Loosening the Knot of the Heart

When the food of the mind is pure, the essence becomes pure; memory becomes firm; there is a falling away ( prati-moksha ) of all the knots of the heart.

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At this centre we follow our teacher’s direction to use the commentary by Shri Shankara on the Upanishads, and go deeper and deeper into their meaning. Shankara comments on this phrase ‘the knot of the heart’ where it comes in the Mundaka Upanishad, and in other places he quotes it elsewhere also.

The knot of the heart is loosed, all doubts are cut away,  all his karma-s are destroyed,

When He is seen who is both high and low.

Shankara quotes this (by citing the first phrase, in the customary way) near the end of his Gita commentary, to describe one who has realized the cosmic Self.

The knots are of two kinds they are are impulses of desire

In general, the vasana is, in the normal individual, a general drive. In the Gita commentary, examples of vasana are the egoistic feeling ‘I AM this individual’ (aham-kara, I-maker), passionate desire or hatred.  Pleasure‑desire (kama) is an especially strong vasana., he explains all as vasana. which literally means ‘perfuming’; it is something that persists long after its source has gone, as the odour of the rose persists in a box long after the rose has gone.

The samskara on the other hand would be more like the groove on a gramophone record, to which Dr. Shastri often compared it.  Samskara is a specific and detailed record; it has to be added that the sanskara, unlike the passive groove, is constantly pressing to repeat itself. Things depend on the impressions from the past but the impressions remain in the form of vasana in that case, the sanskara is also an impression but it seems to be more of a definite individual character.  When we do a particular action to follow out a desire or a hatred or anger or egoism and it has a definite form, and that form is what is called a sanskara, a latent impression that seeks to reproduce itself and the collection of sanskaras is referred to  as a man’ Faith.  ‘As a man’s Faith, so is he’.

Sometimes it is called his individual nature.  So there is not all that much difference between them, but the sanskara seems to be more individual, the vasana is more general.  Both are made up of desire, and ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teachings’ on (p. 90) comments: ‘Try to avoid harbouring desires’. Note that it does not say: ‘Don’t have any desires’.  If thirsty, it is perfectly legitimate to desire a drink, but not to harbour, to cherish, to meditate on desires.  The Gita says: ‘don’t brood on them, don’t meditate on desires.’

It is when they are meditated on that these form knots of the heart.

Now a knot can be a useful thing. For instance, if you have three sticks and you want to make a strong prop to support something, a good way is to tie them together with a cord and knot it.  The three sticks knotted together are stronger than the three sticks as they stand individually. This was the principle symbolized by the fasces, as the Romans called it: United we stand, separated we fall”.

In India, people often wrap a book in a cloth, to keep it clean and also to protect it from termites and so on. The cloth is wrapped round the book, and secured by a knot. When we want the book, we untie the knot and fold up the cloth.  But suppose we can’t untie the knot, what then?  To get at the book we must somehow ease it out by loosening the folds and easing it out. It may be a long business.  When we finally do, we are left with a cloth and a big knot in it.

What is the use of that? I cannot spread it, or fold it to put away, or use it for anything much – it; isn’t really a cloth any more, it is just a knot.

This will not happen if I can untie the knot.  Then the cloth returns to its natural freedom for use. Unless we manage to untie the knot, the availability of the cloth for use is much reduced.

There is only a bit which could be used to wipe things; it can’t be spread out, and one cannot stand things on it. There is a bit of it there one could wipe and clean a mirror with it perhaps but the knot will always get in the way.  Only if we can both make the knot and untie it will it fulfil its purpose and have a use.  If we cannot untie knots, the cloth will gradually get turned into knots, with no available space for use. The cloth is not for making more and more knots till there is very little left for what it is supposed to do.

The point is emphasized so much because this is what happens often enough in the heart.  Knots of desire or egoism form, and cannot be untied.  The knots become more and more habitual, and then hardened, impacted or congealed as Shri Shankara calls it. There is very little of the heart available for anything flexible or newly constructive; the knots take up so much of the space.  We must learn to untie them; If we can do that they may have a temporary value.

