When purpose and pleasure are brought together work becomes play. Every bit of work done in this spirit strengthens the man who does it. It is recreative as well as creative. Artist and carpenter -- they make pictures and chairs, but even more they make men, themselves.
Think on what you are doing more than on the result, or what you are going to do afterwards. You will not then miss the pleasure of little things. I pick up my pen; there is a sheer and undiluted pleasure in this, if I allow myself to experience it. It is natural and pure, and mine when I stop fighting it. In such little things thought, love, and will can flow and grow. And then arise peace and strength and -- in active life -- the union of work and play.
Moderation is another law. Play ceases to be play when there is fatigue or overstrain. We have much to learn from the animals and even from the plants in this respect. "Grow as the flower grows," says Light on the Path, "opening your heart to the sun." Said Jesus: "Consider the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
It is deadly fear of the morrow that makes man's work a toil, that makes him sweat in bitterness. But the law of life says: "Do the wise and right thing today, and leave the result to take care of itself." This is not a doctrine of idleness, but of work that is play instead of toil.
An illustration of this is to be seen in the way in which different people take a long journey. One man will get into the train and remain in a fever of impatience until he reaches his destination. He has fixed his mind on something that he wants to do there; in the meantime his journey is a toil and a misery. Another knows how to use and enjoy the scenery, the people, and even the train itself.
These thoughts bring up in my mind two contrasting pictures. I see a Western man sitting on his tractor moving along a field. He does not seem to be enjoying his work. Perhaps he is thinking of something else -- of going to a dance or a cinema. He has been educated in a practical way but not for the understanding of life and enjoyment of the common day.
I see a Hindu villager tilling a field. I know what is in his mind. He is perhaps singing to himself one of the old songs. He is thinking of the earth and the water that waters the earth, and he loves them both with every nerve of his body. If he were a kissing man he would kiss them, but he belongs to a devotional race, so he salutes them, and touches them with a feeling that he is being blessed. He looks at the grass banks which border his field. Along their narrow tops he will walk away from his work at eventide. He will walk without shoes, and his feet will feel and respond to the irregularities of the path. As he comes to each border-tree on that path he will feel happy, as though he had met a friend whom he does not fear. And so he will come at last, without hurry, to his earth-walled and palm-roofed home, where his wife and children live, and where his fathers before him have lived, perhaps for a thousand years.
But perhaps I have misjudged that Western man. Perhaps he is thinking not of dance and cinema, but how when he reaches his home in the evening he will go out and work in the garden for a while, touching the soil and the little plants, with a slightly busy wife and toddling child near by -- away from the deadly constructiveness of his daily work, which even when it gives him elation does not give him joy, into some simple living with life.
It may be said that I have taken extreme cases of West and East in my contrasting picture. Yes, that is so, yet there is something in it in general, and undoubtedly we human beings will have to bring work and play together for both our individual and our social redemptions.
It is said in an old Indian book that there are four great enemies to human success:
(1) a sleepy heart,
(2) human passions,
(3) a confused mind, and
(4) attachment to anything but Brahman. (Each student has to attach his own meaning to this word -- Brahman -- keeping it always flexible, so that it may expand and become illumined. Literally: the Evolutioner, Grower, or Expander, not creator.)
A sleepy heart -- means that the body is lazy and its activities are slothful.
Human passions -- means that the emotions are only reactions from pleasure and pain.
A confused mind -- means one that still lacks the wisdom-knowledge that gives it constancy or unity of purpose.
In mastering all these you must not aim at repression or destruction, but at well-regulated activity, that is, culture. Physical culture involves the suppression of irregular activities in the body. It demands an ordered life, with well-proportioned exercise, nourishment, and rest. The governing of the natural appetites which it requires does not nullify their power, but tunes them up; and the sense of vigorous life is increased, not diminished by this control.
These things are true also of the mind. It too requires regular and well-proportioned exercise, nourishment, and rest. Its natural appetites also need to be controlled and governed, and when this is done there is no loss of mental vigor, but an enhancement of it.
Exercise is something more than the mere use of faculty. A man breaking stones on the road is using his muscles, and certainly in a long time the muscles he uses become strong. A man who carries out a definite system of physical exercises for a short time every day soon becomes stronger than the man who wields the hammer all day long. So also, a man who spends his time in the study of mathematics, literature, languages, science, philosophy, or any other subject, is using his mind, and thinking may become facile to him. But a man who deliberately carries out a definite system of mental exercises for a short time every day, soon gains greater control of his mind than he who merely reads and curiously thinks all day long.
In fact, the need of mental training, of regular, orderly, purposeful exercise of the mind, is far greater than that of the body in most cases; for at our general stage of growth most men's bodily activities are well-ordered and controlled, and the body is obedient to their will, but their minds are usually utterly disobedient, idle, and luxurious.
Calmness does not mean dullness or immobility. It means regular motion and is quite compatible with rapid motion. So also control of mind does not mean dullness or stupidity. It means clear-cut and regular thought, velocity and strength of mind, vivid and living ideas.
Without the preliminary training which makes the body calm, control of mind is difficult. A certain small measure of austerity is imperatively necessary for great success in concentration. The reason for this is to be discovered in the basic rule of the process. That rule is this: the body must be still, the mind alert.
Determined perseverance does not usually walk hand in hand with absence of excitement in human life. Yet for success the mind must be calm. The ideal aimed at should be clearly pictured in the mind, and then kept constantly before it. Such a prevailing mood will tend to polarize all thought, desire, and activity to its direction. As a traveler may follow a star through mazes of forest and trackless country, so will the persistent ideal guide its votary infallibly through all difficult and complex situations in life. All that is necessary is constant practice and absence of agitation.
Constant practice and absence of excitement or agitation -- these two rules are always prescribed. Do you not see that they are the natural accompaniments of will? If you have said: "I will", not only in words, but also in act, and thought, and feeling, will you not always be free from the excitement and weakness of wishing?
If thus you work and practice, and never wish, and have no attachment to anything but Brahman, success will soon be yours. Life will fulfill itself when the obstacles are removed. In the distant future, do you say? Is it not sure? And what is sure is just as good as if it had already happened; so if you will not have it otherwise, even now success is yours all the time, not only in the end.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
The Theosophical Publishing House, www.theosophical.org
Concentration: An Approach to Meditation
by Ernest Wood.
This perennial best-seller by a distinguished educator assembles 36 mental and physical exercises for taming the natural drifting of the mind. Newly designed edition of a practical manual for success.
Ernest Wood is well known as both a writer and a lecturer on religious and educational matters. His work is always careful and thoughtful. His convictions as to the possibilities which we may attain in the near or remote future by internal self-culture are in accordance with the practical mysticism of both East and West.