Theories cannot actually be lived through

 

P.G Woodhouse used to write little comic stories about the perfect manservant, Jeeves, who was much better educated and far more intelligent than his master, the amiable chump Bertie Wooster.

On one occasion Wooster is talking to Jeeves. He says, “[A man is a man , Jeeves, happy, sad, in spite of everything.” And Jeeves coughs. Bertie says, “What is it, Jeeves?” And Jeeves said, “Well, Sir. It is only that the poet, Burns…” And Bertie says, “Forget Burns, Jeeves. Clear the tablet of your mind of the poet Burns, Jeeves.” And Jeeves says, “Very good, Sir.”

Now, in a little bit the same way we are told, “Oh, yes,” and then we negate the whole superimposition of the world. All its pain. All its changes. We just negate it. “Very good, Sir.” But it does not happen. Jeeves does not forget the poet Burns. But he says, “Very good, Sir.”

We can easily get into the idea of mere theory. As though Vedanta was simply intellectual concepts, superimposing concepts and then taking them off again at will.

But it is not so. The theories may be propounded but they cannot actually be lived through. Even though the Vedanta is supported by very carefully reasoned arguments and very fine analysis of states of consciousness, to which full assent is given.

Yes, it is proved. And yet it cannot be taken in. Well, if it is proved, and we know it is proved and we accept it, how is it that it is not taken in?

Well, I will give an example. A newly rich businessman wanted to show off his new house, so he invited a host of 50-odd guests. And the occasion he made was that his sister from abroad had married an astronomer and she was going to meet up with his new friends.

In the course of the conversation it turned out that this astronomer was also interested in astrology. He said, “I think there is something there. It is full of superstition, of course, but I think there is something there, and I and a few scientific friends are studying it.”

The host said aggressively, “No. How can you call yourself a scientist if you are studying astrology? You will never make exact predictions. It is all this ‘likely’ or it is ’possible’ … Then when it does not turn up you make excuses.”

Well, the astronomer-astrologer got a bit nettled. He said, “Well, it is quite true. It deals mostly in tendencies. But there are certain occasions, for instance a group like this, where it is possible to make an exact prediction then and there.” The host said, “Oh, yes. And I suppose this is not one of the occasions, unfortunately.”

The astronomer said, “Well, as a matter of fact, it is. In our astrology, people who are born on the same birthday have what we call a birthday bond, and I sense that there is one here. Now, as you know, I have been abroad. I come from abroad. I don’t know any of these people. I don’t know who they are, but I know there are two people here who have a birthday bond. What do you think is the likelihood of that happening by chance?”

The host looked round and said, “There are about fifty, and three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, so I think it could happen. About one in seven.” So the astronomer said, “Well, now I will make a definite prediction that it is so.”

The host was delighted. He put two chairs in the middle of the room. People were to file through the chairs and as they went between the chairs they would call out their birthday. About the eleventh person that went through said, “September 3rd,” and somebody spoke up from the crowd still to go through, “Yes, I am September 3rd.”

Well, the host said, “Oh, that was just a fluke.” And the astronomer-astrologer said, “Well, it is not a fluke. I predicted it, didn’t I?” He said, “Well, it was a fluke that you predicted a fluke.” And the other man said, “Well, do you remember what you said about finding excuses when you were wrong?” (Laughter) So the subject was changed.

Now, there was a mathematician at the party. He said to the astronomer, “You are on a pretty good thing there, aren’t you? It is almost certain, isn’t it?” He said, “You are a mathematician too?” He said, “Yes.”

Will you put it up (a diagram)?

The white squares are a calendar of the year, 365. These little spots are the 50 people. Now, if at random those dots were scattered about by a blind person instead dropping them into the boxes, what is the likelihood that two of them will fall in the same box? Well, it is pretty small.

If it were spread out evenly each dot would have seven layers of seven boxes to go into. And by the law of averages they will be spread out fairly evenly, with a few irregularities.

But to say that it is pretty well certain that two of them will land in the same box is just unbelievable. And yet there is a mathematical proof that it is so. And we can get up our school mathematics, and with labour, and the help of one of the other mathematicians perhaps, establish the truth that it must be so, that 97% of the time two of them will land in the same box.

Now, you can read through the proof and you can be absolutely convinced, and yet your common sense tells you no. Now, how is that going to be changed? Well, it is changed in one way. You do an experiment.

So I got hold of Who’s Who, which gives not merely the year of birth but the birthday of everyone in it, took samples of six or seven from each alphabetical section, did three groups of 50, and then checked over to see whether there were any pairs born on the same day.

The first group of 50 there was one. It was April 6th. The next group there were four. March 13th, July 11th, June 14th, November 15th. There were four. Well, after that my instinctive inability to believe it disappeared because experiment confirmed it.

The same way in yoga. We have these theories, and they can be proved by very, very careful reasoning and analysis. Yet the mind does not take them in. But when they are verified – partially at least – by experiment then the resistance of the mind is overcome and it can be accepted.

It must not be merely theory. If it is merely theory it will never have any depth to it. We shall be told, “You are that.” And we shall say, “Yes, I can say without any hesitation I am…”

Oh, it is not quite clear here. Oh, , yes.

I am Brahman. I am fearless and immortal.” No, that is merely theory. It has to be something which is true by experience, not simply a theory. Well, how are these things brought about? Cases are given in the Upanishads.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Universal Law
Part 2: Theories cannot actually be lived through
Part 3: Teach me Brahman
Part 4: Ananda spoke to the Buddha

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