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Immortality

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By Phiroz Mehta

An extract from Zarathushtra: The Transcendental Vision

Some religions promise blissful immortality after death in an eternal heaven to the faithful devotee who has lived the Good Life, and consign unrepentant sinners to everlasting tortures in a permanent hell.

Religions which uphold theories of karma and rebirth teach that, after the effects of all the causes generated by each human being have worked themselves out through many lives on earth — during which he has at last turned his face to the Light and succeeded in realizing perfection and has fully awakened to Truth — man will then be one with the Ultimate Reality, or be united with God, or enjoy everlasting fellowship with God, perpetually standing in the Divine Presence. Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise, Garo-demana, the Happy Lands, etc., will be the reward, a final payment, for him as an individual, self-conscious being.

Man is in thrall to duality. Credit and debit, success and failure, gain and loss, reward and punishment, pleasure and pain — all these duals dominate his deeds, misguide his mind and lead him astray. Being isolatively self-conscious, it is difficult for him to walk out of his ego-centred prison — self-condemned to hard labour which brings only conflict and insecurity, misery and despair, not only to him but also those around him. Such is man who is still in his sub-human stage of development. And yet, this self-same creature, man, is indeed Transcendence embodied, bearing within himself a wonderful spiritual heritage and a divine potential.

Founders of religions have been credited by their followers with being sons of God, as with Zarathushtra and Jesus, or as being God incarnate, as with Shree Krishna. As such, omniscience has been ascribed to them, just as it has been ascribed to Gotama the Buddha. The masses imagine that this omniscience is an encyclopaedic knowledge of the whole cosmos, including man, and all its past, present and future, as also of celestial realms invisible to us ordinary people.

All true spiritual teachers thoroughly understand the human psyche. Compared with us, they are omniscient in this sphere. They are “soul-healing Lords of Wisdom”. By the complete understanding and purification and the consequent healing of their own psyches, they become eminently qualified to diagnose the illness of any soul and to suggest the right remedy. Their prescription is always a suggestion, never a compulsion. If the patient is sensible, he will do the needful. If not, the consequences will be his.

Such spiritual teachers were living examples of the apothegm mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body, which is the one meaning of haurvatat. They well knew the power of the healthy psyche to heal, through asha, the entire psycho-physical existential being and maintain him in perfect health, so that the person could duly realize his spiritual goal. Here lies the significance of the later Avestan prayers in oft-repeated phrases like:

O Lord God, Ahura Mazda, from all my sins do I repent and turn back. From every evil thought, evil word and evil deed, which in this world I may have conceived of, uttered or committed, which from me has come forth, or originated through me; of all such sins of thought, word and deed, pertaining to my body or soul, pertaining to this world or the spiritual world; O Lord! with sincere contrition I repent with three-fold renunciation.

By the accomplished turning away from all evil, the person becomes the New Man.

The Holy Ones clearly understood the ambivalence of the psyche, its relationship to and interaction with one’s innermost consciousness which is not cognized by the brain. This consciousness is the silent watcher and lord, sustainer and consummator of our entire existential being, the microcosm. It does not depend upon sense activity, concept and word for its operation. It is a constant, tranquil influence for the purification and well-being of the psycho-physical person. It is non-compulsive in its action, neither persuading or dissuading. It is universal. It is Transcendence embodied in us, and is not to be mistaken for the ordinary discriminative consciousness (which does depend upon sense activity, concept and word) characterizing the everyday living process of our psycho-physical organism.

Because of its ambivalence, the psyche injects both good and evil influences into the psychical atmosphere. The psyche also draws upon and is affected by the accumulated store of good and evil psychical energy enveloping the world, like the pure as well as the polluted air which encloses the earth and which we all breathe. Whereas we usually have little choice where the quality of the air we breathe is concerned, we do have considerable freedom of choice where the psychical atmosphere is concerned, for this depends upon what company we keep, upon our cultural and spiritual interests and upon being aware of our own psychological states.

