Many of the so‑called honours in fact are false

At one of the biggest Zen training temples in Japan situated not in some great city but in rather a remote place ‑ in spite of which they get quite a lot of pilgrims and have about 200 monks ‑ they insist that pilgrims stay overnight and attend the 3.30am service...

Note of Hand

A law student in one of the old records had to go to Bristol and to stay longer than expected. So he could not pay the innkeepers bill. This was a woman who was illiterate. So he put on his law robes in which he attended court, and took an impressive looking piece of...

There is another kind of long life

Trees may live for hundreds of years, but though they add to the beauty of nature they do not as such enter into human life. Though the life may have been long, finally they die and nothing is left. This is sometimes taken as a representation of human existence when...

Sense experiences during meditation

Sense experiences during meditation are not what the yogi may imagine beforehand; all the accounts show a sort of surprise when the experiences first come. They are more beautiful than anything in the world, and are quite different from hallucinations or dreams. The...

The ultimate independence of Self-realization

In armies, the chains of command have to be settled. One problem is: conflict of orders. Suppose a soldier is ordered by an officer to take a small box to HQ, and on the way an officer asks where he is going, and then says: "Oh, so you can take this packet and hand it...

The mind can be taken as the bucket of water

There is a bucket to be cleaned, which is now nearly full of putrid water. It has been left alone for a good time. There may be various ways to go about it. One of them is to put it under a tap of running water, and just leave the tap to run unsupervised. At first,...

Bird-man and Earth-man

Short passages from the inspired scriptures are at first reading often skated over as simply details filling in the main outline of the point or story. And this is liable to go on during subsequent readings; with many readers, what they do not see at once, they never...

There is no response from the True Face within

Some people say that though I meditate and do practice, there is no response from the True Face within. A teacher said for example think you are an electrician and are rung up to go around at once for some urgent repair but then came back home again complaining that...

The Power of Formlessness

There is a story in many forms, in different cultures and traditions. It is a very old one in India, possibly from before the Buddha. The Gods do battle with the Titans and the Gods win. There is something strange about the victory but anyway, the Gods take all the...

Speaking with no artificiality or insincerity

In some traditions pupils of 2 or 3 years standing are asked to give a brief talk to the public on some aspect of the teaching. Most are reluctant: they feel their progress does not merit it. However, when told this is part of training they are ready to try. Once such...

The Anti-Sermon of No Words

In Mahayana Buddhism, emphasis is laid on what is called the Sermon of No Words. This is a sermon preached by mere behaviour, by demonstration of one pointed spiritual effort in calmness, by the absence of instinctive reactions to events, and by what is called a...

Passing moods are to be treated like clothes

We are asked not to become identified with passing moods, which are to be treated like clothes. Whether we are wearing bright clothes or dark clothes we have still to do what is before us, unaffected by the clothes we happen to be wearing at the time. In the same way,...

Many ideas are absorbed into the cosmic purpose

In the great house of the personality, with it's attics and lofts and cellars there are some rooms which are habitually used, some which are seldom used, some which are avoided, and some which are locked with no access at all. Yoga training at first includes getting...

Knowing the Future

Sometimes we persist in a course of action although it ought to be perfectly clear that it will lead to a disaster. Afterwards in the memory of the event we unconsciously persuade ourselves that our action was not really so stupid. There are situations where both...

Can mere silence can be a lie?

Lying is forbidden in the classical ethics of Buddhism, and in the Indian spiritual traditions generally. There are subtle discussions on whether mere silence can be a lie, and also whether a formally correct statement is a lie when it is known that it will be...

The central purpose of a directed life

In the inner training, we can think of our actions as preparing and fitting together hundreds of pieces to make an elaborate cabinet, which symbolises the central purpose of a directed life. They have to be carefully shaped and fitted together, then they make a...

They finally react to imaginary slights and so on.

The skin loses the power of adaptation to changes in temperature, humidity etc. Practising austerity, going without a scarf sometimes, keeps these faculties in good order, and the skin healthy. So with the mind. Those who are always protecting themselves against...

The Lord says, he thinks more of his beard than of Me

The Sufi Attar relates that a certain religious man used to perfume and comb his beard for some time every day before his devotions, in order that he might appear before the Lord at his best. A saint of God had a revelation which he was to convey to that devotee: "The...

