A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 14th February 1970
I would like to go into ‘The Heart Sutra’, the hṛdaya sutra, as it is called, of the Prajñāpāramitā, which is one of the supreme texts of Buddhism and particularly of Mahayana Buddhism.
We must bear in mind that the meaning of the word ‘heart’ should be understood first. I would like to translate it for our purpose as the essence of mind, mind in its essential nature. It had nothing to do with the physical heart of course, and it hasn’t anything to do with that type of psychical functioning which we ascribe to the heart in the emotional sense, or in the sense of that which is the core of the intellectual aspect of what one may be considering.
Mind in its own essential nature is practically synonymous with awareness, not discriminative consciousness but awareness. Discriminative consciousness comes into play and is always at play with us, as long as there is the knowing subject as a separate entity observing the object about which he wants to gather knowledge.
Now this word hṛdaya gives me that sort of feeling. You see, in almost any language we have phrases to suggest this meaning, the heart of the matter, the very essence of the matter, the very core of the matter. But when we get to the realm of essence, to the very core of the matter, do I separate from the matter, or is the separation between the matter and what I commonly call myself, completely bridged, so that in reality there is only the whole present? If I am aware in that sense, then I am not aware, I am not conscious, in the separative sense. Your logical intellect will immediately flare up and say “This is just a lot of words, what are you talking about?” Well, I don’t offer any defence, because there is no need for defence. If a person has realized, through living experience, and another person has not realized similarly through living experience, it is no good trying to argue about the form in which you attempt to communicate the Transcendent. One just has to remain silent. But if a person is willing to investigate, and he is willing to let the critical, discriminative consciousness be at rest, and allow himself to take the first steps through his feeling mind, then one can converse, talk together.
Distorting is in reality a talking by both people simultaneously, the one loudly, audibly, the other silently, because in these matters we enter the realm of communication which I have sometimes spoken of as spiritual induction, just as we have magnetic or electromagnetic induction in ordinary physics. Similarly between two living beings there is this extraordinary thing which I call ‘spiritual induction’. It has to use certain forms in order to introduce the two to each other in right relationship, but as one proceeds, as one enters into it, one goes right beyond the forms, and in that going completely beyond the forms one leaves discriminative consciousness behind and one is aware. One has become ‘it’.
If you can get the feel of this right now of what I am trying to suggest, you will see, just like that, the truth of that statement which I have made so often, during the last year: particularly, that, in the Transcendent sphere, which is right here not ‘out there’, awareness and being are identical, two words but the same reality. Two words just to help us where communication is concerned — that is all.
Now, hṛdaya then has brought out all this.
This Prajñāpāramitā means: Prajñā is ‘unerring insight’, insight in the sense of seeing transcendentally, which again means no separation between the observing subject and the observed subject. It is essential for us to understand all this as the background to looking at the sutra itself, otherwise we always miss the main road, we get turned off down some alley or other. Prajñā is unerring insight, that seeing which is faultless seeing, and that faultless seeing, remember, is the same as being.
One meaning of Pāramitā is ‘excellence’. Another meaning is obtained by splitting the word into its two parts, pāram-itā, ‘beyond this which is the ordinary’, the wisdom or insight which is beyond the ordinary, the wisdom that has gone beyond, or if you like, Transcendental wisdom. Bearing in mind what we have considered together these few minutes, this Transcendental wisdom therefore is not some wonderful piece of knowledge. Knowledge consists of intellectual formulations, verbal formulations ultimately. Knowledge is acquired. Knowledge always remains the separate something which we put into our mental luggage. All acquired knowledge can be put under one heading — science. Science is that which is made known in the ordinary way, the ordinary way being the use of our senses and the analysing and synthesizing process which this computer brain indulges in. It’s indispensable. We can’t escape it at any time, in fact. Nevertheless, that is knowledge. And it is the put together after our sense activity by the brain which is conditioned by, and which is subjected to, its abilities on the one hand, its confusions and disabilities on the other. It’s what we commonly describe as virtues on the one hand, and greed and resentment and delusion and so forth, on the other. And on the purely intellectual level, the strongest, the most powerful obstructions are our biases, our prejudices, our preconceptions and our assumptions. But where there is Transcendental wisdom, none of those conceptions or ideas exist. And when we come to the stage where we want some intellectual expression and a verbal formulation of what is true Transcendental wisdom, then we have to recognise this extraordinary fact, that to each and every single, logical proposition as well as to its converse, we have to say “yes” as well as “no”. Otherwise we are in the realm of untruth, in the Transcendental sense.
In a way, you can appreciate that the time is ripe for this sort of brain smashing — not brain washing; that’s mere wish-wash. In the world of things, we have our cyclotrons and bevatrons and what-not, and marvellous machines by which we can smash up the atom. We can send back matter to its eternal home of primordial energy — it may be that its twin brother in the mental sphere also has to make his appearance now.
So bear in mind that to each and every single logical statement and to its converse, one says “Yea” as well as “Nay”, and takes no sides whatsoever. The significance of this is that we must each recognise that I as the I can never know the truth. There is no such thing as knowing the truth. I can be the whole truth provided I have — let me use the common phrase — developed spiritually, sufficiently far to enable the I, the separate, limited I, to disappear altogether, in terms of consciousness. When discriminative consciousness has at last found its Sabbath, which is its eternal home in God’s Own Being, then that Transcendent awareness, which is what the mystic calls God-consciousness, is working.
