Transcript of Talk given by Trevor Leggett Reverence to Shri Dada of Aligarh, the Teacher of his Teacher, Hari Prasad Shastri.
This talk is called “The Main Teachings of Shri Dada”. It has a special meaning, this phrase ‘The Main Teachings’ in the spiritual tradition.
For instance in the Gita, in Chapter 11, the last verse, it runs like this: He who does works for Me, the Lord speaks, “who does works for Me, who holds Me as his supreme, devoted to Me, free from attachment, without hatred for any being, he comes to Me, O Pandava”. And Shankara commenting on this verse, says: “This verse contains the main teaching of the Gita which applies to everyone, which everyone should practise.”
“He who does works for Me, who holds Me as his supreme, devoted to Me, free from attachment, without hatred, he comes to Me.”
And in the book on our Teacher’s Teacher which was written by our Teacher, this book ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’ there are certain places where it is said either by him or by our own Teacher. that in this place the main teaching is summed up.
Or it will say in another place, “My children I have given you simple instructions today, they are the fundamentals of the holy yoga”.
Or it will say “The most important points of the holy yoga have been put before you today”.
Now this is a special point to help pupils. If this is not done, the people can choose some individual phrase, very often twisted, but hang on to that, now for instance there is a phrase in the Gita with the Lord speaking:
“I am victory, I am splendour”. And in one place He says: “I am the gambling of the cheat”.
The whole universe is described as a projection from the Lord, into which the Lord has entered. “I am the gambling of the cheat”.
Well, a habitual gambler is liable to say:’ oh, then my gambling is a manifestation of God, I should not give it up. These are the very words of the Gita, ‘I am the gambling of the cheat. It is true, I do cheat but this is supported by the Gita’. Well, then somebody will say: ‘you have to read the whole book’.
And in another place in the book it says a man of Tamas, Tamas, which is to be avoided, that he is deceptive and tricky, this is a sin. We have the two texts, ‘I am the gambling of the cheat’, the counter-text says, although the Lord has projected the whole world, nevertheless there are things against which we are to struggle.
The Lord in human beings struggles against these things of tamas. The other one is given to struggle against tamas. ‘I am the gambling of the cheat, tamas, trickiness, deception is to be struggled against. But then by a sort of conjuring trick this text is covered up,….we only have that one. ‘I am the gambling of the cheat’ now I hold on to that, I hold on to that.
And that is why it is one of the methods of teaching in the holy yoga in various places to give the main teachings so that we can see that all the other teachings, subsidiary teachings, must be interpreted to accord with the body of the main teachings. People are liable to bring in sentences from other religious or mystical traditions because nobody knows what the main teachings of those other traditions are and if they only just bring in a phrase, who is to say whether this is a main teaching or not. We know it is not a main teaching of yoga, who is to say, and the mere fact that these other traditions are relatively unknown only makes them more impressive.
There are certain phrases in Zen in which when a man becomes very attached to a particular Buddha image, he might be told: this is nothing but clay, this is not the Buddha, you must be prepared to spit”. Well, a certain Westerner went to Japan and he was somewhat surprised and upset to see the abbot in one of the great Zen temples coming before the Buddha images and making a most reverential bow. He said :”but master I have heard that in Zen one has to be ready to spit at the Buddhas and I am ready to spit at the Buddhas”. So the teacher said;” You spit, I bow”. We are given the main teachings so that individual phrases can be interpreted in the light of the main teachings.
Now in one place, Shri Dada says:”People will ask you, what is this old Pundit himself teaching you, that he merits so much of your kindness and affection?” Tell them in reply: “He teaches us how to live without complaint, without fear and without regrets and his main teachings are four: study, pray, discipline yourself and meditate.” These are four internal processes. These are his main teachings. Study, pray, discipline yourself and meditate. Study the character of the world which is shadowy, uncertain, hard to transcend. Study the nature of your mind. Study the nature of your soul which is infinite and immortal. Pray, the second teaching. That is, allow your controlled heart to be aware of the divine ray enshrined in it. By devotion to the holy name of God, it is easier to effect a prayer. Discipline yourself in disinterested indifference to the attraction of sense objects.
