Shooting Beyond Darkness 1
Shooting Beyond Darkness
“The knot of the heart is broken.” Now it’s easy to read these texts and surfboard over them and think it’s quite all right. “The knot of the heart is broken,” but we can go into them and find applications to our daily life. Take just as an introduction to the talk, this from the Mundaka Upanishad verse: “The knot of the heart is broken.” What does it mean? It has a meaning for spiritual realization, it also has a meaning for everyday life. It’s a rope with a knot in it.
Now, the rope should go over a pulley smoothly but when we come to the knot, there’s a check, then finally, it gets over. Then when it goes back again, it should go smoothly but then when it comes to the knot, there’s a check and then finally it gets over. What is this knot? When I’m working smoothly at something, supposing I’m typing, supposing I’m cleaning the floor, supposing I’m weeding the garden, supposing I’m working at a translation, it’s quite smooth. Then the thought comes, ‘Why do these swine leave everything to me?’ The smooth flow is checked, it should go smoothly, it should go smoothly. Here, I’m doing the job smoothly. I suddenly think, ‘What appreciation do I ever get?’ I’m typing smoothly and easily. Then somebody comes now to the corner of my eye, I see them standing over me. Typing, and I think, ‘Who’s that? What do they want? They’re looking for mistakes. Is it the boss? I can’t quite see.’ The typing’s interrupted often, one makes a mistake when somebody comes and stands there.
There’s a knot, that knot is my individual self. ‘How am I affected by this? What am I going to get out of it? Won’t it be awful if it goes wrong?’ That knot can be broken, it can be untied. Then my actions in daily life will go smoothly. These vivid illustrations are given by the teachers to bring these phrases to life in ourselves when there begins to be a spiritual freedom so that, yes, if somebody comes and watches me, still, I can go on. So that I can clean the floor without thinking, ‘I suppose somebody’s going to come in with muddy boots on the moment I finish cleaning.’ That’s a knot.
When the knot of the heart is loosened, then in our daily life, the actions will go smoothly. Our daily life is not the only thing, there’s meant to be a spiritual realization, and then the knot of the heart is a much deeper knot but these things have an application to daily life, they’re not something that we hear or think of remotely like going to the opera: ‘Oh, isn’t it wonderful?’ Then you come back to daily life. No, these things have a meaning for our daily life.
Now the archer is the one who’s going to shoot. Who is he? Here’s myself as I stand there. The text says, “You can read of him,” and the text describes him as a man hoping, fearing, desiring things will go better, things might get worse. Always quivering, shaking. We think, ‘Oh, but not everyone’s like that. Millionaires, they’re all right.’ Yes, I’m worth a billion but I owe too. We have just seen, as a matter of fact, one millionaire who has very recently died. He was worth a billion, and it’s turning out that he owed too. They’re not free from worries and anxieties. Sometimes, the fear of absolute disaster is much greater in the case of those who are prominent in the world than it is for others, but we are all subject to this domination by the knot of the heart, the knot of fear, the knot of hope, the knot of desire.
It says in the first part of the Upanishad which we’re not studying. I haven’t asked you to read it, but the Brahmin, that means one who seeks for Brahman. My teacher used to say that. He was asked by a very orthodox Brahmin from India, he said, “Why are you teaching these barbarians here? They are not Brahmins,” but my teacher said, “Someone who seeks for Brahman, for the ultimate reality, God, is a Brahmin.”
If we look at the very ancient texts, the Chandogya Upanishad, for instance, one of the oldest of the Upanishads, it’s at least 600 BC, perhaps older. Now, there is a student who comes to a teacher, and the teacher says, “Well, who are you?” It’s usual for the pupil to tell the teacher who he is. He says, “Well, who was your father? Was he a Brahmin, for instance?” The boy said, “Well, my mother told me, ‘I don’t know who your father is because before I had you, I had several partners, and I don’t know which of them is your father.'” Then the teacher said, “You must be a Brahmin. Only a Brahmin would speak out the truth like that.”
