Future champions

A Japanese boxing trainer, who had produced several champions, was asked by a reporter how he selected suitable trainees. “When a young lad comes here with his father, I know he’s not going to be champion material. I give him the lessons they pay for, and get him up to the level of ability they want. Then he goes. But when a boy comes here by himself, quite scared but determined, I know he’s had a row with his father. Then he’s going to take ME as his father, and then he’ll really train. He might turn out a champion.” © Trevor Pryce Leggett  


There is no need to practise humility as it is usually understood – that is to say, pretending one hasn’t got a skill or knowledge that one really does have. There are superiorities, and they should not be falsely concealed, any more than they should be boasted about. Because the superiorities, whatever they are, are still only little; once we raise our eyes from the immediate surroundings, we see we are like children who think that the hill at the back of their village is higher than the Himalayas. A saying in all the martial arts is this: “When you find yourself becoming an expert, and feel yourself puffing up like big frog, just go to the next pond, and you’ll find you’re only a little tadpole.” One famous Judo teacher whom I knew insisted that all his students should practise the flute; the shrieks and wails that proceeded from …

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The meaning of Vairagya or non-attachment

He makes a picture of things as he would like them to be, however unlikely, and then says: “This is what I am asked to give up.” But no. He is giving up pangs of jealousy, of being thrown over, pangs of failure in ambitions etc. Why think: “I am giving up being a superman” when one would simply turn out to be very ordinary if one went to the world? Cats are not giving up being lions when they give up worldly life as an animal.

The Seller of Pears

An Abbot of the Buddha-Heart sect was preaching in the open air to a large crowd. The Abbot spoke of making life harmonious by mutual aid and concession, but added that the aim of life is to realize the Buddha-Heart within man, without which life has no real meaning. A seller of pears,` pushing his cart by its two long wooden handles, drew near and interrupted: `What will it bring us? These are only words!’ The Abbot explained that realization would bring an end of all sufferings and a new life beyond life-and-death, but the pearseller shouted: `Big talk! Big talk! But you have to show us something!’ The Abbot said that gains in the world of dreams were themselves illusory; they were no true gains but had to be paid for somehow. The pear-seller only shouted again and again: `Show us something! You have to show us something!’ Others …

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He spent hours in devotion and prayer but there was never any response

A disciple came to a teacher and complained that though he spent hours in devotion and prayer, there was never any response. ‘When my daughter was ill I prayed the whole night that she would recover well, and, as a matter of fact, she did recover. How do I know that she would not have recovered anyway?’ This disciple was a minor official in the local administration and had a good knowledge of all the by-laws and regulations. The teacher made no reply to his question but said: ‘I want your advice on some things here, to do with this little temple. The fact is that there is supposed to be a right of way, across one corner of the temple garden here, and of course I have no objection to people using it. But when whole parties of them come, drunk and singing bawdy songs in the middle of …

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Doctrines of meditation and realisation in words

One of the dangers of presenting doctrines of meditation and realisation in words is that they become identified with the words. When they are translated the new words do not correspond exactly to the translated words. There is a gradual dilution and a spreading vagueness. There is however a language not in words which can convey the meanings exactly. One may wonder how this can be and an example may make it clearer. First of all, in a limited field. The digits 2,4 and 8 have no actual pronunciation; they are read by a speaker in his own language which is not comprehensible to a foreigner who does not know it. The line 2 x 4 = 8 could be read by a German zweimal vier ist acht; the words will not be understood by those who do not know German. But the digits convey and exact meaning all over …

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We are often impressed by things we don’t fully understand

It can sometimes be doubted whether there is really anyone at all inside a set of magnificent ceremonial robes; all their stiff embroidery and the wonderful effect on those that see them can be at the expense of the true point of the ceremony: we may all know this but then we are often impressed by things we don’t fully understand. I had an early experience of this as a small boy. At the end of term, the clergyman headmaster used to read in a deep voice a short chapter from the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament. The words were sonorous and they seemed to reverberate in the head. I thought, how wonderful, it’s all in the Bible, it must be true. But as to what it actually meant ‑ wen, it’s holy, I thought, I don’t suppose one can expect to understand. This is the main part …

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When you find that you are becoming respected and honoured, that’s the time to leave’

