Some years ago I talked to one of the last surviving members of the Flat Earth Society, who was from the same sports club. He said, “They think they’re going round the world but actually they’re going round in a circle on the edge of the world.” I said to him, “Well radio, you know?” He said, “Oh. I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have to think a lot about that.” But in the end, talking to him, I realised it was a social club. They no longer spoke much about the flat earth but they met their friends. It was a pleasant enough meeting. Finally, they were saying, “Well look, we never said the earth is absolutely flat like a sheet of paper. I mean we know there are mountains. What we said was, ‘It’s flat-ish.’ Now, astronomers say, don’t they, that the earth is not a sphere but it’s oblate spheroid which means a flattened sphere. It’s a question of degree really between us. There is no real dispute. You say flattened, we say flat-ish.” The main point of their society had gone – it was a social affair. They were nice people. Well he was quite a nice chap. I read that it has since been wound up – even they couldn’t keep it going.
This man [mentioned in the book] had been serving in the temple and he felt he was doing good and keeping it clean for the worshippers and so on. But he said, “In my heart, it’s dry.” Shri Dada then said to him, “Well you’re a grocer. You can’t expect to think abstract thoughts when you’re weighing rice and turmeric all day. But you should meditate on the form of the Lord and read about him and think of the incidents very vividly. Then you’ll gradually find the Shiva in you is beginning to stir.” This had an effect on the grocer, Chidda – he became a devotee and he did begin to experience a life within himself. One of the points that you’ll notice is that quite often the profession of the disciples is given. They’ll say, “Well, he’s a grocer, there is the carpenter (who actually would have been a much more important man than today because the houses then in the villages were of wood – he’d have been a builder, he’d have been a man of some substance), the wife of a soldier, the oil man, who takes round the oil for the lamps and there is the water carrier, and so on.” There were few very rich men [as disciples] – one was the owner of a very big estate and there was a famous lawyer. It was a cross section.
He makes the point repeatedly, that these things are like makeup. On the stage, if you take part in the amateur theatricals, if you’ve got the tinsel crown and the robes – you are the king, you’re quite someone. If you’ve got the rags, you’re wearing the rags, you’re a beggar and you behave like one before the king – but these are makeup. Shri Dada makes this point that the great achievements in the world, or the very humble situation, they’re all makeup. They are simply a role which we enter through our karma and which we are to play. If we meditate, we shall find the pattern that we’re to exemplify, to give.
There’s a Zen story about a great teacher – he lived with extreme simplicity. An archbishopric – it would correspond to that – in one of the great Buddhist sects became vacant. Those who appointed the new archbishop wanted to get a really good man, so they asked this teacher if one of his disciples could become the new archbishop. The teacher asked his best disciple. He said, “Would you do it?” He said, “Well if you think so. If you think that would be a good role.” The teacher said, “Yes, I think it would. You’ve got this ability to speak and you’re a good analyst and you’re a good theologian. You could do it well.” He said, “Right, I’ll take it on.” He took it on. The robes they wear are like the robes those people wear – they are marvellous embroidery in gold and silk. The teacher went to the enthronement ceremony and afterwards he had a few words with the new archbishop who was still in his finery. The teacher said to him, “Look, you don’t need all this stuff to spread the holy truth. The holy truth doesn’t need all this at all. Try to give it simply. It’s intoxication. They’re intoxicated seeing you in these beautiful robes and you are getting intoxicated wearing them. Give it up.” After that the new archbishop dressed as simply as he could. But occasionally, on a great ceremony, he had to wear these wonderful robes. One account is that he was on his way in the robes in a gorgeous litter to a big ceremony where he had to preside. They passed, on the road, a man very poorly dressed. The archbishop jumped out of the litter and prostrated himself in front of this, beggar-like man, who was his teacher. The teacher picked him up looked at him and muttered affectionately, “Drunk again.” This is makeup. The splendid achievements or the extreme humility of position, they are makeup.
Again, there was a teacher living in the mountains and the prime minister used to go and see him every fortnight and sit in meditation. He kept it secret but finally, of course, the press got on to it. The press man went to see the hermit and he said, “Is the prime minister getting any benefit from these sessions with you?” The hermit blew him up and he said, “The prime minister doesn’t come here to get benefit as prime minister. The prime minister comes here to find out what he really is.” Then the reporter found that the hermit teacher had one or two disciples in the nearby village and one of them was the greengrocer’s wife. He’d found that out. He said to the hermit teacher, “Wouldn’t it be better if you went to the city, then you could have more disciples who really matter, like the prime minister?” The teacher terrified him and shouted, “I teach archery.” He said, “The prime minister comes here to shoot himself out of being prime minister into the Buddha nature which he really is. The greengrocer’s wife comes here to shoot herself out of being the greengrocer’s wife into the Buddha nature which she really is. It may be that it would be a lot easier for her to shoot herself out of being only the greengrocer’s wife than it will be for him to shoot himself out of being his excellency the prime minister.”
These things are makeup. The process of Yoga is to shoot out of the makeup into reality.
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are:
Part 1: Mysticism of the heart
Part 2: Study the nature of yourself
Part 3: The cosmic plan
Part 5: Mediate on the form of the lord
Part 6: Slip out of the mind cage
Part 7: Honesty and Religious practice