The Riddle of Rainbow Worlds


The ‘rainbow world’ is a phrase used by a great modern Yogi, Swami Mangalnath.  He said we must not merely think of it, but experience the world as a beautiful rainbow.  These are analogies, but they’re not to be dismissed as simply poetry.  They can be gone into a little bit.  No analogy can be pursued too far.  Think what it means.  A rainbow is an appearance. When the sun is low and it has been raining, or is raining, the sky is full of water and then the rays of the sun are refracted and reflected in the raindrops and they come to our eye, standing on the ground, in bands.  The bands are always in a fixed order – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

Always the red is at the top.  There is a definite reason for this.  The raindrop can be analysed (it’s not worth going into it too much).  The rays of the sun come in and they hit the raindrops and they’re divided, as we know, into the colours of the spectrum.  The red doesn’t bend very much, so it hits the top curve of the bubble of water and comes down into our eye.  The violet and blue bend much more sharply and are reflected straight back and are lost – so they don’t hit our eye from this particular drop of water.  So we can see that raindrops at this height will always put red into the eye.  For these – violet, blue etc. – rays to get into the eye, they would have to be further down.  So the violet, green colours come from droplets that are lower down and the red comes from droplets that are higher up.  And that’s the reason we see the rainbow in bands.

It’s an illusion.  The rainbow looks solid and children think it is solid.  There’s something there.  They’re often told or they hope that there’s some treasure at the foot of the rainbow, where the rainbow ends.  But the point is that it is an illusion, and we know it’s an illusion – but it has a certain force, which is determined by the raindrops and the refraction in the raindrops and the reflections which we don’t see.  There are unmanifest forms, so to speak, and there’s the actual rainbow that we see.

We know the red will always be on top, so although this is an illusion, we can actually experience it, and we shall experience it with the red on top for the reason we’ve explained.  If one were to describe a rainbow with the red at the bottom, we would know it to be a complete myth – a fairy story.  That would be illusory too, but an illusion that we never actually experience.  That would be like something complete unreal, made of words, a rainbow with the red at the bottom and the violet at the top.

So we think – but as a matter of fact we’re wrong.  We think that the structure of the raindrops makes this rainbow absolutely inevitable – but it isn’t so.  There are cases in which the rainbow with the reversed colours can appear.  This is only worth taking up because the world is taught in Yoga to be an illusion – but nevertheless it is experienced – and in the illusion which we experience, we’re liable to think this is the only possible illusion and that may not be so.  In India the example is given of a rope on the ground seen in a bad light by a man carrying a lantern.  He’s moving the lantern, and that means the shadow of the rope moves, so it looks like a snake moving and he gets a shock.  People in this country don’t get that sort of shock when they see a rope on the ground with that light because nobody here has seen a snake, free or loose.  There’s no danger from snakes here, so we don’t have this illusion.  But in India it can happen.  But Shankara also explains that the rope may be mistaken for a line of water.  We may see it on the ground in a cellar and think, “Gosh, the house has started leaking again – there’s like a line of water on the surface.” Or it might be mistaken for a garland.  His point is that the unmanifest which we don’t see can be mistaken in various ways.  It’s worth just to say that this idea of the world – a phenomenal world, the world as we experience it – being unreal and there being a deeper layer of reality that is quite different, is not some primitive idea which is dispelled in the light of physics today.

Physics had another earthquake in 1982 and this ‘Quantum Reality’ book was written in 1986 – I’ll read this single sentence from it: [“Those theorems show that although the world’s phenomena seem strictly local, the reality beneath this phenomenal surface must be beyond the speed of light.  The world’s deep reality is maintained by invisible quantum connection whose alternating interval is unmediated, unmitigated and immediate.” – unreliable quote owing to distortion on tape].  It’s just worth noting – it proves nothing yogic.  Scientists conduct their own experiments and it is they who should interpret these experiments, but they’re worth reading to show that the Yoga analysis is not ridiculous in modern terms.  On the contrary it is seriously considered today by physicists, especially since 1982.

