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Right Mindfulness (I)

A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 27th September 1970


Phiroz: Let us recall one of the points we touched upon last time, the danger attached to meditation or deep prayer, the danger being that meditation, which is a releasing and handling of power, intensifies everything in us, good and bad alike. It charges up the whole psyche. Now you may remember that in relation to this we considered the right, or a right way, of being attentive, being mindful. If we are mindful in this form, “I am kind or cruel,” or “You are generous or stingy or violent or gentle,” or whatever it is, then we are being mindful in a manner which will give rise to criticism, antagonism, hatred against the wrongdoer, whether it be myself or another person, on the one hand. On the other hand it will give rise to attachment, approval, bondage of some sort or other for the so-called right-doer. If I happen to be the right-doer, so-called, then there is always this terrible insidious thing, spiritual pride, which grows. And the egoistic outlook, the self-orientedness increases rather than dissolves away. Therefore one learns not to be aware in terms of “I am” or “You are” this, that or the other, but in terms of the nature of the thing itself. This is violence, or this is kindness or whatever it is, that’s all. When one does this with sufficient intensity, then one is free from the difficulty we have just touched upon, one is also free from the limitedness of the situation. If I say, “This man is violent,” then my perception of violence is restricted to this particular violence in this particular man. But if I am able to see and recognise and be completely aware of violence in its wholeness, I am sensitive to the world violence, to the universal violence. And in such seeing there is no reaction against it. Similarly with the so-called virtues. Here is somebody who is wholly friendly, we’ll say. Loving kindness emanates from him. All right, if I see it only with respect to that man, only with respect to this particular situation, I am limited to that. But if I see this as something universal I am becoming sensitive to the whole fact of gentleness and loving kindness.

You know how the Buddha says for instance when he is talking of the Brahmavihāras, the divine abodes, the divine residences, for consciousness, that is. He says, “And so the bhikkhu suffuses one quarter of the world (the second quarter, the third quarter, the fourth quarter and so on) with a love grown far reaching, great, immeasurable.” This element of immeasurability is the important thing. If there is immeasurability in our own awareness, it also implies that we have completely freed ourselves from all separate self-consciousness. I as a separate being in my awareness of myself no longer obstruct the light of consciousness from including everything and everybody in it. This simply is what characterises the person who has grown fully into his humanity. Until then we are not whole humans, we are fragmentary.

Now you may remember that last fortnight I suggested that we spend the fortnight being extremely attentive in this way, in noticing things. How far have we been able to be rightly aware during the fortnight? What has come up in the psyche, or come out of the psyche in consequence of the practice? Anyone? Anything significant observed?

Student A: I was thrown right off balance.

Phiroz: By this process of observation?

Student A: It was like being in a whirlpool … For two days nothing came out at all and then early one morning the question came to me, “Is there more meaning to life than just birth, decay and death?” I think this helps to sort thing out a bit.

Phiroz: Was there any trend, any direction with that enquiry? Is there a meaning? What is your feeling, that there is a meaningfulness or not?

Student A: No, I can’t answer that question. You have always asked us not to ask the question, not to expect results, because the question that has come up has been asked. When I say you always asked us not to ask, you always asked us not to ask the reason for it! The question has come up and I’m trying to stay with it, trying not to expect anything.

Phiroz: Do you feel that this exemplifies the dangers attached to the process of meditation? Because this is all part of meditation, this kind of attentive mindful living.

Student A: Meditation as we know means so many things to so many people. I started by understanding meditation in a very simple way when I was taught merely to count my breaths, which was just a technique, trying to calm my mind and keeping it on one particular exercise, if you like. There is danger in everything, everything is fraught with danger, but unless one is prepared to face the danger, one might as well not begin the search. I think it is far more rewarding and important to go through the whole tremendous upset that it caused me (I don’t know about anybody else), because at least one is then able to move, to observe, whereas I think that if one is just complacently lulled into a nice happy state of comatose, I don’t think that one has an earthly chance of understanding.

