Shankara says we are puppets

 

We’re marionettes, Shankara says, but we can free ourselves from being marionettes, from being whirled by the Maya of the Lord by a method that the Lord himself gives us. And what happens then? The actions of the marionette that are fixed and determined and repetitive so that our lives become simply a repetition – again and again and again, the same thing – they can become free and creative and reflect the will of God, instead of reflecting our personal will. Nobody likes to be told they’re marionettes. When after a meeting someone says, “Oh well, once he said that, you were bound to do that. Every time he puts something up, you always oppose it, don’t you? We all know that, we had bets on it!” And he said, “What? No!” “Yes. There was this and this and this, wasn’t there?” And that’s always vigorously opposed – “Oh no! Everything he put up was very unsound”. And then they sometimes produce the ace of trumps. They say, “Do you remember that time when he put up something and you raised an objection? You said, “No, on the contrary, it’s the other way round”. And then he thought, and he said, “Well, do you know, I believe you’re right.” And then you immediately said, “I’m wrong”.”

Well, these are marionettes, and the teacher says while our actions are fixed and determined then they simply become meaningless. Well, what happens if – as chapter 5 of the Gita says – when the man is free from the bondage of the past sansakaras of his nature, prakriti as it is called, he will begin to receive inspiration and energy directly from the Lord? Then the actions are no longer predictable, they’re new. “I do nothing at all, thus would the Truth-knower think.” Yukta – Shankara translated the word as yoked – with the mind concentrated in Samadhi. One can think, “What would this be like? Would it be like being behind a glass plate, like the studio manager in a cubicle watching a drama going on? What would it actually be like?” “I do nothing at all, thus would the Truth-knower think, thus should the Truth-knower think.” Yukta – with mind in Samadhi. Though engaged in walking, talking, seeing, speaking. This is one of several places in the Gita where the samadhi is not only when sitting in the meditation posture, but is in the ordinary actions of life too.

To become a free agent means to cease to be a marionette controlled by the impulses of illusion and especially revolving around egoism. The ego forms one of the rods, whenever they are actuated by the machine, the whole puppet is actuated by the ego. A particular modern teacher has taken this point and said “You know, all these yogic practices are based on a fallacy, because the man who thinks – and he gives three examples – “I’ll accept the instruction, I’ll get up early in the morning and meditate”; or the man who thinks, “I’ll become a brahmachari”; or the man who thinks, “I will control anger and to the best of my ability I will try to forgive” – now all those three people are acting from egoism. Inevitably they will have the thought, “I am getting up early in the morning, they are all asleep”; “I am a brahmachari and that is the highest me”; “I forgive others who are vengeful”. He’s reinforcing the very ego that he’s supposed to be getting rid of. So all yogic practice is self-contradictory, it reinforces the ego. It’s the ego that decides to do it and the ego that carries it out.”

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Yoga in Troubled Times

Part 2: We are whirled by Maya

Part 3: We are controlled by our illusions

Part 4: Indulgence in the objects of the senses is the enemy

Part 5: Shankara says we are puppets

Part 6: The highest service

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