From the Editor
Thanks to the kindness of a Newsletter reader, we have been put in touch with Claridge House, a Quaker house which is a retreat and healing centre at Lingfield, Surrey, and we have booked our next Summer School there from Tuesday 23rd July to Sunday 28th July, 2013.
Claridge House is an old Victorian house with an attractive two-acre garden, and is in a rural part of Surrey. (We are told that there are lovely walks in the vicinity). It should be an ideal and peaceful venue for our Summer School. There will be a large room with French windows opening onto the garden for our meetings, and there are also a quiet room and a library. Accommodation will be mostly in single rooms, but there are also some twin-bedded rooms which can be used for single occupancy. All rooms have wash basins and tea-making facilities. The food will be entirely vegetarian, but various special diets (all vegetarian) will be available for those who require them, provided notice is given in good time. All meals will be included, and morning coffee and afternoon tea with cake will be made for us. Lingfield railway station with a direct line to London Victoria is only a few minutes away, and usually one train a day will be met.
The cost for the five night stay will be £310, which will be more than we have been paying previously, but this does seem to be the going rate nowadays. Please do not be put off by the rise in cost. A bursary is available for those who may have difficulty in meeting the full charge. Please contact the Trust about this in strict confidence. It would be lovely if we could keep the Summer School going, each making their contribution to it in their own special way.
Bookings are being taken now. Please send your cheque for £50 made out to Claridge House to the Trust at 47 Lillian Road, London SW13 9JF. This deposit is non-returnable, and the balance will be due to be paid by 15th June.
Day visitors are also welcome, and one day during the Summer School will be set aside for them.
Please do come!
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 11th October 1970
During the last few meetings, we have gone into the question of Right Mindfulness to some considerable extent. This topic of Mindfulness can never be over-emphasized. As far as the religious life is concerned, it is communion which is the goal, the state of communion. And the state of communion in the religious context is a Transcendental communion. It is not merely a case of a person being in harmony with some other entity or being. In our ordinary life in the world, where there is a harmony between two individuals, each individual is a separate self-conscious individual. There is always the relationship which we call the relationship of the I to the you, or the I with the you, as the case may be. But in this Transcendent context of religion, the heart of religion, there is no such thing as I or you. There is only the One Total Reality in which what we commonly call I or you is an integral part and parcel to such an extent that the separative self-consciousness is completely out. That is the difference between communion in the religious sense and in any other ordinary sense. When we are free, totally free of all selfness, then this One Total Reality manifests itself in its wholeness through the individual separate self, and that is the marvel of it. Such a person is not merely unselfish. Mere unselfishness is something which we witness very considerably in the world. But unselfishness as such contains within itself its opposite, selfishness, just as the obviously selfish contains within itself the seeds and the potentiality of the unselfish. So in that worldly context, in terms of worldly consciousness, there is always the duality of the so-called virtue against the so-called vice, and therefore there is a state of conflict.
Now this is characteristic of the animal side of us. The living body is derived from the animal, and it contains within itself, deeply engrained in every cell of it, the various animal characteristics, the urges, the drives and so on. But in this human state in which we find ourselves, there is something other than that too, something which transcends the duality of the opposites, which is our animal heritage. An animal can be very unselfish, self-sacrificing as we say. The mother animal will give its life for its young. Human animals also do the same. But as far as that goes, we are still in the realm of the animal because we are conscious, we are aware, in terms of duality, this against that. But through human beings there is evolving very slowly, emerging very slowly, through the thousands of years of evolution and development, this awareness which transcends all duality, and therefore transcends and is totally free of the conflict which duality entails. For this release, Mindfulness is the real key.
You know how Jesus said, “Watch and pray.” The Buddha taught the identical thing when he talked of those two aspects of what is called the Noble Eightfold Path, sammā sati, perfect mindfulness, sammā samādhi, usually translated as perfect concentration. I prefer to call it perfect communion, because samādhi as concentration exists at all stages of the development of the mind. But this sammā samādhi that the Buddha talks of, if you look into it very carefully, best of all if you experience it at all in some measure or other yourself, you will see it is nothing other than perfect communion. So it is a state of perfect communion between an individual being and the Total Reality.
Put in words, this is how one puts it, but the words are in terms of separateness, separative terms, the individual and the Totality. It is not a case of individual and Totality. The Totality contains the individual altogether. But the separate self-consciousness of the individual has vanished. This, which makes me say “I”, and in some way or other, some respect or other, cuts myself adrift, puts myself apart from the Totality, is that separate aspect of my self-consciousness which prevents the full humanity in me from flowering. The full flowering of humanity, of human-ness, means that the individual and the Totality are no longer individual and Totality. There is only Totality, the One Total Reality, whatever that is.
Now you may recall that we considered what may be called the right way to be mindful. In the ordinary way we are mindful entirely in terms of separativeness. It is that thing, that event, and I the observer looking on at it. I am separate. This is the ordinary way in which we are conscious, the seeing subject and the observed object, and the relationship between the two. As long as I am conscious in those terms then I am mindful of the nature of any event in terms of the individuals concerned — I am angry or violent, you are angry or violent or kind or noble or whatever it is. As long as I am aware in those terms, it will be almost impossible to overcome the tendency to be critical, antagonistic towards what I call evil, and attached to what I call good.