As Gladstone Did Not Say

William Gladstone (1809-1898) was four times British Prime Minister, and arguably the greatest statesman of the century. His policies played a big part in preventing the revolution that Marx had foreseen. Gladstone coined many memorable phrases which were in constant...

Life Rage

There is ‘road rage’ on being passed or obstructed, on a highway. But life itself is a series of obstructions and overtaking in every field and there is a smouldering life rage in the heart of nearly everyone. We live by artificial standards which themselves are...

Learning by Heart

It should be mentioned at the beginning that in Britain at least, the concept of education has been bedevilled by a false etymology. Education is thought to come from the Latin prefix e- meaning ‘out’ and the verb ducere, ‘to lead’. So it is supposed that the desire...

Paper Belief

In one of Barrie’s plays, there is a shipwreck, and for the first night the old Earl is separated from the others. When they meet up the next day, he complains how cold he has been, and his daughter says: “But Daddy, why didn’t you make a fire by rubbing two sticks...

Movement, No Movement

There is an oral tradition in some schools of yoga that persistent application to a spiritual practice creates a disturbance in the higher regions where live the beings sometimes called bodhisattvas. A modern teacher remarked to a pupil that sustained sincere effort...

Limitations on the Avatar

Children’s questions can embarrass even theologians: “Could Jesus have got down off the cross if he wanted to?” Or in the Old Testament: “Why does it say it say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart every night, and then sent another plague in the morning to make him...

The Cure

Some people find that when they begin a yogic discipline their mind is not calmed but more agitated and distracted than before. They complain to the teacher about this and ask for some remedy. Let us suppose that patients go to a skilful doctor to cure an ailment...

The Cave

The Japanese Zen Master Fugai, though a talented artist and poet, often took to living in some cave, unknown to anyone. It has been thought that he did this partly to avoid fame and reputation which can easily gather round a noted teacher in a monastery. He once...

Pioneers and Scavengers

‘If you associate with dogs you have to be prepared for quite a lot of barking.’ A genuine thirteenth century Chinese saying: ‘A furious tiger rises up but is killed and then a tiny kitten comes up and laps the blood.’ This exemplifies third rate thinkers who try to...

Falling In Love

Falling In Love In music, don’t fall in love with a particular note, however perfectly played. Don’t fall in love with any particular piece, however beautiful, with the feeling that this is enough. Don’t fall in love with a musician, however skilful. Don’t fall in...

Samurai Poetry

When the Samurai class was established as the ruling caste in Japan at the beginning of the 18th century the warriors were required to educate themselves in practical administration. This included literary skills, culture in general and some familiarity with law. The...

Free Fall

A rock, or a human being, falling from a cliff is said to be in free fall. But they are not free, because they have no choice. Similarly, those dominated by instinctive impulses often claim to be freely enjoying them, but in fact they are no more free than a falling...

Competition

The bad loser, the mentally agitated man, is always saying: ‘I am off my game today.’ I once made an enemy for life, when I was young, and even more tactless than I am today, by answering a man who said this: ‘No, this is your game. You nearly always play like this.’...

A Prince Reprimanded

After Aurangzeb died in 1707, the Mogul Empire began to decay and India was effectively split into independent states. Their authority was often weak, and much of the country was at the mercy of brigands and freebooters. After the British were more or less invited in...

Why has man fallen from his original, divine state?

Man is a microcosm in which all grades of existence are repeated on a minute scale. His nature reaches up to the Absolute on the one hand, and down to the animal and the plant worlds on the other. Although it is bound up with matter and occupied with the care of a...

The ordinary man holds the seed of divinity

There was once a man, whose father left him a palace furnished with every luxury and comfort, and everything the heart could desire. He was informed in the will that there were certain conditions attached to the possessions of these things: that he must first acquit...

Our life is a raw material

Out of the trunk of a teak tree a skilful carpenter can produce beautiful toys, useful tables, boxes, doors, ladles and many other articles. An unimaginative man may use it for fuel or just leave it to become dried up and wasted. When Pizarro, his Catholic priests and...

Create instruments of your soul to create what is good

“Be good,” said holy Shri Dada to a wealthy youth who suddenly inherited wealth and had received no education and believed that pleasure, sense-pleasure, ever-renewed sex- pleasure, was the chief good in life. “I am good, Dadaji. Don’t you see I harm nobody? I do not...

