Following ancient tradition, our Teacher, Hari Prasad Shastri, would pause sometimes during a lecture and invite relevant questions. The questions and answers on this site were the result of similar invitations to enquirers.
QUESTION: There are ridiculous things in some of the ecstatic utterances of Mahatmas, which we have to assume are somehow metaphorical or maybe just poetic fancies. After a bit, they no longer make an impression; they get shifted onto a siding well away from the main tracks of life. For instance, Swami Rama Tirtha (a one-time professor of mathematics at the university of Lahore who became a Mahatma in the high Himalayas) said: “Do not see causality in the events of the world. When you see causality you fall spiritually.”
Now what can this possibly mean? Without using causality, life would collapse. We put food over a fire to cook it: that is causality. We dress and wear shoes to protect ourselves: that is causality. Swami Rama’s maxim which he repeated many times in his various writings and lectures dwindles to some vague idea of a presiding deity who will make everything come right in the end. It cannot be a serious factor in one’s conduct.
ANSWER: Declaration’s like these, which as you say are repeated many times, must not be pushed aside as largely irrelevant. But it takes some concentration to bring them into focus. There are old analogies, but let us take a modern one, namely a factory.
If we examine how the factory runs by looking at the memos, telephone calls and computer messages we find a clear cause and effect relationship. Sales sends a message to Head Office to say that a particular line is doing unexpectedly well. Head Office enquires of Stock and Stock replies that it is running low. Head Office notifies Works to increase production by so much. Works duly delivers to Stock, and Stock to Sales. There is a clear sequence of cause and effect: the memo from Sales resulted in the question from Head Office to Stock who’s reply caused the instruction from Head Office to Works and so on to the final delivery to Sales. On a flow chart it can be presented satisfactorily in just these terms of cause and effect by memo.
But that fact is that none of these messages actually causes anything. Each of them is implemented by human judgement and agency. Without that, a merely mechanical cause effect chain would soon collapse. In a stockroom the roof might spring a leak and cause damage and the damage might spread. No mechanical monitoring can take note of all eventualities. The human would intervene and make adjustments such as replacing a water damaged case. This intervention would not show up on the flow chart. And similarly at every stage there is human supervision and if necessary intervention.
What Rama Tirtha is saying is that the regularities of nature are similarly initiated and controlled by deities in each element and they in turn are controlled by the cosmic mind pervading everything, known as the Antar-yamin or inner controller.
Our materialistic science gives no account of why the so-called laws of nature are what they are. Why do like charges repel? There is no answer – they simply do. Why does gravity attract, or mass make space bend? It simply does. But in the yogic view we stand here because the goddess of the earth pulls us just so much; if she pulled more we should fall flat on our faces, and if she ceased to pull we should float away into the air (Sankara commentary on Prashna Upanishad, c.400 BC).
QUESTION: Well what is the evidence that the Controller is benevolent. The course of the world is seen by philosophers such as Bertrand Russell as hostile to man.
ANSWER: There is a current towards beauty and harmony which if it flows freely, produces lives and works of beauty and harmony even in adverse circumstances. It is obstructed by rocks of personal desire and ambition and fear. When those rocks are removed or at least lessened the current flows smoothly and becomes in fact more favourable to the Yogi who is trying to rise above the restrictions of individual personality.
QUESTION: But if the surface cause and effect still has to be preserved according to the laws of nature, I don’t see how there can be any change to favour the impulse to transcendence by the Yogi. The script would still have to be followed, the musical score would have to be played.
ANSWER: As we know, the great actor does vary the delivery of the script. The great violinist or singer has a vibrato, which consists in fractionally moving off the note and then immediately returning. These things create new beauty and harmony. Similarly the assumed absolute rigidity of cause and effect in nature is in fact not observable or predictable. It is part of the rhetoric of science. Newton had to assume that the orbit of Mars could be determined by treating the planet as if the whole mass were at a point in the centre; he later had some trouble proving it but as it happened it worked fairly well.
QUESTION: I knew you would say that, these divine interventions are always on such a tiny scale that they can’t really be demonstrated. Why aren’t there big interventions that everyone could see.
ANSWER: There are two reasons. The first is that expectancy of interventions to fulfil purely selfish prayers can have a paralysing effect on human action. Lucky charms or lucky days are relied on to bring results, irrespective of conduct or devotion. If it is a lucky day it is needless to try hard because things will turn out well anyway; if it is an unlucky day it is useless to try hard because things will turn out badly anyway.