But both attachment and aversion mean bondage. It is very important to realize this. Both of them mean bondage, there is no resolution of the world situation in those terms, as long as I am subject to my attachments and aversions. Then there is separation, there is conflict, there is disharmony. But if I am aware purely in terms of the quality of the thing, this is generosity, this is meanness, not that he is mean, or I am mean, then I am free of antagonism towards anybody or attachment towards anybody, or antagonism or attachment to myself. I am free of spiritual pride if I observe that I am responsible for something which is called good. I am free of the conflicts brought about by the guilt of consciousness if I accuse myself of having done something wrong. In that state the good can emerge, in that state I am free of the illusion that I can do good, because that presupposes that I know what is good. Do I? If I know what is the good, then there is no more to learn, and if there is no more to learn, there is no further growth, there is no further development, it is the end. I am dead. But if I remain open, altogether open, unobstructive, then the good which is inherent and involved in the Totality can emerge through this person called myself, who is unresisting to that. This is something very different.
Remember Jesus’s words, “Why callest thou Me good? There is only one that is good and that is God.” And what is God? Not the other fellow. The unknown and the unknowable because God is the All, the Absolute, not the Absolute merely of the philosopher who uses his intellect, not an intellectual Absolute, because that is an abstracted Absolute and is not Absolute. The Absolute has no qualities, and it has all the qualities. So, if God has all the qualities, good and evil alike and is also devoid of all the qualities, good and evil, my brain can never picture that sort of God, I can only use so many words, because I may be just a little too clever by far and be able to use words like that. But they have no real meaning. Only God is good, the unknown is good. Only the One Total Reality is the good. And if I am unresisting, then through this person here that good can emerge. But for this, I myself in my own consciousness must be free of condemnations, of approvals, of attachments, of aversions. Then it is as if one were an open channel for the good to emerge. Then the experiencing of Transcendence can take place.
Now, do remember that the experiencing of Transcendence is quite different, quite other than the flashes of inspiration one has, the sublime moods into which one may enter, the extraordinary experiences which one may suddenly go through for a few moments or even for days and weeks on end. It is quite different from all that. All that belongs to the realm of duality. I am conscious in unusual terms and that is all there is to it, however wonderful they are. You get several of the great poets of the world writing marvellous mystical poetry along those lines. You get several people in the world who have this kind of experience, a sudden overwhelming sense of oneness with everything, of being everything and everything being oneself and all the rest of it. That consciousness overwhelms the individual because he happens to be just in that receptive state at the moment. But going through that experience and remembering it as an experience means separateness.
The perfect communion cannot be known, cannot be remembered in the ordinary way by the person who is in the state of communion. All analytical consciousness, the seeing subject looking at the observed object, is completely out in that state. And that state is one, not only of no consciousness, but of no unconsciousness. That is why I say it is the unknowable. As such it cannot be sought, you cannot develop yourself in this, that or the other way specifically, by some technique, by a skilful know-how so that you will deliberately experience that. That cannot happen. The positive task is the negative process. It is the negation of all this that I know which enables the unknown to function through this person who has ceased to know.
Put it in other terms. This person has become totally clean. He has become totally empty, and I mean totally empty, no ideas, urges, no drives, no knowledge, no thoughts, no beliefs, no conceptions, nothing at all. You see, this is something quite outside our ordinary sphere, isn’t it? But it is extremely important somehow or other just to have a thrill, just to be so sensitive that somehow the touch of the unknown and the unknowable makes an impress on us, opens a door. If the sense of the Transcendence operates even once for even the shortest possible time, if that sense of Transcendence operates in the living being even once, then there is a link, there is a dissolution taking place of selfness.
What is it that enables that sense of Transcendence to have a chance of bursting through this too too solid flesh, so to say? This is Mindfulness, the right type of Mindfulness, not in terms of I am, you are, but in terms of this is. When I am aware in terms of this is, then all limitation vanishes, sorrow, joy, nobility, goodness, violence, everything is universal. It is not just yours or mine. You and I were born, we shall be dead. In our lifetime it expresses itself through you and me. But for three or four million years into the past it has expressed itself through all the humans that were on the globe, and will express itself for the coming two hundred or two thousand million years, as the case may be. So you see, if I am not limitedly conscious in terms of I am this, or you are this, then this petty little being is open-minded. One’s sensitivity is blossoming out, and in terms of that sensitivity the experiencing of Transcendence can take place, but remember, without my knowing it. It just happens. It happens.
We all suffer from the illusion “I did this, I thought that, I will do so-and-so,” etc., etc., etc. The illusion holds good up to a very, very small extent, within a very limited context. But in fact what I think, feel, speak, do, what I plan, all that happens, etc., is overwhelmingly due to the Totality, not to me. If I am free of I am or I am doing this, that or the other, or you are doing this, that or the other, then that Totality finds an instrument which is not resisting it, and the Totality knows. I can’t do anything about the Totality. If the galaxy chooses to explode (or course it doesn’t choose), but supposing the galaxy explodes, it explodes. What can I do about it? The solar system shows a harmony, a central sun with planets revolving around it. The life of the Earth in its bigness, in its wholeness, is a marvellous thing. I can’t control it. Can I produce the beauty of the sunset or the dawn? I can’t do anything like that. But we all suffer from the illusion that I this, or he this. The moment we have this consciousness of you and I, there is always blame apportioned out or praise apportioned out. We are always caught up in this unrelated state.