One Indian teacher, echoing his whole tradition, used to say: ‘When you find that you are becoming respected and honoured, that’s the time to leave’. Echoing this view, the Chinese tell an account of the Taoist master who has a very promising pupil who finally attains enlightenment. The enlightened pupil becomes a teacher, and a very famous one: often on the veranda out­side the entrance to his house there are many shoes to be seen deposited by pupils. One day his own old teacher happens ‑to pass that way and he sees all the shoes. He waits, and when they have all gone he goes in to visit his pupil. He tells him: ‘Get away at once; don’t hang about here a moment longer.’ Well, this is one tradition; it may not be the same in all traditions but it is worth remembering. Do what you are to do, and …

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It is best not to be on the heights, but to be down below where you can have things and keep them.

Bukko, who was one of the great Zen masters, said that if you get to the heights of anything, you are like a man who is on top of a mountain with all his possessions. When you and your things are on the top of a mountain you have to keep hanging on to everything for dear life to prevent your posses­sions rolling down into the valley. It is therefore, he says, best not to be on the heights, but to be down below where you can have the things and keep them. Bukko warns against staying or trying to get on the heights, for once you are up there you won’t be able to maintain yourself there: the things will gradually ‑ or even suddenly ‑ fall away from you because you won’t be able to hang on to them. When we can’t wait for other people to honour …

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Many of the so‑called honours in fact are false

At one of the biggest Zen training temples in Japan situated not in some great city but in rather a remote place ‑ in spite of which they get quite a lot of pilgrims and have about 200 monks ‑ they insist that pilgrims stay overnight and attend the 3.30am service which goes on sometimes for a couple of hours. Those who preside and take these great ceremonies wear magnificent gold and silver embroidered robes ‑ masterpieces of the art On one occasion the head monk, whom I had come to know, was conducting the service. I was sitting in the front row of what one might call the ‘resident guests’. In fine presence and making a splendid spectacle he passed before us in this gorgeous robe ‑ catching my eye as he went. But of course he gave no sign of recognition. Two or three days afterwards I was …

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Eastern doctrines reject the absolute reality of the world

We are familiar with reports in the press of how fans of some TV serial begin to take the events as somehow real. They have even written to the broadcasting stations to ask them to change the script for the sake of suffering children whom they have seen in some program. These effects are nothing new. In Victorian melodrama, when the villain was stealing up behind the unsuspecting hero, it was not so uncommon for someone in the audience to shout “Look out! Look behind you!” Requests to change the script were not unknown even among the most highly educated. Lord Melbourne, then Prime Minister, wrote to Dickens in about the expected concluding chapter of the novel The Old Curiosity Shop : “Do not let little Nell die.” When this same concluding number of the serial was taken by ship across the Atlantic the quay at Boston harbour was packed …

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They were outwitted through their impulsive greed for the food.

Hardware, more properly Haridwar, is one of the most sacred places in India. The Ganges has come out of the Himalayas and to bath in it at Haridwar is to wash away sins. James Young, the high ranking British officer who was in charge of the government force which finally defeated and captured the Thag (the word has been imported into English with a slightly different meaning) criminal tribes which infested the area, was appealed to by the local Brahmins to immerse himself completely in the Ganges to cleanse the area of the blood shed. This he did, receiving in return their gratitude and blessings. The British land surveyors recommended building a bridge with a dam across the Ganges at Haridwar for purpose of irrigation. The Brahmins all over India objected that the sacred river must not be “bound”. After some discussion it was agreed that the dam should be …

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Illumined teachers communicate the cosmic purpose

If the mind of an aged saint to deteriorates, disciples and other devotees may be distressed. They cannot help feeling that the Buddha-light or the Yoga-jnana is weakening. Their convictions may even be shaken. They have to realise that there the basic enlightenment is quite distinct from it’s manifestation through instruments. Imperfections or deterioration in the body-mind instruments do not involve imperfections or deterioration in the source, whose light is never diminished anymore than the sun is diminished by clouds or by shutting the eyes. In the old army campaign telephones at first the voice was clear but as the microphones deteriorated there were miss hearings and messages had to be slow and  repeated several times. Finally in the last stages communication could still be continued by buzzing in Morse code. When it got this far Headquarters would set up another link. Illumined teachers are animated instruments communicating the cosmic …

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A life which has been shaped and polished so that it’s true nature begins to appear

