“I think it’s wrong to avoid situations of temptation,” declared a pupil somewhat positively. “If you do, it means you’re afraid of them, and to fear them gives them power over you. It’s neurotic. Of course one shouldn’t seek them out, but if they come—well, let them come.”
Others demurred. “We are told not to go voluntarily into places where we shall be tempted; in the Lord’s Prayer too we pray not to be brought into temptation.” There was no agreement, and they decided to put the point to a senior of long experience.
She said, “When one is still weak after an illness, it’s a mistake to go out into a gale. It’s not a question of being afraid; it’s recognizing that one may not be able to keep one’s footing in a sudden blast. Now we here are in the process of recovering from the illness of ignorance-of-the-Self. Most of us are convalescing; we are still weak. We recognize that we might not be able to keep our footing in a gale of old associations or new temptations. So we don’t go out in them unnecessarily, until our legs are strong enough. Nothing wrong with that.”
“But some of us are in circumstances where we can’t avoid such things, however much we might like to,” persisted the original objector, trying to save something of his point. “For instance, I’m occasionally in a position to swindle the firm out of money, which they couldn’t trace.”
“Our teacher said that it is best to arrange that someone is with you on those occasions; then there’s no temptation. But that is not the final answer, it’s true.”
“What is the answer then?”
The senior stood up, and asked him to shake hands with her, and then hold on. They shook hands in the ordinary way. Then she said, “Now try to pull me across to you. And I’ll try to stop you.” She braced her feet, but the pupil was much stronger, and he easily pulled her to him. “Now try again,” and she held out her hand. He took it as before and began to pull. But this time the hand was quite limp; it slipped from his grasp. He caught it again, and the same thing happened.
“You’re not shaking hands properly,” he said.
“No,” she replied, “and so you had nothing firm to pull at. You can’t get much purchase on something quite limp. It’s difficult to carry away an unconscious man: Experts say it’s easier if he’s resisting a bit, because then his limbs are stiff. You can use them to lift him off his feet and then carry him.
“Well, when we meet temptations, we should try not to shake hands with them. To shake hands is to give them something firm to pull on. If we let ourselves get interested in them, or form pictures of them, then we are spiritually shaking hands. If we are alert, we can just drop the interest; it’s not a question of effort, but dropping effort. If we have practised yoga, it’s relatively easy to withdraw the vitality into the central line of the body. Then there’s no clutching at the outer objects. They may momentarily take our hand, so to speak, but it will be quite slack, and they can’t pull us to them.
“After a few experiences, we begin to feel the thrill of real independence.”