A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 28th July 1972
Quite naturally human beings desire and pursue happiness, security, success, fulfilment and so on. But the actual fact of our existence has been and still is that practically all human beings undergo great tribulation. They see much sorrow in life, they are perplexed, they have no idea of the way out and they little realize that they themselves are the source of their misery. We are producers of ill, and this ill which afflicts us is not only bodily, not only concerned with the material things of the world, but it is also psychological, it is mental (intellectual, I mean there), and it is also spiritual.
The spiritual distress we must never try to be rid of. Our spiritual distress is due fundamentally to our sympathy for all that suffers. If that spiritual distress were not there, if that extraordinary sensitivity which bridges the gulf between oneself and all the rest of the world were not there, then there would be little hope for mankind. That sensitivity makes one suffer with everyone and with everything. It is that spiritual suffering which is one of the most powerful sources for the awakening of intelligence, of understanding, and the release of all those forces and energies which ultimately do work and produce human fulfilment. For the spiritual distress is not something which we should ever attempt to fight against, or to overcome or to solve. In fact if we are sensible we would welcome it, because this is the real thing that will help Man to free himself from his state of being a sub-human and become true Man.
Our concern is religion in its profoundest, in its deepest sense. Because of that, quite naturally we seek various ways and means for fulfilling the religiousness which lies at the heart of our being, and also we are conditioned by our upbringing and our educational methods. We imagine that if we follow such-and-such ways of life or listen to such-and-such teachers and try to practise what they suggest, or read certain books and so on, we imagine that if we did all that, all would be well and we would get along towards an unimaginably wonderful goal which we call Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven or whatever you like.
But this is where we err very considerably. We are living beings, and what characterizes the living being first and foremost is his own living process. The living process is not a process of acquisition, it is a process of growth. Development where living creatures are concerned is of quite a different nature from development in terms of the business world or the world of machines, invention, industry and so on. It is totally different because development for us means the growth of our sensitivity as human beings. Both the sensitivity to receive impressions as living creatures and to respond to what we receive in the right way, is what I mean by our sensitivity. It is this which undergoes growth, flowering, fruition, and in this there can be no acquisition. The living process is a creative process, it is not an accumulative process, and this is what through the ages we have failed to appreciate. The release of all the sensitivity which lies in this psycho-physical organism which we call the human being is what we should awake to.
If we really appreciate this point, an enormous load of emotional and intellectual distress would just drop away. A great deal of our conditioning would disappear and we would find ourselves in a state of inward freedom to grow as human beings, instead of being bound tight with systems and methods which are imposed systems and methods, with a set of ideas, verbally expressed and philosophies as we call them. When those press upon the mind, then this sensitivity within ourselves to touch reality, to know the truth, is cramped, confined, not allowed to grow. This is a very, very important point.
You may recall that through the years time and again we have tried to enter, or try out, shall we say, certain forms of meditation for instance, which I knew would be very helpful, helpful in the direction of releasing our sensitivity, our psychical and spiritual sensitivity. These experiments which we have tried as a group cannot of necessity go very far, because we try it out for a few moments. It is as if one were trying just to drop a seed in the soil and see what will happen. It is for each individual afterwards to tend that process. Be careful! This is not a system, a method which is suggested which you must mechanically follow as a daily routine. It is a living process.
How do we use our senses? We look at something and each one of us sees that something. If the act of seeing by each one of us is not conditioned by the professor in the laboratory or the parent or the friend saying, “Ah, look out for this, that and the other, and you will see this, that and the other,” if we are not conditioned that way, our whole psycho-physical sensitivity involved in seeing would work freely. In the first instance I may see very little or nothing at all. But if anything catches my interest, then this power of sensitivity within me, this faculty of sensitivity within me, will bridge over the physical gap and something inside me will be seeing and seeing and seeing in a way which is quite different from the way in which a camera mechanically records, by virtue of so many electrical and light processes, what it is exposed to. There is a great difference. The camera will see. (They say that a camera does not lie. We’ll take it for granted that it does not lie, although we know ways and means of making it lie!) The camera does not lie, but the camera does not know the truth, nor can the camera communicate with another camera as to what the truth is! You and I can do that as living beings. This sensitivity is the very important part. This applies to all our senses and sense functioning. It also applies to our whole intellectual, our mental process. It also applies to that which transcends intellect.
