The Realization of God
A lecture given by Phiroz Mehta before H. M. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands at Appeldoorn on 29th January 1954
In the Christian communion service, the blessing begins with these words:
May the Peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God.
Many centuries before Jesus, a Hindu prayer for peace ran thus:
May there be peace in Heaven… May there be peace on earth… May there be peace in Brahman, the Supreme… May there be peace in all… May that peace, real peace, be in me.
Who is the man who seeks the Peace of God? Surely, he who is the devotee, the lover of God, and he who is the wise man possessed of insight; and, above all, he who suffers with loving clear-sightedness, refusing to push aside or flee from the sorrow which lies at the heart of all sin, the sorrow which is the food of all who sow the seed of repeated death. And is it possible to escape the fact that the action, feeling and speech-thought of the multitudes is a grim holocaust to the Lord of Death, that it effectively shuts the Gates of Immortality, and that it enthrones tumult and banishes the Peace of God?
For look! The world around us is afflicted with wars and strikes, insecurity and misery. We see gigantic greeds and hellish hatreds between man and man. Our fellow humans sicken with anxiety and fear, or else are tormented by neurosis and frustration. In our own individual selves there is heartbreak and disillusionment, and there is the evil which we vainly try to keep secret. Everywhere sorrow eats away the heart of men and women lonely in the midst of huddled millions. We are poor in the midst of plenty; we are slaves pretending to be free men; we are fools stranded in the desert of knowledge. And all this is in spite of our conquest of nature and control over matter, our developing social justice, our growing humane and liberal outlook and behaviour.
We cannot deny some progress, for in the twentieth century we do see certain peoples whose way of life is the outcome of an evolutionary development through several centuries. This way of life displays the stability of a long respected and faithfully preserved tradition, as well as a degree of flexibility which allows for accommodation to the change which is necessitated by growth and by the passage of time. One may discern here a distinctive outlook on life, and significantly it is an outlook which is unstained by a forcibly imposed rigid ideology. But, by contrast, in this selfsame twentieth century, we have also witnessed the ravages wrought by the devilish imposition of the crude ideologies of half-witted megalomaniacs. In other words, we have seen the rule of the sword and the subsequent destruction of him who stoops to wield compulsive power, a destruction which unhappily involves millions in a senseless agony. We have seen evil strength destroy itself suicidally. How tragically foreboding then is the fact that man, the victim of his own sinful ignorance, still places his trust in power unredeemed by wise love!
Most of the learned ones of the world lay great stress on political or economic or social or other conditions as the causes of the world malaise. The vast masses of the world, prone to shirk certain responsibilities, look to others, to those in power, to produce the millennium for them. Schemes and plans are made, great organizations spring up and vast activities are afoot all over the world, all in the name of welfare, of happiness and of peace. And yet, peace is an exile, happiness is a fever and welfare is largely a reduction to comfortable animalhood and mechanical efficiency.
But if a wise man were to emphasize the fact that each person is himself the root cause of the world malaise, he is regarded with disfavour. If a truthful man were to declare that the main responsibility for peace lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of us in the world, he is left deserted. And yet, St. Paul wrote:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
Galatians VI.7 & 8
Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.
Matthew V. 18
And the Buddhist Dhammapada unequivocally taught:
By oneself alone is evil done, by oneself is one defiled; by oneself is evil avoided, by oneself is one purified; purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.
165 or XII. 9
Each man, then, sows the seed and sustains the dark tangle of evil in the world, because evil is within himself; each man likewise sows the seed and nourishes the fair flower of good in the world by his own deliberate action. Since I myself am the doer of evil, it is necessary for me to see and to acknowledge that the devil confronts me each time I look into a mirror. The devil's domicile is not restricted but is universal, is not confined to the other fellow but is right within myself. If, however, this were the whole truth, there could be no possibility of salvation or peace. There is another factor: God. And God, also, is in me. I, the human person, am the battleground of the opposing tensions, the evil, symbolized by the devil, and the good which is the manifestation of God. The disquiet and turmoil produced within myself by these opposing tensions inevitably produce disquiet and evil in the world; and, simultaneously, the world condition inevitably affects me.