This world is a tinker’s shop

The cats that live in the workshops of tinkers, where brass and iron are hammered all day into pots, eat their food without a trace of nervousness or fear. They pay no attention to the continual noise of banging and hammering. On the other hand it is observed that the...

Wisdom for Kings from the Vishnu Purana

Shri Parashara said :— Being infatuated by their attachment to their mortal bodies, how many kings have lived blindly, thinking of conquest only ! They never pause to think that this world belongs to no human being, and that God alone is the Lord of all. They have all...

Do not let your mind dictate to you

Guide your reactions : do not let your mind dictate to you but guide your thoughts in a yogic channel. Even a slight mistake may lead to repentance for many years. Therefore, be careful. Take the example of a lotus. It grows in the mud and dwells in stagnant water,...

Tea ceremony in Japan

Tea ia a sacred drink in Japan. Its use originated in China and its real discoverers were two disciples of Lao Tzu. In their intuition they discovered tea-leaves, made an infusion of them and presented it to their master, Lao Tzu, in the morning as he entered the gate...

Have mercy on yourself

Whenever you are discovering the mote in your brother's eye, you are putting the beam in your own. In order to have mercy on yourself, you must give up this fault-finding and this denouncing of others. —Swami Rama Tirtha The kingdom of heaven is within you : and...

Saubhari and Samnada from the Vishnu Purana

A Sage by the name of Saubhari meditated for twelve years in the water. There lived a big fish by the name of Samnada who had a large number of children and grandchildren, all obedient and affectionate to him. This fish was the sovereign of the water. Accompanied by...

The Third Don’t Know

Uesugi Kenshin was the Galahad of mediaeval Japanese chivalry, and like the Galahad of the Western Arthurian legend was somewhat tactless and even arrogant in his youth. Kenshin was keenly interested in Buddhism and came to hear of the discourses on Zen given at a...

Thrust From The Classics

‘If you think I know it well, then little indeed you know.’ (Kena Upanishad) With these words, the teacher gives the mind of a pupil a shake. The words are a thrust at self-satisfaction. The pupil has an intellectual grasp of Brahman, Truth, and some experience of it,...

He was regarded as the embodiment of justice

One wing of the palace abutted on a rubbish heap; there was the outline of a door faintly to be seen on the wall. It was rumoured that each year the King stood for an hour behind the door, and if anyone asked for admittance, he took him in. It was not said what the...

Truce and Peace

In some traditions, the spiritual stages are presented in terms of warfare. In a remote province of a kingdom well and justly governed, there is a local warlord who from his walled city makes continual raids. The kings small standing forces goes out to meet the...

Two Hooks

Man’s bondage to circumstances and his dependence on them can be thought of in terms of two interlocking hooks. One is within his own personality and one is the form of external objects or the ideas of external objects. When the internal hook, so as to speak, catches...

First order or last order

In armies, the chains of command have to be settled. One problems is: conflict of orders. Suppose a soldier is ordered by an officer to take a small box to HQ, and on the way officer asks where he is going, and then says: `Oh, so you can take this packet and hand it...

Money and fame

Real virtue is to feel  from the heart at all right actions. And the sin is not just a question of not doing right actions oneself, but being envious of them in others and wanting to spoil them, ending up as a mere tool of the passions arising from narrow selfishness,...

Memory: exercise not burden

It is thought to be axiomatic today that to require students to memorise many things will produce robots and “stifle creativity”. No evidence is usually produced for this assumption; it is somehow regarded as self-evident. Let us look at a definite case. In the...

Cured but not Healed

It is often supposed that good health means never to be ill. But in fact no-one can be always in good condition. There are little accidents, if nothing worse. Good health is simply a vigorous response to an adverse condition. Again, some people think health is...

Reduce your mistakes

Mistakes A pupil who lived rather carelessly remarked: ‘Mistakes are a necessary part of the path of training. If you read the biographies of even the greatest, they all say that they made many mistakes. Some of them say that mistakes are necessary – one learns from...

A Zen Story

Why does Christ provoke the authorities to make away with him, and utter on the cross the first line of Psalm 22, "Lord, Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me"? (This becomes a song of triumph only at the end.) Why does Krishna, an earlier incarnation, born as a warrior and...