Discipline yourself to take the incidents of daily life as leaves in the book of lessons to be learned. Discipline means perpetual exercise of the mind in obedience to the code of dharma, righteousness and patience. Meditate on the name of God, on his divine form , then on his attributes. Then on emptiness, and then he gives some other meditation. Now these are the main teachings. In other places he will say. “Service of the Sangha is essential”.
It is not one of the main teachings. Essential, yes. In just the same way as in an athlete’s training to eat properly is essential. But if an athlete begins to say: “well, let me do one of the essential things” and he just eats without ever training, well then he will not get into the Guinness Book of Records and he concludes this passage on his main teachings metaphorically: “either kill or be killed.. Either end ignorance or be engulfed by it”.
When they laugh at you, say you are visionaries, practical idealists, deluded enthusiasts, answer them only:”May the world give satisfaction to you, if it ever has been or will be able to satisfy anyone.” This is one of the places where he sums up the main teachings and we can interpret the subsidiary instruction and occasional passing remark in the light of the main teachings. Then in another place, in the main teachings, now here he says:”I’ve taught you today my children an important phase of my teachings” and he refers to the Gita. Find consolation when I have died in the holy wisdom of the Gita, I am sure you will expect nothing of this world.” Then he says: “when someone asks what is their chief duty in life. Tell them it is to know God, the Atman, the true Self. There are many benevolent men who can establish hospitals and orphanages but your special duty is to make a contribution of service which is most vital and which they are unable to make yet. Preach the Truth with humility and dispassion.
Do not allow yourself to be put on a pedestal, talk as little about your own self as possible”. Then he goes on, “don’t live entirely for others. Care for your own spiritual progress more than anything else in the world”. And lastly, “I have tried to cultivate independence in my life.
Depend only on God, on nobody and nothing. By fasting assert your independence over material food. By long vigils, in devotion, be independent of sleep. If you have any friends, be their servant without expecting anything from them. The most important item is expecting nothing of anyone. I have told you today an important phase of my teachings”. Then again he will say about the fundamentals of the yoga:”The social order is always changing. Do not try to be a social reformer. The only service to society you can render is to live the ideal laid down in the Gita and invite other people’s attention to the necessity and importance of holy living.
Be steady in your devotion. Do deeper and deeper meditation. Serving the Guru and the Sangha, retire to the holy banks of the Ganges in solitude every now and then”. ” Cultivate silence.”
This is another place and if we put these together we can see that he teaches yoga training first, the inner training first, and then the truest, highest duty, in fact he says the only real good to society you can do is to help in spreading the Truth. Now in this way he tells us to assemble the main teachings out of many scattered references. People say: Oh well, words are not exact, they have to be interpreted. But we can interpret anything. The rule is, if Jesus says about the good Samaritan “Go thou and do likewise” we can say, well I agree with that these are the very words of Jesus. If I don’t agree with it, I’m a communist and think as Mother Teresa was repeatedly told, that to care for the poor in that way, you perpetuate an unjust system and Mother Teresa ought to have turned her energies towards changing that system. If I think like that, I’ll say, well yes, of course Christ did speak to the good Samaritan and said:”Go thou and do likewise” but who was he talking to?