This is a clear statement in one of the very oldest and most authoritative of the Upanishads, the Chandogya, that it is this speaking of the truth and the search for truth that makes one a Brahmin. That’s to say a candidate for the realization of Brahman and not who your father happened to be. My teacher said to this man, he said, “These people who seek for Brahman, God, are Brahmins.”
We are asked to read the books. The books describe us as we are; hoping and fearing, struggling or despairing. It says, look at the world. You can learn in three ways. If you’re very intelligent, you can learn from instruction. You’re simply told, “If you drink this, it’ll do you harm.” If you’re less intelligent, you can learn from observation. That’s to say you can look around and see people who do drink, you can see the effects on them, and you can learn that way.
If you’re the stupidest, and I’ve been well among the stupidest, you have to experience it yourself. You think, ‘Well, they may warn you against this. People, it’s true, who do this, they end up in a bad way but I’ll be all right.’ You drink it, get a terrible hangover, and your intelligence is depleted, your energy is depleted, and then you learn by experience.
The Upanishad says, “Try to learn by instruction and by observation” because if you spend your whole life in bitter experiences, at the end of it, there’s no time to profit from those experiences. Look at the world and see them. The Upanishads are teachings for people who’re beginning to feel the restrictions of the world, of their state in the world. They’re for people who’re beginning to observe that even those who seem to be so successful are not, in fact, successful.
Nearly all of us think, ‘If only there was this and this and this, I’d be completely happy,’ but if we look at the people who have these things – fame, respect, money – take a case like Ian Fleming, for instance. He was the creator of the James Bond series. He was an author, a super bestseller, who put a new character into that sort of realm of literature – the Bond character. Those are the first ones since Sherlock Holmes, really.
He was very wealthy, enormously successful, and he was very much looked up to because he was identified himself with the Bond character. He said, towards the end of his life, “It’s all ashes. It’s all ashes of disappointment and dissatisfaction.” Now, if we can observe that and look round and see, then we can learn. If we think ‘Oh, no, not if I had that…’ but it isn’t so.
When I was young, I was very keen on athletics – a mania – and there’s a certain amount of luck in these athletic contests, but anyway, I had a public event, I won one quite spectacularly because I was favoured and I managed to take the luck of the chance. I was pretty full of myself. One of the guests there was a film star who was supposed to be also intellectually gifted and a ‘kind’ friend of mine who brought her, he ‘kindly’ told me what she’d said after this. He said, “Do you know what she said?” I thought, ‘What did she say?’ He said, “Well, she said, ‘I don’t think much of all this physical achievement. Look at that man Leggett, just a magnificent animal.'” I was furious. I had all the success and all the basking [in the limelight] and then described as a sort of animal. Well, it was quite a little lesson. I’d trained for that and worked for it, and then got it and it was all swept away by a casual remark. I managed to recover finally, but it was a little bit of a lesson that one thinks, ‘Oh, if only this, if only that.’ No, it isn’t so. Look at the world and see. Then we’re asked to study a little bit from the books about the possibility of going beyond this quivering, limited individuality. It’s for people who are beginning to feel the restriction in a prison camp.
The very small children of about three or four are quite happy, provided the food holds up reasonably well and they do get what there is. They’re happy and take on a ball and they chase each other and they play with the ball. They’re completely happy. They don’t feel the restriction, but when they’re a bit older, then they become aware of the boundaries. They become aware they’re in prison, they begin to look through the fence, begin to wonder what’s beyond the watchtower? Then they begin to feel that they want to know something beyond. This is not big enough, this is not enough. Well, in the same way, the yoga practise is for people who are beginning to feel that no amount of change within the prison camp is going to set me free, is going to make me happy. It won’t, and if we can see that, learning through instruction, but also through observation, then we can begin to have the aspiration to find whether or not there’s some means of becoming free.
