The sadhana of Tao - in the context of yoga
ONE FRIEND HAS ASKED: "YOGA IS A PATH OF ELEVATION, OF RAISING THE LIFE-ENERGY UPWARDS, WHEREAS LAO TZU'S METHOD IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE: OF BRINGING DOWN THE ENERGY TO THE NAVEL CENTRE. SO THE QUESTION INVARIABLY RISES:
WHICH IS THE RIGHT METHOD?"
Such thoughts rise within one's mind because of our habit of breaking everything into two opposing factors. It never occurs to us that there is a connection between opposites. It is this connection that Lao Tzu talks of. You could say: the contrariness of opposites is only superficial.
Lao Tzu says; "Bring down the life-energy from the head to the navel centre. As soon as it reaches the navel centre, it becomes one with existence." Yoga says, "Raise the life-energy from the sex centre. As soon as it reaches the navel centre, it becomes one with existence." Yoga says, "Raise the life-energy from the sex centre (from the muladhar) and take it up to the head (the sahasrar). As it reaches the sahasrar, it merges with the vast existence."
These are two extremes. It is possible to take the jump from either of them. You cannot jump from the mid-point however. So, there are the two points from where you can take-off: one, from the head to the navel or; two, from the sex centre to the head.
On one point both yoga and Lao Tzu agree: that the life-energy should not remain in the intellect. It should only use the intellect as a means either to reach the navel or to reach the sahasrar. Also, a jump taken from either extremity, leads. to the same destination.
So there ale three things. The first is that we see a discrepancy in all things because we fail to see the underlying propriety in that which seems contrary. If we want water not to remain water, we can either bring down the temperature below 0 degree so that the water changes into ice; or we can raise the temperature to 100 degree so that the water changes into vapour. In both cases, it will not be water. In both cases, we will be able to bring about the change: water will no longer be water but will be something else. In exactly the same way, whether the life-energy comes to the first centre or the last, the jump becomes possible.
There is also another fact which we find difficult to understand: that energy moves in a circle. No force on earth moves in any way except in a circular direction. In fact, the movement of energy is always circular. And, when we move on a circle, we find that the finishing point is the starting point. Then alone can the circle be complete. Therefore whether we jump from the navel or from the sahasrar, we reach the same point. The circle starts from the navel and is completed at the sahasrar. When a person jumps from either, he goes beyond the circle.
We think that the navel and the sahasrar are far apart: one in the belly, the other in the head. If we draw a straight line, there is quite some distance between the two. But we are talking about the subtle body and not the gross physical body. The circle is formed in the subtle body. There, the head and the navel are close to each other.
The subtle body is the energy body. It is not made up of matter but of energy. Here, both of these extremities lie close to each other. Lao Tzu says, "Go back to the first extremity." Yoga says, "Go to the final extremity." There are two kinds of people. Therefore both these methods are useful.
There are some people who find it very difficult to go back to the first extremity, especially those who have a male mind. Lao Tzu is concerned with the feminine mind. Man always wants to go ahead and never turn back. But this does not mean there is no way to reach the truth for the male mind. There is a way, but Lao Tzu does not advocate this way. He is a proponent of the feminine approach. He says, "Retrace your steps, come back." When the idea is to jump why take the trouble to go ahead? Besides, we require no effort to go back; whereas great effort is needed to go forward.
To go ahead we have to put in energy, whereas all we have to do to go back is to stop making use of our energy.
Those who are artless and simple in spite of sadhana, the path of yoga is for them. It is astonishing to observe the great tradition of yoga created by India. Very many methods of sadhana have been evolved, but in all this, no thought has been given to the feminine mind. So this tradition is only half evolved.
It is because of the sway of the masculine mind that all incarnations of God have been masculine. All the Tirthankaras of the Jainas have been masculine: Buddha, Krishna, Rama. There is no mention of a single feminine incarnation (or Tirthankara) anywhere. In fact, it is believed (and this belief will become firmly rooted within us if we persist in following the masculine mind) that realisation cannot be attained in a feminine body. The woman, therefore, it is believed, must be born again as a man in order for moksha to be possible.
I feel that the Jaina Tirthankara, Mallinath, was a woman: Mallibai. But the Jainas cannot believe that a woman can attain enlightenment, so they changed her name to Mallinath. The one fundamental point of dispute between the Svetambara and the Digambara sects of the Jainas is that the former maintain she was Mallibai whereas the latter assert it was Mallinath. This is a unique type of dispute, where the sex of a person is questioned. It is almost certain she was a woman, but the traditional trend of thought could not accept that a woman could reach the moksha, because the Indian concept has always been influenced by the masculine mind.
Lao Tzu talks of the feminine-mind. He says: if simplicity is attained by sadhana, it can at best be a very crude simplicity. If effort is to be made so that it becomes artless, that is not artlessness. The very meaning of simplicity is that I should do nothing, and simplicity will result from it. To be natural also means that the very fact that r do not do anything should result in simple naturalness. But I cannot be natural if I have to make an effort to be natural.
So Lao Tzu is a supporter of the other extreme. Both extremes are imperfect, but both are instrumental in reaching the ultimate reality. It is only from the extreme point that the jump can be taken.
If you set out on the path of the masculine mind, then be an outright person. Let your labour, your effort and ambition reach the point from where there is no further to go. At this point of extremity, the jump becomes possible. Or, if you are immersed in the bliss of naturalness, then be so natural, so simple that sadhana itself becomes redundant. From such naturalness (SAHAJA), the jump is possible.
