Shooting Beyond Darkness 2
Well, then, speaking about the one who is beginning to feel under the restrictions of the ‘don’t know’ of the darkness which surrounds us; the ‘don’t know’ of the darkness which surrounds us now, and the darkness which surrounds us at death. People who are beginning to feel they can’t simply live in this small area that we know now; however favourably things may turn out so that I want to find some mean of going beyond that, not simply dreaming, wonderful elevating dreams of ‘if only it were true, I’m sure it must be true,’ but an actual experimental means.
If you would like to try one of the traditional practices, it takes a little bit of attention to practise this. We sit reasonably upright and shut or half-close the eyes. Now, first of all, I’ll explain it. Imagine that there’s a river, not flowing fast but a gently flowing river, and it’s about chest-high. Now, if you can swim, that’s one thing, and if you can’t swim, the practice is slightly different. Basically, they’re the same, but if you can swim, first of all, feel that you’re entering the river. Now feel, the eyes shut or half- shut, that you’re swimming across the river with powerful stroke, not that you’re drifting, but swimming and you feel that you’re moving across powerfully. It’s a very wide river, you’re moving and moving and moving and you feel the water here and you’re moving through it.
If you can’t swim, imagine you’re going down to the river edge and you enter the water and it comes to about here on the chest. Now, that you’re walking forward with steady steps through the water, walking steadily through the water, and again, you feel the water pressing on you’re here [chest] and you’re pushing forward through the water like that. I’ll just ring the bell and then I’ll describe it again very briefly, and then begin to visualise it. Close or half-close the eyes.
You’re walking down the bank, and you’re entering the river. Now you’re beginning to cross steadily, powerfully. You feel the pressure of the water against you as you move through it. I’ll say the name of God – OM.
These are not dreams. If this is practised properly and persistently, everybody will come to the same state, but it does have to be practised, you can’t expect early on and in an unfamiliar place with a lot of other people. Though it can happen, but there will be a significant loosening yet. If this is practised, it helps to produce a loosening of the absolute identification and fixture with the body.
Now, the bow, the first machine to store power was the bow. As you know what it consists of – it has to be pulled steadily. If you suddenly stop pulling and let go, then the whole thing snaps back and then the bow straightens out again. It has to be pulled steadily till the bow is at the maximum extension. This was the first machine for storing power, and so it’s used in the verse which was quoted in Sanskrit. The bow: OM is the bow. The syllable OM understood as God, as the manifesting expression of God. OM is the bow. By repetition, the impressions made by the repetitions are gradually stored up and then they form, so to speak, a drawn bow, which is tense and full of power.
The continuous repetition of the OM practice every morning, for instance, will gradually lay down what are called impressions, in Sanskrit, dynamic impressions: sanskaras. It must be done without interruption. If it’s interrupted, the store of power, so to speak, is lost. In the West, we’re familiar with this, for instance, in music, especially. A musician must practise, an artist doesn’t have to. They can leave it. They can stay away from art for a month or a year and come back and after a few goes it’s alright. The technique is much cruder, but with the pianist, he says, “If I miss practise one day, I notice the difference. Then the next day when I take it up again I notice. If I miss for two days, the critics notice the difference. If I miss for three days, the general public notices the difference.” He must practise every day. A musician, a professional musician, will tell you that the first 30 or 40 minutes of his daily practise is simply to get where he was yesterday. Well, we can take these things as a little hint for spiritual practise, but it has to be uninterrupted. We begin in the morning – best of all is to establish a rhythm in a fixed place, same place, same time, and facing the same direction every day. If possible wearing the same clothes and so establishing a rhythm. It makes it easier.
An athlete who practises every day – supposing he’s an amateur and he’s practising in the evening – he begins at 6pm he goes from 6pm to 9pm. Now, if he does that every day, after some months at about 5.40pm, his blood pressure starts to go up, and the muscles begin to become active and want to move. That means that when he gets to the training place, he doesn’t have to do so many of the warming-up exercises which an athlete normally has to do. If you come on cold to a gymnasium, you have to warm up first. If you go into the technical exercises, it can be quite dangerous. You have to warm up and then after eight minutes or so, if you’re reasonably experienced, then you can start your technical exercise skill. If you do it at the same time every day, then the body is beginning to prepare for it, and almost with hardly any warming up exercises, you can go straight on. Now, in the same way, people who practice meditation every day at the same time, same place, and when they come to that place at that time, for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour before that, the mind has already begun to settle down. In some monasteries, they start meditating in the summer about 3.30pm in the morning. They will tell you that normally they hear the monk ring the bell and then they just get up and they splash water on their face. Then they go to the meditation hall. They tell you that after some months there, you begin to wake up before the morning bell goes and already your mind is becoming calm. When the morning bell goes, “Get up, you,” and you’re already entering a state of peace, and then you go and sit down there. The mind and the body have already accustomed themselves to what’s going to happen so there are great advantages in doing these things at the same time and place.