We’re asked to read the books to help us to formulate that desire – the desire for freedom, because very often it’s unspecified. You hear in the plays, sometimes on the radio, people say “I can’t make sense of life. Why has this happened to me?” Other people are thinking, “Well, sooner you than me.” “I can’t make sense of it. There’s no point in it all. Unnecessary suffering and pain. Why are these things happening?” When this begins to become focused, and not simply just a general uneasiness and pain, then we begin to think of freedom.
Now, the books, have to be applied to the self. If we read books on Keep Fit but we never perform the exercises, well, then there’s nothing much to them. We may become experts on theoretical health, but not in practise. It’s necessary to have some sort of basis for becoming at least fit. You must know just a certain amount of theory, but not too much. One can take refuge in learning.
My teacher was a very learned man, but he didn’t attach importance to learning as a means to freedom and liberation. Learning helps to focus our mind and learning does keep us out of mischief. When I think of all the harm, the extra harm I might have done if I hadn’t spent so long studying, I think, well, the world has benefited to that extent, but learning doesn’t give liberation. One can take refuge in learning.
Learning is very good for spreading the holy truth, and my teacher said that people who intend to spread to bring the holy truth to the knowledge of other people must have a certain amount of learning. Otherwise, they won’t be able to answer the questions that will come up and they won’t be able to present it in a reasonable way to the particular audiences, but learning by itself doesn’t give liberation.
From the point of view, of spiritual progress, it’s better to know one small book well, to learn one short Upanishad by heart, and know it. Terry Waite, who’s done rather well in prison, apparently, when he was a boy, he said he learned the prayer book by heart. When I was at school, we had to learn parts of the prayer book by heart and you think, ‘Well, this is absolutely pointless,’ but what it does is, it gives you some inner resource. The language of the prayer book is very fine English. So, he would have had inner resources. Although he may have forgotten some of it, in isolation, in prison, you can begin to recover these things which you’ve forgotten, you can bring them back to your memory. Then he had inner resources.
An experienced interrogator – who was a very nice chap – he told me privately, he said, “You know, torture is no good. If you torture people, they’ll just scream, and then they’ll say anything or they’ll say what they think you want them to say. That’s no good.” He said, “But you can get the results without torture on many people. One of the things is this: that most people are reliant on external contact. They’ve got to feel hope. They’ve got to feel something friendly and familiar. Now, if you put a man in a cell and after two or three or four days, that cell is home and when he’s there for three or four weeks, he knows and he’ll clean it up a bit. It’s got almost nothing, but he’ll find a way of arranging the straw so it’s a bit more comfortable and it becomes home. What we do is we keep changing the cell and each time it’s different. If you put a man in a small cell, well, after a few days, he’s at home, then you change him to a large cell. Then you change him to a hot cell. Then you change him to a cold cell. Then you take him by night to another place and again he’s in another one.” He said, “They can’t ever put out to feel at home. They can’t put out these mental tentacles to feel at home” and he said, “After a few weeks of this or sometimes a few months, the chap will tell you almost anything that you want to know from him. When you’re kind to him, he’s so relieved. ‘Ah, at last, somebody’s kind to me, I’m at home,’” but he said, “If he’s got inner resources, it doesn’t work. If he knows poetry by heart, he can be anywhere, but he can find within himself those poems and he’ll repeat them and he’ll go deeper into them and he’ll find newer and newer meanings in them because he’s got these inner resources.” Though he said not too many people have them these days, but if he’s got inner resources he can be independent of the circumstances.
Well, in the same way with the books, not to try to cover a tremendous amount, unless it’s part of the dharma or the role in life to spread the holy truth in which case he does have to have a wide and extensive or it’s best if he has a wide and extensive knowledge, but to go deeply into one thing that you know by heart that’s always with you. You don’t have to recall because it’s always with you. If it’s a spiritual classic, then at a time of great crisis or difficulty, one of these phrases will spring out and it’ll produce an inner stability, inner faith, and consciousness of something upholding – with strength upholding.
We’re told then to read that sometimes in the books. For our life, our daily life the Upanishad says, and this is now becoming much more well-known in the West, “Treat things with reverence.” When you handle things, treat them with reverence. Some people, with the typewriter, they fight the machine. Treat it with reverence so that the typist and the machine become one.
