The Self is what is confronts God


The Self is what is confronts God in the religions. But the problem always is, what is that Self? Is it going to be as we stand? Is the resurrection of the body when we’re old, when we’re young? What’s the form going to be, or in some different form?”  Now one teacher explains this point. We look at the sea and we see waves. [Writes on the blackboard]. These are the waves we see – one there with a little crest on it.  When we’re small children we think this is a thing, that this is an actual body of water that’s travelling across the surface of the sea. And it makes sense to talk about this wave.  That’s a wave with a crest, these two are the same size. It makes sense to talk about the wave. But when we get older we know, we come to know, that this isn’t a body of water moving across the [sea], but in fact the water here is simply going up and down. The wave is travelling but not the water. The water is going up and down. These [waves] are not things and yet it makes sense to talk about them as things – but ultimately they are not things.

He said it’s the same with the Self. It makes sense to talk about oneself, what one’s going to do tomorrow, what one did yesterday, as if one were a thing.  But, in actual fact, it isn’t ultimately [real] – well, you know the technical terms. Now, this which is unreal [Tunes a radio into a cricket match commentary], is nevertheless a viable thing. I can know in theory that these waves fill the hall. It’s a cricket match. But this tiny little thing can bring that to reality. The transcendent fills [the world] as the radio waves fill this hall.  The teacher says, ‘the Buddha nature’ he calls it, ‘fills’.  We can be theoretically satisfied with it, but we don’t have direct experience of it except in special circumstances that come as a result of devoted work.  Then a flash will suddenly come, but it’s not consistent and it can’t be brought. So the discipline then is to bring the tiny thing, which is the wave of ourselves (well, even using these words like) ‘onto the wavelength of what is everywhere’.  And then we shall have this knowledge.

In this case it’s the knowledge of a cricket match, but if it’s the knowledge of a typhoon moving towards us then it’s the knowledge of life and death, which will tell us what to do. We can say, “Well, why doesn’t this become apparent to everybody? Why can’t we just do this? What is the obstacle? If the obstacles consist in being unreal, what is the difficulty?”  There is a little saying, ‘If you don’t misuse your power a bit, there’s no point in having it’.  It’s in that. If I am the editor of a magazine, people submit things. If I can’t judge them it’s quite easy to get someone. “Oh that article.  Yes, he’s a famous writer, you know.  He’s done this, and this, and this”. “Well, that’s a good one. Right put it in”. And if it’s a bad one, if I’m not sure myself, I can ask a good critic.  “Yes, that’s a bad one, I shouldn’t…” Anyone can do that. Put in the good ones, throw out the bad ones. But I think, “Well, you know, I don’t count for anything if I just do that. I’m just a rubber stamp”. So I start thinking, “He may be a very famous writer, but he’s got to please me and I can be difficult.” Then I exist. All the time this, which is only a wave, is wanting to exist somehow. And this is what is called the klesha, something which wants to form a knot in a ball and exist. Underneath our lives, interpenetrating it, the teacher says, there is what they don’t like to specify but which we must try to ‘experience’ – though again the word is not always exact.  By our training to come into touch, and then not just touch, but be. There is a desert in North Western India which is not good for anything very much – about ten people living to every ten square kilometres or something.  It’s absolutely barren, and they spent a lot of money hoping to get oil there. The geologists told them there was quite a possibility. At great expense, they mounted drilling operations to try and find this oil.  Apparently you can tell – it went very deep – when you’re coming to a sort of, I suppose something like, a breakthrough. Anyway, the news came. So, everything was alerted, now what’s going to happen? And the thing went through the last rock. “Oil?” “Water!” And the news went up from the engineer on the spot to the chief engineer.  “Oil?” “Water!”  Then it goes up to the deputy minister. “Water!” Then it goes up to the minister. “Water? In the great Indian desert? What’s happened at the other sites – go on quick.” “Yes, water”. There’s a river, it’s known from the Vedas. It rises in the Himalaya and, in one of these myths of course, it goes underground and comes out far down to join the other rivers from underneath.  The River Saraswati.

Well it turns out that this is an actual fact, that there’s a river flowing, powerfully, under this great desert and, according to the report, this is going to solve the water problems of North Western India. Now, they were hoping for oil, but oil will run out. The river won’t run out, because it comes from the Himalaya. There is another kind of richness. The oil will give material – money – but it will run out. The water will give life, and solve all the food problems. In the same way the teacher (now this is an example which the Buddha gives himself) [says], “Dig in the desert for water”.  The minister digs, doesn’t he, a few feet and says there’s no water; and the king says “Dig again, dig deeper”. He comes back, still no water. The king says, “Go on digging, I’m certain there is water”.  To have the running stream, this solves the water problem in North Western India. Otherwise through that desert we have to go from oasis to oasis and carry the water with us. In the same way the teacher uses this example of the underground stream, not of course knowing its modern example.  We carry things with us through life. We get achievements. We make for an oasis where we can make a profit and so we can carry on our lives in the desert of the world.  Underneath, there’s a flowing stream. Instead of searching externally, wider and wider and wider, and making an occasional little gain of water, to search down.  Then we shall find the stream, and that can be brought up and the whole area will flourish.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Hearts of Religion

Part 2: There is a problem in religion

Part 3: Bayazid, the Sufi mystic

Part 4: The Self is what is confronts God

Part 5: Keep on keeping on

Similar Posts