Study the nature of yourself
I could have done a lot more harm if I hadn’t had to spend so much time studying Japanese and Sanskrit. I haven’t had the time to do all the harm that I might have done otherwise. Study has got many advantages, study of books – but he [Shri Dada] said, “No, study not merely books but study the nature of the world. Study the nature of yourself. Pray. Pray first to an external lord but that will produce a quiver from the Lord within ourselves. Then discipline ourselves. We can’t do anything unless we discipline ourselves.”
There is a humorous Chinese saying: “To be a really bad man you have to have many virtues”. You’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to be persistent. You’ve got to be clever and you’ve got to plan very carefully – otherwise you won’t be a really bad man, you’ll just be a little petty thief or something like that. To be a real villain, you’ve got to have a lot of these virtues of strength of will and courage and so on. Well now – all the more if we’re aiming to attain spiritual freedom. We have to discipline ourselves so that we can persist when we begin something, we can carry it through. The last thing is to meditate. These are his main teachings; study – which means to go deeply into things, not just to master books – pray, discipline ourselves and then meditate. We can say, “What are these teachings going to bring?” (I’m not able to read an ordinary text now myself – the servants [my senses] are leaving me, as the Vedanta phrase is. Will you read for me then).
Reading: “My son, life is a sacred trust and you cannot squander it on trivialities by devoting yourself to that which is not of permanent good to human society. Every man must be able to go into voluntary mental and nervous relaxation and concentrate his mind on a symbol of God, whether it be a word, a concept or an image. It is this prolonged silence of the soul which brings before man the patterns of what is to create, the archetypes of his contribution to the inner and outer world. Everyone has an infinite world of beauty and goodness in his mind. The few who have recognised it call it ‘Ilaham’ or inspiration. The Lord is all-pervasive and any man can create for himself beauty and goodness by coming into contact with Him through prayer.”
“Every man must be able to go into voluntary nervous mental relaxation.” This needs a good meditation posture – it should be reasonably upright and balanced. If you’re young, you can sit on the ground on a cushion and cross the legs and put one foot up on the opposite thigh so it makes a triangle. That’s very stable. It enables you to feel an inner balance. But, in any case, the posture should be balanced, so that it can be held for a long time without effort and the body can be forgotten. This has to be practised – to use the same posture at the same time in the same place every day has got enormous advantages. This seated [Yoga] posture in fact is more relaxed than [the usual way people sit] – they’re always shifting, they seem to be relaxed but actually they’re not. They’re constantly shifting. The thing is to master one posture, aditasa – the conquest of a posture – and be able to sit in that.
There is a sizeable hospital in Tokyo which deals with cases of, what we used to call, a nervous breakdown, which is quite common in Japan. The people work – but they get this terrible sense of guilt that they’re not doing well enough and they work themselves into a sort of breakdown. The system is called Morita Therapy – Morita is dead now, but I’ve visited the hospital and had quite a long interview with the present director. He’s very successful in treating these cases. But he told me quite an interesting point. He’s not a religious man but he knows about Zen. He said with the young ones, he gets them – when they come in if they’re willing – to learn to sit in this style with one foot up. A lot of Japanese, even the young ones, can still do this because, quite often, some of their life is spent on the floor.
He told me that when they’ve learnt it, when they’ve mastered it – which they can do quite quickly, in two or three weeks – then it becomes comfortable. He said that, though he doesn’t give any religious background at all to this, “There mere posture produces a calm.” He told me that patients find this out. He’s provided, in the hospital, a corridor and along one side of the corridor in a little setback booth is a round meditation cushion. He told me, he said, “Patients are encouraged, when they feel stressed or they get this tension coming over them, to sit there.” He said, “A lot of them take to it – when they find this tension coming, they go and they sit on the cushion. They’re not asked to do anything special in the way of any meditation exercise but just to sit in that posture. They find it calms them down, so they spend a certain amount of time there.” Doctor Susuki told me, “It’s very good for the nurses you know. They know where the patients are and they know they’re not up to anything.” This is a physical effect. It is reported in the sutras of Patanjali, that when the posture is mastered there is an inner pacification and a relative indifference to the pairs of opposites, like anxiety. “Every man must be able to go into voluntary mental and nervous relaxation” in the posture and then bringing the attention here [the point between the eyebrows] – we should learn how to do this in the daytime, when we’ve had an anxious time or a tense time.
Physically if one is bent over something, it’s a relief to stretch. This method is a means of spiritual ‘stretching’, so to say – to break off, just for two or three minutes, what we’re doing and go apart if we can and sit and then take a big breath, bring the attention here and sit in this posture. If you’d like to just try. Imagine you’re very tense and then sit comfortably up, just touch here if you can and then take a deep breath and put the attention here. If this is prolonged in relaxation to concentrate the mind on a symbol of God, he says, “In this prolonged silence there will come before him, there will be presented before him, the patterns of what he is to create, the archetypes of what he is to contribute to the world.”
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are:
Part 1: Mysticism of the heart
Part 2: Study the nature of yourself
Part 3: The cosmic plan
Part 4: Experience a flash of immortality
Part 5: Mediate on the form of the lord
Part 6: Slip out of the mind cage
Part 7: Honesty and Religious practice