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The Phiroz Mehta Trust December 2015 Newsletter

Cover of the Phiroz Mehta Trust December 2015 Newsletter

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The 100th Edition

By George Piggott

The time has come to celebrate the 100th edition of the Phiroz Mehta Trust Newsletter. “Why?”, we may ask. Because the very essence of the many talks given by our founder Phiroz Mehta was concerned with being mindful.

So now is a special occasion for that very important essence to flower. One hundred Newsletters printed and delivered for 25 years is quite an achievement for such a small charitable organisation such as ours.

The Newsletter’s main purpose of course is to transcribe many of the profound talks given by Phiroz Mehta that were recorded onto tape reels into readable format. A formidable task for anyone, due to the serious subjects involved, plus the complexities of the very nature of the wording.

Fortunately this did not deter our trustee and editor, Rosemary Monk, from tackling this daunting task. It is through fortitude and dedication over countless hours and through the wisdom of our founder Phiroz Mehta that we have been given the opportunity of enjoying reading in this quarterly publication extracts from the selected recordings.

Many articles, quotes and verses, of various descriptions, by many readers and members, have been included in each publication. This may be seen as a welcome balanced input, to indicate the “Yin and Yang” when put into symbolic terms.

May we finalise our celebration with a mindful ending: that it would question our mindfulness if we did not recognise the excellent efforts of all the persons involved with the entire project over such a long period. To offer our thanks and appreciation to each, and to say in a caring united plea:

Please keep posting them!”

With deep respect,

George Piggott

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Silence

By An Anonymous Author

Spending time in silence is a very powerful way to support the deepening of calm and insight. Being together in this way allows us to explore a degree of solitude, while having the support of the group.

Silence fosters a sense of safety and refuge, even among people we do not yet know.

Through letting go of the familiar world of words we give ourselves space from the complexity of personal interaction, and can come to see our mind and its activity more clearly.

Insight into the way things are arises through experiencing life directly, rather than through language and concepts.

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The Phiroz Mehta Trust Summer School/Retreat 2016

By The Editor

In the September issue of the Newsletter it was stated that our 2016 Summer School/Retreat would be held at Claridge House, Lingfield, in July.

However, the owners of Claridge House have now decided to completely refurbish the interior of the house which will be closed for the whole of the summer, so that we will be unable to hold our Summer School/Retreat there after all.

We have been extremely fortunate at such short notice in finding accommodation at the Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, near Fareham, Hampshire. The dates have been slightly altered — they will now be Monday 25th to Saturday 30th July 2016.

Park Place Pastoral Centre is run by Franciscan nuns and in the 1970s Phiroz held several Summer Schools there. The house is a fine building set in beautiful grounds and has been extensively refurbished. Rooms are en suite, food will be vegetarian and special diets can be catered for at a small additional charge.

The cost for the five nights will be £340 per person in a single room. It is hoped that as many people as possible will be able to attend this Summer School/Retreat, which is generally a very happy and rewarding occasion.

If you would like to reserve a place, please send your cheque for £15 as a non-returnable deposit to Rosemary Monk, 47 Lillian Road, London SW13 9JF. Cheques should be made payable to the Phiroz Mehta Trust.

As we have done in previous years, we are able to offer two completely free places, either for the whole length of the School or for one or more nights to people who have not attended before. Please contact the Trust if you would like to take advantage of this offer. We are also able to help people who have difficulty in meeting the full cost of the Summer School/Retreat.

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A 70th Anniversary

By The Editor

Many congratulations to George and Joan on the 70th anniversary of their wedding this September!

George Piggott and Joan Head were married at St. Margaret’s Church, Barking, on 15th September 1945, soon after the end of the Second World War. It was Battle of Britain Day. George was serving in the RAF, and ended up in the RAF Police. Joan was a wireless operator in the WAAF at Biggin Hill.

They now live at Clacton-on-Sea and have two sons and two grandchildren.

George of course has been our much-loved Chairman almost from the inception of the Trust in 1990.

We all wish George and Joan many, many more years of health and happiness!

George and Joan Piggott on their wedding day
George and Joan Piggott on their wedding day

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A lovely story and picture.

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SOAS Scholars Visit Phiroz Mehta Trust Summer School

By Alice Green

As part of the 2015 Summer School hosted by the Phiroz Mehta Trust, the two recipients of scholarships generously funded by the Trust to study at SOAS, University of London, gave a talk to the participants about their work and experiences.

The Phiroz Mehta Scholarship was established in memory of Phiroz Mehta for students studying the unique Traditions of Meditation and Yoga MA at SOAS, a highly-regarded course which offers in-depth teaching into the cross-cultural and inter-regional perspectives of yogic and meditational practices in Asia.