Even with a very old typewriter, if you treat it with reverence. yes, the shift clog doesn’t work on one side and the L key doesn’t work but you use the one instead of the other. You can still type if you have reverence for it but otherwise, no. You won’t be able to type at all when it’s defective. It says treat things with reverence and we’re now learning about the environment, to treat it with more reverence but this does not give freedom, it gives a better life, but it doesn’t give freedom.
There are illustrations sometimes given which are not particularly elegant but which can be very telling. My teacher never spoke anything vulgar but there is one form in the Indian rhetoric which is something that’s a little bit unpleasant but which is used in rhetoric in order to make a point.
This example is given. In ordinary life, some of us have got magnificent circumstances, magnificent clothes and some of us are very badly off, we’re in rags, but the example that’s given is this. These clothes of fine ones, all their rags are full of lice. Wonderfully dressed but “I won’t take off my clothes because they’re so fine. Never take them off but I’m being bitten all the time,” and this is the man whom the world regards as fortunate. Then there are others in rags. Again, “I won’t take off the rags, they’re all I’ve got, but I’m being bitten all the time by the lice.”
This example is given that: learn in meditation first, take off the clothes, and wash. My teacher didn’t give this example and he just hinted at it, but it’s very telling that while my position in the world and my status and my fame and my riches are infected with lice, it doesn’t matter how magnificent they are, still, they won’t give me any real satisfaction.
The next point is this. When I am wonderfully dressed, I don’t want to take the clothes off because this is my superiority. This is me, but if I’ve had a pail of dirty water thrown over me, filthy water thrown over me and I’ve been rolled in the mud and my clothes have been torn, then I’m more likely to be willing to take them off.
The application to life is this, that while one’s very comfortable and has status and is doing pretty well, ‘Anyway, I’m better off than a lot of people,’ I’m not willing to take that off but when I’ve had terrible disappointment, when my hopes have been shattered, when my good name, when they’re putting out slanders about me, then I’m more likely to be able to take it off.
So they say, and they say this especially in Zen, that the time of disaster, the time of bitter disappointment, the time when things that you’ve cared for and sacrificed yourself for have been kicked to pieces in front of your very eyes, these times of despair and disaster are the times to make spiritual progress.
One teacher in India, people would be sent to him sometimes. Perhaps a chap who has just got married and he’s got a good job and things are pretty good and he comes to the teacher and says, “I’ve been sent to see you but really, I don’t feel like I need this yoga and these spiritual teachings and practice. I don’t feel I need them.” The teacher just used to say, “Come back in 10 years,” and he said quite a lot of them did.
When there’s disappointment and disaster and despair and a serious illness, these are the times not to think, ‘Oh well I can’t be expected to do anything now.’ No. These are the times when it’s very much easier to make a change. There’s a vairagya, there’s a relative freedom from the attachment to the things of the world at those moments and then these are the times. If we feel an instinct for a little bit of an impulse towards spiritual freedom, we should practise. In order to learn how to swim in case the boat sinks, but at the time of crisis, of these terrible moments, these are the times to practise, to do the spiritual practice much harder. Unless we’ve done some in the ordinary way, we’ll find it difficult to start up from nothing but if we do, say, half an hour a day, we sit in meditation, then we attain a certain calm and purity from that. Then when disaster comes, that is the time.
Instead of thinking for three hours, ‘God, I trusted those people. I helped them. I’ve done everything for them. Now they’ve turned on me.’ Instead of spending the time like that, “Now is the time,” he said, “for spiritual practice.” Now is the time. Well, I pass that piece of advice on. Then as to the conduct in daily life for spiritual practise, you’ll find that many of the lists of great virtues in texts like the Gita and the Upanishads are mostly concerned with the negative, with not doing harm. Not so much with rushing out and helping but in not doing harm.
