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The Phiroz Mehta Trust July 2018 Newsletter

Cover of the Phiroz Mehta Trust July 2018 Newsletter

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The Phiroz Mehta Trust Summer School 2018

By The Editor

Our Summer School this year will be again at Claridge House, Lingfield, Surrey, from Tuesday 7th August to Sunday 12th August. We shall be listening to recorded talks by Phiroz Mehta as well as contributions from members of the group.

Claridge House is an extremely comfortable house to stay in, it has recently been refurbished with en suite bedrooms, and has excellent vegetarian food, with some special diets available.

The cost will be £400 per person for the five days for an en suite room. To book your place please send a cheque, made out to Claridge House, by mid-July to the Trust.

We have a fund available to help people who may have difficulty in meeting the full cost. In addition we are offering entirely free places to people who have not been to our Summer School before. Please contact Rosemary Monk about this.

The Summer School offers a unique opportunity to hear the work of Phiroz Mehta in depth. Do come if you possibly can, even if you can only manage a day or two.

Day visitors are of course also extremely welcome.

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Phiroz Dorabji Mehta (1902–1994)

By Robert Mehta

Phiroz Mehta was born on 1st October, 1902, in Cambay, India. There were five generations of the family in the house where he was born at the time. His father was the chief superintendent of the Ceylon Wharfage Company in Ceylon, as it was then known. At the time he was well known throughout Colombo as Mr. Mehta.

At age 3 or 4 Phiroz had lessons with a tutor and he used to go to these lessons by rickshaw. One day, already possessing some authority, he ordered the rickshaw driver to take him to Royal College, as he had met one of the older pupils from this school and decided that he wanted to go there. The rickshaw driver took him there and his friend took him to the headmistress. “I want to come to this school,” he said, and henceforth that was where his schooling continued.

Phiroz’s mother had become a Theosophist and so Phiroz was not only brought up as a Zoroastrian but also learned about Theosophy. At age 9 or 10 he was reading Aristotle and Plato and later went on visits with his mother to Annie Besant’s Theosophical Centre at Adyar near Madras. At age 16 he was helping to run the Theosophical group in Colombo.

Phiroz had started piano lessons at school and was quite rapidly becoming a competent pianist and performer. He also had a great love of cricket as do most Indians to this day.

At 18 years Phiroz not only came top in the chemistry exams on the island but also came top in his music exams and was offered a place at the Royal College of Music in London. He offered his place to the student who came second in music and opted instead for a science degree at Trinity College, Cambridge. Since Phiroz had no birth certificate he could not get a grant and although the appeal was taken as far as the House of Lords, he had no luck. Eventually private sponsorship was found and he was able to take his place.

Throughout his early years Phiroz was intensely interested in religion and he is reputed to have often run alongside the Zoroastrian priest who was riding his bicycle, asking deep philosophical questions.

While still retaining his deep interest in theosophy and the religions of the world, Phiroz immersed himself in his studies of physics, chemistry and botany at Trinity College. It was an exciting period of scientific development, with Rutherford and Thompson at the Cavendish Laboratory concerned with defining the structure of the atom. At the same time, following in the footsteps of Sir Phirozshah Mehta (a cousin of his father’s), he concurrently studied law at Gray’s Inn in London. After passing his exams in Criminal Law he decided to stop his law studies on the grounds that if a good barrister could convict an innocent man or free a guilty person this was unethical.

After two years of study in a foreign culture and environment, Phiroz became ill and couldn’t complete his science degree. However, he was still playing the piano to a very high standard and through a friend he was introduced to Solomon who was acknowledged as one of the world-class pianists of the day. After hearing Phiroz play, Solomon agreed to give Phiroz piano lessons and these continued for eight years. Their friendship lasted until Solomon’s death.

Phiroz continued to study the world’s religions and began to express his own understanding and interpretation of what he read. He also studied astrology, nutrition and yoga, and in the 1930’s he developed his own method of physical education in which he gave classes, based on rhythmic movement and yogic breathing.

