Yogas of the Gita are Yogas for when life is in crisis. We can think, “My life isn’t in crisis,” but perhaps it is. One of the illustrations that are given in one of the Japanese texts is this: you can get a forest of trees, and the branches interlace with each other, so they hold each other up – the trees – and the whole thing looks very stable. Many of the roots become very weak, but the trees still look very firm. It’s like a table: a lot of legs. The trees are almost dead. It still looks very firm. They hold each other up. Suddenly, there’s a storm and the whole lot goes down.
Our society can be like that, and our lives can be like that. Each part holds the other part up, and yet nowhere is there any actual root. There’s no root of inspiration. There’s no root of divine vision, but our conventions and our connections can hold us up pretty satisfactorily for a time, but really that forest is in a state of crisis. A great storm and it’ll all go down.
Another example: a man went to the country temple. He was studying under a spiritual teacher in a city. He was an intellectual man, and most of his friends were professional men who studied. He came back from the country. He’d had to stay overnight. He came back and he said to the teacher, “You know, it was very impressive. I went to the country temple there. The people were sitting there. It was full. I looked at those sincere – perhaps rather naïve – faces, but full of faith and devotion.”
“They were listening to the resonant voice of the priest intoning the holy texts. Perhaps they didn’t understand all that he said, but the whole atmosphere of faith impressed me profoundly. I thought, ‘Back in the city, we’ve got our doubts, and our reservations and our other engagements.’ That faith in the country, that’s the thing.” The teacher said, “Yes, the only person there who might have his doubts would be the priest himself.” It means the very basis on which the faith is – seems – so securely founded hasn’t got a direct root of divine vision.
The Gita gives two paths. The Indian tradition is one of memory. You’re expected to be able to remember, and this has always been true. The Greek Ambassador in 300 BC to India, fragments of his report remain and he says, ‘The people, they hardly ever wrote a contract. They remembered.’
So, when we read the texts – the Indian texts – we’re expected to remember what has gone before. The Japanese texts are not like that. They repeat what came before, and it’s repeated again here. An Indian text will say, ‘As was said previously,’ and it may be 10 pages back, but the Japanese text will tell you again, but for an Indian text you have to be able to grasp the thing as a unity.
In the Gita there are two quite different paths given, and to mix them up leads to confusion. The first path is the path of action. These are typical verses: ‘Make your concern with action, but not with the fruits of action. Let not the fruits of action be your motive. Nor be attached to non-action.’ This is a definite instruction to act but to be independent of the fruits.
We’ll consider it in a minute, but here’s another verse: ‘Stand on yoga and do the actions, but abandon attachment to be the same in success or failure. This is yoga, evenness of mind.’ Then he’ll say again: ‘Surrender the results of your actions to the Lord. Meditate on the Lord. Free from wishful longing, from selfishness, from fever, fight. Abandoning possessions, performing actions with the body alone, you will not come to guilt.’
These are all instructions to act, but not to act from passion. Here in the West, we tend to think – and in China also they tend to think – of two: positive and negative, or, as the Chinese say, “Negative and positive,” yin and yang. But in India they have three. Tamas: darkness, inertia. Rajas: passion struggle, activity; and sattva is clarity of conscience, clarity of awareness.
We tend to think that either you are lazy, foolish, short-sighted, lethargic, timid, fearful, contracted, or you get up, and fight, and get things done, force them through – those two only. Like McEnroe playing tennis: force it through. Never mind there’s a row, force it through. But there’s a third way in India, free from fever, free from longing wistfulness, free from selfishness.
We think “How can you act like that?” We know. In this country, we understand sport. We can act with intense keenness and yet we’re trained as small children, when we lose, not to cry – not so easy – and, when we win, not to shout, “I’ve won.” Not so easy. There’s awareness above those two – winning and losing – and the Gita makes this point for our actions in life to become independent of the fruits. This is the first psychological method.
This was from Bhagavad Gita – Zen & Gita – T.Leggett – 1-8-1984
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Yogas of the Gita are Yogas for when life is in crisis
Part2: What does non-attachment to the results mean?
Part 3: The first element in the Karma Yoga
Part 4: There should be some creative expression
Part 5: Inspiration in science
Part 6: Zen & Gita Q&A 1 01.08.1984
Part 7: Zen & Gita Q&A 2 01.08.1984