The yoga is meant, not for trivialities of life. It’s meant for when I suffer a severe accident and lose an arm; it’s meant for when my daughter goes on the hard drugs; when my son joins a criminal gang; when I’m going to be thrown out of my house; when perhaps I’m going to become a refugee. It’s for these occasions that we study yoga. A modern yogi, with a sense of humour, he used to say: ‘It’s no use studying swimming when the ship is going down. You should have studied long ago and learnt to swim before you got on the ship’. In the same way he said: ‘Now, while circumstances are favourable, practice meditation – enough to gain a certain independence of the world and then when the crisis comes, that will come to you’. It must have strength. We can have theories and believe in them, but they have no strength.
Now, for instance, there are people who are frightened of travelling by air. If you show them the figures, that you’ve got about the same chance of being killed in an air accident as you have of being struck by lightning – but you don’t worry, when you go out and it’s raining, that you’re going to be killed by lightning – you never think of it. They will accept that. When they’re shown the figures, they’ll accept it theoretically. But it has no strength, they still can’t get on the aircraft. If they think it right through, spend an afternoon thinking through what it actually means, what these risks are – then it’ll have strength and they will be able to travel by air when it’s necessary for them to, without this feeling,‘Oh, something’s going to happen’.
The outline of the general conduct in daily life is one of the important bases on which to practice meditation. Unless our conduct is reasonably in accordance with what we shall discover in meditation, then it’ll be difficult to go into meditation. And there are four principles which, to Westerners, are rather surprising. The first one is friendliness, the second one, compassion; the third one, a sort of cheerfulness at other people’s good fortune, which is rated a very high virtue and the fourth one is to become, to overlook, to become indifferent to, what is bad, what is wrong.
Looking at them in turn: maitri – friendliness. Not friendship, because if friendship, if I’m a friend with someone I must take their side, even if they’re wrong, and friendliness is not that, it’s friendliness to all. To be friendly but not to be committed to my friend, right or wrong, my country, right or wrong, my family, right or wrong. To be able to see that there’s something higher. Now, one example that’s given is this. If there are two rigid hooks, they lock together, and if you are here, your mind is like a rigid hook on a particular point or a particular relationship. You can be caught and drawn along, drawn away.
But if your mind is loose and flexible, then although the other hook will try to draw you, it won’t succeed. Without committing ourselves to something which is transient and passing and unreliable in the world; to be friendly, but not to commit ourselves to friendship to something passing. From the opening verse it said: ‘He sees, who sees the Lord standing equally in all the beings’. The Lord is wearing, so to say, different masks, different make up. If we commit ourselves to the masks, the masks will change and we shall be bitterly disappointed. But if we can see through the masks, to see something divine standing there, and see that – not infer it, not guess it, not hope for it, not have faith that it’s there – but to see, then the relationship will be with the divinity which is in the person, not to the changing personality.
maitri = friendliness, pleasantness, lovingness
karuna = compassion, mercy mudita = gladness, goodwill
upekshanam = acceptance, equanimity, indifference, disregard, neutrality
sukha = happy, comfortable, joyous punya = virtuous, meritorious, benevolent
bhavanatah = by cultivating habits, by constant reflection, developing attitude, cultivating,
impressing on oneself
prasadanam = purified, clear, serene, pleasant, pacified, undisturbed, peaceful, calm.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 3: Truths can be found
Part 4: Purify your own mind
Part 5: He sees, who sees the Lord