Here we must consider an important teaching of Zarathushtra, namely, his doctrine of the twin mainyu — the twin spirits or twin powers, the one promoting and the other spoiling or destroying well-being and the purpose of existence.

In his very first sermon, Zarathushtra says to the assembled people:

Now to the eager ones I will speak of the Two created by Mazda — this is for the wise.

Ys. 30.1

Here the Two are not specified Zarathushtra continues:

(I shall sing) hymns unto Ahura and the praises of Vohu Manah; (and explain) the sacred lore of Asha also, so that you may attain perfection in realms of light.

In the next verse he exhorts the people:

Give ear to the highest (truths). Let each one, man by man, consider them with an illumined mind, before deciding for himself which of the two paths he decides to tread. Wake up each one of you and spread this (message) before the great ushering of the New Age (of the worship of the One God, Ahura Mazda).

Ys. 30.2

In the third verse he states the nature of the twin spirits. They are co-workers, but they are opposed in thought, word and deed. The “good” twin (as stated in the fourth verse) generates life and promotes spiritual growth, whilst the “bad” twin is the agent of dissolution.

One may wonder why Ahura Mazda should produce a good and also a bad spirit — two opposite energies. Any manifestation, material or biological or cultural, requires the stimulus, challenge and friction caused by contrasting energy; intellectual and aesthetic development, and moral and spiritual advancement is promoted thereby. If a person was deprived of the activity of the inferior, of the less good (the “bad”) and its consequences, he would remain lacking in true discernment. This does not mean that he himself must deliberately do evil. He himself needs to observe evil done around him by those who are immature enough to indulge in it, and thereby learn how to live in accord with asha. Therefore Zarathushtra categorically states: “Thus it is that Creation’s purpose is fulfilled.”

All Perfected Holy ones know that God is inconceivable and indescribable by us at our present level. God creates. This means that the primordial, undifferentiated Creative Energy is stirred out of its vibrant, quiescent state and the Cosmos comes into being — Manifestation in an infinite variety of forms. All Creation is an existence — a standing out of (ex + sistere, to stand) the one Source. Activity, movement, form, shape, change, life and death, always involve the constant interaction of the complementary opposites composing all duality. Without the operation of such duality there could be no existence, no manifestation of God.

Since all manifestation is a dynamic process of constant change, there is the perpetual interaction of what we call good and evil, construction and dissolution, positive and negative, male and female. All existence is of and in God, but God is not confined to existence. God is. Though God is unknown and unknowable, we can see and touch and know a small portion of Manifestation (the reflection of God projected out of God by God’s own magic play, maya), and grow in virtue (asha) and realize God’s and our own, perfect humanity, human godliness.

All existence tends this way, yearning towards its specific perfection — the gem, the flower, the thorn, the tree, the ant, the viper, the Holy One, the angel, the demon, ad infinitum. God that is remains, for us, the Mystery. Does God, seeing God’s divine signature throughout the pulsating immensity — all existence — ever know God? God knows. Or, maybe, God does not care to know. Mystery! Wondrous Mystery! Be reverent by letting the Mystery be. Such is the Way of Purity, and Wisdom and Love, of asha and vohu manah and armaiti. And by treading that Way, Creation’s purpose for man is fulfilled.

That is what Zarathushtra teaches. Man is free to choose his path. The Creative Energy functions in terms of duality, giving rise to gaya on the one hand — life, growth and fulfilment — and to ajyaiti on the other — degeneration, decay and dissolution — which is a transformation process leading to a different kind of existence. Zarathushtra unequivocally extols and upholds Truth and exhorts man to live in accordance with it. He himself is its shining Exemplar. Whoso lives thus realises haurvatat, supreme well-being, and ameretat, immortality.

In the next chapter, he (Zarathushtra) says:

Since, O Mazda, from the beginning Thou didst fashion for us physical bodies, discerning souls and directive Intelligences through Thy own Mind; since Thou didst infuse life into the body, grant us capacities to act and true doctrines to guide so that one could hold whatever faith one wills.

