Three Upanishadic Riddles – Part 3


The third Upanishad we’re going to look at is called Mandukya, which is the name of the sage who gave it and there’s one verse in which he speaks of the waking state, the dreaming state, which means the mental state, the word dreaming had a much wider connotation than in our use of the term. Then there’s the deep sleep state, where there is no waking consciousness and no dreaming consciousness. These three states are presented, but the fact is, they’re all going on together at the same time in the ordinary way.

For instance, I’m talking to someone and if I’m an insurance salesman, I’ve been introduced to a man at a sports club, where there are all the prospects for the match next week, and so on, but all the time I’m dreaming while I’m talking and thinking, ‘He looks pretty well off, I wonder if he’s a good prospect? He might be a prospect for insurance.’ I don’t say this, but it’s a dream, it’s going on the same time as my waking conversation, and we all know this; I can say in our waking conversation, “Oh, I’m delighted to meet you!” There’s a third state, deep sleep state, the unknown, but it’s not empty.

This is where our thoughts come from, where our dreams come from. A thought pops into our mind. ‘Where did it come from? What was its state before? I was thinking of it, what was it? Oh, it was a memory trace’  – but that’s just a word. What actually was it? In the yoga they examine the waking state, we analyse our actions and our thoughts relating to the world, we analyse our dreaming state, which is this mental state not related to the interactions with the world, which is seen in its purest form in dream ,in which the muscles for instance, are completely relaxed and the senses are very largely inoperative.

Then there’s the deep sleep state, where there’s no waking and no dreaming, but nevertheless something happens there. All writers know this, many musicians know it. You go to bed with a problem. You wake up, the problem is solved. Mathematicians particularly know it, they’ve done studies on it. Poincaré,  the glory of French mathematics, as he’s called, had this experience repeatedly. He didn’t like it too much. He said, “It means there’s something in my subconscious which is cleverer than I am and I hate to admit that.”

We have no explanation, we have absolutely no account of this. Linus Pauling a consistently creative chemist, he said, “For problems that defeat me, I deliberately make use of my subconscious mind. I think about it as much as I can for three weeks then I deliberately drop it. Weeks, sometimes months later, as in the case of the structure of alpha carotene, suddenly, the answer pops into my mind.” It sounds all right – “I deliberately make use of my subconscious mind “ – but what does it mean? Elements, factors are concentrated on, then they’re forgotten. They’re deliberately forgotten in Pauling’s case. In the case of the ones going to sleep – Berlioz, for instance speaks of it –  they wake up; something has gone on. Sometimes they can’t face the result of their inspiration. Berlioz speaks of waking up one morning and he had this wonderful symphonic experience in full orchestral colour, and he was very keen on orchestral colour, and then he thought of the immense labour of getting this down onto paper with an orchestral score. Suddenly, he felt, ‘Oh, I can’t face it’ and he said, “I turned over again and went to sleep”. He said said it came once more and then never again; he rejected it.

It’s an old saying, isn’t it, ‘Sleep on it.’ The yoga analysis is that when this layer, this deepest layer of the mind, the causal layer of the mind becomes relatively clear then inspiration from the cosmic mind can come through and then our actions and our thoughts and inspirations will become in accord more or less with the cosmic purpose. The cosmic inspiration struggles to find expression through these still remaining limitations of the mind and the mental structure.

This very deep layer has to be purified by the yoga practices, reducing the amount of irrelevant thinking and acting that we do, reducing the amount of passionate distraction, hatreds, loves, and becoming calm. When it becomes calm, we can get to see. It is called omniscient; because of this there is wisdom there, which can be touched as the mind becomes purer. If the mind is not pure, then it can be touched only by chance and not for long. Even so, it’s for instance like the story of Toynbee who had this experience. He was concentrating on history, he was a great historian. When he was young, he concentrated on history and whether it had a meaning. He came to the conclusion that it doesn’t, that it’s a repetition of human passions really. Then he was walking down Buckingham Palace Road, thinking of something quite different and suddenly, he lost consciousness of the world and he became aware of what he calls the whole current of history and himself in it. It only lasted a few seconds, but it changed his entire view of history and he began to see history as meaningful, challenge and response. The civilizations advance as they meet the challenges successfully, the challenge of the environment, the challenge of the neighbours and the moral challenge, the intellectual challenge. As they meet those successfully, they can continue to advance, when they do not meet them successively, they begin to fail.