Naturalness is possible only in inaction. He who aspires to rise above cannot be natural, because in the process there is bound to be strife, there is bound to be competition. There is no competition if you just sit back. If you announce that you wish to be the last in line, no one will compete with you for your position.
Lao Tzu says: "Be so insignificant, such a non-entity, that people are not even aware that you exist."
Seek the lowest hollow, the loneliest place where no one would want to be. Sit where people remove their shoes. Seek no position. Have no ambitions because the language of ambition itself is wrong.
Lao Tzu is right. Those who are like water - they also reach. Actually, the first and the last merge into each other at one point. The first is one extremity of the infinite and the second is the other extremity of the infinite. But the first and the last are just two names of the same point, and are relative to the type of path you are on. If you go backwards, the point will be first; If you go around the full circle, this very point becomes the final point.
Yoga says 'up', Lao Tzu says 'down'. The duality of life is evident in the differences between yoga and Tao. So do not worry about it. Choose which ever pleases you. Remember always, what appeals to you that is your path. No matter how much others advocate something if it does not interest or appeal to you, that path is not meant for you. It is better to go astray on one's own path than to proceed correctly on another's; because the former, in spite of failures, leads you ultimately to the goal; whereas the latter, in spite of every care, leads you nowhere.
There is a reason for this. Our own nature, our own aptitude, plays a big role in our lives. So even if the path followed any another person attracts you, influences you, ask within yourself whether it suits you. It happens many times that unfavourable things look attractive even though they are not favourable. The attraction lies in their very contrariness to our nature and because they are unknown, unfamiliar. Always keep your own bend of nature in mind.
If you feel that you will feel no compunction, no agony, in being the last in the crowd; if you feel that you can be non-aggressive, that you can be a passive recipient of truth; if you feel no need to go out in search of the truth - rather, you will wait with infinite patience, with your doors wide open, for Him to enter (which is a feminine quality); if you have the strength to wait till eternity - then you will find truth at your door step this very moment. But if you do not have the courage to wait, if you sit at the doorstep fretting and fidgeting, it is better to step out on your journey. It is of no use practising patience when you are restless within. Then, the journey may start within, but the journey is not fruitful. Only strife and confusion results, and you are torn between dualities.
Therefore, each of us has to understand his own nature. So there are only these two paths, these two great paths; one is the path that Lao Tzu refers to as the feminine path and the other is the path of will, the path of yoga. The feminine path is the choice of all those who are not ego-centered. If you come across a follower of Lao Tzu, you will not find him stiff and arrogant like our yogis. He will be very humble. His humility, however, will be very natural. It will not be put on, because he is not pseudo-humble.
If a yogi seems humble, his humility is a mere mask that he puts on to impress the public. This is bound to be because the very path he follows is the path of the ego. If he tries to be humble, he is going against his nature. He has chosen the path of fire and he is trying to be like water. He finds himself in difficulty; his humility is false. He has chosen the path of "Aham brahmasmi". He has set out on this path so that one day he can say "I am Brahma." Lao Tzu's path is such that one day the sadhaka can claim, "I am not." If these two paths are clearly understood, either one of them can lead a person to the ultimate goal.
You can inflate the ego so much that it explodes. You blow up the balloon so much that it ultimately bursts, even though you have blown it up with the idea of making it bigger and better and not with the idea of bursting it. The balloon has its limitations, beyond which it cannot contain itself. If you enjoy the ego, don't be content with small victories. Let your ego expand so much that one day it spreads over the universe. Then, it is bound to explode. The day a person finds that he can declare, "I am Brahma," he finds that the ego has collapsed completely.
Or, do not feed the ego. Remove whatever air is in the balloon. Lao Tzu says, "Come back!" Have no thought of filling up that which one day is bound to burst. Why labour unnecessarily? But there are people who cannot remain happy without labouring.
There was one disciple of Lao Tzu by the name of Lieh Tzu. Someone said to him, "It is said that Buddha sat under a tree and was enlightened. Also, yogis repeat mantras and attain enlightenment.
What do you say?"
Lieh Tzu replied, "As far as my understanding goes, the repetition of mantras or the practising of sadhanas and yogasanas is the work of those who cannot remain without something to do."
The real thing is not that Buddha attained because of sadhana. Rather, Buddha attained because he sat in one place. It is not that a yogi attained by repeating a mantra, but because he sat in one place. The mantra was only an excuse to do something since he could not remain inactive. Lieh Tzu meant to say that those who have attained did so because of the fact that they left everything and became inactive.
There are some people who can do this. They will not even repeat a mantra because this too ultimately proves to be useless. They do not take even this much trouble. Lieh Tzu says, "Do nothing; just sit." But it is very very difficult not to do anything. On the face of it, Lao Tzu's teaching seems very simple, but it is the most difficult thing to do. Even children can be kept busy with the mantra of toys! That is the best way to keep them occupied. There is so much restlessness within that a person sits and counts beads. This is just a ruse to help you to sit because the child within the mind has to be kept busy. It says, "At least count beads if nothing else!"
People come to me for meditation and ask me what they should do! When I say, "Do nothing. That is meditation," they question how that can be. They must have something to go by, some support That means they are asking for something to do so that they will be able to sit in one place for some time.
Lieh Tzu says, "The actual attainment is obtained only by sitting." Everything else is just an excuse, because you cannot sit without doing something. If you sit without doing anything, you attain without any trouble. But to sit, just sit, is a very great happening. Just to sit, even for a moment, means there is no movement in the mind, no restlessness, no traffic within. The energy is now steadfast within itself, everything within is quiet and serene. Now you have reverted to the point from where you started, you are absorbed within yourself. If this happens for even a moment, that moment is the moment of truth. It can happen both ways. It depends on you from where you take the jump.
