The riddle of the Self

(… continued from ‘Holy Texts give us General Principles’)

A Japanese company president, he is … or was, the president of the National Panasonic, Matsushita.  He had no education, left school at 13. Now, well, recently, he was the richest man in Japan. His thoughts are very fresh. One of the things he says [is] that most people don’t think at all, they just repeat what they’ve read or seen on the television, they don’t actually think.

Now, with his company, when they were only about 600 or 700, they were coming up. When he’d give them a raise, and the company was doing well, he’d give the whole staff quite a big raise. He would say, in his speech, and I have read one of them, he would say, “We’re giving you this money, but it won’t make you happy. Oh, for two or three weeks, you’ll be pretty pleased with yourself. Then you’ll forget all about it.  You’ll have new expenditure, you’ll have taken on new things. You won’t be any happier. What will make you happy is, if you try hard to make these electrical things we make, make them first class, and cheap, for the Japanese housewife. If you know you’re doing that, then you’ll be happy.”

When the company was coming up, there was a recession and they had big stocks of these heaters and electrical implements of various kinds, which they couldn’t sell, because there was a recession. Now he didn’t want to dismiss any of the staff. They called a big meeting, 600 or 700 or them. Now, he’s a man of meditation and he writes books about his philosophy and a solution occurred to him.

He called them together and he said, “This is a recession, people are not going to buy extra things. It stands to reason, in Osaka with about a million households, that in some households a heater will have worn out or an iron, an electric iron, will have worn out, and they’ll have to replace that. Of course, there’s no reason why, particularly, they should replace it with one of ours, and we can’t afford a huge advertising campaign.”

He said, “Now, we’ve got all these things stocked up, will all of you become sales reps? I know you’re not skilled at it but go out, visit the households, and say, “We’re not trying to push anything on you, and I’m not a professional rep, but if you’ve got something that’s worn out, and we’ve got these machines, I can make a special little discount for you.””

So 600 reps descended on Osaka the next week and the company sold out and was able to start full production again, when the recession was over. Well, these were fresh thoughts. He was asked about them, he said, “You see, people with education, they think about an electrician as an electrician and an accountant as an accountant and a rep as a rep. But I’ve got no education. To me they’re human beings, they happen to be doing the accounts or happen to be making the electrical connections or happen to be typing but they’re human beings and they can go out and they can sell the machines.”

There’s another case from Japan – a boy of 16, at high school.  They have to study terribly hard, it’s known as the ‘examination hell’, to get into a good university. Once they’re in, it’s easy, they almost never fail, but it’s hell that one or two years. Now, the boy was conscientious but they thought he was going to break down, having to do all the homework in the evening.  They asked his Zen teacher, “What shall we do? He’s going to break down. He’s probably going to commit suicide.” The father said, “I can threaten him, or I can try to bribe him but, of course, they can’t look forward two years.” He said, “I’ve told him we’ve all been through this, I’ve been through this, what do you recommend?”

So, the teacher said to him, “What’s your job?” He said, “Well, I’m a sales representative for a big company.” He said, “Now, how do you do?” He said, “Oh, I’m quite good at selling the stuff but, of course, there are difficulties, you know? It’s a very big catalogue and they keep changing the prices and the hire purchase conditions, and so on.  Now, some of our crack men, they know it all by heart, but I have to look up and say, ‘Oh, well, we’ll write to you about the terms for this’ and that is a disadvantage to me.” So, the teacher said, “Well, now, don’t say anything to your son, but, set yourself, in the next few months, to learn that catalogue by heart at home, in the evenings, and get your wife to hear you, on each page, as you learn it.”

This transformed the boy’s attitude. Nothing was said to him, but he saw his father, instead of going out drinking with his friends and mother, instead of watching the television, they were working, they were studying. He had found an inner line to the heart of the boy who was able to go on and do his work.

These are things, these are inspirations, through meditation. In some cases, the man, himself, meditates, in some cases he goes to a teacher and asks him. That’s not so good because one day the teacher will not be there and he will have to decide himself. Now we can say, “Well, wouldn’t it be better, instead of sitting still in meditation, to go out and do some good? People are starving. Looking after them, like Mother Teresa? Do something active like that.”

Well, she has recently published a book and one of the things she says is, “It’s not possible to serve God directly without being a soul at prayer. Love to pray, feel the need to pray often during the day, in the silence of the heart God speaks. To be able to see that silence, to be able to hear God, we need a clean heart. The first means to use is silence. The more we receive, in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life.  All our words of sympathy, and so on, will be useless unless they come from the Christ within us. Words which do not give the light of Christ, will increase the darkness.”

Shri Dada said, long before this, “Every man must be able to go into mental and nervous relaxation and concentrate his mind on a symbol of God…  It is this prolonged silence of the soul which brings before him the patterns of what is to create, [the architypes of] his contribution to the internal and the external world.”

These are things which are in the world, the inner lines of co‑operation with the Lord, but these things will not make us ultimately happy. While the riddle of the Self is unsolved, we shall not be at peace, and something in us will be imprisoned, trying to free itself. Again, Mother Teresa says this, “You people in the west, your spiritual hunger is much worse than the physical hunger of the poor in the east.  You know there’s something that money can’t give you, but you don’t know what it is.”

Swami Rama Tirtha says, “The truth is this, realise you are the infinite Self. The son of sons, the light.”  Well, in our meditation today, the first word is light. There are four, the first word is light. So, in the little practice which we could do now, we could meditate on light as a preparation for the meditation which follows.  Then, to sit up, in a balanced position.  When it says ‘relaxed’ it doesn’t mean like an unconscious man, but it means balanced, without unnecessary tension, mental and nervous relaxation. Then to concentrate on a symbol of God and light is one of the great symbols of God.

Then Swami Rama gives in this meditation: ‘Feel, I am light, the body is turning into light, light.’ Our teacher often gave this meditation in the words of Geothe, his last words: ‘Light, more light, still more light.’ Then I’ll begin it and end it with ‘Om’, if you’d like to do it together? I’ll say the words twice. ‘Light, more light, still more light.’ Om.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: A Pole Star Within

Part 2: Holy texts give us general principles

Part 3: The riddle of the Self