The human race is like a vast collection of three thousand five hundred million people who are all members of an orchestra which never plays in time and tune, never plays the same piece! They are all playing away at “I am going to do this.” You see, it is that spirit, isn’t it? So man is against man all the time, and within himself he is quite divided. He is unwhole, unholy. But be mindful, just in terms of the quality of the thing. Realize its universal sorrow. In the same way be aware of what we commonly call evil. “This is evil, this is violence, this is treachery, this is thieving, this is murder, this is cruelty.” What has happened then? If I am aware in those terms and very clearly see that this is so, then my psyche just moves away from it, does not participate in it.
If I am taking a walk along the cliffs and I suddenly come to the cliff edge, if the body is a normal healthy body, it just withdraws from the cliff edge, it doesn’t walk or try to walk over it. The psyche does precisely that when the psyche really sees. But supposing the body near the cliff edge did not see the cliff edge, over it would go. But if there is clear sight, clear vision, one just naturally withdraws. But in that natural withdrawal there is no conflict. This is the very important point. One part of me, the so-called good policeman, is not belabouring the naughty or bad criminal part of me with his truncheon!
If that can happen, then living the good life is a happy process, it is an easy process, it becomes a natural process. If I myself become released from an internal conflict, then it is perfectly easy for me not to be in conflict with anybody else. It is because I am not released from my own internal conflicts that I find myself in conflict with another. Another may feel in conflict with me, but for conflict between two people really to burst out and cause trouble, the two must quarrel. It takes two to make a quarrel, not one. If I don’t quarrel, because naturally I don’t quarrel, then there is no conflict. But if I don’t quarrel, because I sternly repress my reactivity against the person, then there is a quarrel, then I have just taken that quarrel into my own being and I am going through a storm inside. That’s not it. One has to see this is so. My husband gets into a temper and so forth. Then I say to myself, “My husband is in a temper, well, that’s usual, he’ll calm down.” I repress my own rising gorge. That’s no good. For some day the provocation will be so great that there will be an almighty explosion. But if I really see that this is ill-temper, not that my husband is in a temper or that my wife is in a temper or my father or my friend or that terrible fellow across the road, or something. No, this is so, that’s all. Then one remains peaceful.
This is a basic necessity for the religious life. One can’t be religious as long as there is this inner turmoil, this inner conflict. If my hands are dirty, can I clean anything with those hands? If my soul is in turmoil, can I bring harmony, health, consolation, support to another in distress? I can’t do it. I myself am in a mess. A doctor of the body need not himself have a healthy physical body. He can prescribe a remedy which the other person takes, and the other person may find it beneficial. The doctor himself may be suffering from all the diseases of the world! But where the mind and the heart are concerned, the situation is quite different. There is no pill which can be given or a mixture to be taken after or without shaking, as the case may be! It’s not like that. Here the medicine is the living person. The disharmonious soul cannot bring harmony to the soul in turmoil. And the religious consciousness and awareness is something which heals, which makes whole. But oneself must be at peace, and oneself is in the state of peace because this separative self-consciousness is out of the picture. When my separative consciousness is out of the picture, there are many other things out of the situation. All my drives, my urges, my desires, my plans, my ambitions and all the rest of it are out.
Consider one of the great difficulties in the modern world, one of the great problems which people face, especially in developed countries which are composed of people who are rather individualistic. “I want to find my place in society, I want to be accepted by society.” I went through that sort of struggle myself until I saw the folly of it. I don’t want to be accepted! I am quite unconcerned with that. Nor do I want to be rejected, in fact I have no want one way or the other, to be accepted or rejected. I have no want inside me regarding finding my place in the society in which I live. “I have such and such talents, such and such abilities, and I really must find a field in which to express them.” Why? How many thousand million flowers bloom, pour forth their fragrance and beauty into the air, and do you or I pay any attention to them and recognise them? Not the least bit. Look at the shining of the stars. Look at a healthy little toddler jumping and shouting and rolling over the sand for joy, sheer joy. Does it care anything? Not the least bit. Haven’t we lost that spirit altogether? This is one of the great pains from which we suffer, is it not? “I was rejected by my parents from my youngest days, I was rejected by such and such a school teacher or my classmates or whatever it is. My boss always comes down upon me instead of somebody else.” All right, let him come down. After he comes down he will only have to get up! Let me be aware that this is a coming down upon me. Let me be aware that this is a rejection, a phenomenon of rejection. Let me be aware that this is a phenomenon of being appreciated and made much of. Then I am free within my soul. It’s not that I don’t care. But I am not personally involved, either in terms of attachment or aversion. It is not that I care in terms of all values which emanate from my selfness. Then this person is at peace inside.
Be at peace like that, and experience the new phenomenon, happiness, which is nothing to do with excitement, with sensational pleasure and that sort of nonsense. That belongs to the animal realm. It is necessary, it is right for the growing child, because that is how he grows, how he comes to egohood, separate egohood, and then he has to learn to become free
from the bondage of separate egohood. But in that peace know this extraordinary thing happiness, this extraordinary thing which is freedom, which has nothing to do with “I do what I like.” This absurd thing of illusion, pain and evil, “I like”, has no place in the religious life. “I like, I long, I wish to serve my God.” Beware! The Lord God will say, “Oh my God, another one of these!”
We are interferers, we always know how God should run the world, don’t we? If we feel a bit perplexed, then we say, “How can God be good if there is evil in the world?” Who says there is evil in the world? I do. Why? Because I don’t like this, that and the other. I don’t like an earthquake, a flood, I don’t like the Thames being filled with sewage. But my Mother Earth, who contains me and the sewage and the Thames and the fish and the earthquake and the flood and the beauty of sunrise and sunset and the seasons and
the flowers and everything, just includes it all.