Yoga is a path, so is Tao.
ONE FRIEND ASKS HOW A PERSON SHOULD FIND THE INTERNAL CENTRE THAT IS MENTIONED BY LAO TZU AND DEVELOP ITS HUNGER.
Sit with your eyes closed and think, "Where is the centre of my body?" We live through our body, but it is an unfortunate fact that we do not give any thought to the centre of our body. We are completely ignorant of the pivot on which the body functions. Many people believe the head to be the centre of all body functions because it is in the brain that all activities seem to take place.
The fact is, however, that the brain forms much later. When the child is conceived, there is no brain and yet life functions. But that which is formed later, cannot be the centre. People who are emotional, like most women, artists, poets, feel the centre to be the heart because whatever these people have known and experienced - love, beauty and the like - are things that have had a direct impact on their heart. That is why, when people talk of love, their hand inadvertently goes to their heart. So those who are emotional take the heart to be the centre of the body.
But the heart does not beat until the child takes its first breath. The child hears the mother's heart beat within. Therefore, the sound "tick-tick" causes not only children but also adults to fall asleep.
The sound of water dripping, or the ticking of a watch, induces sleep. Doctors say that the ticking of a clock is a very good tranquilliser. The heart in the embryo does not function like a heart and yet the child is alive.
Therefore, the heart also is not the centre. Lao Tzu says, "The navel is the centre and not the heart or the brain." The child is joined to the mother by its navel. The first glimpse of life comes through the navel. This is scientifically correct.
So, search within. Lao Tzu says, "Keep searching within and bring your consciousness to the level of the navel centre. That is the first step of sadhana." When the authentic centre and the centre of your understanding become one, you will become an united, integrated whole. When the centre of your mind, the centre of your consciousness and your authentic centre concentrate and converge into a single focus, you will find that your life has changed. You are now a new person altogether.
Lao Tzu's disciples have, for ages, been carrying out a simple experiment to prove that you cannot grow unless you locate your centre within. The experiment is this. Take two small tanks of equal dimensions. Fill them with water. Insert an iron rod in the middle of one tank, leaving the other as it is. Put two identical fish and put one in each tank. Given the same conditions and the same diet, you will be surprised to find that the fish in the tank with the iron-rod in the centre develops quickly, whereas the growth of the fish in the other tank, which is without the central rod, is slower. The fish in the former tank swims around and around the rod, while the fish in the second tank has no centre.
It swims here and there listlessly in the absence of a centre and is also more prone to illness. This experiment has been religiously carried out by the followers of Lao Tzu for hundreds of years and it has always been found that the fish in the tank with the centre rod has always been well-developed and healthy, whereas the fish in the other tank was stunted in growth and unhealthy.
The followers of Lao Tzu maintain that a person who succeeds in locating his centre finds his consciousness revolving around and around this centre. It is only then that his consciousness begins to develop. Those who do not find their centres remain stunted and lifeless, like the fish in the second tank, because they have no centre, no base around which they can revolve and develop.
They cannot find their direction: where they should go, what they should do. By revolving round the same circumference, the consciousness develops.
Lao Tzu says: "Your consciousness becomes concentrated when it discovers the navel centre. Then it begins to revolve around it." Lao Tzu says: "When you walk, keep your attention on the navel. When you sit, keep your mind on the navel; when you get up, be aware of the navel. Do what you will, but let your consciousness always move around the navel." Become a fish and go round and round the navel, and you will soon discover a new, powerful consciousness arising within you. The results are wondrous!
There are many experiments you carry out. You are sitting on a chair. Now, Lao Tzu says your way of sitting on the chair is wrong, therefore, you get tired. He says, "Do not sit on the chair." This does not mean you are not actually to sit on the chair; that you should sit on the ground. Lao Tzu says, "Sit on the chair but do not put your weight on the chair. Put all your weight on the navel."
You can carry out the experiment right away. It is only a matter of emphasis. When we put all our weight on the chair the emphasis is in the chair. The chair becomes the all in all. You are merely like a coat hanging on a peg. If the peg breaks, you fall down, like a coat which has no centre of its own and which depends on the peg for its centre. Lao Tzu says you will tire yourself this way because you are not acting like an animate, conscious being and are depending entirely on an inanimate object. Lao Tzu says: "Sit on the chair but be fixed at your own centre at the navel." Hang everything on the peg of the navel. Hours will go by and you will find no sign of fatigue. If a man begins to live by hanging his consciousness on the peg of the navel-centre, all mental-fatigue vanishes. A unique freshness pervades his mind, a serene calmness flows within him and he gains a self-confidence which only those who have found their centre attain.
So the first step in this sadhana is to find your centre. and to continue your efforts till the consciousness reaches not only the navel but two inches below the navel. Then one should begin to keep this centre always in mind. When one breathes in, this centre should rise up; when one breathes out, this centre should go down. Then, a constant japa begins: the rising of the centre with the incoming breath and the falling of the centre with the outgoing breath. If this becomes a conscious act, it yields great results. This is very difficult of course in the beginning, because remembrance is the most difficult thing to do. Constant remembrance is even more difficult. You might say, "That is not such a difficult thing at all. I can recollect the name of a person even after six years!" This is not remembrance. This is recollection (SMRITI).