He gave relatively few piano concerts in Britain, but in 1934 he did a successful major concert tour in India, which met with much praise.

In 1938 on board ship on a visit to India he met Silvia Shaxby, daughter of a Cardiff University lecturer, and they were married in July 1939.

After the outbreak of war, Phiroz applied to join the RAF. Partly due to severe vitamin deficiency he had developed quite serious neuritis, which meant that he was neither fit enough to join the forces nor to carry on with his career as a pianist. Friends of his father-in-law suggested he could fulfil a useful role in the war by lecturing to the troops on ‘Race, Religion and Politics in India’. This was the beginning of his lecturing career, which continued after the war under the auspices of the Central Office of Information.

Having successfully completed part of his degree at Cambridge in the early 1920’s Phiroz then decided it would be good to finish it. After consultation with the university, in 1950 he undertook a ten week intensive study in history, sat the exams, and was awarded his degree. In 1954 Phiroz took up school teaching which continued for the rest of his working life, and the last decade of that was teaching his favourite science of chemistry in South East London comprehensive schools.

From the late 1950’s until the 1980’s Phiroz would give talks at the Buddhist Society Summer Schools and in 1961/62 the Venerable Panhavaddho suggested that many people could benefit from his wisdom and he should start having meetings with groups of interested people. After an initial hesitation he started these group meetings in February 1962. From then on he held regular meetings in his house in Forest Hill, South East London, and these continued for over 25 years.

In 1956 Phiroz published his first book, Early Indian Religious Thought, and, as he had done through all his life since childhood, he continued his study and research into world religions. He was privileged to spend four days in 1963 with the Dalai Lama in Dharamasala learning more about Mahayana Buddhism.

His second book, published in 1976, was titled The Heart of Religion, which he felt to be common to all of the great world religions.

Books to follow were Zarathushtra: The Transcendental Vision (1985), Buddhahood (1988) and Holistic Consciousness (1989).

Phiroz gave his last lecture on his 90th birthday.

He died on 2nd May, 1994, and his funeral at Gloucester Crematorium was conducted in the traditional way by Zoroastrian priests.

A recorded movement from one of Beethoven’s last quartets was played, at Phiroz’s request, alongside a recorded talk by Phiroz himself on the meaning of death, as he understood it.

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The Body (IV)

A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 15th July 1972

All the great religions of the world have spoken about the sense functions and the body in a way which is calculated to put us on our guard against them. If we remain mindful throughout the day we will notice that every sense impression gets related to our own body, as we call it, and it intensifies the idea of oneself being the body. Not only that, it perpetuates the duality of self and not-self. The body is me, what is outside the skin, the boundary of the body, is the not me. Sometimes there is harmony to a certain extent between the me and the not me. More often than not there is hardly any relationship which is a proper relationship, it is a state of conflict. So you see, all sense functioning intensifies selfness, self-centredness, it intensifies this opposition between self and not-self, the basic duality which is the root of our state of ignorance, of all our delusions and conflicts and suffering. This is a very important point to bear in mind.