Therefore each one loudly announces his belief, be he speaking incorrectly or truly, be he enlightened or unenlightened; but Armati, standing ever close, appeals to the heart and head of each one through his spirit, to resolve his doubts.

Ys. 31.11, 12

It rests with each man to make the right choice. Should he do so, Sraosha (from the root sru, to hear), divine obedience, stirs into action within him and guides him. Armaiti’s ministrations are largely responsible for stirring Sraosha into action, for where there is that devotion which naturally and spontaneously moved the heart of love to Transcendence Itself, it becomes easy to listen to the inner voice. Obedience (ob + audire, to hear) basically means “to give ear to”, to hearken. And it is noteworthy how Zarathushtra emphasizes this meaning:

Give ear to the Highest.

Ys. 30.2

Who giveth ear to and realizes asha becomes the soul-healing Lord of Wisdom, O Ahura. To spread true teaching he becomes capable and eloquent of tongue.

Ys. 31.19

Hearken now with your ear. Listen to me all ye who have come from far and near, yearning to know.

Ys. 45.1

The implication associated with such hearing or listening is that the listener will seriously reflect upon what he hears, and translate it into action out of his free choice. This, and not a thoughtless or unwilling conforming out of fear to a forcible imposition, is true obedience.

In this inward spiritual listening, no words in any language are heard. If the attentiveness is intense and the brain is alert and quiet, free of the endless inaudible chatter which is its usual state of turmoil, the mode of awareness undergoes a transformation, giving rise to deep insights rather than spasmodic intuitive flashes. This transformation can affect the psycho-physical organism favourably and subsequently give rise to illuminating concepts clothed in appropriate and telling verbal formulations. The intellectual clear-sightedness of enlightened consciousness often finds powerful, poetic expression. Very significantly, the great scriptures of the world are couched in poetic language, uplifting and inspiring. Truth and Beauty are close companions.

Our usual mode of awareness — as I have propounded earlier — is the mode of finitude, temporality and mortality. Living the religious life as taught by the Holy ones transforms this mode of awareness. Consciousness evolves, becoming increasingly free of separativeness and isolativeness, and culminates in awareness in the mode of unitary Wholeness. Ordinarily, we are conscious in terms of beginning-proceeding-ending — the usual birth-death process of successive events in our lives — and of our mental states, and of our own psycho-physical organism. Whatever begins or is born at some instant ends or dies afterwards. Something else then begins and also ends. Between the end of one and the beginning of another there is a gap and a break in consciousness. These recurrent breaks in our consciousness throughout our lifetime is one meaning of being aware in the mode of mortality. When there is a break in consciousness we cease to attend, and any cessation of attentiveness produces a break in consciousness.

If there is no disjunction in attentiveness, constant wakefulness prevails. Thus, by going beyond awareness in the mode of mortality, the deathless state is present and the immortal is realized in consciousness. If this happens to you, it does not mean that the psycho-physical organism will continue to live for ever. The organism, like all matter (whether gross or subtle, corpuscular or radiant), is bound within the constraints of space-time, the context of finitude and temporality and the inexorability of change, of beginning or birth and ending or death. The passing away into non-being of whatever comes into being is indeed ineluctable: So, the realization of immortality whilst the deathless state prevails through your organism is limited to your experience of timelessness bounded by two points in time, namely, the moments of immergence into and emergence out of that state.

It is, however, not exclusively yours. For, in that state of deathlessness, the context in which your consciousness functions is the context of the Infinite-Eternal, which fully subsumes and wholly interpenetrates the finite, temporal and hence mortal context in which your psycho-physical organism subsists. As a particular individual in that state you are wholly integrated into the one Total Reality. But the existence of your living psycho­physical organism compulsively re-imposes the limitations of finitude and temporality — the body has to feed, eliminate, sleep, etc. — upon that transcendent state and you “come back” to your organic state and discriminative consciousness. If you did not come back, the psycho-physical organism — you, the person known in the world — would die.