God the Perpetually Awake is also the Perpetually Resting, the Perpetually Slumbering. I as an ‘I’, with discriminative consciousness can never know the truth. If I really see that, I will never attempt to grasp or cling to this, that or the other idea, teaching, extraordinary experience, or anything whatsoever. In that total freedom from grasping in any way or at any level, on any plane, is Man’s fulfilment. Man — let me use the Judeo-Christian terminology — Man who exists today as the fallen, sinful Adam is once more completely at one, completely reabsorbed, completely restored to his pristine condition of Man who is God’s own living image and therefore God’s own living being. The split in being which occurred when Adam sinned is healed; the wound is healed.
Now, be awake to this as we look into this Heart Sutra. It starts off in the usual way with an obeisance:
Om, Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom the Lovely, the Holy!
Avalokita, the Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond.
He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and He saw that in their own being they were empty.
Om, Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom the Lovely, the Holy!
Avalokita, the Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond.
He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and He saw that in their own being they were empty.
The name Avalokita means the ‘one who looks down’.
Avalokitśvara the Boddhisattva ‘was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond’. What sort of a movement is this and where does it take place? He has translated it as ‘deep course’ — ghambhira means ‘deep’. But it means ‘deep’ in the finest sense of the word ‘serious’. This is a serious matter. In Gujarati we would say ghambhir binā, ‘it’s quite a serious thing’. The deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond.
He was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond. But what sort of movement was this, when you’re in that state of awareness? It is no movement in space, there is no spatial sense, there is no time sense about it, there is no sense of activity in the way in which we understand the word ‘activity’, no mental activity of any sort whatsoever, because all these are disturbances to that transcendental action which is just being. This is the mystery which can never be spoken about, can never be expounded or explained. Being, action, love, truth, beauty, goodness, wisdom; all these words are one and the same thing. Why? That we can answer, because in terms of Transcendence all differentiation has vanished. This is something we must realise.
If you look at all the teachings in the great religions of the emergence of the primordial, undifferentiated Deity into manifestation, you will find that in that primordial state that there is no differentiation whatsoever. The question is asked, how did the first movement start? We don’t know, and we never can know.
You might ask how on earth it was possible for any man to put out such teachings. Because after all, these teachings in the great religions were put out by you and I, people like you and I, no-one else. There was no Lord God who came down and studied Greek or Hebrew or Sanskrit and who went to China to get his parchment and quill pens and goodness knows what to write out the Scriptures — nothing of the sort. A human being, you or I, and not so very long ago, a bare 23 to 25 centuries ago only, wrote. How did he manage to write? Because it was his realisation, that is all. The extraordinary thing is that the formulations, whether they were made in China (Lao Tzu for example), or whether they were made in India or Iran or in the Semitic lands, are almost identical, with certain very interesting and enriching variations, that is all.
But a man did it, don’t forget that. Therefore it is a state which any one of us, if we have that urge, if it is our natural inner nature to be like that, can experience for ourselves. So, this movement is no movement. Yet everything vibrates doesn’t it? And if it vibrates, as for instance the way atoms and molecules vibrate, we, looking at them, say they are perfectly still.
That is a silence. So, whoever wrote this, himself had entered that state, and then tried to convey it in these terms. He looked down from on high — that means in that state of Transcendental awareness. You can’t look down or up or sideways or anywhere in the state of Transcendental awareness. And you might question, is this true then? Is this an accurate statement? Of course not. And yet of course it is. Don’t forget all the opposites apply simultaneously — this is important. What are you looking at? If one has entered that state where the separative, discriminating consciousness has become completely restful, how do you look at something? To look down means of course you are looking at something, but you cannot; this is the only possible way, or maybe there are two or three other possible ways similar to this, by which you can attempt to convey the impression, an impression, of what that Transcendence is like. We have no other tool but words.
You can draw or paint pictures of matter Transcendent but then you know what happens — you can get lovely art, but if we are concerned with the inner reality which this art is representing, re-presenting, then that inner reality is certainly not grasped, not understood, and you can’t become that inner reality through the medium of the expression, the art. You can’t do it, it is the same with words.
‘He beheld but five heaps’, and these five heaps in the Buddhist sense of course refer to the Buddhist analysis of the empirical man. Empirical man. And empirical man in Buddhist analysis, as you know already, is presented in a five-fold form with the parents, the feelings, i.e. sensations (vedanā literally means ‘sensations’), so it includes physical sensations which means the functioning of the nervous organism and the nervous system of the body and so forth. It also includes our feelings in the sense of emotion and all that aspect of our intellectual functioning which are just mental feelings.
