From the Editor
Stephen Marshall, who has been our Treasurer since the inception of the Trust in 1989 and has done absolutely invaluable work for it, has decided to resign this position due to pressure of other commitments. Whilst we all regret very much Stephen’s decision, we are glad to know that he will be remaining as a Trustee, where his knowledge of legal matters will continue to be of great value to the Trust.
In future the day-to-day bookkeeping will be done by an outside bookkeeper. Our accountants will remain as before, Sherwood & Partners.
William Grice has accepted an invitation from the Trustees to join them as an additional Trustee. Bill knew Phiroz for very many years and attended meetings at Dilkusha. He and his wife Jackie regularly attend the Sunday meetings at Lillian Road. The existing Trustees are delighted that Bill will be joining them.
The Phiroz Mehta Trust Autumn School was held this year at 47 Lillian Road on 20th and 21st October. Again we had a very enjoyable two days listening to tapes of Phiroz’s talks. Śankaran Marath read us a very interesting paper on “Buddhist Meditation.”
In May this year a small number of friends from the Phiroz Mehta Trust spent three very rewarding days in Berkshire. They passed their time listening to Phiroz’s tapes, living in close companionship and enjoying the beautiful grounds of our venue.
The previous week this Christian Retreat House had been host to a group of Buddhists, and it appeared to be highly suitable for a Phiroz Mehta Summer School. In the light of this it has been decided to make a provisional reservation for five days from 27th May to 1st June 2002.
Our venue is set in 40 acres of landscaped gardens complete with rhododendron walk. It has accommodation for 22 people (18 singles and 2 twins). The recently refurbished bedrooms are very comfortable, all with their own private facilities. Based on self-catering, the cost this year was £18 the first day and £12 a day thereafter, and we advised that the most that these figures would increase to next year is £20 and £14. We would need to purchase and prepare our own food. This was done very successfully this year with those staying taking turns in cooking.
It would be so nice to see at Ascot Priory as many as possible of those interested in Phiroz’s work and to enjoy a few days together. If anyone would like to hear more about the proposed Summer School and/or make a booking, would they please contact the Trust. If transport is a problem, it may in some cases be possible to collect people and return them home.
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 8th February 1976
No-one here is unaware of the tragedy of Guatemala, Nature’s cataclysm in which thousands of people are made to suffer destruction, pain, death indiscriminately. In situations like that, and it happens again and again throughout our history, people around and people from all quarters of the globe rush in to help, deeply moved by the suffering of mankind. Those who help sometimes may come from lands which are supposed to be inimical to the people of the land which has suffered the cataclysm, enemies, in short, politically, in their social systems, their ideologies, their philosophies of life, may rush to help each other under such circumstances. But it is a strange thing that, where our ordinary everyday life is concerned and our everyday human relationships all over the globe, we are not so helpful, either towards each other, or even towards ourselves, for all too often we are our own enemies. How does this happen? It is not perhaps fundamentally due to the fact that we are not in tune with life and the trends of life, life not merely as we understand it, because our understanding is so very short, but life in its real nature? Life in its real nature with respect to each living kingdom of Nature on the globe is purposive, it brings the different animal and plant species to fruition. We can see a developmental process, an evolutionary process if you like to look at it that way.
We human beings have observed this from the earliest times. Those whom we call primitive peoples were just as interested in their way in observing and understanding the processes of life around them as we are. In the course of the millennia we humans have developed techniques of observation and, in rather less than a thousand years, we have developed techniques of experimentation and verification of what we deduce from our observations, which have taught us a very great deal about the processes of life around us. We have also learnt a very great deal about what happens to our own bodies under various conditions. These happenings are related to the health and well-being or the state of disease and illness of the body. And yet only a few have ever understood what is the trend of life for us human beings and how we may live in harmony with that trend of life. Everyone knows that mankind has suffered terribly, emotionally, intellectually, and has also known deep spiritual distress from the beginning of human history. We all know of the universality of human suffering. And remember our suffering is essentially a suffering of the mind. It is important to bear this in mind. If we had no mind or if our minds were restricted in scope and potentiality to a degree similar to the scope and potentiality of simple animals or still more so of plants, then our suffering would not be anything comparable to the actual suffering that we do experience because of the extraordinary complexity and development of our own human psyche and mind.