Wherein is the root of all this? You have again and again heard me use the phrase One Total Reality. We have all heard, read words like God, Infinity, the Absolute and so on. We heard the word, we saw it in print, we are told it, and we nod in acquiescence with the word. But when the world was spoken to me how sensitive was I at that moment and afterwards? If my sensitivity had been a total, full sensitivity I would be in the position to say, “I and the Father are One”, as a simple fact, as simple a fact as saying, “My name is Phiroz Mehta.” But there is a barrier. The doors are perhaps only very slightly open, largely they are shut. So my sensitivity cannot go out fully to the Truth embodied in One Total Reality. The intellect, because it has been trained as a skilful machine, may say, because it can logically deduce it, “Yes, there is only One Total Reality.” But that is like your cinematographic film or your camera at work, a machine, not a live thing, not a living process.
Now to help make it a living process, we have tried out meditations of this sort. You remember what we called the Earth Meditation. Here we are, like this, at this moment. The time is a quarter to eight or whatever it is. This is our experience at the moment. In that part of the world which has the same time as this, namely our longitude on this side of the world (not the opposite side because they will have a quarter to eight in the morning, whereas we have it in the evening), so many thousands, so many millions of people will be undergoing this, that and the other activity. Supposing we move eastwards, we gradually can hold in our consciousness the fact that at this one moment here, if you take the whole world as such, all Mankind is doing each and everything that Man does in his lifetime, in his history. Somewhere there is a war, somewhere procreation is going on, somewhere people are eating, somewhere they are doing this, that and the other. The totality of human activity takes place simultaneously for every single moment of the Earth’s life. In conjuring up this fact before our mind’s eye in a particular meditative process is one step, but to be sensitive to the whole thing is something very different.
In being contented with the No-Thing one is in the state where there is no imposition of self upon a not-self. There is no conflict of self and not-self, because in the contentment with the No-Thing we have completely transcended all duality. This is a state of sensitivity which can be realized through meditation of this sort if the meditation is allowed to come alive. You cannot bring it alive deliberately by will, by desire, by trying to grasp what is wonderful. It is there. Just let it be and not intrude upon it.
Life, Truth, Reality cannot be grasped by us, it is totally impossible. Life, Truth, Reality live through us in perfection if we do not obstruct them. This is the way in which we have to be intelligent as far as living religiously, living the spiritual life is concerned. Otherwise we are living the worldly life, and at the very root of worldliness is the consciousness of self as opposed to, or in conflict with, or trying to master the not-self. If we appreciate this and if this sensitivity is allowed to come alive, then we never resist anything whatsoever. We interplay with it, we interact with it, but we interact and interplay free of all personal desire, of all personal conceptions of how the situation ought to be or ought to turn out. I, being a finite, limited mortal, cannot possibly conceive the perfect ought-to-be.
These are very deep things. One hears such statements with one’s ears, the intellect gets to work, but we must be sensitive to the word. Then the word becomes the Word of Power and it affects the transformation in your own inner living being, as well as in your outer life. If and when through one’s own sensitivity the Word of Power is released in one’s own being, it completely transforms it. If it comes from outside and one is wholly, totally open-minded, rightly receptive to it, then it comes into our own beings as a seed and releases from within ourselves our Word of Power, although we may still use the same word in the language which the other person used when speaking to us. This is the magic of it. If any one of us is able to release this sensitivity and go out in the fullness of that sensitivity into the One Total Reality, that one person becomes a centre of transformation of the whole world.
Has this not been illustrated in the lives of the great Teachers? Consider the world before the Holy Ones appeared on this planet, the Holy Ones who had realized Transcendence. Consider the life of this world. The Earth has been in travail all the time to give birth to such Holy Ones. Our Mother Earth has travailed for five thousand million years before such beings appeared on the Earth, the fruition of her travail. The Earth went though pain and sorrow and strife and struggle, but when these were born, there then came peace and love and beauty. We by the millions today are the inheritors of at least the words and the concept of peace and love and beauty which were unknown for the thousands of millions of years.
