A point brought out by our teacher, not stressed in the Gita itself, though is there, was: creativity. Yoga must make us creative. He used to give examples from the history of science and literature of extraordinary inspirations and told us to look out for them. One such, which happened after he died was a great discovery by the physicist Enrico Fermi. His name is commemorated in the famous Fermi lab in America and a fundamental particle is named after him, the fermion. In an interview with Chandrasekhar, another noted physicist, he said, “I will tell how I came to make what people say is my greatest discovery, the results we were getting from the path of neutrons were not making sense. And then suddenly the idea came to me let me put a bit of lead in front of the path of neutrons. So I had this idea but I was very fussy about the lead, and when they brought me a piece of lead to do it I said, No I want this machined. There was no possible reason why I wanted it shaped and I sent it back three times, there was something in me that did not want that lead and then finally I had to have it back, they had done everything required of them, and then suddenly a thought came, “No I don’t want a piece of lead I want a piece of paraffin wax”, and I got hold of any old piece of wax that was lying around and that gave the clue.” And he said, “There was no prior thought, there was no logical cause or reason for it.” It wasn’t just a question of trying things at random, it was something that prompted him to do that.
Our teacher used to give this sort of example, but of course we used to say: “We are not famous physicists, we are not these wonderful people. You can’t expect this sort of thing from ordinary people.” But he said “No the ordinary people can have these inspirations”. And in public lectures, he said, “People here, everyone here, can think the thoughts of Plato and of Shakespeare, they will not necessarily express it with the same brilliance, but if the inspiration comes from the cosmic mind, the inspiration will come through the channels that are there in them. If they meditate and come into contact with that mind they will be inspired.
Now as an example at the end of the war Japan was in ruins. It was the custom that the Emperor on New Year’s day would give a poem, something like the Queen’s Christmas message in Britain today. That Emperor, Hirohito who died not long ago was a scientist, a marine biologist, and became an Honorary Member of our Royal Society for his work on some pacific marine crabs. He was not distinguished as a poet at all but he had to present a poet to a country in ruins, under an allied occupation, largely American. It did do some good but it was also a heavy burden, and there was a lot of corruption, as was later admitted. Some commentators thought that Japan would never recover, and would have to become a sort of lotus-land for tourists.
Now this undistinguished figure in the world of poetry was inspired to make a poem which became famous though it was in very simple words:
‘Under the weight of snow,
The pine tree keeps its green,
This poem was an inspiration to the people. Many observers thought they would never recover, but the poem telling them ‘under the heavy snow of the Occupation the green of the pine, spirit of the people, remains hidden by the snow but is always there, and finally the snow will melt and the green show itself.’
This was a famous poem which was written by an ordinary man, and our teacher used to recite an example of some of these poems he said, ‘they were in very simple language and the ordinary people can write them and they can have inspiration.’ There is one poem which was written by a woman on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday. On the Buddha’s birthday in the temples there was a hall of flowers and the little image of the newborn Buddha was put in the middle.
The poem was:
‘Decorate the flower hall,
the flower hall is your own heart.
Listen to the cry of the newly born Buddha in it.’
This was a famous poem with very simple language which was written by one of the attendants at a small temple near Kyoto.
Well then another poem a short one which can be of a great help to us, as when our teacher said we are overwhelmed with a torrent of abuse and hatred and false rumours about us, they will hate you and curse you, they will circulate rumours around.
The poem is
‘we sweep up the leaves in the courtyard every day
but we do not hate the trees for dropping them,’
and the Indian proverb is
what is in it?’
and this venom of slander and spite comes from people, like the trees dropping the leaves. We sweep it up, we ignore it on the ground but we try not to hate the trees for dropping it.
Well now another point which he thought out is about doing good and this accusation is often made by missionaries that ‘you Westerners bring your Christian morality even when you are not believing Christians any more, you bring your Christian morality with you and then when you study yoga, or Buddhism, or something like that, you assume that there is Christian morality. Then there is the yoga doctrine, or Buddhist doctrine, on top of that when in fact the morality isn’t there.’ Now to make a point in Chapter 13 of the Gita verses 7 to 11 there are twenty qualities which are given to acquire knowledge, they are themselves called knowledge because they are the means of knowledge. Now if we read the list, we’ll just read it now, and notice where does it ever say in this list do some good to somebody:
This is to acquire knowledge.
Now our teacher compared this to a school boy who wanted to do good but he can’t do good, he can do a little, but if he studies hard and becomes a skilled engineer then he can offer his services to his community and he can do great good and he gave an example. Some Indian villagers lived near a swamp and of course there was malaria there because the flies bred in the swamp, and one way of doing good was to nurse the sick with malaria, that was one way, but the other thing was skilled engineering to drain the swamp and then the malaria disappeared. He gave that example. He said the yoga is to qualify ourselves by being able to do good by taking the root of the evil out and not simply by patching up the effects.