Take up the great bow of the Upanishads: OM is the bow and you think ‘Why OM?’.
There’s a long discussion in a recently discovered Shankara commentary, a very long commentary and brilliantly written. It is by Shankara. There’s a long discussion of why OM, why not some other name of God, why does Patanjali say OM is his vacaka, is his expressing medium. Shankara, in the commentary, explains that this is the natural expression of the Divine, the nearest expression of the Divine and that the other names – Gopal, which means cowboy, or Krishna, which means dark – they are names which have arisen through history. Christ just means ‘anointed’, but they [the names] have come to mean a particular avatar or a particular saint.
To that extent, they change and new ones come and some of them drop into disuse, but the OM is the natural one. He says it’s based on experiment. It’s not simply that you’ve got to believe it. Take up the bow of the Upanishads: OM, and the mind must be apramatta, not distracted or slack. Now, it’s not necessarily so easy for us to realize. People say, “Oh, relax.” Sometimes they’ll say, “Now relax completely,” while you sit here. Well, if you did, you would be floppy. They don’t mean relax completely, they mean relax the unnecessarily tense muscles. They don’t mean relax completely.
Now, one of the examples that’s given can be quite useful. If you want to see the animal called a mongoose, it’s a bit like a snake with legs. It doesn’t like snakes. You want to see this. Well, now you’re told that there’s a mound where there are a lot of them and, of course, there’ll be a fair number of snakes there too because that’s what they live on. Now you go there, you want to see them. A peacock’s there too. You think, ‘Oh, well, I’ve seen peacocks in the wild.’ You’re told on that mound, which is a game preserve, there’s no shooting allowed there or anything like that, you’ll find a seat there on the little clearing. You can sit there and look for the mongoose and the peacocks.
Well, you go up there and, of course, you make a fair clatter. You’ve got your mountain sack with your lunch or something like that, and maybe your camera. These trees with the creepers hanging down them. You look around but you can’t see anything. Nothing moving, there’s dead silence. Then you sit down and you keep still. After about 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour, the wildlife comes to life and you’ll find that things start moving. If you look, you’ll see, keeping still, a snake. “Agh, Snake! Call the police!” They go away. Nothing will move for a bit. They don’t trust men. Even the parrots are silent. But if you keep still and look, gradually, these things will come out, and finally, you’ll see a mongoose. You’ll think, ‘Well, that’s one,’ and you look around. If you’re constantly, ‘Well, where are they?’ You’ll never see anything. Nothing will come out. On the other hand, if you relax, [snores] you won’t see anything either. You’ve got to be calm, balanced, aware, not asleep, aware but not agitated. Then you look carefully. If you keep still and look carefully, you’ll see that one of the creepers that’s hanging down is moving. If you look carefully, see that creeper, it’s a peacock, looks just like a creeper when the tail is closed. The peacock’s been on the run. It hasn’t moved till you kept quiet and the coast, so to speak, was clear. Well, this is a little bit of a hint for meditation: to sit, balanced, not tense and agitated, not ‘When is something going to happen soon?’[sighs] Well, another 10 minutes more.’ No. While you think like that – no. And, on the other hand, if you think, ‘Oh, well. Relax.” [snores]. Nothing. We can get a little bit of a clue if in that state of calm meditation, we say, OM. We can just try this. OM is the name of God. It’s said with reverence. It’s also said with enquiry, not sort of ‘Oh, with the Lord, yes, of course, he’s way far above anything. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.’ No, not like that. He is without and within.
If we try just for nine times and say the OM. It need not be loud but try to put your fingers here on the throat, and feel the vibration of the OM as you say it.
[Recitation of OM 9 times]
Now if you try saying it very quietly so that you can just feel here [in the throat]. Now listen in the sound for something else. Without strain, without anxiety like being the man in the jungle with the peacocks, just aware and listen for something else. Quietly, 9 times.