Phiroz: It’s quite true. Inevitably there is great upheaval at first and for a long time. The first “at first” is a very long “at first”! One can’t avoid that. But if one does not resist it, resist the upheaval, but just be intensely conscious of it, then one is constantly learning through it, and learning in the sense of growth. This is the discipline, if you like, of the religious life. It can also work the other way. One can enter into a state of exultation, of sublimity. Then too in that state of exaltation and of sublimity, if one keeps on intensely observing, neither resisting it or grasping at it because it is pleasant, then one is really going through a spiritual discipline.

Student B: [Observation inaudible]

Phiroz: This leads to the pure realization, the pure understanding that “This is greed or this is violence,” and you get free of the my greed and your greed part of it.

Student B: [Inaudible] … I found what was difficult to stomach when it came fully was a realization that I was just the same as these swarming people in the High Street, no more, no less.

Phiroz: One awakens to the common touch. Man is man everywhere. That extraordinary statement in the Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad, “Man is made up of everything.” In some degree or other, each one of us has everything inside him, every single quality, good or bad, as we call it. And so we are enclosed within the sphere of duality and it is a conflicting sphere. That conflict is assisted by the fact that we take sides all the time. We take sides with what we would call the good or the pleasant against what we would call evil or the unpleasant. And this perpetuates the struggle. It does not bring resolution of the state of conflict. The resolution of the state of conflict comes as and when there is pure perception without taking sides in the matter, without any judgement for or against. Then the action which accompanies such perception is pure action, and that is the transforming power. But this is tremendously difficult, because the ability to see so purely, clearly, dispassionately, takes a long time to grow. It doesn’t come all at once, it takes a very long time to grow. But the time is partly proportional to just how much one cares for it, because we do not spend our whole life merely observing, merely looking on. We respond to what we are looking at all the time. I am doing something and if I become aware of that something as being greedy or violent or foolish or something, there is immediately another force rising up which wants to do something about it, isn’t there? So, action is in some form or other. It may be purely in the sphere of the mind, but usually it will be in the sphere of the mind as well as in the sphere of physical deeds. So, action is going on all the time. The very act of perceiving is an action, it’s a mental action.

You know, one cannot avoid this perpetual attempt on one’s own part to get rid of what is evil or unpleasant and to preserve what is good or pleasant. Neither is it wise to try and get rid of this, that or the other particular unpleasant or evil thing, or to preserve this, that or the other particular good or pleasant thing, because this inner transformation of awareness which frees you completely from all selfness cannot take place under those circumstances. The universe is One Total Reality. If one is completely in tune with that One Total Reality, how can it be possible for me to reject the evil and to accept the good? I am defining evil and good. But the One Total Reality contains it all. The One Total Reality cannot throw the evil out of itself. What it does is that it goes through a process by which transformation goes on. It is extremely difficult for us human beings, with all our limitations, to see this with such clarity and such depth that we can be in tune with that universal process. It is extremely difficult. But you see after one goes through these upheavals there does come vision, there does come perception, and with it there comes inward balance and peace. That inward balance does not get lost when the external circumstance is very provocative and very painful. You know how the old myths have talked about the armour of invincibility, the cap of invincibility, and so forth. All these old myths have wonderful significance and meaning along these lines.

Now today let us approach this same matter in another way, our personal responsibility for what passes through our mind all the time. Ordinarily we say, “I think, I feel, I thought this, that or the other, I felt this, that or the other.” We think of the mind as something which we possess like any other bodily organ, my liver or my heart, or something like that.

I have no mind in that sense. This living person goes through various mental states, whether they be intellectual or whether they be emotional. These states are passing states, they have no substantial reality which I possess. If I say, “This is my little finger,” there is much more meaning to that in the sense of my little finger than to say that this wasmy thought, or my mood, because this little finger was there from the time I was born, and unless some accident deprives me of it, it will remain with me to the end of the life of the body. Whereas any mood, any mental process I go through does not last with me, it continuously passes away, passes away swiftly. One’s mental states, intellectual or emotional, are very much like the clouds, as substanceless as that. A river, a pond has more substance to it, and the solid earth or rock has still more substance to it in the sense that it lasts as a rock through time. So in that way the body has much more substance to it than what we call the mind. There is a succession of mental emotional states.

