Nearly everybody who practices meditation will have some unusual experience
Nearly everybody who practices meditation will have some unusual experience. For instance, they will know that something which is very unlikely is nevertheless about to happen. They have some such experience of predictive power but they also find it passes. The basis of the universe and our experience is not something which is absolutely fixed. It is consciousness adapting itself to particular regulations. It has regularities, but those are regularities imposed by consciousness and the example given is that the things of the world are like notes of music. The musicians play the notes on the score in front of them. You know what they are going to play, you can predict it, but that does not mean the musician is just a machine. When you get a tape of a concert by say, The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karajan, his name is there but however carefully you listen you will never hear Karajan. He doesn’t strike a note. Well, what is he there for? Many people who are not musicians do not know why. The players have got the score, they’ve got the tempo marks, why don’t they just play?
If you have ever played in an orchestra, especially when you were very young, you will understand. Your score has a rest of about eighteen bars until you next come in; you are counting the bars: one, two, three, four… and then you notice that the music is slipping on the stand. You put it right but you forget whether you are at bar five or four and you think six, seven, should I be at eight… You try to get a clue from the sound but cannot. Will I come in too soon? Others are following me; suppose I come in too late!
You will start sweating. You look desperately at the conductor but he seems unconcerned, his beat never wavers. He is looking into the air. Suddenly the conductor turns and looks directly at you for a bar, then his baton points at you and brings you in. Then you know what the conductor is for. You also know that without the conductor the performance would soon be a shambles. Somebody would make a wrong entry then another would follow but others would follow the original score.
And it has happened. Conductors have lost control over an orchestra and it was a shambles. Debussy was a very poor conductor and when he came over to London in 1912 to conduct one of his suites, he did precisely that. The piece called Fête has many quick changes and Debussy failed to give some of the essential cues and part of the orchestra finished before the other part. The audience sat in stunned silence thinking that this, incredibly, was the new music that they’d heard about. Then Sir Henry Wood, he was plain Henry Wood in those days, stood up with great courage and cried, ‘Encore, encore.’ Then the orchestra took it up, followed by the audience, ‘Encore, encore.’ They played it again, this time Debussy giving the right cues and there was wild applause. That’s what conductors are for.
Now the world has a conductor and without that it would degenerate into chaos. Even our modern physics tells us that. If you read a modern text book about the conceptual basis of Quantum Mechanics it will tell you that irregularities of the world cannot be explained. We do not know how the underlying chaos, as it is now known to be, is brought into the relative order which we see. It will say that possibly consciousness has to be evoked. And Penrose in his book “The Emperor’s New Mind” calls it the unknown physics that brings the underlying chaos into order. Miracles we think can’t happen, but they do happen. We have little experiences in our ordinary life. Why don’t they happen more often? If we consider, we find that miracles have a paralysing effect. The Jewish defenders of Jerusalem when it was attacked by the Romans actually fought each other. One of the things they fought about was whether it was right to fight on the Sabbath day. It is incredible, but they thought that God will never let Jerusalem fall. He’s got to preserve his holy city, he’s got to….. John of Gischala, who led the breakaway part who was fighting the defenders when he was captured, was taken in chains and paraded as a Roman triumph.
God will not do by miracles what we can do for ourselves. And we can see this in ordinary life. A Japanese student whom I knew well, was a wonderful Judo man and was the captain of his university. In Japan at that time, not now of course, the athletics champions were pushed through the exams fairly easily. He told me, that his English had been weak. In his exam, there would be a question from the sixty page English reader. The examiners would choose one paragraph and this would have to be translated into Japanese. That was the main test; it was a sizeable book which had to be studied. Now which paragraph would come? The book was about foreign countries and one of these was Britain.
One day, as he was gloomily leafing through this book, one of the professors came up and put his hand on his shoulder and said, “Well I see you are reading the book. Interesting isn’t it? I see you go running on your training in the mornings, but in Tokyo the air is not so good. They have it much better in London, it seems you can walk through parks from one edge of London into the middle of London, as it says in the book.”
The student rightly understood this to be a hint that the paragraph on the London parks would be the one which would come in the exam. So he learnt the Japanese translation of that paragraph by heart. It did indeed come in the examination. But the examiners had cut off the last sentence which had a couple of unusual words in it. The student told me that when he had the oral examination one of the examiners said to him “You have given a perfect translation of the paragraph which was set but you also gave the Japanese for two extra lines which did not come into the paper.” The student told me how he looked down in embarrassment and said nothing. But they passed him just the same. That was a miracle but it did not improve his English at all.
When he later came to London I insisted he study English which he did, and as I provided no miracles he had to work. Then he showed his ability and he became good at English. He was the leader and interpreter of several groups of Japanese Judo men who went to Australia and Canada. So his hard work brought out this ability which the miracles had not. He did the hard work with me standing over him. But the miracle did his English no good whatever.
