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The Phiroz Mehta Trust March 2021 Newsletter

Cover of the Phiroz Mehta Trust March 2021 Newsletter

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A Portrait of Phiroz

By The Editor

The writer and researcher Dr. Richard Shillitoe recently came upon a portrait of Phiroz in the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull.

It is the work of Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988), who was well-known as a painter, poet and author, her work being associated with Surrealism in the 1930s. Her paintings were exhibited in major art galleries and the Tate Gallery has acquired a large body of her artwork.

Portrait of Phiroz Mehta by Ithell Colquhoun

Ithell Colquhoun was deeply interested in the occult and undertook a great deal of research. It is probable that she met Phiroz at the Quest Society, founded by G. R. S. Mead, the writer and theosophist.

The portrait was painted in 1932, and is a good likeness of Phiroz as a young man.

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Freedom from Illusory Image-Making (I)

A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 14th July 1973

From the time we are born we are conditioned by all the influences around us. We say that we are a body-mind organism or a psycho-physical being. The physical aspect of it we understand fairly well. The mental aspect is still something of which we are very ignorant. The physical body consists of what we commonly call matter. It is a specialised pattern of matter made out of the universal matter that is spread throughout the cosmos. They are the same elements, the same energies, electrical or chemical or whatever it is, they all operate in each of us as a physical living pattern. The physical aspect, the mental aspect similarly is our particular pattern of mental expression out of the universal Mind which pervades the whole cosmos. This is something we forget, all the time, and we certainly live our lives as perfect evidence that we do not know anything about this at all. We say my feelings, my thoughts, my desires as if they were particular, separate possessions exclusively our own. Nothing of the sort. Just as the air we breathe is the universal air around us, we cannot pick and choose which oxygen or nitrogen etc. we shall breathe in and what will happen to the air we breathe out. We simply cannot choose where the mind is concerned. Out of the universal stock which is Mind, this unknown mystery, there take place processes which we call mental and psychical processes. Purely for convenience, we may say my mind. But in actual fact there is no such thing as my mind. This vast universal Mind energy meeting body in the human being, in living creatures, gives rise to what we call psyche. Psyche and Mind are not identical. Psyche specifically distinguishes the pattern which you yourself display of this universal thing which is Mind, just as your own particular body is the physical pattern which you display out of this universal thing which is matter.

What is one of the extraordinary aspects of this mysterious reality which we name Mind? It is immeasurable, it is indefinable. We cannot hold it, we do not really, to use the common word, know what it is. It is in its natural fundamental state absolutely perfect, it is at peace, it is quiescent, it is alive in the mental sense, not in our biological sense merely. It is quiescent, poised, dynamic, active — a paradox. But there it is. It is a great mystery, and this mystery enters into our being and makes itself at least slightly apparent to us in those moments when we ourselves are in the state of inward poise and quiet.

What is it that distinguishes our state of unquiet, our lack of poise? It is the continuous flow of discursive thought, of silent chatter in the brain. You look at the mind. Just watch yourself whilst you are awake. That brain never stops chattering. None of the monkeys can compete with us where that is concerned! There is this incessant perpetual chatter. Consider what this chatter is made out of. First and foremost it is totally centred round the word I, that marvellous misperception of the true nature of our being, the word I and its associations in our own mind. It is centred round all that. Next, all this chattering is confined to words which express that which is stored up in the deep well of the unconsciousness in terms of sight impressions, sound impressions, touch impressions and so forth, in other words the impressions which we receive through our senses. The impressions which we receive through our senses in the first instance are absolutely pure and true impressions, but within a fraction of a second they are spoilt. How are they spoilt? From birth onwards all these impressions, which at first are only percepts and not concepts at all, are gradually given names, that it is to say, words are used, sounds are used in whatever your particular language may be, to mean that percept, to mean that sensation. And so the thing in itself recedes into the background and the concept begins to take its place. But the concept is an image, made by my brain in what I commonly call my mind.