Last Words

A teacher of the Gita Yoga had as a disciple an Englishman brought up to restrain expression of feeling. The teacher approved of this as a basis, but got him to take part in amateur theatricals and public speaking so that there should be some creative expression. The...

Gift No Gift

All spiritual schools lay stress on giving. But to know how to give is a great spiritual virtue, and there are many gifts which are no gifts at all. A grandfather came to visit his son's family in another part of the country` and when he left` gave to the little...

The Blue Cloth

When the teacher first founded the group they were poor, and had only a cheap undyed cloth over the altar on which was the form of the god. They worshipped with prayers and mantras for the first half of the meeting, and then when the minds were to some extent...

The Magistrate

A TEACHER of the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita came to the district and set up a school in a village there. When this was reported to the local magistrate (the chief administrative officer for the district), he was displeased. He was a follower of a Western philosopher...

One Step, Twenty Steps

WHEN someone takes one step towards the Lord, the Lord takes twenty steps towards him.' It is a striking phrase which has vivified and energized the devotion of many yogis. Nevertheless, it can be interpreted, disregarding the plain meaning of the words, into...

The Seller of Pears

An Abbot of the Buddha-Heart sect was preaching in the open air to a large crowd. The Abbot spoke of making life harmonious by mutual aid and concession, but added that the aim of life is to realize the Buddha-Heart within man, without which life has no real meaning....

The Swimmer

An anxious man, always trying to foresee every possible eventuality so that he could prepare counter – measures, came to a yoga group. There he took up to reading historical and legendary incidents in the scriptures, so that he would get to know how spiritual people...

Emptying

A teacher used to point out to his pupils that what is already full cannot take in any more. This well – known Zen principle is often illustrated by pouring tea into a filled cup so that it overflows on to the table and floor. This teacher went on to say that when...

A Friend in Need

(The word buddhi, which is used in this piece, is the spiritually discerning aspect of the mind. The training of buddhi is one of the major purposes of yoga practice. In yoga it has the general sense of being awake in a directed manner and, when purified, is the...

Illusion has no Rules

It may seem that an illusion gets thinner and finally fades away after quite some time. But in fact it is the reaction that gets thinner; the illusion as such goes all at once. It can take quite some time to get over the idea that every man in uniform is ipso facto a...

Only One Way

It is worth knowing that one can get hypnotized into thinking that there's only one way to do a thing correctly. It's the Right Way, and there are no other ways. At All‑India Radio, where I worked for a time, I used to see Indian violinists. My father was a...

Practice

We can have ideas and then practise, but prac­tice has to be done till it goes past practice, until it is no longer practice. Here is an example I heard from a master I knew. It was around the turn of the century, and the master happened to be in the place where the...

Doing Good as against Not Doing Harm

My impression is that there is a difference between typical Eastern and Far Eastern attitudes, and typical Western ones. Take a case given by the Chinese Zen master Tozan. You see a hungry snake pursuing a frog. What do you do? Not liking snakes, you get a stick and...

Words of Love

This little piece is a bit pedantic; it's on education, from the British end. I heard a lady on the radio talking rather sensibly about it, but she said at one point: 'I had an education myself, so I knew that the word education comes from the Latin e out and ducere...

Unsteadiness

IN HER last work, Interior Castle, St. Teresa remarks that instability of spiritual states is often a cause of bewilderment to spiritual aspirants. They felt sure that what they experienced at times of devotion in favourable circumstances would be with them for ever;...

If you’re going to die, die quick!

I knew a Japanese woman, who was a Christian, whose mother had trained in Zen under a great teacher, at the end of the last century. The daughter told me a story about her mother (which the mother had related to her once, very privately). She became very ill, and she...

Spiritual Schools

" Whoever always meditates on Him, whether from desire, anger, fear, affection, friendship, or reverence, surely becomes one with Him."-Shrimad Bhagavat. " He worships Me with his whole being."-Gita. The tradition in all great mystical schools is that to have...

Notes

"Our teacher," said a disciple to a friend of his, "won't let us take notes when he gives his sermons. Still, he always speaks on one of the classical texts, so as soon as possible afterwards, a group of us meet together and recover as much as we can from memory. With...

Lions and Tigers

LIONS AND TIGERS "All living beings have been Buddhas from the very beginning. It is like ice and water : apart from water no ice can exist." Hakuin's Meditation Song. The most troublesome problem for human nature in any age is the question of reputation and profit....

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