Questions: Expressions of Truth: The Sense of Transcendence: Envy: The Vulnerability of Innocence
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at the Convent of the Cenacle, Grayshott, Hampshire on 11th April 1981
The first question here is: “You spoke of Truth taught in ages gone by and in far parts of the world as being different from the Truth of the here-now. Could you enlarge upon this?”
I should like to re-word the question in a slightly different form: “You spoke of the expression in concept and word of the Truth in ages gone by and in far parts of the world as being different from the expression in concept and word of the Truth of the here-now.”
You see, the Truth in the religious context is something which is the individual’s actual experience. This Truth is experienced in the profoundest meditative states, only in those conditions. This experiencing is not of the nature of our ordinary experience here in the world of things and affairs. When we go through an experience here, we know that this is an experience I am going through. When you experience Truth, the Ultimate Reality in the deepest meditative states, you do not know that you are experiencing anything. The point is that you are that thing in mind and consciousness. We use a phrase like the Unity of the Universe. Those are words and the top layer of our brain cells is responsible for saying those words. But whilst we may hold that as a thought, as a belief, it is not something of which we are truly and completely conscious. I spoke of consciousness this morning, but I omitted to explain that consciousness in the profoundest sense is a case of being that of which you are conscious in mind. You are it. You are not conscious of it as a separate object from yourself. In the same way you are not conscious of the conceptualized or the spoken truth as something separate from yourself. “I, the person, am conscious of that Truth.” This aspect of consciousness harks back to the nature of the ultimate origin of things, which is simultaneously the Primordial Creative Energy plus absolutely Pure Consciousness. Try and get the feel of it. They are an identity, they are not separate. This is something very difficult for the brain and the use of our senses to see. It is an identity. Therefore that consciousness is not a discriminative consciousness. You and it are not separate, the unity is absolute.
Do you get the idea anyway? If you get the idea and let it work upon your mind, you will get the sense of it strongly, and you will be able to realize that consciousness in this sense is something which functions naturally and spontaneously. And the expression of that spontaneity and naturalness of consciousness expresses itself without your knowing it in your thought and feeling, your words and your actions. It is an unknown knowing. It is a curious paradox, but there it is. It is an unknowing knowing. Not analysable, it cannot be subjected to analysis, but it is there, and the proof of its being there is that one’s actual life, in thought and feeling, speech and action, will naturally and spontaneously express that consciousness. When we say consciousness, we always mean ordinary discriminative consciousness. The analytic as well as the mechanically synthesizing activity of the brain is at play, and that is what obstructs that transcendent consciousness in its true nature, in its ultimate nature. See what was said in the Upanis¸ads about this, it is very, very instructive. The question of how did these Teachers realize the unconditioned Transcendent and then affirm it may be considered. The Aḍhyaṭma Upaniṣad says:
That is called samadhi in which the attention, rising above (that is, becoming free of) the separative conception of the contemplator and the contemplated, merges gradually into the state of the contemplation.
The attention just becomes completely merged in it. This has been characterized by the word prajñenatman.
... merges gradually into the contemplated, like a light undisturbed by the wind. Even the mental states are not known at the time when one is in the embrace of the Atma.
You are the Atma then. It is not something which you seek or aspire to, it is not separate from you, you are it, in mind and consciousness.
The mental states are only inferred from the recollection which takes place after samadhi.
So, you see that any attempts at suggesting in concept and word what samadhi is like, the realized Ultimate Truth or Ultimate Reality, comes only by inference after the experiencing. After having entered the state of samadhi, after having plunged into Nirvana, so to say, then that actual experiencing leaves an impress upon the psycho-physical organism. If your intellectual nature and your intellectual development are of the right sort, then gradually concepts will arise which are like vague pictures, almost smudgy pictures of what actual samadhi is. Then you can convey those concepts and words to other people, and for your own brain perception you can use those. They will be not the Truth, obviously, they will be representations, re-presentations of that Ultimate Reality, the Truth, which is a living experience, it is a living experiencing. Through this samadhi, pure dharma is developed. That is very significant. It is because the Perfected Holy Ones are able to enter this state of samadhi that their religious teachings, the pure dharma, as it is called, emerges. Recollect the first words of the Buddha, “Hearken, bhikkhus, the Deathless has been found.” What a statement to make! It is absolutely tremendous. “The Deathless has been found.” By whom? By this man, Siddhattha Gotama. Supposing John Brown came along and said, “My friends, I have found God.” If you are very kind, you will be silent and say, “Oh, yes,” and that is about all. A statement of such tremendous importance is very difficult to fathom. So, pure dharma is developed. “Knowers of Yoga call this samadhi, dharma megha.” Note the term “dharma megha”. “Megha” means “cloud”, so “dharma megha” is “truth-cloud”. How wisely they used the right term, “truth-cloud”, not something which has absolutely clearly defined, rigid outlines. It is like a cloud, truth-cloud, or,to use the phrase used in Christian mysticism, the Cloud of Unknowing, that is what that is. “That in which speech was hidden till now appears no longer so and shines as Truth.” That means that the Teacher who can give out the Teaching concerning the realization of such Truth gives it out in words which shine as Truth. Although it is cloudy it is also shining, the cloud shines — mystery.
