It’s necessary to study some of the philosophy but not necessarily very much. If we don’t study some, we’ll never have the energy and resolution to practise. Briefly, there is the body consciousness and the mental consciousness. Then there is what is called Karana-Sharira, causal consciousness from which the thoughts, for instance, come. We don’t know where the thoughts come from. We are sitting here, suddenly a memory comes up and something quite unexpected comes up. We don’t know where they come from or where they go to. There is a layer which is not accessible to the ordinary man’s consciousness. Where, for instance, the hidden memories remain, where the complexes and the memories and the dynamic impressions join up. But beyond that there is a deeper level, which is an area of light – and from that area of light, the inspirations will come.
Now we have to realise that we have to study enough to make it seem credible that my anger, my passion, my fear, my greediness are not me – this is not myself – but that there is an ‘I’ which is free of these things – that can take them up as we put on clothes and can take them off as we take off clothes. And this is the central doctrine of yoga.
It’s meant to be experimental. If it is all guesses and inferences and reading holy texts and feeling exalted for the time being, that’s not enough and will never be permanently satisfactory.
One can believe with faith always – “I’m sure. I’m sure.” – for 10 years and suddenly wake up one morning and think, “Well, I don’t know. How do you know?” And there is a sort of Mephistopheles in us which whispers, “After all, how do you know? You don’t know, do you?”. We have to study enough and to read some of the biographies which give the accounts of the experiments that have been made in the past. It’s not simply a question of believing: “Oh I am sure it’s true, they all say so.”, but of using these accounts to make our own experiments. Just as we do, for instance, in science. We are told of some of the experiments of the past but we are asked, to some extent, to confirm them ourselves. And as matter of fact, when we try to confirm them they very rarely work. Not exactly – but they work enough to give us the impulse to go on.
I knew a literal-minded, very intelligent Russian and he had educated himself. And one thing he’d studied was mechanics and he studied all these pulleys and so on. He was very good with his fingers and he made little models of the pulleys – and then they didn’t work as predicted. So he told me: “I went to the teacher and said: ‘Teacher, it doesn’t work.’ And I showed him my model and he said: “Oh, well. You see, in the textbook, friction is disregarded. If friction is allowed for, then it’ll work.” He said: “Well, sir, how do we know what the friction is?” and the teacher said: “Well, you know what the friction is, because it is the difference between what you actually get and what the theory says you ought to get.” Well, he persisted – there was at least some result and it was near enough to make him persist.
Now in the same way with the yogic experiments. If we persist with some resolution, there will be some result and it will be enough to give us the impulse to continue.
While one is comfortably off, one thinks: “Oh, I don’t need these things.” But one teacher used to give the example, he said: “When your ship is sinking it’s too late to learn to swim. You should have done that years ago when you were safe.”
Well in the same way, it is worth practising Yoga, some Yoga, so that when a crisis comes, when the real disaster comes, when I am diagnosed that I have an incurable disease, when everything I have relied on has been shattered, when something I have worked for, have made great sacrifices for, is viciously kicked to pieces in front of my eyes by someone just for sheer devilment, these are the times. If I had practised some Yoga, then I would not be crushed by it. Something will arise and then I will be able to practise intensely during that period and so solve the crisis.
Well, this is one of the presentations we’re given. We’re asked after a while, “What is the evidence of these things?” There are partial evidences which are recognised by us in our ordinary lives. For instance, I mentioned before, these moments of inspiration. Somebody like Pauling, the American chemist who made a number of discoveries in a long life, which many scientists don’t do. They make one discovery at the beginning and then they live on the fame of that for the rest of their lives. But he was consistently productive, like Helmholz who was another one. Pauling said: “When I am confronted with a problem that defeats me, I deliberately make use of my subconscious mind. I concentrate intensely on it for at least three weeks and then I deliberately dismiss it. That’s not so easy but I dismiss it. And then sometimes weeks or months later, as with the structure of alpha-keratin, suddenly the answer pops into my head from nowhere”.
If we read biographies we shall see how often these things happen. They are documented in the case of famous artists and writers and scientists but as a matter of fact nearly everybody has had some experience like this and it can’t be accounted for in the ordinary way and it’s uncomfortable. Bertrand Russell, who was a great philosopher of science, he had such experiences. He describes in his autobiography he had to give a series of papers and he couldn’t see how to fit his material together and he was getting desperate because the deadline was approaching. Then he became exhausted. He went for a walk and said: “As I came in through the door, suddenly the whole thing was clear, how it should be arranged. I don’t say it was perfect, but it was far better than anything else I could have done at the time.’ Russell says: “Well, to account for this, I suppose I sowed the seeds by my concentration on it, and then the seeds came up. This is not a very intelligent remark for such a brilliant man.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: The source of Inspiration