The first scholarship was awarded in 2013–14 to Karen O’Brien-Kop, who has gone on to study for a PhD at SOAS, and the second in 2014–15 to Amelia Wood, who will be continuing with her career as a yoga teacher.

Karen began the talk with insights into what motivated her to take the MA course at SOAS, based on her personal experiences with meditation and yoga. She then discussed her Master's dissertation on the evolution of the syllable OM in the Upaniṣads, and her PhD research on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Karen is researching the presence of inter-religious elements in the Yoga Sutras across Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. Karen noted that her study of the porousness of intellectual boundaries in early Indic religion resonates with Phiroz Mehta’s approach of emphasising the commonality in religious traditions.

Finally, Karen took the group through a basic meditative chant on OM and left us with the thought that meditation is something which should always be able to provide an anchor of calm in today’s hectic and constantly changing world.

Karen O'Brien-Kop and Amelia Wood
Karen O’Brien-Kop and Amelia Wood

For Amelia, the second recipient of the SOAS Phiroz Mehta Scholarship, the Traditions of Meditation of Yoga programme has been an opportunity for her to explore the historical and theoretical development of yoga, as a way of understanding the practice as it is today.

Amelia took the group at the Summer School through her thoughts and reflections on the practice of yoga, highlighting how the knowledge she has gained at SOAS, enabled by the Phiroz Mehta Scholarship, will benefit her career as a yoga teacher.

Amelia considers yoga to be much more than as it is often perceived these days as simply a form of exercise, but as a practice for physical and mental well-being. She has been influenced by the teachings of Krishnamacharya and his philosophies on the power of yoga to heal, focussing on the importance of combining breathing with movement.

Amelia’s approach to teaching is to aim for something which works with the body, rather than contorting into uncomfortable positions which go against natural movement.

By being able to study the historical and sociological developments of yoga in the East through the MA programme at SOAS, Amelia has gained a greater knowledge and appreciation of how this has been transmuted in the West.

This will allow her to go deeper than just the physical practice with her students and has given her an academic foundation which will enable her to be part of preserving ancient traditions in modern day practice.

Both Karen and Amelia, accompanied by Alice Green from SOAS, were delighted to be able to take part in the Phiroz Mehta Summer School, sharing in the peaceful and meditative surroundings of the retreat and meeting the participants.

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The Root Delusion

A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 23rd April 1972

Last time we considered the very last words of the Buddha, usually translated as “Strive on with diligence.” In the last century those words used to be translated as “Work out your own salvation.” This is not really an accurate translation. “Strive on with diligence” is fairly accurate. But last time when we were considering these words it was suggested that, if we translate those words as “Keep on, keep going without flagging”, we will get nearer to the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. “Keep going without flagging.”

Now remember that those are his last words and it is more than likely therefore that for the Buddha these words had very very deep significance. What did the Buddha point out as the objective of living the religious life, the Brahmacarya as he called it and as it was always called in India, whether it was Buddhist India or Brahmanical India? The objective was what the Buddha called Nirvana, Nirvana which emerges as a living realization through the individual person if and when he tread the Brahma path, the Brahmacarya in perfection. But this word Brahma coming from Brahmā means in the English language a walking in God. Brahmā is God the Creator, God the Father, it is of Brahmanical origin. And just as the Christian mystics or the Sufi mystics and other great theistic devotees have said, one walks in God. There is no to God for the very simple reason that God is everywhere, is the Omnipresent Reality. The word God in this context means that which is the incomprehensible, the undefinable, the Absolute, the more than human, the beyond the human and yet within its own being completely subsuming the human. If one really goes deeply into the meaning of that, not merely intellectually but with the whole of one’s being perceiving or trying to perceive its innermost significance, one will realize that this is no other than what the Buddha called the Brahmacarya, what the Hindus also have called the Brahmacarya. As the result of treading this path there is Nirvana present. Note very carefully — there is Nirvana present, it is not something which the individual attains as a goal, as a prize, a reward for himself at the end of a particular routine or a particular path which he treads. When one tries to deal with the Infinite, the Transcendent, the Absolute, one has first to clear out of one’s mind all human criteria and standards of judgement. Why? Because all human criteria and standards have meaning only in terms of the limited and the finite. They have no meaning, no significance in terms of the unlimited, the Absolute, the Transcendent. How can they? If they had meaning in the context of Transcendence, then what is called Transcendence would certainly not be Transcendent. That is the whole point about it.