This gives us a key, or one of the keys, to understanding ourselves, the fact that the mind of man is something remarkably complex. And if this which we call the mind or the psyche is so very remarkably complex in structure, it also means that its functioning is equally complex, and the hidden potentialities within are tremendous in proportion to that complexity. Animals do not produce geniuses like the human race does. Animals do not produce such devils of destructive evil, cruelty and horror as the human race produces. Our potentiality is something quite extraordinary, and it is summed up in the great religions of the world in the one word which stands for the Supreme, the Ultimate, the Absolute, whatever the terminology may be, a Supreme Being, God, Allah, Ahura Mazda or, as in the Hindu presentation, Brahman or Ātma, or as in the Buddhist presentation, which is in philosophical terms, the Unborn, the Unmade, the Unbecome, and so forth. But the important point to bear in mind is that this word or words, which represent our inner potentiality, which stand for the highest, represent in actual fact that towards which Nature, (which we can see and observe and understand on the one hand) and this Transcendent Reality (which is the mysterious unknown, this creative power of the universe), are constantly drawing us. There is a very interesting contrast between the two. Nature, so to say, pushes us towards this grand consummation for the human race. The Transcendent never pushes, God never compels, there is no drive there because, that word God, or Transcendence, if you like, represents that which is totally beyond, and also includes in a mysterious way all our analytical categories, all our specialized terms to express that which seems to be the supreme goal for mankind. So we talk in terms of Divine or Absolute Love or Wisdom or Truth or Beauty or Goodness, or whatever it is. But every sound that we make like that, with respect to the Transcendent, is a sound whose meaning is completely beyond all intellectual comprehension, but well within the scope of our spiritual understanding, which is not analytical but which functions as actually being that which the words stand for without intellectual definition of the words.
This is the meaning of Transcendence, that it is a dimension of being and consciousness in which everything which is made finite and particular, which is taken apart out of the Totality, is completely subsumed and which is at the same time other than, every single particular. This kind of thing cannot be conceived of or thought of, you cannot build logical philosophies on it, but this is the marvel of our existence. We have that sensitivity innate within us which can thrill in response to the reality of this unknown and unknowable creative power, and, thrilling in response to it, we can be in tune with it, in harmony with it without our knowing it. If we try to know, then we are making a mistake, that is to say, knowing in analytical, intellectual terms. This is where faith in its profoundest aspect comes in. But it is not faith which is a blind belief in a formula, in an analytical presentation, but a faith which, because of this mysterious sensitivity in us, enables us to some extent or other, insofar as we are capable of responding to this, to be that to which we are responding. In other words God or the Absolute or Unbecome, the Unmade, the Transcendent, whatever it is, is the fulfilled state of you and of me, we who are ordinary, imperfect human beings. It is to this that the evolutionary process of Nature is pushing us. The strict scientist is not permitted to agree with a thing like this. When he does agree he always qualifies it with statements that, “It appears as if … one may conjecture from our scientific research that such and such may be the case.” Of course he is perfectly right in putting it that way, his business as a scientist prevents him from putting it in the way that the mystic or the religieux or the creative artist would put it.
To be in tune with this and to be able to respond to it, that is the meaning of religion, and whatsoever mode of discipline emerges within our own life which helps towards that fruition, that movement towards Divinity, towards that flowering out into the perfect flower of humanity, of which we are buds only, whatsoever moves towards that, is religious discipline. If one tries to understand this in depth and work out all the implications of what I have tried to put very succinctly, one will see that the religious life therefore is the life that includes every single aspect of life for each one of us individually. Here we can put our finger on one of the fundamental mistakes that mankind has made. ”This is my religious life, this is my ordinary, everyday, worldly, daily life.” And the two have very little relationship to each other. Why is there such little relationship? Who is the producer of this discord, this divorce, this dichotomy between the religious and the secular? I myself. There is no separation where life in its reality is concerned between the religious and the secular. Life is a totality. If I fragment that totality deliberately, through my ignorance, through my slavery to my pleasure-drives, to my egoistic self-assertiveness, and so forth in life, I am the criminal, I am the devil, I myself, because I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse even to see and examine and then acknowledge, the truth that life is one whole, one unfragmented whole. It is a total living organism. It is not like a machine composed of a hundred or a thousand or a million different parts where you can just separate the parts, or throw out a part which is not working too well and put in another one instead. It is not like that. That is all mechanical analysing and synthesizing. Life, and that means you and I as living beings, is a live, integrative totality and process. The whole process of life is an integrative process, and we have not woken up to this at all as a human race. Unfortunately a great many of us who have an intellectual vision of these things just leave it at the level of an intellectual vision, which means something which the brain has seen outside oneself as a logical system. ”Yes, this is a fine philosophy.” Exactly, and it suffers the fate of all fine philosophies. It is on the top shelf collecting dust. We do not live it. So we are out of tune with life, we are not in rhythm with this totality, this universe, this world in which we live. The outstanding characteristic of being out of tune is the fact that we are conscious from moment to moment in terms of I and the rest, you, he, she, it, this, that, the circumstance, the situation, the government, etc., etc., all bits and bobs, pushed out of my consciousness. I am here and all these other things and people are there. And because I, as the imperfect so-called human, am conscious in this split way, in this fragmented way, of the One Total Reality, (which is the actual fact of the universe, it is One Total Reality), because I am conscious of it in this false way, I am perpetually in the state of inward conflict within myself and am constantly the producer of conflict. Everywhere, whatsoever I touch or do or think or say is tainted with this fundamental state of disunity which is the meaning of being in the state of sin. We can never repeat that too often, the fundamental meaning of the word ‘sin’ is that which sunders or tends to sunder the fundamental unity of the universe.