This image-making faculty characterises us, and the images are made out of the mental material which we receive through our senses. You see the point. There is only a certain limited amount of mental material which comes into us, that which comes into us through our particular senses. This living organism, this human being, is restricted to that. Nature has made him so that he cannot escape that. Supposing we had twenty, a hundred different senses, think of the oceans of impressions that would be flowing into us. Just with these few senses that we have, these images are made in the mind and they are named, and the brain’s activity is ceaseless, it goes on chattering away all the time, and the images which we make falsify the actual reality of the thing in itself. The thing in itself, the event in itself, the person in himself or herself I don’t know. I only know my particular image of it. My brain keeps chattering and playing about with the thing all the time.

This is one great meaning of the word māyā, meaning illusion. These images are partly, in fact very considerably, false representations, re-presentations, of the reality. It is a curious thing that even in India, where they did know something about this to start with, they have made curious mistakes and they have said that the whole world is an illusion. No, nothing is an illusion. There is the One Total Reality which is no illusion at all. But my image of it is an illusory image. This is what we must bear in mind, that the way in which we are conscious of the world is an illusory way. There are flaws in the images in our minds, considerable flaws.

To make the situation far more complicated and difficult, there is the intrusion of desire. Desire bedevils the whole situation, and that formulated desire is the brain’s interpretation of the natural, physical, electro-chemical processes in the living body. The structure of the living body, your particular brain and nerves and ductless glands and blood, all that is responsible for the particular formulation of your desires and your drives, together with all the forces around, parents, friends, teachers, education, culture, the actual material and historical situation, all these condition the form which that desire takes. So you see how unfree we are, how bound we are. One has to see this very very clearly. Be careful, do not think that to see clearly means to give an absolutely accurate analysis. Such a thing is not possible at all. Who is the analyser? The conditioned deluded mind, that is the analyser. You have to bear that in mind. Bearing that in mind, we see that the process of seeing clearly means that we have to remain open-minded, totally open-minded, and as quiet as possible, because then the succession of stimuli and impulses which come to us from outside or emerge from within us, has a chance of making something of a true impression, and gradually we begin to see the flaws, the falsities of our own thinking process, our feeling process and so on. As this goes on, this chattering begins to calm down. Then you are in a state of observation. You do not go floundering about wildly searching for the truth. If you just keep quiet, the truth will make itself apparent, because you do not have to go there to find truth, it is right here. The very fact that I trouble to go there creates such a swirl that I fail to see the truth. You are like a crazy coot who, in the company of a hundred lovely girls one of whom is your sweetheart, goes rushing about among them. “Where’s my sweetheart? Where’s my sweetheart?” And you’ll miss her! Just be quiet and very soon before you know where you are you will see each other! Be sensible, the most difficult thing in the world is to be sensible. So you see all this causes a disturbance.

The religious disciplines of the world, which are concerned with getting us out of this mess, with disentangling us from this state of cruel entanglement, have given certain general suggestions as to how one might see one’s way through this maze. I want to read you something, just a few sentences, from this book Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, which has the translation of several Tibetan texts. This particular text is called The Nirvana Path. Dealing with the subject of concentrating the mind it says, “There are three processes involved in concentrating the mind: The instantaneous cutting off of a thought at the root the very moment it arises; second, leaving unshaped whatever concept or idea appears; third, letting the mind assume its natural condition of absolute quiescence, a condition which is the perfect condition, the universal condition. It is in fact the Nirvanic condition where no ill is present or can penetrate.”