[Recitation of OM quietly 9 times]
Patanjali says the repetition of OM removes obstacles and leads to the perception of the divine Self within. If it’s practised regularly, say for 10 minutes in the morning, regularly, and then meditate on its meaning – the expression of the Lord who is above and below, without and within, beyond the mind but inspiring us through the mind, for 10 minutes. Then again, to recite the OM for, say, 10 minutes. If we do this regularly, then when life hits us with a terrible blow, this will arise in us. Our practice will be able to save us from being crushed, from being annihilated, from being thrown into remorse or despair or fury. It will be able to remove the obstacles and it’ll lead to a perception, a glimpse of something within us, which is beyond catastrophes, which is imperishable, which can’t be broken, which can’t be killed, which can’t be destroyed, which can’t be injured. This is what the Upanishad offers us – hints at these things. It is meant to lead to a practice and if you are interested to practise it, if you’re in despair now, this is a very good time to begin. If you’re not in despair, then it’s a good idea to do some so that when the time comes, if it comes to you, you will be able to increase it then you’ll be able to find this within you, the strength.
There is something in that sound. There’s something more than just that sound. If you listen for it without anxiety, you’ll come to know something, an inner support, and an inner strength and an inner inspiration. These experiences are not so uncommon, but people have them often by chance. One modern teacher, he said, “It can happen even after taking a drug. People can have a wonderful experience. Then they take the drug again but they don’t have it.”
They can get it in gambling. I’ve never had the thrill of gambling, but the real gamblers who tell you that unless you’re gambling for more than you can afford, you’re not really a gambler at all, but that’s the real thrill when there’s more than you can afford, when there’s almost your whole life on it. They say, when you win, “Got lucky,” and they go on gambling in the hope of getting that again, but they don’t get it again.
He [the teacher] said, it’s like if you have a little radio and you throw it downstairs, one chance in 1000 it’ll get knocked and it’ll switch on and it’ll get knocked again and it’ll tune to a station that’s putting out a marvellous concert and you’ll throw this thing downstairs and you’ll hear this wonderful music. After that, of course, you keep throwing it downstairs, but you never get it again, and quite soon, you destroy your radio. He said that these attempts through gambling or through alcohol to attain some sort of status that they’re self-destructive and that they’re not fruitful at all.
One thing more is: speak the truth. To tell some little white lies, they’re called, that makes things smoother – instead of saying, “Oh, I don’t want to go to this and meet them” or instead of saying, “Oh, they’re just such blasted bores” you say, “Oh, no. I’ve got a bit of a headache” or “I’ve got an appointment I can’t mention.” “That doesn’t hurt their feelings,” they’d say. My teacher was very against that.
On one occasion, and I compared this with other pupils of his, he asked me something. There was a Chinese text which I was looking at. “Is this in the text?” he asked me. I was very proud of myself because I could read a little bit of Chinese and so to please him I said, “Oh, yes.” He said, “Oh.” Then later on, I rifled through the text and I found it wasn’t there at all, but I thought it would be pleasing when I saw him to kind of prove that I’d read the text. Then he kept returning to it. He said, “I was very surprised when you told me the other day that Indian tradition was in that Chinese text. He kept on about it. It was so embarrassing. I thought, ‘Oh, and all this!’ Others told me that it was the same for them. Much later, I found out that if you can’t tell the truth, pleasantly, then be silent. It should be useful, it’s got to be truthful, it should be beneficial in some way, and it mustn’t cause resentment or excitement. Now, speak the truth because the time comes when we ask ourselves, ‘What am I?’ Normally, if we’re asked, what am I? I say, “I’m a Londoner and I’m aged so and so. I’ve done this and this. I’ve made a mess of that and that. That’s who I am,” but no, this is not true. The truth is not these things. The time comes when we have to say, “What am I truly?” So, this idea of spreading the truth has to be practised, he [the teacher] said, even in small things. Well, I didn’t agree with him at the time, but I do now. It’s a case perhaps of learning from experience. It’s a question of using the bow to shoot ourselves out from the illusory self which we think we are now to the true Self which we really are. I used the Zen story because it refers to archery too. Archery’s a great art in Japan.
