In Science 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.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Loosening the Knot of the Heart
Part 2: Swetaketu was a naughty boy