First and foremost this statement about concentration of the mind. Concentration is a bad word. One immediately thinks in terms of constriction, of shutting out, of excluding everything except that which you concentrate upon. But universal mind itself is not like that, it is universal mind, there is nothing excluded in it! The Sanskrit word used is ekaggatā, and the other word is samādhi. Samādhi is the word which is usually translated as concentration, which it is not. Samādhi really is the complete togetherness. Ekaggatā is translated as one-pointedness. No, ekaggatā really is in actual fact the being unified. We talked a little bit about the various senses. If you watch your mental processes for even five minutes, you will see how all the different sense consciousnesses (that is to say the sight consciousness, the touch consciousness etc.) they all clamour for supremacy as far as your attention is concerned. They are like children in the classroom who shout out, “Sir, sir, sir, sir,” everyone clamouring for attention. It is somewhat like that. In that state the mind is in disorder, but when that is quietened down the mind is in a unified condition. It is not exclusive in any respect — ekaggatāmade one. If you translate the English term one-pointed, in that sense you have got the right sense of it. The mind is unified, and in that unified state it is possible to realize the complete togetherness, in other words you may use the English word communion, which is far nearer the reality of samādhi, total communion. The isolative, separative self-consciousness has ceased to cut you off from the Totality. You are in full relationship with it, in harmony with it, whatever the Total Reality may be. It is not necessary at all to know it in words. This sensitivity within the living being which is pure awareness is now functioning utterly freely, unhindered, unobstructed by all the intellectual chatter which goes on inside one. That is pure awareness, that is the state of samādhi.

This is what he is referring to when he talks of concentrating and so forth, first and foremost, instantaneous cutting off of a thought at the root the very moment it arises. The Upaniṣads talk about it. The Muktikopaniṣad (Mukti means liberation, the liberated state) says, “The moment an idea arises, destroy the mind.” Of course anyone reading that feels a bit terrified, or, if he does not feel terrified, he says, “This is very funny. How do you destroy the mind?” The second and the third follow from the first actually.

Let us look into this first aspect. “The cutting off of a thought the instant it arises.” Can you do it? You will only find that you have replaced it by another thought. You cannot cut off the thinking process, just as you cannot and should not stop the flowing of the blood throughout the body, otherwise you will die. It is the same with the thought process, the mental activity. There is a right and a healthy flow, and there is the unhealthy flow which produced the disturbed state, the unhappy state, the ill state, dukkha as we say in Buddhist terms, bandha as we say in Hindu terms, bondage in straightforward English, misery, the awareness of the pain of the absence of communion.

It might be best that we go into this in a practical manner. Let the body be perfectly poised, sit quite comfortably at ease, and let all strains and stresses just fall away. Breathe comfortably and see that all tension, first in the abdominal region, releases (this is where one gets tight first) and the pelvic region. Let the movement of the diaphragm as you breathe in and out be perfectly rhythmic and gentle. It is not a case of breathing deeply, or anything like that. Just breathe naturally, let your own life rhythm establish itself… You may notice that, as that life rhythm establishes itself, the discursive thought process in the brain quietens down. The state of tenseness in the psyche gives place to a state of ease. This if properly done is a real ease and not a case of self-hypnosis. You are really at ease in the psyche. When one is really at ease psycho-physically as a whole, then it is possible for the extraordinary faculty which we human beings possess of paying attention can operate without obstruction.

Now one can fruitfully pay attention to the thought process. Just watch the flow of thought through the mind. It may be a logical stream of thought or it may be just haphazard. One flits from some sight impression to a touch impression, to a memory, to anything. Now just cotton on, hold hard to any one particular impression or thought as it arises right now, and let us look at it quite steadily, this particular thought. Keep the set of words which is the verbal expression of that thought clearly in your mind, really hold on to them. Examine which sense impression has played the dominant part in that particular set of words. Are they concerned by something you have seen, touched, heard, whatever it is? As you look at it, do not pass judgement upon it, neither approval nor disapproval, and above all be as free as possible from all attachment or aversion from that particular thought or sense function. Just look at it. Look at it not merely coldly, intellectually, but with as warm a sensitivity as you are capable of. By that I do not mean any emotional upset. “Watch carefully,” “I can’t bear it,” “Isn’t it awful,” “Isn’t it wonderful,” and you get caught up in an ecstasy. For they are all disturbing factors. But it is a warm sensitivity which has no words or analysis involved in it plus the cool, intellectual, analytical perception at the same time. Now just hold that for a few moments. Some of us may find a difficulty in holding it. It slips away or other thoughts intrude. They intrude pushing this thought out somewhat after the fashion of a crowd behind one which pushes one along in a certain direction willy-nilly. It is something like that sometimes. But just observe what happens… Next observe the quality of that particular thought. What does it express, what is it derived from? Is it related to the activity of omission, or greed, or annoyance or depression, or a mood of exaltation or vanity or conceit or whatever it is inside me? Just observe what is its root… And in this observation we may discover that ignorance and the pleasure drive are two of the most powerful factors in this movement of all our discursive thought…