The view is that most of the suffering in the world is not created by natural calamities, earthquakes, and famines, but is created by the human heart itself and I must reduce that. It’s reducing the amount of spite and hatred. The great villains like some of these great dictators, they themselves, they’re only an individual man, but he focuses prejudice and petty spite and hatred of thousands of people like through a burning glass so he can make this terrible beam of heat which will consume people in a holocaust.
People say, “Oh, well, if only we knew each other better.” But as a matter of fact, if you go to a place where there’s a civil war, and the Civil War is always the most bitter of all wars, and you go to one side and you say, “What have you really got against them?” What they always say is, “You don’t know them, we know them.” You say, “But, look, they’ve made some concessions, they’ve done this.” He says, “Now, we’ve got a proverb here, hundreds of years old. When they come with a gift in one hand, their knife’s up their sleeve.” Then you go to the other side of the dispute. You say, “Well, what have you really got against them?” They say, “You don’t know them, we know them.” You say, “But they’ve made concessions.” They say, “Concessions? We’ve got a proverb here, hundreds of years old, about them. A gift in the hand…” You say, “Yes, I know.” They know the other side. Each knows the other side very, very well, but they don’t know themselves. I know that he’s an absolute… but I don’t know that I am too.
The morality of the Upanishads is concerned more with knowing oneself, knowing the evil that one does oneself. If by reducing that, then the benefit will be for the whole world. While my heart is still full of hatreds, prejudices, then although I try and do good, actually, I’m producing often quite a lot of harm. In the very earliest times, there was no prejudice at all against women, and this is worth knowing.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is, again, very, very old one. This and Chandogya are the two oldest, at least 600 BC, and they’re the most authoritative. In that, if you read it, there was a great debate among the expert philosophers and Yogis of the time in front of the king, and they are to meet Yajnavalkya who is one of the sages and ask him questions and they try to refute him. It’s a great public contest which they had. The intellectual tradition in India was very strong, much stronger than, for instance, in China. We can just say in passing, there is no Eastern mind. The Indian cultural tradition is completely different from that of China. One of the features of the Indian tradition is its strong intellectual character.
They developed a grammar of the Sanskrit language about 500 BC – Panini. It’s most elaborate, it’s a masterpiece. It’s still used today. It was this Sanskrit grammar when discovered by the philologists of the West, which gave the impulse to philology. There’s nothing like that in China. It never occurred to them to make a grammar of their own language, nor in Japan, although it’s a culture of poets. The Greeks never made a grammar of their own language until they started teaching foreigners in Alexandria about 100 AD.
The intellectual power of analysis in India was so strong, they developed this wonderful grammar of their language. In the same way, they had these big public debates on metaphysical, philosophical, and religious points. In that debate, Yajnavalkya meets the great Brahmin scholars of the time. There comes forward a challenger who says to Yajnavalkya, “Yajnavalkya, like a warrior who might come forward with two sharp arrows, I come forward with two sharp questions.” That challenger is Gargi, a woman. Yajnavalkya treats her with great respect.
There’s no surprise at all that a woman should take part in this extreme discussion and public debate. None at all. We know from this very early reference, and there are others, that there was no prejudice whatever against women. Later on, there was, and in Buddhism there was, but not in Zen. In Zen, some of the great teachers were women. It is worth knowing Gargi, the name Gargi, and it is worth reading that the passage, well, there is more than one passage from the very ancient Upanishad.
There’s so much for the archer then. The archer is one who wants to become free from the constrictions and is trying to focus, trying to find a method for becoming free. Now, the holy texts give descriptions of what they call the ‘mark’. Brahman is the word – God – it’s a neuter word, that’s to say it doesn’t have a gender of masculine or feminine.
There are hints given, and it’s very easy when reading some of these passages to begin nodding like one of those Chinese Mandarin figures that just keep nodding like that. I read a typical verse. “That Divine One is without body, both without and within, not produced by anything else, without breath, without mind, pure, higher than the high, imperishable.” One could think, ‘Oh, yes, how to enter into these texts?’
