Yoga, Zen and Peace (part 1)
‘Yuktah’ is from ‘Yoga’, and the sense of yoga is to yoke, to rein in, to hold in. Yoga also means a method. It’s an ordinary Sanskrit word for a method. So, it’s not a theoretical thing; it’s a method for reining in the mind and focusing it, and then from that inspiration arises. When inspiration arises, and he practises meditation, those meditations will have what is called efficient force, bhavana, causing things to become and when the meditations reach that point, then there can be peace within and that begins to affect the peace without.
Peace without, depends on peace within. One teacher remarked, he said, you know if you got all the wealth in the world and you spread out it out evenly over everyone, as though you were spreading butter on a huge slice of bread so that everyone got an absolutely fair share, within 25 years the inequalities would be greater than they are today. The strong, the beautiful, and the cunning would get everything. A lot of people in a few months would have gambled everything away. By spreading out, by imposing justice, by imposing peace you can only get a very temporary effect, unless, within the people, there is peace. All the great movements, good and bad, are initiated by a few enthusiasts and they can be successful because it corresponds to something which is sleeping, or semi-sleeping, in the hearts of the others and when they see this then something awakens in them. The great villains, they can’t do much by themselves. One man physically can only kill twenty or thirty people, but because he focuses like a burning glass, he focuses the diffused rays, for instance, of anti-semitism. He can focus them – the feelings of hundreds of thousands of people which they just have quite weakly – but he focuses them into a movement. That movement was, as we know, a wholly bad one.
The point is that it can be a few people who are clear and concentrated like a burning glass. They can focus these potentialities and in the case of the yoga it is made to be spiritual potentialities which are focused and will have an effect on a very wide area. One of the old Upanishads says examine the world and you will see that there are no solutions simply in terms of this world that you can see in your ordinary lives. People always say, “I cannot make sense of the world. Why has this happened to me?” We cannot find a cosmic purpose, a divine purpose, simply in terms of the individual, an individual life. It has to be a cosmic view and that view must not be simply theoretical. It must be an actual vision and then a participation in the cosmic current. Well now, he says examine the world. You can examine the world in four ways. The Indians were great analysts, with a very strong intellectual tradition going back a very long way indeed. The subtlety of the thought in the Upanishads 600 and 700 BC, at least, are masterpieces of analysis. He says you can learn, examine it, by instruction, if you are most intelligent. Then by inference, then if you are still less intelligent, by direct observation – you need direct observation – and lastly, bitter experience.
We tend to say, oh well, let people find things out for themselves! Well then, take the case of drinking and driving. If you are most intelligent you can learn from instruction; this causes the greatest number of accidents and the reasons are given and the alcohol in the blood and so on. One can learn from instruction. But if you think, oh, it’s true drinking leads to a lot of accidents but probably people who drink heavily are very bad drivers anyway, you see. There may be no connection at all. Then try and infer, see the figures for drunken drivers and the accidents, and then if you can’t from that, then from observation. Perhaps you’ll see a drunken driver having an accident, and then lastly, perhaps, if you still can’t get it from that, you drink and drive and you learn for yourself, the only trouble is that you may well be dead!
So, the most intelligent is to learn from instruction, then that will tell you how to infer, and it will tell you what to observe, and it will tell you, then your experience will become constructive. Examine the worlds and you will see, in terms of mortality of the human being, being born, growing up, attaining maturity, getting old, getting sick, and dying. There’s no peace in this, and there’s no happiness in this, but if there’s something wider than that, if there’s immortality, if there is an experience, not just a belief, but even for a fraction of a moment, he experiences immortality, now, then the ageing and the giving up of the body, will be like having a good typewriter. You get it when its new, you use it steadily and carefully, and it can be preserved for a long time and when it gets very old, and the shift lock doesn’t work on one side, and the L key has given way, then you use the 1 instead of the L. You can still type if you know it well and look after it and then finally, thank you, and you put it in the dustbin. Well, then, the body will be like that.