It is not wrong to associate natural human desires with prayers to the Lord, but the doctrine of the Upanishads and Gita is that unless there is purity and concentrated devotion, these prayers cannot be expected to be fruitful.
The Gita says in III.26 that the man who sees God must not unsettle the minds of those who do not yet see him. He should by all means get them to do actions of a right kind, himself doing them calmly (yukta) and efficiently (abhiyukta), as an example.
The second point is that when there is collective concentration produced by a traditional ceremony or by the presence of some charismatic figure there are striking interventions. But these may be covered over by sceptics with ad hoc assumptions. The same thing happens in science itself. Newton knew that there was something wrong with the calculated orbit of Mercury. We know today this is a Relativity effect but for a century after Newton astronomers had to explain the anomaly somehow. This they did by assuming that a plasma must be coming out of the sun and effecting Mercury. So there was nothing mysterious about it. Thus they covered up the causal gap and the same is done for any event not explicable in terms of their excepted categories. The fallacy of David Hume and Bertrand Russell is that they implicitly assume that all the laws of nature are already known and so must completely describe every event. So what Rama Tirtha is telling us is that we should see not causality but regularity imposed by consciousness, called the inner controller. When the mind is purified and focussed by Yoga practice, the Antar-yamin within the individual opens out to the universal Antar-yamin and the cosmic purposes of the latter find direct expression through the now transparent mind of the individual.
Now it is not an actor reading a script or a musician playing a score but it is the writer himself improvising on the stage or the musician composing at the piano.
QUESTION: Yoga claims to be based on experiments on consciousness over thousands of years, but the claimed results of the experiments are not believable. It is said, for instance, that the inmost consciousness of man is experienced directly to be the universal consciousness, which presumably includes electrons at the other end of the universe. How can anyone believe that? It is too absurd. The experiments of science on the other hand produce results which are rational and believable.
ANSWER: Yes the Yogic results do seem incredible but let us look at some of those in physics.
“A quantum entity such as an electron is affected … by events which in principle could be at the other end of the universe. These non-local influences occur instantaneously, as if some form of communication, which Albert Einstein called a ‘spooky action at a distance’, operates not just faster than the speed of light but infinitely fast. It is important to appreciate that the non-local nature of the quantum world has been demonstrated in experiments…the double slit…and the Aspect experiment…” (John Gribbin)
In other words it were not for the experiments one could hardly believe it. The yogic statements about universal consciousness do seem to be as incredible as the non-locality theory of the quantum world and if it were not for the experiments it would be difficult to believe them.
QUESTION: How can books do anything for spiritual hunger? Words cannot fill the empty stomach.
ANSWER: True. But words correspond to the smell of cooking which tells us that there is food available and if we follow the smell we shall come to the actual food which will fill the stomach.
QUESTION: How can books do anything for spiritual hunger? Words cannot fill the empty stomach.
ANSWER: True. But words correspond to the smell of cooking which tells us that there is food available and if we follow the smell we shall come to the actual food which will fill the stomach.
QUESTION: The worship of God, and of his saints, is liable to degenerate into a sickly sentimental worship of relics, or just pictures and charms. It is true that many people are attracted to this sort of thing, but it is often because they have quite unreal expectations of getting miraculous favours in return for a small investment of time or money. Is there any evidence that they will generally move beyond it? And in any case, surely a spiritual movement ought to dissociate itself from all such things.
ANSWER: There is some difference of practice among religious traditions. Some, such as the Puritans and the Quakers in Britain, and the Zen sect in Japan, have never permitted giving charms or amulets to their followers.
Others allow it, on the ground that anything that leads to centring of attention onto spiritual things, even in a very crude way, will help to take the mind away from purely material interests, and reliance on purely material schemes and actions.
They also believe that after a certain amount of attention, some stirring of genuine religious feeling will arise, which are then pursued for their own sake.
Let us take an illustration from a very old French film, which was supposed to have been based on fact. A well-known and highly regarded banker began unexpectedly to interest himself in promotion of some new exploration companies, which promised ultimately very rich rewards for investors. Ruby mines in Burma, diamond mines in Almasia, and so on. He was skilful in his promotion techniques, and many were persuaded to invest.
For the first two or three years some substantial dividends were paid but nothing like the fantastic fortunes that had been expected. But the investors had been warned to be patient. Then by chance the authorities discovered that only a tiny part remained of the substantial investments in one of the companies. They investigated, and found the same thing had happened with the other companies. The police came to arrest the banker, but he had disappeared, as had apparently all the money.