Now, through whom will Mother Earth manifest that awareness? Mother Earth isn’t aware, conscious, in the way you and I are conscious. We are the brain cells of the whole world, each one of us. And Nature is emerging into consciousness through us humans. People ask, “What is the purpose of our human existence?” There are lots of wonderful purposes.
To enable this upsurge of life, this movement of life, evolving, growing, becoming more and more sensitive, more and more receptive, more and more perfectly responsible, to enable all that to take place, it is for us to be mindful in the right way. Watch and pray. Sammā sati, sammā samādhi.
This matter can never be discussed or considered too much or too often. It lies at the very heart of religious living. It is the supreme means by which we can be free of all we grasp and hold onto. The beliefs may have right relationship with reality, with the truth of things. They may reflect the fact as it really is, but don’t cling to that belief, because that will prevent profounder insight. We know from our own living experience as the years pass, we see deeper and deeper into it.
If you are a pianist, you played something wonderfully when you were twenty, but that same thing when you are thirty, forty, sixty, seventy, you play with a magic that never belonged to twenty. Why? Only because you did not cling to the conception which you had at twenty. Therefore there is freedom, there is liberation. And how is it that you don’t cling to the conception at twenty? Because you are mindful, you are awake, you are in the state of, “Let me see, let me see, let me see afresh, anew” all the time. That’s what does it.
When we get interested in religion in the deep sense, in the serious way, we all want a sort of a scheme of daily practice. Yes, experiment with it and see. But in experimenting with it, beware of the illusion that, having done this at this time and that at that time, matins, evensong, etc., etc., and everything according to plan, therefore I am becoming religious, or am religious. Not at all. That is an external form. Instead of having my rough gardening clothes on, I have put on a dinner jacket, all spruced up and so forth. Does that alter me, the person, who is wearing the two different things? It is like that.
The living of the religious life centres around one point. In what manner am I aware of every moment of my existence? In what manner am I conscious? Is it in the manner of Transcendence or is it in the worldly manner of conflict, of duality, filled with illusion and delusion, with greed and hate and ambition, and all the rest of it? This is the point, how am I aware?
What does the Lord God ask Adam when he comes in the evening after they have been eating apples? “Adam, where art thou?” Does an All-Seeing One need to enquire where you are? He can see straightaway, whether you had an iron wall around you or not. “Where art thou, Adam?” This is Man himself awakening to the fact that he is aware of his existence and the situation in the wrong way, in the way of duality, in the way of conflict, in the way which keeps him confined to the primal level and does not allow the true human to function. The Perfected Holy Ones throughout the ages, they are the true humans. All the rest of us are sub-humans.
This is not an antagonistic criticism, this is a simple fact. Nature seems to have successfully done her task (as far as I know, I may be wrong, zoologists and biologists and others would know better), with regard to all the different animal orders, with regard to the plant kingdom and so forth. But she is still experimenting with us. Nature is trying to make a human being, a mankind over the globe, just as she has covered the globe with plants, with animals, and so forth. She is trying to make a mankind cover the globe, and she has only begun her task. It is a fact that she has only begun her task. Somehow she made the living cell out of the so-called inanimate atoms and molecules and so forth, and she succeeded in making plants (and they couldn’t run about). And she succeeded in making animals, which could move about, which could feel and, up to a point perhaps, think I don’t know, do they think? Not in our sense, but up to a point. Then Mother Nature made another great urge and produced this curious animal, Man, and grew inside him this brain, and the individual man out of his brain created the whole of the psycho-spiritual cosmos. This psycho-spiritual cosmos does not function according to the law of the jungle which is the law of the animal. This body functions according to the law of the animal, the survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle, conflict, my life against yours if necessary. But this thing, the brain, created a new world, a completely valid world, or shall I put it this way? The brain has been the instrument through which the One Total Reality has been able to put out, in terms of human intercourse, the awareness of an other than, a something marvellous, a something new, different, wonderful. And the laws controlling that are quite different from the laws which determine the way our drives and urges and our passion for self-survival and so forth function. So, the conflict in us, ingrained in this psycho-physical creature called Man.
Now, Nature’s power is all the time with us, and Man’s task is to be able to open his eyes and see the fact and consciously cooperate with Nature. The new something which Nature might produce on this globe will not just be Nature’s doing as it has been so far. It will be Nature plus Man in cooperation. Man can thwart Nature. He can thwart Nature simply because he has unhappily got hold of power long, long before he has matured the compassionate heart and released the clear seeing, the insight of pure intelligence. Intelligence is the power to see the truth of things, unspoilt, unclouded by my likes and dislikes and beliefs and ideas and all the rest of it. If this, the man, myself, is really to cooperate with Nature, then this must be at peace. This must become self-knowing, in the real sense of self-knowing, not in this limited sense of a psychological or analytical system by means of which certain statements are made about the being, Man. That is only a tiny fragment of it, these are gropings in the dark. But each one of us becomes clear seeing by being cleaned out of all that obstructs clear sight. The obstructions are the fixed ideas, beliefs and so forth. Ideas may be perfectly correct ideas, but, let them be fixations, and, lo and behold, there is no progress.