Let us see how this is related to something else, the definition of the word body in our own minds. If one says, “This is my body, that is his body, that is her body or the child’s body or the animal’s body,” we are referring all the time to something physical composed of what little we know about the body. We are referring to a pattern made up of bones, flesh, blood, skin and so on, a particular limited pattern composed of solids, liquids, gases and let us say other energies which are known and measurable energies, electrical, chemical and so forth. That is what the word body means to us. There is nothing wrong in that meaning as such. Where does the trouble come in? It comes in because of our ignorance of the fact that that definition of the body, true as it is, is a very partial definition. We take it for granted that, having said blood, flesh, bones, etc., we know all about the body, that we are conscious of the whole body. But is that the fact? As the years pass, as the centuries roll on, we become more and more acquainted with the nature of the body and we discover with the passage of time that what we thought was our total knowledge of the body was far from total, it was very partial, very slight and fragmentary. So we grow in knowledge of body. Supposing we kept on growing in knowledge of body, what would happen? Would we remain confined to our present conception, and not only conception but our present mode of consciousness, mode of awareness of body? By mode of awareness I mean that unanalysable and indescribable sensitivity which lies at the heart of real knowledge. When we think of the body or talk of it, it is just thinking or talking of something very limited in its scope. This definition of the body, our conception of it, our sensitivity as to what it actually means, ties us down all the time. We have sometimes considered this fact. The body is composed of solids and liquids and gases, the simplest example is the air we breathe in. When I breathe in some air, that air is part of my body, true enough in the ordinary way. I know that when I breathe out it is no longer part of my body, it is no longer me. Or is it? Anyway we do not claim that it is me. Somebody else breathes at least part of that air into his lungs. Now what has happened to body? That air was inside me, it has gone out and it has entered into some other body, as I say. Has that body become related to this body by virtue of sharing the gaseous elements which compose any one body? If there is an interplay, an interaction between organic parts, don’t those or do those organic parts get related into a greater whole? But we are not sensitive to this at all, are we, in the ordinary way?

I remember very well when the idea first came to me years and years ago, how I was enamoured of the idea, but somehow the deep sensitivity was not there. Gradually that sensitivity grew. To have an idea of what is happening is somewhat like an external shell of knowledge, you know the mechanics of it, but you are not in touch with the living reality of it. When this sensitivity begins to function and you are in touch with the living reality of it, the whole sense and feeling of separation between what is commonly called the other and what is commonly called oneself begins to disappear. What then is the meaning of the body? It is very, very interesting and very important to investigate this question of body and what it really means. If we allow the mind to be restful, quiet, in the stillness and the silence within, one becomes sensitive to the fact that body is Totality, the Totality which is manifested. The manifest part of Totality is body.

What is the manner in which we have described that which is manifest? We have talked of it as matter and spirit or mind or whatever word you like to use. Or we have talked of the human being as body, soul, spirit and so on and so on. We have talked in all these ways, but have we ever examined what actually is our conscious awareness, our sensitivity in relation to those words? Have we not noticed that when we say body, soul, spirit, we think of them as different things, not one organic whole, not as a whole. And this is the important thing. The spirit lies in our consciousness. Is there anything like matter and spirit, body and mind? Or is there in fact One Total Reality, altogether One in its wholeness, and at the same time that wholeness consists of multitudinous particulars manifesting the One? But because these multitudinous particulars are in total and complete relationship with each other, we can be aware of it when in a state of ignorance as separate particulars, or when we are in the state of enlightenment as the particulars which make up only One Total Reality, the wholeness. The enlightened state is a state in which one really is conscious of, sensitive to the truth of this One Total Reality. Then there is no conflict within us and there is no reaction of hate, resentment or any such thing against another part of the Totality. Even modern science has come to the pitch where it shows that what was called inanimate matter is alive because it is creative.

There is no such thing as inanimate matter, dead matter. There is no such thing as matter which is the unrelatable contrast to energy. What we, constituted as we are, experience as matter through its qualities, hardness, softness, penetrability, impenetrability (you can put your hand through water; you cannot put it through a brick wall), is actually a manifestation of pure energy. When energy functions thus and thus, produces a human being and produces a stone, the human being says of the stone matter. When energy manifests as lightning or as heat or as chemical energy or as electrical energy or whatever it is, he says energy. The human being says two different things about phenomena which emerge out of the one root source, energy itself, pure energy, both measurable and immeasurable. You see what I am getting at? If they become sensitive to Total Reality, then all these forces of conflict which we ourselves have set going in our minds are no longer forces in conflict. We have said body, mind, spirit and so forth, and they are against each other. This is our state of unenlightenment, and this duality and this multiplicity in fact, which is raised up in our minds through our condition of ignorance, is responsible for all our suffering, which is also responsible for our fear. We have always talked about the One Life, we have used the word Universe. We use the word, we form concepts about it. This superficial activity of the power which is intelligence in us has produced separation and failed to become wholly sensitive to the wholeness, the innumerable parts in complete relationship constituting the wholeness.