There is an example of this last in one of the oldest Upanishads, the Chandogya.  (This must be at least 600 BC, and according to tradition, is much older than that. Our teacher quoted this example in one of his early lectures. There is a boy, Swetaketu.  Dr, Shastri said in his talk that this was a naughty boy.  That isn’t in the Upanishad nor in Shankara’s  commentary on it; but our teacher had access to some tradition which evidently said so. His father was a learned Brahmin, and who one day said to him:  ‘Svetaketu, you are now twelve years old and you should go and study under a teacher. No‑one in our family has ever been just a Brahmin by name.’ The duty of a Brahmin is to study spiritual texts. Manu the Law-giver says: ‘An elephant made of leather and a Brahmin who lacks piety and learning – there is nothing there except the name.

That is what he said to his son.’ Our teacher commented: ‘This is the way to treat naughty children. Find an ideal which they can identify themselves with, and present it to them.’

So Svetaketu went off for twelve years and he did study with a teacher. He came back.  He had worked hard. The father had knotted the pride of family to the ideal of learning, and it had strengthened the desire to master the subject. To that extent, it had achieved its end. But the pride did not end when the twelve years of study ended; on his return, he was very very proud of the fact that he was so learned.

Now the pride of family had become a hardened knot, and therefore an obstacle. No truly learned man thinks he knows everything; he finds that his ignorance has increased with his knowledge.

Svetaketu’s father said to him: My boy, you are very proud of your learning.

Did you ask your teacher for that instruction by which the unknown becomes known? The young man no doubt wondered to himself; ‘That wasn’t in the syllabus’. He just said: ‘No, will you teach me?  So then the knot was untied and he became humble again. Or rather, one could say, it is not such much a question of being humble, as of learning to look straight at the facts.

Here is a more modern example of the same thing: a useful knot between the honour of a family and the efforts that have to be made, and the disadvantage when the knot becomes tight and hard, with a narrowing effect on the whole personality. In the first half of the Twentieth century. Many regions of India were ruled by Princes, some of them of very ancient lineage. A great failing of the British overlords was, their race prejudice. A Prince once remarked: ‘The capital of my ancestors was one of the great cultural, and incidentally financial, centres of the world when the British forbears were running about half-naked in woad, trying desperately to resist the Romans. Yet I am not allowed to set foot in the Calcutta Club.’

In spite of their resentment, some of the Princes sent their sons to be educated at a College for Princes founded and run by the British. They recognized that there were some valuable things that could best be learnt in that bit of foreign environment which had been set up in India.  The school was run rather like an English so-called Public School and the head-master could tell some interesting stories.  For instance, one of the new boys was finding it difficult to settle down to study. His father was the Rajah of the state of Tewari.

The headmaster, whose name was Berkley, used to inspect each class once a week.  He would sit at the teacher’s desk, and the form master would then present him with what he judged to be a typical piece of the work of each boy during the week.  The boys would come up in turn, and the head would comment on the work.  When the new boy’s turn came, the form master laid the exercise book in front of the Head; it was covered with blue-pencilled corrections.  The Headmaster glanced at a few of them, and delivered his verdict: ‘A poor piece of work.  You will have to do better than this.’

The boy’s eyes blazed, but he stood at attention, and said nothing; then he went back to his place.

At the first break period, however, Berkley said there was a knock at the door of his study, and this boy came in.  ‘What is it?’ asked Berkley.

‘Perhaps, Sir, you cannot be expected to know, but we of the royal house of Tewari are never criticized in front of others.  Never, Sir.’

‘But that was very poor work, and it has to be criticized.’

‘Sir, my father has sent me to you, and told me to obey your orders.  I will, Sir.  Our royal house is fearless.  Tell me to put my hand into the fire there, and I will. (Berkley said that he believed the boy would have done it.)  But we are never criticized in front of others.’

I found myself wondering how Berkley would handle the situation.  He said that he told him: ‘Your father has sent you to me to learn, and not only the books.  He wants you to learn other things, and one of them is just this: to accept criticism when you have not done your best, whether others are there or not.  You may show the heroism of your royal house by putting your hand in the fire, but he wants you to learn the heroism of standing criticism in front of others.  And if you do your best, you will not be criticized.’  He added that afterwards that boy, though not gifted intellectually, did work hard.

In this case, the knot of the pride of the royal house got tied up with the idea of status ‑ never to allow criticism in front of others.  It had to be untied. When it could be untied from that, and tied to the idea of working hard so as to avoid criticism, the knot could serve a useful purpose, like the knot on a parcel.  But he had also to be able to untie it from that too, and be able to endure merited criticism without being upset. If knots can be tied and untied freely as occasion requires, they are useful; but if they congeal and harden, they are a great obstacle.

