We can become habitual likers and dislikers of something that is quite illusory. Now, for instance, people in this country, and in Europe generally, appreciate cheese, especially in France. I think De Gaulle made the remark, “How can you govern a country that’s got 173 different kinds of cheeses?”
Well, they admire cheese and the different varieties of it, but to a traditional Japanese, the cheese is food that’s gone bad. It is rotten. They are getting used to it now, but they absolutely were revolted by these Westerners stuffing this rotten food into their mouth, food that has gone bad, putting it in and then claiming to enjoy it.
Towards the beginning of the century, anything foreign used to be called ‘cheesy’ and it was claimed that foreigners tended to smell of cheese. Well, we think, “Oh, how ridiculous. Cheese is very nice.” When we, in turn, are offered, in a very expensive Chinese restaurant, eggs which are a year old, they are purple. Hard boiled eggs a year old, and they are taken out of their shells, and they are purple and grey, and somehow, you don’t much care for it.
The Chinese head chef says, “Go on. He says, Go on, lovely.” Well, if you can bring yourself to eat it, a little bit, it is not bad at all, but we are rather revolted by this idea of an egg a year old. Well, these likes and dislikes are something which are simply, we can see, in a sense, that they are illusory, but nevertheless, they are quite strong.
Shankara makes the point about the world. He says, “The achievements and the gains of the world, and the successes of the world, are like food mixed with poison. You eat the food and it is sweet. It is a word for an Indian sweet, which is mostly honey. It is a sweet, but there is poison in it. You enjoy the sweetness and then later on the poison hits you.
Now, he says, quoting the verse from the Gita that ‘desire for an indulgence in the objects of the senses is the enemy, the constant enemy of the wise man; but it is only the final enemy of the ignorant man’.
The ignorant man first thinks, “This is a friend,” and he gulps down the sweet food. Later on, he knows it was an enemy, but the wise man, the man who knows rather, although eating the food, he knows it contains poison, so although it is sweet, and he tastes the sweetness of it, that sweetness is contaminated by the knowledge that he is poisoning himself.
Well, this rather far-fetched example one would have thought in India has come to life now for a large number of people who, when eating food that they like, are aware that it is full of cholesterol, or whatever their particular allergy maybe happens to be, and they are, in fact, eating something that is poisoning them, but nevertheless, sometimes they go on eating it.
Shri Dada says there are symptoms of this poison. He said, “The mind goes to a low ebb.” He says, “If we engage our mind in property, bricks and stones,” he said, “Or in personal conversation, then the level of the mind ebbs low, the vitality of the mind is sapped.” He says, “You must make your whole life a yajna, a sacrifice, to bring about yoga”.
One can think, “Oh well, yes, some parts, some things, ought to be given up, but not everything. You have to be a bit practical.” People are quite strong on particular points, and not so strong on other points. For instance, if one has made quite a lot of money by working extremely hard for it, then one thinks, “Well, I’m entitled to have this, I’ve worked for this. I’ve given the world, exchanged value, for this money. This has been honestly earned. People who have just inherited money, well that really, they ought to give up. They have done nothing for it and that should be given up.”
Whereas the people who have inherited perhaps fame, a famous name, they feel, “No, people who have worked for fame, all that fame and all that wealth is based on egoism, and consequently, the very success is a reinforcement of their egoism. Therefore, that should be given up. Something that simply drops, as it were, from heaven without any planning or effort at all, that is clearly a gift from heaven and as such, it should be accepted”.
Well, in this way, what the other people have is clearly a candidate for- whereas what we ourselves have, a master of meditation in these says, “doesn’t seem the right candidate for renunciation”. He says, “While we are full of desire and ambition, we are volcanoes and nothing can live in a volcano”.
Now, our teacher made this point. A country like New Zealand, which is extremely fertile is volcanic and was volcanic, and when the volcanoes have finally subsided, the land is extremely fertile.
Our teacher said this is also a yogic truth, that people of very strong passions, when those passions are finally pacified, the soil is extremely fertile for yogic inspiration. He made this point. He said, “They have got to be pacified, and the life has got to become one pointed, but that when it does, it will be a very fertile field and the yogic plants will grow there.
Then, “We are marionettes,” Shankara says, “But we can free ourselves from being marionettes, from being whirled by the Maya of the Lord by a method which the Lord himself gives us.” What happens then?
The actions of the marionette, which are fixed, and determined and repetitive, so that our lives become simply a repetition again, and again, and again, of the same thing, then they can become free and creative, and reflect the will of God, instead of reflecting our personal will.
Nobody likes to be told they are marionettes. When, after a meeting, somebody says, “Oh well, of course, once he said that, you were bound to do that.” You say, “What?” “Oh, yes, every time he puts something up, you always oppose it, don’t you? We all know that. We had bets on it.” “What?” No.” You say, “Oh, yes, there was this, and this, and this and this, wasn’t there?” That is always vigorously opposed. “Oh, no, no, no” or. “Everything he put up was very unsound”.
Then, they sometimes produce the ace of trumps. They say, “Do you remember that time when he put up something and you raised an objection? You said, ‘No, on the contrary, it is the other way round,’” and then he thought, and he said, “Do you know, I believe you are right,” and then you immediately said, “I’m wrong”.
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are:
See also: Marionettes and Free Agents