My world and I largely reflect each other. The world and I are not two unrelated entities but, together, constitute a continuously interacting, living whole. The world and I are responsible not only to each other but also for each other. Therefore, in reality, there is no problem whatsoever, whether I should devote myself to self-purification, for the sake of what is quite wrongly called my selfish, personal salvation, or whether I should work for great causes or for established institutions. Further, there is no problem whatsoever of reconciling religion and the good life with science and philosophy and the practical, worldly life. For in very truth there is only the Whole. My self-purification inevitably means that my environment is being changed for the better; my clarifying vision inevitably means that my fellows are helped to see the truth; my increasingly efficient and beautiful performance of all my worldly activities, provided such activities are not evil in themselves, inevitably means that my salvation is nearer at hand.
Thus I preserve my touch with Reality. I do not chase an attractive refinement, cloaking it under the name of an ideal, for that only binds me to limited selfhood; nor do I attempt to impose ideals on others, for that only drags them into my own net; nor do I frantically try to convert the world or save the unbeliever, for such action is but a remarkable demonstration of my own egoism and my lust for spiritual merit. But I must freely offer all I am to all the world, and freely share all I have with whosoever is willing to accept it. Thus I maintain my touch with Reality.
Now the problem which faces me, as indeed it faces every single person in the world, is that, having recognized the devil in me, what do I do with him? If I suppress him here, he springs out more triumphantly there. If I repress him, I suffer from neuroses and psychoses. If I give him free rein or pamper him, he runs riot. If I acknowledge defeat, I suffer the tortures of hell. If I constantly fight him, I make him stronger by such exercise and my own task more difficult. What, then, can I do with the devil?
I can transform him.
Again, this problem faces me: what do I do with God within me? Each time God within me is defeated, I am mortally wounded and, whether I acknowledge it or not, I am a miserable sinner. This is the secret evil which I vainly try to hide, as said earlier in this talk. Each time God shines out in me, I am happy and peaceful — but only temporarily, for there is something within which again obscures the light of God. And so, ordinarily, God in me remains a babe. What can I do with God within me?
I can make God in me grow to full stature.
There is something which keeps God and the devil together in me, mixed up with each other in a fluctuating relationship. This something is the I-hood, the misconceived selfhood in me. This I-hood is the shadow of the eternal, divine I AM. It is real, as long as I struggle to perpetuate its reality. At death, the I AM sheds this shadow altogether. So too in profound slumber, or dreamless sleep. There is a third occasion which this shadow is cast out — but we shall come to this a little further on.
What do I do with myself? The devil I can transform; God in me I can bring up to full stature. So I assert. But can I do it? Yes, provided that where myself is concerned I will awaken and become Enlightened.
Now the devil, God and myself are not three sharply defined entities to be dealt with in three specific, separate ways. In the moment of obscurity, I myself am the devil, and in the state of enlightenment, I myself am the pure vessel of God. As I purify myself, I awaken. As I awaken, I transform the devil and make God in me grow. The process is a whole. It happens simultaneously.
At the beginning of this talk we touched upon the disharmony in the world situation, and the tribulations in our personal lives, so obvious to everyone. But we must look more deeply and see that even the joy of friends in converse, the ecstasy of lovers’ kisses, the delight of children at play, the pleasure of the senses and the elation of the mind, the satisfaction of achievement and success, are all clouded with the sorrow of their transience. They all pass away. All things arise and move and pass away. Death seems Lord of all. And we are aware of each and every event and experience, feeling and thought, as something which begins and proceeds and dies. Our very consciousness is subject to the Lord of Death. But the heart of man cries out for the joy that will never end, for the life that will never die. And until man can win this joy or ānanda, this deathlessness or amṛita, he is in anguish, and his whole world, both painful and pleasant, is only a vale of tears, a valley of the shadow of death. This blissful Peace, this living Im-mortality is the fulfilment of man here-now. This Eternal Life, man ascribes to God, to Brahman, to Ātman, whereas he himself, as he is, suffers the sorrow of his distance from God.
Let us hear what the sage Nārada said to his great master Sanatkumāra:
Sir, I know the Ṛg-veda, the Yajur-veda, the Sāma-veda, the Atharva-veda, Grammar, Propitiation of the Shades of the Departed, Mathematics, Augury, Chronology, Logic, Polity, the Science of the Gods, the Science of Sacred Knowledge, Demonology, the Science of Rulership, Astrology, the Science of Snake Charming and the Fine Arts. This, Sir, I know.
Such a one am I, knowing the sacred sayings, but not knowing the Ātman, the Spirit. It has been heard by me from those who are like you, Sir, that he who knows the Ātman knows the Spirit, crosses over sorrow. Such a sorrowing one am I, Sir. Do you, Sir, cause me, who am such a one, to cross over to the other side of sorrow.