The Gita says, even as here, one casts off worn out clothes and puts on others that are new, even so the Self, after the death, throws away the worn-out body and takes on others that are new. He can see and experience, even briefly, that current which doesn’t depend on the body and the mind, but there’s a continuous current. Then his view of life can be one of peace, even in spite of the great ups and down of life. Well now, one wants to know, surely, in these modern days, we can do good without any of these cosmological beliefs. We can use our reason. Russell consistently and through a very long life which he changed his mind on a great many subjects, but he did very consistently hold the view of ethics that it should be what you should do what will lead to the benefit of the human race. Now, in the debate that he had in 1948 – the radio debate with Copleston – a very important event against the Jesuit. The Jesuit posed him this question, he said, “The tortures that were inflicted at Buchenwald, for instance, now, could you ever approve of that?”
The torturers weren’t all brutal men. Some of them might say, well, we are conducting scientific experiments and Russell’s reply was: “I cannot imagine any circumstances in which those sort of things, those sort of tortures, would be of benefit to the human race and I think people who imagine that they could be, are deceiving themselves”, and then he went on, it’s printed in the book of the third programme [a BBC radio channel] where the debate took place. Now, his words are important, he’s a professional philosopher: “I can’t imagine circumstances in which such appalling behaviour would do good, would have beneficial effect, but, if there were circumstances in which they would have a beneficial effect, then I might be obliged, however reluctantly, to say ‘I do not like these things, but I will acquiesce in them, just as I acquiesce in the criminal law, though I profoundly distrust punishment”.
What Russell is saying, is that those tortures – they were under the form of scientific experiments at Buchenwald – if it could be shown, he couldn’t imagine circumstances in which it could be so, if it could be shown to be beneficial, then he would acquiesce in them. As a matter of fact, some of them were. If somebody is gradually starved to death the tissues change in a particular way, in certain ways, in a certain order, and it is very revealing for medical students to see the sequence. But, of course you cannot obtain the sequence, because if you find someone who is almost starving you don’t go on starving them in the laboratory, you feed them! So, all you can get is different photographs of different people in different stages of starvation, but what was done in Buchenwald was that a young person was taken and starved to death, given water, starved to death and photographed, so that the gradual degeneration of the tissues stands out clearly. Now, this is of enormous benefit in medical teaching, medical instruction and, as a matter of fact, although there was a sort of tacit agreement that these results should not be used, those photographs, that series of photographs, were so valuable that they have been used in great centres of learning, including one in this country, and they have been beneficial to the human race. You notice Russell doesn’t say, “beneficial to the human race, a benefit that could be obtained in no other way”. He just says, “if it could be shown that they were to the benefit of the human race, I would have to acquiesce in them.” I only give this example because it illustrates what the ancient philosophers said, that if you try, by using what you call your analytical powers and your reason to come to a code of ethics, you will land up in this sort of thing. Now, it’s a mistake to think that one can be calm, calmly, coolly, scientifically, sceptical.
This may come as a little surprise to you, this was written by a very famous sceptic, and philosopher of science. “I think I’ve always felt that there were two levels, one, that of science and common sense, and another terrifying, subterranean and periodic, which in some sense held more truth than the everyday view. You might describe it as a satanic mysticism. I have never been completely convinced of its truth but it is capable of justification by the purest intellectual arguments such as Eddington’s view that the laws of nature only seem to be true because of the things which we choose to notice. I’ve never been completely convinced of its truth, but at times of intense emotion it overcomes me”. Now, that was Bertrand Russell, the famous sceptic, that he had this terrible visitation of what he himself called satanic mysticism, which means that for him, and you can find it in others, too, who pride themselves on their scepticism and their balanced rationality, there is something else there, so the Yogic view is – I only give this as an example – they give different examples – but by mere use of the human reason and the facts as commonly admitted, we can’t arrive at any satisfactory view of ethics or of an explanation of the world. You can say, “Well, has anything better been done, ever?”
There is a record, probably at least 600BC and it is probably shortly before that, of a king, Ashwapati Kekeya, who was an Aryan king, quite a well-known one, his existence is attested in the records and he was in the north-west of India, a kingdom there. Some learned Brahmins heard that there was a king who knew, who had realised the Cosmic Self, God, and they came to learn it from him, if he would teach them. Now, when they arrived he treated them very well as great scholars. He didn’t know why they had come but they refused his hospitality because they were going to be pupils, they hoped to be his pupils. Then the king thought that they were rejecting his kingdom so he said, “Please don’t reject my kingdom. We have tried our best here”. Now, he made this statement. He said, “In my kingdom there is no thief, there is no miser”. The word has been translated so, but it means there’s no-one who, having wealth, does not give in charity. “There is no thief. There is no (quote) ‘miser’. There is no (quote) ‘drunkard’”. The Brahmins were not allowed to drink at all and it was disapproved of in the other classes but, nevertheless, some of them did, and there was no actual punishment for it in their case and “no drunkard” meant no-one who drank was supposed to drink, under the holy texts, was not allowed to drink. He said, “In my kingdom, there is no thief, no miser, no drunkard, no sceptic and there is none who is uneducated and there is no adulterer”.