If you observe carefully the way people talk, “I think so-and-so”, they don’t think anything of the sort, they have no grounds for thinking it whatsoever, no grounds whatsoever. They just have the feeling about it, that is all, all just in the air. And ninety-nine point nine percent of all those feelings are sheer nonsense, rubbish. So many illusions and delusions, if you look carefully into them all. You see, this is quite like nature isn’t it? Nature is prodigal and very wasteful. Nature will throw away two hundred and twenty millions in order that just the one out of those two hundred and twenty millions may come to fruition and flourish. This is nature’s way and this is exactly what we do in terms of our so-called thinking. Prodigal, wasteful, we squander. We are natural squanderers, natural wasters. But if we really understand it then we can be at peace about it because there is love, there is compassion. Understanding and compassion are inevitably together; you can’t separate them.
Vedanā sensations, saññā, the ideas, the ideas of clear thoughts, clear conceptions, are based upon proper observation and reasonably true. For example, what we call a statement of the laws of nature, or anything like that, those are saññā, those are at least relatively true perceptions; those are saññā, ideas. Or if you plan out something, you think out something which is actually practicable and can be put into operation, those are saññā. That is the third element — Rūpa, Vedanā, Saññā, then the sankhārā as they are called, the mental formations, that is to say, a whole lot of thoughts in a system as such or a whole lot of thoughts and feelings put together, or when we describe somebody’s character — that’s sankhārā. What we call complexes are also sankhārā. What are excellences and capacities of the mind are all sankhārā. All the philosophies, the systems of thought, the doctrines, the explanations, they are all sankhārā, they all come under the term sankhārā — ‘that which is put together’, that is the essential meaning.
And the fifth element, viññāṇa, the discriminative consciousness, is discriminative by virtue of the fact that we have our five physical senses and in Indian thinking the mind as such is also called a sense — it is the sixth sense, the mind itself; thought, imagination, all that constitutes a sixth sense, not something of a different order of reality from the functioning of our eyes, ears, nose and so forth.
Now these which in the ordinary way for us are very real, substantial things, facts, from the point of view of transcendental wisdom are but empty heaps. They have no substantial reality. Now remember, it is going to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to the statement, and it is going to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to the opposite statement, that they are not insubstantial heaps, they are not empty, they are also the fullness. This is the trouble when we enter into things like the Heart Sutra and into the realms of the Transcendent. It makes it very difficult! The Prajñāpāramitā itself says different things, in other sutras, and you will find precisely this sort of thing through several of the Yoga Upaniṣads.
So many statements are made, a hundred statements we’ll say, and the whole lot of those statements are afterwards negated and both are presented as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You may wonder why. Is this sheer madness? Is this complete craziness or what? Approach it this way: Do we, in the ordinary way, ever challenge ourselves? If we see a car in the street we say, “Of course that is a car.” We are quite convinced that what our eyes convey to us is true, and we have this attitude with respect to all our functioning throughout the day in all respects. We are always right of course. Isn’t that so? It never occurs to us that we may be un-whole creatures, creatures who are just a bundle of things somehow thrown together in a miserable old heap inside this box of the skin which holds all this bundle together, including mind and brain and what-not. It never occurs to us. We are always convinced we are right, whatever we do, whatever we think, whatever we see. Sometimes we get into an anxious state. “I wonder if this is the best thing to do.” But secretly we know, we do think it’s the best thing to do, because despite all the best advice in the world against it, we will do just what we wanted to do.
So it never occurs to us that we are anything but right, it never occurs to us that we cannot, we always have the feeling, “of course I can.” But I cannot, I am incapable and ignorant. Then only, Transcendental wisdom will function through me, the living organism, and I won’t know how.
These are but five heaps and by their own nature, they are empty. You know we have gone into this consideration of emptiness quite a lot last autumn, remember? We spent at least three or four meetings trying to understand what is meant by śunyatā, the emptiness. Let me put it very briefly like this: So the transcendent is realised when all this that we ordinarily are conscious of is negated, is denied. The negation and the denial mean essentially this, that we are aware that as seen by our discriminative consciousness that’s not the whole truth, that is only a fragment of it, and it is the passing expression, the ephemeral, the mortal, the limited, the finite. The being of that finite has its roots in the absolute being of the infinite; it is not the counterpart of the infinite. Do remember that. This is the difficult part of it, this is where, when we try to give illustrations of the teaching of śunyatā, we always fall into the pit. You remember last autumn we considered the word cavus, a cave, but would there be a cave, the emptiness within, if there were not the solid rock or whatever it was, which formed the outside?
Similarly, the human being is presented as empty. The personality, the empirical, this fellow whoever he is, is the outside, ephemeral manifestation of the transcendent inner-emptiness, the no-thing-ness, the personality is the thing — and the no-thing lies at the heart of it, in that sense.
But when we present it in that sense, unfortunately because of the use of words, we separate the two, don’t we? This is just the ephemeral, mortal stuff and this which I can’t see, hear, taste, touch, think etc. is the immortal, the infinite etc., and I separate the two, and this is where the mistake lies. Just as in all the theistic theologies of the world we separate God and the devil. It’s the devil that keeps God going. He’s the chap that does all the doings, the drama and the heigh-ho and the jolly-o, and because we have to pay the price for it, all this we receive is the stimulus which makes us find in what is the devil rooted, and he is rooted in the eternal being of God.
If I can’t see the devil that way then I can never understand him or love him or transform him.