I’ll just take one phrase from it. It says, “Without mind.” You think, ‘What? It would be like a stone!’ What would be the example? It says he is without and within. He fills the universe, and he is within. We can see within. What is there within which is bright, which is immortal, which is without mind, which is divine? Without mind. If we read the biographies, and we choose biographies because in the biographies the results are stated and are well known. Otherwise, it’s just anecdotes, but these things happen to all of us.
There’s something called inspiration which comes from beyond the mind, something which we have not thought out, but which comes in a flash and is true and becomes a source of fruitful action and inspired thinking in the world. Very often, this is completely opposed to our ordinary thinking. In the West, we tend to think,’ Oh well, the examples have got to be something scientific.’ Because if it’s art – you see inspirations in art – who’s to say whether the pictures are masterpieces or not? It’s a question of judgment, isn’t it? Who’s to say that a work of art is inspired or it isn’t? But science are.
In the large areas of the East, they don’t think like that. They think, ‘Science, ooh, they might guess. You might guess the truth, but nobody can produce a masterpiece of art by guessing or by flukes, by accident.’ So, for the West, the examples tend to be from science. One of Pasteur’s great discoveries – I’m not a scientist but we can read these things now. When he was first of all experimenting with chickens, he wanted to discover how they could be, so to speak, what we’d call inoculated against the disease. Now, he created a culture which was deadly to chickens. Then owing to a mistake that culture was left outside the laboratory and it partly died, it almost died.
Pasteur’s theory was that the bacteria was either at full strength and effective or not effective at all. This was the whole basis of his thought but for some reason, and it’s never been explained, he tried to use this almost dead culture and he injected it into the chickens. It can’t be explained, it’s completely illogical, and they became sick but then they recovered. Then again it can’t be explained, he took some full-strength culture and he injected that into the same chickens and he didn’t kill them at all.
From that came the principle and it depended, and if you read the biography carefully, you’ll see it depended on two actions which were absolutely illogical on his own theories. He can’t explain why he did them but he did them. Now, this would be said to be an inspiration which is not of the mind. If he had thought he wouldn’t have done it but he was inspired. He was a remarkable man. He lived as a brahmachari in Paris when he was a student which was then and now rather unusual.
He wasn’t a particularly talented man though he made a succession, not just one as most scientists but a succession of most important discoveries in his life. He wasn’t particularly talented, he took his first exams in Paris and he did rather badly, so he took them again to try and get a better grade which he did do finally. He wanted to be an artist though some of his early pictures have been preserved.
This is something from beyond the mind. Two scientists, Bertrand Russell and Poincaré in France, they’re both great mathematicians and philosophers of science and they both experienced this and they both wrote about it. An inspiration, suddenly coming, not the result of previous thinking which had been baffled by the problem. Russell simply tried to avoid the point. He said, “Well, I suppose my previous concentration had simply put those elements into the unconscious,” into the subconscious it was called then, “and then they incubated there.” The seeds were incubated there but when you plant seeds you know what’s going to come up. Nothing new comes up.
The point was that he planted these elements and they came up in a new order. It’s as though you planted seeds of white, blue, and red in no order and they came up as the Union Jack. What put the order there? Russell couldn’t face that, but Poincaré who had the same equal standing with Russell both as a mathematician and a philosopher of science, Poincaré saw the difficulty. He said, “It means this, that there is something in me, beyond my mind, which is more intelligent than I am,” and he said, “I should hate to admit it,” but at least he saw and faced the problem. From this phrase, ‘beyond the mind,’ when we read it in the text we should apply it to ourselves. What is this beyond the mind?
Many people have this experience. We have a proverb in English, ‘sleep on it,’ don’t we? Sleep on it, but of course, when these things happen to private individuals they tell each other, but people think, “Well, you don’t know,” and that’s the reason for quoting the experience of scientists which are documented and therefore accredited. They can’t be just dismissed as, “Probably it’s some sort of fantasy or you remembered it wrong.”