You could say anyone could say that. How does one know whether these things can be true or not? We have an account by a foreigner, not of this king but of a king about 300 years later that he, a much greater king in India: Chandragupta, the one who repulsed Alexander’s little attempt at invasion and after Alexander was murdered by his generals a Greek ambassador went to the court of Chandragupta. He was there for about eight years and he wrote a book on things Indian. The book itself has disappeared but Megasthenes’ book was quoted very widely among other authors of the Greek and the Latin academic world and somebody has patiently put together all these fragments, so from them – of course there is a lot of repetition because they all went for the plums, so to speak – from these fragments we can put together an impression of what Megasthenes saw in his eight years as Greek ambassador in India.
Now, I quoted Ashwapati as saying, “In my kingdom there is no thief”. One of the things that Megasthenes, a Greek with no motive for praising up the Indians, he said he never came across a case of theft or heard of one in the India of his time, then he adds, in another place, he said people kept their word. If they said they would do a thing they did it, a bit like the early Romans – they had this idea if you say I do then I will do it. But in the India described by Megasthenes there were no contracts. People simply made a promise and if that promise was not fulfilled then there was no remedy in the court of law. The man who had been disappointed simply blamed himself; he was a bad judge of character, and Megasthenes says in general their word was kept so that these boasts, as one might think, by the King Ashwapati – in two of the cases we know of a very much wider area than his kingdom, they were in fact true from what the Greek ambassador saw and it means then that you can have higher peaks than we have today. We would like to be able to say that there is no thief in this kingdom. We would like it if when anybody said, “I would do it” that they could be trusted absolutely to do it to the limit of their ability. Well, this king, Ashwapati who made the statement, and we have reason to believe it was true, he was one who knew the cosmic essence, the cosmic Self, the cosmic purpose and this example is given. It can be shown that it depends what we think life is for. They didn’t think it was for increasing comfort or power over nature and they had a definite clear idea they wanted to realise immortality.
This, then, is the first point in the Yoga theory: that you cannot explain this world satisfactorily nor control one’s conduct satisfactorily without meditation on and a partial realisation of the cosmic purpose, and the cosmic Self, the cosmic soul. Now, we can say well how then is one going to live? What is life for? They divide, Shankara divides carefully, there are needs and there are what you might call wants. You notice in Russell’s philosophy he bitterly confuses the two, but in the Indian philosophy, of which Shankara is not the only representative, they’re sharply distinguished. The need is – it’s something like supporting the physical body – so it’s physical support basically. That would be food, security, shelter and the second category is to have the property which enables you to fulfil a role in life – so much. Now, outside that – those are needs – people must have physical support and the mental support and security. They must have enough to fulfil their role in life. Those are needs. Beyond that is what are called wants: iccha, clutching desire, and the Gita treats these, Shankara treats them as ghosts! You say, “What”? It says that these are mostly unreal things.
Now, if we examine our worlds, examine the world, we can get this as an example. When one’s a kid and one’s brother’s there, mother gives us two cakes and she takes generally pretty good care to see they’re the same but his always looks bigger and sometimes if you think back, if you’re rather competitive brothers perhaps, you look and see his is longer and mine is shorter. Mine is a bit fatter but his is not small and you say “Swap?” then he looks assured and he thinks yours is a fat one so, yes alright, you swap and when you have swapped you think, ‘Well, I don’t know’. This is a childish example but this is the reality; I’m doing a job and I get a wage for it that I’m satisfied with then I hear somebody down the way is doing the same job and getting more then immediately I’m dissatisfied. My position is the same. This is something unreal. It’s a ghost. It’s very powerful.
