Throw away the thoughts as they come up
Throw away the thoughts as they come up. Finally the thoughts will become fewer and, finally, selfishness will be discarded just for a short time. Then there’s a peace, momentarily.
In that peace he can become aware of what they call, or what I translate very roughly, something like ‘The Buddha current in the world’. There is a current of the Buddha nature in the world, which is seeking to express itself in awe, in the grass and the trees, in the mountains and the streams and the animals and the human beings. To come into touch with that current means the actions will become spiritually effective. You can say, “Well, they’re just sitting there in a room, one person by himself.” You might think of something vaguely clever that might turn out to be wrong.
One example that is given is this. You know about a magnet, you can hang a magnet by a thread and the Romans used to do this, they were natural magnets. It will oscillate for a long time and this will give us direction. In the Burma jungles in the cheap lighters they had, so cheap that they weren’t worth stealing. They had a tiny, little compass at the end which was concealed under the cotton wool. That told the man if it was cut off where he was in the jungle. Slowly this will settle to tell which is north and south.
If there’s anything metal near it, it will be distorted. Once the passions come in, attraction, repulsion. Attraction and repulsion, when hatred and desire come in they will throw out this delicate inner instrument of precision. Then, the direction which will be given will be the direction of our passions, or our hatreds. We think we can navigate and we think this is the true north, but it isn’t. So, the ship will end on the rocks. Well, we can say, “Oh well, this is a theory. What sort of demonstration are you going to have of it?” Well, illustrations are given.
In the west we are generally convinced by the extraordinary scientific discoveries which depend on inspiration. In the east they’re not so impressed by those. They say that people can guess. In the east they’re more impressed by masterpieces of art that can’t be copied. In the west we tend to say, “Well, after all, who is to say it is a masterpiece?” If you take a man like Rutherford who lived a very pure life, as he said, “I live like a monk.” He voluntarily chose poverty and he could have patented and made a fortune as Kelvin told him.
Now, one of his major discoveries arose when he was shooting the alpha particles through gold foil, it’s recorded in all the books. Out of this prolonged meditation and this very pure life, suddenly this inspiration rose. Now there are examples in the art and so on and we think, “Well, we’re in the art world and we’re not scientists and we’re not artists.” You come back from school or whatever it is and then they have the evening meal, and then the boy has got to go upstairs and study, or into his room and study. The parents watch television. They turn it down but he knows it’s on.
After a bit he gets fed up, especially when it comes to autumn and winter and it’s getting cold. They have heating but it’s still rather cold and draughty and they’re sitting there watching it, and you’ve got to study. Then he starts staying on a bit to watch the television himself, and then some evenings he doesn’t study and it begins to collapse. There’s a Zen illustration. In Japan at a Japanese traditional inn you have a private room of your own and the maid brings the meals. One day the maid comes in and she brings the meal, and as she goes out she’s tired and overworked and she doesn’t shut the door properly.
So, a self-made business man who works hard himself and doesn’t see why others shouldn’t, he yells out, “Shut the door.” She comes back. A scholar, he calls out, “Shut the door. Please shut the door would you?” “Oh yes, Sir.” She comes back and she shuts the door. Somebody who has done some Zen gets up and shuts it himself. How does that apply to the A levels the boy studies, how do you apply this? It’s never been made by gangsters assuming power, even though they were successfully protecting the people in the trade groups and so on.
Finally, a real Buddhist, the Emperor Ashoka assumed the throne. He’d been a conqueror and then he became a Buddhist. Then, he decided to rule by dharma, by righteousness. Even the rather sceptical H G Wells, in his ‘Old History of the World’, he reckoned this was one of the high water marks of human achievement, or human life, the Indian empire and Ashoka. He had a welfare state and maternity benefits and hospitals for animals, and the trees were planted along the long roads and the rails were dug. These great edicts were put on stone and raised.
When there were important transfers of land of gifts to the people, for instance a big school and playground that was engraved on stone. Documents can be destroyed or forged, but not a great big stone thing that everybody sees each day. It’s a good idea and a clever idea, that on a large scale. The empire didn’t last forever because the passion of one of the queens who fell in love with the eldest son of the king, when her love was not returned she arranged that he should be blinded. The natural successor was knocked out. It was a high water mark and it showed what could be done.
There was no religious persecution and he made the donations equally, even to the atheists. There were sets of atheists and he made donations to them too. There was absolute freedom of discussion and freedom of thought, and freedom of speech. It was very successful. The Buddha’s main point was that the peace must come in our own heart otherwise there will be no inspiration. I may have the best will in the world to do good, but in the end, the less my heart has been pacified, the good that I do will be dictated by my passion and it will be counter-productive.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 2: He said, “I had real power once