In the East, Hokusai went on producing masterpieces of this woodblock art in Japan until he was nearly 90. The works of his old age are increasingly wonderful but until he was 50, he was just a sort of poster artist then he began practising a form of meditation, and then his art became inspired. This is the extension of a phrase: ‘beyond the mind’. It is ‘without and it is within’, beyond the mind. If we apply this, if we think of such words and apply this to our own lives and find out whether there’s something divine which is beyond the mind in ourselves, we can come to know by meditation especially, come into touch with it.
These great scientists were meditators. Russell, who was violently opposed to religion, remarks in his biography that when he was young and still living a rather strict life he said he became sometimes so involved in the depth of thought on mathematics, that “I forgot to breathe.” He said, “I would come out of it gasping for breath,” Well, those who practise meditation become aware of this. The breath begins to become, or may begin to become very, very slow and almost stop but as he was not a man who’d trained, his concentration couldn’t sustain it.
Then we’re asked to study, not simply to believe. These holy texts have been blessed by the sages of the past who’ve confirmed them in their own experience but we’re not asked just, “Well, believe it. Only believe it.” ‘One step enough for me, I do not seek to know the way’. No. One step is not enough for us, we want to know the way. Faith is not enough. Faith can gradually wither the roots although the surface remains.
Hakuin, a Japanese Zen master says that you can get a small wood where the branches interlace and the roots can wither but the branches of the trees are interlaced so they hold each other up just like a table with a lot of different legs but there’s no life in the roots. They’re withered. Then when the storm comes the whole wood goes down because it’s got no roots. He said in the same way a spiritual group can begin to lose spiritual intuition but their outer form of reverence remains and they support each other.
I think, ‘I’m beginning to have my doubts about all this. I don’t know.’ Then I see somebody else, ‘They’re very reverent, aren’t they? There must be something in it. They’re so reverent. They’re so full of faith,’ and then I think, ‘Yes, I too must be reverent.’ Then they look at me, ‘He’s beginning to have his doubts too but he looks at me and I’m so reverent and he thinks there must be something in it.’ In this way, we’re supporting each other but neither of us has got any actual experience at all and so it can be like that: a table with many legs but there’s no root, the trees have no root and they can be blown away.
A Japanese story on this is a man who was a disciple of Zen master, where they had to enquire into truth, not just believing. He was a businessman. He went to the country and he had to stay overnight at a small place and he stayed at a little inn. He thought he’d go to the local temple service, a devotional sect temple. He came back the next day and he saw his teacher in the capital. He said, “I’m so impressed. I went to the service, there were peasants, the farmers there. There was this resonant voice of the priest intoning the holy texts and the absolute faith of the congregation there.”
He said, “I thought of us here with our enquiries and our doubts and our ponderings, and seekings. They’ve got this simple faith, the priest’s voice, strong, resonant, and vibrant reciting those sonorous Chinese monosyllables.” The teacher said, “Yes, that faith is very impressive. The only one there who might have his doubts would be the priest himself.” Faith is not enough. Underneath the great faith, they say, there must be the great enquiry. Underneath the great enquiry, the great enlightenment. We have to be able to pursue the enquiry and throw away some of our fixed ideas, ‘Oh no, it can’t be so. This must be so.’
The American scientist, Admiral Leahy, was their expert on explosives. He was told about the experiments with the nuclear bomb that they were planning. He said, “It won’t work. I say that on the authority of a life’s time study of explosives.” He was one of the world’s top experts on conventional explosives but this was nuclear power, of which he’d never heard and which was only just dreamt of. A mind will say, ‘Oh no there is this or that’ but we have to be prepared to open our minds and say, “Yes, we know this and this and this but we don’t know, we can’t say these are limits here and this is all there that there can be.” You might say, “Well, what evidence is there? After all, these texts may say these things – this divine current throughout the universe!” By reading these texts, there’s a little echo within the reader which stirs. You might say, “Why should there be?”