A week later, however, he turned up before the examining magistrate and the angry plaintiffs, with a suitcase of papers. These were share certificates in young and extremely promising companies, which were now beginning to boom spectacularly. The certificates were in the names of the various investors, according to what they had put into the paper companies.
“The fact is”, he explained, “that the general public has not got the judgement or imagination to back really sound investments. But their imagination can be stirred by fantastic projects. So I advertise these colourful schemes in distant places, and the public rush to put money into them. But I take that money and put it, in their names, into really good ventures, not so romantic sounding but which my expert judgement tells me will, in fact, be very successful. I suppose technically I have swindled them, but look at these figures. The companies have all done very well. The wealth has been created in France, where it will help society and not from some distant ruby mine.” The magistrate laughed, and the plaintiffs gratefully tore up their charges.
In something of the same way, sects of devotion may allow exaggerated expectations from charms and amulets and ceremonies; they believe that at a certain stage of development it is right for the faithful to associate their present needs with prayers to the Lord. But the true traditions all insist that believers must come to recognize that happiness and fulfilment will never come from material advantages alone. A minimum of material prosperity – our daily bread – is needed so that we may worship God and live a constructive life according to his will, but we are expected to grow up, so to say, out of dependence on needless luxuries.
QUESTION: Why have all these Sanskrit words such as dharma and guru? Why not translate them into English, easy to follow? The constant Sanskrit words could put an inquirer off, perhaps for ever.
ANSWER: Some of these words – for instance dharma and guru – are already in the English dictionaries. One soon masters the small technical vocabulary, as we do in music, where technical terms are in Italian, but understood all over the world. Wagner who was, or thought he was, a fanatical representative of German culture, refused to use the Italian words. So to read a Wagner score, you have to know some German: for instance that Wagner’s Lebhaft means the internationally recognized Vivace, or in English ‘lively’.
Similarly, if you take up gardening, you expect to meet some specialized words such as mulch; it is not thought to be off-putting.
QUESTION: In the traditional Indian Scriptures there are given some dates for the creation of the universe, and these dates conflict. For instance, there is one view that the life of the universe is 8,640 million years, but there are other calculations which make it much older than that. These are clearly simply speculations, in contrast to science, which gives us exact knowledge. But it is the same voice in the Indian scriptures which also tells us of spiritual truths as they are called. Does not the fantastic and self-contradictory nature of the cosmology discredit what the same authority tells us about all other matters?
ANSWER: First let us dismiss the rhetoric which claims that science here gives us exact knowledge. The estimate of the age of the oldest globular clusters is put at between 10,000 million and 20,000 million years. Some astronomers try to be more exact and put it at 12,000 million years ‘or perhaps younger’. We cannot call this exact knowledge. Popularisers often make these entirely unfounded rhetorical claims for science when attempting to over-awe laymen, claims which they would never dream of making in a scientific context.
As a matter of fact, on this scale, there is not so much difference between the 8,000 million years of the Indian cosmology, and the 12,000 million years, or younger, last quoted.
Now, as to the conflict in the traditional Indian (and other religious) accounts. These were visions, which do not come accompanied with a graph or calendar. Compare the case of several people on a small mountain, looking over a landscape. There is a river flowing across in the distance. They all see the same thing. But ask them afterwards, separately, to say how far away the river was, and the estimates, in miles, will be very different indeed.
The great commentator S’ankara says that there are indeed contradictory accounts of creation in holy scriptures, but the details are of no significance. They could be taken to correspond to the varying accounts, by different people, of a landscape.
The point of giving them is to make it clear that the creation, maintenance and final dissolution of the universe is a consciously directed and purposeful process; the teaching adds that it is partly illusory, a projection of Maya, tentatively described as a sort of magical power.
QUESTION: Some of the yogic meditations on detachment seem to me ridiculous; they are quite unreal, and nothing to do with life. We are told, for instance, to meditate that we set fire to our home and sit in the middle of the fire, watching everything burn, and finally ourselves too. Well, that situation simply doesn’t arise in life. I can see the value of learning to be detached, but wouldn’t it be better to take some definite object of attachment which one might in practice lose, and then try to be detached from that. The other simply has no relation to life.
ANSWER: In one of the eastern traditional systems for promoting vitality, there is an exercise which could be translated as Tall-As-You-Can. You all stand up and stretch your arms up, up and up until, as the instructor says, “You are putting them through the roof”. He can tell when the stretch is not absolutely to the fullest extent, and shouts at you: “You are holding back! Push your finger-tips right through the roof!” In the end he can get a little bit of extra stretch out of most of the class.
