Yoga – Introductory talk and Independence

The inner peace means an ability to stand apart from the body and the mind and their energies, and to control them in peace, to be able to be tremendously active, and then to be able to stop and relax in serenity, to be able to speak and to be able to be silent for days and weeks together, to be able to move the body energetically and to be able to sit quite still. This is what’s meant by inner peace. It isn’t just keeping still in a passive way. This is not peace. Very often when people are still, they’re boiling inside.

Now, it has a positive and a negative aspect.

The positive aspect is a realization of a new dimension within ourselves, new for most of us, although many people have had little flashes of an intuition of something beyond their ordinary thought and feelings and experience. They’ve had an intuition, but it just passes. This means that they’re beginning to search for some way out of behaving like marionettes, simply acting according to reflexes.

With most of us, our actions can be predicted. We are furious when they are predicted. When our friends say, “I knew you would say that, you always say that. The moment he got up to say that, we knew you’d oppose him.” You think, “What? I’m a marionette? No!” I think, ‘Yes, I always do,’ but there’s something free and creative within us, which doesn’t have to bow and be controlled by the external circumstances. This is the positive aspect: to make serious attempts to penetrate to the roots of the mind where the thoughts come from, to go beyond that.

The negative aspect is not to be completely controlled by the events of the world. This is the negative side, and it means to obtain a sort of independence. In the yoga theory, you’ll hear about this. There’s a certain amount of theory in yoga, but the main thing is practice, but there is a certain amount of theory. One of the practices is to try to become independent of small things in life, not to be put off by trivialities, not to keep grasping after toys, ‘I must have the latest car which has got a switch so that the windows will come up and down and the boot will open electronically. I must have it. The other people have got it.’ These are trivialities.

To be able to become independent of them is a great yogic practice. If one has to be in a draught, try to shut the window, try to remain out, but if one has to be in a draught, then not to be upset by it, to be able to drop the shoulders. ‘Well, I’m going to be cold for the next 20 minutes,’ but to be able to accept that and to be in a draught, not to be upset by it. The positive side means special periods of meditation in which we try to go deeper into ourselves. Now, the texts such as this text, “I am Truth, I’m immortal, blissful,” these are flatly contrary to our experience.

My teacher used to recommend the study of history because he said you can find examples of the yogic principles in a limited way in history. In the 16th century, in one of the great European courts, the king died and the son was only a child. The queen, a very ambitious and able woman was made the regent. Of course, she dominated the future king, the heir. Then when he was 16 or 17, he was declared of age and he was crowned, but she still dominated him. He was what we call now a late developer. He was still completely under the control of his mother, the queen.

He signed everything as king, but he was completely controlled by her. Then one day after the council meeting at which he’d signed several of these orders, one of the generals stayed behind. This late developer boy said to the general, “Am I really the king? The general said, “Look, all these papers, you sign these papers. We address you ‘Your Majesty’.” He said, “Yes, but am I really king?” He had to do everything his mother told him. The general said, “You are.” He said, “If I signed an order now, would you do it?” The general looked at him. He said, “Yes, Your Majesty, I should.” The king scribbled an order and the general carried it out. From that time, he ruled as king.

Now, although he had all these addresses and these papers which he signed as king, he couldn’t actually realize that he was free, in fact, from his mother. In a little bit the same way, our teacher said, “We feel we are dominated by the circumstances, completely controlled by them, but as a matter of fact, there is an independence within us, which, if it’s exercised will take us beyond that control.” There is something in us which doesn’t die. When everything dies. My thoughts are dying, the things around us are dying, the affections are dying, finally, the body dies, but there’s something which doesn’t die. “He sees,” says the Gita, “who sees the Lord standing the undying in the dying.”

One of the aims of yoga is to realize this immortal, something immortal in our dying selves. When that’s realized, then there is freedom. The general will not obey the young king until he sees that he is able, that he has really ceased to be a child and really can administer the kingdom, then they will.

In the same way, when we free ourselves from our childish preoccupations – they don’t seem childish to us – our ambitions, our affections, they don’t seem childish at all – but something in us looks for something beyond that. We find that all the balancing, and the manoeuvering, and the arranging, and the successes of the world don’t bring us what we wanted. We have to practise meditation in which the mind is brought to a relative stillness. Then the needle point of the meditation in that calm can make out something, which is, first of all, only a glimpse, but finally will become a living freedom presence within us.

