A 90th Birthday
A tribute to Phiroz Mehta on the occasion of his 90th birthday by Doctor Carmen Blacker
It is a special pleasure to congratulate Phiroz Mehta on his 90th birthday, and to thank him for the special gifts which many years ago he passed on to me and my family.
I first met Phiroz soon after I arrived in Cambridge in 1955. The Cambridge University Buddhist Society had recently been formed, and at least six people, sometimes as many as ten, came to the meetings. These were usually held in Simon Digby’s rooms in Trinity, and the speakers varied from Thai bhikkhus, exotic and unusual sights at that time in their yellow robes, to Christmas Humphreys himself, who was always ready to come to Cambridge to stimulate the new society. On the programme for the Lent Term, 1955, was a name unknown to me at the time, Mr. Mehta.
It is difficult to realise now how little understanding there was forty years ago of any religion other than Christianity. There was even less understanding of “altered states of consciousness.” The idea that any valid knowledge or wisdom could proceed from any part of the mind save the rational was only comprehended by a very small number of people whose views were scarcely ever discussed.
Phiroz Mehta talked that evening about the ‘superconscious’ in such a way that I felt that new doors and windows had opened for me. I had called myself a Buddhist after living in Japan for two years, but I realized after listening to Phiroz that I had understood nothing of the nature of the Buddha’s enlightenment: That wisdom had burst upon him from another dimension of reality, which was impossible to describe in ordinary words, let alone to communicate to anyone else. I remember that everyone present was enthralled by his wonderful clarity, and the inspiration behind his words which illuminated so much that before had been fuzzy and vague.
Later he came to our house in Shamley Green with Silvia and his sister Mrs. Wadia, who was working in the same family planning movement as my father. Again he talked to us with such force and inspiration that we were all deeply moved and impressed. My sister Thetis even now recalls the impact his words then had for her. She too remembers that the ‘superconscious’ was a whole area of life and wisdom which to our generation had never been communicated or discussed. It came with the force of revelation that there were doors and windows to the human mind opening on to realms of the spirit, the very existence of which we had known nothing.
All this took place thirty-seven years ago. Phiroz Mehta must have been 53 then. Now he is 90, and during the intervening years he has never spared himself to communicate in books, in his wonderfully lucid and eloquent talks, and by his simple presence, the same message which is after all the deepest mystery confronting the human mind.
I am glad to remind him that his words so many years ago were like a key opening a door to a treasure house. People he may never have seen again nevertheless remember, and we are grateful for this gift of grace.
Inspirational writing, and a tribute wonderfully paid. Carmen’s writings were never less than this though.
Kenneth Read, 23rd December 2016