Aids in Speaking in Adhyatma Teachings

In some traditions pupils of 2 or 3 years standing are asked to give a brief talk to the public on some aspect of the teaching. Most are reluctant: they feel their progress does not merit it. However, when told this is part of training they are ready to try. Once such pupil was told to prepare by taking lessons in public speaking for 3 months. The instruction jarred on him and he complained to a senior: “To take lessons like that would make me feel like a ham actor, unnatural and insincere.” The senior looked at the vigorous young …

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Worse and Worse in Adhyatma Teachings

There are many habitual actions in life like driving a car or writing which become habitual and drop away from the surface of consciousness; we can do them without much effort and become at ease with them. Because we are at ease with them we have the illusion that they get better. We see this clearly in the case of handwriting, which steadily degenerates from the carefully formed letters we make at school through to the scrawls of student days, and then to the almost incomprehensible jottings later on in life, when we no longer form many of the letters …

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Hi-fi in Adhyatma Teachings

In the early days of Hi-fi, one would be invited, sometimes, to a little concert in a room surrounded by speakers of various kinds. Listening to the music, the host would be constantly jumping up and making some adjustment, and then sitting down and listening intently. He was disturbing the enjoyment of the music, but in fact he himself was not listening to it at all: he was listening to the hi-fi. In the same way, some scholars study texts in which they have no interest whatever in the real meaning; they simply compare the vocabulary, syntax and themes with …

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Om When Drunk in Adhyatma Teachings

A man vaguely interested in yoga, but who could not bring himself to go under a teacher, used sometimes to repeat the sacred word ‘Om’ when he was drunk. A friend who did actually practise yoga told him it was a mistake to do this. ‘Why?’ he said defiantly, ‘Surely it is better to say the sacred Name, even if one is a bit drunk, than not to say it at all.’ No, his friend told him. You would be like a man who has been told that to cure his diabetes he should avoid sweet things, and take some …

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Prayers and Answers in Adhyatma Teachings

A disciple came to a teacher and complained that though he spent hours in devotion and prayer, there was never any response. ‘When my daughter was ill I prayed the whole night that she would recover well, and, as a matter of fact, she did recover. How do I know that she would not have recovered anyway?’ This disciple was a minor official in the local administration and had a good knowledge of all the by-laws and regulations. The teacher made no reply to his question but said: ‘I want your advice on some things here, to do with this …

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Horse Hair in Adhyatma Teachings

In training for some desired result, especially when it involves an expansion of some faculty, there is a sense of joy. It is leading to what is felt to be an achievement, and so it is a sort of fulfilment in itself. Mistakes have to be avoided as much as possible, but when they happen, they are corrected without any feeling of guilt – they do not really matter. However strong the efforts that have to be made, there is at the basis a sort of carefree lightness, and this we can call “light joy”. But when it comes to …

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Words Versus Pictures in Adhyatma Teachings

“A hundred hearings are not like one seeing” is a classical Chinese saying, but it applies to what can be seen, not to abstractions or other things beyond the senses. There the hearings are worth a hundred readings, for reading is often too fast and superficial. Especially when re-reading a revered text, the eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed. Today the tape recorder offers a new aid to study: record the main texts, and play them every morning. The reading will reveal new depths. Clara Schumann, the world famous pianist, played the Chopin study in C …

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The Power of Formlessness in Adhyatma Teachings

There is a story in many forms, in different cultures and traditions. It is a very old one in India, possibly from before the Buddha. The Gods do battle with the Titans and the Gods win. There is something strange about the victory but anyway, the Gods take all the credit to themselves. While they celebrate, a report comes that something mysterious has been seen in a particular place in the Himalayas, something the form of which cannot be made out, which seems to have no form and yet it is there! So Indra, King of the Gods, sends the …

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Life Rage in Adhyatma Teachings

There is ‘road rage’ on being passed or obstructed, on a highway. But life itself is a series of obstructions and overtaking in every field and there is a smouldering life rage in the heart of nearly everyone. We live by artificial standards which themselves are constantly changing. Emerson once wrote that for most people one of the highest pleasures is the consciousness of being really well dressed. But if someone appeared today in that well dressed look of his time, people would simply laugh. The same is true of more central things: it was rightly said that reputation lies …

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Truce and Peace in Adhyatma Teachings

In some traditions, the spiritual stages are presented in terms of warfare. In a remote province of a kingdom well and justly governed, there is a local warlord who from his walled city makes continual raids. The kings small standing forces goes out to meet the raiders. They are professional soldiers, and though few in number can nearly always defeat the raiders quickly so that they run back to their remote stronghold. But the raids have generally done a certain amount of damage to local towns and villages before they are repulsed. This situation is compared to the ordinary life …

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