Question: You made mention at the beginning of your lecture about the Zen part of it. I am not very much acquainted with Zen but know enough to be mystified by it. You tell me there is a current within each of us – this appears to be an absurd statement – a statement which has no gospel or meaning. In Zen, I understand that the pupil is given a similar text, which has no meaning, like: ‘The sound of one hand’, and apparently the pupil goes away and cogitates on this, and at a given point later on seemingly some sort of realisation is actually achieved. Can you tell me about the mechanics – the nuts and bolts – of this?
Answer: Well that is not the subject of the lecture.
Question: No, but it does fall on to it.
Answer: These riddles are found in all the traditions. For instance, the story we have just had: “Beneath every ‘Allah!’ of thine is many a ‘Here Am I’ from me”. Now that is something which seems to be absurd. The devil said: “There is no ‘Here Am I’ coming in response, how long will you go on crying ‘Allah!’ with grim face?” and Elijah said: “No. Beneath that ‘Allah!’ Beneath that Oh Lord! Beneath that there is a ‘Here Am I’”. Now that would be the particular koan to find that “Here Am I” in himself, in the very cry “Oh Lord!” to find the “Here Am I”. Thank you for your question.
Question: In meditation, it says here, draw in the imaginary line from top of the forehead down to the navel. Does one have to leave it there or can one draw it back again to the top?
Answer: I am sure there are a wide variety of different practises but this is the form Dr. Shastri gave to us.
Question: So we leave it there?
Question: What is the substance of this great reservoir of water that you mentioned?
Answer: Well this is an analogy, a living stream.
Question: It stands for something that I wish to know. Is it possible for you to expand this?
Answer: It is said it is beyond words is it not? But it reflects itself in inspiration, and one of the points in yoga is that inspiration does not depend on the physical vehicle, it comes through the physical vehicle, and it is limited to some extent by the physical vehicle. One of the things we ought to know in this civilisation is that very old people, or very uneducated people, can nevertheless have inspiration. Some say that people are past it at 55. Verdi wrote his greatest tragic opera when he was 71, and he composed the incredibly youthful Falstaff when he was 80. Goethe, whose verses in the opening part of Part Two of Faust are said to be the finest in European literature, didn’t finish that until he was 82. Hokusai was just a poster artist when he took up meditation in his late fifties, and when he was 68 he made perhaps one of the most famous pictures in the world, The Wave. Hokusai went on painting successfully until his 80s. Titian’s greatest masterpiece is Lucretia and Tarquin, but he was 85 and there was no deterioration of technique. Now you might say all these were exceptional people, but we only quote these exceptional people because they are documented. I can say I knew a wonderful old lady when I was young, fairly successful and arrogant, but I had no peace until I knew her, but if I tell you that you could say how do we know it is true? But the cases of Verdi and Hokusai are well documented and thus we can quote them. There is this living stream which is not dependent on the living surface, and it can be brought partially to the surface by a practice. We can speak of its effects but, as you say, to specify what it is it is something beyond the mind.
Question: Do these ideas occur in The Bible?
Answer: We should read the letter to the Colossians by Paul about the great Jesus, the great Christ. A Zen master has commented that many Christians often think too much of the small Christ, they don’t think enough of the great Christ. If we read Paul’s letter to the Colossians (I,17), it says: “For Jesus all this was created. The whole universe has been created through Him and for Him. And He exists before everything, and all things are held together in Him.”
Question: About the meditation. When you do this meditation, is it important that you do it on your own?
Answer: Once again it depends on the tradition. In the Zen tradition they sit together, but in the yoga tradition it is traditional to sit on ones own. If you have a partner who is also keen on meditation, then it is all right to do it together, but generally there are less distractions if one practises alone.
© 1999 Trevor Leggett (Based on a 1999 lecture by Trevor Leggett)