If you take up a spiritual discipline, you have to study one tradition8 min read

I just want to say something about study. You have to be convinced, otherwise you will never do the special practises which can sensitise you to the existence of those hidden streams. Unless you are fairly convinced that they exist, you will never have the patience to keep on with the practises. For this reason you must study, not in vast detail, with a lot of names and dates, but study the subject in one main tradition so that you have a grasp of it.

I’ll give you an example. At the beginning of the century, my mother, who was of a rich family, married my father who was a poor man. It was a love match. She told me that she had been brought up in this rich family like a doll. The girls were taught to be entertaining and to have graces and so on, but they could not earn their own living, and she rebelled against her strong-minded mother, saying: “I will leave home.” Well there were only two ways a girl could earn a living then: nursing (typing as a profession was not yet available), and the other was something I don’t want to mention, so she chose nursing.

She completed the nursing training, although she never practised, and by the time the training was complete, her mother had recognised the same strong will in the daughter as she had in herself, and she was welcomed back into the home. Later on in her life I looked after her for her last twenty years, and she became diabetic, but because she had been a nurse she followed the instructions exactly.

The first year she was diagnosed, we had to weigh everything, even a slice of bread. We had to take tests every morning, and inject the exact amount of insulin. But the diabetic diet is a very healthy one; alcohol, smoking and sweet things are controlled, so, although she was diabetic and had to have these injections, her general health improved – she was very vigorous up to the age of 82-83. Some of her friends were also diabetic, but they could not manage to follow the rules; they knew they should, but they thought: “Oh, just one sweet thing, it doesn’t matter.”

I can remember one of them, a brilliant historian, who had a comer cupboard in one room, and she would get up quietly while the others were talking and just open the door a tiny little bit and take out a chocolate. She thought it didn’t count – if nobody saw it, it didn’t count. Well, she and others, who did not follow the rules, died, but my mother and one or two others did not.

You have to do enough study to convince yourself to follow the discipline, and that varies with different people. Some people need more study than others, but it is essential. If you have diabetes you must read all the points on diabetes: don’t smoke, watch your feet, be very careful of your eyes, and so on (a small cut on the foot for a diabetic can be disastrous). You have to read enough to become convinced.

In the same way, if you take up a spiritual discipline in order to bring living streams into the desert of your life, you have to study one tradition. You respect other traditions, but you train in just one. As you can understand, the figures which the helicopter scientists bring back mean nothing to the ordinary person, and if they were presented to us, they wouldn’t persuade us to spend money drilling in the desert. It would be just a lot of figures that had to be explained very carefully. It is the same with spiritual study. The analysis of the mind can be very exact, but not everyone can follow it, so, for some things, we should go to a reliable source and be prepared to take some things on faith; not blind faith, but experimental faith.

You have faith enough to enable you to go on making experiments, and when you get little confirmations it will seem reasonable to you. If you go on still further you will get bigger confirmations.

Here is an example of this. A businessman made a lot of money suddenly, bought a new house, and wanted to show it off to all his friends. His sister had been abroad, and she had married while she was away. Her return with her new husband was the perfect opportunity for a party, and the businessman invited about fifty people.

One of them was a young mathematician, and the host, who was very contemptuous of mathematics, said: “Fiddling about with figures, a waste of time.” The mathematician tried to assert that mathematics could be helpful in practical life, but the host said: “Not the sort of things you study. Why are prime numbers often in pairs eleven and thirteen, seventeen and nineteen? What good is that? It is useless!” The mathematician, too embarrassed to argue, said nothing.

Then the sister introduced her husband, who was an astronomer, and it turned out that he had been in the East and was interested in astrology. The host, contemptuously, said: “You people just live on superstitions, there are never any scientific tests, nothing definite at all.” And the astronomer said: “Well how can there be? I can make predictions but you have to wait to see if they’re true. Then, when something happens and I say I predicted it, then you will doubt that I ever did.

But there can be occasions where there is a definite test. ” And the host said: “And I suppose that this is not one of those occasions, is it?” “As a matter of fact it is,” replied the astronomer. “People who are born on the same birthday have a sort of resonance. It does not mean they have the same character exactly, but there is a resonance between them. Now I have had some training in astrology and, as a matter of fact, there are about, how many, fifty of us here now? There are three hundred and sixty five days in a year, so it is not very likely that two of them are born on the same date, is it?” And the host said “Now fifty into three hundred and fifty – about a one in seven chance.” The astronomer/astrologer looked around him and said: “Well, as you are keen on definite tests, I’ll make a prediction. I can feel a resonance here. There are two people here who have been born on the same date. Now you know I have just come from abroad and I don’t know anyone here except for my wife, your sister.” The host was delighted, saying: “Yes, let’s have a test, and when you fail it, no doubt you’ll have some excuse won’t you?”

So the people lined up and passed between 2 chairs in the middle of the room, calling out their birthdays. When about half had gone through, someone said:

“October 10th,” and somebody in the crowd behind, who had not been through, said: “I’m October 10th.” There was silence until the host said:

“Well that is just a fluke, it can happen.” But the astronomer replied: “It can’t be a fluke – I predicted it, didn’t I?” The businessman said: “It was a fluke that you predicted a fluke.” The astronomer looked at his host and said: “Remember what you said about finding some excuse?” And the host was silent. Afterwards the shy mathematician went up to the astronomer and said: “It is about ninety seven per cent on isn’t it?” The astronomer said: “You’re a mathematician too are you? I know this is not astrology, but what can I say when I am talking to fools? We have studied astrology seriously, as a science, and while it has had some failures, it has also had some successes, but some people just won’t listen. However, quite a few people in this room will listen now.”

The mathematical proof does seem incredible. There are fifty people, there are three hundred and sixty five days of the year, but it is something like 32 – 1, or 97 %, that two of them will be born on the same date.

Most of us couldn’t follow the complex mathematical probabilities argument even if the mathematician explained it to us, but some people were convinced by the astrologer when he says he sensed a resonance and he was right. So I would just like to say that we don’t have to plunge deeply into scholastic and academic study, but we must have a general idea of the tradition that we are going to follow in order to bore into the desert to find the water that flows.

So what I have been talking about is really to illustrate that if we look and study, and we begin to look in our lives for those moments of peace which come for no reason at all, we will begin to get hints that there is something deep beneath the desert which can make it bloom.

But to know this, even though it can be comforting, doesn’t solve our problem – we are still in the desert. We need to find some definite practise that we can do and that is going to take some time. I will now explain one of the meditation practises that I received from my teacher.

Practices now follow: 

Continued from:

© Trevor Leggett