camp, a camp of armed men. They did no work but they levied tribute from the villagers all down the riverside under the threat, “We will divert your water if you don’t pay.” Because those villagers were ordinary farmers, fishermen, they couldn’t stand up to the armed village.
When the minerals were discovered in the country, and the enlightened government decided complete reforms now, the villagers realized that this protection racket, as we would call it today, would likely cease. They were intelligent people. They found among them that one of the young boys, seven or eight, was very bright indeed. They decided, “This is what we’ll do.” They took him away from the village and they had him educated, they all clubbed together, and they paid for him and he had a wonderful education. They paid for him at the best school and then the best university. Then he was to go into the Civil Service. He was to get into the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which he did. When he was in there, he was to hold up and divert any schemes for abolishing their special position. He wasn’t identified with the village.
Finally, the land reforms come up. He reports to the minister, you see. The minister says to him, “Make your report on this area.” He makes his report on the area and he says, “This is very inefficient at the moment because the village is levying a tremendous toll on all the villages and that must all be abolished.” The minister looks at him and he says, “You yourself come from that village, don’t you?” He’s very surprised.
The minister says, “Yes, we make very careful inquiries. You were moved off when you were seven or eight, weren’t you? You had a loyalty and a job to do for that village, didn’t you? Now you’re recommending against them.” The young assistant minister said, “Yes. When I lived in the village, all I could see was the good of the village. I knew nothing of the purposes of the country as a whole but now, I know. That’s why I’m recommending that the special position of my village be abolished.”
When the head man of the village came up to see him, he said, “You’re betraying everything we’ve planned. Everything we’ve done. Now you’ve got the power. Why don’t you look after your own people?” The boy said to him, “The reason I have the power is because I can see wider than the interests of our little village.” Shankara says, “When a yogi practises, he becomes aware of the purpose of the world, and his part in it, the part that he’s to play. He doesn’t seek to change that part, but he seeks to fulfil it.” [When] he comes to the end of the part of the text, he says, “Those three: tapas, independence and endurance, svādhyāya, studying and meditating on the holy texts to find the correspondence in ourselves, and lastly, Īśvarapraṇidhāna, to become aware of the purposes of the Lord, and to cooperate with Him.” He says the most important one is the third one: to become aware of the purposes of the Lord.