That was 2000 years ago. The Jews and the Samaritans were traditional enemies. They hated each other. These were very special circumstances and he was speaking to them, of course it doesn’t apply today. In other words, I have no intention of doing so. Now we are to take these individual cases and compare them with the main teachings laid down, so that we shall not be deflected away from yoga by twisting of individual phrases. Now take one of the examples. One of them…..Great Themes……..the book, is Samadhi, or the depth of meditation. And a very well-known phrase is from a sermon given by Swami Mangalnath to laymen and sadhus both, not just to ascetics, not just to laymen, and he says: “To have the mature meditation called Samadhi, every object in the world has to seem to you just a beautiful rainbow or shooting star. Do not misunderstand my meaning, the passive trance which continues only when your eyes are closed and you are sitting still is not the Samadhi of Manava Yoga. Our Samadhi is a state of consciousness in which sansara is realised as a conjurer’s show in which the mind, whether one is walking, talking, eating or reading is ever fixed on the central truth of I am Atman. To us, to live is to meditate. Whether dispensing justice or instructing in the high wisdom or fighting on the battlefield or sporting with the Queen, the author of the Gita was meditating all the time. But in the preparatory state it is useful to be lonely and introspective”. Well this is generally interpreted to mean like similar passages in Zen that it is a mistake to sit still in meditation and that one should instead practise meditation or say that one is practising meditation in ordinary life, when watching the television. Why make a distinction? Watching the television is the witness self. If that’s not the witness self, what is? To sit there, independent, untouched and watch well these are simply distortions.
Now we have to look and see. If we look, it says in the Shri Dada Sanghita, we shall find 15 places in which Shri Dada describes Samadhi. In the Zen tradition,
Hakuin met a man who said to him:”I don’t want to sit in meditation, Zen meditation. I shall be in Samadhi all the time. Walking, going around.” And Hakuin said to him:”Yes, that is quite right. Samadhi should not be just in sitting in meditation, but in actual fact you are not in Samadhi when you are going round all the time and until you are, you should practise sitting in meditation.”
There is another passage by the same Swami Mangalnath on how to come to this state. Not just promoting oneself. And this is something that generally gets lost under the conjuring trick. “A few hints” he says, ” from my personal experience may perhaps be useful to you. The hollow in the centre of your breast where the ribs meet is the best region on which to fix your mind in meditation. It is called the Lotus of the heart. You can apply a little sandal paste to the spot and then concentrate your mind on it. Two hours a day is not too long for this practice.” Two hours a day? And then he said: “When this has matured, when you can fix your mind there at will, then, and not until then, meditate on a blue lotus. And when that has matured and that is steady in meditation, then the form of the OM, this form of OM in light, seen above the blue lotus.”
This is Swami Malganath. So he is referring also to a state of meditation, seated, with the eyes closed. Now if we look at the Shri Dada Sanghita, we will find many references. Swami Malganath says: “Dye your emotions in the colour of ‘verily all is Brahman’ and then you will pass into an ecstasy in which there is neither one nor two.” Shri Dada says: “Devotion is not the end of life. The end is direct perception in Samadhi of your own self as Paramatman. While you have consciousness of time and space you will not see Atman.” But that does not mean that when Atman has been seen it does not continue when after the meditation. But he says: “It is first seen in meditation. While you have consciousness of time and space you will not see Atman.” Then he says: “Meditate on the Lord in the heart, that is another form of this meditation, if you meditate on the Lord in the heart for 18 months and every now and then devote a week or two entirely to it, you will in your meditation lose consciousness of both the world and yourself and experience only the object of meditation. You will see an extraordinary light resembling the colour of the lotus in intensified form in your heart and all mental limitations will disappear.