Then there is Wide-As-You-Can, where you stand with the feet well apart, and push the finger-tips through the walls. The vivid visualisation enables the class to get that extra bit of stretch.
Then there is Small-As-You-Can and Ball, where you have to squat down on the heels, wrap the arms round the shins, tuck in the head, and then roll vigorously about the floor like a ball.
These exercises are practised at home every morning.
Now when you walk down the main street, you do not practise Tall-As-You-Can or Wide-As-You-Can. But the fact of having practised them regularly for some time means that your walk is more brisk and free-moving. And when you go into a restaurant, you do not practise Small-As-You-Can, or roll about like a ball. But the practice of them means that you have a good appetite for the food, and can digest it well when you have eaten it.
In something of the same way, the yogic meditations on the limits are not meant to be practised outside that period , but the practice of them does give a certain freedom and ease in meeting the stresses, real or imaginary, that are supposed to confront one in life.
QUESTION: Pride and Egoism are supposed to be the biggest obstacles in yoga, but then, directions are given for doing things that are right, and not doing things that are wrong. If these instructions are faithfully carried out, there is bound to be the feeling of self-satisfaction, leading to pride. So it is best not to be a do-gooder.
ANSWER: First of all, there are sins much worse than Pride. There is Envy, Jealousy and Despair, or giving up. Pride, at least sometimes, produces something, but these others are negative, and they poison the inner atmosphere.
The punishment of the liar is that he sees himself reflected in everyone else, so that the whole world becomes full of liars and he can never believe anyone else. Starling was warned by British Intelligence that Hitler was going to attack, but he did not believe it. Then he was warned later by his own Intelligence and he did not believe them either. He suspected everybody and everything of his own deviousness.
Similarly, Egoists. To them the whole world is full of egoists; they see themselves reflected everywhere, so that they can never imagine a job done for its own sake. Everything that is done by egoists is done either in order to boost themselves, to save themselves from some humiliation, or for some other personal reason, and they see the whole world in the same way.
The full conclusion was brilliantly drawn in the 1880s by Bernard Shaw, then a famous music critic reviewing a complete Beethoven Sonata cycle, played by Edwin Halle. This was the first time the whole cycle had been played in public, and it was also a time in which piano virtuosi were dazzling the public with displays of technique and personal egoism, as one might say. But Shaw, in his review, made the point that, in these concerts, the audiences were getting Beethoven rather than Halle, and this, he added, was a sign that Halle was really a great pianist.
QUESTION: Why worship a God who is simply a projection of the parental image by people who cannot grow up?
ANSWER: The bible statement that God made man in his own image is ridiculed and reversed by so-called rationalists who say: On the contrary, man made God in mans’ own image, projecting a domineering and irritable deity above the clouds.
What they mean is that man has stained one of the cloud-concepts of his imagination, and, so to speak, painted it blue. Then gullible people worship this blue cloud as if it were the blue sky of infinity.
But the truth is that the little patch of blue seen between the clouds, sometimes larger and sometimes smaller, and sometimes vanishing altogether, is not a painted blue cloud. It is a partial glimpse of an endless blue sky, beyond all the clouds, which can never be annihilated by them.
QUESTION: Surely the old texts, and the comments of the later masters on them, have to be interpreted to suit modern people and condition? After all, instructions given to Indians or Chinese centuries ago are inevitably out of date; they were doubtless appropriate for the conditions of their times, but not now. For instance, the recommended cross-legged meditation positions, with one or both feet up on the opposite thigh, were easily attainable for people who sat on the floor. But they are torture to Westerners today. And it is the same with some of the recommendations for conduct. We now know that a rigid celibacy is unhealthy, and leads often to a sort of inner sterility also. These things have to be interpreted to make them suitable for modern aspirants on a spiritual path.
ANSWER: And who is to make the interpretations?
Questions on these lines seem to be made on the unspoken assumption that the questioner would be perfectly objective, all-wise and able to distinguish (on the firm basis of a total lack of experience) what is suitable for any people and any time and any circumstances.
So the general answer is: first interpret yourself. Interpret your own character, the hidden fears behind the outer confidence, the confusions and doubts and obstinacy of yourself. When these have been interpreted, that is to say recognized and lived through and made clear, when the interpreters are themselves free from distortions, they will be able to recognize the truth contained in the earlier traditions, and find it is the truth of their own being also.