Now, that only lasted a few seconds, but it changed his whole life and his life work. He wrote these monumental studies of history, which are not rated so highly in this country where we’re much more, we’d like to call it empirical, but some would say carping. They regard him as a great sage in countries like Japan, and in America, there is more reverence for these vast ideas and schemes, and in Germany.

This is compared in the yoga to a lightning flash. If you’ve lost your way in a wild country and you don’t know where you are; it’s night, you can’t see, then there’s a lightning flash. By that, you just glimpse there’s a hill and perhaps there’s a gleam of a river there, then it’s gone, but on the memory of that, you can steer your way for quite a long time. You can steer your way reasonably, but of course, there may be things that you couldn’t see in that brief instant. The one who is practising meditation can hold it much longer and the background, the deepest layer of the mind becomes much purer, well then, the vision is steadier and it’s more like holding a torch. You can find your way in the jungle much more easily with a torch, and also it keeps the wild beasts off. The final realization is like when the sun rises and everything everywhere becomes clear. These correspond to the levels of clarity of this deepest layer of the mind.

As it becomes clear, the cosmic inspiration will shine through it more and more, more continuously. Depending on what we’ve concentrated on, it will come in that form. We have to practise for quite a long time. Generally, it’s irritating, because one’s given these examples of cosmic inspiration of people like Beethoven who speaks of it and Goethe who speaks of it, and Toynbee, a great figure of this time. You think, ‘Oh, yes, well, they were wonderful people,’ but it happens to people everywhere, anywhere, who practise. You think, ‘Well, why don’t we hear of them?’ We don’t hear of them, because they are living in calmness and obscurity. Their job doesn’t happen to be one which attracts a lot of public attention.

Such people – it can be an old woman in Japan. People used to go and see her. She hardly ever spoke to them. Hardly said a word. They said they used to go and take a few cakes and just talk to her a little bit but when they came away, they found they got a new courage to face life. Some of the prejudices and the fixed attitudes that they had began to dissolve and loosen. She hardly spoke but from her presence those things happened. There are people like this. You can meet them and then when you come back, something that you’ve been frightened of doing, or you just simply hadn’t had the energy to do, find that you’re able now to do it, to tackle it.

In this way, the cosmic current, the cosmic inspiration shows itself, and it can be recognized. The great meditator sages say that it’s everywhere. The cosmic spirit is everywhere. One such sage was a disciple, he was an Indian judge, and he was the disciple of a teacher, who was a fellow disciple of my own teacher’s teacher. He was known to be a great devotee of God. One of the names of God in India is Shiva, which means ‘the auspicious’, but Shiva is also called ‘thief.’

When judged by Bajnath in court one day, an actual thief was brought up before him. The case was proved, he’d been caught more or less red-handed, he’d been burgling a little shop. In order to get a sort of mitigation of sentence, he tried to use the fact that he knew that the judge was a great devotee, so he said, “I just want to say this. I am a thief. I admit it, but I heard your lordship say, God too is a thief, Shiva is a thief, he’s called thief, isn’t he?” The judge said,  “Well, he’s called a thief because he steals away our sins even without our knowing it.” The thief said, “It’s still stealing, isn’t it? In the little shop, in the middle of the night I was Shiva, playing the thief.”

The judge looked at him and he said, “Reverence to the Lord, in the little shop, in the middle of the night, playing the role of the thief, but here, in my little court, in the middle of the day, he’s playing a different role. Yours is a petty crime, but I’ve got a wide discretion. I feel rising in me the impulse to impose on you the heaviest sentence, because in me, the Lord is playing the role of the mighty protector of the poor. A raised thunderbolt to crush the evil ones.” The thief said, “I withdraw my plea, please treat me like an ordinary human being, not like God.” The judge laughed. He gave him a light sentence.

