It is not a question of simply repressing desires and fears for a time only. An Indian visitor went to see a service in a synagogue; he was impressed and he thought the worshippers were impressed too, but as they came out he heard one man say to another triumphantly “23 per cent I tell you, 23 per cent!” Again, a women was reported in a survey of ‘leaving-Church remarks’, as saying to her friend “I stuff mine with onions and apricots!”

Sometimes in the West we may ruefully admit these things, but suppose it must be different in the East. We see staged performances of the Sufi revolving dance, the extended arms with one hand upturned to receive grace from heaven and one hand palm down to distribute that grace on earth; we think they must be in a very high state all the time. Our teacher was once asked about this and he said: “Some of them are but after the dance is over there are some who talk business.”

In some Japanese shrines visitors must observe a rule of silence. A priest once remarked that he had seen a married couple arguing furiously, till they came to the gate of the shrine where they then kept a reverent silence and performed the devotions. They left with quiet solemnity keeping it up till they’d turned out of gate, then one of them said angrily “and there’s another thing too, I want to say!”

This is a common experience at all such ceremonies. The things that have not been said during the hour of worship have been fermenting inside and come out with redoubled vigour immediately the worship is over. There is a feeling: “I’ve done that. I’ve done what I had to do. Now let’s get on to something else.” In Indian folk-lore, this is compared to the elephant which goes into the water and washes itself by squirting water from it’s trunk, gets clean, but then comes out and rolls on the bank to become just as dirty as before. Suppression of thoughts is not the same as control of the mind; the hidden 23 per cent and Apricots and Onions are still in full force.

People say sometimes, “But we have to think of 23 percent and cooking as well, or we shall not be able to live.”

True, but the point is to think of these things when it is time to think of them but not otherwise, and to think of them without excitements or fears.

© Trevor Leggett

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