Nirvana is there and its realization is not by the individual for the sake of the individual, but its realization is there simply because the individual has become completely free of all limitations imposed by his isolative self-consciousness. The isolative self-consciousness is the root source of the basic duality, self, that is myself, and all the rest which is the not-self. But this is not the fact. We use the word Universe but do we mean Universe when we say Universe? A Universe is a One Total Reality, a one thing in which there is no conflicting duality or conflicting multiplicity. It is we who introduce the element of conflict in our own inward consciousness by making this separation between self and not-self. This is the root illusion, the root trouble, that I-am-I separate from all the rest which is dumped under You. Three thousand five hundred millions on this planet alone (and God knows how many millions of planets bear human beings who might be labouring under the same error), three thousand five hundred millions of us all labour under that same delusion. What happens in consequence? What we rightly call an experience, such as greed, as ambition, as lust, violence, enmity, ill will, anger jealousy, hatred, all the illusions and delusions that we suffer from, all those emerge from this fundamental separation between self and not-self.

This is something which can take a whole lifetime really to penetrate and understand. But if one does really penetrate and understand this fundamental illusion, this great delusion of the separate self, then the whole task is done, because in the understanding, the complete understanding, our self-consciousness has ceased to be isolative. When you really understand you cannot be aware, conscious of yourself as something separate from, unrelated to the Totality. We are separate as separate physical manifestations. Therefore each physical manifestation, that is to say as a human being, is identifiable and can be distinguished from another unique human being, a physical manifestation. Otherwise there would not be any distinction possible. So to that extent our self-consciousness is essential and useful. But when we proceed to be completely wrapped up in the self and put all the rest into one heap called the not-self, then we have done evil, irremediable evil, because, as I said, all that we call greed and delusion and so forth stems from this fundamental delusion. When you consider that the thousands of millions of the world suffer from this delusion and all the consequences in terms of what the Buddha so aptly called defilements of the mind, what chance is there for human beings to be in any state but that of conflict with each other?

This which is presented usually as the objective of the living of the holy life, Nirvana, means the extinction, the complete disappearance out of that particular individual who treads the Brahma path, of all the defilements of the mind. If the defilements of the mind are out we can present it in its positive form and say that that mind at last is a pure mind, purity has come into its own at last.

You know how the Upaniṣads present it. The body is the Temple of the Lord. When this Temple is completely pure, completely cleansed, then the Dweller in that Temple is the Lord. Who is the Lord? Śiva Sadāśiva as he is called, Śiva the destroyer-regenerator, the Third Person of the Hindu Trinity, Sadāśiva, everlastingly Śiva. The word Śiva itself essentially means the Auspicious One, the Benign One, the Happy One. Śiva in his negative aspect as embodied in the Consorts of Śiva is the Bestower of Bliss in Eternity. This is why he is called the Ever-Auspicious One. If one can penetrate into it, one begins to see the tremendous significance for us human beings hidden in these teachings. This Transcendent Reality is the power, the invincible, the ineluctable power which is slowly but surely emerging into actual manifestation through human beings. The real meaning of the human being is that this psycho-physical organism which it is in the ordinary way, is sub-human, shall become so utterly purified of all defilements that that Transcendent Reality, which is enshrined in man’s concepts of God, of the Eternal Real, shall come to full fruition through the living human being.

That is the real — shall I put it in these terms? — evolutionary objective of our existence on the face of the globe. That is our real destiny – to be the living chalice, the Holy Grail if you like, of that Transcendent Reality. But look at its implications. The chalice has to be utterly pure. One of the simplest and the earliest of the Zarathushtrian prayers, which is taught to a little Zarathushtrian child right in the beginning, is a prayer which runs (this is the old Avestan language):

Ashēm vohu; vahishtēm asti; ushtā asti; ushtā ahmāi hvat ashāi vahishtāi ashēm.

Purity is the supreme righteousness, purity is happiness, happiness is unto him who is perfect in purity.

Of course one must have the intelligence not to mis-define the word happiness but truly to understand what happiness means, happiness the Divine Bliss, the Bliss in Eternity of Śiva Sadāśiva, which is a completely different thing from our human ideas and conceptions of happiness. All that we humans in our deluded state do, grasping after happiness, chasing sensational delights and pleasures and indulging the senses, and not only the senses, but our aesthetic and intellectual faculties and so forth, all that has nothing to do whatsoever with this Divine happiness which is our birthright right from the beginning and which is to emerge in Man if Man will cease to obstruct it from emerging. Again and again the same task, the so-called negative task, to see, to be awake, to be alert, to wholly understand all that happens inside our own minds from moment to moment every day of our lives, from moment to moment every day of our lives. Now you see the significance of the Buddha’s saying, “Keep going without flagging.” Why? Because the mind, like the body, is a living reality. If the bloodstream in the body or the heart or something said, “I am going for a holiday for six hours, I am knocking off work for six hours,” then that would be the end of the body, wouldn’t it? It just can’t. It is a continuous process, it is non-stop, no flagging, the heart has to beat all one’s life, the breath rhythm has to go on all one’s life, the bloodstream goes through the body all one’s life. Similarly with our attentiveness, our mindfulness, with being awake, with being alert, not slacking, not backsliding all the time. We have to keep going, keep going without flagging, with perpetual mindfulness and attentiveness. What is one attentive to? Any particular thing? No, because particularity in attention narrows down your awakedness, narrows down your state of observation, and in that there is division created between the observed and what is outside the realm of observation, an outside brought about by one’s own determined efforts to be confined to the particular. That is what introduces the trouble. It is a case of being awake to the whole, to the Totality, all the time. Our Totality after all is a limited Totality, just our little environment in which we may be, our particular activity in which we are engaged. But be awake to it as far as the external aspect is concerned.

