Ananda, who was Buddha’s attendant, and it was always popularly supposed that because he was the Buddha’s attendant he must be full of the wisdom of the Buddha. Actually, it was not so. He was the only disciple who did not attain realisation in the Buddha’s lifetime but only afterwards.
Ananda said to the Buddha, “What did he get? You did not tell him anything.” And the Buddha is said to have replied, “A good horse goes at even the shadow of the whip.”
Now, the Gita has a definite programme of Karma Yoga, which is the lower form of tapas. Then it says, ‘He has to try to discover the witness self’.
In the thirteenth chapter, which is one of the chapters on knowledge, the field is described. ‘This body is the field. He who knows it is called the field-knower’. This does not mean that part of our mind looks at the other part of our mind and thinks, “Oh, well, I know.”
There is something within us which is quite separate from the field, which is defined as the physical elements of the body, as the mind, as the senses, as pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, firmness and steadiness. All those things are the field. There is something which is apart from them.
And Shankara, in the later verses of the chapter, says it is as different from them as the pith of a reed is from the outer casing, and it must be separated from them. This is a very old Upanishadic example. It is quite separate. And this is what must be first realised. And it is first realised in the body.
There are many verses in the Gita which refer to this. The Great Lord seated in the body. ‘He, self-controlled, practicing yoga, becomes seated in the nine-gated body, neither acting nor causing to act’. Something quite independent.
And in the thirteenth chapter of the Gita it will say, again and again, ‘The supreme Lord is lord of the universe, but he is also seated in this body’. And the first realisation, Shankara says in chapter eight, is that the separate self is known in the body. There is something in the body which is different from body and mind. Quite different. And this he must try to find in meditation.
The meditations firstly given are on the Lord, the external Lord, as external as supporting the whole universe, creating and maintaining it. This purifies and calms the mind. Then the attention is turned within, to try to find pratyagatma, the separate, innermost self.
And this is the first step, Shankara says. It is first known as a glimpse of a witness. But still there is a duality. It is within the body. It is witnessing the body and the world. But in the end, in the fulfilment, it turns out to be the universal self. All the attributions and all the restrictions drop off.
But first of all it has to be known. And our teacher said that, “It can be known first there is something within us. Which when we are frightened, when we are shivering with fear, there is something within us which is not shivering. When we are blazing with anger, there is something within us which not angry.”
And he said, “Try to turn firstly to little things. When we are upset by something, know there is something within us which is independent and separate, unmoved, cannot be touched. When there is a storm, there is something within us which is free from the storm. When there is a torrent of abuse,” as he said, our teacher said, “there is something within which is not touched by the torrent.”
To try to find, have experience of that separate self, first in meditation. And to some extent, and he said as much as possible, to revive the awareness and consciousness of it in daily life. Still to act, but to know there is something within us which is independent.
So it means first of all to attain some sort of mastery of the inner apparatus by identifying the witness self. “When this is known,” he says, “his longings cease. His desires and the disturbances cease.” Then, as the Gita says, he can act efficiently for the first time because his actions are not blurred and obstructed.
So first of all we have to become captain of the soul. And then what happens? The field-knower is finally found to be the universal Lord. Then he is everything. He is the purpose. The substratum of the illusion has a purpose. There is a correspondence between the substratum and the illusion.
It is not something arbitrary like Father Christmas. There is a correspondence and that correspondence is the purpose of the Lord through Maya. Then he becomes the Lord of Maya. Then he is not master of the fate. He is fate himself.
Our teacher quoted those lines: ‘It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. To him these were not word clouds. It was a working programme.
© Trevor Leggett