What is one of the deep meanings of the Fall of Adam? What is that Fall? He fell from the state of contemplation of God, which does not mean the state of just thinking about God, churning a thousand words in his brain per minute about God. Contemplation in this sense means the state of conscious, as well as what we commonly call unconscious, union with the Total Reality. That is the state of contemplation, a state of living unification, which is therefore a constantly active state. It is not a temporary unification, it is a permanent unification in mind and consciousness. And when Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Life, he did not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. He converted the Tree of Life into the Tree of Good and Evil, meaning that he began to differentiate, to separate out, fragment the unity of the universe and take sides with this which gave him pleasant sensations as against that which was displeasurable to him. I am trying to simplify things so that it will not be too difficult to follow. There are tremendous meanings in it all. I have tried to put some of them in my new book†. We are out of tune therefore in this way.
That fundamental perception, that it is not only an intellectual vision which is necessary, but the actual state of realization has to be released, has many aspects as regards the forms in which it finds fulfilment, many, many aspects. In fact I would not be far wrong in saying that the number of aspects are as multitudinous as the variety of the infinite number of particulars which compose this wonderful unity which is the universe. And if one wakes up to that, one suddenly see this word God with which we associate omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. See the tremendousness of the meaning of it all. What can man do but stand in silent awe and reverence and worship before such a tremendous reality? And if I do stand silently, completely empty and completely naked before that tremendous something, then I am in the state of unity. Why am I in the state of union with that tremendous reality? Because my isolative awareness of myself, “I and God”, has vanished. Only God is there. And that includes this which I call “I”. And it is a convenient sound, and I call that “you” and that “it” and so forth. These are convenient sounds for everyday practical purposes, but fragmentation in my awareness has vanished, and therefore the state of sin in my mind and consciousness has disappeared. I am salved, in the state of salvation, the state of health, the health of the mind, the health of the spirit. And this is very important.
I mentioned a few moments ago so many different ways, and in many of these different ways we can experience this reality here and now. Do not think about it as a course to be gone through, and then if you pass your exams you might get a first class or a second class or a third class or you might receive a polite note saying that “room will have to be made for a better student in the college. Go out.” Not in those terms, that is all worldly nonsense. But here and now in the living moment the thing can happen. And in this living moment, when that intensity of awareness of the Truth comes upon you (and it will not come upon you merely because I said it or some scripture says it or some external source says it), something will suddenly light up. It is like the striking of a match. There is the match and there is the matchbox and you do this, and lo and behold! there is a flame and a light. Something like that happens in your soul inwardly. The stimulus, the inspiring source, may be somebody’s words, may be a book, may be seeing a bird flying across the face of the moon. (How many birds fly across when there is moonshine? I don’t know, but you know what I am trying to suggest.) It may be anything at all but it will light it up suddenly. The smile upon your baby’s face and God Almighty is suddenly present. It is like that. So, it is not at the end of a course but here and now.