But there is another aspect, the disciplinary aspect, the aspect which determines whether we are treading the Brahmacarya, whether it is a case of walking in God or not, and that is the process which goes on in our own minds all the time. It is extremely important to be alive to every single response or inevitable reaction which comes out of our own being to the stimulus that comes to us either externally or arises from within. This is what we have to awake to, far more importantly than just to the external stimulus. Then one is growing in the faculty of being truly mindful in the true sense of the term. As Jesus said, “Watch and pray,” watch fully, and as the Buddha pointed out, “Sammā Sati,” perfect mindfulness, is whole and perfect, and its effect upon my own psyche becomes perfect and whole. What happens? The psychical reactions which, in the ordinary way, would be reactions of anger or violence or whatever they are, whether they be vicious or virtuous in the ambivalent worldly sphere, whatever they be, they all get purified. My so-called virtuous responses also get purified, freed of all selfness, freed of all ulterior motives, freed of all impositions from within myself that I ought to be virtuous and so forth. Of course with those reactions which are vicious, which belong towards the obvious ill qualities that we all know of, they also get transformed. It is not the quality that gets transformed, the quality is merely the name we give to the actual way in which our psychical energies act. If our psychical energies act thus, assume this shape, then we call it a vicious shape. If they act producing this shape, then we call it a virtuous shape. But this virtue-vice lies within this ambivalent sphere of duality and conflict. That is not real virtue, that is an illusory vice. The Reality transcends both and the Reality is Pure Virtue, the natural life energy in its purity of the mind, this Transcendent Energy which is immeasurable, which is indefinable.

One cannot prove this kind of thing, one can only investigate for oneself, practise mindfulness and experience that extraordinary state of awareness which slowly and surely emerges, by which you know, “Yes, this is it, this is what it means.” And when you know that meaning you will discover that it completely defies words. There is no means whatsoever of expressing that knowing, that realising, that making real in terms of thought forms or verbal forms. We have gone right beyond that, and the meaning of that is the experiencing of Transcendence itself. When this happens the change in one’s own psyche, the transformation of one’s own psyche has become a permanent real with the person. That is the purification of the individual, the Temple has been made pure. When the Temple has been made pure, the Transcendent (we may use the word the Lord) is present there. The Lord is present there not as an entity who has walked into this particular psycho-physical organism and stays there comfortably for the rest of his days. It does not mean that. What it does mean as a real fact is something like this, that your innermost consciousness which in the ordinary way is always a discriminative consciousness which makes for duality, has become transformed into that pure awareness which has finished with duality. The sense perceptions will of course distinguish this, that and the other. There the discriminatory activity of perception has to be present. Note very carefully, the discriminatory activity of sense perceptions has to be present there. But this which is ordinarily dualistic consciousness is confined to that only, whereas this pure awareness, which puts you into complete harmony with the Totality, is the overriding factor. Your consciousness has changed altogether. Your mode of awareness of existence is now the purely human mode, which is no other than the Divine mode. You are conscious of existence of the world in the same way God, as postulated by the theologian, is conscious of the world. Do not try to interpret this and fit it into logical terms or into so-called factual objective terms, because if you try to do that you will just get lost in a maze. By all means get lost in the maze. When you come out of the maze, as undoubtedly you will, because circumstances will compel you to do so, then you will see that it is impossible to formulate it, and to try to formulate it is a mistake. All that one can do with words and the presentation of ideas is so to stimulate that this awakening process can come into being. It is a quickening of ourselves out of the dead condition into the live condition in the religious sense of the word. When this transformation takes place, Man has fulfilled his destiny in this world. But you see, “Keep going without flagging.”