Take the history of science in the last four or five hundred years. It is a wonderful exemplification of what I have just said. If we had just stuck to Newton’s ideas, there would have been no movement forward. It is not to suggest that Newton was wrong, far from it, Newton or Galileo or any of them, not one of them was wrong in that sense of the term. But what they had discovered and seen which was the limit of what they were able to see, with a little modification, grew, and, lo and behold, a new thing comes. It is the same with our inner life, with the life of the soul, this growth takes place through mindfulness, the right kind of mindfulness. Keep the mind open. “Yes, this seems to me to be the truth, at this moment.” Right, but I keep an open mind. Next moment, tomorrow, a year hence, ten years hence, if I am open this will grow and grow and grow in beauty and wonder.
You see, don’t attempt to get hold of the right ideas. “I went to this teacher, that teacher, I joined this society, that society, all of which were concerned with God and religion and the Truth and Nirvana, the Kingdom of Heaven, Ultimate Reality and what not and what not.” And all this moving about everywhere does not convert me into a wise man. The truth about myself, my living self, is, and for me, can only be in my living being, which includes essentially the power of being aware. And it is this transformation, this complete transformation, of the nature of my awareness which is spiritual development, progress, fulfilment and all the rest of it. That transformation of course is wholly related, completely interrelated with one’s mode of life, with the simple moralities as the indispensable basis, Let us have no nonsense about it. We have all sorts of passing fashions and changes of our moral conceptions. It is a great pity that we have conceptions about morality and all these changing fashions. And all that change brings about is pain and misery. You look carefully into the history of the world and you will find that most of it has been so all along the line. Simple morality, true morality, perfect goodness — look within your own self and your psyche will know. When you find your ideas about moral behaviour and so on changing, keep very wide awake and observe the forces at play which bring about that change. Then you will see that the forces are all related to the self-sense, my pleasure, my excitement, the fulfilment of my ambition, which means the satisfaction of my ego. It’s ballooning nicely now. After ballooning a certain extent it will always meet a thorn which will prick, always. The thorn looks at the balloon approaching and says, “Hello, what’s this?” It just stays put and the balloon approaches and approaches and — there we are!
Let us spend a few minutes. … Let the body be perfectly at ease, balanced, free of all strains, the pelvic region, the abdominal region, diaphragm, shoulders, neck, and let the head be just perfectly poised, balanced. Just breathe comfortably in and out. It may help you to get the perfect rhythm of the breath if you let the tip of the tongue just touch the lower teeth, and let the lips be ever so slightly open. If you do that you may notice that the tension around the eyes, all these muscles, facial muscles, disappears. And if one’s own bodily life rhythm is established, when one feels very very light, not heavy, one is in touch with the earth instead of being like a burden upon the earth. That is a rapport. Never forget the importance of earth. No earth, no me. We need not extend it to the sun which is also a great source of energy and all the rest of it, this is sufficient for our purpose. Just be happily aware of this life-rhythm of the body. And it is in touch with the earth, which has its tremendous life-rhythm. This rapport can be a very real communion. The earth neither rejects nor accepts us. We are part and parcel of the one reality. It is only I who can disown my parent. You may find that the mind also calms down. There is a clarity. And there is a state of calm, and content, free of wanting. …
Maintaining the state of calm, just call to mind anything which may have disturbed one during the last week or two, disturbed one either because it was sensational, exciting pleasure, or some so-called very pleasant news or whatever it may be; or in terms of pain, something which was upsetting, annoying, violent, troublesome, emotionally hurtful, intellectually distressful; either. They are both disturbances. Success and failure alike are both disturbances. Just look at it.
If you like an example which has taken place in world affairs, there are the two kidnappings in Canada. What was my reaction to that news? Anger, hate, an immediate upsurge of “The Government ought to do this, ought to do the other,” all sorts of plans and this, that and the other? My reaction was in terms of that man and myself, wasn’t it? Or was I aware, “This is violence, this is evil,” without hating the evil or violence, without rejecting it, without condoning it? Just look, just try and recall. Look at it dispassionately, calmly but with tremendous intensity. Examine it with the same intensity that your scientist examines the cell under his microscope, the same details, the same concentrated attention. What was the state of my mind? Don’t approve of the state of my mind if it was thus, or disapprove and condemn if it was otherwise. Just look. …
Just keep on looking, there is nothing to do about it, no steps to take, just see. Now, if I can see with sufficient intensity that this is violence, this is evil, then I naturally abstain from violence, just naturally withdraw from it. If I am angry and hateful towards the wrongdoer, I am charging the psychic atmosphere with anger and hate, and that does not change violence in the world, it adds to it. If I merely play at forgiving the wrongdoer and so forth (I have no power of forgiveness in fact), I shall suffer from the very poisonous, insidious delusion that I am such a good person. Therefore, just see. If I see with that intensity, I become free of violence in my own being. … And if there is the intensity of seeing, you will find that this new thing, compassion in the transcendent sense, the religious sense, emerges out of one’s own consciousness. Nothing emotional about it, nothing sentimental. It is compassion in this profound sense, exactly like understanding in the profound sense, something which we ordinarily don’t know. But it will emerge, and it is a power which makes whole, which makes new, and this is one’s own positive contribution to the situation around one and in the world, the positive contribution of abstaining from adding to the world’s violence in thought and feeling and so forth. If the mind and the heart are purified and one is naturally incapable of violence, then one is the true pacifist. Otherwise it is something which is put on, forced on oneself or upon others as the case may be. …
You may find the intellect arguing, introducing many buts and ifs and ands and so forth. Just watch. This is all the state of confusion and disharmony in my own being which surges up. Or you may find that the repressed resentments of the past well out, the repressed self-pity and so forth. “Such and such a thing was unjust, etc.”, whatever it was. But just look, just look. And in that pure compassionate looking the healing of the soul takes place and one learns above all things just to remain quiet and poised naturally. And then there is joy, carefree joy, untrammelled by argumentative thought. When the mind is peaceful like that, then it could come upon the Transcendence. Compassion, pure love, spells joy, wisdom, true insight, spells peace. We don’t have to seek it. Those wonderful things are the natural constitution of the truly human soul, the truly human mind and heart. Avoid labelling these things, “All this is an idealist philosophy,” or “This is wishful thinking.” This is not thinking at all, this is other than thinking, because when you are truly aware of Transcendence, that awareness is identical with being. Awareness and being are the same thing in Transcendence.