The world has a phenomenal reality which is not the deep reality and, in the same way, name and form appear to us and they’re based on something which is much deeper.  Now the Yoga has its own experiments – it is not a philosophy that depends on the experiments of mental operations and material operations and then says, ‘Yes and furthermore…’, but the Yoga has its own experiments directly on consciousness. The only purpose of showing occasionally these things, is to show that there’s not necessarily this conflict.  The main point of the Yoga experiments is that they find intelligence and reality behind the illusory changing and apparently meaningless phenomena of the world. They find purpose and intelligence.

The play is an example which was given by Shankara and very much by our teacher, that the world is like a play.  When we go to a play we see a world which has its own history.  When we go to Hamlet we see an ancient castle which must have been built centuries ago.  It has its own history.  It’s odd that some of the characters have Roman names, like Horatio, but the Romans never got to Denmark.  And Polonius, he’s from Poland – it’s a Roman fort, a Latin fort. But some of the north European chiefs took Roman wives who to a large extent civilised them. So Roman names would have come and in that way the play produces its own history as we analyse it. When we look at plays we see that characters mostly have a mania for autobiography at the beginning which tells us the story so far.  In the Tempest, Prospero says “Must I again recite how I saved you from…” and we in the audience think “Well yes you must if the audience are to know what has happened so far.” In that way a history is produced and the play is complete.

It has its own laws which are not self-contradictory.  In the Midsummer Night’s Dream Puck can fly – they’re Indian divinities, though it’s a point not generally made in production.  Titania and Oberon are Indian divinities, and they can fly – that’s one of the laws of the play. One of the laws of the play is the herb, the loving idleness, that put into the eyes produces love at first sight with the first thing they’ve seen – that is a law, and it works.  But it’s a law within the play, within the scenario of the play.  We don’t think, ‘How ridiculous’.  If we go to Julius Caesar, now people can’t fly – flying would be ridiculous, but there are ghosts – Caesar’s ghost.  There are no ghosts in Midsummer Night’s Dream.  So the play is complete in its own scenario with its own laws, and we can see that the dramatist sets the play and sets the laws.  Looked at from another point of view they are contradictory, but in their own right they stand and are not contradictory.

Our teacher used to stress this point that the maya of the Lord, the illusion, has an intelligent purpose and that purpose is to reveal the Lord not only externally controlling the world, but internally as presiding over the operations of the heart.  The Yoga training is to discover the Lord not only externally, but internally. Specific and definite and clear experiments are given – it’s not a question of simply guesses or inferences or ideas or hopes or beliefs.  There is an intelligence behind the operations of the universe.  Materialism doesn’t think so; but materialism is based, as Eddington, a great scientist, pointed out, on selecting certain things to notice, on abstracting.  It seems to be objective, but in actual fact, it’s only objective because it has ruled out so much of the universe.  Einstein pointed out that a good deal of science is rather like accountancy, whether you’re making cheeses or blast furnaces, they become figures, figures in a profit and loss account.  An accountant can run a steel mill without ever going near the place; he can simply run it on figures, noticing trends.  It seems that he’s objective, but in fact he’s only objective because he never sees the place – he just sees the abstractions.

Our teacher said the test – one of the great experiments – the test of the intelligence behind the universe consists in inspiration.  This is one of the manifestations, it’s not the only manifestation – inspiration. He used to point out how many of the central discoveries of science were produced not by logical invention of hypotheses to account for facts that can’t yet be explained.  They come about in an extraordinary way, not chance, but in a strange way.  But there is a resistance to this idea, especially among scientists who like to think that they’re specially logical and materialistic.  There’s a famous remark which our teacher used to quote, that the idea of solving the world riddle by simply mental concepts and material experiment is like looking in a dark room for a black cat which is not there.