This word body is of special importance to us because, all though the waking day at least, the body is certainly the most important thing which we are dealing with. It certainly predominates in our awareness. We may fool ourselves that it is the mind, it is the soul, it is all sorts of stuff like that, which is supposed to be the important thing, the great thing. But we behave and act as bodies, make no mistake about it. Listen to people’s conversation (I am using the nice word, con-versation, which means one person says and the other responds, not the perpetual monologue, which is most people’s so-called conversation). Listen to people’s conversation. What is it about? It’s about body. “I had a headache this morning, I did so-and-so.” “I went to the fishmonger, and would you believe it…” What is it all about? Body, body and body. The so-called mental part, the thoughts and the feelings associated with body come in incidentally actually. They are not the important thing. They are made into the important thing by the individual because of his egoism and his vanity. Then they become quite important. Watch the play of these forces and you will see at what a low level the mind is! In fact we must never forget that even that low level of mind is possible and is in function simply because of body as a totality, the whole body is there.

That is the individual body. If we get free of this false separation which our words imply between body, mind, consciousness, spirit, whatever you like, if you get rid of this false separation, the whole thing is body. If you prefer, you can say that the whole thing is mind and mind only, in which case body loses its position of importance where the denotation of the person is concerned, I, me, that is this body. How are we identified? Our passports have a picture of the body. They have no picture of the mind or the spirit or the soul. The number attached, national insurance number or whatever it is, is attached to the body. If you can’t produce the body, well that’s that, you’ve had it! If you commit a murder in actual fact but the body cannot be produced, then you have not committed the murder! The law just leaves you alone.

Because of our ignorance and because we have not taken the trouble, and do not take the trouble to investigate the truth about this word body, that we find ourselves in so much unnecessary difficulty, conflict, misery, and all the rest of it. Look at the other side of the story. Let us confine ourselves to our human lives for the moment, that is quite enough to be dealing with. Whatsoever of fruition takes place, takes place because there is the living body. When this body dies, I, can’t do anything, say anything, think anything, aspire to anything, do anything at all. All sorts of theories have been invented, that the mind goes on, or “John Brown’s soul goes marching on.” They are statements but are such statements statements of fact? Has anyone actually seen John Brown’s soul going marching on after John Brown’s death? Certain people claim to. But consider, there are three and a half thousand million people on the globe. There may be thirty five who are bold enough to make the claim that they can see John Brown’s soul marching on. It is a fact of human life that if human faculties are true human faculties, they are not confined for ever and ever just to a few. All mankind sooner or later develops them.

We all have eyes, we can see. But a comparatively small percentage of the world population is blind or has not eyes to see. But in this case it is the other way about, isn’t it? Blindness can be cured sometimes. But can all mankind find out the ways and means by which they can develop the capacity of these thirty five people who can see John Brown’s soul marching on? It doesn’t happen that way, Therefore what is the reasonable approach in such a situation? The thirty five people may be quite sincere, but in all probability they are deluded. Consider how such a statement as John Brown’s soul is marching on is made. It is simply because we take it for granted that body and soul are two different things and the one survives the other. The one is mortal, the other is immortal. This is what we say. The body is an entity, and because of our actual experience we know that the body perishes. No one can deny that. But if you postulate soul as an entity, anything which is an entity necessarily perishes. An entity has not existed through all eternity. It comes into being. Whatsoever is born, undergoes change and perishes. Why is this such an absolute fact?