How does this being in tune with the Totality, being in rhythm with the creative pulse of life express itself right down here in our own bodies? Consider, we all know that there is the pulse which can be felt in various parts of the body. There is the throb of the heart, the heartbeat. There is something else, there is the rhythm of your breathing. And the rhythm of your breathing, even more sensitively and with greater variation than the beating of your heart, records your different states. Take the simple case of walking on the road. Your heartbeat will be thus and the rhythm of your breath will be thus and thus. Supposing you walk much faster. Up goes the pulse and the heartbeat and the rhythm of your breath changes. And if you run the rhythm of your breath changes still more. If you feel frightened, if you get a sudden shock, there is a change in your heartbeat, your pulse, and in the rhythm of your breath. But every small variation which in the normal way you do not notice consciously is recorded in the changing rhythm of the breath. Every thought, feeling, speaking, doing, your breath rhythm records that change.
What is this rhythm of the breath? By breath we commonly understand this mixture of nitrogen and oxygen and the other gasses of the atmosphere which we take in. We say, “Breath is life”, and so forth. It is the carrier of life, yes, indeed, the physical gasses are the carriers of life. But notice that this breathing is a rhythmic process, and the rhythm changes with every single change in your whole living being according to what you are thinking or doing or whatever is happening around you, etc. When you are happy, when you are at peace within yourself, what is your breath rhythm like? When you are very upset, when you are depressed, when you are frightened, what is your breath rhythm like? When you are angry, when you hate, when you are jealous, when you are envious, when you feel vengeful and want to take it out of somebody, what is your breath rhythm like? And in association with this change in the breath rhythm, what happens to the muscles of the body? One tenses here, there and everywhere throughout the body. The body-mind organism is a whole organism.
You know how in Yoga we have various aspects presented. In the western world today Yoga is spreading very rapidly, I think all too rapidly and in the wrong way very largely. The appeal is made in the usual worldly and consequently evil fashion to the vanities, the egoism, to the passion for personal gain of the individual. ”You will become fit, you will become healthy, you will get strong, you will get free of this illness and that illness and so forth.” And you wonder why on earth do I say that that is evil? What do I do with a fit body? When my body was fit to start with through Nature’s gift, through the care my parents bestowed, when they brought me up and made me strong and well, what did I do with that strength? How did I utilize it? For self aggrandisement, for self indulgence. ”I feel fine, I can eat, drink; wine, women, song and all the rest of the story.” Is not that the story of man generally all over the world with regard to his fitness? Why does he want to become fit? ”Oh, I can enjoy life better”. That’s the first thing he will say. But is not this precisely the thing that dehumanizes, subhumanizes me, instead of living unto the Totality, instead of trying to understand Nature’s most generous gifts and her gentle pushing towards a fulfilment, and that marvellous, unthinkable, unspeakable love and wisdom of Transcendence itself, just waiting and waiting and in a peculiar way irresistibly drawing one to itself? Instead of understanding all that and trying to utilize my fit body in service of that, I am serving myself, that which separates me from the rest of the world. Hence its evil. Therefore, as I have always said, set your sights upon Transcendence. One lives not unto oneself but unto Transcendence. Health, fitness, inward peace, calmness, the power to do your daily work immensely better, everything will come by itself. And then it will come without destroying you neighbour, because you have not separated yourself from your neighbour in your mind and consciousness.
You are in the actual state of love, you do not have to make yourself love your neighbour as yourself. In fact none of us really love ourselves, we have a love-hate relationship to ourselves. With the one hand we destroy ourselves and with the other we pamper ourselves and call it love. So you will not have to do that. You will really love your neighbour because you are in the truly loving state, the state which nurtures, which is unconcerned with self, which is free of all destructive expression of your life energy and you will find yourself in rhythm, in tune with the Totality of the universe.
I know that it is easy for questions to arise in the mind, “Yes, but how do you tackle earthquakes and so forth?” The simple fact is of course no one can, not even the Perfect Holy Ones can. You cannot do anything about that and you never will. These things happen. How will you tackle such and such human problems that arise in our society? How will I tackle it, somebody may ask me, and I ask myself, how will I tackle it? I cannot tackle it rightly with a consciousness in which I separate out the sinner and the saint, the right doer and the wrong doer, the oppressor and the oppressed. I do see the fact that this man is the oppressor, the knave, the villain, this man is the person who is the oppressed and the sufferer and so forth, but I cannot take sides with the one against the other, because then one is perpetuating the state of conflict. This is an extremely difficult problem. If I really understand, I include both in my own inner awareness, in own inner soul, equally without making any distinction between them, but knowing that this is the oppressed and that is the oppressor. Then my relationship to both of them is a relationship of love, of understanding. Then whatever action flows from me can only be the best possible action under the circumstances. But if I act in favour of one against the other I may apparently right a wrong but I shall have sown the seeds of a future hurt and a future wrong by taking sides because I have separated the two. This is not love, this is not wisdom, this is not truth, this is not goodness, this is not beauty, separating like that. One has to be totally in harmony.