Knots can be of different kinds, Shankara says. Status can be a big one. Here again, flexibility is life, and rigidity is death.  As an example, take the case of winning and losing at games.  A very influential book from the sixteenth century onwards in Europe was: “The Courtier” by an Italian nobleman and diplomat, Baldassare Castiglione. This classic tells the man good social position never to play any game or any form of sport against social inferiors in public, ‘unless absolutely certain to win!’

The book creates a knot: The man of higher status must not be seen to lose in public. If he lost, his status would be damaged:  he must be superior to others in everything he did.

Contrast this with the attitude of the English land-owners in the seventeenth and eighteenth; centuries. They were called Squires, and many of them were very keen on sports such as hunting and shooting, but especially cricket.  and .  Now English squires such as Osbaldeston played cricket with his tenants. He had a strong proud character, was a fearless (and deadly) duellist, a local hero of many exploits. But when he played cricket with his tenants against teams from other localities, and happened to lose that match, was never angry or upset. To be a bad loser would show weakness of character  – a poor sportsman. The two teams would mix together afterwards as fellow-sportsmen. They drank ale, and talked together: the powerful rich land-owning squires, and the tenants who were absolutely dependent on the squires.

The squires knew many of their tenants personally, whereas the French nobles were rarely on their estates, which were run by ruthless and corrupt managers. The French nobles did not know what was going on, but the English squires did know, and many of them were like fathers to their ‘people’ as they called them.  Some historians think that this is why England did not have a French Revolution: the English squires could check the worst abuses because they knew what was happening.  They could untie the knot of the class barrier at times.  Osbaldeston was a proud and fearless man; he outfaced the formidable Duke of Wellington in an argument.  But he did not bring the knot of personal or class pride into sport; he could untie it. Whereas in France and elsewhere on the Continent the knot had become iron-hard.

These examples from the life of the world illustrate the worldly advantages of being able to loose some of the rigid heart-knots. But yoga is not a question of adapting more smoothly to the circumstances of life. Life itself is a knot, whose strands are I-ness and love-and-hate. Tightened and tightened in many births, they become a hardened knot of Not-knowing-the-Supreme-Self.  They have to be loosened.

Shankara says that likes, hates,egoism – these form knots in our hearts and if they become hardened,i mpacted and fixed they prevent our spiritual growth and spiritual realization.

One of the methods is, to look at them carefully, and see that they are not absolute.’There is no accounting for tastes’ says the proverb, meaning that they cannot be altered by reason and conscious decisions, because they are not based on reason and conscious decision in the first place. The idea is, that outer behaviour can be changed, but not the inner feeling. But the teachers of yoga say that like can be turned into dislike, and dislike turned into like, by the will.

A young student challenged a senior yogin to show any example of it, and the senior replied:  ‘I see that you have an occasional cigarette. Now consult your own experience.  When you took your first cigarette, did you like it?’  ‘Well, no.  I admit that.  I felt it was burning my throat, and I was coughing, and as a matter of fact I was a bit sick afterwards.’  ‘So how is it that you smoke now?’ ‘Well, I felt the others were laughing at me, so I made myself take another and then another.  And I gradually came to like it, and now I can’t do without an occasional one.’  ‘Isn’t that an example of changing strong dislike into strong like, by force of will?’ asked the senior.

‘Don’t take these ideas as something from outside which you are asked to believe.  They bring to light things in our own experience which we tend to overlook.

Please think about like and dislike in this way.’

Like can be deliberately changed to dislike and dislike can be deliberately changed to like.

In the great classic known as the Yoga Sutra-s, Patanjali’s sutra II.5 says: Ignorance  is the conviction of permanence, purity, happiness, and self, in what are really impermanent, impure, painful and not-self. So the fixed impulses – called by him vasana-s and sanskara-s, which normally govern human lives, are based on illusion, and he puts them in four main classes of illusion given in the sutra:

(1) the illusory conviction of permanence in what is impermanent

We think things are permanent; we realize intellectually, but cannot realize practically, that they are always passing. When the Spanish dictator General Franco, at a very advanced age, lay dying in his palace overlooking a main central square in Madrid, detachments of his supporters marched through the square to make their farewells. ‘Good‑bye Franco, good‑bye!’ they chanted.  The dying Franco beckoned his doctor and asked feebly: ‘Where are all these people going?’ He could not realize that it was he himself who was passing. We think: how ridiculous! But many of our actions and our beliefs are based on this very point. We think something is permanent although in another way we know that it can’t be.