Student: I notice you use the expression ‘pure intelligence’. In Krishnamurti…
Student: You said ‘using pure intelligence’.
Pure intelligence, all right.
Student: Krishnamurti so often used just the word ‘intelligence’ which I find a little misleading. Pure intelligence in some ways is also just wisdom.
True. In the world of affairs ‘intelligence’ has a somewhat worldly meaning. But we have to agree to regard intelligence as the power of the living person to see the truth of things, irrespective of what knowledge he has or not, to be sensible in other words in the supreme sense. When we look at something, we believe that we see it. Up to a point we are seeing it, but just keep looking and you will find that “I thought it was like that. No, I didn’t see it properly.” And you keep on looking and you will see it more properly and more properly and more properly! You see, intelligence is the power of seeing the truth of things. It only belongs to the person in whom selfness is out, because we usually see a thing as we wish to see it! That’s the trouble. Notice how terribly this spoils human relationships. People meet each other and they meet each other with preconceptions, with assumptions. They have been told, “You must meet so-and-so, he is or she is this, that or the other.” So there is already a preconception and an assumption, and what you have been told is interpreted according to your own particular biases and prejudices and so forth. And therefore you never meet the living person, you can’t see the living person as the living person, with open eyes, with an open heart and an open mind. How can there be right relationships in the world? We can’t be mindful. As I meet that person to whom I have been introduced, I am already calculating, “Now this is the person, etc., etc. I can get this, I can do that, etc.” There never is a communion between two living beings, and each living being is embodied Transcendence, only we cover it over with such rags. Now, intelligence belongs to the selfless one, the person who is unselfed. So it is not a case of I seeing you when I meet you, but there is a seeing, a living being.
We talk glibly about reverencing life. Which one of us reverences? We have no idea of how to reverence. Where there is real reverence, where there is real love, there is no self-consciousness. Adoration is pure adoration, not adoration of a God or man or woman or ideal or anything by me, a separate person. There is only adoration, just light, eternal light everywhere, that sort of thing. You see, the great Mahāyanā teaching about sūnyatā, emptiness, is hopelessly misunderstood. This emptiness is the fullness. Its fullness is awareness. The fullness of emptiness is awareness, emptiness is the container of consciousness. And when there is the pure light of consciousness, as such, there is no knowing subject, seeing subject, observing a separate observed object. Now the intellect will rise up and say, “How can you carry on the world’s affairs if you go about like that? You’ll be like one in a dream.” First do it and then just see whether the accusation of being in a dream will hold water. No, let go the self. You see, why do I ask over and over again, “Why do we turn to religion?” To gain something. Who can gain? The separate self only. Who can lose? The separate self only. But in terms of Totality there is no plus or minus. In terms of Totality there is peace, there is reverence, there is divinity, there is perfection, there is everything. We are so anxious to change the shape of things. “If my friend will only do this, that and the other, it would be so good for him.” I want to sort of constrain him into the shape that I want. I can’t let him live. Oh, of course, for his good, not for mine! That is the joke of the situation.
This graduation day speech was given by Nipun Mehta to graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania on 14th May 2012
Thank you to my distinguished friends, President Amy Gutmann, Provost Vincent Price and Rev. Charles Howard for inviting me to share a few reflections on this joyous occasion. It is an honor and privilege to congratulate you — UPenn’s class of 2012.
Right now each one of you is sitting on the runway of life primed for takeoff. You are some of the world’s most gifted, elite, and driven college graduates — and you are undeniably ready to fly. So what I’m about to say next may sound a bit crazy. I want to urge you, not to fly, but to walk. Four years ago, you walked into this marvelous laboratory of higher learning. Today, heads held high, you walk to receive your diplomas. Tomorrow, you will walk into a world of infinite possibilities.
But walking, in our high-speed world, has unfortunately fallen out of favor. The word ‘pedestrian’ itself is used to describe something ordinary and commonplace. Yet, walking with intention has deep roots. Australia’s aboriginal youth go on walkabouts as a rite of passage; Native American tribes conduct vision quests in the wilderness; in Europe, for centuries, people have walked the Camino de Santiago, which spans the breadth of Spain. Such pilgrims place one foot firmly in front of the other, to fall in step with the rhythms of the universe and the cadence of their own hearts.