Instead of seeing it as “I think this”, or “I feel this”, we see it as the living person catching what is in the psychical atmosphere around, the mental atmosphere around. Take a common or garden example, a person who enjoys going to Church on Sundays, we’ll say. All right, he goes to Church, he feels happy and calm and collected, he picks up that atmosphere, and so whatever thoughts and feelings he experiences are in tune with that atmosphere. If I go and witness a football match or a boxing match, champion boxing, two people boxing each other for the championship, with a roaring, howling mob around, well, I catch that atmosphere! My psyche responds to that, and so forth. A large part in our daily life of what we call my thoughts and my feelings are by no means my thoughts and my feelings. But there are reactions from me all the time in all situations. This is the important thing to bear in mind, because this is where my responsibility comes in. As I travel through a town or a country or as I travel through life, I can’t determine what the countryside or the external form of my life events will be, I can’t determine that. If a war broke out, then a war breaks out and I have to go through that. But I can exercise intelligence where my own reactions to that are concerned. And this is the important thing. How am I responding when a fire breaks out in the office or the home? (Let’s assume I am the boss at the office and therefore there are all my interests at stake, my offices, my home). How do I respond when a fire breaks out two streets away? I run along to look at it and enjoy it as a spectator, excited. It’s quite a different response, isn’t it? In the one case I am a frightened, anxious, possessive mortal struggling to save what I treasure, in the other case I am the somewhat brutal, callous enjoyer of somebody’s suffering.

Student A: Did you by any chance hear the news today? There was a very remarkable interview with a man and his wife whose eight year old daughter some months ago was brutally sexually assaulted and then killed. The father spoke, not only intelligently, but with tremendous compassion that you could feel was coming through the interview. He said that he and his wife were appalled by the enormous amount of ignorance that people had  about themselves and about their fellow human beings. He said that after this happened, dreadful as it was, he had appealed to an Archbishop, a minister and a member of the educational field, saying that not only should they try and understand the plight of parents that were confronted with this ghastly tragedy, but that they should try and do something for the people who actually perpetrated these crimes. He said that so far he had not had any response from anybody. His wife also spoke, they were obviously people of great sensitivity. I thought that they showed a very real intelligence and a very genuine compassion that that man was not sitting down in his own self-pity but was endeavouring to help others who had been faced with the same problem and that his thoughts were for the man…

Phiroz: So, we see here an example of the point I am trying to make. How do we react to what we catch from the psychic atmosphere? And not only do we pick up from the psychic atmosphere, but there are a good many thoughts and feelings which are our own insofar as we have to think this, that and the other, in the course of our daily living. We have to, because of our business, our work, our domestic activities, and so on. Now, this is where the mindfulness comes in. Supposing for instance I receive a letter and it’s a long rigmarole, one can’t make out what on earth the point is, and you know how easy it is to get annoyed and say, “What on earth does this man want to tell me? Why can’t he say it simply and straightforwardly in a few words?” What was my state? What am I therefore letting loose again into the psychic atmosphere? You see, this is the point, isn’t it? All the time I am letting loose into the psychic atmosphere whatsoever goes out of my brain. I say brain deliberately, because all stimuli that some from outside reach the brain through our senses. I have no control over what is coming in my direction. If I happen to be looking there, at that tree, then those rays of light will enter my eye and make a picture which I will say is a tree over there. So I have no control over that. But what I can be mindful about is what is my reaction to it, what is my response to it. What am I letting loose again?

Student C: I found the awful difficulty of avoiding being callous. I’m sort of afraid of looking at things, I sort of feel, “What can I do about this?” Practically nothing. And then I feel that therefore perhaps it’s better to forget about it and turn my eyes away from it.