One of the experiments they do in a laboratory on sleep is when somebody is fast asleep and they wire them up. After a time, there are people who can sleep in a laboratory with the wires on. These wires monitor the EEG, the brainwaves. There’s a sleep pattern, a deep sleep pattern. When the subject is in deep sleep, they have a tape recorder. Supposing his name is Alistair, the tape whispers a list of names, “Richard. Henry. John. Alistair. Jack.” When the tape whispers, “Alistair,” although the man is still asleep, there’s a stirring. The sleep pattern momentarily just changes. He’s asleep, doesn’t wake up, but there’s a change in the pattern. Something recognises and something stirs.
This is only an example but when we read these holy texts: “the knot of the heart is broken. All doubts are resolved, all the karmic bonds are destroyed when he is seeing who is both high and low.” When these texts are read with attention, there’s a stirring. It’s as though the holy text is whispering the true name. Doesn’t stir with other names, any more than the sleeper stirs when Richard, Henry, those names are said, but Alistair, his own true name when that is whispered. In the same way, this represents something in ourselves. These are names which hint at something in ourselves which begins to stir. If we repeat them again and again, then the stirring will become more intense.
The man said to the teacher, “These old texts are dead. They may have been alive when they were spoken, of course, to the people but they’re dead for us now. Things that are dead can’t live again.” The teacher said they can. He said, “What? No, they can’t. If it’s dead, it’ dead.” The teacher took him for a walk, and they passed a farm where the teacher knew the farmer. He asked him for a handful of hay, the farmer gave it to him. Then they went along, they came to a horse in the field. The teacher held out the hay. The horse came across, saw the hay, began to eat it. The teacher said, “This hay is dead, isn’t it?” The pupil said, “Well, yes.” He said, “Now, I’m making it live. The dead hay is becoming the magnificence and splendour of the living horse when he eats it. In the same way, the holy texts, if you eat them, not just look at them but if you eat them, they’ll become the splendour and the magnificence of realization.”
We have to preferably learn a few verses which appeal to us, in which we already feel a stir, a whisper. Learn with the heart so they’re always with us. Then in the morning to meditate on one of them but in the daytime to return sometimes to them, to bring it up, then something will begin to move.
There’s a dark. I don’t know. I’m held in this body. We’re held in this room, we don’t know what’s beyond. We’re held on this earth, we don’t know. We’re held by death, we don’t know. ‘Oh, we’re immortal, immortal – how do we know? Who comes back and tells us?’ We must find immortality now. When we turn within, there’s a darkness. Where do my thoughts come from? Where do those inspirations come from that Poincaré and Hokusai had? That focus I had, where did they come from? Not the mind. They come from beyond the dark. We think back – where do my thoughts come? They come out of the dark somehow. I think of the house where I lived in when I was a child. Yes, I can think of it vividly, then I let it go again. Where was that before I was thinking of it? Where did it come from? I bring it out into the light, it was in the dark. How did I find it? It was in the dark. These are questions. There’s a darkness. We have in this area, a brightness, then we have a darkness. There’s something beyond the darkness from which these inspirations come to us through the darkness and which are struggling for expression through the mental equipment or physical equipment or the spiritual equipment, which I have. They struggle for expression.
My radio set may be poor, there may be a lot of static, the aerial may be badly connected. The broadcast is struggling for expression. If I tune carefully and I can maintain the set in good order, then I can begin to become aware of these things which come from a source which is beyond my present knowledge, which is beyond the darkness. This is the situation then. There’s the archer ourselves as we stand. We’re feeling already a desire to extend, to go beyond the restrictions and limitations. If we’ve come here, we’re not satisfied that if I get a salary increase, I shall be perfectly happy. If I get a new house, I’d be perfectly happy. If I could recover from this illness, I’d be perfectly happy. We no longer believe that.
It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to get well. I don’t believe when I get well and I’ve been extremely well that it brought happiness. Somebody just calls me a magnificent animal and the whole thing turns into fury. The archer is limited here. Then we’re told beyond the darkness, there’s this divine brightness which shines. Now, how to cross that darkness and in this Upanishad one of the illustrations given is of shooting, bow and arrow.