Understand the difference. Recollection means you know something; you pass it on to your memory for recording. The memory stores this information and reproduces it on demand. Remembrance (smaran) means, constant, non-stop remembering. Try it a little: Observe the rising and falling of your abdomen as the breath comes and goes for just five minutes. After two seconds you will find that you have forgotten. You have started to do something else. Then you will be perturbed. You could not concentrate for even two seconds? The respiration was going on as usual, the abdomen also rose and fell accordingly. but you were not there. Then again bring back your remembrance.
If you strive continuously, your remembrance will increase - second by second. When you find that you can observe the breath constantly without a simple break for three minutes - and this short interval of three minutes will seem like three year - then you will find that you have begun to experience the centre correctly. Then you will feel the body to be separate from the centre.
This centre is the centre of energy. One who is united to this centre, reaches infinite exaltation because he is constantly receiving infinite energy. So, keep a constant remembrance of the navel centre and let your consciousness revolve around it constantly. That is the temple. Keep circling around this temple. Whatever the state within you - whether there is anger or hatred, jealousy or misery or happiness - whatever the state, your first duty is to return to the navel. Then do whatever you wish.
Someone gives you news of the death of a loved one. Go back to the navel. Then let the news go within you. "Then," Lao Tzu says, "No one's death will cause a blow to the mind." You may not have observed, or perhaps you have or may be you realised later on, recollecting the incident - that whenever you have been given news of great joy or sorrow, the first effect has always been on the navel. You are walking on the road, or cycling, or going in a car, and suddenly an accident occurs.
The first impact is on the navel. It begins to tremble. Then, the whole body begins to tremble.
Lao Tzu says, "Whenever anything happens, go back first to the navel centre." Your first work is remembrance of the navel. Then, do what you like. Then happiness will not make you mad with joy, and sorrow will fail to make you unhappy. Then your centre will stand apart from the happenings that take place on the periphery. Then you remain the witness only. Yoga says, "Practice the sadhana of witnessing." Lao Tzu says. "Remember the navel centre constantly and the witness state will result by itself."
You will step outside of birth and death the day you become conscious of your navel centre, because this centre arises before birth and is the only thing that remains after death, when all else is lost. So he who knows and recognises his navel centre, knows that there is no birth for him nor death. He becomes beyond birth and death.
Keep constant remembrance. Seek the centre and keep incessant remembrance (SMARANA). The first thing is to find the centre, second is to keep on remembering it, and third is to remember the frequent loss of the remembrance. "This is going to be rather difficult however. People come to me and say, "I try to keep my attention on the (NABHI), the navel, but I cannot. What should I do?"
To this I say: Keep attention on the fact that you have lost attention. Make it a part of your meditation.
Be attentive to inattention also: don't let it pass unnoticed by you. Whenever you slip, be conscious of the slip and you will go back to remembrance, the current of meditation will join the mainstream again.
Now, the last thing. When the remembrance is complete and the centre becomes clear to you - when you experience the centre - then surrender everything to the centre. Say to the centre, "You alone are the master. Release me!" This surrender is easy.
Surrender is very difficult until the centre is experienced. People say, "Surrender to God," but we have no knowledge of God. How is surrender to an unknown entity possible? And even if God is known, you still remain the owner of your surrender. If you feel sometime that God is not to your taste, you will withdraw your surrender. We are the givers and we are the withdrawers - what can God do? But the surrender that can be withdrawn is no surrender; in fact, it was never a surrender.
Lao Tzu's method is different. Lao Tzu says: "The day the centre is known and felt, you begin to understand and experience that the centre is the master that does not need your assistance. The breath comes and goes; sleep comes, then awakening; birth happens, then death. The current of life flows on from the centre, without your help." Then the question of surrendering does not arise because surrender just happens.
So the third and last stage of sadhana is to experience the surrender to the centre. Then there is no way for the ego to save itself. In the state of such surrender a person reach s the highest attainment.
Another friend has asked an almost similar question
HE SAYS: "LAO TZU STRESSES INACTION, WHEREAS KRISHNA LAYS STRESS ON ACTION.
HOW DO THESE TWO THEORIES COMPARE AND CONTRAST?
These two theories are the two ends. Lao Tzu does not tell us to give up action. He tells us to act but act as if not acting. Do your actions as if you are not doing them. Rather, they are happening.
Everything is happening - the breath comes and goes. You do not take the breath, you do not release the breath - it happens on its own. Life also is like that. You establish yourself in inaction and let all actions take place as they will.
Krishna says the same thing, but from the other end. He says, "Do not run away from action. Do your duty but do not become the doer. Let go of the feeling that you are the doer. God is the doer."
In Lao Tzu's system, there is no place for God because he says that even this suggestion gives rise to duality. He says: "By saying even this, that God is the doer, we plant our ego on God." Besides, it suggests some doer, even if it is God and not us.
According to Lao Tzu, there is no doer. Actions take place on their own. This is a little difficult to understand. It is easy for us to accept God as the doer. If not us, God is the doer. Our logic remains intact. But Lao Tzu says: "Why do you want to involve Him in this business of being the doer, when you yourself are not prepared to be the doer?" There is no doer; there are only happenings. The wind blows, the leaves rustle, the waves of the oceans rise and fall. The world is a collection of the happenings, there is no doer.
When this comes within your understanding, then you let things happen. You are neither the doer nor the non-doer. Then you let things happen as they will and you merely watch them happening.
Then you reach the state that Krishna speaks of.
Krishna said to Arjuna, "Leave all this." Perhaps Arjuna was not as worthy a disciple of Krishna as Lao Tzu's disciples. Therefore Krishna had to say, "Leave everything to God. It is He who does everything. Do not interfere in His work. Take yourself only as a means that He employs in order to carry out a particular task."