Phiroz: No, no, no. Of course one has to see the fact that one can’t do anything about it. If for instance I see a harassed mother with one or two troublesome little fellows walking along the pavement and finally she lose her temper and just smacks one of them soundly, it is perfectly true that I can’t interfere with that mother, I can’t do anything about it. The law protects her in fact and allows her the right to discipline the child by smacking it. I can’t interfere with that. But if I am really observant and really quiet inside, there would be no anger going out from me against that woman. I would see that this is the fact, here is she ill-treating a child, not merely correcting it, but actually ill-treating it. When she really loses her temper, she just lets fly. She’s really doing wrong, as we call it. But if I get disturbed, I am letting loose into the psychic atmosphere my annoyance and anger and whatever it is, in addition to the wrong which is already taking place there. Two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s only in mathematics that a negative quantity multiplied by a negative quantity gives me a positive result! That is only in mathematics!

Student C: So you just register?

Phiroz: You have to register and be intensely sensitive to it. Now see what happens. Supposing you register, supposing you watch, are completely attentive, intensely sensitive and quiet inside, balanced inside, you will find something happening inside you. What is that something which will happen? There will be released into the psychic atmosphere compassion, understanding. We don’t know how what we release into the psychic atmosphere will affect the person, and not necessarily just that person, but the general sort of cloud or force or violence, or unintelligence and so forth. We don’t know. But at least this is our responsibility. We are all the day letting loose awful psychical influences into the atmosphere all the time. Who is the first person to be affected by them? Myself, in the act of letting it loose. When I let loose these things in the psychic atmosphere, as I call it, what has actually happened to the body? Chemical processes have gone on, and we know enough nowadays to be able to say that these chemical processes are not exactly helpful for the body! They are harmful.

Student A: Psychically it is exactly like a boomerang because you explode it at the other person and it comes straight back to you.

Phiroz: Exactly, it comes back to you. This is one of the deep meanings of karma, the karmic process is like this; if you like, Newton’s Third Law of Motion slightly modified, and applied, not merely to the physical sphere, but to every aspect of our life. I say slightly modified, because the equal and opposite does not hold good always!

Student D: It is a kind of self-injury, isn’t it?

Phiroz: Exactly; we are injuring ourselves all the time. Now, this is a tremendous responsibility. It is tremendous because in the course of the day there is summation of a million little things, and a million little things added up amount to something rather large. Why does the body become decrepit and wear away and get diseased in the manner which it does? Largely through my own doing throughout the day, my own doing physically as well as mentally. Physically there are the straightforward things, mistakes in eating, drinking, squandering energy in a dozen different foolish ways, not enough sleep, not enough rest, all the rest of it, excitement, sensationalism, all these things add up and make the body decrepit, break it down. The body will come to an end, but it can come to an end beautifully. Look at a fruit which blossoms on the tree, and finally there is the end and it drops off just naturally. But it does not undergo that painful decrepitude that human beings undergo. A human being need not undergo such decrepitude. But if he lives humanly through his life, he will go on, and people will say, “Isn’t he marvellous, he is ninety five, and look at him, he goes for an eight mile walk in the morning and all the rest of it!” And he just takes it calmly and easily, and then suddenly you hear, “He died last night in his sleep,” or something like that. The end will inevitably come, of course it will, but what a different kind of ending, an ending in terms of beauty and loveliness, fruition, fulfilment. If we take the life of the mind, if we let loose into the world constantly that which is loving, kindly, helpful, peaceful, this is our personal responsibility. All sorts of influences will come to us, the pleasant and the unpleasant, both, equally. What am I letting loose in response?

