Shooting Beyond Darkness 3


People think a man has a strong will when he drives towards some end, some personal end and tramples down all the obstacles and tramples down on his own weakness too and achieves it. Spiritually, this is not a strength, because it’s not available energy. It’s only available for one thing and he can be absolutely terrified and very weak when it concerns something else. But the spiritual strength can be directed by the buddhi, by the higher mind. It’s not the slave of the passions. To that extent, it’s calm and steady and its judgment is good. The strong man very often has very poor judgment, but the buddhic strength has judgment and is calm and well directed.

Now, the last point which the Upanishad makes about the shooting seems to be irrelevant. We talked about shooting the limited self into infinity. You think, “Well, what does that mean. It’s impossible.”  So the Upanishad gives another illustration. This is not a real shooting of something which is really here into something which is really over there. The Lord is already within. It’s a shooting out of an unreal self into a real Self. It’s an internal shooting.

We think, “Oh, what does it mean? These are just words.”  The physical examples are often much more convincing. Most of us keep our balance by looking at the vertical things on the walls and we know that these things are vertically done, and we keep our balance like that. We compare ourselves and our stance with these verticals. That’s how we balance ourselves.  At some fairs they’ll build a room where the verticals are slightly out. You think you’ll just walk through it. No, the people are constantly falling over, most of them reel about the place. It’s quite comical. They don’t realize that at any moment, they can shut their eyes. Then they’ll be reasonably alright. These false vertical throw us out.

Somebody who’s been trained in a sport like Judo, where the balance is internal, can walk through these rooms, or stand on one leg in one of these rooms, without any bother at all – because they balance themselves on the inner feeling of balance, which the ordinary person hardly has at all. They’re not dependent on these outward things. Life surrounds us with verticals. “This is the thing to do.” “This is what your peer group does. It’s always done this way.” “Let’s do it that way.” “Oh, no, you can’t do that.” These are verticals.  Some of them may be truly vertical. Some of them may be not. We try to align ourselves to those. If we’re a bit devil-may-care, we deliberately go against the verticals. If it’s leaning that way, we go this way and then we fall down this way.

Somebody who’s been trained isn’t dependent on external verticals. Somebody who’s done some spiritual training in himself, they begin to acquire an inner balance, which rectifies itself. You can stagger, but you rectify yourself at once if you’ve got inner balance. In the same kind of way, there’s an inner balance in life where we haven’t got to keep on adjusting ourselves. “What ought we to do?” “Is this right?” “Is this wrong?” “How will it go down?” “Can I get away with that?” “No, I’ve never done that.” All these verticals – but to be able to see clearly and judge clearly and in a balanced way and to keep one’s balance.

Now, just as in learning Judo, we learn this inner balance through being constantly attacked. That will be terribly rude in the ordinary way, wouldn’t it?  If somebody comes up to you and pushes into you like that, it’s terribly rude.  But in a training hall, this is the way you improve your balance, and your technique.  In the same way, a spiritual teacher takes the knocks and the turns of life like you’re doing at the training hall, where things which otherwise which were very upsetting are part of the training.

When I’m smacked on the face, if it’s a friend [I won’t make a fuss, but pass it off as not being painful]. These things can become a means of acquiring a balance. Even with a tremendous shock, which sends us reeling, there is this capacity, which is latent in men, not to depend on the external but to find this in himself. Now, in the Upanishad it says, “On the same tree of the body, there are two birds always together. A beautiful plumage. One is the individual soul in pain and suffering because of his helplessness. The other is the Lord. The individual soul is always eating the fruits of the tree – good and bad. The other one is serene.”

Eating the fruits, good and bad, corresponds to trying to pluck external things to support me, trying to grab at this; but really, within, there is a Lord who’s independent of these things. You can say, “Well, supposing he’s going to have his head cut off.” Yes, independent. Through meditation, he can experience that immortality in this life. Patanjali says, “The one who knows is not afraid of death. Although,” he says, “illogically, there’s a shrinking sometimes at the moment of death, but it’s almost nothing. The imperishable soul cannot be struck, cannot be killed.”

Well, to realize this is to realize the Lord. There is something within and the examples are given to try to make us [find it], in spite of our feeling, “Oh, no, there’s nothing there, you look within and you just find your own feelings and your fears and your little casual thoughts and so on. There’s nothing there.” When an untrained person tries to walk in those false verticals, he falls over. If you tell him, “Well, there’s an inner balance,” he says, “Oh, I can’t help it. I’m falling.”  “Look”, you say, “Shut your eyes. Try to feel an inner balance. Try to feel the floor under your feet.”  Momentarily he staggers a bit, but by training it will come naturally to him without any effort. Without thinking about it.

I give one more example. It’s a personal thing so I can say it with conviction, although it wasn’t my teacher’s policy for people to give personal reminiscences. I learned the piano as a small kid. My father who was a professional musician, a rather successful one, arranged for me to have lessons from very good teachers. I was very keen. When I was 9 or 10, in those days, it was jazz that you played to shock the elder generation. A teacher said to me, “Look, you can play your jazz provided you’ve done your practice. You can play your jazz, if you like, but when you play it always sit properly at the piano. Never slouch when you’re playing jazz.” He showed me how to sit exactly in the middle of piano. He never explained it, but something about it impressed me and I always did that when I played this stuff.