Miracles can also be concealed. If we observe carefully we may see something of them but they do not interfere with what we can do ourselves. We are left with the responsibility for our own actions and results. We can say, “Well, what about the sufferings in the world?” The sufferings in the world are due partly to my own failings and we have to recognise, if we are Yogis, we can by meditation change the cosmic causal basis of the world. On the physical plain we are tiny, but on the causal plain we are much larger, much greater, and the essence in us if it is concentrated and focussed can make great changes.
Going Beyond Practice
We can practise and practise but the time comes when we have to go beyond practice. Patanjali says meditation has to be concentrated and when it becomes familiar to us, it reaches a point when the memories drop away, when the associations drop away, and there is a sudden calmness of the mind. There is only the object of meditation brilliantly shining out and the meditation gives up its own nature – I am meditating -as it were. As an example, suppose I decide to meditate on endurance because there is a difficulty in life I do not know how to meet. The present position is: “I can’t stand it!” The theme of the meditation is that there is something in me which is not affected by circumstances. I try to find that inner thing which is not moved, not changed. I have to keep bringing the mind back, keep bringing the mind back. But a time comes when the mind will remain on this consciousness of something which isn’t moving, isn’t changing. Isn’t effected when the mind and body are effected, isn’t dying when the mind and the body are dying.
It comes and at first it’s steady for only a time. But there is a stage beyond that when in the ordinary hurly-burly of life when I’m in circumstances that normally upset me, suddenly there is a calm and I am not disturbed by them, not frightened by them, not made triumphant by success in them. There is something calm and peaceful.
In Upanishadic times, the role of the brahmin was to know how to conduct sacrifices, and to teach and speak the Truth. The knowledge of the sacrifice was an important role because the sacrifices were effective in creating collective concentration on a desired object. So some teachers were careful that the knowledge should be restricted to the Brahmin class, and not become available to others motivated not by truth but by desire for power. So these teachers would ask an applicant about his lineage.
In one Upanishad, a brahmin woman is obliged to serve several men of different classes, and when a son is born she does not know which one is the father.
When the boy grows up he feels an impulse to study under a brahmin teacher who first asks him, who was his father. The boy knows that unless he can show that the father was a brahmin he will not be accepted. Nevertheless he says: “Sir, my mother told me that she served several men of different classes and did not know which of them was my father.”
The teacher says, “Only a brahmin would speak out so. I will take you as my pupil.”
This is a story which was told by my teacher. It is a traditional story but it indicates that we practice telling the truth but the real time comes when the truth is using the temporary body and mind to declare itself. Now we tend to think in material terms – there is this, and this, and this is limited to this, and this. But the truth is that within every person there is something of a divine power but it is not concentrated and focussed. As you know a piece of iron is full of little magnets but as they all point in different directions they cancel each other. Consequently, the iron is not magnetised. But when they are all pointing in the same direction then the bar of iron becomes a powerful magnet.
In the same way, in many of us the different elements conflict with each other and so they neutralise each other; our total effectiveness is not nothing but it is small. We tend to go by the strongest impulse of the strongest desire of the moment. If they can be organised, however, so that they all point in one direction, then those, so as to speak, can have the effect of a magnetic field far beyond any physical limitations. We are told that we can, by our meditations and concentration, make a difference to the cosmic background of the world and this is one of the reasons why we study to make ourselves a focus. The study of the holy texts must be done in the way described, penetrating the riddles in them. In the Zen school they deliberately present riddles that can’t be answered intellectually. They are very good for catching the mind: two hands make a clap but what is the sound of one hand? The form of the answer may leak out, but the solution is not a bare form. When this riddle is solved it is not a question of spouting out some answer but the whole life changes. The riddles which Jesus set, if they are solved or partially solved, will have an effect on our whole life. There will be a new life, as He said.
A doubt comes up: “Modern science cannot accept these mythological statements about miracles, for instance. Moreover, the same texts which declare the supreme universal consciousness also speak of miracles. Since miracles are discredited so the whole text is discredited.”
We come out with things like that because we are not actually studying the famous modern science! Hume said of miracles: is it easier to believe that the laws of nature are broken and that miracles occur or are people lying when they say they have seen them? Which is easier to believe: that the laws cannot be broken or to believe that miracles can occur?
When Hume died in 1776, the laws of nature concerning light as recorded in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica published in 1771 in his own city of Edinburgh were that it consisted of particles, according to Newton, and not waves (according to Huyghens). Neverthless, when Hume looked at a lamp reflected in a slightly dusty mirror he would have seen fringes around the image. We all know this effect, we see it in the street often, street lights have a fringe. The law of nature as known to Hume was light consisted of particles. But reflected particles cannot produce a fringe, that’s a wave interference. So every time Hume saw, and he must have seen it a good many times, an oil lamp reflected in a dusty mirror he would have seen a fringe, he would have seen one of the laws of nature being overturned.
When sceptics argue: “the laws of nature don’t allow for it”, they always slip something in, like a conjuror slipping a card in, and that something, that card, is that we completely know the laws of nature. We are beginning to realise now that we don’t and perhaps in principal as Bohr successfully maintained against Einstein, that we never will.
© 1998 Trevor Leggett
Previously ” Orchestra and Conductor”