But look, touch, feel. This is a matter of sensitivity in each one of us. If the living sensitivity is there, we will see what a release it is, what freedom it is to let go all the forms of bondage, including the forms we heap upon ourselves with the idea that this form will release me, will liberate me. For if the sensitivity is there and alive then one realizes that oneself is the creator of the forms. They just emanate out of one and pass out of one. Instead of this we take these forms and make them cages for our bondage. This is the difference. If Transcendent Love and wisdom were not a reality, even the very little things that come out in our group meetings here would not come out. They cannot be produced to order. One cannot turn a tap, and, lo and behold!, wonderful ideas or thoughts spring out. It is not like that. It is because there is this living sensitivity which in itself is love and beauty and wisdom and goodness and purity. It is because this living sensitivity is all that, that such things happen, and it affects us, it changes us.
Now this is largely on the form side. When we try to let our sensitivity go out towards the whole Earth and all that is therein, it is a form. It is a collection of innumerable forms, humans, animals, trees, the weather, the phenomena which take place, the whole Earth, it is a form. It is a finite, limited particular. There is its counterpart, its counterpart which is not separate from the form. The counterpart of the finite is the Infinite, not another finite in this Transcendent religious sense. This is how it is. The counterpart of the form is the formless. The counterpart of the void is the plenitude. The counterpart of psycho-physical manifestation is Transcendent Mind, which is consciousness which cannot be defined, which has no characteristics, this pure awareness being, which is the real meaning of the word God, or Brahman, or whatever word you like. This we can also touch in terms of pure awareness. Sensitivity enables us to touch the One Total Reality in the language, in the terms of form. Pure awareness enables us to touch and be that One Total Reality, in terms of the form-less, the In-finite, the Un-bound, in terms of creative power which is Creation. If somehow you light up with this, that One Total Reality will always function through you unobstructedly.
“And the spirit of God moved over the face of the deep.” Do you get the feel of it suddenly now? He who wrote that realized things like this. That is how he was able to say it in so many words. Do not let the intellect try to get this. Let the intellect act merely as the receiving set, but let the sensitivity do the absorbing and the responding. Then the intellect will not obstruct, otherwise the intellect is bound to obstruct.
Now we will try this other far more profound and in a sense difficult, and in a sense the easiest meditation of pure being, or pure awareness. So do not seek to know anything, to discover anything; we only discover the finite. The Infinite finds us. The Infinite can do that with the finite. The finite, you or I, cannot do it with the Infinite.
By D. T. Suzuki
The truth of Zen is the truth of life, and life means to live, to move, to act, not merely to reflect … When I raise the hand thus, there is Zen. But when I assert that I have raised the hand, Zen is no more there.
The truth of Zen is the truth of life, and life means to live, to move, to act, not merely to reflect … When I raise the hand thus, there is Zen. But when I assert that I have raised the hand, Zen is no more there.
An essay written in 1964 by Phiroz Mehta for The Middle Way, extracted from Buddhahood
A babel of discordant voices murders peace:
‘I am an immortal soul…’ ‘I am a spark of God…’ ‘The body dies but my real Self goes on…’ ‘I am just this body and death means the end of all of me …’ ‘I am born over and over again until I reach salvation and finally rest in Nirvana…’ ‘I have only one life to live in this world and salvation can be won only through the grace of God’ — and so on and on.
But he who will sit at ease by the still waters and listen to the voice of the silence may meet the Beloved and realize the Deathless. There is no one here insensible to the cry of suffering. The very pursuit of happiness, of love and of success — and how wild that pursuit is! — proclaims the emptiness of the heart. Look with a compassionate eye and see the distress of the mind battling with the why and the wherefore of existence, with the problems of evil and of death. And who can fail to see the grim lordship of death? And what after death? An infinite dreary repetition of births that end only in death? Or is there a ray of light to feed hope?