Well, later on in the training, you’re extending [the fingers], and in some pieces, suddenly, an octave is struck low down in the base, and you have a look, and strike it. Then you’ll get an octave struck up here and you’ll give a glance to bring your hand right onto the F sharp. Then, of course, the time comes when you come to a piece by Albeniz or somebody, where you’ve got to strike these two distant octaves at the same moment. Well, what you do is you look for one and guess the other and it’s generally a mess.  After I’d had some little go at this, but couldn’t do it reliably, the teacher said, “Sit at the piano and shut your eyes. Now strike that low C sharp and that high C sharp together.” I said, “What?  I don’t know where they are.”  He said, “Yes, you do.” After a little bit, I found I could. Not by looking but I knew where they were. My hands knew where they were.

He said, “This is because from when you were 9 or 10, you’ve always sat exactly in the middle. As you grew up and your arms grew longer, you got to know exactly the distances of the keyboard inside [your head]. While you were looking, this didn’t come into play, but it was being learned. Now, without looking, you can call on this.” He said, “If sometimes when playing your jazz, you’d slouch – an inch, sometimes, this way or that way – it wouldn’t have helped. There would always have been uncertainty, but because you always sat in the middle, you can do this now.” This is an example from one of the arts – it’s not a necessarily spiritual thing, but there’s something to be learned from it.

There is a power, which one wouldn’t have thought it was possible to develop, but which does develop if we are careful to keep to the instruction, and then it will come up inside us. One of the examples the Upanishad gives is that finally it’s a question of shooting from the unreal, from the reliance on the external things, to the real. Spiritually there’s an immortality within. It’s a question of shooting from this conviction – it’s not just an idea, but it’s an absolute feeling – of being limited, surrounded by darkness, into what is beyond darkness. There’s something beyond darkness which is here, not after death or in some other region.

Now he gives still another instance, “Even as the rivers joyfully giving up name and form rush down into the deep; even so the wise, joyfully giving up name and form are merged in God.” The word in the original is translated sometimes even as the rivers ‘empty themselves’ into the ocean or something. It’s got the sense of rushing joyfully, as for instance, if you’re driving in a chariot at high speed, you get that exhilaration don’t you, of speed in the wind and so on. Even as the rivers giving up name and form – individuality – rush joyfully down into the deep, so the wise joyfully…  “Oh no!  We lose everything.” No, we don’t lose everything – we become…  Our teacher said, “Be what you really are, become what you really are.”

It’s not a question of stuffing an infinite godhead into the tiny little body, but of opening out from these restrictions into awareness, a glimpse at first. We can say, “Oh, well, what would this be?” A recent example that came to notice – there was a great oriental scholar in Bulgaria, I think. When the communists were in power, he began to speak out against the communist thought. He was sacked from his university position and he didn’t have a job. Well, then the rule is that if you didn’t have a job, then the government would provide you with a job. He was provided with the job of rubbish collector, a street sweeper, which he did for some years,  Then the change came. Now he’s a highly honoured orientalist who’s represented his country at international conferences and so on.

Now what happened? He was the rubbish collector. He has become a famous orientalist, which was always there but wasn’t manifest – he was collecting rubbish. Now, the rubbish collector in a way has gone, has lost his name and form. It’s not like a destruction or an annihilation. He is the famous orientalist and, as a matter of fact, he also knows how to collect rubbish. He, of course, is not doing that now and doesn’t need to do it, but it’s not that it’s a destruction or an annihilation. What was unmanifest there has now opened out.  Well, again, these instances are given, because people think our losing name and form, becoming merged in God would be a loss, a destruction, but it isn’t so.

We’re expected to practice. We say, “Well, what would it be like then? How does this individual carry on after realization?” The Upanishad says, ‘he works’. You think, “Works? God working?” No, it’s like a little finger, God working through His body/mind instrument. You can say, “Well, what sort of thing would that be?” The Indian tradition is a ‘lila’, which is entering into a sport, entering into the game. He can play this game with the full knowledge, and therefore with efficiency, and with beauty. If you know, you are not deceived, you can see the world like a school, which is bringing us all to the final liberation. You say, “Well, what difference does it make? You’ve still got to do the work, you still got to do the things.” No, it’s entirely different, the basis is different.

In the Old Testament, there’s the parable of the foolish virgins, which I must admit never made much sense to me. They were all there within the bride’s place with these lamps it seems, and it appears that they were to welcome the bridegroom with lights. Some of them lit their lamps, and others didn’t. Extraordinarily enough, the bridegroom, incredibly really, simply didn’t come for hours and hours. Then all the ones who’d lit their lamps, they’d run out of oil. They said to the others, “Look, he’s coming, he is coming, you see, we’ve got no oil.  Give us some oil.” The others said, “No. We’ve saved our oil. You go out and buy some.” They said, “Where are we going to buy oil at this time of night?”… and all that.  You think, “What the devil’s going on here? A bride groom who simply doesn’t turn up?”