So now, this emptiness does not mean therefore that this and that in ultimate terms are separate. This Heart Sutra is a very hard nut to crack, a very hard nut indeed. Here Sariputra (Avalokita is speaking), form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form. Now you see, here is a verbal formulation which makes the thing difficult. On the one hand, there is this form, the person, the living person. We say form is emptiness and then we say emptiness is form, but in our minds, our viññāṇa, the discriminative consciousness is functioning. And especially when we use words which apparently denote quite opposite things, we get mixed up — and we say, “Oh this is emptiness and that is form.” That is where the error lies.
The one total reality is emptiness-form, spirit-matter, God-Devil, mind-body, infinite-finitude. It is very easy just to pour out words and one gets caught in their swirl. But if all the time whilst we are listening or speaking or reading or thinking or meditating we do not grasp or seek to grasp at an essential, substantial truth or reality so that we can have the satisfaction of saying, “Ah! At least I’ve got reality in my pocket now,” then the reality is there all the time though we never saw it before.
Awareness-being, the two are identical, and being is total being not separate being. The word ‘I’ has only one meaning, and that is the totality. This is where the Jewish tradition is really quite marvellous. In this tradition the mystical no-thing, the Ain, goes through different transformations — this is how the Jews present it — the emanations from Jahveh which end up with Yesod, which is power, and Malkuth, which is the kingdom, and the kingdom is also the Shekinah, the glory. That’s why in the Christian prayers we still have ‘The Power and the Kingdom and the Glory’, and often we miss out the Kingdom and the Glory, Malkuth and Shekinah, one reason being that it is this kingdom and glory which were lost, were sent into exile, by the sin of Adam, and therefore only the Power is spoken of, Yesod.
But when Jahveh has merged in that manner on His own divine plane, in His own divine transcendent way, he who began as Ain, no-thing, ends up as Ani, and the word Ani means ‘I’, the self.
The Jews couldn’t possibly not put it in this sort of form because the forms in which these things are given out are completely dependent upon one’s social and cultural heritage, and by cultural I am including the realm of religion.
Now, emptiness does not different from form nor does form differ from emptiness. All the separations come because our brains function dualistically. As we cannot escape the limitations of dualism, I have to say things like this. But if you feel it out in the terms in which I have just presented it, that form is rooted in emptiness, is of the very stuff of emptiness, to use a paradoxical phrase, and emptiness is the very essence of form, then perhaps this discriminative consciousness, separation, will not worry you.
The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. Here O Sariputra all dharmas are marked with emptiness. Dharma simply means any event of sensory and/or mental experience. The word, especially in Hindu presentation, also stands for religion. In Buddhist presentation, in Pali, dhamma also means religion, the doctrine, the teaching, the truth, the norm for living which leads to ultimate realization, which is enlightenment. Dharma means all this but the plural dharmas used in this way, both in the Pali and in Sanskrit, is specific to Buddhism. Dharma also means the essential nature of everything, but with special reference to the mind rather than things like chairs or tables or anything.
Although Buddhism said that everything which we experience is anattā, is anicca which means ‘relative’, therefore impermanent, changing, ephemeral, perishing, time and again it was compelled to bring in svabhāva, own nature. You see how extremely difficult it is to talk about things like this. All dharmas are marked with emptiness, they are neither produced nor stopped; the word for ‘stop’ is nirodha, which is translated rather too strongly by the word ‘extinction’. Extinction not in the sense of annihilation, but in the sense of completely passed away, faded away. Neither defiled nor immaculate, neither deficient nor complete. All dharmas all events of sensory and mental experience, are the opposites together.
What is the point of all this? He who see all this, he who reaches clarity, real clarity, remains poised, and at peace. It is not a poise and a peace which is a kind of personal reward for him, not at all; it means that through him this universal life force, this universal energy which manifests, now works unhindered for good. Each time you have a flash of illumination, each time you experience any sort of enlightenment, you have benefited me, you have benefited everybody in the whole world. A benefit not to be measured, not to be seen, not to be grasped at — woe to the one who will grasp at the benefit, because then the benefit will be like an anchor and his ship cannot sail on; it’s stuck.
That is why the Bodhisattva takes the vow of renouncing his nirvana. There is a profound significance to it, but it is very hard to see that significance, very hard. The logical intellect plays all kinds of tricks. The Bodhisattva is one who has not realized nirvana yet, but how can you renounce what you haven’t got? See the difficulty with words, words, words all along the line.
Therefore O Sariputra, where there is emptiness there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness. No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind. No form, sound, smell, taste, touchable object of mind, and so on — and ultimately no mind consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death, no suffering, nor origination, nor ending, nor path. There is no cognition, no attainment, no non-attainment. All the opposites are stated.
Therefore, O Sariputra, where there is emptiness there is not all this. But everything is rooted in the transcendent. Do not think therefore that the conceived transcendence, the object of adoration, God or the Enlightened One or whatever it may be, is the material source of the objective universe, not at all. I know neither the transcendent nor the material world. I don’t know them. My discriminative consciousness functions in a way which gives certain impressions about the objective world. Pragmatically in the world of affairs, if I am reasonably sensible and have trained myself and learned certain know-hows and skills and so forth, I can get along, move about without being exterminated by the next bus or whatever it is — that is all I can do.