You may practise something in relation to the breath rhythm. Take any problem that you have, with a person, with a situation. Bring it up before the mind and see it quite dispassionately and be well aware of the rhythm of your breath. You will notice some very interesting results following from it. You will see how, if you can establish the rhythm of the breath and then look at the problem, the rightest possible relationship between you and the problem will come into being and your mind will know, your intelligence will perceive what is the best thing to be done.
† The Heart of Religion, Compton Russell, 1976; Element Books, 1987
A talk given by Sankarankutti Menon Marath at 47 Lillian Road, London on 10th June 2001
The earliest archaeological evidence of any Indian civilization is found in the Indus valley in north India. The two sites of major importance are Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. They revealed a complex urban civilization reckoned to have flourished early in the third millennium BC over an area of some 950 square miles. Although we have a fairly good picture of the material aspects of their civilization, we know hardly anything about what the people felt, thought or believed in. There are a few artefacts however, which have a tantalizing similarity to aspects of Hindu religion. They are found on the steatite seals unearthed. They bear the image of a man seated in a yogic posture, a bull, a tree. The man could be the prototype of Śiva, the bull of Nandi, the bull associated with Śiva, and the tree of the banyan tree sacred to the Hindus and usually found in front of temples. The seals also have on them a pictographic script which has not yet been deciphered. Another pointer is the presence of clay images of a female which could be representations of the mother goddess.
The civilization flourished almost without change for a thousand years between 2500 and 1500 BC. It is the belief of experts that the Indus Valley was already in a state of collapse when the first Āryans began to come. These invaders were cattle-herding nomadic people who called themselves Āryans, meaning kinsmen or noble people. Their gods were natural forces. These gods were jealous and had to be propitiated with blood sacrifices. Their priests who officiated at these rites chanted hymns which they composed and were transmitted orally.
One group of related tribes who called themselves Bhāratas seemed to have had priests who were highly gifted poets and their hymns exhibit a richly poetic imagination. These hymns, collected and arranged in the first millennium BC and committed to writing in the second century BC, form the Ṛg Veda.
The Āryans, although warlike, were an uncomplicated people, dutiful and law-abiding. The chief among their gods were Dyaus, the god of the sky and the father of the gods (the Zeus of the Greeks and the Jupiter of the Romans), Mitra the sun god, Agni the god of fire, Yama the god of death, and Varuṇa the god of the heavens and moral law. After death those who had committed sins were sent by Varuṇa to the house of clay beneath the earth. Those who had spent their lives worthily passed into the celestial world of the Fathers where they dwelt forever in bliss in the company of gods and their own departed relatives.
From around 900 BC significant changes in their beliefs began to surface. The sages or the ṛṣis were questioning many of the old beliefs and practices and turning away from the sacrifice of numbers of animals and the rivers of blood. The old certainties were weakening. They began to search for answers which the old beliefs were not able to provide. Some of the later hymns reveal the new thinking. The best known of these is the one addressed to Creation in the tenth book of the Ṛg Veda, verse 129. The last lines especially are a clear indicator of the continuing speculation of the deeper aspects of existence. Where lies the origin of everything, and what is its nature?
Completely new ideas were also infiltrating the body of their religion. The indigenous population, who are believed to be the ancestors of the Dravidian people of south India whom they looked down upon as inferiors, gave them two enormously significant beliefs which were to change profoundly the outlook of the invaders. One of them was the law of karma. The naïve beliefs in the house of clay for the dead person whose life had been evil and a permanent abode in heaven among gods for the virtuous were displaced by the beliefs of the local people. If moral guilt is not expiated in one life, new lives will have to be lived until the expiation is complete. The consequences of what you have done are carried from body to body as one transmigrates. What you are in this life is the result of what you have done in past lives. The other important borrowings are the yogic techniques of meditation and asceticism for training the mind and for control of the body.
The priests reacted to the new mood of scepticism by introducing certain vital changes in the role of the sacrifice. The very act of sacrifice became supreme and the gods were relegated to a secondary place. The sacrifice and the ritual connected with it all had to be done without error, and the chanting of the hymns had to be word-perfect. Only then would the cosmos remain in harmonious order known as ṛta. Otherwise chaos would ensue and imperil the rule of righteousness that governs the universe.