Chāndogya Upaniṣad, VII.2. 2 & 3
The Buddha, with his sure touch with reality, declared the First Great Truth of Sorrow in these words:
O Bhikkhus! This is the Noble Truth as to the source of sorrow: worldly existence is sorrowful: old age… disease… death… union with the unpleasing… separation from the pleasing… the unfulfilled wish… each one of these is sorrowful. In brief, desirous transient individuality is sorrowful.
The Buddha refrained from calling the goal by the name of God. He called it Nirvana. But he unequivocally affirmed the Transcendent. Let us hear his assurance:
O Bhikkhus! There are those things, profound, difficult to realize, hard to understand, tranquillizing, sweet, not to be grasped by mere logic, subtle, comprehensible by the wise. These things the Tathāgata hath set forth, having himself realized them by his own super-knowing.
And a little later he adds:
When a Bhikkhu understands as they really are, the origin and end, the attraction, the danger, and the escape from the six realms of contact (viz. the five senses and the discursively thinking mind), then only he comes to know what is above and beyond them all.
At this stage we must try to understand clearly that the Great Teachers have always referred, fundamentally, to a state of consciousness rather than to an emotion or a thought, when they declared that worldly existence, both painful and pleasant, was sorrowful. The longing for God is an emotional stress and an intellectual outreaching in its early stages. But back of it there lies a deep-seated quiet urge in our inner consciousness itself. This urge becomes an irresistible dynamic power, in course of time sweeping our whole being to its ultimate destiny of God-realization. As long as our inner consciousness is not God-centred, then any and every experience is prevented from wholly being God in expression. Therefore, whether the experience be pleasant or painful from the standpoint of sensation or of any worldly, mortal values whatsoever, our inner consciousness, divorced from God, can only be characterized as sorrowful. Slowly, painfully, we mortals awaken to the awareness of our state of divorce from God. We have pious feelings about God; we raise up philosophies about God: we spin out theological systems. But we are not at home in God. Ours is a mortal awareness of a space-time world. And this is a sorrowful state.
The heart of Religion is therefore concerned with transforming our mortal awareness of a space-time world into the immortal superconsciousness of eternal existence. At its heart, then, Religion stands altogether distinct from science and philosophy. For whilst science and philosophy are bounded within the mortal sphere of sense observation and discursive thought, Religion enables a man to transcend that sphere and experience immortality super-consciously.
Now whereas science and philosophy and the lesser aspects of Religion, such as theology and ritual worship, deal with numbers of people or have a message for multitudes at a time, the heart of Religion directly affects each single person alone by himself. God and the individual meet in the music of Silence, in the glory of Nakedness, in the majesty of Aloneness, in the all-Light of the hidden Dark, and there is Communion. Thereupon this Lonely One, who treads the unattractive, un-glorious way of service of the Nameless Supreme, becomes the Transfigured One, the One whose state of sorrow has been changed into the state of Nirvana, in which the mortal awareness of the space-time world has been transformed into the immortal super-consciousness of eternal existence. If now we remember that the reality of the inner consciousness is the final factor determining the external shape of things, we shall see why the world-changes, clumsily brought about by ordinary mortals, however good and capable they may be, cannot stand comparison with the excellence that has shone forth because there lived an Enoch and Elijah, a Vāmadeva and Parameṣṭhin and Āruṇi and Yājñavalkya, a Christ and a Buddha, a Zarathushtra and a Kṛṣṇa. And again, of those world-changes brought about by ordinary mortals, those which have brought healing and peace are the ones whose ultimate inspiration came from the God-united.
The highest practicality consists therefore in the realization of God. The perfection of the outward shape of manifested reality is the complement of the inward realization of the Transcendent.
I said earlier that, as I purify myself, I awaken to the Transcendent. Purification, which is a perpetual process, means the poverty which is an utter self-stripping, a complete detachment from all finite things, a freedom from the burden of useless possessions, both material and immaterial. It means the chastity which is utter freedom from all desire, a virginity of soul. It means the obedience born of that casting away of all selfhood and self-will which makes a man the happy servant of God, uninfluenced by the accidents, pleasant or unpleasant, of everyday life. We all know the eloquent passion with which Christian mystics like Jacopone da Todi, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa, the Blessed Angela of Foligno, Rolle, Suso, Eckhart, Ruysbroeck, Dante, Boehme and many others have expounded this. A thousand years, two thousand years before them, India’s mystic seers declared in the Upaniṣads:
When are liberated all the desires that lodge in one’s heart, Therein a mortal becomes immortal.