But first taste more suffering, and still more, till there be no more suffering upon which to feed. Life cannot be bypassed by means of the treachery of consolatory fantasies posing as truth. Therefore listen in uttermost quiet and hear the soul of Mother Earth crying to Father Heaven that she can no longer bear the pain of man’s iniquity. Hear her crying for the fearless, invincible hero who will deliver her. Listen we must and with reverence, for we are the issue from earth’s side through heaven’s alchemy. And the assuaging of earth’s pain also spells our own healing. Listen again and hear the cry of the Son of Man, self-exiled from his home of splendour, the eternal light, suffering existence here in this realm of mortality, dominated by the Lord of Death.
And yet it was the will of the Supreme that sowed man into the cosmos: a seed of unimaginable promise, predestined to blossom into divine fulfilment. Speaking to his disciple, his son Tat, Hermes Trismegistus says that this seed is the true good and that the matter and the womb out of which man is born is the wisdom that listens in silence. The will of the Supreme then sowed man into the cosmos. This action is karma. Not understanding karma, unaligned with perfect action, man performs actions which produce suffering. But the divine action is the great sacrifice, the prototype of the ritual worship.
When Arjuna asks Śrī Kṛṣṇa, ‘What is karma?’ the incarnate Lord of the Universe answers, ‘That emanation of Brāhman which causes the creation of beings is action.’ Uddālaka Aruni, who uttered the great teaching tat twam asi (‘That Thou Art’), tells Yājñavalkya that once when he was studying the sacrifice he came to know Brāhman the Supreme.
This sacrifice, this action, this karma, goes on perpetually, or else the world would fall into ruin, as Śrī Kṛṣṇa declared. Even as the Upaniṣadic teachers spoke of Brāhman the Supreme, Thrice Greatest Hermes spoke of God. In the Hermetic teachings, the Supreme declares to the initiate after granting him a vision, ‘That Light am I, thy God, Mind. The Logos, the emanation of Mind, is the son of God. The vision of Me which thou seest in thy mind is thy archetypal form whose being is before beginning and without end.’ And he goes on to teach, ‘And God the Mind, being male and female, both as light and life subsisting, brought forth another mind, and this other mind formed seven rulers who enclose the Cosmos that the senses perceive. But All-Father mind being light and life did bring forth man, co-equal to himself, with whom he fell in love, as being his own child, for he was beautiful beyond compare, the image of his sire. In very truth God fell in love with his own form and on him did bestow all his own formations. After man-the-image-of-God-the-mind had learned the essence and become a sharer of the nature of the seven rulers, he desired to break through the boundary of the cosmos, the ring-pass-not, and subdue the might of that which pressed upon the fire here below, a creative energy of the material world. So when he presented himself, the divine form of perfect beauty, nature, smiling with love, wound herself completely round him, and he, beholding the form like unto himself reflected in the water of nature, loved it, willed to live in it and thus vivified the material form devoid of reason. Hence above all creatures on earth man is two-fold. Mortal because of the body, immortal because of the essential man.’
The Buddha also speaks of the essential man, sato sattassa, and declares emphatically that he has not taught the destruction of this essential man. The Hermetic teachings say further: ‘Though deathless and possessed of sway over all, yet does he suffer as a mortal doth, subject to fate.’ This ‘suffering as a mortal doth’ is karma in the sphere of mortality. This is the lesser karma, karma as equilibration, karma as the continuous emergence of the new situation, somewhat inadequately described as cause-and-effect. But when the mortal man here links himself with his divine prototype through fervent aspiration or the height of self surrendering devotion, through the light of wisdom which has penetrated into the beyond, or by a religious rite in which he actually reaches into the great sacrifice, or by the deliberate entry into the supreme ecstatic states in that profound contemplation which is perfect communion, then mortal man here performs the transcendent karma which wipes out a myriad sins and presses himself and all creation closer to the heart of the divine. This is the high office of the priest initiate, of the perfect holy one, of the true teacher.