Now, if I was given the key to it by some Jewish scholar, well – Why is the bridegroom late? What’s he up to? What’s he doing? Half of the bridesmaids know. They’re at the bridegroom’s house and they’re arguing about the dowry that the bride’s going to bring to the wedding. “Haggling?” You think, “Well for goodness sake? They don’t care much about each other do they, if they’re haggling over money? No! The haggling, and the prolonging of the time was a great compliment to the bride. She’s not being let go cheap. It was a great thing to prolong the negotiations so that it was recognized that each side was a treasure, and both sides were going to do very well out of this. It was a point of honour.

Then when the bridegroom came, he came with lights, in a blaze of light, and the bride would come out in a blaze of light, and they would meet in the blaze of light. Well, if we don’t know this, then the story seems pointless and stupid. We’re in the position of not knowing.  But if we know that it’s a play, it’s an act, it’s a courtesy to the bride that she’s worth so much that the negotiations have to go on for a long time, then it becomes clear.

Realization is like knowing a language. If you see a play, or you take part in some historical ceremony in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, you don’t know what’s going on. People come on in extraordinary costumes and say things. You can follow some things, but somebody’s stabbed somebody, and they fall dead. Well, this is the reconstruction of some historical incident 500 years ago. If you don’t know the language, you can’t follow it, you’re distressed.  But if you know the language, you can appreciate it. You know the man is not really dead and you know that this has got a meaning.

In the same way the teacher says the realization gives this tiny body/mind a place in the cosmic purpose, which it fulfils smoothly because the knowledge of the purpose is clear. It’s not confused. It’s not mixed up with a personality. There is a monastery where they had some rare manuscripts that had not been catalogued or published. The librarian was a very good scholar who finally analysed and commented on some of these rare manuscripts, and arranged to have them published. He became famous and people came from all over the world to the monastery. They sought an interview with the librarian to look at some of the treasures. He was very famous.

A certain foreign scholar, a great scholar, he came and was most impressed with the library. He said to the librarian as he left, “I’m very, very grateful for the chance of coming here. You’ve done marvellous work here. A lot of this stuff would have been completely unknown.” The librarian beckoned him, “Come to the window,” and they looked out and they saw the gardener sweeping the leaves. The autumn leaves. The librarian said, “You see?  Yes, I’m an internationally acclaimed scholar. I’m famous, I’m honoured. He’s the gardener here. He’s doing this very humble job, sweeping up the leaves; but we’re both in the same monastery. We’re both supporting the same monastery. We’re both engaged in the spiritual spreading and supporting of the spiritual truth and maintaining the spiritual truth.”

The foreign scholar was very impressed and as he left, he had an interview with the abbot, and he told him about what the librarian said. He said how much he’d been impressed – that famous librarian paying his tribute to the humble gardener sweeping the leaves. The abbot said, “Well, he’s not exactly humble, you know. He’s thinking that when the truth is known (and if he has anything to do with it, it soon will be), it’ll be the gardener who is honoured as the truly spiritual man. It will be the arrogant librarian who is dismissed as the pedant that he is. In the meantime, he gives the assistant gardener absolute hell.” The foreigner was absolutely bewildered.

The abbot finished, he said, “It’s not a question of a famous scholar being humble and without pride, and of a gardener being without resentment, as an ideal. These two don’t see they’ve both got some way to go. Before they see that it’s got to be the Spirit, the divine wind, turning over the pages in the library, through the hand of the librarian; and it’s the same divine wind turning over the leaves in the garden, through the broom of the gardener. When they see that they will have realization. Before that it’s still personalities, being proud or being humble, or being proud of being humble. It’s still a long way to go.” Well, the foreigner reported this and he leaves it to us to make what we can of it.

It’s a question of practice.  The stories, the illustrations, which my teacher used to give, are meant to be incentives to practice. He said there are almost unlimited potentialities in everybody. We make a mistake if we think that it’s these great geniuses alone who have the capacity for creating beauty. I suggest that you may get the chance to look at the song, by St. Francis of Assisi that’s popularly called The Canticle of the Psalms (It’s The Canticle of Creative Beings). Now, this is by common consent, the greatest poem in the Italian language.  Technically, it’s very poor. It only rhymes by chance; only some of the lines and it doesn’t scan. It’s in the Umbrian dialect anyway, which wasn’t particularly refined. Italian didn’t really exist, then. It’s poor – but the inspiration is so powerful that, in spite of these technical defects, it’s still regarded as the greatest masterpiece in Italian. It is worth reading with this in mind, the Canticle of Creative Beings, the famous prayer of St. Francis which has been quoted so often: “Where there is hatred, let me bring love, where there is discord, peace.”

This is attributed to St. Francis; but, actually, it was written by some entirely unknown editor of a French magazine in the last century.  The name is not known, somebody anonymous; but the wind of inspiration came through. Through this extremely simple French (there’s no Italian original at all), the inspiration has changed the lives of thousands.

These are given, meaning to find within ourselves these unknown powers, which can be awakened and through that, to be able to enter into the divine purpose of the world. To shoot out of our unreality, through the darkness into our reality, to our real Self.


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