A life with a purpose has been compared to making an elaborate wooden piece of furniture, as for instance a cabinet with many shelves and draws. The pieces of wood are given to us in the shape of certain talents and abilities and events which happen to us. We are expected to cut and shape these according to the chosen traditional life plan and then polish them. Finally they are carefully fitted together. The comparison brings out an almost universal fault: as we handle the pieces, we paint them with harsh and jarring colours of our likes and dislikes, fears and hopes. The ones with the unpleasant colours we are reluctant to handle and so they don’t get properly shaped or polished. The one’s with bright colours we hang on to and do not want to give them up to the unity of the whole. So the cabinet ends up …

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Note of Hand

A law student in one of the old records had to go to Bristol and to stay longer than expected. So he could not pay the innkeepers bill. This was a woman who was illiterate. So he put on his law robes in which he attended court, and took an impressive looking piece of parchment on which he wrote: “Debita quinque libre”. He passed this to her telling her it was worth five pounds. She accepted it and he left, promising however that he would be back in the future and would stay with her again. © Trevor Leggett Please see:The outcome of this

The aged dictator of Spain was dying

When the aged dictator of Spain was dying in his presidential palace overlooking a central square of Madrid, large numbers of his supporters came in relays to stand in front of the palace and chant their farewells: “Goodbye, Franco. Goodbye!” The sound of the voices could be heard from the sick bed in the palace. It is said that the 83-year old General beckoned to the doctor who was attending him and said feebly: “Where are all these people going?” © Trevor Leggett Please see: One point here

There is another kind of long life

Trees may live for hundreds of years, but though they add to the beauty of nature they do not as such enter into human life. Though the life may have been long, finally they die and nothing is left. This is sometimes taken as a representation of human existence when it has no real purpose outside itself. There is another kind of long life, where the tree is cut down and reduced to sections of wood. These are meticulously shaped to form furniture in patterns both useful and beautiful. Polished and polished for generations these can become treasured possessions. In some countries such as Japan the beauties of the grain are studied and those who can afford it have the ceilings made of thin planks specially chosen and matched for there exquisite grain. (This was not always understood by the troops of the occupying forces during the years after Japan’s …

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The third stage of ingratitude is a couplet by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz

It is a pleasant feeling to make a gift to someone who is in need. It is the superior position, generally one doesn’t make oneself too short, and it is depositing a credit for the Last Judgement. It is harder to receive the gift from condescending hands. St Vincent de Paul told his charitable followers: “When you give to the poor, give as humbly as you can manage. And then – perhaps – they will forgive you.” The second stage of ingratitude is Shaw’s remark: “I can’t think why he dislikes me so. It’s not as if I had ever done anything for him.” The third stage of ingratitude is a couplet by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz: “I never taught archery to anyone, who did not end up shooting at me.” The point of noting these stages is not to analyse others, but to find which …

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Ikkyu was a famous Zen priest and poet , who was sometimes overwhelmed by sexual desire

Ikkyu was a famous Zen priest and poet of the 15th century, who was however on more than one occasion overwhelmed by sexual desire. He finally caught a sexually transmitted disease. When he was dying a knowledgeable friend brought him some of the remedies of the time. However he refused to take them with the words: “No, I don’t to take them, I feel ashamed.” The friend said: “Well, you had a love affair. Tell me, who was it?” Ikkyu got up, took some paper and picked a brush. Then he wrote in his beautiful calligraphy: “O true original face, it was for love of you that I demeaned myself. And I have not been the only one. Shakyamuni and Bodhidharma too gave up royal status for a mean one in their search for you. And I was searching for you.”  

Dogen brought Soto Zen from China to Japan

Dogen was the great patriarch he brought the Soto line of Zen from China to Japan in the 13th century. He established it on a very firm ethical basis in Japan, and his great work Shobo-genzo (Treasury of the true law) carries enormous prestige even outside the Soto sect. Buddhist teachers of other sects quoted either directly or by allusion. On such echo is the following. There are two ways: either you invite the Buddha into your house, or you leave your house and throw yourself down on the doorstep of the Buddha’s house. To invite the Buddha to your house, you have to make it spotlessly clean. With reverent devotion you dust and polish your furniture, and every nook and corner. Poor as you now it to be you make it as best you can fit to receive the World Honoured One. In the second case you get up …

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In the mind when there is no control, two or three obstinate thought-feelings can become locked in a struggle

