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That Brāhman, the Buddha

By Phiroz Mehta

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

Part 2

Come with me on a fascinating journey: Once upon a time, before Adam walked in his garden, there was a group of people whose sense of wonder deepened as they grew older. They were touched with the dissatisfaction engendered by the cycle of birth and death. They yearned for an indefinable fulfilment of their lives. And they considered the question of sorrow. How endless and meaningless seemed the round of uprising-proceeding-dying, uprising-proceeding-dying! How tormenting, how infuriatingly restrictive! Was there an escape from it? An escape which would spell immortality here-now, ineffable peace and the certitude that this-all was worthwhile? Or was immortality reserved for the gods alone, or maybe for some over-God, miserable autocrat over gods and men?

So these men brooded, seeking the significance of all experience, seeking the eternal creative fount of all existence. And when they died, as indeed each and every single body dies never to resurrect again, their disciples continued to seek. And they discovered that the more they discarded all their preconceptions and vain beliefs, the more they cultivated continual mindfulness, the more they understood themselves and tamed and trained themselves, the nearer they approached their goal. This goal could not be easily defined — to this day it cannot be clearly defined — but it could be fully experienced. These men discovered that in the effort to hold the mind still, guarded, deliberately abstracted from the impact of the world on the senses, a new awareness of existence began to emerge and a profounder understanding of certain matters was obtained through concentrated attention.

Now, as one enters profounder states of consciousness, if the next succeeding stage cannot be successfully reached the practitioner may return to ordinary consciousness. This is what most people do. If a person is already in one of the deeper states of consciousness and cannot deliberately go deeper, he may fall asleep, as did the disciples of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; or, if he loses control, but not seriously, he may ‘see’ visions and ‘hear’ messages; or, if he loses control to a serious extent, he may become obsessed — possessed of a devil, as happened in the New Testament — which is a very sorry condition; or, he may go off into a deep trance in which a partly healing, whole-making or integrative process goes on. He is unaware of the process, but enjoys the fruit of it — and not all of it is beneficial — on returning to ordinary consciousness.

Adam was the first (or one among the very earliest) of the human race to go off into such a deep trance. That is the so-called sleep that the Lord God causes to fall upon him. On waking up, he finds Eve, fully formed, which means that he becomes clearly conscious of his own psyche, and especially of the feminine aspect complementing his normal masculinity. But what is far more important than this is that Adam is convinced of unitary selfhood and of the unity of the universe. From this is born the conviction, and the consequent teaching, that there is only the one God: a conviction which scatters the host of many gods. Their ephemeral day is over; they disappear like moths devoured by a flame.

But Adam’s conviction is not a full and true realization. He has not sufficient self-knowledge and self-discipline to prevent his own fall. Unable to maintain the consequences in daily life of the consciousness of unitary God, his awareness sinks back to the level of the circle of mortality. This is the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So, in the cool of the evening (classically the time for prayer or meditation: for restoring the deeper states of consciousness), the Lord God, as it is said in Genesis, asks, ‘Where art thou, Adam?’ meaning, to what level has your consciousness sunk?

Physically, Adam lives a normal human length of life, not 930 years as said in the Bible. About 130 years after Adam, Seth arises. He is developed enough to succeed to the mastership vacated by Adam. That is the meaning of Adam begetting Seth in his own likeness at the age of 130. Adam’s teaching flourishes for about a millennium. That is the meaning of all the days of Adam being 930 years. But when the seventh successor to Adam appears on the scene, the deepest depth of consciousness is touched, for Enoch realizes immortality here-now in full Superconsciousness. That is the meaning of the statement, ‘Enoch was not, for God took him.’ The body of Enoch unquestionably died, like any other body dies.

At this point let us turn to Yama of the Vedic tradition. Yama, it is said, chooses death; that is, he frees himself from all bondage to the sensuous life and worldly values. He clearly understands that the cycle of birth and death, saṃsāra, is really the stream of consciousness: of emotions and thoughts as they arise-proceed-die, arise-proceed-die, unbidden. He learns in meditation to enter profounder states of consciousness and to master the unbidden flow of discursive thought. At last he is able, in full self-possession, to die altogether to worldly consciousness; that is, to completely stop the flow of discursive thought. This is the meaning of Yama abandoning his body and passing to the inner world. The inner world is not the world of discursive thought, however profound, nor the world of trances, nor of the visions or ecstasies of the saints. All these belong to the sphere of the mortal, for they are all constituted of uprising-proceeding-dying. But when, fully conscious, the flow of discursive thought is completely stopped, deliberately, then there is no uprising-proceeding-dying. This is Superconsciousness, which functions in terms of ‘As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be’, in full simultaneity or wholeness; and this, wherein all discursive thought is completely stilled and all birth and death transcended, is the full experience and meaning of immortality. Immortality is the experience of a mode of functioning of consciousness: a mode distinguishing so remarkable a state of consciousness that we may well call it Superconsciousness. Time and space (the condition of bodily being), pain and pleasure (the touchstone of our psycho-physical life) and good and evil as we know them here are all transcended; and you eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life.

