Rational thinking cannot easily overturn unconscious attitudes

Freud and Adler and their followers were able to show that in some cases what we regard as rational decisions are in fact expressions of unconscious tendencies. A young man who went to join the Indian civil service found that he cold not sleep because of the howling of pariah dogs near his official residence. Others were undisturbed, but he was becoming ill from lack of sleep. A friend recommended that while he was lying awake he should try to recover early memories connected with dogs. That night after trying to dredge up everything he had seen or heard about dogs, he slept a little. The next night he found early childhood memories surfacing and on the third night he dozed into a dream that he was standing in front of two great white pillars, from between which a hideous monster charged out onto him. He woke up screaming, but after a little time he fell asleep deeply for the rest of the night. He wrote back home to his parents describing the dream and his mother wrote back: When you were two years old we were standing at our gate. We did not notice when you toddled a few …

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Love must not be confused with exclusiveness

The teacher was speaking about love, and saying that it must not be confused with exclusiveness, for instance, love of country is supposed to be strengthened by hatred of other countries as possible enemies. But this is not really love of country, the real love of country tries to raise the quality of life and culture in it, and thinks of other countries with respect and with a view to learning something useful from them. Similarly love as personal attachment is often a hidden desire to possess. He said that love has to be universal and beyond limitations national or personal. It must not discriminate between persons, it must not be rationed. One of the pupils objected: “But teacher, you give much attention to some people whereas you seem to avoid talking to others. Isn’t that rationing love?” The teacher answered: “I don’t ration my love, but I do ration my time. I don’t talk to people when I see it will not be productive, when I see that with them I shall neither teach nor learn anything. In the garden you don’t spend much time fussing about seeds that have not begun to sprout above the surface. When they …

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My general rule has been to declare frankly my own self interest and then be prepared to negotiate

“If I were you, I wouldn’t do that.” “I think if you were me you would do that because if you were me you’d do as I’d do and I am going to do that.” “Oh well, I meant that if I were in your shoes, in your situation…” It sounds a fine thing to put oneself in the other person’s place to try to see their point of view. But one has nevertheless brought along, to stand in those shoes, impressions and feelings and attitudes of ones own. When we try to see the other person’s point of view, and sympathise with it we are really feeling for what we imagine to be their point of view. The trouble comes when they imagine what is our point of view and modify their own position in accordance with that. I used to go every year on a reading party, and in the evenings several of us used to play chess. I have been a fairly strong player since my student days and there was only one opponent who could give me any sort of a game, so I always played against him. The weaker players had one or two games …

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Advice in the Extremity of Need

This is an old story from the West Country of England. A very rich man falls sick and on his deathbed tells his only son that he will get all the property. Then he passes to him a strong leather belt with a big metal buckle, and says, “Son, promise me that you will always keep this in memory of me and where it often. Replace the belt as it wears out but keep the buckle. If you are ever in dire distress, get iron smith to open the buckle and in it you will find a piece of advice for you in that extremity of need”. The son obediently makes the promise. He knows quite well what the advice will be: “This too will pass” or “I am the captain of my soul”, or something like that. When he inherits he lives sensibly for a time but then takes to drinking and gambling; he is exploited and soon the property is frittered away. Things go from bad to worse and soon he has nothing but the clothes he stands up in including the belt. A feeling of remorse comes over him and he thinks of his father. The impulse …

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Most spiritual training schools stress the importance of a sangha or community

Most spiritual training schools stress the importance of a sangha or community.  In Buddhism there are the Three Refuges:  I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha.  To many people, the Buddha and Dharma are somewhat abstract supports, and the physical association with a community gives a support which is immediate.  But reliance on the sangha is not without pitfalls. During a famine in India, a Brahmin went round the homes of the better-off, and asked them to contribute a pot of milk each to relieve the suffering of the poor.  Having received their promises, he set up an earthenware tank in the central square, and asked that during the day each household should bring a pot of milk and  pour it in through the small opening in the top.  He arranged that the tank be kept cool in the traditional way, by keeping it covered with wet cloths, which cool as their water evaporates in the sun. During the day, women carrying pots were seen coming to the tank and emptying them into it. In the evening, however, when the Brahmin opened the tank to distribute the milk, there …

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Should they do their first training with the sword or with the spear?

A doubt comes up in the mind: ‘Scientists actively refute mysticism and yoga. They have created all these modern marvels – surely they must be right?’ It is met: ‘Some of the greatest of them like Pasteur and Einstein and today Davies, say the weight of evidence is for a cosmic intelligence.’ The doubt subsides, but returns in a slightly different form: ‘God or no God, it makes no difference. It’s all inference, so why make the inference anyway?’ Many students of yoga simply do not know how to meet their doubts. They tackle each doubt as it comes up with some answer, but it re-appears slightly changed: ‘Aha! you didn’t think of this!’ Meeting doubts piecemeal, as they happen to come up prompted by circumstances or chance associations, will never settle them. When contaminated food has been distributed to the retail shops, it is difficult to collect it. The contamination must be spotted at the wholesalers, where it can be destroyed wholesale. So the root of each doubt (and there are only a few such roots, however many the branches) must be sought out, brought into the light of day, met in an organized way, and settled once for …

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In an expansion of some faculty, there is a sense of joy

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 sense of joy departs. The yoga practice is, to prepare oneself to throw away gain and loss, life and death, “as a horse shakes off the loose hairs from his mane.” For a moment, we are to try to shake off the world and its concerns like those loose hairs. …

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