Back in 2005, six months into our marriage, my wife and I decided to ‘step it up’ ourselves and go on a walking pilgrimage. At the peak of our efforts with ServiceSpace, we wondered if we had the capacity to put aside our worldly success and seek higher truths. Have you ever thought of something and then just known that it had to happen? It was one of those things. So we sold all our major belongings, and bought a one-way ticket to India. Our plan was to head to Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram, since he had always been an inspiration to us, and then walk South. Between the two of us, we budgeted a dollar a day, mostly for incidentals — which meant that for our survival we had to depend utterly on the kindness of strangers. We ate whatever food was offered and slept wherever place was offered.
For us, this walk was a pilgrimage — and our goal was simply to be in a space larger than our egos, and to allow that compassion to guide us in unscripted acts of service along the way.
Stripped entirely of our comfort zone and accustomed identities, could we still ‘keep it real’? That was our challenge.
We ended up walking 1000 kilometers over three months. In that period, we encountered the very best and the very worst of human nature — not just in others, but also within ourselves.
Soon after we ended the pilgrimage, my uncle casually popped the million dollar question at the dinner table: “So, Nipun, what did you learn from this walk?” I didn’t know where to begin. But quite spontaneously, an acronym — W. A. L. K. — came to mind, which encompassed the key lessons we had learned, and continue to relearn, even to this day. As you start the next phase of your journey, I want to share those nuggets with the hope that it might illuminate your path in some small way too.
The ‘W’ in W. A. L. K. stands for ‘Witness’. When you walk, you quite literally see more. Your field of vision is nearly 180 degrees, compared to 40 degrees when you’re traveling at 62 mph. Higher speeds smudge our peripheral vision, whereas walking actually broadens your canvas and dramatically shifts the objects of your attention. For instance, on our pilgrimage, we would notice the sunrise everyday, and how, at sunset, the birds would congregate for a little party of their own. Instead of adding Facebook friends online, we were actually making friends in person, often over a cup of hot ‘chai’. Life around us came alive in a new way.
A walking pace is the speed of community. Where high speeds facilitate separation, a slower pace gifts us an opportunity to commune.
As we traversed rural India at the speed of a couple of miles per hour, it became clear how much we could learn simply by bearing witness to the villagers’ way of life. Their entire mental model is different — the multiplication of wants is replaced by the basic fulfillment of human needs. When you are no longer preoccupied with asking for more and more stuff, then you just take what is given and give what is taken. Life is simple again. A farmer explained it to us this way: “You cannot make the clouds rain more, you cannot make the sun shine less. They are just nature’s gifts — take it or leave it.”
When the things around you are seen as gifts, they are no longer a means to an end; they are the means and the end. And thus, a cow-herder will tend to his animals with the compassion of a father; a village woman will wait three hours for a delayed bus without a trace of anger; a child will spend countless hours fascinated by stars in the galaxy, and finding his place in the vast cosmos.
So with today’s modernized tools at your ready disposal, don’t let yourself zoom obliviously from point A to point B on the highways of life; try walking the backroads of the world, where you will witness a profoundly inextricable connection with all living things.
The ‘A’ in W. A. L. K. stands for ‘Accept’. When walking in this way, you place yourself in the palm of the universe, and face its realities head on. We walked at the peak of summer, in merciless temperatures hovering above 120 degrees. Sometimes we were hungry, exhausted and even frustrated. Our bodies ached for just that extra drink of water, a few more moments in the shade, or just that little spark of human kindness. Many times we received that extra bit, and our hearts would overflow with gratitude. But sometimes we were abruptly refused, and we had to cultivate the capacity to accept the gifts hidden in even the most challenging of moments.
I remember one such day, when we approached a rest house along a barren highway. As heavy trucks whizzed past, we saw a sign, announcing that guests were hosted at no charge. “Ah, our lucky day,” we thought in delight. I stepped inside eagerly. The man behind the desk looked up and asked sharply, “Are you here to see the temple?” A simple yes from my lips would have instantly granted us a full meal and a room for the night. But it wouldn’t have been the truth. So instead, I said, “Well, technically, no sir. We’re on a walking pilgrimage to become better people. But we would be glad to visit the temple.” Rather abruptly, he retorted: “Um, sorry, we can’t host you.” Something about his curt arrogance triggered a slew of negative emotions. I wanted to make a snide remark in return and slam the door on my way out. Instead, I held my raging ego in check. In that state of physical and mental exhaustion, it felt like a Herculean task — but through the inner turmoil a voice surfaced within, telling me to accept the reality of this moment.
There was a quiet metamorphosis in me. I humbly let go of my defenses, accepted my fate that day, and turned to leave without a murmur. Perhaps the man behind the counter sensed this shift in me, because he yelled out just then, “So what exactly are you doing again?” After my brief explanation he said, “Look, I can’t feed you or host you, because rules are rules. But there are restrooms out in the back. You could sleep outside the male restroom and your wife can sleep outside the female restroom.” Though he was being kind, his offer felt like salt in my wounds. We had no choice but to accept.
That day we fasted and that night, we slept by the bathrooms. A small lie could’ve bought us an upgrade, but that would’ve been no pilgrimage. As I went to sleep with a wall separating me from my wife, I had this beautiful, unbidden vision of a couple climbing to the top of a mountain from two different sides. Midway through this difficult ascent, as the man contemplated giving up, a small sparrow flew by with this counsel, “Don’t quit now, friend. Your wife is eager to see you at the top.” He kept climbing. A few days later, when the wife found herself on the brink of quitting, the little sparrow showed up with the same message. Step by step, their love sustained their journey all the way to the mountaintop. Visited by the timely grace of this vision, I shed a few grateful tears — and this story became a touchstone not only in our relationship, but many other noble friendships as well. So I encourage you to cultivate equanimity and accept whatever life tosses into your laps — when you do that, you will be blessed with the insight of an inner transformation that is yours to keep for all of time.