The negative side is to become free, not to clutch and think, ‘Oh, this I must have. This is essential for my happiness. I couldn’t live without that. I can’t go on without that.’ Sometimes a physical example is convincing. Now, I have a rod here. Something which is quite useful. This is a roller that can be used. You can hang a scroll from it. People like myself who do a lot of ruling, this can be a very broad, wide ruler. This is something very useful to me. I hold it and it’s useful. But supposing I begin to think, ‘I must have this. I must have this.’ When someone tries to take it away, when somebody pulls, pulls, I can hold it. If I’m strong, they can’t get it away from me. But there is a means by which, however strong I am, if the leverage is applied, then however powerful I am I shall be forced down. If I persist my wrist will be broken. However strong I am holding onto that, if I persist that leverage will throw me forward, throw me out of balance completely. This is something useful, I have it. But if, when it’s going to be taken away, when I realize it’s gone, I let it go then I retain my balance. My wrist is all right, it doesn’t hurt. I’m free of it.

If I clutch, if I clutch onto this, the time is going to come when life will twist this, and if still I can’t be independent of it, it will throw me forward into a mass of despair and sorrow. Sometimes these physical examples can be quite a useful thing, to be able to use this, hold it, employ it, but  when the time comes for it to go, then let it go. People hang on to relationships, to their children, “Oh, don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.” “No, go.” Then they will come back. If we hold on and hold on and hold on, we’re thrown finally into the mud.

This is the negative side, to become free from the attachments. Doesn’t mean not to use the things, not to see them, not to meet the people, not to be fond of people. It means not to be clutchingly dependent on them so that when life twists them out of our grip, we’re thrown forward. These are the two main aspects; the positive, at the special meditation time to penetrate to the source of our being. Then ordinary life – to become independent and free of the relations with the world. Not to become dependent on them, not to have clutching attachment which I can’t release.

We don’t have wild monkeys here, but you know how they’re trapped in India, the nuts are put into the bottle and the monkey puts his hand in to get the nuts, and then because his hand has become big by holding the nuts, he can’t get it out, but he can never think of releasing the nuts. Once he’s got them in his grip, he can’t release them. He’s trapped and can’t get away.

A little bit in the same way, we are trapped sometimes by the possessions of life, sometimes by relations, sometimes by meaningless habits. The advertisements forced on us, desires, which we don’t really have, but which are, so to speak, the orders of that queen mother who dominated her son. He felt he was completely under her control, but there was something in him that could become free.

Now, the yoga practices we do, some of them are to remove the attachment, to be able to see that as the things come up, ‘This is something which has an element of illusion in it. They’re not real.’ Then we can enjoy them as we enjoy a play, but when we see in King Lear Gloucester’s eyes put out, we don’t scream as we should scream if it was real. It’s a terrible tragedy, but we can enjoy it because we are not caught in it.

It doesn’t mean we turn our back on it and walk away, but in the same way, “Life,” our teacher used to say, “can only really be appreciated by people who are free.” Free to act, free to cease from act, free to be engaged in something and free to stop. Not perpetually moving. A good athlete is not perpetually moving. He’s capable of these very intense bursts of energy, but he knows how to relax. If you see a pianist at a concerto waiting for his entry, you’ll see he’s relaxed. Then the conductor looks at him. Then he comes in and he has this wonderful display of precision and energy, but he can relax completely. Yoga helps us to train for this kind of freedom.

There’s one thing more, that when the meditation goes deep enough, there begins to become an inspiration. It begins to become inspirational and we become aware of the purpose, the purposes in the universe. We can cooperate with them. Instead of our actions circling around our small selves to gain petty advantages for protection, we’re able to move forward in harmony with the lines, how much the universe is moving, on which the divine purpose is moving. We can cooperate with that.

This is meant to be just a brief introductory talk. You’ll hear about some of the specific methods later on, but it’s very much like musical gardening. The only thing that matters actually is to practise, to put the things into practice.



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