There are two distinct methods given in the Gita. One is to throw away. It is done first of all by throwing away (sankalpa) purposeful ideas, purposeful planning, to practise in meditation, the ideas will come up. ‘I could do this, or I want that,’ and to throw them away, and words are often translated as renounced, but renouncing has got a sort of reluctance about it ‘oh well if you renounce your rights to so and so there is a kind of implication of compulsion or reluctance’ but the original sense is to throw away. Our teacher even used the words ‘chuck’ said ‘chuck it,’ so it is more of a joyful throwing away of things which are unnecessary, but just the same people say ‘sometimes you throw it away, but sometimes you find your feet are still tangled up in it.’
So there is another method given and this is it can be called ‘consigning’ or ‘giving up’ and it says that it is easier to make over the thoughts to the Lord or to Brahman, the word is something like depositing, depositing all the actions with Brahman and the results of the actions, offering the actions and the fruits of the actions to the Lord, and gradually by practising, especially with the fruits of the action which are nearest to ourselves. By practising, it is easier to give it up, some say when there is another who will take it. So both those methods are given to reduce the tyrany of the thoughts and to give them up Patanjali says ‘the idea of stopping the thoughts,’ and the objector says ‘well if you think of stopping thoughts well that is another thought isn’t it? So it will never come to an end and people experience this when they want to go to sleep.
There is a famous story of a golf championship where there had to be a play off between two players the next day and one of them sat up playing cards with his friends and one of his friends said ‘shouldn’t you ought to go to bed? Lilly went to bed early you know,’ and he said ‘he went to bed early but he is not asleep.’ If we think well, we have got to get to sleep. You won’t go to sleep, you will not get to sleep because the very thought – I must get to sleep, must,must, must, must – will keep us awake and so the remedy that is given in that school is to lie down and think I don’t care whether I sleep or not I am just going to have a rest that is as good as a sleep and the next thing you know is the alarm bells are ringing in the morning. So Patanjali says ‘it is like a flame and the flame will go out. It is a flame up to the very end and when there is no more fuel. So give up the fuel which are the purposes and the desires and the hopes and the fears and give them up just for the time being and then the mind will settle down in calm and then as it says ‘the original face will show itself.’ So the teaching there is that there is an illusion which is created but in the teaching account given in the Gita which our own teacher followed that illusion is not an evil thing but nevertheless if we take it as absolutely real we shall suffer from it, so it must be realised to be an illusion, and for this reason the name of the school, although Shankara does not use this word in his Gita commentary really at all, ‘advaita’ but it means not two and why you say is it called ‘not two’, why not just say one?
Oh well, if you say one, you see that implies there might be two. Why use even one? Well the reason for saying not to is there seems to be two, and therefore the expression is needed, that although there seems to be two there is only one. There seemed to be two, if we have a candle ,there is one, but if we are asked what it is we don’t say there is one candle ,we just say that is a candle, but if there is a mirror put now there seemed to be two candles. Now it is sensible to say they are not two because they seem to be two. Now in the same way with the ultimate reality and the illusion of the world there seemed to be two, but actually this projection of the world is not an attribute, an unfortunate attribute, but it is the very nature of the Lord. As the Gita says and as Swami Mangalnath from his own experience, it is the very nature of the Lord to project these illusions and to enter into himself, and they are forms, they are manifestations of beauty. Then the Gita says this, that we can become independent we can watch as the Zen poem says, which our teacher often quoted in his ‘Echoes of Japan’, ‘We sit by the window looking out. What a joy to see the seasons changing. The autumn red and the spring the green. What a joy to see it,’ but he is witnessing. As the Gita says, giving up the actions by the mind alone, he sits happily in the city of nine gates.
© Trevor Leggett
Part 1: Beyond the tangle of words