(2) We think that something is pure when it is impure. The commentators on Patanjali from the East. We should also find them in Western history, when Dr. Shastri recommended his pupils to study as an aid to Yoga study. When the Romans made the aqueducts to bring water to the cities, they lined them with lead, to keep the water clean as they thought. In fact the lead was gradually poisoning them. They could not know, and it is an example of ignorance which thinks the impure is pure.

(3) Happiness where there is no real happiness; often the illusion consists in looking at one part and trying to disregard the rest.

Two students lived together, and both studied fairly hard. One was a keen athlete who also trained hard (fanatical, fanatical – remarked the other); the other lived what he called a balanced life, with occasional all-night parties. On one occasion, the sporting one saw preparations being made, and asked: ‘Oh, party again tonight?’ ‘Yes, we are going to have a lively one. Why don’t you join in?’  ‘You know I’ve got my training.’ ‘Oh, break the training just this once and come and enjoy yourself at the party.  You don’t know how to enjoy yourself.’ The sportsman said: ‘By and large, I don’t think you do enjoy yourselves.  Anyway, I’ll do an all-night run and see you in the morning.’ So at midnight he left in his running outfit, and his fellow-student gave him a big thump on the back, while the others cheered as he left: ‘Best wishes from the party – think of us as you run in the cold!’

When he came back about seven o’clock in the morning, the whole place was littered with bottles and glasses. The curtains were drawn and the host in bed with a hang-over. Whistling cheerfully, he pulled back the curtains and started clearing up.  ‘Please, please,’ bleated the prostrate host, ‘no light, no noise – please.  Not that terrible light, not that clattering.’ The tidier shouted: ‘Why, what’s the matter?  Enjoy yourself, why don’t you?  This is the other end of the party. Enjoy yourself like me!’  And he gave him a big thump on the shoulder.

There are many examples of this in everyday life. The beginning promises well (though even that momentary pleasure is often a disappointment); when it develops, it leads to pain.

Instant satisfaction is a slogan, understood as satisfaction immediately. But it contains a sting: the satisfaction lasts only an instant.  So when contemplating the prospect of a party, the texts tell us to consider not merely the beginning, but also the long-drawn-out end effects. We think we see happiness in an object, but it will soon change. Almost instantly it changes into unhappiness.

Happiness does not come from grasping at objects or states of body; it can be found only in Self-realization, independent of anything else, outer or inner.

We get the illusion of happiness when we concentrate on something so that it becomes the whole world to us.  Then if we get it, we feel we have got the whole world.  The mind is momentarily calm and there is a shadow of happiness. But the whole world has been merely shut out for a moment;  it soon returns with redoubled claims, and we find only frustration and anxiety.

(4)  Seeing self where there is no self. This illusion consists in feeling oneself to be an objects such as possessions, status, the body, and so on.  When they are acquired, the self feels larger; when lost, the self feels diminished. Independence has to be practised, and it has to be practised down to the very basis of our being, not merely partially.

An example of partial independence was that of Sulla, a ruthless Roman general who after a bloody civil war, became dictator and murdered many former opponents. However, he had certain characteristics of greatness.  He is one of the very few dictators in history who have voluntarily relinquished power to a republic.  While in power he had instituted some valuable reforms, which gave the ordinary citizen some sort of protection against the corruption of officials and judges. He also reformed the Senate.  He suddenly announced that he would now retire to the country, turning over the rulership to the Senate, with the remark: ‘I have put it in the saddle; let us see whether it can ride.’ (In the event, it could not: Julius Caesar soon toppled its authority. Sulla showed impressive and courageous independence in his renunciation of supreme power, but the renunciation of status was not quite complete. Tradition has it that he died of a stroke, brought on by his fury at being contradicted by the mayor of the village where he had retired. His status was now only a memory, but he still felt it was part of himself, to be defended with every ounce of his strength.

The four illusions – seeing permanence, purity, happiness and self where they do not exist – correspond to what the Upanishads call the knots of the heart. They are ideas, fixed in memory, which bind the heart; while they are rigid and set hard, there is little opportunity for inspiration to manifest itself.