This state is called Samadhi. This is a reference to a state in which the consciousness of the world and the self and ones body has been lost. My sons, the scripture says ‘the Atman cannot be achieved by the weak-willed and the converse of this statement is true. It can be achieved by the strong-willed. Bring the whole force of your will to bear upon the problem. Having made up your mind to know Atman, drive straight towards it. Renouncing the world, realise immortality. Renounce the mind, transcend the mind. This is not re-shaping ideas but stepping beyond the mind. It is not like a mental operation in which inadequate ideas are replaced by adequate ideas but a stepping completely beyond the mind itself. Like coming to the edge of a picture. Renounce the mind once and for all, you will realise that Atman is bliss”
On page 283. Liberation is the name of a mental function which arises in jnana, knowledge, and loses itself in it. Shut out all other mental functions, suspend all mental and sense-consciouness. What still persists is knowledge. This spiritual knowledge is not an idea, not a mental function but something beyond them. Have no desire, no claims, sit calm, break the mirror of the mind. Silence, Mahatma, silence. Not only silence of speech but of the mind. Then Shri Dada will say:”The essence of the teachings of the Gita is this, first the antakharana, the mind, should be purified and secondly it must be surrendered to the Lord and then slowly, mind will vanish into the transcendent light of consciousness. This state is called the higher Samadhi”. These are all references to Samadhi as meditation states.
The Avadhut, a fully realised Yogi, whom Shri Dada meets, the Avadhut entered into a state of Samadhi. The Samadhi is there used to mean a special state, it is not his normal state in which he was talking to the people. There are several of them but they are much on the same lines. The last one is the description of Shri Dada. The sun was at its meridian, the holy Guru was absorbed in Samadhi. One of his disciples discovered there was a swelling in his feet and she sobbed. Shri Dada opened his eyes, his eyes had been shut, he was absorbed in Samadhi. He opened his eyes and he patted her head and then he stood up and began to walk back. Well these are some of the quotations on Samadhi. They can be brought together and we can see that it is………..the state of meditation in which the mind is transcended and then it also refers to a state as the Gita says: “Walking, talking, moving in which………………..he is established in Samadhi.
The verses are at the end of chapter 2 but the chapter 2 also describes them:” like the tortoise withdrawing its limbs, he withdraws the senses as he sits still”. Well now, certain other teachings come again and again and I have taken out the examples of them. For instance, he will say this: “Life is too short to risk half-measures my beloved sons. Such an opportunity as you have been given is very rare. Take your life as one complete sacrifice Remember that since you have joined the holy Yoga you have connected not only with your friends and relatives but also with those immortal lords who grace Shri Kund, the spiritual centre, and indeed, that your relationship with them is the chief factor to be borne in mind. I repeat that a true yogi must be single-minded”. This is another passage. If certain dogs can be so single-minded that they would prefer slow death by starvation to being separated from their masters, is it not also possible for man? If I may say so, be mad in this yoga. Live the yoga, dream the yoga, sleep the yoga, eat the yoga, walk the yoga. Be Shiva, be the Holy Ganges. Then in another place, “I warn you only against adopting half-measures. Be prepared to walk on the edge of a sword.
The whole of nature co-operates with him who wants to know Atman. So what has he to fear? Well one can say: well you cannot live like that, and Swami Mangalnath speaks of this. He says, you can. Well, if the mind is transcended how can the body keep going? How can people do a job? How could they cultivate the fields? And the answer which comes in a number of places is: It is no longer a human mind taking selfish decisions but these are promptings and inspirations from the divine mind. When the human mind is transcended in Samadhi the divine mind prompts the actions of the body and the thoughts which no longer revolve around the small centre.
But well, you could not run a career like that, and we have the example of Pundit Bajnath, a most successful, famous lawyer. He was one of the very distinguished Indians who was invited across to see Queen Victoria. A really great man. He must have, building up his career, he must have had to reduce his devotions to a very limited time while he was learning law? In the Shri Dada Sanghita there is nothing said about the necessity for making a success of a career. When Shri Dada advises the boys, he says:”Don’t become civil servants. Don’t become merchants, – that is where the big money was,- in civil service and in trade. Don’t become soldiers, and he recommends them to learn how to farm efficiently and to become small-time builders in the small Himalayan state where they had been born.