Before traffic lights were introduced, two or three strong-willed car drivers could get locked in a crossing, because no one would give way. The traffic piled up behind them, and often it was impossible to relieve the tangle by driving on to the pavement. In a busy part of the town, at a busy time, the block could extend for a quarter of a mile. Finally the police had to divert all traffic and slowly get the locked cars free. In the mind when there is no control, two or three obstinate thought-feelings can become locked in a struggle, and paralyse all sensible activity. New traffic of ideas has to be stopped, in meditation or devotion, and slowly the block can be resolved. But with traffic lights, these things happen only rarely. It is essential that we become able to control one line of ideas: check it when necessary, and …

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Here is a battle unsought; completely unselfish, for a warrior that is an open door to heaven

Full pacifism is for monks. Lay people practice limited pacifism; they do not seek conflict but they may defend justice as they see it. Krishna says to the warrior- “Here is a battle unsought; completely unselfish, for a warrior that is an open door to heaven.” The limited Ahimsa means that the warrior or the policeman must not use force or bullying for personal ends outside duty. No-one can expect nations to be pacifist. A community that is pacifist may be annihilated as were the early undefended Christian monasteries or the great Buddhist Narlanda University in the 16th century India

Repeat OM slowly, meditating that it means the universal self

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 …

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The eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed

“A hundred hearings are not like one seeing” is a classical Chinese saying, but it applies to what can be seen, not to abstractions or other things beyond the senses. There the hearings are worth a hundred readings, for reading is often too fast and superficial. Especially when re-reading a revered text, the eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed. Today the tape recorder offers a new aid to study: record the main texts, and play them every morning. The reading will reveal new depths. Clara Schumann, the world famous pianist, played the Chopin study in C sharp minor every morning for eighteen years, and found new depths in it. It can be the same with the sacred texts. How many have read the Gospel of John with, as they thought, attention and reverence, and yet not noticed the apparent contradiction: in the last teachings of chapter …

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The great Self takes on itself the illusion of the succession of bodies

II.22 As the wearer casts off worn-out clothes and puts on himself others which are new, Even so, casting off worn-out bodies, the body-wearer passes on to new ones. This great verse on reincarnation comes at the beginning of the teachings, and it refers to the great Self which takes on itself the illusion of the succession of bodies. A master of meditation remarked that the idea of reincarnation contains hints at wider truths than the bare idea of things wearing out and being replaced, which to many older people has a depressing ring. They find their bodies less and less reliable, and less competent to fulfil most of the purposes of life as they have understood them. He said: ‘Take the case of furniture. If a chair is reasonably well made, at the beginning it sparkles with the fresh varnish laid evenly all over it. It has an unyielding …

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Share the beauty of your treasures and you will not regret them if they go

A rich disciple had a fine collection of Chinese jades. Then there was a financial crisis in his affairs, and it turned out that he would lose a good deal of his wealth, even perhaps all of it. The teacher mentioned this fact in conversation with a younger disciple who had, like the teacher himself, lived in the Far East. The teacher added unexpectedly: “I have no sympathy with him in his loss. What did he do with wealth? He knows that you have been in the East and would appreciate those jades. But did he ever invite you to see them?” “Well, no,” was the reply, “I didn’t know him so well….” The teacher looked at him and remarked: “If he had done something to share the beauty of those treasures, he would not now regret them if they go. I have no sympathy with him at all.” In …

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Sense experiences during meditation

Sense experiences during meditation are not what the yogi may imagine beforehand; all the accounts show a sort of surprise when the experiences first come. They are more beautiful than anything in the world, and are quite different from hallucinations or dreams. The commentators say that they are genuine perceptions, but of objects not normally accessible to perception. If they produce attachment to their delight, it blocks further progress in yoga, because independence is lost. After a few such experiences, the teacher always directs the pupil to meditations on truth. Attachment to these higher sense experiences, like any attachment, darkens and restricts the mind, which loses its purity and strength. They come and go. They are self-terminating, because the excitement they arouse interferes with the necessary concentration, which becomes split between the meditation, and what he expects to get as a result. The same applies to drug experiences. When meditation …

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To have inner voices is regarded as a symptom of dysfunction