Patanjali says these things can come to form knots through the memory. One of the secrets of inspirtaion is be able to to clear the memory. This is a secret of inspiration.

Patanjali says, repeated concentration on a particular thing becomes inspired, or in his phrase Truth-bearing, when the memory is purified, and the sense ‘I am meditating’ has also been lost as it were. The purification of the memory is also the secret of the power-producing meditations. Encrusted convictions bar the way to accepting, or even imagining, any major change. Unless the memory-associations, first physical and then subtle, have been dropped off, there may be the brilliance of a vision in samadhi, but it will not necessarily be Truth-bearing. It may be some memory-association which becomes radiant, but is not necessarily a road to spiritual expansion.

We know in the world how the immense burden of out-dated associations can paralyse a whole field.  For some three hundred years up to 1926, the English law of property was a fantastic tangle of recent statutes and ancient custom enshrined in legal precedents.  It took years to master even the outlines.  It used to be said that every law student would vow that if he ever rose to eminence i the Law, he would reform it.  But for centuries, Lord Chancellors, having mastered it themselves, set their faces against change. Meaningless though it was, it had become their intellectual capital.  They thought: ‘I learnt it: let them learn it.’  Then in the 1920’s, a great lawyer, Lord Birkenhead, got Parliament to take an axe to the jungle and cleared away much of the jungle.

The same thing happens in purely intellectual fields. The biographies of science show that most really new discoveries are  made by very young men.  Einstein was in his early twenties when he revolutionized two separate branches of physics. But after forty he spent the rest of his career in a losing battle against Bohr’s extension into indeterminacy of one of the very theories he had helped to found. The young visionary had become a pillar of conservatism.

The lesson of many biographies of scientists is, that after some fifteen years accepting the basic principles so far discovered, they become dogmas. There is also the economic point: if he has a successful career, it is based on those dogmas. To lose them would be to lose his position as an authority. His books, lectures, and articles will have to be re-written, which may be psychologically unwelcome.

There have been a few who were continuously creative in a long life, such as Helmholtz for instance;  but this was because they changed to new fields, where they had not ; bowed before the dogmas of that field for a good time.  Even the great Helmholtz, who made fundamental discoveries in physiology, optics, electro-dynamics, mathematics, and meteorology, at the end of his life in 1894 still supported the doctrine of the ether, and 100 million years as the maximum for the age of the planet earth, though both had been recently refuted.

Patanjali says that a very important part of inspiration is being free of the memory-associations, being able not merely to concentrate but free the mind from the memory of other things and ideas, which will obstruct new knowledge in its struggle to express itself.

Memories cannot simply be set aside by a command, because the command is formulated on the surface of the mind, while memory has roots deep in the causal layer of the mind, the seed-bed where lie the dynamic impressions from which they rise. The seed-bed has to be thinned and pacified; this has to be done by a programme of intellectual and emotional dieting, so to speak.

In the Chandogya Upanishad, the teacher explains to the pupil that the ‘diet must be made pure’.  This is understood to refer mainly to the diet of the mind, which should avoid meaningless excitement and passions.  When the diet has thus been purified, the memory becomes firm’.

The mind is no longer subject to unwanted irruptions from the seed-bed, but can remain calmly and steadily on one selected memory, the object of meditation.  When this has been practised for a long time, it loses its character of memory and meditation, and the object appears in radiance, as direct experience.  When facility has been attained in this experience too, it becomes Truth-bearing – that is, inspired.  If the meditation has been directed to a symbol of the Lord, as it mainly should be for a long time, or in the advanced, on the Lord realized as the Self, then the cosmic purpose reveals itself in light and energy, and expresses itself as far as the state of the instrument will allow.

The Upanishads often refer to the distinction between those whose hearts have still some unresolved knots, and those in whom the body-mind instrument is clear. ‘To Narada, when his faults had been rubbed out, the teacher Sanatkumara showed the other side of darkness.’ Chhandogya Upanishad ”Then Indra, when his nature had been purified.

