A man vaguely interested in yoga, but who could not bring himself to go under a teacher, used sometimes to repeat the sacred word ‘Om’ when he was drunk.
A friend who did actually practise yoga told him it was a mistake to do this.
‘Why?’ he said defiantly, ‘Surely it is better to say the sacred Name, even if one is a bit drunk, than not to say it at all.’
No, his friend told him. You would be like a man who has been told that to cure his diabetes he should avoid sweet things, and take some insulin every day. Now if he takes the insulin, and at the same time eats a sweet to take his mind off the initial discomfort of the little prick of the needle, then he is nullifying the effect of the medicine he needs.
A doctor friend of mine told me that there are even some diabetics – and not necessarily stupid people – who are given a diet to control their diabetes, which is carefully worked out by experts to be nourishing and tasty. Some of them fall into a sort of delusion that after they have done their duty, so to speak, by eating the diabetic meal, they are now free to eat anything else they fancy.
‘They do all this’, the doctor remarked ironically, ‘and still expect me to cure them.’
When you are drunk, your self-control over childish and animal impulses is weakened, or even entirely lost. Then you are associating a holy Name of God with uncontrolled thoughts, which means a pollution. The sutra of Patanjali is: ‘Repetition of Om and meditation on its meaning.’ You will not be meditating on its meaning when you are drunk, because you will not be able to hold the mind steady.
At present you are occasionally saying it as a sort of insurance policy, paying a little sum now and then and then forgetting about it. But the time will come when there is a crisis, and you will need to practise seriously to find your way out of it. If you then try repeating ‘Om’ seriously, you will find that there are innumerable low-level associations coming into your mind, which will take a good time to get rid of. And you may not have that much time.
At present you are, you think, taking out insurance, but in fact you are paying the premiums with dud cheques; one who passes dud cheques later finds difficulty in cashing even his genuine cheques. You will find that you have nothing to your credit, and a good deal to your debit.
If you do want to take out a policy, then set aside, regularly, ten minutes of reverent silence in a solitary place, and repeat the ‘Om’ slowly, meditating that it means the universal ‘self ‘ in you and in everything. If you keep this up with enthusiasm, your deposit will gradually yield interest; when the crisis comes, the ‘Om’ will begin to awaken in you, and you will be able to pass to serious practice without needing desperate effort. Then, says Patanjali, there is a peaceful flow in the mind.
© 1999 Trevor Leggett