The people who are making wars all over the world are not starving, there is a feeling if only the poor could be fed all would be well when they become well fed, that’s just it. No, not at all, as Mother Teresa said ‘we may be starving in the East but somehow we get by, but you in the West are spiritual starving and you do not get by.’ People now are plagued with anxiety more and more, people are committing suicide, but yoga, our teacher said, ‘is the remedy,’ and this is the true gift. Now when those people say ‘well those qualities leading to knowledge don’t say anything about doing good to anyone.’ No, but the seventeenth chapter of the Gita contains the three pillars of yoga, gift is one, tapas – austerity is another and sacrifice or worship is the third, and he says, ‘gift, the material gift, yes it exists, but this is not the fundamental thing. It can rectify the immediate situation but it will reoccur again. Life is a suffering, you can mitigate the suffering but not cure it. The second gift is the gift of courage, but the third gift, which he said is the gift of yoga, is the gift of wisdom, he said this is the gift for which the world is starving.
Well now coming to the actual text again one of the points that our teacher stressed is there is a tendency to psychologise everything and to make the yogic experiences into merely psychological experiences, to make the yoga guide to deal with simply the higher aspirations of man. Not God made man in his image, but man has made God in his image, and he said to take the holy text as what they clearly say. Well, ‘I can’t accept all of this. I can accept some of it but not this, this doesn’t agree with what our teacher says, with conclusions of modern scientist or with common sense or practical experience, or my actual experience. So I will set this aside.’ Now for instance of the great vision in chapter eleven that this was a subjective vision of Arjuna, he passed into a state in which he saw this vision of the whole universe, it is clearly subjective but the Gita itself directly contradicts that because it was seen by somebody else, it was seen by Sanjaya, and at the end of the Gita the point is reinforced Sanjaya says, ‘when I think back to that wonderful vision I am in ecstasy.’ So the Gita itself makes it clear this was not simply a subjective experience it was an experience of Arjuna, but it was also seen by others.
In the same way even St. Paul’s experience at Damascus was not simply subjective, there are three accounts of it. He was overwhelmed by this light, it blinded him and then he heard the voice, but there were others there who saw the light or heard the voice, it was not simply a subjective experience, and we have to be prepared to give up some of the restrictions on our thinking which are artificially imposed and this has happened in the past. One of the reasons that Newton did not want to publish his researches into gravity was that he was accused by his opponent, and he did not like controversy, of resuscitating medieval occultism. In those days, in his time, the theory was things fell to earth because invisible particles came from space and pressed us all down to earth, things moved because invisible particles drove them along.
There had been some difficulties to explain where did the invisible particles come from, but they thought ‘well that just happened, that’s natural, it’s a fact,’ and then Newton came with a mysterious force acting at a distance. As his opponent said ‘ghostly fingers stretching out through space to catch hold of it.’ A fantasy! Well they had to change but it is worth realising they felt things moved because they were pushed. This idea of invisible forces pulling things couldn’t be explained, quite fantastic, not scientific at all. Well it is worth remembering that because the text, not merely of the Gita but for instance the ….. , will say that the identification with OM do correspond to internal states but they also correspond to external identifications, and when someone goes into Samadhi on OM as the whole of the waking state, everything physical, then he becomes what is shown in that eleventh chapter of the Gita. Well we can say that this is patently absurd. Someone sitting in a little room, in a little seat in England, a little island on a little planet, on a not very prominent galaxy, and you are saying that they have consciousness of the whole universe from the most distant star from which the light takes a hundred thousand years to reach it, it is patently absurd and therefore it is poetic. Well this is the view of the science of 1920, but as the Quantum Frontier Group have said if we have to come to terms with Science we have to come to terms with up to date science. Now let us read from a commentary of 1998 less than two years ago:
Non-locality described the way in which the behaviour of a quantum entity such as an electron is affected not only by what is going on at one point (the ‘locality’ of the entity), but also by events that are going on at other places (other localities), which may in principle be far away across the Universe. These non-local influences occur instantaneously, as if some form of communication, which Albert Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’, operates not just faster than the speed of light, but infinitely fast.
It is important to appreciate that the non-local nature of the quantum world has been demonstrated in experiments.
An electron here is in eastern communication with an electron on the other side of the Universe. Well that is equally absurd and incredible if it wasn’t for the experiments as they say we could never believe it and in the same way in yoga if it wasn’t for the experiment you couldn’t believe these things. Now the experiments are given and we heard them in yoga training but as an example:
Understanding the meaning of the word OM, and sitting in a secluded place, if you repeat this holy word rhythmically and slowly and concentrate your mind on it, then after a practice, in some cases of a few months and in some cases a few years, your mind passes into a state of consciousness which is not only quite different from the state of our daily consciousness, but much more luminous and highly superior. No other yoga is needed; if this one practice is carried out you can succeed in having the higher wisdom, the wisdom which is the third eye of man wisdom which brings man into relationship with reality. He needs three things to acquire proficiency in yoga: moral discipline, mental discipline, and meditation on OM.