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That Brāhman, the Buddha

By Phiroz Mehta

An essay written in 1954 for The Middle Way, extracted from Buddhahood

Part 1

Monks, I am a Brāhmin, one to ask a favour of …
Ye are my own true sons, born of my mouth, born of Dhamma, my spiritual heirs.

(Itivuttaka, 4. 1. 1.)

In the Gospel of St Luke (3. 23-38), a line of ascent is traced from Jesus right up to Adam. If we turn to Genesis, we find that God creates Adam in his own likeness. Adam, at the age of 130, it is alleged, begets Seth in his own likeness; Seth at the age of 105, it is alleged, begets Enos in his own likeness. From the time of Enos, men begin to call upon the name of the Lord. Enos, at 90, begets Cainan, and so the line goes on to Noah, who is apparently a mature 500 before the arrival of Shem, Ham and Japheth. It comes to pass when men begin to multiply on earth, and daughters are born unto them, that the sons of God, seeing that the daughters of men are fair, take them as wives, as many as they choose. To them, children are born. These become mighty men of renown, true heroes. But God sees that great is the wickedness of man, that every thought of his heart is evil. Then comes the Flood. It is commonly regarded as a flood of destruction — or was it, in reality, a flood of purification? But since Noah walked with God, he found grace in the eyes of the Lord. So too, earlier, Enoch had walked with God. And it is said of Enoch that he was not, for God took him, whereas it is said of all the others that they lived so many years and then died. More than two thousand years later, Elijah is transported by a whirlwind to heaven in a chariot of fire. Almost another millennium swings past, and there takes place the resurrection of Jesus.

Just as there is a line of ascent traced from Jesus to God, so too in the Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad, which is at least seven or eight centuries earlier than the time of St Luke, a line of ascent is traced from Pautimāshya to Brāhman Svayambhū, Self-existent God.

Adam and Eve are called the first parents. So too, in the Iranian tradition, Yima and his sister-spouse Yimak are called the parents of the first mortals. Like Adam, Yima too falls from grace. Just as Enoch and Elijah are credited with not dying, so too in the Iranian tradition, Kai-Kushro, one of the great king-sages, retires from the world and, immortal, awaits the day of return to rule over a world wherein righteousness shall have triumphed. Immortal, too, is the great priest, the Dastur Paishotan. Even as Jesus spells redemption from Adam’s sin, Zarathushtra heals the deadly wound of Yima’s self-pride.

But, in the Rig Vedic tradition, there is no fall from grace by Yama and his sister-spouse Yamī. Yama, it is said, chooses death and abandons his body, passes to the other world and is given lordship over the highest of the three heavens. He becomes the Lord of Death, that is the Master of Death, not to be confused with Mrityu or Māra the death-dealer. Yama is the first man to win immortality. Again, the great Rig Vedic rishis, those sacred singers of the song of eternal life, see the gods, communicate with them and are at home with them, even as Adam and his generations and all the prophets of Israel are at home with the Lord.

What does it all mean? To this day there are prophets, there are munis, there are those who are at home with God. But you will not find them among the haunts of men, or at least you will not easily find them unless you have the trained eye with which to see. Since the old days, centuries and millennia have flowed by. Theologians and philosophers of religion have piled system upon system, like bundle upon bundle of cut grass making a haystack. The heavy voice of orthodoxy is too much like the voice of one in a stupor, laden with the burden of mere learning. Those whose cold, black light of intellect is unredeemed by insight flounder about with their ideas like fish caught in a net. Whilst the voracious intellect, gorged on a surfeit of hard facts, spews out its mountains of verbiage, the Book of Life gets buried deeper and deeper under the gathering dust of knowledge. The eyes of God meanwhile moisten as the cloud of unknowing is thickened to an almost impenetrable fog.

And yet, not just there but here, not just yesterday or tomorrow but now is the incarnate truth. Not lost in the temporal movement of the space-time world but poised here-now in fulfilment in eternal existence; this is the meaning of it all, the activity which brings all manifestation to fruition in terms of eternal beauty, the supreme possibility of the realization of the consciousness of the kingdom of heaven, of Brahman-knowing, of Nirvana. And all this is for you here-now. It is yours. Take it. You are free. And if you can’t take it, it means that you are not free, and all your vaunted individuality and self-determination and democracy are a fantastic make-believe, hurtful to your neighbour and to yourself.

Part 1 Part 2 To be continued...

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