Actual Immortality transcends both time and timelessness. It is identical with Eternity. Therefore, whilst you can consciously “touch” the deathless state and enter the infinity of all manifestation, no “you” as a particular individual entity can be immortal, be eternal. We can, nevertheless, simply, humbly and quietly affirm the Immortal, the Eternal, if we do experience the deathless state.

Transcendence, the Infinite-Eternal, the Immortal, is totally embodied in the whole cosmos. It is as if it were materialized as every thing and every creature. It exists as countless “beings”. When fulfilled, there is the dissolution of being-ness, and countless beings are ultimately the one and only non-being. Transcendence is the absolute all. God is verily God, inscrutable. The smile on the face of the inscrutable remains the Mystery. Do not probe. ‘Tis immodest to do so. Veil your face and look down. The Infinite-Eternal will lift that veil and see you. You will never see or know. You could, however, fly straight into the heart of Mystery. This is love.

Whilst absorbed in timelessness during the deathless state, Immortality is that fusion in consciousness with the Infinite-Eternal in which there is the total disappearance of isolative separate self consciousness. There is no constant immortality for any entity­being. All raindrops are divested of their separate identity when they fall into the river, as do all rivers when they meet the ocean. Every entity-being is finite and mortal, and totally ceases to be an identifiable entity after death. Whilst living, that organism was Transcendence embodied. At death, that Transcendence is just Transcendence, the One Absolute Reality. The consciousness of any being is isolative and discriminative, inevitably producing separation, fragmentation and disunity — the unwholeness which is unholiness. When and whilst the deathless state prevails through your asha, vohu manah and armaiti ,the Pure Consciousness of Unitary Wholeness in you is awake, one with the Absolute Consciousness of Transcendence, which is Immortality.

Such is the nature of Zarathushtra’s teaching. The fruition of life for the human being is the actualizing in consciousness of the Absolute Silence, the ultimate no-thing (not nothing, but no-thing which is God). Such is the glorification of the sinless full­fledged human. It is also the liberation of Transcendence out of Its self-imposed imprisonment in the finitude and temporality of Its fleshly existence. Man is the child of God. God loves the child. Let man realize love for God. Thus he becomes indispensable to God and well remembers that God is not an absolute Other beyond an unbridgeable chasm, for he himself, man, is God voluntarily self­restricted.

Recall now Zarathushtra’s teaching regarding the Silence:

Then did I realize Thee as the most Bountiful One, O Mazda Ahura, when the Good Mind encircled me completely. He declared to me that silent meditation is the best for attaining spiritual enlightenment.

Ys. 43.15

The common, worldly meaning of meditation is musing, ruminating, thinking quietly about a problem or a particular subject, secular or spiritual. Discursive thinking is inaudible talking, involving the concentration of attention upon the subject under consideration. The quieter one is, the more intellectually clarifying and fruitful is the thinking. But all talking, audible or inaudible, is confined to the context of the finite and temporal, the sphere of mortality — when one thinks or talks about the Transcendent — because one is still actually conscious only in the worldly mode of separativeness and isolativeness. If one remains completely calm, effortlessly, the brain stops talking, the turbulent flow of discursive thinking comes to an end, and the mode of awareness is transformed into that of the Infinite and ever-present Now.

This ending of discursive thought and the transformation of consciousness spell the pacification (not the suppression) of all the sense functions. In fact, the senses function with intensely heightened sensitivity and the utmost receptivity to divine influences never sensed before, because now they are unhindered, unspoilt, by the brain’s naming process, which, being analytical, splits up the wholeness. Indeed, the senses are now the cords of Communion.

Isolative self-consciousness vanishes, the wound of separation between subject and object, observer and observed, is healed, and unitary wholeness is clearly revealed through Creative Action in Unitary Consciousness. This timeless conjugation is the pure meditative state — silent meditation — a state of ineffable peace and of creative activity impossible to describe, impossible to represent in any humanly expressive terms. When you Love transcendentally, the words “I love you” are pathetically nugatory.