What is the significance of this? Is it not very simply that we are all self-centred? All the pleasure drive is for the sake of the self, that is to say for the separate self, the self cut off from the Totality. It is not too difficult to see that, but it is rather difficult to see the real meaning of the word ignorance, avidyā, in this context. Ignorance means the state of un-awakedness, of unawareness of the nature, the immensity, the fullness as well as the voidness of the Totality. This is the important point. This is ignorance. Being unawakended to Totality, to the whole Reality, all sorts of thoughts and feelings just arise which are self-oriented and which express the disturbance of the mind. They express the non-unified disharmonious state which is the ill state, the sub-human state. But the moment there is some sort of quiescence and harmony throughout the psycho-physical organism, the flow of discursive thought which will naturally take place will be seen like a river flowing past with yourself sitting quietly on one of the banks. Notice the whole phenomenon very carefully. Beware of wishing to change the phenomenon, wishing it otherwise. “I wish I were harmonious, unified, etc.” All that is useless, not only useless, but the wish in itself, desire, is itself self-oriented. This exclusive self is the very devil in us. Try and be aware as sensitively as possible and in a state of as perfect a poise as possible as you hear the words. Be very sensitive to them, that is the important thing. Otherwise the brain with its usual superficiality will just set up a whole lot of concepts, the outward skin of the potato, the peelings, and preserve them, and throw away the potato.

Be sensitive therefore to it and then you get to the heart of the thing, and thereby understand this curious state of ignorance in which we are all caught up. This is the great darkness through which every individual has to find his own way out. When I say own way, I mean the way out through his own rightly directed effort, what the Buddha called perfect endeavour, not misdirected endeavour. All endeavour directed towards obtaining for the separate self is a misspent effort.

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Zen Meditation — Chapter 13 Extension

By Ron Martin

An extension to Chapter 13 of Ron’s free book Zen Meditation

A Personal Introduction

I repeat my thanks to those who have provided questions for the follow-up to my book on Zen Meditation. In attempting the answers I have drawn as much as possible on the writings of others, and due acknowledgement is given in such cases. I have not revealed anything not known about for centuries, even though the method of presentation is my own. It is this fresh approach, helped by the advancement in human knowledge over the past century, that I hope will stimulate the reader’s interest, but once again it has to be stressed that the limitations of language restrict how far one can go in explaining the inner meaning of Zen. This inner meaning can come only from meditation.

Little can be said about how and why Zen meditation works, but it is worth bearing in mind that Zen is very much about the Here and Now as being the only reality. This has been emphasised by all the Zen masters, and their constant attempts to bring their pupils back to the reality of the moment is shown in all their works. This is precisely what happens when one concentrates on the ticking of a clock. Unlike random thoughts and memories, which are ephemeral and no more than just thoughts, this meditational experience is absolutely real and self-less. (i.e. One is not conscious of a self having an experience, it is just experience).

Apart from the quotation of Albert Einstein I gave in my book, I avoided writing about spirituality, even though it is at the heart of Zen and of Buddhism as a whole, and is what makes Buddhism a religion and not merely a philosophy. The question is, how can one define spirituality in a meaningful way? The only answer I can give is that it is that which refers to life and consciousness and so enables us to experience the ultimate unity of everything that exists. (I do not use the word ‘spirit’ because this implies that there is an entity, independent of our selves. It also leads to belief in ‘good’ and ‘evil’ spirits, at which point we become hopelessly bogged down in dualism).

Clearly there is something special about a living organism, whether it be a plant or an animal, that sets it apart from inanimate matter. Computers are now at a stage of development where they can out-perform the best chess players in the world and the most brilliant of mathematicians, but they are no more conscious of what they do than any other inanimate object, so it is not a question of complexity — the tiny, single cell amoeba is far more amazing than any computer. If a living organism has consciousness this is an even greater attribute, and it is extended still further in the level of consciousness we have as human beings. To go beyond this by creating a new dualism (i.e. a God ‘out there’) inevitably encounters insuperable contradictions, yet still leaves us with a mystery and possibly leading to erroneous claims of certainty and to fundamentalism which, in its extreme form, results in the suicide bomber.