In the Taittiriya Upanishad, the pupil Bhrgu is given certain clues – speech, mind, and then told to meditate on that from which the whole world has come forth, by whom it is supported, and into whom it is  finally dissolved.  He meditates, and has a realization of earth ( = material substance) as that source of the world. Shankara says he has an experience of identity with the cosmos as matter. But he himself realizes this as incomplete, and goes again to his teacher: ‘Revered Sir, teach me Brahman’.  The teacher just says: ‘Meditate, for meditation is the means of realizing Brahman.’  He meditates, intensely, and now has an experience of the world as upheld by prana (vital energy), and further the experience of himself as one with the cosmic vital energy. There are several further steps in his meditation, which penetrates to experience of oneness with cosmic bliss. Shankara explains that the successive realizations correspond to the purification, and consequent penetration, of the meditation.

The seekers in the Upanishads are generally not involved with the world:  often they have renounced the world. But the presentation in the Gita begins with those strongly entangled and implicated in the world.  Patanjali’s Yoga-sutra gives their path in the Second Part, and it is summed up in sutra tapas, SVADHYAYA, Ishvara-PRANIDHANA – which can be roughly translated as Austerity (tapas), Study of the texts on the Self, such as the Upanishads, and Devotion to God, which consists in performing actions for the sake of the Lord, abandoning attachment by consigning the actions (in the case of selfless actions done as a duty), or the ‘fruits’ of actions (in the case of those done for worldly reasons).  This Ishvara-pranidhana corresponds exactly to the Gita  instruction for the actions of a Karma-yogin. The Gita account of the Karma-yogin is: he sees the world as full of separate entities; he instinctively takes himself to be one with the body-mind complex, feeling ‘I do’ ‘I experience’; he worships the Lord in his samadhi practice as apart from himself.

There are methods mentioned in the Upanishads often.  Discipline is given for the man.  The teacher tells him: do this, meditate on that. He does so and then inspiration wakens up in him and he can get internal and inner purity………in the Upanishad. Then what the mind takes in is pure and the memory becomes pure.  When the memory becomes pure then the vision of the Self can reveal itself.  But Patanjali in his second book says these are forms for the man who is already committed, already determined to find out the Holy Truth and who has not got many attachments in the world.  He can do these things mostly under his own power.

But Patanjali makes a big point. He says the man of the world with many commitments and many thoughts coming to him will only be able to do it with prayer and devotion to God.

Twice, in Patanjali’s great classic, he says: by devotion to God this can be done completely as well as by self power and self analysis.

And our teacher added that there is a third place where Patanjali makes this same point.

When the man is subject to many attractions and many distractions, then the unified concentration in devotion to a form of God or a name of God, especially OM, the name of God, it is a possibility.  But knots of the heart have to be dissolved.  The knots of the heart mainly are centred in the end, crystallised Shankara says, in egoism. I am this body, I have this money, I have this status, they crystallise, and he says the feeling ‘I am doing this’  ‘I am enjoying this’ ‘I am having a success’ ‘I am having a favour’, these things form knots in the heart.

Rama Tirtha makes a great point of it. He says “many people with great will and devotion make a success of something because they are unselfish and they are devoted to it for its own sake.  Then something happens and they lose their inspiration.  They become copyrights. They think they are proprietors of what they have done. This drags them down into a cage.  The 19th century genius Helmholz. who consistently came up with new ideas in various fields of science, once remarked, ‘Suppose you have a new idea, but no time to develop it at the moment, but you  mention it casually to a colleague. He says nothing to you, but goes away. And then a year later he puts out a brilliant piece of research, based entirely on your idea which he has confirmed. He now publishes it under his own name, giving no credit to you.

Now if you feel mainly glad that a new truth of nature has been established, you are a scientist. But if your main feeling is that you have been robbed, then you are not a scientist but something else.’

The world authority on radioactivity, who revolutionized the picture of atomic structure, was Lord Rutherford, a man of extraordinary one-pointedness and purity of purpose. An American guest research student in the laboratory once suggested to Rutherford casually that he could patent some of his ideas and make a fortune. He recalled later that Rutherford sprang to his feet menacingly; the well-meaning student thought he was going to be attacked, and fled. Yet even Rutherford, despite his quite extraordinary flashes of insight, did not see nuclear power as a possibility: ‘the atom will always be a sink, not a reservoir’. In fact no practising scientist did foresee it.