These new developments were added to the Vedas in the form of appendices called Brāhmanas. The mere sound of chanting became sacred, possessed of the divine essence. The one who controlled the power residing in the sound was the Brahmin — that is, the priest.
By about 800 BC the sages were moving into forest hermitages in order to pursue their meditation and speculation. They had come to realize that the world of matter or phenomena would not give them the answer to the transcendental reality. They turned inward into themselves in their search. The record of their metaphysical dialogues and speculations are the Upaniṣads. They were seeking for an immortal essence from which originates and which contains and activates the entire cosmos, and which is also present in man. That entity they called Brāhman and that which is present in man Ātman. The teaching of the Upaniṣads is secret and was imparted only to spiritually ready adepts. There are 108 Upaniṣads, of which 18 are considered to be the most important.
What the Upaniṣads give of the probings of the sages is not a consistent or a unified whole. They are often confusing and contradictory. Theism is celebrated in some, in others food is seized upon as the source of everything, and so on. But it is the monistic approach to the ultimate which went farthest. And the sages who intuited the monistic conception of the ultimate essence transformed the whole course and horizon of Hinduism. What they perceived could be described as the greatest achievement of the Hindu sages. That source is beyond the gods, beyond birth and death, joy and sorrow, good and evil, all opposites, duality. It is unmanifested, indescribable, without qualities, eternally at rest. This is Brāhman and it is identical to the indwelling essence in man, Ātman. There is no separation. They are both one. As the Chandōgya Upaniṣad puts it tersely, “thou art that, tat twam asi.”
The name given to this monistic philosophy is Vedanta, that is, the ultimate Veda. However, the intuitions of the different sages arriving at the same vision had to be tidied up as it were, and presented as a clear, consistent whole, a system. This was accomplished by the great Śankara. In his commentaries and expositions be brought out the purport of what they had reached. What Śankara elaborated and brought out is the non-dualistic philosophy of Advaita Vedānta.
It taught that Brāhman is the only reality, there is none other, everything is an illusion. Further than that, when we look upon the phenomenal world of multiplicity and think it is the reality we are being ignorant. We are suffering from nescience, avidyā, a state of blindness as to the truth.
If Brāhman is the one and only reality without a second, how does one account for the many, the multiplicity, the phenomena of human beings, the animate and the inanimate world around, all the activities of existence, both pleasing, good and beneficial as well as painful and evil?
In order to understand the apparent connection between the one and the many, Śankara posits the principle of Māyā. Māyā is a difficult concept. He brings in analogies to help us to grasp it. A mirage in a desert creates the illusion of water, but the mirage cannot moisten one grain of sand. We see a snake in the forest, but on closer examination it is found to be no more than a length of rope. Nevertheless, the hope and fear had been very real indeed.
The power of Māyā veils the One and at the same time it projects the world of multiplicity. When we are embroiled in the phenomenal, the experience is the effect of Māyā. To be smugly content and conduct our lives as if there is nothing beyond the world of duality and not to wish and strive for true knowledge is also the effect of Māyā.
Gaudapāda, who was Śankara’s teacher, was probably the first one to systemize the monistic outlook in his commentary on the Māndukya Upaniṣad in these words: There is no dissolution, no beginning, no bondage, no aspirant; there is neither anyone avid for liberation, nor a liberated soul. This is the final truth. Only the one who had abandoned the notion that he has realized Brāhman is a knower of the Self, no one else.
Listening to these two statements you might well ask whether I have got my sources mixed up and taken the quotations from one of the Prajnāpāramitā sutras. No wonder orthodox Hindus of his time called Śankara a crypto-Buddhist. Was the Buddhist concept of Śunyatā derived from Hinduism or was it the other way round? We can only speculate, but can never be certain.
The way to liberation, mokṣa, kaivalya, from the not always unpleasant bondage to the world of appearance is arduous. Besides the austerities needed to purify oneself, one has to be perfect in conduct and cultivate a spirit of selflessness. Then the five sheaths of psychosomatic layers which conceal the true self in one have to be destroyed. They are:
When they are torn away, the Self is known. This is not merging with the One, but Self-recognition. Thou art that. Māyā then is unreal.
Sānkhya and Jaina are the two other major philosophical systems of pre-Buddhist India. They are both thought to have originated in the pre-Āryan India and so are both of great antiquity. Both of them conceive of the world as deriving from two principles which interact and create the world of activity and phenomena.