There’s only one thing to add to that – that every hundred years materialism shouts ‘I’ve got it!’  And it does seem – it seemed a hundred years ago that almost everything was known.  They believed that – and then there was a great burst of the quantum theory by Plank in 1900, then Einstein, the photo-electrical effect and relativity (which he got his Nobel prize for). The whole basis of physics burst wide open and this has now happened again, though the echoes are still going round.  But the reasoning should be noted very carefully. Now this is by a famous philosopher of science, Dr Karl Popper.  He pointed out in one of the things he said in his famous book, Conjectures and Refutations, that this idea of inspiration revealing truth is completely false.  “For instance, the marvellous theory of Bhor and Kramers in 1924 was almost immediately refuted by the experiment conducted by Geiger and others.  This shows that not even the greatest physicist can anticipate the secrets of nature. His inspiration can only be guesses.”

If we look at that argument, this wonderful theory was constructed by Bohr and it was refuted; and he said from this single case that not even the greatest physicist can intuit the secrets of nature.  How can a single case show that?  If a very good cook burns something, we say: “This shows that not even the greatest cook can cook a meal without burning it”.  It’s ridiculous, it’s not reasoning at all.  Nevertheless it occurs without any reservations or qualifications at all in his book.  The comedy is that in his same book when his guard is down and he’s talking about the ancient Greek philosophers (he was a Greek scholar) he says, speaking of Heraclitus: “With his uncanny intuition Heraclitus saw that things are processes, that our bodies a living flame.”  So when his guard is down, he admits it – but officially he denies it.

This sort of reasoning is called ‘emotional scepticism’ and it’s just as unreliable as emotional credulity: “I believe it all, I believe it all…and more!”  It’s just as bad as: “I believe nothing whatever – and I produce arguments like this to show that it can’t happen”. They’re equally emotional and they’re equally irrational.  Our teacher often produced these examples from the history of science, and I thought it might be worthwhile to just show the sort of thing he meant.  These things in the biographies are treated as chance – the chance discoveries of enormous importance; but in actual fact they’re not chance.

Rutherford, at the beginning of this century when he was making the great discoveries about radioactivity (the details don’t matter), was shooting out the particles through a very thin medium.  His own words are “It was like shooting 15 inch shells through tissue paper” – he said that’s how the experiment could be viewed.   [Illustrates: For example, if we take this (?) as a 15 inch shell and this, the tissue paper.  That is what would happen.] That’s what he was doing.  In the laboratory with the famous Geiger he gave an extraordinary order.  He said; “Let’s see whether any of them bounce back”. It’s so idiotic – a 15 inch shell going through tissue paper – see if they bounce off!  It’s like going to the Swiss Alps and seeing if the avalanches fall upwards.  Absolutely crazy – completely against the whole logic of the situation.  So they tried it, and they found they did, and that led to some very fundamental alterations, of course, to the whole view of the structure of the atom.

Now, this was not chance.  If Geiger had been walking round with one of his Geiger counters, by chance, behind the source of the other particles and had found some of them seemed to be bouncing back, that would have been chance.  And then a very alert mind – chance favours the prepared mind – would have spotted it.  But he gave this order, and our teacher said, if you study the biographies carefully, and if we look at Becquerel and Pasteur especially, we find repeatedly they do things completely against the logic of the situation which lead to fundamental discoveries of something completely new.  Our teacher so often referred to this that I thought it worthwhile demonstrating one of them.

Owing to the conflict between science and religion, there’s an antipathy here to scientists who become interested in something like telepathy are regarded as unsound: “Oh, he’s gone mystical” – but the Japanese are much more rational over this.  I asked a Japanese physicist, “Does it affect a man’s career, as it does in the West, if for instance a physicist is interested in telepathy?”  He said, “Oh no.  One of my colleagues is making some experiments in telepathy.  I shouldn’t think he’d find anything – but how do I know?  He may.  There’s another colleague, he’s spending a tremendous lot of time on a small area of field theory.  Again, I shouldn’t think he’ll find anything – but he may.  How do I know?  We need to try.”

Now one of the Yoga systems is to sit in meditation, and we’re told as far as we can, if we’re young enough to learn, to sit on the floor and, if possible, to put  one foot on the opposite thigh.  Young people can achieve this in about two months, but in Japan they’re much more used to sitting on the floor, sometimes at least, and they can achieve it quite quickly.  It is said, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, that this begins to set people free from the pairs of opposites – suffering is created by the pairs of opposites.