Zarathushtra does not expound in detail his solitary statement regarding meditation. Just as at our finite level the solution of a philosophical or scientific problem brings intellectual enlightenment, so too silent meditation spells spiritual enlightenment, but not in our worldly, mortal mode of awareness. Intellectual perception, and ordinary sense functioning and thinking, are transcended. Consciousness is no longer discriminative — analytical, separative and isolative. It is at home in the context of the Infinite and Eternal, functioning as unitary wholeness. In simple terms, Zarathushtra and Ahura Mazda, man and God, are one. The fusion in Consciousness has taken place. Thereupon, consciousness in terms of succession, that is, of a beginning followed by an ending, followed by another beginning and its ending, repeatedly, gives place to a whole awareness of pure change.

Pure change is life dying into new life. The previous emerges into the present. If you are totally attentive, death is “faded out” of the situation. One may say, “not death but life is faded out of the situation.” Not so, for since the “was” has become the “is now”, Life has transformed into Other-Life. Pure change is a Life/Other-Life and not a Life/Death pulse. What seems to us to be Death, is only another mode of Livingness, but not as the previous identifiable entity. Just as a permanent magnet has a north pole and a south pole, Life in its integral wholeness has a positive expression, of which we finite mortals are conscious, and also a hidden expression of which we are normally unconscious. They are the complementary components of Life Eternal.

So, in this fusion of Consciousness, there is no break in consciousness as with consciousness in the mode of mortality. Consciousness of “otherness” vanishes. Also, there is no continuity, for time has been transcended. There is the simultaneity of what used to be experienced as birth followed by death. There is only the immediacy of the Creative Action of Eternal Life. Time and its sorrow and pleasure (duality), timelessness and its enstasy (non-duality) are transcended through their integration into Eternity — integration, not mere synthesis (which is mechanical).

At the same time, there is no annihilation of discriminative consciousness, indispensable for the organism living in the world. If it were annihilated, the Transcendent Unitary Consciousness could no longer subsume discriminative consciousness functioning in the mode of mortality. In which case, there would be an unbridgeable gulf between man and God, between the limitation and bondage of manifestation (Appearance) and the freedom of Transcendence (Ultimate Reality). The Holy One’s Consciousness can function freely in the mode of mortality and in the mode of immortality, as and when required.

The fusion in consciousness is the realization of Immortality. Ahura Mazda (God, Godhead, Brahman or whatever name you like to use) is the Eternal Immortal. For Zarathushtra, whilst he is bodily alive — and so too for any Perfected Holy One during his earthly life-span — this Transcendent Consciousness of Immortality into which he can enter again and again when he needs to, remains as a permanent background in his being. It is a constant source of divine creative power — khshathra — animating and sustaining his mission in the world; of divine wisdom — vohu manah — inspiring his teaching; of transcendental ethic — asha — a purifying Fire of Life releasing that moral imperative deep-seated in one’s soul which helps one to live the Holy Life at all times and in all places; of that love of God — armaiti’ — which heals all sorrow and transmutes all evil; and of that supreme well­being and immortality — haurvatat and ameretat — the crowning fulfilment of man. It makes sraosha — “giving ear to and obeying God” — a factual reality in one’s life.

And when this earthly life ends, the complete and perfect death of this existential being spells the release of the embodied Transcendence out of Its self-imposed constriction. This is how the existential human being proves his indispensability to God. No finite mortal liberates himself — he can only liberate the embodied Transcendence by his flowering into the full-fledged perfect Human. Every flower — the existential shape and form — soon withers and dies. Its perfume gladdens man and the world and lives deathlessly as a happy memory.

Never crave, then, for your separate personal perpetuity — a tragic trapping in time’s tormenting tentacles. Do not fear death of the body, but like the sere leaf ready to dance its ecstatic return into the bosom of mother earth, silently and peacefully greet that supremely divine moment when the Infinite Eternal will bless you for your perfect selfless service towards effecting Its own release out of the bonds of existence.

Thou art Immortal. Thou art ahmi, the eternal I Am.

Sing, O Heavenly Bird! Sing praise to the Lord of Life and Wisdom for sending sweet Death to heal all my ill and to open the door to His own Immortality.

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