In the fullness of Purity is the emergence of Nirvana. Nirvana is there all the time, just as space is there all the time, you can’t get out of space, you can’t get into space, space is absolutely universal. It is the same with Nirvana. If you like to put it into a sort of scientific jargon, the immeasurable energy which is Transcendence and the measurable energy which we know of and can handle, they are both universal and one can escape neither of them. One is everlastingly in them. But to become freed of the limitations of discriminative consciousness, which makes one aware in terms of duality and to flower out into pure awareness, means that the separation between the immeasurable and the measurable is over. Then through you, the person, this Totality has come to full flower. Why do the theistic religions state that the glory is unto God? Mine is the task, the work, the toil and the sweat and the tears and all the rest of it. But God’s is the glory, the bliss and the delight. Your man of the world with a worldly consciousness will say, “Good gracious, nothing for me for all my job? Well, I’ll get along as I see fit and leave God to mind his own business.” God always is minding his own business which includes my business anyway. The man of the world says that simply because he is the prisoner of his fundamental delusions, self, not-self. That is why he says that, that is why he approaches everything in the spirit of obtaining a result, getting a reward, not only the wages, but the bonus also for being good, as he calls it! You can’t bargain with God. God never bargains with you, because the goods that God gives to the individual is the Totality, the Infinite, the Absolute, the All. Those are the goods he gives and all that we give is our tiny little insignificant self. So for specie, oneself, which is just worthless, comparatively speaking, what is given for that specie is the Infinite All, the Absolute. That Absolute is pure happiness, is fulfilment, is Transcendent Love and Wisdom. It is the bliss which really passes all understanding. When one is so purified that that Pure Awareness absolutely fills one’s whole being, when this body living in the world goes through pleasure or goes through pain, is in the state of well-being and health or is tortured by illness or disease or by the cruelty of evil men upon oneself, whatever one is going through, then that Transcendent Reality remains unshakeable, in utter peace.

Nothing alters that inward peace. Such a person dies as the consumption of his whole psycho-physical life, not as the cutting off, the extinction, not as the wages of sin, but as the gift of God which is eternal life. In that gift of God which is eternal life this individual person, who as an individual person is the very root of separation, has ceased to be and has become the All. Therefore there is no more any I-am-I consciousness in that ultimate beatitude. One is truly free then of all grasping, of all greed, of all seeking for a reward for a separate I. If one understands such things whilst we are here and alive, the whole course of our life is altered, because that which animates us in our innermost depths and produces our thoughts, our feelings, our speech, our action is the Eternal Reality itself in which there is no evil whatsoever. Through that individual self whilst being in manifestation there manifests the Eternal Total Whole (which is an extraordinary thing) the Infinite comes to full flower through the finite and shows its beauty.

Look at a lovely flower in your garden, look at it carefully, unanalytically, look at it with all the buzzing of the intellect absolutely quiet, just look. Let this channel of communion be unobstructed, so as to see the flower as the flower, the pure flower. And what will you be seeing? You will see the One Total Reality giving forth its everlasting message of Love and Wisdom and Beauty and Truth and Goodness, call it what you like, to you all the time, unconsciously, asking nothing at all, not even knowing that it is giving all this, just being the Absolute Reality. All of you who have been interested in the Buddhist scriptures know that famous statement that before one enters into Buddhism mountains are mountains and trees are trees and stones are stones etc. When one has first entered into Buddhism mountains and trees and stones cease to be mountains and trees and stones, they become all sorts of things according to the philosophies spun out by the mind. “It is the Void, it is Emptiness, it is anything but the mountain and the tree.” And when one is enlightened once again mountains are mountains and flowers are flowers and rivers are rivers. But how? As I have suggested, look at the flower with the buzzing and the disturbance of the mind and the heart absolutely still. If you can look that way and be in communion you are in the state which is the Enlightened state, the Transcendent state. So your mountain is just a mountain but a Transcendent mountain, and your flower is a Transcendent flower. Mountain-hood and flower-ness have come to life in you yourself, in your innermost awareness, an awareness in which there is no separation, there is no division, there is no disharmony whatsoever. There is perfect activity, the perfect activity of Creation by the Immeasurable. Being in this state of pure awareness is the meaning of Nirvana in manifestation.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven which is among you, within you, as Jesus said. This is the Garodemana of Zarathushtra, the House of Song. What is the Song? It is the Song of Eternal Life, the Song which never began, which never ceases. These are not just thoughts. When one speaks naturally one uses words and in order that the words may convey something to anyone, to oneself as well as to others, there must be some degree of logical structure and patterning to the words, to convey what we call a thought. But penetrate right through the words and the thought to the reality, don’t get caught with the thought and the words, because then the reality will be missed. When you listen, listen with the buzzing of the intellect at peace, no longer stepping in and hearing. Don’t think you will miss anything that way, you won’t miss anything, because in the state of communion there is a living interaction taking place, so that the two who are in communion are a one reality and not two separate trying to communicate.

So now, it’s a living process. Keep going without flagging.