As for the supposed examples, they are founded on nothing much. When Buddhism went to China, the Chinese were not living on the floor, but sat on chairs. And we cannot say that Beethoven and Lionardo Da Vinci were sterile, nor in the far east, the monk Kobo Daishi, Japan’s universal genius.
QUESTION: I get irritated by the differing numbers given in the instructions. They tell you: do this six times, do this nine times, do this 21 times and so on. There are bigger numbers such as 108 beads on a rudraksha rosary, which makes me think, Why not just 100, a natural number?
ANSWER: There is nothing natural about the decimal system, which is most inconvenient: one cannot divide by 3 for example.
On the general point, there has to be a number. If when you are directed to do something 9 times, you at once think Why not 8 or 10, then consider that if it were 10, you would be thinking, Why not 9. When in a Keep Fit class you are told to do something 12 times, you do not at once think Why not ll or 13.
QUESTION: Well, allowing that point, why not have one standard number, for instance the sacred number 7, and multiples of it. Then there would be a satisfying reason for choosing that number.
ANSWER: Then people might think: “Oh, but this is not the sacred 4 lettered Tetragrammaton. There are the Four Vedas and the four Archangels, and the Double-four, or 8, is the symbol of comleteness. Jung says that too. So the 7 would be just short of completeness.” There would be no end to speculation with numbers as symbols.
The ancient traditions in India knew this tendency of the human mind to seek to escape from practice by raising side-issues. The numbers are mostly connected with impersonal mathematics. The rosary number, 108, is 3 cubed multiplied by 2 squared. 54 is justified not as the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, but as three cubed x 2, and the 27 is just 3 cubed.
The numbers are not regarded as magical; they are given and adhered to in order to maintain regular practice. It is true that some of them are associated with changes of consciousness, but this is a mnemonic for teaching and practice; the particular numbers do not have special virtues of their own.
QUESTION: Is it dangerous to practice Yoga?
ANSWER: Yes, but not nearly so dangerous as not to practice Yoga. Disappointment, disaster, disease, and death are rushing towards us like an express train. Yoga is the means of getting out of the way. And if we get an inner bruise or two while practising it, that is of little account.
QUESTION: After a year practising on one line isn’t there a danger of getting stale? Surely it’s best to make a change in the practice and try on a different line so the mind gets some fresh stimulation.
ANSWER: There was a training centre in mediaeval China near the top of a mountain that had two small peaks. There was a small temple and meditation hall on each peak but they belonged to the same centre.
The teacher once remarked: “Students are generally assigned to one of the two for their basic training period, which in most cases lasts several years. I find that some students in the East Peak temple come to me after a couple of years and say that they don’t feel they are getting on well enough there. They think there is something lacking in the atmosphere of the East Peak and that it would be better on the West Peak so they ask to be transferred. And some students of the West Peak similarly think they might do better on the East Peak.
QUESTION: I get dissatisfied when I’m told that at the beginning of the training one has to have faith. It seems to me that one is being asked to believe something at the beginning that they admit is only proved at the end. If indeed, it is going to be proved at all, I can’t help thinking. My feeling is that the instructions have got to pass the test of my reason before I can follow them whole-heartedly. And some of them, as a matter of fact, seem to be in conflict with my reason.
ANSWER: This sounds all right, but the question is, On what basis is this beginner’s reason going to work? By definition the beginner has no experience of the field. So his judgement is based on what he imagines rather than on any facts. Take the case of learning a system of shorthand. In the British Pitman, some of the commonest sounds such as T and D, are represented by straight lines, often joined at sharp angles. The word charge, for instance, is written with three straight lines forming spikes. It is a distinctive outline which can be written very fast and precisely. The system consists of flowing lines frequently interrupted by sharp angles. In the Greg system there are more curves and flowing movements. Surely the Greg system must be superior, because the occasional sharp angles of the Pitman system will check the flow. It would seem obvious that it is easier and quicker to write in continuously flowing lines.
But practical experience shows that though the continuously flowing lines are indeed quicker and easier to write, they are more difficult to control and may become a wild scrawl. A little experiment convinces one that for exactness, the sharp angles are an advantage. Hence the conclusion of experts is that the Greg system is indeed a bit faster, but it is more difficult to read back. In Yoga practice too, the time for reason is when there has been considerable experience, so that there is some basis to work on. Till then it is pointless trying to make judgements.