Finally, I would like to state what, for me, is the most important revelation that came from meditating. It is to understand, at gut feeling level, the difference between reincarnation and Re-Birth. It was the Buddha’s Enlightenment on this point that set him apart from the prevailing beliefs of his time. It was Anatman, as against Atman, that was and is the basis of Buddhism.

Questions and Answers

How did the illusion of time arise and how can we know it is an illusion?

Time, as we perceive it in our everyday lives, is totally dualistic (e.g. then and now; today and tomorrow, etc.) but when the Here and Now is experienced in meditation as the only reality there is no perception of time. It is, therefore, duality that gives rise to the illusion of time. This duality is concomitant with our perception that grass is green (see Chapter 2) whereas the colour is actually a creation of the mind and is not in the grass. It is due to our belief that there is a self that has an experience and an object that is experienced, without realising that the two are one and the same. As stated in Chapter 3, there is not a me having an experience, I am the experience.

Phiroz Mehta dealt with this in one of his lectures, when he related time to our perception of universal creation:

People regard the pulse of creation and the production of a new universe somewhat after the fashion of rearranging the furniture in a room, using the old stuff. No, primordial creative activity is totally new all the time. The word ‘pulse’ also brings in the feeling of time, but time as we know it just does not exist. (My emphasis)

What is the relationship between the Here and Now and our personal impression of time, which seems just as real?

Once again we are considering the difference between the reality of appearances and the reality of the Absolute. (The former is that grass appears to be intrinsically green, whereas the latter clearly indicates that this is not so, as explained in Chapter 2). I have a photograph of myself when I was four years old, and there is no apparent link between what I was then and what I am now. Every part of my body has changed over the years and my mind has no apparent link either. I do, of course, have vague memories of childhood, but none of them have any link with this photograph. However, Karma does provide one link and this can be hinted at by using the analogy of a motor car. Supposing that, over many years, each part of a car is replaced by a new part, eventually nothing of the old car would remain. So, would we have a new car? If the procedure had been carried out to the full the Absolute Reality is that we would end up with a different car, but the impression we would have is that we still have the same car. Furthermore, the character of the car (equivalent to our genetic characteristics) would remain unaltered.

This analogy can also be used to illustrate the difference between Zen and other forms of Buddhism. The follower of Zen would say that even if we change only a single spark plug we have a different car and that this is just one moment in a continuous process of change, whereas the others would say that it is not until all parts of the car had changed that anything significant had altered. Both are experiencing the same events and both points of view are valid, but because they see things from a different perspective they appear (but only appear) to be a long way apart.

You state in your book that when we die the brain ceases to function and consciousness comes to an end. With the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta this must mean that the end is total. How, then, can the doctrine of Re-Birth function?

What ceases is the individual person as a self-conscious entity. In his book, The Oakroom Talks on Buddhism, Phiroz Mehta is quoted as saying:

The Buddha himself clearly indicated that this thing called personality, this existential being is a perishable thing, and it is totally perishable, nothing remains. That abstraction completely disappears when the brain disappears.

Perhaps this can best be illustrated by considering the brain in greater detail. The brain is, in fact, a lump of flesh, a special kind of flesh it’s true, but not fundamentally different to that which makes up the rest of our bodies. How is it, then, that this lump of flesh can think and experience the world ‘out there’? Well, I submit that it doesn’t. I put forward the view that the brain is like a telephone exchange. When you lift up the receiver the voice that you hear does not originate at the exchange, yet without the exchange there would be no voice. As with the brain, faults at the exchange can give rise to all sorts of malfunctions. An intermittent fault, or a bad line, could distort the message; a more serious fault could cut off the voice altogether. This is similar to what happens when a person is still alive but brain dead.