A Zen master retired to the country but he was consulted, among others, by a cabinet minister who found great inspiration in meeting him and support in meeting him. Among the other disciples who went was the greengrocer’s wife, from the nearby village. Gradually it leaked out, although the cabinet minister tried to keep it quiet, and a reporter finally went down to see this Zen master. I read the reporter’s article and he said, ” I saw him. I was very impressed with him. But I said to him, ‘Master, why don’t you come to the capital? Why have you retired in this remote place? If you came to the capital you could have more disciples like the cabinet minister, and you wouldn’t be spending your time with greengrocer’s wife sort of disciples.’ ” The reporter in his article said ruefully how the Zen master overwhelmed him with a blast and the master said, “We teach archery. The cabinet minister’s got to practise archery and he’s got to shoot himself out of being the cabinet minister into what he really is. He comes down here and he settles himself as the cabinet minister. He’s got to be shaken out of that and shot into what he really is. And the greengrocer’s wife has got to be shot out of being only the greengrocer’s wife into what she really is.” Then the reporter said, “He concluded, he said, “And it may very well be that it’ll be much easier for her to shoot herself out of being only the greengrocer’s wife than it will be for him to shoot himself out of being His Excellency, the cabinet minister.”
This was an example of the idea of the bow to shoot out of this, not simply still to be here and just be dreaming like a prisoner in a cell dreaming of freedom. Prisoners vary in their opinion of this. Some prisoners, they’ll sit back when they have a chance, and they shut their eyes, and they think of home. Perhaps they think of going to the pub – ‘And there’s old so-and-so there and I go in and the publican looks at me and doesn’t say anything and I go and sit down and they bring me my tankard. Oh, yes. Let’s have a game of darts with so-and-so. Oh, yes.’ Then they wake up, come to, and they’re in prison. Some prisoners say that’s a good thing to do because it gives you a relief from being in prison but the experience of most people is that you feel doubly bad when you come back from these sort of fantasies.
This mustn’t be a dream fantasy like that. It must lead to a real experience. The bow. The arrow has to be sharpened with devotion. You can’t shoot yourself out unless it’s concentrated on a point. Now, it’s possible to have a partial concentration. Some warriors in all traditions have practised religious exercises in order to free themselves from the fear of death. The most spectacular case that I know of in history is one of Japanese history, a general named Nobunaga who united the country after their Wars of the Roses. He defeated the other people, but he was himself killed by a former ally of his whom he’d once insulted and who formed a plot against his life.
They were on a campaign and Nobunaga made his headquarters inside a disused temple, Honnō-ji, and he had his guards around there, but this rival got together a body of men and they went to attack Honnō-ji and kill Nobunaga. They quite soon were able to overcome the guards that Nobunaga had around the disused temple. Of course, he’d never expected anything like this and he realized he was going to be killed. He set fire to the temple from within. It was very easy to do with Japanese temples. They’re wood and paper basically, and they’re raised off the ground so you get the fan, a draft just as you would if you wanted to make a fire. The ground floor was very quickly set ablaze. He set it ablaze, and then they have these pagoda-styles and there’s a balcony on the first floor, and on the first floor he came out and he danced. He danced one of the ritual Noh dances, one of the classical Noh dances, to show his complete independence of the fear of death and the attackers didn’t shoot, they were so impressed and he danced until the flames overcame him. But this is a partial application. He did free himself, as did many others in that tradition, from the fear of death, but he himself was very ruthless in victory, and we can’t say that he had anything like a full spiritual realization, but he was free from this fear of death. He had attained it by concentration.
Generally, in the yoga, it’s recommended that concentration be made on a form, on some form. The divine puts on certain forms for the devotees and those forms are the classical avatars in every religion and the classical prophets and saints in every religion because the time comes when one hasn’t done very well, or one’s very frightened, or one’s very tempted, or one’s very angry, that we need to feel. If we need forgiveness, we find it harder to feel forgiveness from the universal, but we feel forgiveness from something with a human form.
It’s recommended and our teacher recommended to meditate on these human forms, to choose one, or rather be chosen by one that appeals especially to us, with whom we feel we can have a relationship. This is a form of the divine. It’s not a separate being with a separate personality of its own. It’s a form of the divine and to sharpen the mind by reading the classical accounts – for instance in the Fourth Gospel and noting the riddles in the Fourth Gospel, and in that way coming into touch with one of the forms of the divine and the mind then is sharpened, and it can then fly.
If you like to try again the practice we did, shut the eyes or half-shut the eyes. We’re entering a river walking down a riverbank. Now you enter this wide, very gently flowing river and we begin to cross it, steadily moving forward walking or swimming, feeling the pressure of the water against the chest and shoulders as we move forward across the stream. [Bell rings] This exercise is to loosen the connection, the rigid identification with this body, the limitation. The OM exercise is the actual projection.
