Yoga sees another causality underlying the causality of the world. A stage play has its own causal sequence: within the play, daggers kill, kings are honoured, the mother loves a baby. But there is a deeper causal sequence which is quite different: the daggers do not kill though the stabbed man falls, the king is a very minor role, the baby over which the mother croons is a doll. All the events, though they seem determined by the stage situation, are in fact free choices by the cast. They are careful to preserve the play situation. They do not lean against a pillar in the palace; if someone did, a ripple would go across the marble of the painted scenery. A keen eye can in fact see many of the inconsistencies in the stage setting and action of the play, though children are often completely deceived.
In something of the same way, yoga sees the cosmos as controlled and held together by intelligence. Sometimes its particular functions are called deva-s, or shining ones, or gods. They may be directly perceived by some yogins who worship God in his manifestations. Śaṇkara states in one of his commentaries that ancient sages met the gods face to face, and it can be the same today for those who meditate on them through yoga. But the Gītā expects the yogin finally to look deeper than outer divine manifestation, and find the Lord within himself also. The Lord is so to say the producer of the play.
One may feel: ‘All the talk about the divine in Nature is very well while things go well, while it is a question of beautiful scenery and good health and so on. But what about when things are really bad? Can even the most advanced yogin retain his vision then?’
As an introduction, here is an account of an incident in the life of Swami Rama Tirtha, once a fellow disciple of Dr Shastri. He was a totally dedicated yogin, even during his worldly career as a Professor of Mathematics, and this state showed itself while he was still a young man. It would take one of milder resolution and training efforts a much longer time. But the mahatma said that it would be reached by all who persisted.
A great mahātma, Rama Tirtha, after his God-realization found he could no longer continue a home life in society, as Professor of Mathematics at Lahore University. He went to live at great heights in the Himalayas, occasionally coming down to give talks and publish articles. On one such occasion his former teacher sent a young brahmacari to look after him.
One day the mahātma gave a four-hour long discourse to an audience of thousands; he danced on the sands of the Ganges, and many of the audience saw a god there dancing.
Afterwards he went back with the brahmacari to the small room where he was staying. The mahātma’s lack of interest in food and his solitary life in the mountains had upset his digestive system, and he sometimes suffered from attacks of colic. When the spasms came on, his body twisted and turned. The disciple watched with horror, and when he found there was nothing he could do to help he burst into tears.
The mahātma patted him on the head and said: ‘My son, Rama is above all this.’
‘But when you danced, we saw a god dancing there,’ sobbed the brahmacari, ‘and now this.. . . How can this happen to you?’
The mahātma replied; ‘You know the procession of Rama when it goes through the village, don’t you? What a joyous occasion it is! The image of the god passes, so majestic, so exalting; then the band and its music, and some of the devotees singing the songs of divine love. Then come the acrobats, some distance behind the palanquin of the god, displaying their skill to take part in this great occasion. And finally there are the clowns, aren’t there? They turn somersaults to amuse the children and to add to the general happiness. You know all this, and you appreciate it all.
‘The same thing is happening here: it is a divine procession through the body of Rama. The dance on the sands – that was the passing of the god before your eyes. And now, following the procession, here are the acrobats and the clowns, making their bodies twist and turn. It is all the divine procession, and Rama is an onlooker, appreciating it.’
© Trevor Leggett