Re-Birth functions at the point where the process of living begins. Were it not for it being a continuous process, with no beginning and no end, it could be likened to a ‘spark’ that starts the whole process off. It is the spiritual side of our being, but it is important to bear in mind that it is ‘choicelessly aware’ (as Phiroz Mehta put it) and is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ in the moral sense — it just is. It is not until the ego arises some time after birth — the belief that we are separate entities — that dualism comes about and we get the whole paraphernalia of desires and apparent choices, such as the choice between good and evil. If you think this is far-fetched then simply accept the challenge to choose between being perfect and being less than perfect and see what happens. (Oh, if only we could choose to be perfect!) On page 20 of my book I illustrate this with a comparison between a bitch suckling its pups and an Enlightened One helping a person in distress. As mentioned above, Re-Birth is happening all the time, and this is why the Here and Now is eternal and therefore timeless.

You write that you have not revealed anything new, but surely using the ticking of a clock as a source for meditation is new — I have not come across this before.

The sources of sound are virtually infinite, so each one of us is capable of using a source that has not been used before. But, using sound, as such, for meditation is not new. Vipassana meditation requires awareness of thoughts, sounds, smells and sensations as they happen. In other words, it is simply being aware of the Here and Now, of which sound is one manifestation. Because the ticking of a clock is continuous I find it particularly useful in this respect, though others may find a visual source better. In the chapters on Practical Meditation I give reasons why a sound source offers the best prospect of getting beneficial results.

In Chapter 5 you dealt with the question of desire in relation to the ego, but since,as you put it, desire is essential for the continuation of life on earth I cannot see how we can overcome desire without foregoing the continuation of life.

Desire functions in two forms and this was illustrated when I described the process of learning to ride a bicycle. On the one hand it can be said that desire plays a part, because without the wish to learn we would not even begin, so this form of desire has an essential role, but it is when we wish to learn to do something in order to achieve an unrelated goal that the other form of desire enters into it. For instance, if we want to learn to ride a bicycle in order to prove our superiority over someone else this kind of desire is not only unrelated to the former but actually reinforces the ego, instead of overcoming it. This latter form of desire also functions when we choose between something our ego does not like (that filthy dustbin and the noise of jet engines) and what we imagine to be an ideal world. Such an ideal world simply does not exist, nor can it exist as a product of the ego. It is in Zen meditation that we come round to accepting this, to such an extent that we see and hear something as if sight and hearing were given to us afresh. Phiroz Mehta put it thus:

“There will be incidental consequences, for instance, you never saw such a red before or such a golden yellow before or something like that, and yet it is the same red and same yellow and so on. That is an incidental result. But there is another result. When the brain is choicelessly aware, choicelessly active, then it does not offer any resistance to Pure Mind functioning through the brain.”

This Pure Mind he refers to is not our minds, it is transcendent to our individual selves, or egos; it is the Essence of Mind, as proclaimed by Hui Hai and Huang Po or, as we more commonly portray it in Buddhism, the Buddha Mind.

Zen Notes

In the process of compiling both the original book and this extension I acquired a number of quotes and extracts from other works. Some relate to questions that could have been asked but were not, but all are relevant to the subject of Zen meditation, and so I feel are worth recording under this separate heading.

  1. In Chapter 2 I pointed out that matter does not exist independently of consciousness, since the ‘building blocks’ of matter (e.g. electrons and protons) do not have a physical existence but are merely charges, which become manifest only through the operation of Mind. The Nobel Prize winning physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, supports this thesis by showing that an electron can be in two places and two states at the same time. This could not happen with something having a physical presence in space.
  2. The Way of Zen (by Prof. Alan W. Watts) page 218 (paraphrased) states that the application of Zen does not absolutely require the specific ‘sitting technique’ of za-zen proper. The late Dr. Kunihiko Hashida, a life-long student of Zen and editor of the works of Dogen, never used formal za-zen.
  3. The Way of Zen (page 220). The Sixth Patriarch (Hui Neng) says in the T’an-ching when referring to the Here and Now:

    In this moment there is nothing which ceases to be. Thus there is no birth-and-death to be brought to an end. Wherefore the absolute tranquillity (of Nirvana) is the present moment. Though it is at this moment there is no limit to this moment, and herein is eternal delight.