For two million years at least, I have sought to know matter, and after these two million years, with all my science and everything I’m still asking the same question: What is matter? And the answer is, I am still finding out. The fact is that I shall never end the finding-out process, because the word ‘I’ represents this which has its insuperable limitations. Now in the same way, I can enter into deep states of consciousness by denuding my mind of all images and so forth, and I reach a state which, for me, this creatures is an ultimate, an end point if you like — but that is not the end. In terms of the transcendence there is no beginning, there is no ending. There is the essential, absolute is-ness; not finite, therefore not measurable, cognisable in ordinary terms or even what we commonly call extraordinary or profound terms.
You see why it is the wisdom called ‘gone beyond’. This is where theologians and devotees of the theistic religions remain blind to an insuperable difficulty. They postulate God as the ultimate, having defined their God, or whatever it is, then all the rest is built up by man out of it. And of course, having this blind faith in reality is blind belief; they just go round and round, happy squirrels in a nice gilded cage — doing many good works of course — quite seriously yes, but that is all. But when you see the impossibility of realization of ultimate reality, then the wisdom that is gone beyond can function through you the living being without your knowing it, and it will always function without your knowing it. But the moment there is any element of ‘I know’ about it, the door is closed at once.
This, in a sense, is the counterpart to the doctrine of Grace. Grace is neither deserved, nor undeserved; you can’t put your finger on it, you can’t analyse it, you can’t hold it, you can’t do anything about it. It is there, that is all. Look, the beauty of the world is there, wonderful beauty, from the time I am born to the moment I shall die. How much of that beauty am I awake to? Sometimes I thrill in response, then the series of sensations are over, but have I entered the heart of that beauty? And it is the same with love, with wisdom, with goodness, with truth — do I ever enter into it? Can I deliberately enter into it? No. Can I deliberately get rid of this separative self-consciousness? No.
Therefore, O Sariputra, until the Bodhisattva is indifferent to any kind of personal attainment, and through his having relied on the perfection of wisdom, the Prajñāpāramitā, he dwells without thought coverings.
Upekhā in its deep sense means equanimity, poise. It needs indifference as one of its bases because if one is not indifferent to anything and everything, then one exercises discriminative choice and grasps at this, or puts aside that. When you neither grasp not push aside, that transcendent indifference really is transcendent poise. This is action, where no disturbing activity goes out of me. That is transcendent action, that is the real meaning of the indifference. That state of awareness which is no calm, so understanding, so loving, so true, that this being is in the state of complete harmlessness, complete poise, a dynamic poise.
Now, owing to the Boddhisattva’s indifference to any kind of personal attainment and through his having relied upon the perfection of wisdom, he dwells without thought coverings, the Prajñāpāramitā operates through that person. What we commonly call ‘his’ mind no longer exists at all; he is mind-less, and the meaning of that is that this extraordinary receptive, responsive sensitivity that belongs to, that characterizes every living being, every living organism, function utterly unobstructively. All the particular ideas, thoughts, beliefs, convictions, conclusions etc., the whole lot of them — and they are actually physically associated with the brain cells and chemical activities and what-not, and they keep making paths inside the brain and all the rest of it (physiologists know about this sort of thing you see) — all that is out, and when that is out there is nothing to obstruct this Light of Eternal Truth.
The worldly man will say, “Well, what do you get out of it?” Don’t answer this man. It’s too hurtful to him.
The Bodhisattva dwells without thought coverings, and because he dwells without thought coverings, his intelligence is fully awake, fully capable, and he sees the truth of things, of persons, of events, of situations, immediately. It is one of the extraordinary things. You can experience it to this day, you can come across people who, the moment they see you, know you, all of you. This receptive, responsive sensitivity in them is no longer hindered; it is not a case of mind communicating with mind as if there were two separate minds, but this man acting as a receiving set, simply gives out all that it receives. That is all. There is no hindrance.
This is the state of Unity. So where is the separation? To the physical eyes of course there is this body and that body, this object and that object. But in terms as far as you and I as human beings are concerned, in terms of awareness, where is the separation? And if there is no separation there is no finitude, and if there is no finitude there is no birth, there is no ageing, there is no death. This is immortality realised here and now, made real. And in this state of dynamic poise where the birth-death process goes on simultaneously all the time, in perfect rhythm, what we commonly experience in our life as psychological time is completely in step with chronological time. Therefore this awareness is the expression, is the actual manifestation and realization of immortality here-now. There is no immortality for the physical body of course, or for any living organism. When there is such realization there is no grasping for self. Self-ness is out; completely out.
In the absence of thought coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, in the end sustained by nirvana. For our purposes look at nirvana in its negative form — that is the only way we can see it. Nirvana is the total absence of greed, of hate, of delusion and of all that stems out of greed, hate and delusion.
How did Adam and Eve tear apart the tree of life and the tree of knowledge? Both trees are one and the same tree in the Divine Being of Jahveh, in terms of all His emanations — wisdom, intelligence, mercy, compassion, justice, majesty, endurance, power, kingdom and glory. There is your tree of life. There is your divine man.
