The depths of the mind are not changed by what we do on the surface
QUESTION ONE: The practice. May I ask about the practice? The practice seems to me to be layered. You get rid of the thoughts that are immediately close to your consciousness but you are aware that there are there’s another layer of thoughts going on below the surface. I mean it didn’t seem to me to be quite as simple as you described it. I seemed to be going through layers of thoughts getting more remote in my consciousness but I was still aware of movement in the mind.
TPL: Yes. These things take quite a long time. The depths of the mind are not changed by what we do on the surface. And we can indeed … as you say, calm the surface of the mind but there can still be turmoil below. But by habitual practice the impressions of calm begin to descend too and then they begin to calm down the lower depths of the mind. And because they’re based on the truth of what we really are, they will overcome in principle always the turmoil which is based on what we’re not, on illusion. But it’s a good point, thank you.
Nearly all the yogic things, it’s like if you think of gardening. If you want to change the direction of a young tree and you do that [gesture] you’ll break it. You have to have steady pressure, steady pressure and then the tree can grow the right way. On the other hand if you’re so afraid of breaking it that you won’t apply any pressure at all, well then of course you won’t get the curve you want – so it has to be a steady pressure, not too violent but steady, continuous. So steady and continuous practice for at least six weeks and then the effect is there. It will be noticeable after three months and they say after three years a lot of other people will notice it too.
QUESTION TWO: Although what you described is a form of yoga. This is essentially the same thing as mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition, isn’t it?
TPL: Well, it has a devotional element which the mindfulness doesn’t have in Buddhism.
QUESTION TWO continued: Can you say a little more about that?
TPL: In Buddhism they don’t like to postulate unknown entities like such as a self. The Buddha had the doctrine of no self, or perhaps he had a doctrine of no doctrine of the self but he didn’t like postulating. The doctrine of no self is one of the keys of Buddhism. In Adhyatma Yoga the Self is one of the key concepts. The Buddhists, probably Buddha himself, didn’t like using the word Self because people immediately stick at the individual personal self when the word is used, and that’s what he wanted to loosen and get rid of. But there are marked techniques which are in many respects identical in Zen and Yoga. In Adhyatma Yoga the basis is devotion to the Lord, and so the stress is different.
QUESTION THREE: Trevor, does the effect of the pacifying of the surface of the mind carry on? Possibly that eventually the posture is of no more importance? I’m thinking of when one can’t go to sleep at night for example, when the thoughts … breathing … it just doesn’t help. Can you say if you think that that would apply in the same way as you said before.
TPL: No. The best thing the best thing with inability to sleep is to say ‘Alright I’m not going to sleep’. And get up. In the case of a man anyway, put on a track suit and get out something one’s always meant to study or do and be prepared to have some coffee or tea and think ‘Right, I’m going to sit up and get on with it’. Have the bed there and think ‘Well if I’m tired I can lie down if I like but I’m going to get on with this’. And quite often it’s better than thinking ‘I must go to sleep’.
QUESTION FOUR: I often scrub floors. And I never think about what you were saying – the drudgery, you think how lovely it will be when I’ve finished. Also I think I often hear music and think of poetry. Therefore I wouldn’t agree with you that it’s a good thing to get rid of the surrounding as you are suggesting.
TPL: Well if your surrounding is favourable you won’t want to get rid of it. No.
QUESTION FOUR continued: You’re saying it’s not necessary then?
QUESTION FOUR continued: To get rid of the dream. It’s often very pleasant.
TPL: It makes the action more efficient. If you’re doing an action that you’re familiar with and like and you’ve got the chance to have internal poetry and so on that’s alright for you at the time. But the time’s going to come when it’s an action that one doesn’t like doing.
QUESTION FOUR continued: Well, that’s right. You don’t like doing it but you’re thinking about the end product.
TPL: Well then that’s impairing the action. The action should become radiant in itself if it’s bare of these dreams. If it’s dependent on pleasant associations, or thinking of a good result at the end or fear of a bad result at the other end, then it’s not so efficient and it’s not inspired.
A Jesuit father told me that one of the final examinations you’re given is to scrub a big floor a stone floor. And he told me, he said, he did it. He said ‘I left it absolutely spotless’. And then the master of novices came in with a bucket of sludge and threw it all over the floor and said ‘Scrub that floor’. However, thank you for the point.
[This was taken from a public talk by Trevor Leggett.]