    Alan Watts concludes:

    Yet, when it comes to it, this moment can be called ‘present’ only in relation to past and future, or to someone to whom it is present. But when there is neither past nor future, and no-one to whom this moment is present, what is it? When Fa-ch’ang was dying, a squirrel screeched on the roof. ‘It’s just this’, he said, ‘and nothing else’.

  4. From The Voice of the Silence (by H.P. Blavatsky) we get, on page 31:

    Desire nothing. Chafe not at Karma, nor at nature’s changeless laws. But struggle only with the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the perishable.

    And on page 44:

    Avert thy face from world deceptions; mistrust thy senses, they are false. But within thy body — the shrine of thy sensations — seek in the impersonal for the Eternal Man; and having sought him out, look inward; thou art Buddha.

    This extract could so easily be misinterpreted, and Phiroz Mehta dealt with it on page 6 of The Oakroom Talks on Buddhism:

    Unfortunately several religious philosophies decry the senses — ‘Beware the senses’! They say Buddha taught that, but he didn’t. He said, ‘Beware of the pleasures of the senses’ He very definitely taught to use the senses rightly; when you look, look and see what you are seeing, be aware of it actually and not imaginarily’.

  5. On the matter of desire (dealt with in Chapter 5 of my book) Phiroz Mehta said (page 3 of The Oakroom Talks on Buddhism):

    There is no discrimination, no picking and choosing in the realm of totality, in the realm of wholeness.

    And on page 2 he says:

    …if we live totally in the immediate present, then there has been living in eternity, in the unborn, the unbecome, the unmade.

  6. The limitations of language are referred to in many works on Buddhism. John Blofeld, in his book on Hui Hai, quoted the Master as saying:

    To comprehend (real) meanings we should go beyond unsteady words; to awaken to the fundamental law we should leap beyond writings; how can it be sought amid a plethora of sentences.

    And on page 129 John Blofeld notes:

    The Chinese omission of such words as ‘your’, ‘its’, and so on makes it easier for the reader to keep in mind that the self-nature of all sentient beings is one and the same.

  7. From The Way of Zen we get on pages 69, 73, 74 and 81 some observations about Samsara/Karma and the nature of experience:

    The active principle of the Round (Samsara) is known as Karma, or conditioned action, which arises from a motive seeking a result — the type of action which always requires the necessity for further action.

    He then goes on to say that Zen takes Samsara as ‘the process of re-birth from one moment to moment, so that one is re-born so long as one identifies oneself with a continuing ego, which reincarnates itself afresh at each moment in time.’ Going further into this we get:

    Through awareness is seen that the separation of the thinker from the thought, the knower from the known, the subject from the object, is purely abstract. There is not the mind on the one hand and its experience on the other; there is just the process of experiencing in which there is nothing to be grasped as an object, and no-one, as a subject, to grasp it.

    (In other words, as put in my book, there is no me having an experience, I am the experience).

  8. Dealing with meditation Prof. Watts writes, on page 74:

    Meditation, in the common sense of ‘thinking things over’ or ‘musing’ is a most misleading translation. But such alternatives as ‘trance’ or ‘absorption’ are even worse, since they suggest states of hypnotic fascination.

    Phiroz Mehta, on pages 128/130 of The Oakroom Talks on Buddhism, is even more emphatic about meditation:

    Now remember these states … are not trance states, you are not entranced. I know that some very great scholars have used the word ‘trance’. For my part I say quite categorically that it is a mistake. So is that other word, the raptures, or ecstasies, used by Rhys Davids in the early days and by some modern people too. Do not be misled by what anyone says, that they are merely trance states or deep states of consciousness that you enter into and get out of and there is not much in them related to true enlightenment.

  9. Finally, it is interesting to discover what Shakespeare had to say about duality — his works are a mine of insights into the human condition — in the play, Hamlet, there is a point where Hamlet says:

    There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Comments

A very succinct article.

David Mackie

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Thought for This Moment

By Phiroz Mehta

Keep going without flagging.

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