You find this put in a different way in the teachings. It is very wonderful to see how they all tally. How is it that tree of life and that tree of knowledge (because we would still use the word ‘knowledge’) are one and the same tree in the Divine Being. Now please do not think of a divine being as outside oneself. This is all within oneself, it is a man who produced all this. It was man. You are man, and man’s state of realization is Jahveh.
Now how did Adam, the early Adam, tear apart the tree? He grasped after knowledge, lured by the promise that he would become as Jahveh Himself. That is to say, Jahveh in his aspect as Elohim who gave the advice or warning if you like — you can eat of all these trees, the fruit of all these trees, but if you take this one, this is what would happen to you. Actually it didn’t happen, they didn’t die, they were only chucked out of Eden — bad enough though that was. ‘Eve’ means the Mother of Life, of all that is living, and the Mother of all that is living is the other part of the old name Jehovah. Hevah is the feminine part. Jod is the male part Jah, and Jah is associated with the divine wisdom, in which knowing subject and know object are still a completely unseparated unity.
There was Abraham Abulafia, then came Moses de Leon, then came Isaac Luria. The first two overlapped each other, they flourished at the same time as Eckhart, Dante, St. Thomas Aquinas. What an extraordinary century! Abraham Abulafia introduced practically what is Hindu yoga in Jewish mysticism, as a technique for realization. Moses de Leon, who produced the Zohar, gave this very marvellous presentation of the evolution of the Divine Being Himself in His own sphere, in His own divine sphere — of which the world is a copy. But in the world of things, the objective world, Adam, the earthly Adam, slipped up.
Now Elohim represents the two aspects, the great Who which is Jahveh Himself, and M-I, the other part of the name, is the What. So Elohim represents God in His perpetual separating out of the knowing subject M-I and the known object Eleh. But because it is on the divine plane the separating and the rejoining take place immediately, and this is what guarantees the continued existence in time and space of the manifested universe. These are extraordinary things to look into. We will see similar processes as faint reflections of this ideal presentation in our own ordinary daily lives. This is the value of such things. I mean of course If you’re not interested in such things, you’ll just leave them alone, but if you are interested you will see some very wonderful things. So that’s Elohim. So Elohim gave the advice that the earthly Adam and Eve couldn’t carry out, they separated the male and the female aspect. You see, Eve got tempted, the desire element, the feminine element.
Now you’ll understand why Plato in his philosophy apparently so arbitrarily and unjustly called the female principle the evil principle, and the male principle, the rational principle, that is to say the good principle. Poor old Plato has been slated heartily because of his anti-feminity. But he knew all about these things. He really was an initiate indeed in the grand sense of the term, he did know it, and he presented it naturally.
The absolute can be understood, can be realized by enlightenment. It can never be grasped. The relative is the realm of the conflicting duals. But this relative, the realm of the conflicting duals, is rooted in the absolute, it has its being in the absolute, this is the mystery. This is why, when the redemption takes place the All-in-allness of the, if you like to use the theistic word God, or Brahman or Atman or the absolute takes place and there is complete fulfilment.
But you see, all this belongs to the realm of transcendental wisdom, the wisdom that has gone beyond, in the end sustained by nirvana. He has overcome what can upset, in the end sustained by nirvana, sustained by the complete elimination of greed.
All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time are fully awake to the utmost right and perfect enlightenment, because they have relied upon the perfection of wisdom. Therefore one should know the Prajñāpāramitā as the great spell, the spell of knowledge. He uses the word ‘knowledge’ but the word vidyā is not knowledge in our English dictionary sense of the word, the thing known as outside us; it is become vision, become knowledge if you like, so that it is not a thing for discriminative consciousness or analysis and synthesis which both lie within the realm of the duals.
As the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, he is using the word ‘spell’ here as the magic power. You know the name Brahman. One of the great meanings, centuries before the birth of the Buddha, was ‘magic power’, in the sense in the Old Testament — and God said “Let there be light” and there was light — that’s magic isn’t it?
“The allayer of all suffering.” Now remember, this word ‘suffering’ — don’t tie it down to pain and misery and all that sort of thing, that’s the kindergarten stage. Suffering, dukkha, the far from the infinite, the absolute spoilt by becoming the relative — this is dukkha, the spoilt absolute. And the relative is the spoilt absolute. Only in so far as I, a man, am uwakened. Because it is this mind in its limitation here, which is trying to see and sees things in terms of conflict and therefore of misery and all the rest of it; confined to the realm of the duals.
By the Prajñāpāramitā has this spell been delivered: gate gate pāragate parasamgate. It runs like this: Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. Oh! What an awakening, all hail!
When the bud really knows the root, knows itself as the entire tree, it blossoms, it flowers; this blossoming and flowering is like the realization of transcendence. I as a human being, am the shadow formed when the being of God stands in the way of his own Eternal Light. The Light envelops me all the time, it’s all around me; but I remain as a shadow, the separated something, as long as I am unenlightened, and I remain unenlightened, as long as I grasp at my shadow. But when I have let go my shadow-hood, let go of selfness, this shadow has become light and God is released from casting a shadow.
By an anonymous author
“All Existence is Transcendence Embodied.”