QUESTION: We are told sometimes to accept the events of our lives whether as karmic consequence, or perhaps the will of God. Now, I find that very often I cannot do this. An illness or an accident – yes, perhaps with a struggle I can try to accept these things; but when it is a vicious unmotivated attack, and especially be someone whom I have helped, I cannot find it in myself to accept that calmly as karma or as the divine will. I suppose I have a combative nature, and I don’t agree with just being trampled on.
ANSWER: Then let us find a response suited to your combative nature. Take it that cosmic Ignorance has motivated these attacks on you. Then immediately hit back at that Ignorance where you can most easily reach it, namely within yourself. When one of these things happens, use the energy of the resentment to tackle some spiritual undertaking which you have been putting off, or hoping to do later. Set aside half an hour a day to make a decisive effort at it and keep it up for 6 weeks. Make sure that the undertaking is something definite – learning a short chapter of a holy text by heart for instance, or half an hour mantra or meditation. At the end of 6 weeks you will have hit back at the cosmic Ignorance, and you will not feel that you have been wounded or trampled on. Your resentment will melt away, and with a bit of luck some forgiveness may be possible.
QUESTION: The texts sometimes say that men seem to be unable to imagine their own death. Surely this is untrue: all of us are clearly aware that our life will end – that is why we make our wills. We know we shall die.
ANSWER: Yes, but not just now. In 1975, when the aged dictator of Spain was dying in his presidential palace overlooking a wide square in Madrid, large numbers of his supporters came in relays to stand in front of the palace and chant their farewells:
“Goodbye, Franco. Goodbye!”
The sound of the voices could be heard from the sick bed in the palace. It is said that the 83-year old General beckoned to the doctor who was attending him and said feebly:
“Where are all these people going?”
The story illustrates the point on a superficial level, but in Yoga it has to be gone into much more deeply. It is not just a question of where the others are going, but where I am going, and then deeper, where am I now and finally what am I now.
QUESTION: The words in the old texts are simply old things even supposing they once had a living meaning for those who heard them, today they are empty. So why should I study them?
ANSWER: Because you yourself as a separate individuality are equally empty. The empty words are suitable for sweeping away the empty illusions of the world and individual self. You don’t need a club to dispatch a ghost; words are the right means for that.
QUESTION: Buddhism, and especially Zen Buddhism is against life. If we look at the recent English translation autobiography of the great 17th century Zen Master Hakuin we find that he was not often with other people. Nearly all his serious practice was done alone, on pilgrimages sometimes, but in the main in hermitages. He was never long the member of a sangha group. Even the teacher under whom he attained final enlightenment had only one other pupil, and anyway Hakuin was with him for less than two years. All this is against Life.
ANSWER: There are general answers, but let us take the specific point. After his final realisation Hakuin became one of the most famous poets, painters and calligraphers in Japan, and his example has inspired many others right up to the present. He founded, and revived, temples which were then main centres of culture. Even in mathematics, the explosion in Japan, a country cut off from the world for 250 years, is only now being recognized. Some of the discoveries (recorded in temples) by Japanese mathematicians working on their own even anticipated discoveries by Euler and others.
Though so famous Hakuin refused all honours and attractive financial offers. The rich and powerful came to him; he did not go to them. This last was perhaps the crowning demonstration of his freedom; it helped to prevent the rise in Japan of the vulgar assumption that if a man does not have money it is because he cannot get it.
His was one of the greatest contributions any man has made to Life; he was truly Alive.
QUESTION: If there is a benevolent God or a Vairochana Buddha endowed with compassion and skilful means, how is it that we human beings have not been simply converted to good thinking and behaviour?
ANSWER: If these transcendent powers symbolised with the various titles were to bring this about by their omnipotence, it would convert human beings into mere machines, where someone presses a button marked Spirituality, and the result follows. But the cosmic process is that the human beings are in their deepest consciousness, themselves God or Vairochana Buddha, and they are steadily freeing themselves and others from illusion of individual separateness and limitation. The course of the process cannot be fully understood or accepted by the sleeping Buddha or even the partially awakened Buddha. The latter has the bodhisattva impulse to free himself and others, but in a sense the freedom cannot be imposed.
In a remarkable 19th century novel, a girl with a good natural voice is hypnotised to practice and practice. She does so, obsessively, and does indeed develop an amazing voice. But it has no musical value. The practice has been mechanical and musical expressiveness has not developed along with it.
If freedom is given by an outside agency, it may not be fruitful. Goldfish long imprisoned in a bowl, when released into a large pool, still tend to swim around in little circles. Freedom has been given them but they cannot use it.
© 2000 Trevor Leggett