Supposing someone’s a wild beast, how can you say there’s a divinity there?’ Well, here again, we must examine our own experience very carefully. These things are not meant to be theoretical concepts. They are truths, and if they’re truths they can be found, and will be found, in our daily experience, and so I give you one of my own. In tropical countries, in India for instance, especially in the summer, a good time ago, high fevers were common and people sometimes had delirium. Now, some people, and it depends on the circumstances, they can be like wild beasts, because they think they’re being – as far as we can make out – attacked by enemies or by wild beasts or something like that, and they’re fighting for their lives. Now, if you have some technique, you are told, ‘Well, you know, you’ve got these things – you go and subdue the chap’, and he’s got to be got back to bed and more or less tied down with a sheet across him.
Then, they can perhaps… Well now, the face is glaring eyes and distorted with hate and fear and it’s lashing out, you see, and it catches you. It’s not easy to avoid these things completely. You can avoid, if you have some skill, to some extent. Well now, when that happens, you feel a flash of hatred and fury. But, then you look and you see… Behind that distorted mask of hate and fear, you can see the features of the man you know, your friend, as he was when he’s not in a fever, a very nice chap. You can see the noble human being inside the wild beast and that takes away the momentary flash of anger and rage, and you don’t go for him as you could have. Well, I just give this as an example – that it is possible to see, as it says, the divine standing in the beings.
But it’s not the external personality which is now functioning. There’s something deeper behind that, which is often momentarily or temporarily, for quite a time, obscured. But it’s possible to train to see it a little bit; and when it’s seen a little bit, then there’s a conviction that it is there; and then there’s an impulse to try to see more, and to behave: you are not giving way to the wild beast, but you are serving the human being when you subdue him.
He’s fighting like mad but you subdue him and just hold him down to the sheets. You are serving the noble human being, although you are subduing the wild beast, the temporary wild beast. Well, this is an example but, the teachers say that through meditation and through examining our experience of life we can come to the to the realisation that this is possible. And then through the meditation we can begin to develop a faculty by which this can be, at any rate, momentarily seen. Now, this is the first one – maitri. It’s a friendliness towards the divine in people, not a friendship towards their surface personality.
The second one is karuna, which means something like sympathy or compassion and we would normally say this is the impulse to do some good to them. In the morality of most of the Eastern systems, less stress is placed on this than on purifying the heart and not being hostile to people. They think that most of the woes of the human world and human life are caused by hostility of human beings to each other, not by natural catastrophes or by accidents. Those can be relatively easily met – the famine, a failure of the monsoon, can be relatively easily met. But when there’s a perpetual civil war in the area, and we are trying to do good by bringing in the food, it’s a temporary and local good.
A few people get fed, mostly the warring sides grab it, and the war goes on. But if something can be done to reduce the cause of the civil war, well then the problem can be really solved. Without that, unless we purify our own minds, as it is said ‘We’re doing good with boxing gloves’. Imagine yourself with boxing gloves on, trying to work in the kitchen or in the house. Well you can just about manage to do a few things. But all the time you’ve got no delicacy or sensitivity and the boxing gloves keep knocking things over and getting in the way. Imagine trying to play the piano in boxing gloves, or to cook a meal in boxing gloves.
Now, they say we have boxing gloves of hate and love – sticking attachment, and therefore we can’t act efficiently. In a certain situation there’s a little group of us, and one says, “It’s quite clear to me that Hugh will be the best man to do it, but I don’t like him. No, we won’t have him. George will, he’ll do it nearly as well. Well in this, this is the sort of boxing glove, there’s no sensitivity to the true needs of the situation at all. I want to hit something, with boxing gloves on. And even when I try to help, I knock things over. So the first thing is to begin to purify our own instruments, our own mind.
maitri = friendliness, pleasantness, lovingness
karuna = compassion, mercy mudita = gladness, goodwill
upekshanam = acceptance, equanimity, indifference, disregard, neutrality
sukha = happy, comfortable, joyous punya = virtuous, meritorious, benevolent
bhavanatah = by cultivating habits, by constant reflection, developing attitude, cultivating,
impressing on oneself
prasadanam = purified, clear, serene, pleasant, pacified, undisturbed, peaceful, calm.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 3: Truths can be found
Part 4: Purify your own mind
Part 5: He sees, who sees the Lord