Remember, if Lao Tzu were in Krishna's place he would never have given Arjuna such a long sermon. Lao Tzu, in the first place, would not have spoken at all. If Arjuna could read his silence, well and good.
Lieh Tzu says: "I have heard of teachers who teach with the help of words. And, there are teachers who teach without the medium of words." Lieh Tzu stayed with Lao Tzu for twelve long years. Never did he ask Lao Tzu a single question nor did he receive a single answer. Lieh Tzu would sit in a corner and listen to Lao Tzu when he answered the questions of others.
Years later, Lao Tzu himself asked him one day, "Have you nothing to ask?"
Lieh Tzu said, "If I have your permission I will ask."
"Why did you remain silent all these years?" Lao Tzu asked him. Lieh Tzu replied. "I have gained so much understanding sitting silently with you that I did not want to cause a disturbance with words."
To this, Lao Tzu said, "It is, therefore, that I say that you are now eligible to ask. He who finds speech an obstruction is freed from the illness of speaking. Now we can converse because words will cause no hindrance. He who discovers the bliss of silence cannot be hindered by words. Now, we can safely exchange our views."
But the disciple who stands before Krishna is a different type altogether. The situation as well as the times are different. It is a time of battle. You could not afford to be silent for twelve years. The situation is very different. Besides, if Lao Tzu were to tell Arjuna, "There is no doer. Things happen,"
Arjuna would have run away. When there is no doer, there is no deserter. He would have run away although that would have been wrong on his part because in running away, he would have been the deserter. He would then have been deceiving his own self.
We all are capable of deceiving ourselves; we are great adepts at this art. We are very clever at deceiving ourselves. We will run away and then philosophise, "It is happening. I am not the doer. I am only the witness."
If a man in the same mental state as Arjuna runs away, he is responsible for his actions. In fact, it is the sense of doer-ship that makes him think that he would be committing a sin by killing his near and dear ones. Therefore, he should run away. Krishna stops him from running away and explains to him that this feeling that 'I am doing' is wrong. If Arjuna had reached the stage where his ego had dropped, and then, if he had laid down his bow and arrow and walked away, Krishna would have been the last person to stop him. But then, that going would have been of different kind altogether.
Talking of Arjuna, I am reminded of a follower of Lao Tzu by the name of Rong Kong Uneji. He was a very great marks-man. He used to say, "Pull the arrow but do not let the muscles of the arm move", because if the muscle so much as twitches, you become the doer. Then it is you who has shot the arrow.
Now this was a very difficult thing. The king heard about him.
He called for him because he was curious to see this man. We can believe that a man, while pulling the arrow, may have the feeling of being only a medium and not the doer. He may have the attitude of being a witness to the happening but it is virtually impossible for him to shoot the arrow without using his muscles.
Uneji came to the court and placed his bow on the ground. It is said that no one but he could lift his bow; it was so heavy. He lifted the bow. The king himself inspected the muscles of his arms. He found them soft and supple like a child's. The king was surprised. Uneji said, "Now your majesty will believe me when I say the arrow is not shot; it shoots by itself."
If Arjuna came to this stage where he could say, "It is not I who am going; this going is taking place,"
then Krishna would never have stopped him. But Arjuna was not in this state. Arjuna was not fit to be a disciple of Lao Tzu. He belonged to the class of warriors, an outright masculine type; whereas all the teachings of Lao Tzu are for the feminine mind.
Arjuna is a symbol of masculinity. He was as a man should be. That is why, even Krishna, in order to bring his masculinity out to the fore, says, "You talk like an impotent man!" He shakes the man in him to the very bones. He tells him that people will call him a coward and he will go down in history as a warrior whose courage failed him in battle. Krishna tried to bring out the pride of the warrior in him so that he would pick up his bow and prepare for battle.
The teachings of Lao Tzu are essentially for a feminine mind. Therefore, his disciples are bound to be basically different. Whether feminine or masculine, the result is the same. One may drown one's ego in the service of God and not consider oneself to be the doer; or, like Lao Tzu, follow the path of non-action, where things happen by themselves and the sadhaka says he is not the doer.
Lao Tzu does not even ask his followers to act. Why should he? If things are happening, they are happening. If they are not, they are not. If they stop happening, they stop happening. You are no one to interfere or come in between. This, however, does not mean that the follower of Lao Tzu runs away from action. Nor does it mean that the followers of Krishna are always involved in actions.
Those who followed Lao Tzu have also fought wars. Uneji, about whom I spoke, was a warrior. He was well-versed in archery. We know of the so-called sannyasins of our country who run away from the world with the Gita in their hands, and yet maintain that the Gita is their very life.
What is one to do? What you should do is neither in the hands of Lao Tzu nor in the hands of Krishna. It is entirely in your hands. It has always been so. Actually, the teacher cannot do anything without your cooperation. And, the teacher can go only that far with you as you are prepared to go. Lao Tzu and Krishna have given the same message, but from very opposite points. One is a message for the male mind, and the other is a message for the female mind.
Again, another friend has asked an almost similar question. He says,
"FROM YOUR DISCOURSES, IT APPEARS THAT LAO TZU EXTOLLED THE GREATNESS OF NON-ACTION. AND YET, HE HAS GIVEN SUTRAS FOR SADHANA LIKE CONCENTRATION ON THE NAVEL CENTRE, THE BREATH, ETCETERA. IS THIS NOT CONTRADICTORY?"
It is only natural that it appears contradictory, because whenever we mention sadhana, it seems to us that it is always something to be done. This is the fault of our language.