By repetition of OM, by listening to something within the sound, by practising regularly, at the same time, and by giving up some of our worst habits of behaviour, then a projection can take place and then what previously has been a hope, a dream, we can have a glimpse that there’s something real there and that’s a great incentive to try again and to practise. We treat this as we would treat other practices, some days it’s only 20% successful, some days it’s 80% successful. We don’t expect that we shall suddenly be able to ski, we have to have many falls, many attempts but finally, we learn to ski, finally we can ski jump. Well, thank you for your attention.
Just as a person, one man, one woman can show different aspects of their personality – it might be as a sportsman, as an artist, might be as a writer, might be as playing with the children – there are different aspects of the Lord through these wonderful divine forms. Read some of the traditions, and then meditate on the one to whom we feel we can make a relationship of forgiveness, of love or inspiration. Jesus was not only speaking of love, he could be very severe too. “Take no thought for the morrow, what you shall eat, what you shall put on,” sometimes I think, ‘Can I live like that? Well, perhaps the time will come when I will have to but, for the moment, probably there’s some form like Rama who has a home, who has a family and so on rather than Christ who has no family and no home, who would be easier for me, but one thing we shouldn’t say and that is only this and none of the others. It’s the same Lord who shows these different forms. Patanjali says, “They move obstacles and they lead to the perception of the divine.”
We do special exercises. You go to a gymnasium, the coach there, will say, “Tall as you can, stand on tiptoe, reach out like that, now small as you can into a little ball, shoot out here, shoot out there.” You don’t do these things when you’re walking down Piccadilly, but the fact that you’ve done them at these special times means that when you walk down Piccadilly, there’s a sort of spring and balance in your ordinary walking. It brings an advantage into your everyday life and a sort of prediction. The relationship with a teacher is different from the relationship in the world.
In Japan, for instance, the language is an extremely pure one, there are no dirty words at all and it’s extremely polite but at the interview with the teacher, no words of politeness are used, just the bare words because there its meant to be the bare truth but outside that then all the words of politeness are used. From this point of view, from the mind pictures, the creation of a relation with one of the avatars is a tremendous help. They have these different qualities and these different traditions attached to them. Our mind pictures can be, so to speak, swallowed up and purified by the avatar.
Krishna means dark, and Arjuna – the disciple – as a matter of fact means bright. The dark teaches the bright. To some people, this can be of help in times of difficulty. They feel everything is dark. No, from that dark the divine is coming to me. This could be for a particular time or a particular occasion but the trivialities of mind pictures are only because we are not really into something yet. If one is attracted to this avatar, then the thing would be to meditate not only on their form but some of the stories, and in that way, a connection is made and then we won’t just be hearing or speculating or conjecturing, there will be a direct connection and this is the important thing.
One could be told all sorts of things about someone before meeting them, you’ve had this experience perhaps. You’re told all sorts of things and you form a picture of what they are like and I remember a man who was not a colonel or was not much liked by my colonel and he was depicted as an absolute snake. When I was introduced to this man, I honestly expected him to fling me across the room. But actually, it was quite different. But the description that I had been given was enough to identify him, but not very illuminating. In the same way, these physical forms of descriptions and so on, are given us to help us focus and they are just enough to recognize the experience when it does come.
If we’re not given any description at all, when a spiritual experience comes, it can be frightening, as it was with Bertrand Russell. It terrified him. But we’re given enough to focus and to recognize. For instance, if you’re in a strange town, you ask the way and he says, “Well look, take the first right and then go left and then on the left-hand side you’ll see a steeple – this is in Scotland – on the left side, you’ll see a steeple. Now go past the steeple and then just on your left will be what you want. Well, I got that and we did this, we went on and we came to a church and not all churches have steeples as a matter of fact.
I thought, what a very intelligent Scotsman that was, because he picked out the distinguishing feature, this high steeple you see, so we went along and it was enough to recognize just from that one feature, to recognize what he meant. I’ve thought without doubt now that he would have been a member of the Free Church of Scotland who don’t recognize other churches as real churches at all. His church doesn’t have steeples and anything that has a steeple is not a real church at all so he didn’t want to call it a church. Anyway, I’ll tell you what, it was just enough to enable us to recognize it.