To have inner voices telling one something is regarded as a symptom of dysfunction. There have been some notable exceptions, however. In the 1920’s there was a case where a woman went to her doctor complaining of voices in her head – voices and other noises, even including music. He referred her to what was then called a mental specialist, who asked her about the voices: “What sort of things are they saying?” She said, “Oh, all sorts of things. Sometimes bits of news, sometimes quite long bits of music.” “No, no, no, I mean what are they saying to you, what are they telling you?” “They don’t say anything to me personally. Right now they say they’re just going to start up a concert, and they say that it’s Beethoven, Leonora No. 3.” “Ah, dear lady, the No. 3, yes. One of Beethoven’s rare miscalculations. If only he had …

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The ultimate independence of Self-realization

In armies, the chains of command have to be settled. One problem is: conflict of orders. Suppose a soldier is ordered by an officer to take a small box to HQ, and on the way an officer asks where he is going, and then says: “Oh, so you can take this packet and hand it in at the radio station – it’s not far out of your way.” Now should the soldier take the packet which will inevitably delay him or should he refuse and say. “Sir, I’ve got to deliver this box straight away”? In history, some armies have opted for the First Order, and some for the Second Order. But let us look at the application in inner spiritual training. The rule here is: First Order. When even a little inner practice is being done, the buddhi – the fraction of the cosmic mind which is located in …

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The mind can be taken as the bucket of water

There is a bucket to be cleaned, which is now nearly full of putrid water. It has been left alone for a good time. There may be various ways to go about it. One of them is to put it under a tap of running water, and just leave the tap to run unsupervised. At first, the jet from the tap carries some of the top layers of dirty water out with itself. But after a little time, the upper part of the bucket consists mainly of fresh water, which just comes in from the tap and directly spills out over the sides. The deeper layers may be relatively undisturbed for a very long time. The second main way is to empty the whole bucket of dirty water down the drain, then scrub the inside of the bucket, and then rinse it with the pure water. That gets it really …

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When we are young we often have a keen sense of right and wrong

There are many habitual actions in life like driving a car or writing which become habitual and drop away from the surface of consciousness; we can do them without much effort and become at ease with them. Because we are at ease with them we have the illusion that they get better. We see this clearly in the case of handwriting, which steadily degenerates from the carefully formed letters we make at school through to the scrawls of student days, and then to the almost incomprehensible jottings later on in life, when we no longer form many of the letters properly. These are often difficult to read except by someone who is quite familiar with the writing. Without conscious practice towards a definite model, the edges of precision gradually become blunt, and, moreover, the monitoring function is not used and thus becomes dull. This can apply in the moral field …

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Some scholars study texts in which they have no interest whatever in the real meaning

In the early days of Hi-fi, one would be invited, sometimes, to a little concert in a room surrounded by speakers of various kinds. Listening to the music, the host would be constantly jumping up and making some adjustment, and then sitting down and listening intently. He was disturbing the enjoyment of the music, but in fact he himself was not listening to it at all: he was listening to the hi-fi. In the same way, some scholars study texts in which they have no interest whatever in the real meaning; they simply compare the vocabulary, syntax and themes with those of other texts in the same field, and record borrowings and conflicts: ‘Here he is making a concession to the vijnana-vadin Buddhist, a possible influence from his presumable early study of gaudapada.’ He is not interested in the texts themselves except for cross-cataloguing the themes. There is an unspoken …

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Prepare oneself to throw away gain and loss, life and death

In training for some desired result, especially when it involves an expansion of some faculty, there is a sense of joy. It is leading to what is felt to be an achievement, and so it is a sort of fulfilment in itself. Mistakes have to be avoided as much as possible, but when they happen, they are corrected without any feeling of guilt – they do not really matter. However strong the efforts that have to be made, there is at the basis a sort of carefree lightness, and this we can call “light joy”. But when it comes to the actual occasion, the arena where we have to try out the actions we have been rehearsing, how is it then? A mistake does matter now – it might be fatal to the whole enterprise. For many, what had been an interesting challenge now becomes a frightening necessity, and the …

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Bird-man and Earth-man

Short passages from the inspired scriptures are at first reading often skated over as simply details filling in the main outline of the point or story. And this is liable to go on during subsequent readings; with many readers, what they do not see at once, they never see at all. The parable of the Sower is one of the best known, but though most modern Christians take the meaning to be rather obvious, it was this very parable which the disciples asked Jesus to explain to them. He reprimanded them for their dullness: ‘You do not understand this parable?’ he said, ‘then how will you understand any parable?’ The parable is found in three Gospels: Matthew 13.4, Mark 4.3 and Luke 8.5. The accounts are fairly close; let us look here just at the beginning: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along …