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The Importance of Birthdays

By Phiroz Mehta

Part of a talk given at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 1st October 1989

In a world of over 5000 million people, there are on average 14 million birthdays each day of the year. And yet there are very few people, if any, who appreciate the extraordinary importance of a birthday. The whole universe is at work, not only our parents, producing each one of us. The very stars in their courses have laboured and continue to labour (hence the validity of Astrology) to bring us into unique, particular and separate being out of the unitary infinite non-being. Materially, we are the children of stardust, spiritually, of the Divine Energy whose Creative Action in Eternity is ceaseless. So indeed stars and unseen powers shape and affect our lives and destinies, and we in turn affect the cosmos, so much so that the movement of an arm or the winking of an eye, or a stir of the mind and the heart affects the farthest stars and the divine unknown Powers that be, Powers designated by Milton as Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers.

So to me the celebration of a birthday can be a veritable entertaining of the company of Heaven and the multitude of Earth — Heaven and Earth, the Father and Mother of all Manifestation. You may recall Homer called Earth the wife of starry heaven. How extraordinary then, how important, is a birthday? A day most fit for divine contemplation of all those spiritual values — Love, Wisdom, Truth, Purity, Goodness and Beauty — which marks with special and transcendent significance the deep meaning of our Human-ness.

So let such an occasion be remembered as a thing of beauty. That lovely English poet, John Keats, starts his great poem Endymion with “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” and concludes his Ode on a Grecian Urn with, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. And I would add to that, Love is Truth, Love is Beauty.

In the one commandment of Jesus, “Love ye one another as I have loved you”, is the Way of Truth and Wisdom and Beauty.

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Death

By Phiroz Mehta

An article written for the May 1982 issue of The Middle Way. Reproduced by kind permission of the Buddhist Society

Part 2

The karmic process is the living process of the ceaselessly changing universe as a whole. Whilst confined to viññāna (discriminative, analytical consciousness) which prevents the functioning while we are alive of “Pure all-inclusive Awareness shining everywhere” — viññānam anidassanam anantam sabbatopabham (M.1.329) — the Buddha’s equivalent of the ātman (see especially the Varāha Upanishad, 2.21), — we think fragmentarily and speak incorrectly when we say “my” karma or “your” karma. It is karma in its totality which has you or me, not you or I who have karma. The prevailing state of the universe at any instant changes into the next state by the very next split second. Death and rebirth play their parts. In our personal life as existential beings, how does rebirth take place? Because of the ceaselessness of change, the prevailing state dies. Here, death is the ender. Karma, now functioning as cause-effect sequence and not transcendentally because it is operating in the existential sphere of the finite and temporal, releases the changed state. Excepting the perfected Holy Ones, all of us are isolatively and separatively self-conscious (self meaning the five-aggregate bundle) in terms of “I am I and not any other person or thing”. The ordinary I-am-I consciousness is indispensable for our everyday life. I is this “and not any other person or thing” which is the root of evil and endless conflict, for it denies the fact of our complete inter-relationship with the universe.

Furthermore, if we scrutinize intently and clear-sightedly (granting that we have the faultless ability to do so) to what exactly are we referring when we say “I am I”, we shall see that this “I” is no other than one or more or even all of the five khandhā, for the khandhā are all that we are really conscious of. Words like God, ātman, Creative Spirit, divine spark, etc., are but symbols, arbitrary assertions, not conscious realizations. We may sincerely asseverate that this “I” refers to the attā. But persevere with the scrutiny and we will discover it is not the attā to which we are actually referring, for if it were, our “I-am-I” consciousness would be the Totality-embracing, transcendent Pure Awareness, and therefore our daily thinking-feeling-speaking-doing would naturally and spontaneously manifest Transcendence. Does it?

Therefore, our isolative self-consciousness which arises quite some time after our birth as the result of our circumstantial conditioning, which functions right through our waking and dream states but which remains quiescent whenever the organism is in sound dreamless slumber or in deep jhāna, which re-associates itself with the organism when the body wakes up again, and which survives only as long as all five khandhā hold together as the living existential being — this “I-am-I” is indeed only existential, and completely perishes with the perishing of the organism.

In our daily life we continuously associate this “I” with every thought, feeling, mood, action, etc. So we helplessly say, out of our ignorance, “I think, feel, do, etc.1 When the prevailing state or action has come to its end, “I” have died. Immediately afterwards the “I-am-I” self-consciousness associates itself with, and is lord of the next state. So, “I” am reborn and die and am reborn countless times during the single lifetime of the organism. How profoundly significant is the Buddha’s affirmation on the twenty-first night after the Enlightenment:

“He who doth crush the great ‘I am’ conceit2, this, truly this, is happiness supreme” (Mahāvagga 3.4).