If we could just catch a glimpse, if only for a moment, of the reality of these words, then one’s life would never be the same again.
“All Existence is Transcendence Embodied.”
If we could just catch a glimpse, if only for a moment, of the reality of these words, then one’s life would never be the same again.
A lecture delivered by Phiroz Mehta at Attingham Park, Shropshire on 26th February 1956 as part of a conference on ‘Christianity and Politics’
Continued from part 1 and part 2
A few of those men and women who trod the Way realized that immortality. They became enlightened and experienced the significance of Supreme Godhead — not merely determinate, theoretically deduced, rationally postulated God, but the unspeakable Godhead, the Nameless One in which God, Christian or Moslem, Trinity or Single Being, is subsumed. Those few persons, by treading the Way to the end, were able, here-now, to become aware of existence in a different way. They were able to still the flow of discursive thought in full waking consciousness. In other words, they transcended the temporal succession of uprising-proceeding-ending, that is, of the endless round of births and deaths in their own moment-to-moment consciousness. Thus consciousness was transformed into super-consciousness, which functions in the mode of immortality. In super-consciousness, you are aware of existence in its wholeness, its full integration, and not as a collection of bits and pieces, not as a unidirectional succession of events, not as a recapitulation of the past by means of memory nor a function of the future through anticipation. In super-consciousness, your awareness is at one with the ceaseless creativity of all existence — this is a true meaning of omnipotence, negating the immature conception of a determinate God being able to do what he pleases; your awareness is at one with the as-it-is-in-itself-ness of the totality of existence — this is a true meaning of omnipotence, negating the absurd idea of a universal, encyclopaedic factual knowledge of a determined course and plan of things and of all determinate subjects and objects of sense perception and discursive thought; your awareness is a completely accepting awareness of the whole “as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be” — this is a true meaning of the teaching that God is Love, for out of such acceptance alone you can transform and redeem, re-create and create.
It was this immortal super-consciousness of eternal existence which was realized here-now by the great Teachers in India, such as Kasyapa, Bṛhaddiva, Surya (a woman), Satyakama Jabala, Nachiketā, Ajātaśatru, Śaṇḍilya, Vamadeva, Prajapati Paramesthin and Yājñavalkya — to mention only a few of the less well-known names — by Gotama the Buddha and a great number of his disciples, by Śri Kṛṣṇa and several others. It was realized in other lands by Zarathushtra, Lao Tze, Enoch, Elijah, Jesus the Christ, Plotinus and others. These men were the Holy Ones, rightly termed the Sons of God. Since this supreme realization is the final step which has to be taken in meditation, or silent prayer as Jesus called it, by oneself alone, Plotinus called it the flight of the alone to the Alone, by which, the Son of Man becomes the Son of God, and is called the Alone-Begotten of God. And also, because this realization can the achieved only after man is free of all desire, of all sin, the transformation of the adult, human Son of Man into the full-fledged Son of God is described symbolically as the Immaculate Conception leading through a Virgin Birth to the living manifestation here and now of the Son of God.
This immediacy of realization is experienced by you yourself, uniquely and individually, if and when you can stay the course in God-fearing to the very end. Such is man’s divine destiny.
Naturally, then, we reject any claim of the indispensable intermediacy of any teacher; and ten times more easily do we reject the claim of any Church to indispensability, and to being the sole fount of truth, guidance and authority. We see that such claims, as well as activities like militant evangelism, are clear evidence of the egoism and of the lust for spiritual merit of those who make them. We grieve on account of the attitude of the bigot or the zealot, an immature soul, who decried faiths other than his own. We grieve that the scholar who investigates non-Christian religions is the victim of his conceit that his is the Olympian point of vantage from which all else, necessarily inferior, must be judged. We regret most of all that the scholar has quite failed to grasp, or even to deeply understand, the fact of super-consciousness, and to see that the Vedas and the Upaniṣads and the Gita, like the Gathas and Pitakas are fundamentally teachings about different states of consciousness leading to super-consciousness. When your great scholars refer, for example, to the Buddha as ‘the wisest of the Hindus’ (Rhys Davids), and still worse, as ‘this Oriental John Wesley’ (Dr. A. C. Bouquet), they betray their woeful ignorance of the Spirit, and especially of the nature of the supreme religious experience. And when not one of them has given clear indication that he nicely appreciates the fact that the Great Teachers had realized immortality here-now in full super-consciousness, we must necessarily reject your findings and your pronouncements where the heart of all religion is concerned, however much we esteem your admirable achievements in lesser contexts. I would like to mention here that Religion in its supreme sense may well be regarded as the way the great Brahmaputras, the Sons of God, live their lives. And because the innermost heart of Religion is of a quality and state which utterly transcends our mortal, dualistic, ordinary life and experience, it is both inappropriate and meaningless to introduce comparison in this realm. It is the foolish and the mischievous who think and act in terms of the superiority of one Teacher and his teachings as compared with all others. In this matter, monotheists — Christian, Moslem and others — have blundered more sadly than Hindus or Buddhists or Taoists.