Only H. G. Wells , who though he took graduated in natural science, never made it a career, was able to think of nuclear power. In a book ” The World Set Free” in 1912 he described the dropping of a nuclear bomb, the after-effects of the radiation, and (much later) a world where everyone who science of the greatest men of (radio‑active….) completely changed the whole concept of the atom……Brilliant……He was confronted by a young American who seemed rather sympathetic and said: ‘look, Sir, don’t you think it would be a good idea if you patented some of your…………and he said………I thought he was going to attack me and I dashed out of the room………..very pure devotion to science and the thought of making, exploiting it for money is totally against his whole idea.  I just introduced this.

Rama Tirtha says:’ There is a legend in which a magician who hated the world, created three demons, fighting demons, and he created them simply with minds and bodies but without egoism and they were invincible. They could stand up to all………..The people said:’ They are destroying the country, what shall we do?  And Rama Tirtha said, well tell your champions, go up and challenge these and then when they come out, cry ‘oh no no no and then run away. And when the next challenger comes, challenge the and then call out: ‘oh no no no, they’re too strong and run away.  In this way. So they did that and then these creatures became weaker and finally they could be killed. Now the wise man was asked: ‘Well what happened’. He said: ‘When they fought, they fought simply without egoism…..but when they were challenged and the people ran away, egoism began to come up and they began to think’ why, if we are so great, but they don’t even try. They run away. It created egoism in them and they became weak.

Now can we just try to drop the knowledge of name, place, expectation and even the body itself.  Just sit, take a deep breath, let it out and sit and drop off the knowledge.  Deep breath and then sit.  OM

Thank you



The word in the Mundaka  is singular, ‘the knot of the heart’, but two other Upanishads, using the same metaphor, make it plural, ‘the knots of the heart’.  The verse in Chandogya Upanishad, perhaps the oldest of the Upanishads, says:

When the food of the mind is pure, the essence becomes pure; when the essence is pure, memory becomes firm; when memory becomes firm, there is a falling away (prati-moksha) of all the knots of the heart.

The Katha Upanishad speaks of ‘knots of the heart’

In fact, Shankara commenting on all three passages explains the word as a plural meaning.  (This does not mean that other  commentators could not use the phrase ‘the  knot of the heart’ to refer to the cosmic knot of Ignorance, which apparently entangles the Real with the Unreal.)

Returning to the Mundaka passage. The ‘knot’ stands for the tangle of impulses of desire and egoism. Some of them are fulfilled, and others are not fulfilled.  In either case, they leave a subtle but dynamic trace on the causal body, which is so to say a seed-bed.  If a desire is fulfilled, it is on some occasion, and then the trace left by it is called a sanskara; then it has a drive to realize itself again in that form. So it has a form. If a desire is not fulfilled, it remains a general impulse, and it seeks fulfilment in some form or other. Then it is called a vasana. For instance, the desire for taste. If food is eaten for nourishment, rationally and not governed by desire for taste enjoyment, then it does not form a sanskara or a vasana. Food is not thought about except to fortify the body and mind. But if someone begins to think about sweet tastes for themselves, and devotes time and energy to get them, that would be a vasana. Then if he once tasted a specially attractive sweet, and began to think not so much of sweet things in general but how to get more of that particular sweet – that would be a sanskara.

This trivial example is given to illustrate the distinction (though the division is not always kept up). In fact there can be vasanas and sanskaras of torture and murder, as evidenced in the Roman so-called Games, in which sometimes 250.000 died every year in the arenas. In his commentary to Gita Ch. XVII, Shankara says that the whole attitude to life, technically called ‘faith, is made up of sanskara-s good and bad in that individual.  This basis of life and thought can be changed, though it is usually a long process of unbroken application.

(NOTE  The distinction is not always rigidly observed.  For instance, in Gita VI the yoga training in one birth is said by S’ankara to form samskaras- which have a dynamic force in a subsequent birth, ‘carrying him forward even against his will’; whereas in the text Atma-bodha. Knowledge of Self, probably also by S’ankara, the yogic training is said to form a vasana with a similar effect.  Vasana does sometimes come to mean a complex of Sanskara-s)

It may be noted that in the case of powers arising from samadhi made to acquire them, the exercise of them carries in it a sort of contradiction. To effect the samadhi, memory must have been purified of all associations (sutra 1.43, 44). But after a success, the excitement will rouse all the latent desires, and it will become increasingly difficult, and finally impossible, to free the
memory from them. So the power will be lost, excer,t in one who exercises it without any interest in it of pride or advantage. Sankara in his Brahmasutra commentary says that all these powers are ultimately dependent on the Lord.

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