I have a vivid experience of this. I was offered a chance in Japan to do quite a big translation and they wanted it done very much and it so happened that you had to have a combination of two slightly unusual bits of knowledge, spheres, areas of knowledge, so they wanted me to do it. As it happened I didn’t want the thing which puts you in a strong position because you say, “No”, then they up it, now and again, and I still said, “No”, then they doubled it then, of course, you think well you know what you could do with the money. Well, it wasn’t so bad and I did learn while I was doing it and every time I worked on it I thought, at the beginning, that the money was good, and then you forget all about that and just get on with it. I was paid by the thousand words. It went on for a long time and I made a lot.
Then I heard that a German, he was not doing the same job but he was doing this sort of thing and he was being very well paid and I found out how much it was. I didn’t make a special effort but it came. He was getting nearly as much as I was. I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t know about this!’ and then it didn’t seem so good somehow. ‘Why, am I being exploited?’ No, not really, but one’s dissatisfied. Then I heard something else which changed the whole situation again. Translations from Japanese expand, in English they expand by ten percent, in German they expand by about thirty per cent spent. Now, he was being paid by the Japanese original so he had to do quite a lot of translation in order to get that for that thousand words but I was being paid for the thousand words in English so I was earning much more than he was. Then, immediately I thought, ‘Well, well, well, he’s very happy in his own way’.
These are ghosts, they’re ghosts but they affect our lives and they can be these trivial things. But you can see now in some of the fighting that’s taking place people are fighting ghosts in Yugoslavia, they’re fighting the ghosts of something that took place in the 1940s. The teacher says with ghosts it’s much more difficult to fight ghosts than something real. He says if you have a scare in your house – there’s a burglar or there’s a scorpion – you can call in the neighbours and, between you, you go over the house minutely. There is no burglar here or there is no scorpion here and then you’ve done it and you can sleep in peace but if it’s a ghost, the house is haunted by a ghost you go over the house: nothing here, nothing here at all, then you go to bed and you hear the ghost moving, furniture creaking, but you hear him moving. You can’t get rid of the ghost so easily. They say that most of our desires beyond our needs are ghosts. In fact, they are things that other people have that I would like to have simply because he’s got it or I’ve got something but I’m not satisfied with it because you’ve got it too so I want it that you should not have it. So, they say we are spending our energy in ghosts and that we should have our needs and then try to go beyond this world of ghosts. Until this happens, he says, we shall not have peace and one of the strong methods is to analyse the ghosts and see them that they are unreal and one of the ways that we can do this is by seeing how childish they are, but they can be very strong and people have committed murder, sometimes, for one of these ghosts.
For our conduct in life, he says: dhana, there must be gift. Yajna, there is must be sacrifice. It must lead to tapas, austerity. Those three: gift – the three gifts – the gift of material things and you give it and then after a short time things are as they were before; it’s gone. The second gift is the gift of courage and that can remain. That’s a real gift and the last gift is the gift of wisdom. So, there are these three gifts. We try in our lives, in our international conduct, especially to give material things, but as we know quite often the gift of material things it can even make things worse. In one country where it’s known that they have very rich mineral resources a very clever politician was asked about this: “Surely the country should exploit these mineral resources”. He said, “Yes, we should exploit them but quite slowly. If we exploit them now we shall never be anything. We shall simply live on the income from these mineral resources and my country will make no progress at all. We won’t have to educate ourselves. We won’t have to organise ourselves. We shall just live on this. That gift of nature”, he said, “that won’t be a blessing to us. We should first learn to get courage in ourselves and then we’ll be able to use that gift”. Well, this is one example that is given and the Gita says that the gifts should be made but we should realise that every undertaking has got some defect attached to it. You do some good, but you also do some harm, and that if we hope that by manipulating the circumstances we’ll produce peace and happiness in the terms of ourselves as we stand then we shall always be disappointed. There will be a defect. He says as a fire is accompanied by smoke the gift you make will be accompanied by some defect.
