A poem says ‑
To meet a superior in grade
The only way to go, is completely to forget
That a higher grade is bound to win
You may say, ‘Well, how can you forget that?’ But, it can be forgotten. The higher grade, that is all in the past. There is a lot of luck attached to attaining grades and a lot of luck attached to skills, and a man may be off that day. Completely forget all that, at the present moment, with no grades and no circumstances of any kind. Then the lower grade is no lower grade. Similarly, for the higher grade, if he thinks, ‘I am bound to win!’, that is the way he may lose, because he is not putting out his full alertness. ‘I am bound to win!’ He thinks that the other man thinks: …’Oh, I am absolutely terrified! Oh, I hope he doesn’t throw me too hard! ‘
But suppose the lower grade is not terrified, it is much easier for an expert to go on with somebody who has done it for a year, than it is for somebody who has never done it at all. If you go on against somebody who has done it for a year, you know what he will do, he will do the right things. But he won’t be good enough at it. But with somebody who has never done it at all, you have no idea what he will do! Most of it will be absolutely useless, of course. But it may be unexpected ‑ you don’t know. With the partly trained opponent, you know what he will do, and it won’t be good enough, you can handle it all easily.
There is a story all over the East about the merchant who gets drunk on top of a high city wall, and he falls off the wall thirty foot to the ground. He happens to fall on another merchant and kills him. By an extraordinary chance he himself is all right. The magistrate is brought in and says, ‘Of course it was an accident, but you were drunk and you have got to pay ‘Your compensation to the sons.’ The lucky merchant agrees, yes, yes. Yes, of course.’ And the sum is agreed. But the two sons now say, the law says a life for a life. Besides the compensation this man should give his life. He has killed our father, his life should go.’ The magistrate says, ‘Well, it is for the sake of murder, that the law says that.’ The sons persist ‘No! A life for a life. Justice!’ The magistrate says, ‘Don’t you think mercy would be better?’ And they say, ‘No! Justice, we are asking for justice.’ Then the magistrate says, ‘Then you will have the exact justice. My officers will put a rope around the man and stand him in that exact place, and the two of you can go on top of the wall and jump on him. The eldest first and if he misses, the second one!’
Well now, the whole event is absolutely inconceivable, but still it could happen. And when you are up against an absolute beginner, he might do things just as risky and crazy, so much so that you do not even consider them. Like jumping on you from the top of a wall! So the absolute beginner is much harder to handle than somebody who knows the rules and the ropes but isn’t too good at them, isn’t good enough at them ‑ he is much easier. The point is in such circumstances ‑ to forget differences of grade and think, ‘Oh, he is bound to win, he is bound to lose.’ These are the things which fix the result already, which need not be fixed at all.
In the poems of this school, they have the phrase, which very often comes; shin (intention) and ki (the initiated movement) ki‑itsu (coming to one) ‑ no gap between them. Normally I intend to do something and I think, “Supposing it goes wrong. All right yes, I’ll do it.” I think of doing something and I think, ‘How are we doing?’ Then I do it. There is a gap.
They illustrate it sometimes by saying that your intentions and actions should be like a rope which goes smoothly over a pulley. But if the rope has got a knot in it there is a check when it comes to the pulley, and then it goes with a jerk. When it comes back again there is another check, and then it goes on jerkily. Well, in the same way, when the flow of action is going on, suddenly I think, “How are we doing. And that checks it. Or when I am doing something, somebody comes and watches me, and that checks it.
Well, they say the point is to undo the knot of that rope, so that it will run freely. There is no ‘I’ thinking, “How is it going? Will it come off. Will I get anything for this? Will I be penalised if it goes wrong?” All those things are like a knot in a rope and for some people it is useful to have this vivid picture when we are acting or doing something and then there is a check. It must flow. Not have the knot. Undo the knot in the meditation and the daily practice. The teacher says, “There is rubbish in the mind. There is no free space, the mind is full of rubbish!” Of course I don’t want to think; associations that I don’t want to have casual thoughts.
Another teacher says, it is not the great passions. it is not the great sins. It is the casual, silly little thoughts which prevent your spiritual progress.” So learn to abandon them, to give them up. It takes energy to hold them (we don’t realise that). Like somebody who is carrying a book under the arm. Now, when they have been carrying it for quite some time, twenty minutes or so, then if they trip and fall, they don’t let it go and take the fall but they hold on to it because it has become part of them! In the same way, all sorts of absolutely silly attitudes, which we recognize as silly attitudes, which we don’t need, are with us and we are holding them. We are unconscious of it, just as people get unconscious of holding the book. But then if we come to realise in experience, in meditation especially this is an effort, we come to be able to let it go. Take it up again, if necessary, and let it go, if necessary. Then the movements will become smoother and easier. ‘And then,” he says, “when your mind is cleared of rubbish, you can play!”
From playing, creativity comes, not from the chattering mind; creativity to assemble the material ‑ then to play. And from the playing, the inspiration will come. In the playing, the rules are given up. It is not a question of deliberately breaking the rules. People often think that if you break the rules, you will be setting yourself free. We can get drunk on words! We can say, “Oh, they threw off the restraints of tonal music and they sought for newer and freer methods of expressing their inspiration, beyond the constraints of tonal music. You get drunk on words. The question is: are these compositions any good? That is the real point ‑ not whether they are new.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 2: The only way to win is to forget