Man’s bondage to circumstances and his dependence on them can be thought of in terms of two interlocking hooks. One is within his own personality and one is the form of external objects or the ideas of external objects. When the internal hook, so as to speak, catches the external hook man is drawn outwards; or perhaps he tries to use the connection to draw the outer thing into himself. In either case he is bound and in the end he is drawn outwards. The external hook is conceived of in the form of objects or of events and so on. The internal hook is what is called the yogya vasana, the desire associated with that external object or that mental fixed conception. And it is the interlocking of the two which creates the bondage. Suppose for instance one sees an attractive meal full of sugar and fat; the mind knows it is bad for health but it looks very attractive and the anticipation of taste pulls. The external meal, the form of the meal and the anticipation, would be the external hook and the internal one would be the uncritical thinking.
Now how is one to be freed from that? There are two methods, one is to know the unreality of the external object, and the other is to know the unreality of the internal desire. When one realises that the internal desire can be analysed into not just instant gratification but what follows is also part of it, the internal hook becomes less rigid. Ultimately it becomes soft. The external object can seek to engage but there is now no firm basis for it to engage and the internal object will have become like seaweed or tendrils, that is to say the external object can try to catch them but it cannot pull them.
The second point is that the external objects themselves are not in fact real. Some schools, it is true, take them to be real and say the main thing is to be able to give up fixed attachment to these things and so not be drawn by the external hooks which remain rigid and real for them. But for the Vedantin, the external hook also is something unreal, it is unreal in its promises, and ultimately in its very existence. This does not mean people should not eat when they are hungry, it means they are not enslaved by the food and they eat rationally. If there is no food they are not distressed. They will try to get it but if they cannot they are not demoralised. And when the time comes, as it will come, when death will approach them and there is no possibility of eating they are not demoralised either.
So far, we have been talking about hooks of desire where the union is willing and even eager but there are also hooks of fear where the individual soul is pulled from relative inner security into a hostile world.
Here the main pull is from the external. In the case of desire the main pull is towards the internal trying to bring the outer object to oneself. In the case of fear he is drawn out from his own self-sufficiency into the changing circumstances of the world. The various hooks can be observed: generally they are mental hooks which we fashion from fixed prejudices. Of course, we need to have ideas but they shouldn’t be irrational fixed prejudices and we should be capable of letting them go when they are not appropriate.
Put the hand on the table in front of you like a rigid claw. With the other hand make another claw and catch the first claw and move it (and the arm) across the table a little way. This is the two-hooks action.
Put the hand on the table again, completely relaxed, now try with the other hand again as a claw to pull it along the table and notice how the grip fails to engage the relaxed fingers.
This vivid physical illustration can be a help with the mental practice.
It is easy for two or three men to carry off even a struggling man who is conscious. It is much more difficult for them if he is dead drunk or completely relaxed.
© 1998 Trevor Leggett