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There is no response from the True Face within

Some people say that though I meditate and do practice, there is no response from the True Face within. A teacher said for example think you are an electrician and are rung up to go around at once for some urgent repair but then came back home again complaining that there was no one in. You then telephone the place and are told, ‘I have been in all the time waiting for the electrician! Why don’t you come?’ ‘But I rang the bell and rang and rang and there was no answer!’ The teacher said that if in the same way repairing the bell is our immediate task when we practice, then there will be a response. Theoretically we know that the air is full of radio waves, we are familiar with it theoretically. But people might ask, ‘Where are these waves? They are not here.’ And we say, ‘Oh, …

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The Power of Formlessness

There is a story in many forms, in different cultures and traditions. It is a very old one in India, possibly from before the Buddha. The Gods do battle with the Titans and the Gods win. There is something strange about the victory but anyway, the Gods take all the credit to themselves. While they celebrate, a report comes that something mysterious has been seen in a particular place in the Himalayas, something the form of which cannot be made out, which seems to have no form and yet it is there! So Indra, King of the Gods, sends the God of Fire – who symbolises various things including speech – to find out what this mysterious something is. He, too, cannot make it out: there is no actual form and yet there is something. And that mysterious something asks, ‘Who are you?’ He answers, ‘I am the God of …

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Speaking with no artificiality or insincerity

In some traditions pupils of 2 or 3 years standing are asked to give a brief talk to the public on some aspect of the teaching. Most are reluctant: they feel their progress does not merit it. However, when told this is part of training they are ready to try. Once such pupil was told to prepare by taking lessons in public speaking for 3 months. The instruction jarred on him and he complained to a senior: “To take lessons like that would make me feel like a ham actor, unnatural and insincere.” The senior looked at the vigorous young man before him and said: ” I’ve seen you once or twice working out at the gym. He ordered Tall-as-you-can and you all stood on tiptoe and stretched your fingers towards the roof. Then he shouted for Small-as-you-can and you squatted down with your head between your knees, hugging your …

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Meditation itself will take over and then it will begin to shine forth

A Japanese poem – Shizukasa ya Iwa ni shimiiru Semi no koe The translation could be – ‘Oh, the quietness. The shrill voice of the cicada Is soaked up by the stones.’ This is a temple scene. Suddenly in the quiet there is the bursting force of the shrill note of the cicada. It’s ear piercing while it lasts then it stops, and there is the moment when that shrillness is soaked up, soaks away into the stillness of the rocks, the stones, of the temple. We can find some hints for yoga practice in certain arts which require a clear discipline, especially music. In music the execution has to be not merely perfect, but often in a very short space of time, and musicians have to practise everyday. One virtuoso used to say “If I miss my practise for one day, next day I notice a deterioration in performance; …

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His mind had not yet been loosened to recognise the cosmic plane

Learning a Language When we begin to learn a foreign language, we may learn a few words by the so-called Direct Method. But for anything more than simple meanings, we have to construct an English sentence in our heads, and then search for equivalents and structures in the foreign language. This can go on for a very long time, even when there is a good knowledge of the new language. It takes courage to bring out a foreign sentence without checking it first. Shaw’s remark, that it is impossible to learn to skate without looking ridiculous, can be useful here. If the grip of fear can be loosened, the time comes when in some little emergency, the speaker finds himself producing a foreign sentence without the previous English draft. He has begun to think in the new language. This is generally a decisive moment, and from then the ideas take …

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Bristles of egoism and pride and self-satisfaction and conceit and ambition

When someone who has a hope of getting some advantage lavishes praise and compliments on us, we feel quite unaffected, because we know that it’s simply turned on like a tap, to get something from us. It might as well be a tape recording. We think “Words, words, what do words matter? Nothing at all.” But then when his request is refused perhaps he becomes furious. He begins calling us all the bad names he can think of, and we know that all of this abuse is just out of his disappointment and anger. Nothing in it – turned on like a tap or a tape recorder. And yet this time it’s quite difficult not to be affected by it, though it is known to be completely false. These are little hints for meeting attractions and repulses from the world. A great Indian teacher used to say that adverse criticism …

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