Actually, there is no word for non-action in our languages; all words are for various actions. When we tell a person; "Now go to sleep," it means he has to do something to go to sleep; sleeping is also an act. But we all know it is not so. It is impossible, no matter how hard we try, to bring about sleep.
Try to do it sometimes. The harder you try to sleep, the more difficult it is to sleep. So sleeping is not an action, but in language it is so - like sitting, walking, talking etcetera.
A man cannot make himself sleep. Sleep comes only when all actions stop. The difficulty of those who cannot sleep is: how to bring about sleep. This "What to do?" is a great enemy of sleep, because whatever you do, you will be pushing sleep even further away. Should such a person be told there is no remedy? Should he be told he is doomed for the rest of his life because sleep cannot be brought about? If it comes. it comes; if it does not come, it does not come.
This would be very cruel, and also unwise; because such a person needs help, and help can be given. He will have to be shown methods that are so boring that they fall off on their own. For instance, you can tell a man to count from 1 to 100; then back from 100 to 1; then again from 1 to 100 and back. This is a method to bring about boredom. If a man counts from 1 to 100, then backwards again, then again, in a little while his mind will drop the method unknowingly. And as soon as it drops, he falls asleep. The method was not the cause of sleep and yet it was instrumental in bringing about sleep. All Lao Tzu's sadhanas are such negative methods. For instance, he says, "Find your centre." Now, the centre is there, so there is no need to actually find it. It is there. Whether we find it or not, whether we know it or not, it makes no difference to the centre whatsoever. The centre is the centre. Whether we live by the intellect or live by the heart, life is centred at the navel. All else are our illusions. Lao Tse says: "Search!" Perhaps, while searching the mind will get removed from your illusions and suddenly you will come close to the centre. And it is revealed!
There is a Chinese story about a king who became insane. He left his luxurious palace and began to live in the cellar, where all the useless things of the palace were stacked. At first his ministers thought that perhaps the king was doing some sadhana. In the beginning, all mad people appear to be sadhakas; and in the end, all sadhakas appear mad. So they thought the king was engaged in some sadhana, because he went into the cellar everyday. But by and by, he stopped coming up altogether. Then he began to forget all matters pertaining to his kingdom. When the ministers spoke to him, he merely listened and gave no answer. Finally the ministers began to doubt his sanity because he refused to come out from the cellar. They tried to convince him that it was not the palace but the basement, where all the rubbish of the palace was stored. But he would insist, "What different shall I do there? Is this not the palace also?"
He challenged the ministers to prove that the basement was not a part of the palace. He threatened to cut off their heads if they gave a wrong answer. The ministers were in a quandary because they could not deny the fact that it was a part of the palace, even though it was no place for a king.
They were alarmed at the king's behaviour, so they went to a fakir in the village and begged him to help them bring the king to his senses. They explained the whole situation to him. The fakir offered to come along with them. The fakir asked the king, "Do you take it that this is your palace? If you do not answer correctly I shall curse you so that your breath will stop."
The king looked all around him. There was nothing but dirt and rubbish all around him. He also felt that this place could not be called a palace, even though it was a part of the palace. He looked at the fakir and said, "You have put me in a quandary."
The fakir replied, "I have put you in the same quandary as you put your ministers. Now be good enough and come up with me. Let us inspect that place also and then we shall decide." Lao Tzu is saying the same thing. He does not tell you where your centre is. Is it a matter to be decided?
It is already a decided fact. But you just come down once and see this centre. Then the question where and what the centre is will have no meaning. This coming down is actually a coming back, a coming back home. So Lao Tzu says, "Can you call this a sadhana? You are going back home! It has always been your home."
It is not an activity either. But man, as he is, bound to his own involvements, needs the excuse of some activity. The fakir became an excuse for the king. He came out of the basement. And then, he refused to go down again. He said, "Now, if the whole world tries to persuade me, I shall never go down again. I had completely forgotten that the palace was above the basement!"
So, it is only oblivion, forgetfulness. It is a case of forgetfulness and no more. It requires only an opportunity, the right situation, to be reminded of it again. This vantage point is called sadhana. It is negative.
You cannot remember a friend's name. You rack your brains, but to no avail. I advise you to forget all about it, go out in the garden and dig. You might say, "What has this to do with the friend's name?"
but I still advise you to do as I said. You go in the garden and start digging. After a while, you suddenly remember the friend's name. Is it that digging the ground is a way to remember a name you had forgotten? Is there a causal link between the two? No. And yet, there is.
Actually, when you start digging, a situation is created in which the tension in your mind is relieved.
When you were trying hard to remember, your mind was so tense and drawn that there was no way for the name to come out. We often say, "The name is on my tongue and yet I can't get it." You are quite sure you remember the name and yet you are unable to recall it. What has happened? You have become so tense that the mind has become drawn and narrow, so much so that there is not place enough for a name to come out. You know the name, you feel it within you, there is hardly a distance of one inch between you and the name, but you have become so tense in the process that you obstruct its passage. I told you to take a sickle and go into the garden. Now, you busy yourself in the garden and the tension is released. In the process, the knot within opened and the name came up. The question is: is there a connection between digging and remembering a name?
There is none actually. And yet there is a negative connection. By digging the earth, the mind was deflected to another direction. In the process the mind slowed down. You become tranquil, relaxed.
In this relaxation, the bubble within rose up and you remembered the name.