Bearing that in mind, let us consider the situation here. “You spoke of Truth taught in ages gone by.” Throughout the ages there is a development taking place in terms of the understanding of the nature of things and of the phenomenal world. This understanding is born of the use of our senses and the logical activity of the brain as such. According to the extent, the degree, to which we have discovered the nature of things in these terms, the brain will produce concepts and then words (concepts of course are clothed in words) which are dependent upon this discovery, in other words, the science and mathematics and so on of past ages determine the form in which the Ultimate Truth finds expression. You know how the conception of God has undergone extraordinary changes from far distant areas. First we had this idea of spirits everywhere, the spirit of a tree, the spirit of a river and so on, and the spirit was conceived anthropomorphically. Then, during the sixth and fifth centuries BC, atomic theories came into existence, in Greece with Democritus and Leucippus, in India with Kanada and others who founded the Nyaya philosophy and the Vaiseṣika philosophy. They talked in terms of atoms, and they defined the atom as invisible, because it was infinitely small, indivisible, it could not be divided any more, and indestructible.
The God conceptions which were presented from that time onwards bore the stamp of this belief. God similarly was invisible, indivisible and indestructible. So you will find that the expression of deep realizations is dependent upon the extent to which we are well acquainted with the knowledge of the nature of things. Concepts and words depend upon that. Since the knowledge of the nature of things undergoes change (and even at the same time in history different parts of the world have different ideas of the nature of things), people express their inner and profound realizations according to the concepts and words which are prevalent, in accordance with what we commonly call the climate of thought. So you see we are restricted by all that. The Truth of course is The Truth, whatever it is. But expressions of the Truth differ, so that it is not the Truth of the past which is different from the Truth of the here-now. The Truth of the here-now is the same Truth. Truth belongs in this religious context to Eternity and it is not subject to time and its changes. But the expressions of that and the way we communicate that change with our knowledge of the nature of things. I hope that gives some lines to utilize.
This is the next question: “You have told us many times that the birth of Christ represented the birth of the sense of Transcendence. Please could you explain a little more what this sense of Transcendence is, with particular reference to the symbolism in the Christmas story, and also the stages on the path that we all tread, again with reference to Jesus’s own journey, which culminate in this birth.”
Again a very, very difficult question to answer satisfactorily. But the first part we can deal with fairly well. “You have told us many times that the birth of Christ represents the birth of the sense of Transcendence.” The birth of Christ refers to the emergence of what in Christian terminology we may call the Christ-consciousness. The word Christ means the Anointed One, and the King was the One. When an individual has flowered out spiritually to a certain degree, he becomes a King spiritually amongst other individuals. He is the Anointed One now. Remember that consciousness in this context is not discriminative consciousness, it is an awakening from within oneself to the actuality of Transcendence as such, Transcendence which is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, all-knowing, all-knowing, not in the encyclopaedic sense, but in the all-knowing sense that, to whatsoever matter that person directs his attention, his buddhi, his nous, function with unerring accuracy. That is the omniscience. None of the great Teachers of the past are likely to do very successfully in an A-level examination! It is not that kind of omniscience; it is a totally different kind of phenomenon. That person being utterly purified, there are no mental fixations blocking the psyche so that the light of Transcendence cannot come through, or, to put it in other terms, nothing to prevent pure Mind, this archetypal energy, which releases cosmos out of chaos, from flowing into that person’s psycho-physical being, and his brain interpreting it with reasonable accuracy. So this is the emergence of the sense of Transcendence. The sense of Transcendence means, I think that we can put it this way, that you become really positively aware of Transcendence as the fact of existence. There is Transcendence embodied throughout existence. Existence is that aspect of part of Transcendence which is the perishable part, it undergoes change, it is impermanent, and in fact it belongs to the realm of mortality over which Death is lord. But when the sense of Transcendence awakens, there is in oneself that sort of vibration, if you like, or thrill, which realizes that the fact, the unchanging fact, the Eternal Truth, so to say, is Immortality not mortality. We are conscious of mortality simply because we have a discriminative consciousness, and in discriminative consciousness there can come a sharp break when the form changes in such a manner that it is no longer recognisable, re-cognisable, as the original form. And that is why Death troubles us so much. We have lost what we knew.