The Buddha taught that, since the origin of sorrow, of the ill-state of consciousness, was craving, which is the lust for sensation, possession, power and exalted selfhood, the end of the ill-state was brought about by:
The utter cessation of craving, by putting away material things, the objects of sense, and (where necessary) even the use of the senses, and also by putting away thoughts, stimuli, feelings, perceptions, intentions, memories, preoccupation and deliberation arising out of the senses and the objects of sense.
Five and a half centuries after the Buddha, Jesus gave the same teaching in a dramatic form:
If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it away from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish than that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
If we turn to the discipline of Yoga, we find that two of its parts are called Yama and Niyama, which mean the practice of all virtues like harmlessness, truthfulness, kindliness, charity, faith, contentment, and so on. Another part of Yoga is called Prātyāhara, which means the turning away from the worldly life of the senses and the discursive mind. This is the counterpart of the Christian repentance, and of the Buddhist nibbindati, a turning away from the sinful state, which fundamentally means the sorry state of worldly consciousness forgetful of God. Prātyāhara produces the right condition for Dhāraṇā, which is the concentration of one’s whole consciousness upon Brahman, or God, which corresponds to the Christian Recollection, and in which the self is released, or at least beginning to be released from succession, that is, from the cycle of births and deaths in one’s own consciousness. With the practice of Dhāranā, there is established the continuous consciousness of God. One experiences the abiding Presence of God, however busy one may be.
Now we can clearly see why India laid, and lays to this day, such stress upon complete desirelessness. Every desire, good or bad, springs from and is circumscribed by the limited self. In some degree or other it blots out our awareness of God, for every desire means self-interest and self-centredness. But he who is utterly desireless is the one who enjoys freedom, the one in whom “Thy will, not mine, O Lord” is manifest. This freedom extends wider and deeper than the realm of desire, embracing all thought too. And this is the point where the mystic, having already parted company with the philosopher a little earlier, leaves him altogether. In that remarkable English mystical work called The Cloud of Unknowing, there is a passage by its anonymous author which owes much to the teaching of Dionysius the Areopagite:
“When thou comest by thyself,” says the Master to the disciple, “Think not beforehand what thou shalt do after; but forsake both good thoughts and evil thoughts … And look that nothing live in thy working mind but a naked intent stretching unto God, not clothed in any special thought of God in thyself, how He is in Himself or in any of His works, but only that He is as He is. Let Him be so I pray thee…”
This emptying of the mind, this stripping of the self of all desire and thought and its wayward will, in Christian terms the “sinking into one’s nothingness”, is a sine qua non for the realization of God. The Buddha gave perhaps the clearest detail of the stages of conscious realization in what he called the Eight Deliverances. In the Sixth Deliverance which one reaches after realizing Infinity, both material and immaterial, one enters into and abides in no-thing-ness. Whilst realizing the profound states of consciousness, the negative and positive aspects of the experience are simultaneously present. In his Dialogues of the Supersensual Life (p. 66), Boehme said:
Behold, if thou desirest to see God’s Light in the soul, and be divinely illuminated and conducted, this is the short way that thou are to take (namely) not to let the Eye of thy Spirit enter into Matter, or fill itself with any Thing whatsoever, either in Heaven or Earth, but to let it enter by a naked faith into the Light of the Majesty.
The Sixth Deliverance of the Buddha is the state where I, Me and Mine are completely stilled, pacified, made harmless. Thus reduced to one’s own nothingness, one is enabled through Love and Peace to “meet God without intermediary.” Over and over again, the Gītā, the Buddha and the Upaniṣads clearly taught that I, Me and Mine were the cruel misconceptions which lay at the source of sin and sorrow. This Sixth Deliverance is that state of alert Quiet whence one proceeds to deep contemplation, called Dhyāna in India. Eckhart quite rightly states that in the Quiet man begins to be united with his final ground, pure Being, devoid of symbols or attributes. This austere mystic, so much in tune not only with Plotinus and Dionysius the Areopagite but also with those supreme mysticseers, the great Ṛṣis and Munis of the Vedas and Upaniṣads, discarded even the supreme symbols of Reality. This Quiet, however, must not be confused with Quietism, which Ruysbroeck criticized so rightly and severely.
