The yoga of action
(… continued from ‘Extraverts and Introverts 1’)
We have eyes. With those eyes we see, but if we become a slave to the eye, if the place says: “Do not colour the walls”, it depresses me – I can’t work here. But, “Oh, I like the colour of the walls. This is the place.” And then after two weeks, “No, it’s a bit off”. He’s a slave of the environment and he has to practice yoga. And that yoga is karma-yoga, the yoga of action. And this is for people who are reacting with their environment, which is true of most of us. We have jobs to do. We have responsibilities. We have promises which we have made. For the first three-quarters of one’s life (from the Great Laws of Manu) a normal life is interacting with the world very powerfully, and such a man should practice karma-yoga. In the fourth quarter of the life, when the business has been made over to the son, when the king abdicates and the heir takes the throne, when the children have gone away from the family and the parents are left, then the fourth quarter of the life is the time for introversion to be encouraged, and then it can lead to direct revelation and experience.
But for most of us it’s karma-yoga. Karma-yoga consists of worship of God, but it has three main elements. One of them is to become independent of the opposites in the world, of the changes of the world. Not so easy. For an extravert something in the world becomes everything to him. It becomes the whole world. Now, sometimes a physical example is a useful thing as distinct from these abstractions.
I study foreign languages and, at my age, you have to modify the method of study. I can no longer concentrate for three or four hours intensely. I become tired. So, if there’s a text I want to memorise or I want to study that’s particularly difficult, I hang them up and write them in great letters – hang them up in scrolls around the room. I have a very useful roller from which you hang the scrolls, and this seems very useful to me. Again, to write these things correctly, you need to draw these horizontal lines and this is very convenient for drawing. It’s very light, it’s very handy, and it’s important to me – very useful. But if this becomes essential, “I must have it”, the Lord will ‘twist’. This applies (of course, I’m giving this as an example) to many things. It can apply to a person. We must have it. “I can’t live!” “Hold on, yes, hold on tight, but when you see things go, you don’t retain your balance. ” If we devote ourselves solely to anything in the world, the Lord will ‘twist’ and will let it down. We shall look and we shall see.
The Gita says, “The Lord is the friend of all beings.” “Why does He take this away from me?” Because He doesn’t want me concentrating solely on that, but to see Him. We hold something and use it, but then let it go. At the end of Chapter 5 it says, “The Lord is the friend of all beings”, so when life takes something from you, to know that it’s a friend who’s taking it and, to attain the balance, you let it go. You look across and perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse, at first you catch a glimpse – to be independent of the opposite, to practice a little bit.
Now, one of the things in this country which is much admired by some Indian teachers, and by some Zen teachers especially, is what’s called the sense of humour in this country. That’s to say, the ability in a disaster to be able to laugh. Wilde was a minor literary genius, but he did write some bad things. One play he wrote was a failure and he was asked afterwards by a friend. “How did the play go? Was it a success?” And Wilde said, “Oh, the play was a success, but the audience was a failure.” This ability to laugh at his own disaster shows an independence, and the Zen people say it’s one of the great characteristics of the people here, that they have calculated this. In many countries humour and wit is at the expense of other people – laughing at other people of course. But this ability to rise above his own misfortune, and to laugh, is very highly prized by them.
© Trevor Leggett
(Continued in ‘Be independent of results’)
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Extroverts & Introverts 1
Part 2: The yoga of action
Part 3: Be independent of results