‘Strenuous cultivation’ shows that it cannot be done by just trying to ignore disturbing circumstances. That can be done with minor irritations in a generally favourable situation. Our teacher however stressed that though a start is to be made with small things, the yogin has to come face to face not only with great outer dangers, but with inner afflictions which are worse. Shakespeare spoke so often about ingratitude.
The Persian poet takes it much further: ‘I never taught archery to anyone, Who did not end up shooting at me.’
It is much worse than ingratitude; he who receives the gift becomes the enemy of the giver, and uses it against him. Dr. Shastri, when as a young tutor he was giving lessons to the children of a wealthy family, on his way home used to visit an old sick soldier living in a shack in poverty. He used to bring little presents of food and other necessities to this man, whom he had noticed by chance. Once, when he had just been paid his monthly salary, he took out the little bag to give the old pensioner a rupee. The old man’s eyes lit up at the sight of the full purse, and he began to shout: ‘HELP, HELP! A young pandit has attacked and robbed an old soldier.’ The neighbours crowded round, and our teacher got away with difficulty, forced to leave behind the little purse of coins. He described this in a short paper, with two or three other such incidents. It ended: ‘O my heart, can you still love? This paper was a help to his own students, facing mostly less extreme cases.
But as he said, it is not enough just to change the feeling for a moment. At such a time, a yogin has to take strong measures – strenuous cultivation in fact. For instance, to sit up at night reading a few sentences from a holy text and meditating on them, until he feels a deep calmness rising from the depths. It is not a question of maintaining calmness by force, but persisting with the practice till this definite sign appears – forgiveness and a sort of serene independence. Not easy, but he said that this is the way progress is made.
For those who use repetition of a mantra, and especially repetition of OM, the sign can take the form of a sort of spiritual bath.
It is a purification of the imaginings, and inner tensions; there are physical effects on the muscles and nerves, and the posture may spontaneously improve.