There’s a hospital in Tokyo which treats cases, which are becoming more and more numerous, of a sort of nervous collapse from over-work.  Some of them in, for instance, broadcasting, they go on the air at three in the morning and come off duty at nine o’clock that evening.  They snatch five hours sleep and then they’re on again. That can go on for three or four days running.  So some of them collapse and there have been some cases of death.  Everybody gets very nervy in Japanese companies, and there’s a hospital which specialises in treating these things.  The director is not at all interested in spiritual things, in Zen, or anything like that.  But he said that one of the things that he does for the patients who come in for two or three months (he has a long style of treatment) is that he teaches those who are willing to learn this sitting posture.  And he said that he has found – and the patients find – that if they sit in it, when they have got comfortable, they begin to become calm.  Some of their anxieties and tensions begin to die down.

This confirms the Sutra of Patanjali, and it’s confirmed by the practice of the Yoga which we follow here.  Sitting in this posture regularly, for a time, gradually calms the inner tensions and fears and anxieties. The director told me, “… and furthermore some of these patients are sometimes on the cushions for several hours.  That’s good for the nurses – they know where the patients are and they know they’re not up to anything.”  So although he has no interest in Zen, he is willing to try this and he has found that it is extremely effective as a physical method of treatment – though, of course, it’s not his main treatment.

We’re told that the world is illusory and that we enter into the world and we become identified with it. This is an example which is not so easily available in the present form which is a television programme.  There are these people who get involved in the television series (I don’t watch television myself, but I’ve heard and there are articles about it), and they begin to think that they’re seeing a real world.  ‘The Archers’ is one and there’s another called ‘Coronation Street’.  The producer of Coronation Street had to apologise because he allowed a much-loved character, who was going to leave the serial, to retire, and the script writer named the actual village in the Midlands to which this character retired.  And one of the fans went there and started knocking up the residents of the village to find her.  He said that if somebody dies, the BBC is sure to get some wreaths – somebody in the television series has died.  And they’re getting now letters sometimes to one of the characters saying: “I think you ought to know that your wife is carry on with ….”  In other words they have entered and are taking part in this thing themselves.  There’s a character apparently called Sid Perks who went to London and disappeared there, and some of the fans worked out the sort of place he would visit and looked for him there. Well, it sounds naïve and ridiculous but in fact the Yoga tells us that this is what we’re doing.  We too are entering into this.  So there are two positions, one is that people can sit and watch.  They may be disturbed by the television programme, although they know it’s unreal, but if they see a very well-acted play and if it touches something in themselves, they’re maybe disturbed by it.  But they retain the knowledge: “This is really nothing to do with me.  This is illusory.”  So, in that case, when their awareness is retained of the true self – which is detached entirely from the television serial – when that is retained, then the fan can take his stand on that knowledge.   Not to think or watch the programme for a bit, but to think: “I am free.  I’m nothing to do with it. I’m free.”  But those who have actually begun to act, who are going to the television centre, trying to warn some character or looking for them somewhere, or sending wreaths or, if one character has migraines, they get a lot of migraine cures sent up.

Now if people are writing things like that, or sending wreaths, they have lost the sense of being separate and they are themselves taking part in it.  For these people the Yoga says they are karma yoga – they’re taking part in this unreal world.  Shankara says this is the position of most of us – so we are taking part in the world. And for us it is no use to say, “I am separate from the world”  because I feel that I’m actually in it.  I feel that I ought to help somebody who’s in trouble, who has migraine. “I have a good migraine cure.  I ought to send it up.  I must do that.”  Well then, for those people, they have to go into the fact that this is a serial and one of the best methods is to go to the actual studios (which you can do) and see it being put on.  There you can see the actors putting on the make-up – and when an actor seems to die here, “Later on you’ll see him walking up!”  This might be equivalent to the eleventh chapter of the Gita in which Arjuna has a vision of the whole world scenario with the apparent life and the apparent death and the changes.  At first he’s terribly shocked because he’s thought of all this as real, but then gradually he comes to see that it’s unreal –that it’s not something that has any effect on him at all.  It’s meant to entertain, to please, but it’s become a bondage.  Now he frees himself by first of all realising that it’s unreal and then, when he’s realised that it’s unreal, to sit and then to watch it if he wants to watch it – but to know that he is free, nothing to do with the unreal happenings there.