Consider from where entity emerges. Out of Totality. Totality remains Totality. But particular entity emerges in time and space out of Totality and disappears back in time and space into Totality, losing its entity, its identifiability. Therefore to talk in these terms, “John Brown’s soul marching on,” or to say that “my eternal spirit or the spark of God in me which was from the beginning and will ever continue to be a spark,” are not these utterly mistaken statements made by the ignorant, confused person? What is the source from which such statements emerge? The body and sense functions. Our sense functions are limited, we can see only a certain amount, hear only a certain amount. The brain works only to a certain extent, it cannot know Totality or be omniscient in the impossible sense of ignorance. The light is very, very dim and the ignorance is as large as the rest of the universe in each one of us. Because body functions as it does, the brain makes these verbal patterns to express the impress made upon our minds by our experience. So we separate out quite unwarrantably body, soul and spirit but, as we considered earlier on, we separate out one body from another and are ignorant of the total relationship between body and body. Because we are ignorant, not just intellectually ignorance, but ignorant in the very  deeps of our consciousness, in terms of what I call this sensitivity, because we are ignorant in that way, therefore the conflict is perpetuated between body and body. If I were wholly sensitive to every body, not only everybody present here, but every body, if I were totally sensitive to it, I cannot, certainly deliberately, react in anger, hate, violence against it. It’s impossible.

If I look in a mirror and dislike my ear and give it a tremendous biff, I would be a lunatic, wouldn’t I? I would split my eardrums and there you are, the worse off for it because I have reacted in anger and violence. But if I am really sensitive, that sensitivity is total acceptance, it is total understanding, it is Transcendent Love. Our sense functions, in the condition that we are in, tend to make difficulty for us. These very same sense functions now become, through understanding and through penetrating into the reality, the indispensable avenues of continuous communion. Whatsoever you see, whatsoever you hear, you touch, you taste, you smell, you feel, is never not loved. It is never not loved because there is no possessiveness towards it, there is no uprising of desire in relation to it, nothing goes out from oneself which is the means of bondage over the other or over oneself. This is Love. There is no jealousy, there is no comparison involved. If one’s normal, ordinary, everyday consciousness is of that nature, then one is in the harmless state, the totally harmless state. And the harmless state is one in which there is no conflict between what is mistakenly called self and not self. The distinction between the two has vanished. This body has become body, total body. As a physical fact, if you like, that is so in actuality. The whole universe is one universe, it is one stuff.  It is perfectly true that there are several chemical elements and all the rest of it, but go deeper into it and you will see that there is complete relationship. Then life is naturally peaceful, not because the world as such behaves and functions according to a picture of my desire as to how it should function, but because, whatsoever happens from me, there goes out no element of hate, resentment, violence. Within me there is no conflict of that and myself. So there is both that and myself unpoisoned by selfness in me. This is morality, if you like. This is virtue, if you like. So you see how virtue, enlightenment, body, mind are all most intimately interrelated with each other.

You might wonder, why am I talking like this today? For the very simple reason that the body is something which you cannot neglect. It is there all the time. People say, “I am not the body, the body is my instrument. I am the person, the spark of God, the immortal soul, the essence of mind.” Put all those words on a silver salver or on a banana leaf if you prefer and present them to your neighbour for examination, or look at them yourself and see what happens! They just disappear into the void, the whole lot. So will the body, but before the body disappears into the void, it is the plenitude of your being, don’t forget that. And it is an extraordinary plenitude. It is not merely bones, flesh, blood, skin and so on, it is not merely solids, liquids, gases, it is all these plus every other word you might like to add, feelings, thoughts, ideas, soul, spirit, mind, anything you like, the whole lot. The whole lot, that is body. The whole lot, that is spirit. The whole lot, that is mind.

