Mirrors in Yoga and Zen

Mirrors

A young and able businessman was hampered in his career by sudden outbursts of fury when he was contradicted in front of others – at a board meeting, for instance. He was making some attempts at spiritual training, and he consulted one of the senior members of the group.

‘I know you’re going to tell me to count backwards from twenty- nine or something like that, but the fact is that it’s so strong that all that just gets blown away. I see a sort of red mist coming in front of my eyes. Isn’t there something a bit more positive for people like me ?’

The senior looked at him, smartly dressed and clearly very careful about his appearance.

‘There might be, for someone like you as you say,’ he replied, ‘but you have to be willing to get a bit of a shock. Keep a little mirror in your pocket, and when you see that red mist coming up, just go out of the room for a moment and look in the mirror.’

The business man did this next time he was contradicted. When he saw in the glass his face contorted with rage, lips swollen and eyes injected with blood, the ugliness of it was like a shower of icy water.

He never again lost his temper in public.

A teacher was having a meal with two pupils of some years standing, a man and a woman. The man knew that the woman, who had a witty tongue, occasionally used to make amusing but biting comments at the expense of others, and he suspected that she was not above inventing some details to give an extra edge to her little aggressions. Though generally likeable and kind-hearted, she could not resist taking an occasional opening which presented itself.

During the meal, the teacher suddenly launched into a stream of vicious criticisms of someone well-known to all of them, producing wild slanders and accusations which they knew must be untrue. After a little, the two pupils cried out in protest, ‘Oh teacher, you can’t say

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that!’ The teacher’s flow stopped as if a tap had been turned off; after a little silence he began calmly to speak of something else.

The two went home thoughtfully. After some weeks, the man noticed that the woman was very careful about her comments in regard to other people; in particular, she never gave rein to her talent for impromptu sarcasms. He realized that she had seen herself in what the teacher had done; he had held up a mirror before her, and because she had done some training, she had been able to realize that it was a reflected image, and not a characteristic of the mirror itself. He thought how privileged he had been to be a witness of this spiritually inspired instruction.

A fault, he pondered, of which she had been entirely unconscious, had been brought to light without direct criticism, which might have made her defensive. But how extraordinary that she could have been so completely unaware of it before.

Then he thought, I should not take this as applying to her alone; I should reflect whether I myself have ever at all offended in the same respect. Hardly -1 make jokes, of course, but no one could resent. . . well, perhaps once. No – twice. . . . No, more than that … oh dear, dear, dear.

And now he thought that perhaps it had been she who had been privileged to be a witness of spiritually inspired instruction.

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