Male Questioner: Can I ask for comments, Mr. Leggett, on a question which very frequently occurs, what are the differences between individual meditation and group meditation? You did just briefly touch on that.
Trevor Leggett: Well again, it depends on people and it also depends on the stage that people are at. It’s a bit like physical exercise. When people do anything at the beginning, they are full of, “Oh well of course my arms have always been…,” and, “Of course I can’t do that. This movement doesn’t suit me.” Well that takes months or years to die down. Some people never get over it. But if they do train, well then in the end they find they can all do what’s to be done. When they do that, then the teacher looks at them with quite a different eye and then you can see in them, then you can see the real individual differences.
Then the teacher trains slightly different, sometimes considerably different. The teacher has to be very careful. You can tell a pupil. For instance, people can get obsessed with theory because they are a little bit scared of practice. One man can for instance. Now you say to him, “Cut out the theory for three months. No theory, just practice.” Before you know where you are, everybody is passing, “No theory he said. No theory at all, just practice.” It goes right round.
Then you have to give a formal statement in the class and say, “Get on and learn some theory. You’ll never get anywhere with writing.” People often think this is somehow a shortcut or special things for some reason. I don’t know what they think your motive is that you don’t tell them but that can somehow be wangled or heard of. Well now at the beginning, for many people, especially people who have got all sorts of quirks and noise or fidgets, it’s very useful for them to sit in a group and they see everybody.
The lorry goes by and people aren’t disturbed. That’s often a great support. We don’t need this so much in this country. We’ve got security, we’ve got quiet, we haven’t got bzzzzz… mosquitoes landing on you, we haven’t got that. We haven’t got snakes crawling up. Are you going to sit there when you see it? We haven’t got earthquakes. Are you going to sit there when the whole building starts to shake? The monks do. They don’t get up and run out. If it comes down, it comes down. We haven’t got any of that so we’re pretty well off.
But just the same, we invent new ones for ourselves and then the group meditation is a very useful thing. But when people have made some progress, well then quite often they have to do individual practices.
Male Questioner: It seems to me that in yoga there are two ways to realisation and you’re only really discussing one of those ways, the way through personal Godhead. There is the way of obtaining realisation without personal Godhead. People like Ramana Krishna had to go through personal Godhead and, in the end, slaughter Kali descriptively in order to get full realisation. Some other people follow that path all the time, don’t they? How does that equate to Zen?
Trevor Leggett: Well traditionally it’s what you’ve said. They go through the path of devotion. As I did say, when it comes to the very end, then he says, “The God whom you worship is the God in yourself. He who worships another God thinking he is one and I am another, he does not know.” This is in the Upanishad. But it’s always through- there are four elements in yoga for an active man of the world. He must worship. He must do actions without being attached to the results.
He must do some austerity, obtain some independence from the pairs of opposites. He must practice meditation. Those four and one of them is worship. Although it sounds fine to say, “I don’t need worship, walking, going, sleeping, standing, eating. I am in Samadhi all the time.” As Hakuin said, “There is nothing wrong with saying that but in actual practice you are not in Samadhi all the time. Until you are, you have to practice this meditation. You have to practice the formal path.”
“The path of the attributeless,” the Gita says, “is a more difficult path.” While things are going well, it’s alright. But when things aren’t going well, then sometimes we find there is nothing to put our weight on at all. These words we’ve been using, the attributeless, the infinite, vastness, non-egoity, it’s all buzzing about up here. It’s like throwing stones into a wave or fighting tanks with butterflies or something. It’s all nothing. Sometimes people can give up yoga.
Male Questioner: The yogi Ramana Krishna, through personal Godhead in the end was instructed by Ramana Krishna on personal Godhead and had to accept it.
Trevor Leggett: Yes, that may well be but he was practicing devotion to a personal God.
Male Questioner: Could I ask you another point, Mr. Leggett? The great Ramana Maharishi had a very simple teaching indeed. It was based on the brief but intense enquiry, “What am I?” Now what am I is also a koan. Assuming that Ramana’s what am I enquiry is effectively realised, assuming that the koan is effectively realised, is it an identical state or are they complimentary states? Are they in fact different?
Trevor Leggett: You don’t know how they trained. It’s a whole system. It’s not just one phrase. I have no idea how Ramana Maharishi trained his disciples at all.
Male Questioner: He tended not to take formal disciples. He tended to go through motions of rejection of any guru authority, at least he frequently did. He affirmed again and again that the essential thing is to sit and locate your own heart and ask of your own heart the question, “What am I?” and await a response. He didn’t go very far to defining the response.
Trevor Leggett: Well the Gita says, “This path is more difficult. There is no scope for the feelings in it. There is no actions of charity and help to people.” It can be done and it’s noted as a path. It is noted in the classics but the Gita says, “These paths are more difficult. One is liable to find these paths rather arid,” very interesting for about six weeks and then it gets just the same thing and the same thing. All the taste goes out of it.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Damascus 1977
Part 2: Meditation on the navel
Part 3: Yaza is real devotion
Part 4: Not in Samadhi all the time
Part 5: The glories of Zen in Japan
Part 6: Disillusionment in society
Part 7: Yoga and Zen in Christianity