In Upanishadic times, the role of the brahmin was to know how to conduct sacrifices, and to teach and speak the Truth. The knowledge of the sacrifice was an important role because the sacrifices were effective in creating collective concentration on a desired object. So some teachers were careful that the knowledge should be restricted to the Brahmin class, and not become available to others motivated not by truth but by desire for power. So these teachers would ask an applicant about his lineage.
In one Upanishad, a brahmin woman is obliged to serve several men of different classes, and when a son is born she does not know which one is the father.
When the boy grows up he feels an impulse to study under a brahmin teacher who first asks him, who was his father. The boy knows that unless he can show that the father was a brahmin he will not be accepted. Nevertheless he says: “Sir, my mother told me that she served several men of different classes and did not know which of them was my father.”
The teacher says, “Only a brahmin would speak out so. I will take you as my pupil.”
This is a story which was told by my teacher. It is a traditional story but it indicates that we practice telling the truth but the real time comes when the truth is using the temporary body and mind to declare itself. Now we tend to think in material terms – there is this, and this, and this is limited to this, and this. But the truth is that within every person there is something of a divine power but it is not concentrated and focussed. As you know a piece of iron is full of little magnets but as they all point in different directions they cancel each other. Consequently, the iron is not magnetised. But when they are all pointing in the same direction then the bar of iron becomes a powerful magnet.
In the same way, in many of us the different elements conflict with each other and so they neutralise each other; our total effectiveness is not nothing but it is small. We tend to go by the strongest impulse of the strongest desire of the moment. If they can be organised, however, so that they all point in one direction, then those, so as to speak, can have the effect of a magnetic field far beyond any physical limitations. We are told that we can, by our meditations and concentration, make a difference to the cosmic background of the world and this is one of the reasons why we study to make ourselves a focus. The study of the holy texts must be done in the way described, penetrating the riddles in them.
In the Zen school they deliberately present riddles that can’t be answered intellectually. They are very good for catching the mind: two hands make a clap but what is the sound of one hand? The form of the answer may leak out, but the solution is not a bare form. When this riddle is solved it is not a question of spouting out some answer but the whole life changes. The riddles which Jesus set, if they are solved or partially solved, will have an effect on our whole life. There will be a new life, as He said.
A doubt comes up: “Modern science cannot accept these mythological statements about miracles, for instance. Moreover, the same texts which declare the supreme universal consciousness also speak of miracles. Since miracles are discredited so the whole text is discredited.”
We come out with things like that because we are not actually studying the famous modern science! Hume said of miracles: is it easier to believe that the laws of nature are broken and that miracles occur or are people lying when they say they have seen them? Which is easier to believe: that the laws cannot be broken or to believe that miracles can occur?
When Hume died in 1776, the laws of nature concerning light as recorded in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica published in 1771 in his own city of Edinburgh were that it consisted of particles, according to Newton, and not waves (according to Huyghens). Neverthless, when Hume looked at a lamp reflected in a slightly dusty mirror he would have seen fringes around the image. We all know this effect, we see it in the street often, street lights have a fringe.
The law of nature as known to Hume was light consisted of particles. But reflected particles cannot produce a fringe, that’s a wave interference. So every time Hume saw, and he must have seen it a good many times, an oil lamp reflected in a dusty mirror he would have seen a fringe, he would have seen one of the laws of nature being overturned.
When sceptics argue: “the laws of nature don’t allow for it”, they always slip something in, like a conjuror slipping a card in, and that something, that card, is that we completely know the laws of nature. We are beginning to realise now that we don’t and perhaps in principal as Bohr successfully maintained against Einstein, that we never will.
© Trevor Leggett 1998