We can say, “Oh, surely, intelligent people are not affected by these things – but they are.  We can see, if we look at history, a novel like Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther was followed by a wave of suicide and there was pre-war a popular song called ‘Gloomy Sunday’, an extremely powerful piece of music.  It was forbidden to be played on the continent, whether it was forbidden here, I don’t know – but it was also followed by suicide.  People knew it was unreal, but nevertheless they were powerfully affected by it.  And we can say “Well, see the world as a beautiful rainbow.”  We know the rainbow’s unreal, but we enjoy it.  Our teacher said adapting it to the play – still to take part in the play but to know that it’s unreal, that one is an actor in it.  One can say, “Well, this is alright – this beautiful rainbow’s alright, provided things go reasonably well”. But supposing they’re not going well.  “The beautiful rainbow – we’ll go to the Lake District and see that wonderful scenery, oh yes!  But what about my arthritis – is that a beautiful rainbow?  Lake District – yes; arthritis – no.

Now this has to be met and there was a hint, by the practice which Suzuki adopted, of getting his patients to sit in a set posture every day at a regular time.  One of the first things in Yoga is to calm the whole mental process and then to be able to see through.  You can say, “Well how can you see through disasters and calamities?”  There is a story of two incidents in the life of Swami Rama Tirtha, a fellow disciple of our own teacher.  He was an inspired, ecstatic God-Realised saint, who used to dance sometimes on the banks of the river for hours and people came to see him dance and some of them said they saw a god dancing there.  He took no interest in food, and as he didn’t have any regular disciples and there was no-one really to look after him and to prompt him to take food regularly, he used to have these internal colic spasms occasionally.”

One brahmachari, a young disciple was appointed to look after Swami Rama Tirtha when he was in the city – he lived mostly in the mountains in the later part of his short life.  The brahmachari was there with him and then this terrible colic spasm began.  The brahmachari saw the mahatma, this great God-realised saint, his body twisting and turning.  He thought that this was terrible and there was nothing that he could do and he burst into tears.  Swami Rama Tirtha said to him, “Don’t cry”, and he said “Master we saw a god dancing on the sands there and now this”. And Swami Rama according to the accounts said to him, “You know the festival time – the statue of the god Rama is paraded through the city; and then there’s a band and then afterwards there are the acrobats and the tumblers who show off their skills in the procession; and lastly there are the clowns who jump about and make all sorts of weird gestures and stand on their heads to amuse the children.  This is all part of the procession of the god Rama through the city.  Now, this procession is taking place through the body of Rama.  When you saw the dance by the river, that was the passing of the statue of the god with the band; then come the acrobats, twisting and turning, as the body of Rama now is twisting and turning; and then there are the clowns who amuse the children, in the same way the body of Rama is thrown into these convulsions.”  And he patted his head, “Rama is above all this, and enjoys it.  This is a procession through the body of Rama.  Rama is above all this and enjoys it.”

Our teacher was asked about this story by a person who had passed through a period of very intense pain, who said, “Well, I couldn’t control my mind”.  Our teacher said, “You cannot expect that at the beginning you will be able to be an expert.  How long did the upset last?”   The disciple said, “Well only while the pain was on.  After the pain was over, it was alright, it had gone, it stopped.”  And our teacher said, “Well that’s already a progress, because with some people they’re upset for days or weeks. But you cannot expect to complete the full course until you have trained for a long time.”  The statement of Swami Mangalnath with which we began is in the book called The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching by our teacher, about his own teacher: “You will not have the mature meditation called samadhi until you can see clearly the whole world as a beautiful rainbow.”

Thank you for your attention.



Similar Posts