I would like to see some evidence forthcoming that it is understood that Jesus, Śri Kṛṣṇa, Zarathushtra, the Buddha, and some others, manifested in their own persons an evenly balanced combination of the mystic and the yogi. In them, therefore, love and wisdom, the intuitive and the rational, action and restraint, were beautifully poised. I would like to see authors of lives of Christ clearly expound, or even mention adequately, the more important signs which characterize him who has realized super-consciousness. I who am not nominally a Christian feel that you have not done justice to Jesus Christ, at least in connection with the supreme religious experience. In your portrayal of him, you have presented someone much less than the Perfected Man who is a Son of God. Further, I have been disappointed to see that the orthodox doctrinal, Christian conception of God, though solacing in its humanity, comforting in its hopefulness, exalting in its promise, admirable in its apotheosis of man’s virtues, powers and capacity, nonetheless falls short where the reality and significance of Divinity itself is concerned. And this is so because you have limited yourselves to a theoretically deduced, rationally postulated God, and sometimes confused this with the Nameless Reality Itself; you have arbitrarily laid down that God is a Transcendent Being wholly other than the creature, man, and as such cannot be other than what you have laid down; and above all, you have failed to see that all the teachings embodied in words like God, and in phrases like the Kingdom of Heaven, have emerged out of man’s experience of super-consciousness, out of man’s realization of immortality here-now. I make an exception in the case of the greatest of the Christian mystics. But theirs is not the orthodox, sanctioned doctrine. If it only were, the rigid barriers placed by the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Church between man and Christ, and between man and the Supreme Reality would not exist.
But for all that, not for a moment will I say that we of other faiths, or of a nameless faith, have something superior or better, because superior and better are terms which have meaning only in the dualistic world of mortality; and so I discard them altogether in the context of the immortal. Not for a moment will I say that our Way of Life, as in contradistinction to yours, could, or should, be a Way of Life for all men. Our various ways of life, which are individual strivings in unique ways to transcend sin and sorrow and mortality, and so to realize Eternal God, are all tainted with our own failings, and at the same time are all joyously expressive of God Immanent in us. Our various ways of life appropriately express what we are at the moment. They are all needed by the different peoples who live in the different parts of the world; hence the aggressive totalitarianism embodied in any and every effort to convert all mankind to one faith and to one way of life is deplorable.
Christian culture, like all strictly monotheistic cultures, is necessary for the discovery and fulfilment of true individuality. But rampant egoism and aggressiveness have bedevilled these cultures. Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist cultures on the other hand lead to a revelation of the true meaning of ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ and of loving your neighbour as yourself. The fundamental peace which has to be made is the peace within oneself between Spirit and organism, a peace which becomes unbroken and holy when you have trod the Way to the end. And when you have indeed trod the way to the end, and experienced immortality in full super-consciousness, you have shattered the massive but brittle circle of sin which keeps you separate from the Eternal. Then you know once and for all that you are not exclusively yourself but that you are in all things, living and non-living, and that you and the Eternal are in indissoluble union. Then you can truly live the unitive life. Then you experience here-now what is called the blessed felicity of everlasting fellowship with God. Therein you are yourself as well as the so-called other person; you are yourself as well as one with God. And in this unspeakable communion of Love, this two-in-oneness or the multitude-in-oneness, you fully experience the reality of loving your neighbour as yourself, and simultaneously of loving God with all your heart and soul and might.
Saying these things, I have but spoken practical counsel for sound polity and economy, for just and humane society. For the unfolding panorama of the life of our community is the expression of what we are ourselves interacting with our environment. Unhappily, like people in a bad dream, you waste your opportunities by expending too much energy in dealing with conditions, objects, systems and methods. You strive and struggle with the external world driven by the torment of frustrated desire and repressed ego. And so you are always at war with your gracious mother, Nature; always, she is brutally ravished by the self-glorifying achievements of her own sons and daughters. And also, you are always at war with your neighbour, forgetting that whether you call him friend or foe he is undeniably your fellow man, and that you and he are under bond of brotherly love to one another, and of self-surrender to the Universal Mother and to the Transcendent Father. I say, therefore, that our most important practical concern is to change ourselves by treading the Way. Our greatest problem is our own misconceived self, our ego, and not our environment or political or economic or social condition. You turn in vain to some other person for wise counsel. You look in vain to some external power for good government. The truth is that wise counsel and good government have to come out of your own self — that is the inescapable responsibility of individuality. You yourself have to be the Wise Counsellor; and on your own shoulders, fairly and squarely, lies the government of the world. The world is none other than you, the individual. The world is epitomized in that fathom-long organism which is you. If you grow into the likeness of your God, you will inevitably tackle external problems in the good way.
Therefore I say that the New World of heart’s desire is none other than the New Man himself. Hand in hand, let Hindu and Buddhist, Moslem and Christian, let each and every man in the world tread the well-loved path of his own choice, that path that suits him best, constitutionally and temperamentally. Fling away all fears and false conceits, vain beliefs, vain hopes and anxieties. Wear away the prison bars of the petty self, meet the Supreme seated in your heart, and experience the peace of that perpetual miracle — immortal God dwelling in mortal self, dwelling unstained, in radiance that had no beginning and will never know an ending. Realize these things within yourselves. So shall the rose of your salvation bloom here-now in the light of heaven itself.
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