But ask yourself, is it easier to grasp the reality of body as the whole thing, or to grasp the spirit as the whole reality? But the spirit is a concept with us, whereas the body is a thing of experience with us, continuous experience until the body has disappeared. Have we not insulted the body then, ever since we began to be a little bit clever with our brains, ever since we began philosophizing speculatively? And we experience the delights of intellectual disposition and so forth, and then we raise up all these wonderful phantoms of words and thoughts and say, “This is the reality, whereas the body is a thing of dust.” Was that not a mental escapism, a mental sour grapes because we did not understand and were so baffled that we had to say that the cobwebs I spin out with my intellect are reality as compared with this which is so hurtful, and I can’t deal with it? Think it out carefully. All power, all energy in its final manifestation to us human beings because of our bodily constitution and our sense functioning, all power is locked up in the body. This is one of the extraordinary aspects of Yoga. It deals with the body as the source of power which an individual can utilise. But note very carefully that the real Yogic discipline always starts with the yamas and niyamas, in simple terms the virtues and the observances of the daily life which are the expressions of holiness, or purity. Then it proceeds to the āsanas, the postures and the prāṇāyāma, which deal with the manipulation of energies. This is the basic thing. Otherwise the manipulation of energies can easily go wrong.

Then it brings in the other elements, the subtle elements of existence, the deep states of consciousness, the mind, the turning inside out of the worldly-oriented consciousness, turning it inside out and making it religiously-oriented. It is another form from self-orientation to the total freedom from selfness. But the body holds the central place in this, doesn’t it? And whilst in the early stages we think of Yoga as disciplining the body to such and such an extent, and whilst we think of the body just as a separate body, this body and that body and that body and so forth, if and when the profounder elements come into play, the pratyāhāra, dhāranā, dhyāṇa, and samādhi, then what happens? Body becomes One Body, the Total Body, which is the Absolute All, the One Total Reality. Herein is individual man’s fruition and fulfilment.

There is a relationship between this and what the world commonly calls astrology. Your horoscope is a mandala, it is a pattern which tells you the whole truth, if you are capable of reading, of both aspects, the psycho-physical which is the mandala of your psycho-physical individual being, and the mandala of pure mind as it is going to function through you, if you have the wisdom, and ability and skill to let it. That is why the psycho-physical being has to become utterly purified, transparent, it has to be enlightened from within its limited individual being, in order that this immeasurable  Transcendent Mind may function in the world of manifestation, which is again the world of body. You see the tremendous significance and depth of body.

How do we come to take advantage of any sort of intellectual perception of this, along such lines as I have tried to suggest today? Only by pure mindfulness. Be awake, and these sense functions which in the first instance through our lives are the very sources and the means for our bondage and our misery and our conflict and our suffering and everything, these very sense functions through pure mindfulness, right mindfulness, become transformed into the avenues of perfect communion with the Totality. Then you will find that this mandala, this pattern, the horoscope will indicate to you yourself here and now, right down to the levels of your brain knowledge, the design (I have to use this word which is somewhat misleading word, but there is no other) of Transcendence itself for you here.

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Intimations of Immortality

By William Wordsworth

These lines from Intimations of Immortality were especially loved by Phiroz

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

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That Brāhman, the Buddha

By Phiroz Mehta

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

Part 4

Do you look, then, for some petty consolation? Do you await some futile message of hope? Let it be clearly realized that in the transcendent awareness of eternal existence there is no room and no meaning for either hope or despair, pessimism or optimism. Here-now is the ultimate, the supreme, for we continually exist in the very midst of the omnipresent, and there is not a secret of the heart which is hidden from the gaze of the eyes which never sleep.

So the question is, Adam, where do you want to be? At home in omniscience, bending every energy in harmony with omnipotence; or, buffeted between the extremes of the dualistic temporal, the miserable slave of savage folly?

In this century, here, now, it is the springtime of the spirit once again. And it is also the harvest-time of the spirit.

This simultaneity of spring-time and harvest is the sign and miracle for our day. And he who is ready or who will diligently prepare himself will be an active participator in this miracle and not a mere blind spectator.

Once again the portals are open through which have constantly passed the great religious heroes — the prophets of old, ṛṣis and munis, arahants and buddhas; a wonderful company of perfected men, the Brāhman-become, among whom shines the overtowering figure of that brāhman, the Buddha.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

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The last two paragraphs speak volumes of wisdom. It is in our interest to read, listen, reflect and require..."Attitude" as we walk on.

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