A mortal’s capacity to do this is very limited. How has man here fallen from his God-like estate? How has man, the image of his Father God, Mind, changed from immortal life to mortal soul, from eternal light to temporal confused mind? In beautiful forms have Plato and Pythagoras, those great philosopher-initiates of ancient times, handed down the secret tradition. Through the star-encircled solitudes which form the boundary of the cosmos, the ring-pass-not, where the zodiac meets our galaxy, the immortal man, unitary and unconditioned, descends earthwards. In his descent, he, a monad, becomes a dyad. Pythagoras says, symbolically, ‘The sphere becomes elongated, like unto an egg or a pine cone.’ In his Timaeus, Plato teaches that the world-soul and the individual soul are indivisible regarded from the standpoint of the simplicity of their divine nature. When the soul is drawn towards the body it experiences a disturbance because of matter flowing into it. In his Phaedo, Plato says that the soul is drawn to the body, staggering with recent intoxication. And a symbol of this mystic secret is that starry cup of Bacchus, the constellation Krater, placed in the expanse between the constellations Leo and Cancer. The intoxication first caused here by the influx of matter causes the loss of memory of our divine origin. Some souls lose their memory more than others; they are more intoxicated. When true memory becomes clouded, fantastic opinions arise and their clash is the cacophony of Babel.
Perhaps we can now discern the sweep of karma. Transcendentally, the divine action, the great sacrifice, is the realm of the immortal, of endless light. There is no good and evil here. In the sphere of mortality, however, the battleground of good and evil, karma in the lesser sense operates. Here, we are the victims of karma and also the ordainers of our own karma. When we have the good sense to alter our sights and steer our course back to our true home, we become the masters of karma, till at last, in the beatitude of ever-present enlightenment, the lesser karma stands still for ever.
The mechanism of the operation of karma is rebirth. Like karma, rebirth has its lesser and greater aspects. Transcendentally, life is everlasting; mind knows no break, no oscillation between seemingly unrelated opposites. In the spheres of mortality, life is in disequilibrium, for here our minds experience a break, the memory of our transcendent origin is lost and we wander aimlessly for a long time. But tread the path to liberation and the disequilibrium becomes transformed into the equanimity of harmonious integration. Our mind, attuned to the All Mind, now experiences no break but is fully awake to the continuous emergence of the whole situation through the succession of births and deaths. Bondage to the round of mortality is no more. The lesser rebirth has given place to the greater rebirth, the resurrection and ascension into the transcendent reality. One other greater rebirth there is — the appearance of great teachers who are recognised as divine incarnations (avatars).
Love is the motive power of all. If love is merely desire for the things of matter, if it is taṇhā, the thirst for sentient existence, then man stays in darkness, whirling in the painful round of saṃsāra. But if this love is the will to enlightenment, if it is the true love of God, the irresistible urge for liberation, then man becomes the knower of himself, of himself as he is here, the mortal, and of himself the essential man, the immortal. The thirst for sentient existence is one root cause of saṃsāra. The other root cause is the ignorance of the way of home returning, and especially the ignorance of that supreme promise, pregnant in the unequivocal affirmation by the Buddha, that suffering can be extinguished.
What now is saṃsāra? Rebirth is most difficult to understand but, if it can be well understood, we hold in our hands a power of knowledge to help us cross over to the blest isle of the deathless. First, some of the names by which saṃsāra’s cycle goes — rebirth, reincarnation, transmigration, metensomatosis, palingenesis, metempsychosis, and so on. Rebirth will be sufficient for our purposes. Next let us look at some of the obstructions to the understanding of rebirth. These are neatly summed up in the terse perplexity of the statement, ‘but I can’t remember my past lives’: a statement which embodies the two basic problems of memory and personality. With regard to memory, is it not asking too much to remember past lives, when our near past and especially our infancy are too dim to be reliable? And if we cultivate our memory by means of trustworthy disciplines, or if we have memories released by scientific means which take us back as far as our birth or even back into the womb, we come to a full stop with our conception, because we say, ‘I began when my mother conceived me.’