Therefore it happens that many times you know the answer until you are asked. Someone asks, and the confusion starts. A man who goes for an interview is quite confident of himself as he waits for his turn; but as soon as he steps into the room, his mind becomes blank. When he comes out of the room, he finds he knew all the answers. What happens to him? In fact, the intellect becomes so tense that it becomes inoperative. It loses its flexibility. Its power to think is lost, obstructed. This obstruction is just superficial. There are methods of removing ;these obstructions. All sadhanas, are devices to remove this hindrance. Whenever a sadhaka approached one Zen fakir, the fakir would order him not to talk of God and the soul but to do exactly as he told him. Then he would tell him to fill a pail with water, gather wood, milk the cow, dig in the field, cook his food, etcetera. There was no talk of the soul. And many times it happened that for a full year a new sadhaka found himself cutting grass and drawing water, or taking the cattle out to graze!
One such sadhaka happened to be a university professor. He had never imagined he would have to do these menial jobs. For a year he grazed the cattle and gathered the firewood for his master.
In a year's time, the professor in him, the insane arrogance of being somebody, vanished. No intelligence, no doctorate degree, is needed in cutting wood. All he has to do is to work the saw backwards and forwards and the wood is cut. So too, the professorial ego! Together with the wood, the professor's ego was also cut. In a year's time he became an unqualified human being - a simple man. Then the guru called him and said, "You may ask me anything now, because now you shall be able to hear. Now you have become like the open skies. When you came, you were a closed house with no doors or windows."
So, all sadhanas, and also the negative sadhanas of Lao Tzu are devices that work towards somehow creating conditions to break, disperse and remove the various blocks within us. It is as if a river has frozen; it flows no more. What is to be done? We shall have to wait for the morning.
Let the sun come out and things will change. The heat of the sun will melt the ice and the river will flow once more. We, too, are like a frozen river whose stream is blocked at various places. We shall have to create conditions to melt the ice within us and allow the stream to flow. It is, therefore, that many times a change of conditions brings wonderful results, very wonderful results! A great writer by the name of Catherine Mansfield, who was the recipient of Nobel Prize also, came to Gurdjieff.
Such a person should have been given a sadhana that suited her status. But people like Gurdjieff are often crude and gruff. He showed her the road in front and said, "Pound this road, fill in the hollows and make it smooth."
She looked at the long, winding road and her heart sank. "How long shall I have to do this?" She asked. "Till I call out to you," said Gurdjieff: "When I call out, stop immediately. And remember, if I call out in the dead of night and ask you to resume your work, you must do so immediately."
Then when she asked how long it would take to finish the road he said, "Do not worry about that, because there are others engaged in the sadhana of breaking this road! Do not give a thought to that, because this road will never be repaired. On one side you will be repairing it and on the other side, others will be breaking it."
The next day she began her sadhana. She was horrified to see that no sooner had she repaired a portion of the road than other sadhakas raked it up again. The road remained as it was. She worked so hard, she was filled with sweat. Every now and then she hoped Gurdjieff would call. But he sat comfortably on an easy-chair, smoking away. She had never known what it was to perform a manual task, so her hands became filled with blisters and wounds. She let out sounds to draw Gurdjieff's attention, but he sat comfortably, making rings of smoke, and not so much as looked her way.
Somehow, the day ended. It was nearing sunset and still he sat on while she worked. Then at about concern for her blistered hands and sweating body, but he did not say a word!
At 2 o'clock in the night, he again called out to her and sent her to work. "How long do you think I shall last this way?" she asked. "It already seems impossible to live."
Gurdjieff replied, "That is exactly what I mean to do. And if you cooperate, you will be no more, but you shall know that which never dies."
Three months later when Mansfield returned and spoke about Gurdjieff, she said, "He is a strange man! He destroyed all that was old in me. I now return an entirely new person. Oh, how compassionate he was to me! I thought he would entrust me with some literary work, perhaps to write a book on him. Then I would have returned as I was. But he gave me such a contradictory task that all my reputation, my dignity, the honour of being a Nobel Prize winner, turned to mud."
For three months she performed this disheartening work. She laboured all day, only to find the next morning that her efforts had gone in vain. Again she set about the same job. And so, day after day, she laboured when success was impossible. This work was so contrary to her nature, but it was just the thing to break her mind. In three months' time, she forgot who she was. When she started the first day, she was very much aware of the fact that she was a great writer. Three months later, she completely forgot who she was. She was no longer conscious of herself. She was now happy to be an ordinary stone-breaker by the roadside. She said, "This man caused my ego to melt away."
The problem is a simple one: What should be done so that all that has gathered within us will melt and we will become fluid and able to flow once again?
There are two or three smaller questions. One friend says:
"ACCORDING TO LAO TZU, GOOD AND EVIL IS LIKE NIGHT AND DAY, AND SINCE GOD HAS MADE MAN INDEPENDENT, HE CAN DO GOOD OR EVIL AS HE CHOOSES. BUT WHY IS IT THAT NATURE DOES EVIL? THE FLOODS COME AND INNOCENT PEOPLE GET DROWNED, OR A FIRE RAGES AND PEOPLE ARE BURNT TO DEATH. THERE ARE SO MANY NATURAL CATASTROPHES."
One difficulty is that we cannot accept the evil, although it is inevitably there for some good. When there are no floods crores of wheat sway on the banks of the same river, what then? When fire burns a house we say, "Why does nature do evil?" But you do not know that if nature bids fire not to burn, the good that occurs from the heat of the fire will also stop. And if nature stops the waters in the river, then that's that. There will be no good; there will be no evil.
Our difficulty is that we place ourselves in the centre of the universe and consider that to be good which is in our favour and that to be evil which is not in our favour. But we do not think that that which is the cause of benefit to us is a cause for injury also. If the cause is to be removed, then both the evil and good that occur through it will stop.