We can say, the whole career of Pundit Bajnath is telling you to go all out for making a great success. But if we read the words of Pundit Bajnath given to the yoga disciples, he says on this very point: “Duty is a demand made on us by the Lord of the Universe. In its highest form it is expressed as a duty to know Him as He is and help others in knowing Him. The one and only sovereign remedy for ignorance, avidya, which brings about the various forms of suffering, as well as joys which are the inevitable precursors of suffering, is a direct perception of the nature of the Self. This one perception includes within itself the fulfilment of all duties, whether civil, domestic, national or otherwise. To discover and experience it should ever be the paramount concern in life. Those who postpone the purposeful search for ultimate truth or give preference to any other interest, whether individual, national or philanthropic, are sadly deluded. My children, if I were granted only a few minutes of your company, I would say this: Know Atman and stop all other undertakings.” And Pundit Bajnath chaired a number of important commissions in India. Weren’t they undertakings?
He said: “Know Atman, stop all other undertakings”. They were like play of the Lord through him and there were no commitments which could take him away from yoga. He recommends to a schoolmaster or a merchant, he should take it that he is in his position from his karma and he should aim to work efficiently but at the end of day he should treat the world as if the world were dead, completely dead. Not think about it any more and he said that to Allnut who was one of his disciples, in charge of a railway station, he said to him when Allnut said that the work was disturbing and interfering with his spiritual practice which was now very advanced, and Shri Dada smiled and said:”Yes, but give your example for a few years more. While you have been in charge there have been no strikes, no quarrels, no drunkenness and your example is necessary. Then fulfil your spiritual wishes.” And he did this, not as a personal ambition but he continued just for a few years. We can say, oh we can’t meditate as this book repeatedly says. Recite the name of God for several hours a day. You can’t do that. It would be impossible to live a successful life, specially in modern times.
The terrible rush and strain of life. It takes up three hours a day to keep up with television and if you don’t keep up with television, you can’t understand the conversation, because a modern conversation today consists in two television sets talking to each other. Did you see my programme on Thursday at 6 o’clock? No? But did you see mine on half past eight on Friday? We have so little time, such pressure. They could take holidays but they didn’t get paid. We have 4, 5 weeks paid holiday, yet they say they have no time. You say,: “Even so, it wouldn’t be possible”. How do we know? Six working the job for six hours, a humble job, six hours every day, then doing a particular sport very vigorously and intensely for at least 4 hours a day. Practising meditation for 2 hours a day and learning a difficult language for 2 hours a day for several years. He was successful in the sense that the sportsman got into the Guinness Book of Records and he said that his meditations began to come to him during his sport and they gave him a sort of special inspiration as energy. Now take examples from this very book.
The teacher, Shri Dada, who had several children, late in the afternoon in the Mango grove, the teacher is sitting on a mat, addressing his disciples. He is not at home. Then, after the teaching, now evening is at hand. Then he sits in his meditation preceding evening devotions. About half past nine he has finished his teaching and his evening meditations. He does two hours in the morning. He has his simple meal, sharing it with the gardener’s family. This was the place called Chandausi. Then when he came to another town, Moradabad, on his arrival, every evening, often for many hours together, one of his disciples, Tirath Mal, who was a very keen amateur wrestler, recited portions of the Ramayana in melodious tones to the assembled men and women who had flocked to the meeting. Although working throughout the day at the office as assistant to Shri Dada, his untiring joy in reading the classic of Tulsidas, sometimes for hours together, many hours together, until late into the night, and the zeal with which he continually practised his physical exercises as a wrestler, seemed both to defy normal bodily fatigue. The minimum programme for a wrestler in India is 6000 of two exercises, called bethak and dand both of which an expert can do in one second but of course they get tired, so it would have taken him at the very least more than an hour and a half and probably 3 hours. So he had his work all day, then his Ramayana reading every night for several hours sometimes and then he had his wrestling for two or three hours. Every night at the new place, Shri Dada when he went to a new place..
