There’s a hospital in Tokyo which treats cases, which are becoming more and more numerous, of a sort of nervous collapse from over-work. Some of them in, for instance, broadcasting, they go on the air at three in the morning and come off duty at nine o’clock that evening. They snatch five hours sleep and then they’re on again. That can go on for three or four days running. So some of them collapse and there have been some cases of death. Everybody gets very nervy in Japanese companies, and there’s a hospital which specialises in treating these things. The director is not at all interested in spiritual things, in Zen, or anything like that. But he said that one of the things that he does for the patients who come in for two or three months (he has a long style of treatment) is that he teaches those who are willing to learn this sitting posture. He said that he has found – and the patients find – that if they sit in it, when they have got comfortable, they begin to become calm. Some of their anxieties and tensions begin to die down.
This confirms the Sutra of Patanjali, and it’s confirmed by the practice of the Yoga which we follow here. Sitting in this posture regularly, for a time, gradually calms the inner tensions and fears and anxieties. The director told me, “… and furthermore some of these patients are sometimes on the cushions for several hours. That’s good for the nurses – they know where the patients are and they know they’re not up to anything.” So although he has no interest in Zen, he is willing to try this and he has found that it is extremely effective as a physical method of treatment – though, of course, it’s not his main treatment.
We’re told that the world is illusory and that we enter into the world and we become identified with it. Here is an example which is not so easily available in the present form, which is a television programme. There are people who get involved in the television series (I don’t watch television myself, but I’ve heard and there are articles about it), and they begin to think that they’re seeing a real world. ‘The Archers’ is one and there’s another called ‘Coronation Street’. The producer of Coronation Street had to apologise because he allowed a much-loved character, who was going to leave the serial, to retire, and the script writer named the actual village in the Midlands to which this character retired. One of the fans went there and started knocking up the residents of the village to find her. He said that if somebody dies, the BBC is sure to get some wreaths – somebody in the television series has died, and they’re getting letters sometimes to one of the characters saying: “I think you ought to know that your wife is carry on with ….” In other words they have entered and are taking part in this thing themselves. There’s a character apparently called Sid Perks who went to London and disappeared there, and some of the fans worked out the sort of place he would visit and looked for him there. It sounds naïve and ridiculous but in fact the Yoga tells us that this is what we’re doing. We too are entering into this.
So there are two positions, one is that people can sit and watch. They may be disturbed by the television programme, although they know it’s unreal. If they see a very well-acted play and if it touches something in themselves, they’re maybe disturbed by it – but they retain the knowledge: “This is really nothing to do with me. This is illusory.” So, in that case, when their awareness is retained of the true self – which is detached entirely from the television serial – when that is retained, then the fan can take his stand on that knowledge. Not to think or watch the programme for a bit, but to think: “I am free. I’m nothing to do with it. I’m free.”
But [there are others] who have actually begun to act, who are going to the television centre, trying to warn some character or looking for them somewhere, or sending wreaths or, if one character has migraines, they send up migraine cures. Now if people are writing things like that, or sending wreaths, they have lost the sense of being separate and they are themselves taking part in it. For these people the Yoga says they are Karma Yoga – they’re taking part in this unreal world. Shankara says this is the position of most of us – we are taking part in the world. For us it is no use to say, “I am separate from the world” because I feel that I’m actually in it. I feel that I ought to help somebody who’s in trouble, who has migraine. “I have a good migraine cure. I ought to send it up. I must do that.”
For those people, they have to go into the fact that this is a serial – and one of the best methods is to go to the actual studios (which you can do) and see it being put on. There you can see the actors putting on the make-up – and when an actor seems to die here, “Later on you’ll see him walking up!” This might be equivalent to the eleventh chapter of the Gita in which Arjuna has a vision of the whole world scenario with the apparent life and the apparent death and the changes. At first he’s terribly shocked because he’s thought of all this as real, but then gradually he comes to see that it’s unreal – that it’s not something that has any effect on him at all. It’s meant to entertain, to please, but it’s become a bondage. He frees himself by first of all realising that it’s unreal and then, when he’s realised that it’s unreal, he can sit and then to watch it if he wants to watch it. He can know that he is free – nothing to do with the unreal happenings there.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 4: World as an illusion
Part 5: Powerful effects of the unreal