But how accurate is this statement? Our pronouns, he, she, and so on, are convenient words for use in a rough and ready sense only. If it be conceded that the heart in this body be part of me and not of you, then my mother, when the foetus was in her womb, could claim that it was part of her. So too, my father’s claim that the fertilizing sperm was part of him would have to be conceded. And if we pursue this line further and further backwards, where would ‘I’ be then? Where indeed would my father and mother and all my forbears be? Ah, but you are a separate, distinct individual after parturition. Am I? When I suckle my mother’s breasts, when I drink of a flowing stream, or eat a peach off a tree, or breathe the air here present, is a ‘not me’ becoming ‘me’? Is my son ‘me’, is his son ‘me’? Surely it is clear our pronouns are but convenient linguistic tools. They do not, any more than terms, ‘body’, ‘feeling’, ‘mind’, etc., represent any permanent changeless entity. All the elements composing the human creature, the existential man, are impermanent and in ceaseless flux. Nothing in the empirical context will outlast sufficiently far-reaching analysis. Every single thing dissolves into no-thing, into voidness.
Conversely, out of that very void, out of the no-thing, emerges the thing, the temporary phenomenon. The void is indeed the plenitude. You and I are temporary, mortal, emergences out of the not-temporal, undifferentiated, no-thing. You and I have no absolute beginning or birth, no absolute end or death. There is no absolute I or you which has a series of lives, each life being regarded as a separate, distinct entity.
And yet this continuous stream of myriads of lives of appearances. Behold the mystery of Māyā, the universal play of the void-plenitude pretending to be Reality! And in this play, which goes round and round, each manifestation refers to itself as ‘I’ and to others as ‘they’ — unavoidable and useful in the empirical context. And each ‘I’ in some form or other is ineradicably convinced of its deathlessness, of its indissoluble unity with the transcendent, a conviction indispensable for the dissolution of the ego or the ‘I’, and its final triumphant at-onement with its immortal source.
Our ordinary feeling of personality, as also of our self-conception, arises from our conditioning from infancy. Ignorance plays the dominant role here. Freedom from the egoistic misperception of our true being and from the egocentricity of daily living begins when religious discipline enables us to see ourself and all other selves personally, impersonally and trans-personally. Thereby our minds function not only in terms of ‘thing’ consciousness, which is separative, but also in terms of ‘no-thing’ consciousness, which correctly relates ‘thing’ to its original undifferentiation. In the harmony of ‘thing’ consciousness and ‘no-thing’ consciousness, we realize the unity of the whole. For then we see the infinite variety of particulars in perfect relationship to each other.
Thus out of the ‘no-thing’ there emerges the body, out of the void comes the mind. Back to the void go the body and the mind. So we can understand the succession of births and deaths as the patterning and dissipating of material and mental forces in accord with karmic law. The law is quite simple. All the forces at play, material and mental, tend towards a resultant. But to see this patterning and dissipating in its endless variation of detail is too difficult for mortal vision to follow. The pattern is so vast and complicated, human ability so limited.
Let us recall two or three of the statements which have been made in the past regarding what happens after death. A careful consideration of them will indicate why it took me over thirty years to begin to understand rebirth.
Hermes says, ‘If the soul persists in vice, it tastes neither the deathless nor the good but speeding back again it turns into the path that leads to creeping things.’ He also adds that the soul’s vice is ignorance. Its virtue is gnosis, for the good and pious one who knows is already divine while still living in the world. How close all this is to the Indian teachings. For the Upaniṣads also speak of those of evil conduct being reborn as dogs, swine, outcasts and so on. They also speak of the liberated ones while still in the body on earth. In Plato’s Timaeus, Er the Pamphylian describes his vision where he saw the soul of Telamonian Ajax choose the body of a lion, Agamemnon of an eagle, Atlanta of an athlete, Thersites of an ape. These probably would have to be interpreted symbolically, not literally.
How far the Greeks accepted transmigration and so on we are not quite certain.
But how can we, possessed of the faculties which we have at present, verify such statements for ourselves? For most of us, whirling around in the maelstrom of mortality, rebirth may be intellectually acceptable only as a reasonable theory or it may be implicitly believed in pure faith.
And yet, there is a succession of births and deaths which every one of us experiences here. Throughout our life, from the moment our body is born until the hour of our death, there is a series of states of mind, actions and events, which begin, proceed and pass away. Each has its birth, its little life and its death. We are conscious of this series as a succession of births and deaths. The Maitri Upaniṣad states that, ‘Saṃsāra is just one’s own thought … By making mind motionless, from sloth and distraction free, when unto mindlessness one comes, then that is the supreme estate’ (6. 34); and the Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad also states that, ‘When the fluctuations of the mind cease, the cycle of births and deaths comes to an end’ (1. 42). This succession is quite easy to see, for there is the linking factor of self-consciousness, ‘I am I,’ as we say, persisting through the whole series.