Now if in our own lives the emergence of the new state is to be a perfect, healthy birth, we have to die healthily; i.e. die wholly and voluntarily to the prevailing state. No grasping at the new: no clinging to the perishing old. Thus we cease to be miserable perishers. Thus too proper growth takes place. We see, then, why the Buddha emphasized that we should not cling to rūpa or vedanā or saññā or samkhārā or viññāna. The entire existential being dies from moment to moment during its lifetime, and completely so with the final end of the psychophysical organism.

Here, death is the destroyer, gentle or violent, according to the circumstance.

Hence of no khandhā can it be said: “This is mine, this am I, this is the attā of (or within) me”. The Buddha taught that each and every one of the five khandhā composing the whole of the existential being should be seen with wise, perfect insight as “This is not mine, this am I not, this is not the attā of me”. There are two implications here:

  1. ‘I’ (ahām) as used by all the perfected Holy Ones, is identical with the attā, and;
  2. The attā is the Imperishable, birthless and deathless. Its context is the Infinite, Eternal, Immortal. (The Commentary on the Udāna, p. 340, explains tathāgata by attā.)

Thus death operates continuously throughout our existential life. So does rebirth in — and only in — the sense and context explained above. In the Visuddhimagga (p. 625, Bhikkhu Nānamoli’s translation) Buddhaghosa writes: “When a man is confused about death, instead of taking death thus, ‘Death in every case is the break-up of aggregates’ (rūpa to viññāna), he figures that it is a lasting being that dies, that it is a lasting being’s transmigration to another incarnation and so on. When he is confused about reappearance, instead of taking rebirth thus, ‘Birth in every case is the manifestation of aggregates’, he figures that it is a lasting being’s manifestation in a new body. When he is confused about the round of rebirths, instead of taking the round of rebirths thus, ‘The endless chain of aggregates, of elements, of bases too, that carries on unbrokenly is called the round of births’, he figures that it is a lasting being that goes from this world to another world, that comes from another world to this world”.

All the above may cause distress, produce painful perplexity. Questions will arise: If there is no reincarnation, how can my karma be worked out in a single lifetime? How can I possibly perfect the sīlas and pāramitās, become proficient in samādhi, grow in faultless insight (paññā), destroy the cankers, āsavā, become a Bodhisattva, attain Buddhahood, realize Nirvana?

Are not all these questions self-oriented? And therefore defeating any chance of seeing Truth? Do they not betray “my” egoism and vanity, lust and greed, illusions and delusions, fears and stupidity? If and when you loved truly, purely, transcendentally (which is the ultimate meaning of humanly) did you ask, expect, hope for anything from the Beloved for yourself? Or did you give your whole self, unreservedly and unconditionally to the Beloved?

Do not worry about your Karma. The universe will see to it! As already said, it works itself out completely from split second to split second. We all know that our moods, feelings, thoughts, etc. are intimately linked with the electrochemistry of the body, promoting health or producing disease according as our psychical activity is skilled or unskilled. Again, throughout the day we experience the effects of our choices, decisions, judgements, attentiveness, mindfulness, etc. etc. Furthermore, we must remember that not one of us is solely and exclusively responsible for the thoughts and feelings, words and actions in our daily life. The whole world is involved in whatsoever proceeds out of us or befalls us. Being blind to the dukkha wrought by the isolativeness and separativeness of our self-consciousness, we resent this and think it is unjust. But the factual living process of the universe — karma — takes no notice of our concepts or methods of administration of justice. We are but imperfect humans, prisoners of avijjā and tanhā, sub-humans still growing towards true humanness.

If you are still worried, consider these points. Transcendence embodied in you has no existential karma. When the five-khandhā bundle dies, all the physical atoms composing the body return to the universal stock, all the psychical components likewise return to the aggregates, affecting and influencing the quality and properties of the stock. Each of us is thus responsible for all, and all for each.

Not a single one of these countless atoms or psychical components is labelled John or Maria. If you have been an evil person, posterity may recall your name with sorrow; if good, with love; if a perfected Holy One, with adoration. When a new individual is born, the stuff composing him is drawn out of the worsened or improved universal store of atoms and psychical components. All the Johns and Marias and creatures and plants and the very earth itself of the whole past of the world are contributors to the new babe. The new babe is the rebirth of the Totality, not of “you” or “me”. The One is in the multitude; the Multitude is in each and every one, and in THE ONE. Truth is a-rational, fully subsuming rationality and irrationality.

We may take a deeper view. Infinity and Eternity wholly subsume the existential. Within eternal Transcendence, the existential lives and moves and has its temporal being. Transcendence never compels — it has no need to do so. Compulsion is manifest only in the sphere of the perishing relative. But Transcendence and the relative affect each other. We as mortals leave an impress by our whole life-activity upon Transcendence. The relative has no creative power except biologically, and that too only pro-creatively. Transcendence IS Creative Energy. Our imperfections (failures) necessitate new expressions in the finite and mortal sphere of the relative by the Creative Power of Transcendence. Thus karma works holistically; but the new expressions are not re-incarnations. The originality of the Divine Craftsman is inexhaustible. An ancient teaching affirms that the Universe is the Son of Necessity. Meditate on it.