If the rivers do not carry water, there shall be no floods; and if fire becomes cold, no house will burn.
But then do you not realise that together with this, all life will get cold? Both things happen together.
Therefore, when we accept one thing, we have to accept the unfavourable side of it also. He who does not is unwise, childish.
When I fall in love with someone I should know that this love can end some day. It is bound to end because that which joins, separates also. That which is formed also disintegrates. When I celebrate the birth of a son, I should also be ready for a funeral, because that is bound to follow. That which is born shall surely die. But he who has celebrated the birth of his son, and not kept the funeral pyre in mind, is bound to beat his breast and wail when the time comes, and cry at the injustice of death.
"Why, oh why, must man die?" he asks. He never asks why man is born. We accept birth readily but look at death as tragedy and pain.
Why does it seem evil that the floods come and innocent people die? If the guilty died, you would not mind. But who is guilty - the one who did not give you his vote, or the one who does not frequent your mosque or temple, or he who does not read the Gita? Who is guilty? Or is he who takes alcohol, guilty? And who are you to decide which person shall take what? Who is to decide that if a sinner is swept away by the floods it is all right? If we take a survey of an ordinary town to find out the number of sinners, we shall find that almost everyone is a sinner, provided we take the opinion of as many people as possible. If we ask all the people in the town, not a single person will go free, because some will call some people sinners, while others will call others sinners. One fact is certain, the whole town will be judged to be full of sinners.
Who is guilty, and who is not? What criteria, what standard of measurement have you? Granted you find a criterion to judge, even then how can you look upon death as evil? All evil seems to be possible during life, but there is no evil in death. Have you seen a dead man committing a sin? If there is any evil, it is in life. In death, there is no evil.
But our attachment to life is very great. Therefore we consider death a bad happening. In so doing, we only express our attachment to life. It proves that we want to live. Life is such an obsession with us that we wish to live and never to die. Even if the body is rotting, putrefying, we want to live, but we will never accept death. Why? Because we look upon death as evil.
What is evil in death? How does death trouble you? All your woes and troubles pertain to life. There is no illness, no law-suits, no riots, no robberies in death. These are the waves of life. Death is supreme tranquillity. Then why do we fear death so much? And how do we know that those who die stand to lose? Do the dead come back to tell us in what difficulties they are? Perhaps they think that it was the innocents who were swept away by the flood and they wonder how they were picked out to deserve such a fate!
It is just our way of looking at things. It is purely and simply a question of our vision. He who implants his viewpoint on existence is an ignorant person, because existence does not care about your viewpoint. When you set about making decisions about the ocean in which you are but a small wave, you are being foolish. A wise person is he who makes no decisions about existence. He lives without resolutions, without decisions, without any attitudes. When there is death, he looks at death; when there is life, he looks at life. He knows death is a mystery and so is life and nothing is decisive.
And because nothing is decisive, existence is a mystery. What is good? What is bad? It is not as easy as we think and say. When we give our decisions, we only betray our ignorance. Even in small things we at once pass our judgment: this is good, this is bad. What is good and what is bad has never been decided and it never will be. This does not mean that you should do as and how it pleases you. It does not mean that you should go and kill a few people because it is undecided whether this act is good or bad. This I do not mean at all.
If this understanding goes deep within you and you develop the attitude that "I am no judge," it is impossible for you to commit a crime. Killing is only possible if we decide that a certain person is bad and is not fit to live. Therefore, the more evil we take a person to be, the easier it becomes to kill him. This is why the courts find it very easy to pass a death sentence. The courts gather all the evidence for and against a person and take a decision.
No killer kills as easily as a magistrate. It is now clear to the magistrate that this man must die, though God the creator was still keeping him alive, as yet He has taken no decision regarding him.
The magistrate wears a black cloak and gathers a few ignorant people like him around himself and they get together and pass a sentence against this man. What was his crime? Perhaps he has killed a man. Now this is great! This man has killed someone, so he is a bad man. And therefore, we decide to kill him! Courts pass death-sentences very easily, because the law has great power in its hand. The magistrate passes the order, goes home and sleeps leisurely. He in no way considers himself responsible for the death of this man.
In the absence of responsibility man tends to be irresponsible. And irresponsibility is the greatest disaster. A magistrate is an absolutely irresponsible person. He refers to his books, he hears statements, he examines the witnesses and arrives at his judgment: this man must die! He keeps himself absolutely aloof from the whole happening. He considers himself only the medium of justice and law - the law is all written down in books. So he is free to go home and enjoy his evening. He will tune in his radio, or play cards, or call friends to dinner, and sleep happily with his wife. He is in no way concerned about this man's life and in no way holds himself responsible for his death.
Voltaire says: "When a man commits a sin with the firm intention of doing good, it is the biggest sin he can commit." So if you want to do evil, you just have to get hold of some concrete moral reason to do so and then you can indulge in your act without any qualms of conscience. All battles in life are fought on this principle; all politics in this world works on this formula. You first have to prove that what you are going to do is not bad, is not wrong. Then it is easy to start the battle. Once you start, the opponent also feels it is his moral duty to kill you.
But I tell you that a religious man never makes a decision. He says, "We are helpless; we are steeped in ignorance. The world is so gigantic, so vast, how can we decide what is good and what is bad?" He never, never makes a decision. Such a man attains to a profoundly deep sainthood. Such a man never condemns, never praises.
"Such a person," Lao Tzu says, "becomes a veritable child, as sweet as he is tender. He becomes artless, like a child."