“I don’t see why we are asked to come to meditation and devotion practise classes. Surely the whole point of yoga is to develop the consciousness in the ordinary affairs of life, so we ought to practise them in that field. If we don’t do that, they are basically useless for life.” This sort of objection is very common, especially among ambitious or property-loving disciples. A teacher once answered in this way:
“If you practise only in the ordinary life, your practice will be affected by the associations of that life. You may be unconscious of the distortion, but it will still be there. It used to be said among forgers of signatures that it is relatively easy to make a near imitation of someone else’s signature. The really difficult thing is to prevent some of one’s own characteristic letter-formations from subtly influencing the movement of the pen. To rule this out, skillful forgers used to practise a signature upside down, purely as a pattern. That ruled out any traces of the forger’s own handwriting. There were no familiar associations to activate them.
“In the same way, in ordinary life you may try to imitate the conduct of a yogin, but the associations will subtly affect your behaviour. You will find that very often your good intentions lead to poor results. Without some inner inspiration, you will find yourself backing wrong horses, so to say.
“By practising regularly in circumstances free from familiar associations, you can build up clear inner awareness. Then your actions will be in accordance with the inner current of things. Of course, before this happens, we have to do our best on the basis of traditional right and wrong, but we must not expect too much from what we do. The most important thing is to practise to attain some inner calm; it is in calm that we can act well. At the beginning, that practise has to be done in special circumstances. Later, it can be maintained in rough waters as well as smooth.”