But now, what happens to this organic memory, what happens to self-consciousness when the organism dies? It is taught in some of the great religions that the death of the organism spells the obliteration of visual consciousness, tactile consciousness and so on. Organic memory disappears. All that is rooted in the physical senses vanishes. The ‘I am I’ self-consciousness is utterly wiped out. But it is taught that the overriding mental consciousness, which contains within itself the extracted essence of the total past, persists and carries over into rebirth, although the strands of connection between the death of A and the subsequent birth of B are not visible to us. Can we develop faculties which would enable us to see these threads of connection? Or is there an unusual type of memory which can be awakened, not developed in the way that memory as a faculty of the psycho-physical organism is developed?
The answer to this question takes us into the realm of the greater rebirth. The discipline of the holy life purifies the mind and the body of the initiate. It develops his power of concentrated attentiveness, undreamed of by any non-practisant of the discipline. It enables him to enter profound modes of consciousness, not open to investigation by the non-practisant, however learned or clever he may be. In these deep modes the yogi or mystic is aware in non-analytical terms. He understands and sees supra-sensually without the use of discursive thought or words. He enters the deep state beyond speech and mind, as the Upaniṣads taught, beyond all feeling and perception, as the Buddha taught, in fully awake, concentrated attentiveness.
This transcendent mode of awareness is the true Superconsciousness in which he whose mortal body is known by a human name has consciously at-oned himself with that essential man, the emanation of mind mentioned earlier. This essential man has been the silent watcher through the ages. The Sāṃkhya teaching of India postulated the puruṣa, this being that is beyond all that can be predicated here. It postulated also prakṛiti, primordial nature. Puruṣa stimulates prakṛiti simply by being the transcendent presence. Then primordial nature stirs and her stirring becomes the awesome and wondrous activity of universal process, whether it be the ring dance of atoms or the outstreaming of stupendous galaxies, the eruption of Erebus or the flowering of a rose, the devilish blackening of a soul or the triumphant ascent into the light of Nirvana. All of it emerges out of primordial nature. When the final disjunction with matter has been realized, the puruṣa is once more itself like the pure essence of mind of Buddhist teaching. This being is the same silent watcher sung also in the Ṛgveda, and taught in the Kaṭha, the Muṇḍaka and Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣads. Two birds with fair wings have found a refuge in the same sheltering tree. One of them eats the sweet fig tree’s fruit; the other, eating not, looks on. From such holy communion the perfected saint returns to the human plane bringing with him the light and powers of the Supreme, in so far as such powers may function here.
Since the purification of heart and mind is perfect, and concentrated attentiveness in perfect equanimity reaches the depth of freedom from all form, either material or mental, one of those powers is the power to summon before his mind the total past. This is not organic memory where the time factor operates. It is whole awareness by unified mind. We can do little more through words than ring a bell in someone who has already had some genuine experience of this as a result of right discipline or by gift of grace. This memory of all the lives is the vision of the total mortal body of appearances with which the transcendent has associated itself. A person’s power to do this while living in the body means also the power to relinquish bodily manifestation for ever at will. It also means the power to go through the portals of death in full consciousness. His organic form-dependent memory vanishes but his transcendental recognition of his divine origin comes fully alight. He is indeed the enlightened one. He has refound his pristine divinity. He has at last seen his Original Face.
That concentrated attentiveness, which began as a dim glow enclosed in the mortal vesture of mind and body, now moves out of the last incarnation, out of the boundary, the ring-pass-not, into the splendour and plenitude of boundless light. This greater rebirth which is the ascent into the immortal real is the ultimate fruit of all the suffering in saṃsāra.
And he who is reborn into his divine state listening to the cry of the soul of the earth, listening to the cry of suffering humanity, can re-appear in the world to redeem it in the ripeness of the divine circumstance.
From the Dhammapada (trs. Juan Mascaró)
Continued from part 1 and part 2
Continued in part 4
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