The ‘L’ in W. A. L. K. stands for ‘Love’. The more we learned from nature, and built a kind of inner resilience to external circumstances, the more we fell into our natural state — which was to be loving. In our dominant paradigm, Hollywood has insidiously co-opted the word, but the love I’m talking about here is the kind of love that only knows one thing — to give with no strings attached. Purely. Selflessly.
Most of us believe that to give, we first need to have something to give. The trouble with that is, that when we are taking stock of what we have, we almost always make accounting errors. Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Now-a-days, people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” We have forgotten how to value things without a price tag. Hence, when we get to our most abundant gifts — like attention, insight, compassion — we confuse their worth because they’re, well, priceless. On our walking pilgrimage, we noticed that those who had the least were most readily equipped to honor the priceless. In urban cities, the people we encountered began with an unspoken wariness: “Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?” In the countryside, on the other hand, villagers almost always met us with an open-hearted curiosity launching straight in with: “Hey buddy, you don’t look local. What’s your story?” In the villages, your worth wasn’t assessed by your business card, professional network or your salary. That innate simplicity allowed them to love life and cherish all its connections. Extremely poor villagers, who couldn’t even afford their own meals, would often borrow food from their neighbors to feed us. When we tried to refuse, they would simply explain: “To us, the guest is God. This is our offering to the divine in you that connects us to each other.” Now, how could one refuse that? Street vendors often gifted us vegetables; in a very touching moment, an armless fruit-seller once insisted on giving us a slice of watermelon. Everyone, no matter how old, would be overjoyed to give us directions, even when they weren’t fully sure of them. And I still remember the woman who generously gave us water when we were extremely thirsty — only to later discover that she had to walk 10 kilometers at 4am to get that one bucket of water. These people knew how to give, not because they had a lot, but because they knew how to love life. They didn’t need any credit or assurance that you would ever return to pay them back. Rather, they just trusted in the pay-it-forward circle of giving. When you come alive in this way, you’ll realize that true generosity doesn’t start when you have some thing to give, but rather when there’s nothing in you that’s trying to take. So I hope that you will make all your precious moments an expression of loving life.
And lastly, the ‘K’ in W. A. L. K. stands for ‘Know Thyself’. Sages have long informed us that when we serve others unconditionally, we shift from the ‘me’ to the ‘we’ and connect more deeply with the other. That matrix of inter-connections allows for a profound quality of mental quietude. Like a still lake undisturbed by waves or ripples, we are then able to see clearly into who we are and how we can live in deep harmony with the environment around us. When one foot walks, the other rests. Doing and being have to be in balance.
Our rational mind wants to rightfully ensure progress, but our intuitive mind also needs space for the emergent, unknown and unplanned to arise. Doing is certainly important, but when we aren’t aware of our internal ecosystem, we get so vested in our plans and actions, that we don’t notice the build-up of mental residue. Over time, that unconscious internal noise starts polluting our motivations, our ethics and our spirit. And so, it is critical to still the mind. A melody, after all, can only be created with the silence in between the notes.
As we walked — witnessed, accepted, loved — our vision of the world indeed grew clearer. That clarity, paradoxically enough, blurred our previous distinctions between me versus we, inner transformation versus external impact, and selfishness versus selflessness. They were inextricably connected. When a poor farmer gave me a tomato as a parting gift, with tears rolling down his eyes, was I receiving or giving? When I sat for hours in silent meditation, was the benefit solely mine or would it ripple out into the world? When I lifted the haystack off an old man’s head and carried it for a kilometer, was I serving him or serving myself?
Which is to say, don’t just go through life — grow through life. It will be easy and tempting for you to arrive at reflexive answers, but make it a point, instead, to acknowledge mystery and welcome rich questions — questions that nudge you towards a greater understanding of this world and your place in it.
That’s W. A. L. K. And today, at this momentous milestone of your life, you came in walking and you will go out walking. As you walk on into a world that is increasingly aiming to move beyond the speed of thought, I hope you will each remember the importance of traveling at the speed of thoughtfulness. I hope that you will take time to witness our magnificent interconnections. That you will accept the beautiful gifts of life even when they aren’t pretty, that you will practice loving selflessly and strive to know your deepest nature.
I want to close with a story about my great grandfather. He was a man of little wealth who still managed to give every single day of his life. Each morning, he had a ritual of going on a walk — and as he walked, he diligently fed the ant hills along his path with small pinches of wheat flour. Now that is an act of micro generosity so small that it might seem utterly negligible, in the grand scheme of the universe. How does it matter? It matters in that it changed him inside. And my great grandfather’s goodness shaped the worldview of my grandparents who in turn influenced that of their children — my parents. Today those ants and the ant hills are gone, but my great grandpa’s spirit is very much embedded in all my actions and their future ripples. It is precisely these small, often invisible, acts of inner transformation that mold the stuff of our being, and bend the arc of our shared destiny.
On your walk, today and always, I wish you the eyes to see the anthills and the heart to feed them with joy.
May you be blessed.
Change yourself — change the world.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
From a Church bulletin
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
From a Church bulletin
By Phiroz Mehta
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