Then we must have sacrifice and worship. Worship – we’re now becoming more aware of it to reverence nature. The Chinese were always reluctant to build bridges over the rivers. They used ferries traditionally because they thought in some way it was a lack of reverence for the river to build a bridge and we might think it’s rather childish, but they had – and still more in Japan – they had an atmosphere of reverence which has been lost sometimes under the pressure of circumstances but they did have this feeling of reverence for nature. We are supposed to make some contribution to nature every day. In Chapter 3 of the Gita it’s quite elaborately stated. Well, if we give, as we do it in this country, quite often, a little bit of food to the birds or something like that this is thought to be a peace offering, so to say, for the harm we’ve done. We can’t preserve our bodies without doing constant harm to living beings. Every time we put antiseptic on a wound we’re killing many thousands of bacteria that breed in the wound. When we eat lettuce we may wash it, but still there’s some there, and in the stomach it’s nice and warm and they can breed and sometimes there’s one or two generations of them breeding and then the acid gets them. So, we kill them. We cannot preserve our bodies without killing other beings and, to some extent, by the sacrifice, by the feeling for reverence of nature we try to return, we try to do some good to nature and it’s very highly approved by the fact that the British people, as like the Japanese, are very fond of gardens and this is a form of reverence for nature, not just to appreciate the rose; the wild rose of Persia is quite a mangy thing compared with these marvellous blossoms that we’ve cultivated here. This is a form of reverence for nature and this is one of the legitimate and creative forms of expression and as distinct from clutching desire which depends on shutting other people out.
Gift, worship and tapas: we must do some austerity everyday and teachers give various examples. Occasionally, if it’s cold to go out without a scarf, to be slightly uncomfortable; to sleep on the ground very occasionally for an hour or so and then you can go back to bed, if you like. To practise a little bit of indifference to circumstances so if there’s no salt you don’t think ‘Aghh, I can’t eat this because there’s no salt!’ so we’re not thrown off by small things. If we’re not thrown off by small things then we can gradually become indifferent to the impact of much larger.
The professional interrogators tell you that sometimes it’s a quite small deprivation that somebody can find unendurable. It may be not being able to have a cigarette. It can be quite a small thing. There are other people who are independent. But it can be, very often, some quite trivial thing – ‘I’ve got to have this’ – and if the interrogator’s an intelligent man that particular interrogator I knew, he said torture’s generally no good. They just scream and say what you want them to say. You don’t really get anything but with these other things sometimes people can be broken down if you can find the thing that they’re dependent on and it can be quite a small thing, then take that away then very often the internal defences can crumble.
So, to practise a little bit austerity but the main thing is meditation and there’s nothing like trying these things so if you’d like to just to sit reasonably upright, if you want to try, and then to touch here and press the finger, or the fingernail or just pinch between the eyebrows there so that you create a little after-sensation and then take the hand away and feel the after-sensation there and bring the attention to that point. Now, do it again but when the finger’s taken away use the after-sensation to bring the attention there and visualise a little flame there burning quietly and smoothly. So, if you’d just like to try, touch, tap, press the fingernail, use the after-sensation and have a little flame burning steadily there. OM.
This is a way of bringing the attention to the centre. When we’re very nervous, for instance, when we’re waiting for something the vital energy tends to run into the hands and the face. Before a broadcast they’ve got all their script ready then they’ve got over five minutes to wait. Well, now, the producer goes in and talks to them to try to keep their mind from seizing up in the case of an amateur speaker. But I saw a Japanese banker, whom I knew well, he used to broadcast and I knew him so I didn’t go into the studio. I just sat in front of the mic and said it would be five minutes for the red light to show and he sat there. Europeans go like this (nervous agitation) but this chap, he got his notes: ‘Hmm..’ (out-breath then silence). I’ll just present this because it is one given. It’s given also in Zen, as well as in Yoga, and by bringing the attention from clutching outward to the middle, periodically being able to drop all that and come to the middle, the mind can be made calm and then it can become able to begin to sense the currents and what it’s to do. The gifts, the sacrifice, the reverence for nature and the tapas, the austerity, and lastly, this form, this very elementary form of meditation which can develop into a very meaningful form of meditation. If one’s very nervous, if you’re going to face pain or shock now’s the time. Well, we’ve done some of the Yogic account. The essence of it is that in terms of our individual lives or in terms of even serving on the basis of our ghost-ridden personality we’re not really able to find any true satisfaction. We can say, “Well, I give this”. Yes, I give this but if my own mind is infected then the gift can be infected, and we can become disappointed with the results. You can say, “Oh, no, things are obviously good”.