Karma is not concerned with “rewarding” the good and “punishing” the bad (ponder deeply on the first two verses of the Dhammapada), nor with “balancing the accounts” for each separate person. Karma works holistically for the fruition of the Whole. Transcendence is the immortal Doer and final Reaper, not mortal “you” or “I”, the finite, temporal garments of the ORIGIN. The true function of karma is to Heal, to make Holy that fragment of Totality which is bruised, ill and crazy, and enable it to be re-integrated into the ORIGIN. Thus indeed divine Justice is done.

In his Nicomachean Ethics (Book 5, Chapter 2), Aristotle said, “Justice is the practice of perfect Virtue towards others as well as oneself”. How perfectly this is in harmony with the Buddha’s teachings (see, for example, The Parable of the Saw, M.1.128, 129) and with the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus (Matthew, Chapter 5)!

Consider with a heart at peace (i.e. un-self concerned) this story:

The Divine Justiciar, Almighty Lord of Karma, said to his devotee crouching by Thames bank:

“My child. what are you doing there?”

“Counting the drops of water, father.”

“Why?”

“To balance the accounts due from the water-pot bearers.”

“Come away, dear child, and desist from fruitless toil. I pour out the Holy Water of Eternal Life, and all are made Whole by that tide. I open the heart of Compassion and Wisdom, and all enter into everlasting bliss. In my House of Songs, none sweats at accounts — my twin brother, Death, sees to all that. Beloved Child! come thou in and sing me a sweet song. And Nirvana’s Peace will enfold you.”

If you truly long to awaken to Truth and not stop short at “signed-on-thedotted-line” membership of the Buddhist (or any other religious) fold, live the Holy Life, the brahmacariya. Its heart is sammā satī, perfect mindfulness every moment of your life, waking and sleeping. When satī climaxes in supreme intensity, you will be in rhythm with the karmic process from moment to moment, and you will experience Death as Other-Life. This is the realization of Deathlessness by Transcendence in and through you, the unobstructing perfected Holy One. Here Death the Other-Life, “become one with the Supreme” (in the words of the Subāla Upaniṣad, 11, 13, 15) is the Perfecter and Consummator.

“You” or “I”, finite and mortal, can never enter Nirvana, for we would only “stain the white radiance of eternity” by our passion to remain identifiable entities. In Nirvana, in the context of infinity and eternity, there are no separate identifiable entities. But when we take the Lord of Death right into our hearts. Other-Life completely dissolves finitude and mortality. All isolative self-consciousness disappears, transmuted into the all-inclusive Pure Awareness of the ORIGIN. Death, the Lord of the hidden Light, gives us the kiss of Life Immortal. Thereupon, only the ORIGIN, Transcendence Alone, IS. Thus Death is the divine Transmuter, Śiva the Auspicious. These are all words. But meditate on them till they wither away by springing to life as fully awakened Pure Awareness. And you will realize Death as the honey of sweet savour spread on your slice of the bread of Life.

  1. The word ‘I’ is a linguistic convenience in practical daily life. As such, all the Holy Ones used it freely. The frequency and tone-quality of the word as used by most of us is a reliable measure of our egoism.
  2. Here, conceit means a fanciful, unreal notion.

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1991

By Phiroz Mehta

The following was written for the first issue of the Phiroz Mehta Trust Newsletter in January 1991

May the New Year, 1991, ushering in the closing decade of the twentieth century be blessed with Peace, with Love, with Enlightenment and Beauty. May it see the ending of war and strife, of delusion and folly and of ill pursuits.

The state of the world is the outward expression of our own state. What is good reflects our own goodness, the goodness of each of us as individuals who make up society. Whatever is ill is the inevitable consequence of our own ignorance and wrong-doing in thought and word and deed.

It is our own responsibility to see this for ourselves and not outside ourselves. The externally imposed good leads only to inner conflict. We are creatures of feelings and desires specifically characteristic of each one of us individually. Just as we can see objects only with our own eyes, so too our own perceptions of our desires will tell us the psychical forces which produce good or evil. Parents, teachers and companions may help us or hinder us. Such help or hindrance conditions us. But all conditioning is bondage. Freedom needs Enlightenment which is present only when we clearly see the Truth for ourselves and live by it in thought and word and act.

Seeing the Truth for ourselves is like being like the sun pouring out Light and Warmth and Life, by completely expending its own manifested being. So too let all selfness be transmuted into selflessness.

Thus will we sow the seeds whose flowering will be Peace and Love and Beauty throughout the world.

Blessed be 1991.

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