Pure Contemplation is beyond the span of thought and emotion. But in talking about it we are necessarily confined to words which cannot escape or transcend the mortal boundaries of thought and emotion. Bearing this in mind, let us say that pure Contemplation is the concentrated urge of one’s essential being for loving union with the Divine. The finite person opens himself out to the Absolute Infinite, to the eternal that-which-is, the Godhead or Brahman or Ātman, to the indefinable Nirvana. In Dhyāna the distinctive awareness of Thou, God, and I, man, gradually disappears. When the final stage, samādhi, is fully attained, there is only the Absolute, and, at the moment, immaculately conceived God incarnates, and the Son of God is virginly born. This virgin birth of the Brahmaputras, the Sons of God, is a tradition in India which was already centuries old when Jesus was born.
It is easy to say that these are mere words. Not so. There is a Real Experience which these words express so poorly. And yet it is possible today, using words, to reach at least one step closer to an understanding of the realization of God. As the profounder states of consciousness are reached, the turmoil of thoughts, feelings, impressions, words, gradually calms down. From Quiet onwards there is deep peace. The uprising, proceeding and dying of perceptions, which is the cycle of births and deaths, the realm of mortality, begins to cease. In pure Contemplation there is only a gentle oscillation between God and oneself. But even in this stage a slight disturbance of discursive thought, words, manifests itself. In the ultimate stage all discursive thought is completely stopped, oneself being in full self-possession, which is identical with complete self-surrender to God. This is the attainment of the Absolute Silence, wherein our ordinary consciousness has flowered out into super-consciousness. This is the state of the Anointed One, and the meaning of “I and my Father in heaven are one” or, in terms of the age-old Hindu teaching, Pratyagātman and Paramātman are in eternal union. This samādhi is the full experience and true meaning of Immortality here and now. It is the transcending of time by the God-united.
And so we see that, unlike the philosophical thought of immortality as continuous existence in endless time, the mystical experience of immortality is a mode of awareness by the transformed consciousness of him who has realized God. As I said earlier, the mortal awareness of a space-time world is transformed into the immortal super-consciousness of eternal existence. Please forbear with me for using words. It is the best I can do. But I hope that this verbal expression, “the complete stopping of the flow of discursive thought, at will, and in full self-possession, which is identical with complete surrender at this stage” — I hope that that statement will prove stimulating and helpful.
In this Absolute Silence one has fully awakened at last. In the process of this Awakening, the devil-self in one has been utterly transformed and made one with the fully matured God-being. The Silence is the heart of the Enlightenment of the Buddha. This is the Kingdom of Heaven of Jesus, the Brahman realization of the Upaniṣadic Muni. This is the Peace of God which passeth all understanding, the supreme Nirvana of the Buddha.
This realization of God is that third occasion to which I referred earlier, when the humanly misconceived I-hood, the shadow of the eternal divine I AM, is finally cast out, and the true being of the purified individual shines in self-lessness. Never again will the Brahman-realized, the God-united, come under the dark spell of the illusory ego. The very root of all evil, as the Buddha taught, has now been cut away, and the ultimate ignorance rooted out. No evil state of consciousness can afflict him now, and therefore there are no complexes, no fantasies and dreams, no cravings and fears, no frustrations, no anxieties. But instead, illuminated by the transcendent Light of Nirvana, there is a complete loving acceptance of everything and of everyone, for all enemies, exactly as much as all friends, are fellow human beings. This loving, whole acceptance is the source of the power which can transmute all the world’s evil into good. This loving, whole acceptance is the pure basis of perfect personal relations, of concord between man and fellow man. If I have indeed realized God who is my innermost true Self, who is the Self of all, I can do no harm whatsoever to my neighbour. Indeed, since God within me is realized through Love’s omnipotent moving, I cannot help loving my neighbour. Only where there is perfect Love, there alone can power be used rightly and irresistibly.
Only if I realize God, and realize the Love of God, then truly do I discover that Eternal God, Founder of the world, is invincible, for God is Love and Wisdom, God is Beauty and Truth, God is Action and Power. Here-now in eternal existence, and not merely in the temporal transience of sense-mind perception, here-now in the very midst of the Omnipresence, guided by the Omniscience, energized by the Omnipotence, do you and I live. Let us answer the call of the Infinite, and awaken to the Eternal Life here now, which is our spiritual birthright, and join hands in the work of Peace. Let us never forget at any moment that the fundamental Peace we have to make is the Peace between body and spirit in our own selves. Without this Peace, no external Peace can be sustained. But, when we have made this Peace, then we shall know the truth of that Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”