To see the Lord equally existent everywhere, yes, it doesn’t mean that the behaviour to all these aspects of the Lord is the same, but still, he sees divinity everywhere. One teacher has said this, that if you know somebody very well, you can recognize them from the tiniest thing. If you know somebody very well, you’ll recognize them even from the way they put on their hat. Recognize them for their golf swing at a distance. You’ll recognize them from the tiniest thing, from their handwriting, in all sorts of way you can see, and he said that those who’ve seen the Lord and know Him well, they recognise him in these tiny things, which to other people could be anybody, could be anything, and they are able to see that divinity. That doesn’t mean that their behaviour is always the same to all these different manifestations of the Lord, but they see them and they worship Him, and they cooperate with Him, they’re able to join in with Him.

About inspiration. We can do good and quite often we’ll be very disappointed with the results. One teacher has said that it’s because if I do good when my own deep levels are infected, then I’m liable to pass on the infection. As somebody said, “Well look, if a man’s starving, give him food, that’s the thing. He doesn’t care, the state of the man who gives him the food, he just wants some food.” But no, if the man who’s giving him the food is infected by a disease, then that disease may be passed on. It’s not done automatically. We have to see the whole pattern.

Before Pasteur, in Pasteur’s time, the surgeons did good, they operated, but in actual fact, the scalpels were infected. Pasteur begged the surgeons. He said, “Pass it through a flame before you operate.” “Well. he’s not a doctor. He’s asking us to discard this 300 years experience of surgery. Nonsense!” Pasteur said bitterly, “I didn’t know a man could have so many enemies.” They didn’t know the inner pattern of things. Although they were doing good, they were very often killing the patients to whom they were doing good. They were treating the wounds, but they were infecting the patients as they treated the wound.

To give an example: when they were trying to introduce cholera shot injections into one of the princely states in India. This story was told me by the Prime Minister of that state. He was a spiritual man. He was a Sanskrit scholar, but he was also a most able administrator, and he later became his country’s ambassador to China. He told me, he said, “We wanted to introduce these cholera injections for everybody in the state, but the orthodox Brahmins opposed this, they said, ‘Oh, no this has never been done before. To puncture the skin – unheard of!’ and they mounted a vigorous opposition.” He said, “I could have forced this through, simply made it compulsory and arrested people who resisted. That would have been for the good of the people, but this is not an inspired way of doing things. It isn’t inspired.” He was a man of meditation and of spiritual practise. What he did was, he said, “I got a couple of energetic, young pundits, Sanskrit pundits. I said to them, “I want you to go through the ancient medical texts, Charaka, Sushruta and the others, which are not too much studied. I want you to find if there’s anything like this cholera injection.” The pundits went through the texts. He said, “They came and they told me, it looks as though they had smallpox inoculation in these ancient times. Something like that.” Panikkar said, “Then I called a public debate and I had the orthodox Brahmin opposition and I had these three pundits and we produced the medical texts and we showed them, that far from being something that had never been done before and was absolutely against the tradition, this was something which tradition had done centuries and centuries before these Westerners had ever thought of anything like it.” He said, “Yes, the Indian pundits are willing to follow logic” – he said it a bit reproachfully. He said, “They are willing to follow logic, they enthusiastically supported the thing.”

This was a spiritual way to do it. It was spiritual inspiration. He could have forced it through, and that would have been good for the people, but it would have meant a lot of bitterness, opposition and it would have made the government unpopular and there would have been always this – every time somebody had an inoculation and then fell down and broke his leg or something, people would say, “Oh that’s the inoculation.” It would have been constant friction, but he found a way by entering into the minds of the opposition. He found a way with this route. This is an example of inspiration in a worldly sense, but it’s an example of not setting up this opposition, but trying to fill into the lord on the other side, and then bringing together a unity between the two.

If you begin to see the cosmic pattern of events, you will be able to play your part in it. That part doesn’t mean necessarily some dramatic part. In the case of Panikkar, he was the premier of an important Indian state, but in the smallest of circumstances, like that old woman in Japan I mentioned, she became quite well known that she could by her presence, give courage and calmness and a sort of a generosity of spirit to the people who came to visit her. If somebody is ill, it must be good to treat their illness. Supposing somebody has got  bad feet – the feet don’t heal very well – then it’s right to give a lot of attention to the feet and very carefully look after them and apply the remedies. Then, perhaps the same person develops a rash, again there are ointments and so on which you can put on a rash and these things are good because they’re suffering and you are relieving the suffering to some extent. The same with that person if they have bad eyesight. If the eyesight is getting bad, well then you can do something with glasses and with other methods to preserve the eyesight as much as possible.