The awakening of the sense of Transcendence is of the utmost importance as far as the living of the religious life is concerned. When the sense of Transcendence awakens, it becomes easy to live the pure life, because that sense tells you unerringly what is the proper next thing to do. In other words, it enables the moral imperative in oneself to find the right expression in the particular situation, whatever it is. This moral imperative in us is inherent in us and in every single thing throughout the universe. It is the expression in various different forms of that principle of ṛtaas the Ṛg-veda put it, the Divine Law, as asha, as Zarathushtrian teaching put it, which animates and moves everything towards its fruition. We human beings, having the power of choice, can go against it. When we pluck the fruit of the Tree of Life, because we are unprepared for it, psycho-physically, this pure consciousness is spoilt, and the Tree of Life is scarred, and the scarring of the Tree of Life is the Tree of Good and Evil, because the consciousness which is released in us is not absolute consciousness, but it is discriminative consciousness. The moment you get discriminative consciousness you will exercise preferential choice, and that preferential choice always falls into the trap of “I like this, I want it, I don’t like this, I will not have it.” Who am I to say to the universe, “I will have you, I will not have you”? I have no power really to fulfil that. I do not know that I am powerless and so I strive against the reality, against Truth, against the world as such, against my neighbour, and so forth. So when this sense of Transcendence awakes, this principle of ṛtathe essential rightness of things, “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world” (wasn’t it Browning who said that?), then one does awaken to the truth of that, that God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. But that rightness and that heaven is misdefined and misconceived by us. That is why we poor mortals pay such a dreadful price.
“Explain this sense of Transcendence with particular reference to the symbolism in the Christmas story.” The Christmas story is the symbolical representation of what happens to you yourself. Do remember that the scriptures of the world essentially teach you psychology, which means that they teach you what you actually are in the imperfect state and also what you can be in the perfect state. Recall that statement about the Buddha, that after the Enlightenment he stared at the roots of the tree under which he sat for seven days and nights. Now, even if he had botanical interests, do you think that he would just stand there staring at the roots of a tree, no experiments, no laboratory, no investigations? What did he stare at? Here is the root of the tree. The Asvattha tree which has, as put in the Gita, roots above and branches below, when completely purified (that is to say, the psyche is utterly pure), means that pure Mind now begins to function. And pure Mind is something which nobody knows about. How does it function? What is it like? This is what he looked into, and he did not look into it with a logical brain. He looked into it by being it, and by being it he became fully aware of it, and in that fullness of awareness he gave out his teaching and realized the meaning and significance of Deathlessness. If you were to make yourself well acquainted with the Buddhist teaching, the Resurrection and Ascension will find their proper meaning. So you see, scripture teaches you the psychology of the sick psyche as well as the psychology of the utterly purified psyche, the pure mind, the Divine Mind, if you like. Do remember that the Buddha himself used the phrase viññaṇaṃ¸ (discriminative consciousness) anidassanaṃ¸ (without characteristics) anantaṃ¸ (endless, which implies therefore also beginningless) sabbatopabhaṃ¸ (everywhere shining or everywhere accessible). You see the implications of that. Everywhere shining, everywhere accessible, meaning that the entire universe is full of this Truth, this Reality, and wheresoever one turns one can be in touch with Truth, with Reality. This is the deep, supreme meaning of Yoga and its fulfilment. The dhyaṇa , dharaṇa and samadhi, and particularly the samadhi, imply all that.
“…And also the stages of the path that we all tread.” As far as the Christian presentation is concerned, one need only look into the Sermon on the Mount. Take the statements in the Sermon on the Mount and sort of grow into the complete understanding, the complete comprehension of those statements. That will show you the stages on the path. “…Again with reference to Jesus’s own journey.” I do not quite know what you are referring to with the phrase “Jesus’s own journey, which culminate in this birth.”
There are two more questions. “I used to take pride in believing myself to be free of envy because of my lack of ambition. Now I know this to have been a camouflage for an envy of a very subtle kind. This envy expresses itself in my reactions causing great discomfort. I have observed this for quite some time, yet it still clings as a leech. Is it possible to let go of this and be free of it completely? Is it possible for the mind to free itself of all the accumulated burdens?” Yes, it is possible, because if it were not possible, the individual can never realize the wholly fulfilled human state. The key to it is attentiveness. Attend, attend, attend. When there is proper attention, full observation, complete observation, then the diagnosis is correct of what is the illness within the psyche, and the right knowledge of the diagnosis, as such, is also the medicine which heals it. With the body you have to go to another person who is a doctor and he does something for you. With the psyche you are your own doctor, no-one else really can be your doctor, and the healing agent is this attentiveness, complete, total observation, and that heals. We all have this sort of problem with various qualities, every one of us has this problem, and all these problems can be classed into three different categories, greed, hate and delusion. Understand the categories as such, understand the particular expression there. When you have fully understood, you will find that it has fallen off you.
“Do you agree that purity and innocence make a person extremely vulnerable, especially in youth, usually resulting in many painful experiences and damage to the psyche?” Yes, indeed. One is extremely vulnerable, especially when one is young, if one is innocent and quite pure, because when the world throws the opposite at you, it cannot but hurt, it cannot but upset and cause serious discomfort psychologically, illness psychologically, and so forth, and many painful experiences are bound to come out of it.
“Can you explain why this is so, particularly when it usually happens at a stage of life when Transcendence could not be explained or understood.” Transcendence in any case can never be explained. Transcendence can be realized in the deepest meditative states, but you cannot explain Transcendence, because then you make it an other something which you are explaining. This is one of the sad misfortunes to which all human beings are subject. We start innocent, we start simple, pure, and, as we grow up from babyhood onwards, we experience all these things. We are very vulnerable.
Here the talk breaks off