This attainment of Superconsciousness is the meaning of Yama being granted lordship over the highest of the three heavens and becoming the Lord of Death.

Whoever attains Superconsciousness is a true fount and source of religion. The attainment of Superconsciousness, which is the experience of the Silence, the Void, the Plenum, the Infinite, the Absolute, is the source-experience from which have emerged the teachings embodied in words like Brāhman, Ātman, Īśvara, Godhead, God, Eternity, Immortality, Nirvana, the Kingdom of Heaven, etc.

The Atharva Veda (XI. 5. 5.) says:

The Brahmachārī, earlier born than Brahmā, sprang up through fervour, robed in hot libation; From him sprang heavenly lore, the highest Brahmā, and all the gods, with life that lasts for ever.

And again:

Therefore, whoever knoweth man, regardeth him as Brāhman’s self; For all the deities abide in him, as cattle in their pen.

(XI. 8. 32.)

Amongst that host of sacred singers of the song of eternal life, the great ṛṣis who composed the hymns of the Ṛgveda, must be numbered the true munis who realized the meaning of Silence and experienced immortality here-now. The Ṛgveda says (VIII. 48. 3.):

We have drunk Soma and become immortal; We have attained the light, the gods discovered.

Therefore, it is very sad when anyone, spiritually dulled by the weight of mere learning, misleads those who seek Truth, by declaring that the Vedas, or indeed any of the great scriptures of the ancient world, were mere guesses at truth or gropings after reality by a primitive people in their spiritual infancy. It is those who have not attained Superconsciousness, or who have no intuitive insight into the significance of the Silence, the Plenum, who spin out those doctrines and dogmas, often at variance amongst themselves, which bind man to the circle of mortality whilst paying lip-service to Immortal God, and which thereby confuse people with regard to the nature of the transcendent consummation towards which they are developing.

The realization of Superconsciousness cannot be spun out into philosophic systems. Only a few statements can be made, which may inspire others to seek or sustain those who are already searching. This realization of Superconsciousness is the full and true meaning of the Upaniṣadic phrases, ‘realizing the Ātman’, knowing ‘Brāhman’ and ‘having ascended aloft, he became immortal’. That yogeśvara, Yājñavalkya, prince of yogis, declared in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (III. 8. 10):

Verily, O Gārgī, he who departs from this world without knowing that Imperishable, is pitiable; But, O Gārgī, he who departs from this world knowing that Imperishable is a brāhman.

‘Departs from this world’ is usually understood as bodily death, but in this context there is a more profound meaning: entry into deeper states of consciousness. As explained earlier, if there is loss of control in the process, one may fall asleep or go off into a trance and so forth, in which case one ‘departs from this world’ without knowing the Deathless. But he who can successfully make the final grade and stop the flow of discursive thought, deliberately and in full conscious control of the situation, he indeed knows the Deathless on ‘departing from this world’.

Listen again to Yājñavalkya (IV. 4. 14):

Verily, while we are here we may know this. If you have known it not, heavy is the loss. Those who know this become immortal, But others go only to sorrow.

So we see that a real brāhman is one who knows that Imperishable, knows Brāhman, and who can be at home in that silence which is the immortal Superconsciousness of eternal existence. The Muṇdaka Upaniṣad says (III. 2. 9):

He, verily, who knows that supreme Brāhman becomes very Brāhman … He crosses over sin, he crosses over sorrow … Liberated from the knots of the heart, he becomes immortal.

The true brāhman, then, is one who has become Brāhman. Answering the question, ‘Who indeed is a brāhman?’, the Vajrasūchi Upaniṣad tells us that whosoever a man may be,

He who has directly realized the Ātman, who is directly cognizant of the Ātman, … which cannot be reasoned about but is known only by direct cognition … he alone is a brāhman.

At its very heart, then, the teaching of the great ṛṣis and munis, of all the great spiritual teachers, as enshrined in Veda and Upaniṣad, Gītā and Gatha, Sutta and Bible, is the teaching about Superconsciousness, called Brāhman-Knowing or God-realization, and about the Path which leads to the realization of the immortal here-now. At its very heart, all true religion is concerned with bringing a man to full fruition, first in terms of character — the perfected man, the exemplar, and next in terms of the realization of Superconsciousness.

Next we will turn to Canto 26 of the Dhammapada…

Buddhahood was published by Element Books in 1988 with an introduction and edited by the late John Snelling. It is out of print, but is available to download free in PDF format on our website.

The book consists of seventeen essays and interviews that Phiroz Mehta contributed to The Middle Way, many of them being originally lectures delivered at the Buddhist Society Summer School. The following is an extract from the introduction:

In this book, then, lies spiritual vision of the first order; inspired writing and impeccable scholarship too. Here also the reader will find sound advice from one who has actually striven to lead the holy life as a householder amidst the hurly-burly of modern urban life. For all of us struggling on the Path in the unpropitious circumstances of the contemporary world, falling by the wayside from time to time, exhausted, dispirited, it is inspiring to know, despite our blackest periodic fears to the contrary, that ‘It can still be done’!

Part 1 Part 2 To be continued...

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