These are good actions and they are the ordinary actions of good people, but there’s something else. There is a hidden pattern. As I said before, this is a pattern of diabetes. The feet become bad, rashes develop if it’s not diagnosed, the eyesight is affected. There’s something quite different from treating these three things which is to supply insulin, testing and injecting, or now they can do it orally. There’s a hidden pattern and to come into touch with the awareness of that pattern enables that good to be done in quite a different way. Supposing it’s, for instance, taking tablets as they do now, or can do, some of them. You think, ‘This has got nothing to do with eyes, nothing to do with that rash, nothing to do with the feet.’ Taking tablets; insulin. In the same way, there’s a hidden pattern in the course of events and by our meditations and by our devotions, we can provide the missing element, the missing insulin. Without that, the treatment is of the symptoms and we can treat them and it’s good to treat them in various ways. Not knowing the cause, we think that it’s the particular circumstances and we treat those circumstances, but there’s a deeper cause.

Yoga tells us that if we study, we should be able to concentrate our mind and then if we go into meditation, we should have inspiration and we shall know what we can do to play our part. There are many people who are very anxious. In fact, it’s almost universal now, anxious about what’s going to happen. The better off a community is, the more anxious people seem to be. ‘What are we going to do?’ People try to plan, work out what they would do in this circumstance or that circumstance or the other circumstances. A man who was practising yoga under a teacher said he had this constant anxiety as to what he would do if this happened or what he would do if that happened or how he could meet that contingency or the other contingency. It became endless. He was a sort of a professional worrier. The teacher discovered that this man was an expert swimmer. He said to him once, “I’ve heard there’s something called a racing dive?” The swimmer said, “Oh yes, yes, yes. I’ve been practising.” He said, “Would you show me sometime? I’m interested in it. They come in with a terrific splash that doesn’t seem very efficient, does it?” He said, “They beat the water with one leg to stop themselves from sinking in the water.” “Oh, would you show me?” “Yes, yes, yes I’ll show you.” They went to the baths and the teacher waited while the swimmer changed into his swimming trunks. Then they walked together up the side of the baths towards the end where he was going to demonstrate this dive and the teacher suddenly pushed him in. He shot up and then looked quietly at the teacher. The teacher said, “Oh, my word. That must’ve been very unexpected.” The swimmer said, “Yes, we don’t generally go in the water like that unless of course we’re pushed.” The teacher said, “No, quite, but then in that case, how did you know what to do? What did you do?” The swimmer said, “Well, I don’t know exactly what I did but I came to the surface and came out. I’m a swimmer you see. Well, I don’t know what I did but of course I did it.”

The teacher said, “You don’t know what you did? You’ve never practised it, you’ve never rehearsed it and yet you went down, you recovered so quickly and came up.” He said, “Yes, I’m a swimmer teacher. I’m a swimmer.” The teacher said, “Yes, in the same way, you’ve no need to keep planning and anticipating and worrying and being anxious about what’s going to happen and what you’re going to do, because you’re a meditator. You’ll do the right thing whatever happens because you’re a meditator. However unexpected, unrehearsed it is because you’re a meditator.

Well, these examples are given, they’re very vivid to the people who experience them but sometimes it can also give an idea to us who just hear about them. The meditations were given on: the ‘world is material.’ Then that material is controlled by energy. This is experienced in meditation and seen in the world. Then as mental projection, I myself am a mental projection. Then there’s purpose and I myself am part of that purpose and I should cooperate, become aware of it and cooperate with it. Then what I do will be in consonance with the cosmic flow and there is one more stage, which is bliss. When we become still, when the tangle of thoughts begins to loosen up, we get little glimpses at what’s beyond. When they become separated, the tangle of thoughts cease, then there’s an awareness like the awareness of the blue sky. That awareness can be recognised even in the smallest thing.

If you’d like to try just once more, feel the tangle of thoughts and gradually drop it and sit under the blue sky. OM

Well, I conclude with one of the verses, “He sees who sees the Lord standing equally in all the beings, the undying in the dying.” OM



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