After his arrival at Harpur Shri Dada began his custom of spreading a mat each evening in an open space adjoining the railway station where he worked. This was their method, his method of devotion and it gave him this extraordinary energy which he had. Often in the night he was one of those who treated the untouchables whom an ordinary doctor wouldn’t see in those days, a Brahmin doctor wouldn’t see them but Shri Dada would get up in the night and go and see them and his meditations gave him this ability. To have successful meditations one must love seclusion and create environments that are conducive to its untroubled practise.If a man meditates for an hour a day and keeps company with the world for 8 hours, then whatever progress he makes is undone every day So he says to have as little to do with Sansara, the world, as possible but he said that we should earn a living in an honest way. He said that spiritual people who are practising will be reviled and insulted and persecuted and taunted.
This is one of the themes that comes again and again in the book. In one place, if you can go without food and sleep for a few days, reviled and abused by those dear to you, some of those who are dear to you will turn on you and yet with your mind unruffled and fixed on the name of God, then there is cause for rejoicing. Live in solitude, bear the taunts, mockery and derision of your relatives and friends as if they were flowers showered upon you. Now he gave to his disciples, and this is a main theme in the book, a mission. There are 23 references to this mission which is to spread the light of the Gita and the holy teachings centred on the Gita, to the West. I will read a few of them. From page 10. A new light from the torch of eternal truth is to be ushered into the world, a tributary of the holy Ganges of the Gita is winding its way to Britain. Thus it has been decreed. The word for Britain is Angala Desha, the place of the Angles. This holy and venerable sage Swami Krishnanandaji, Shri Dada’s teacher, is undertaking the great task.
Then again: He has entrusted us with the mission of carrying the light far and wide to the East and the West. Find newer and newer fields for sowing the seeds of the Holy Gita. A great saint says to Shri Dada:” Narayana Narayana, for the good of the soul the Gita must be given to Angala Desha, Narayana Narayana”. The Gita Shastra,- this is another passage, – is enough to enlighten humanity. The truth of the Gita is verily the highest truth. Broadcast this truth, Narayana, distribute copies of the holy text. The truth of the Gita will be introduced in its present form to Angala Desha in this very generation. Those of you who have already incarnated there will receive it and cherish it.”
Well there are many of these quotations and I have just read a few and he says we should not have, what Swami Rama Tirtha used to call the copy-writing spirit, as if it were only through ‘me’ that it can come. He said, don’t become fixed and rigid in your ideas. One of the final verses of the Gita says: The greatest service that man can do to humanity is to spread the teachings of the Gita in humility. Yoga is the all-powerful stream, the holy Ganges.
There are Rishis and Brahmacharis who are more anxious to help than you are. They will only help through you. Now I charge you to spread the doctrine, not only in India but in other places also. To you is given the privilege to live it and to promulgate it. Promulgate it, my friends. If you feel you cannot do much, then meditate that your Atman pervades all, that you enter the heart of each and everyone. that you introduce into it the Ganges of peace. I was never a Pundit, all you need by way of spiritual instruction you will find in the Holy Gita. There are many benevolent men who can establish hospitals and orphanages, your special duty to make a contribution of service which is most vital and which they are unable to make yet, preach the truth with humility and dispassion.
The Holy Gita is the only prescription. Where are the broadcasters? Wanted, a man who will preach of the Lord, with no self-interest, no narrowness, prompted by nothing but compassion. Some will reincarnate, they will be opposed, slighted, oppressed and persecuted. If they still do not complain and with spiritual love scatter the seeds of the Gita, the present sub-cycle of Kali-Yuga will be turned into an upward curve towards spirituality and at a great meeting Shri Dada’s mission was blessed by the Holy Rishis. Shri Dada’s face was transfigured. Silence fell over the whole assembly so that it seemed that statues and not men were sitting there. Well, these were some of the main teachings which come again and again in the book The Shri Dada Sanghita and this is a book which our teacher wrote specially for Shanti Sadan to study and it has been presented by these quotations from the book. OM.
Thank you for your attention.