In Sānkhya, the two principles are the life monads Puruṣa and the lifeless matter Prakṛiti. Infinite in number are the life monads. In their original state they are immaterial, possessed of nothing, no bliss, no power, cannot even bend a blade of grass, imperishable; they do not create: they exist in total isolation. Prakṛiti has three aspects which in its primal state are in perfect balance. They are known as guṇas — Sattva: indicative of lightness, goodness, joy; Rajas: of movement; and Tamas, of darkness, sloth.
Merely by being there in the vicinity of Puruṣa’s self-effulgence excites the three guṇas into activity. The result is that Puruṣa is engulfed in Prakṛiti and so comes to be in bondage by the guṇas which entwine like the strands of a rope act as the binder.
Puruṣa, however, is in actuality unaffected by the bondage even though its effulgence provokes activity in Prakṛiti and so generates life in all its manifold forms. Puruṣa is thus involved in an increasing round of birth, death and reincarnation. And the self-luminous Puruṣa illuminates all the processes of life and the growth of consciousness. Like the sun, Puruṣa is the generator of life, but is itself uninvolved, unaffected, and unaware.
Human beings are diversified by the manner of the blending of the guṇas in the individual. Sattva means goodness, perfection, facilitates enlightenment. It is the characteristic of gods and unselfish people.
Rajas means action, possessed of passion, ambition, vanity, pursuit of material benefits, heedless of the needs or the suffering of others.
Tamas is indicative of unconsciousness, which is the quality we associate with animals and the vegetable kingdom, lack of feeling, stupidity, absence of rectitude. It counterbalances the restlessness of Rajas.
The proportion of these is the source of the values of the universe, the wonders and equally the suffering.
It must be remembered that Puruṣa is eternally free. But the ceaseless activity of the mind creates objects and awareness and consciousness and so veils Puruṣa. When the mind is stilled and all its activities brought to an end, freedom from bondage is attained and the true nature of the Puruṣa is realized. The way to this liberation is through Yōga.
The very first verses of Patanjali’s Yōga Sūtra states: Yōga consists in intentionally stopping the spontaneous activities of the mind stuff. The goal is mokṣa, liberation. The process is to purge the mind of Rajas and Tamas so that only Sattva remains when it reflects Puruṣa. Then Puruṣa returns to itself and there is no world any more.
Jainism visualises the universe as a living organism shaped like a colossal human body. It is animated by a countless number of entities call Jīva, or life monads moving through it, each uncreated, imperishable, omniscient, all alike and full of bliss.
Opposed to Jīva is the second constituent of the universe, the Ajīva — that which is not Jīva. Ajīva embraces non-living principles. They are: ākāśa, meaning space; dharma, medium and or condition of movement; adhama, condition of rest or immobility; kāla, time which brings about change; and pudgala, gross matter, possessing taste, odour, and tangibility. Ajīva modifies, diminishes, and limits Jīva by any kind of activity. It pours into Jīva and its deposits stain it with hues ranging from light to dark. This is the karmic matter that is drawn into Jīva whenever there is any activity at all, thinking or action. The worst types of activities are the selfish ones and destruction of living creatures. In Jainism everything in the world is a life monad, animate, inanimate, sentient, and non-sentient, including fire and water.
The inflow of karmic matter can be dispelled only by a totally non-violent, disciplined life so that it does not enter many life-times to remove all the karmic matter. Since any activity brings in an influx of karmic matter, liberation can be a difficult if not a hopeless prospect. Contaminated Jīva sinks deeper and deeper into the universe; the darker the colour, the deeper the descent, so making ascent very hard.
When Jīva is totally freed from Ajīva it rises above the highest heaven to the top of the universe like a balloon where it remains inactive again in omniscient isolation eternally. This is the condition of mokṣa in which all the lost qualities are restored.
Neither Sānkhya nor Jaina has any connection with Vedic religion. However, Hinduism has appropriated almost all of the Sānkhya concepts. It is quite possible that respect for the sanctity of all lives which we find in both Hinduism and Buddhism has been derived from the Jaina religion. Jaina faith is a very logically formulated one. Like Buddhism, Jaina does not posit a God.
Great talk very revealing.
Professor Ken O’hara-Dhand, 7th October 2017
Great talk very revealing.
Professor Ken O’hara-Dhand, 7th October 2017
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