Should they do their first training with the sword or with the spear?

A doubt comes up in the mind: ‘Scientists actively refute mysticism and yoga. They have created all these modern marvels – surely they must be right?’ It is met: ‘Some of the greatest of them like Pasteur and Einstein and today Davies, say the weight of evidence is for a cosmic intelligence.’ The doubt subsides, but returns in a slightly different form: ‘God or no God, it makes no difference. It’s all inference, so why make the inference anyway?’ Many students of yoga simply do not know how to meet their doubts. They tackle each doubt as it comes up with some answer, but it re-appears slightly changed: ‘Aha! you didn’t think of this!’ Meeting doubts piecemeal, as they happen to come up prompted by circumstances or chance associations, will never settle them. When contaminated food has been distributed to the retail shops, it is difficult to collect it. The contamination must be spotted at the wholesalers, where it can be destroyed wholesale. So the root of each doubt (and there are only a few such roots, however many the branches) must be sought out, brought into the light of day, met in an organized way, and settled once for all. This is one of the two main objectives of study, individually and in groups.

At the court of Nobunaga, a Japanese ruler in mediaeval times, there was a debate about training new recruits to the army. Should they do their first training with the sword or with the spear? The sword-masters pressed for their own weapon: the man with a spear against a sword has only one chance, namely at long range. But, the sword-master said, it is easy to deflect that spear-thrust and dash in, and at closer quarters the spear is useless. Nobunage inclined to this view himself, but asked the opinion of an able retainer named Hideyoshi. This was a man of the people, who had never trained in arms; nevertheless he gave his opinion, which was that training should begin with the spear. The sword-master was furious, and proposed a test – a new recruit with one week’s training at the sword against another with one week’s training at the spear. Hideyoshi agreed, but pointed out that this would be largely a test of two individuals, not of the weapons. He proposed ten men with the sword, against ten men with the spear, and this was agreed. The test was to be this: one team were to be armed with light wooden swords, and the other team with wooden spears with a thick pad on the end. In addition, the spearmen would have a small wooden ball lightly tied on to the crown of the head. If a swordsman could knock off the ball, he would win; if the spearman could knock the swordsman over, he would win. After the week’s training, which was conducted in private, the two teams lined up facing each other before the whole Court. At the signal, each swordsmen began to advance towards the opponent facing him. But to everyone’s surprise, the spearmen did not wait there, but rushed to the end of the line, five to the right-hand end and five to the left. They then advanced together towards the single swordsman at each end of the line – a wall of five spears. He could deflect only one of them and the other four immediate knocked him over. They advanced without check on the next man, and then the next, with the same instant result. By the time the bewildered four remaining men could think of anything, they were themselves overwhelmed.

This incident can give an idea to the yogin on meeting the doubts which arise. They must be brought into the open, and made to fight. The yogin picks up the hint from Hideyoshi, and organizes the forces of tradition and reason against the unorganized individual doubts. Let us suppose that he distils from the classics and from the traditions of his particular school, five central points:

1. The teachings are an ancient tradition which has been verified as effective in innumerable cases in the past.

2. They are presented as verifiable today too by experiment. experiment, experiment.

3. The philosophical background is justifiable by reason, which must however include the yogic experiments.

4. The effects of yoga practice on the individual and the world have been good; for instance, Mahayana Buddhism is arguably the greatest civilizing force in history.

5. I have entered on yoga, and am confirming some of the early effects. So it seems reasonable that the later ones will be confirmable also; and I shall persist strongly for at least three years, as I would do with any other serious undertaking.

Let the yogin go away into the country, in solitude, for a whole day once a year, and think these five right through. After that, when a doubt arises, like one of the single swordsmen who opposed Hideyoshi’s spearmen, let him attack it with all five, and not meet it with one or part of one. Take the sword-doubt raised at the beginning: ‘Most scientists are materialists and determinists, and dismiss ideas of anything transcendental.’ As was shown, it may be possible to meet this temporarily by the spear-reply that some great scientists subscribe to the possibility or even likelihood of a cosmic intelligence. But this in its turn may later be deflected by the sword-doubt that after all it is nothing but inferences either way, so why waste time on what can never be certain? The sword-doubt is not knocked over good. The way to meet this doubt using the massed spear-principles above, would be: ‘Yoga is based not on inferences but on direct experiments on consciousness, which science does not yet know. But some of the revolutionary discoveries in science itself, for instance by Pasteur and Rutherford, were made by actions completely against the established logic of the situation, by a sort of guidance. But again, it is more reasonable for me to take the opportunity of discovering directly for myself whether, for instance, there is a God or not, rather than rely on inference from fields where they have not made the experiments on consciousness.’ In some such way, the organized, rational force of the five yogic principles is brought to bear on the single doubt, which can be disposed of so that it no longer hinders practice. The five points listed will not necessarily be the same for each person; they must find their own formulations from scriptures and tradition and practice. The problem of evil, for example, could not, for most people, be solved by intellect alone. ‘Why does God permit evil in the world?’ might have to be answered by another riddle: ‘Why do I permit evil in my thought and actions, evil which I regret so much?’ This doubt would have to be pressed, with the help of holy texts and tradition, right to its very source. When the last swordsman has been knocked over, however, there will be an illumination

© 1998 Trevor Leggett

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