Read more from the Being Truly Human August 1995 Newsletter
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta on 13th April 1957
Continued from part 1 and part 2
Thus modern science has led men like Bergson, Lloyd Morgan, Alexander and others to present conceptions of God very different from the religious conceptions which have prevailed over the centuries. For instance, Alexander has postulated “space-time” as the matrix out of which the universe has evolved. Life, mind and consciousness “emerge” out of this matrix. Alexander endows them all with spatio-temporal qualities, thus preserving the continuity of “point-instants”. Finally, God is a creature of the space-time matrix, not a creator of the world, not a finished being but an eternal becoming. He is the crown and fulfilment of emergent evolution. And yet Alexander cannot do without postulating Deity as the driving force behind this emergent world-process. And also, when he deals with values, he cannot fully objectify them, but suggests that they arise out of the relation of mind to its objects, and that they depend, not so much upon the individual, as upon collective consciousness, that is, they emerge out of mind through the socialization of individual consciousness. It seems as if Alexander, as also Lloyd Morgan, tends to move up to Bergson’s Creative Evolution.
Now let us consider that third source mentioned earlier from which our religious conceptions derive, namely the attempt to convey to others the experience of superconsciousness, which is the experience of God.
At all periods during the last six or seven thousand years, there has been a small number of persons whose main interest and pursuit was to discover the meaning of life, its purpose and its goal, the way to reach that goal, and thus find a permanent serenity and satisfaction. They longed to triumph over sin and evil, sorrow and pain, and above all over death. Unless they could do this, existence was one long suffering. For suffering comes in a multitude of ways. It comes through disease and accident, hunger and cold, anxiety and fear; through not having one’s proper place in society, through not being appreciated, through lack of friendship, through the unendurable laceration of unrequited love. Suffering comes when man starts making distinctions on the basis of sense-observation and discursive thought, denominating this as good, and that as bad — in other words, eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Suffering comes when man starts asking questions and is unable to find satisfactory answers; or when he finds that what satisfies in one context breaks down under different circumstances, or is in conflict with the rest of his psycho-physical being, or cannot be harmonized with those invincible intimations of truth which strike him like beams of quenchless light from the deathless immortal.
Further, the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s bodily being makes him acutely aware of the overwhelming tide of sensational existence throughout his daily life, a tide made up of an endless number of beginnings and endings, of births and deaths, which have but petty meanings, if any at all, in the context of fulfilment. Look where he may, he sees the grin of the Lord of Death spread over the spatio-temporal universe. All his pleasures and hopes and joys and successes, his moods of exaltation, his vision of things beautiful, in short his entire range of mortal experience, is only a kaleidoscopic deathful procession. For a single ghostly moment, he approaches near the Eternal, and feels a touch of the supreme Godhead, only to fall back into this glamorous darkness of laughter and tears, of yea and nay, of the ecstasy of love, and the crushing doom of frustrated longing.
And so through the ages some men felt that if only they could break the thorny bounds of ignorance, fling away the fetters of mortality and triumph over the Lord of Death, they would assuredly win the beatific experience of the immortal, and realise here-now that freedom and serenity which is ineffable bliss.
Listen to that beautiful hymn in the Rig-veda sung by that inspired poet-seer, Kasyapa the son of Marichi: “O Pavamana, place me in that deathless, undecaying realm, wherein the light of heaven is set and everlasting lustre shines … Make me immortal in that realm where dwells the King, Vivasvan’s son … where (there) is the secret shrine of heaven … Make me immortal in that realm where they move even as they list, in the third sphere of inmost heaven where lucid worlds are full of light”.
A few of those who sought succeeded in making their way into this “third sphere of inmost heaven”, and realized immortality here-now. Thus they transcended the sorrowful round of births and deaths, or in Orphic-Pythagorean terms, escaped from this “burdensome circle of lamentation”.
What precisely does all this mean?
Throughout our life, our ordinary awareness is characterized by succession. In the usual way, we are aware of every experience, thought or mood as something which begins, proceeds and comes to an end. Uprising-proceeding-ending, or birth-death, in constant succession, distinguishes the nature of our ordinary awareness of our whole existence. In other words, as we are at present, we are usually conscious in the mode of mortality of a space-time world. This constant, unbidden uprising-proceeding-ending, this endless, uncontrollable stream of births and deaths which flows on as our own moment-to-moment consciousness during the single lifetime of our own psycho-physical organism, is a real meaning of the doctrine of rebirth, a doctrine so misunderstood all over the world. The Maitri Upanishad says: “Samsara is just one’s own thought”. The Sandilya Upanishad says: “When the fluctuations of the mind cease, this cycle of births and deaths comes to an end”. As long as all that makes up our existence is apprehended by us in the mode of mortality, we regard the whole process as samsara. Every entity, every speech-thought structure, is an item of our mortality.
How do we release ourselves out of this prison-house of mortality? The broad elements of the way to liberation consist in moral and intellectual discipline, and in developing the power to pay attention. The moral discipline means virtue, active virtue. Above all it means freeing ourselves from egoism, and from craving for any and every form of sensational existence, that is, from craving for sense satisfactions, for power, for possessions, for becoming a particular kind of person, for knowledge and wisdom, and for saintship or for union with God. For craving is our most powerful binder to the condition of mortality. Hence it is necessary to become disinterested in all worldliness, that is, disinterested not in the world and in the daily business of living rightly, but in our cravings in relation to the world. This is the true mortification.
The essential part of the intellectual discipline is the process of becoming free of all bias and prejudices, all preconceptions and assumptions. The moral as well as the intellectual discipline is effected by continuous and dispassionate observation of one’s own thoughts and actions, feelings and desires. Such observation was termed perfect mindfulness, samma sati, by the Buddha. Jesus taught: “Watch, therefore”. This observation, without censure or praise, enables us to know ourselves, to know human nature, to understand the entire psychological process that goes on in our own minds. It enables us to become free of repression and resentments, psychoses and neuroses; of complexes, misperceptions, misinterpretations and misuses by the mind. In short, the mind and heart — or if you prefer the term, the soul — is completely healed, purified, made strong, made perfectly clear-seeing. It is no longer subject to fantasies when awake, or to dreams when asleep. It can no longer be trapped in the cobwebs of attractive theories; it will no longer be rigidly bound to any hypothesis. It will have become free, pure, healthy, poised, awake and capable. A person possessed of such a mind is the manasaputra, the Son of Mind — in Christian terminology, the Son of Man. “Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh”. A person possessed of this pure mind — the Vohu Mano or Good Mind as Zarathushtra taught — is the one who has again become as a little child, fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
With the mind thus purified and prepared, the yogi pays attention. Attention to what? To nothing in particular, nothing in general. For all things, whether things of matter or things of mind, are all limited entities, subject to the Lord of Death. But the mystic seeks the Transcendent, the beyond-thing, which is the realization of the Immortal. He seeks it through meditation, prayer, samadhi, communion, call it what you will.
Continued in part 4
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