Let us say a beautiful influence comes upon me. Let us say I see a marvellous sunset, and there are the Moon and Venus and Jupiter quite close to one another. This I have seen over and over again especially in countries like India. One often sees this and it is a wonderful sight, full of joy and peace and sublimity. What is my response, my response in terms of happiness? But also I like to grasp it, I would like it repeated again and again for my pleasure. Now this is where I am making a mistake, am I not? I want the Universe to run in a way which pleases me. You know, all this sounds very simple, kindergartenish, but it goes very deep. In the spiritual life, in the school of spiritual discipline, there is only kindergarten, there is no other stage! This is where mindfulness has to be exercised. What an I letting loose from morning to night? The question will arise, how shall I respond? But if we predetermine the form of the response, we are making a mistake. There is no question of predetermining the form of the response. The nature of the response is what we are concerned with, and the nature of the response will be right if we are wholly attentive, free of judgement for or against. This is the important point, to get free of judgement, to recognise the thing as it is and leave it at that, not take sides in it.

The Buddha stressed upekhā as the culminating aspect of the whole teaching of love, mettā, loving kindness, karuṇā, compassion, muditā, sympathetic joy in the well-being, the happiness and the progress of others, and finally upekhā. The first dictionary meaning in the common or garden sense is indifference, but to call indifference the peak point of love is obvious stupidity. So indifference is not the meaning. Its deeper meaning, especially in the psychological and spiritual sense, is imperturbability, not through indifference but through complete and intense sensitivity plus the maintenance of one’s balance. The maintenance of balance is not to be irresponsive. The maintenance of balance means not to take sides for or against.

Student C: Are there occasions when one must stand up for what you call the right?

Phiroz: The immediate situation, the limited situation may demand it. Then of course you have to act accordingly, obviously.

Student C: But with compassion?

Phiroz: But with complete compassion, complete understanding. This is terribly difficult. It may for instance necessitate restraining another person, but you can restrain the other with violence, with anger, in addition to the actual act of restraining them. This is where we have to be free of the anger, the violence. In an office for instance one may have to send in a report upon somebody’s work or whatever it is. A school teacher sends in the child’s report to the headmaster and/or the parents at the end of the term, and so forth. All right, you have to state the facts, you have to pass some sort of judgement. One can say the simple truth without hate, without violence, without favoritism, and so forth. The task is of course difficult, but that is the task. This responsibility for what goes out of my own mind is of very great importance all through the day.

Now let me relate this again to the question which we ask over and over again in the meetings. Why do we seek religion? Why do we turn to religion? We want to gain something, we want to achieve something. “I want to learn to meditate, to become a great yogi, enter the profound states of consciousness, travelling to mystical realms where there are angels and archangels who carry out the orders of the All-High, and I shall be in that company limited!!” I put it in this funny way, but it is a fact! It is just downright spiritual greed and, even worse, extraordinary stupidity.

Student A: To be quite honest, it applies to you, me and everybody else, because we look at ourselves, we decide that this is altogether a [inaudible] attitude, or whatever you like to call it, and we must change it. I can speak for myself, this is how you start. How you end I don’t know, but certainly you begin this way. Am I wrong in saying that? Otherwise why are we here?

Student B: It seems to me that the understanding is what one really hasn’t got, because when you say there is evil in the world, that is a subjective judgement.

Phiroz: In terms of Totality, there are no moral judgements possible. In terms of the limited situation, moral judgements have a place, because all action, all process is tied up with questions like growth or prevention of growth, with obstructing the natural harmony of a situation or preserving it.

Student B: [Observation inaudible]

Phiroz: In this case let us use the word perception rather than judgement. This word judgement is a difficult word. The word judgement in our worldly life is always associated with approval or disapproval. But if there is perception, pure perception without being judgematical, then one has a better chance of doing something more constructive than one would do if one merely judged. Judgement involves the separate self, I judge. But I am composed of what we commonly call good and bad elements alike, therefore my judgement is vitiated.

Student B: But when you say Venus is beautiful, this is a judgement. This is all subjective.

Phiroz: The perception is associated with certain qualities, undoubtedly, which go with that perception. But if, in addition to saying that Venus is beautiful, there arises at the same time possessiveness or anything like that, then the difficulty enters.

Student C: We must judge, mustn’t we, in order to exist? We must choose what is wise and unwise every moment of the day. Provided that this judgement is dispassionate, all is well.

Phiroz: Choice has to be exercised in the immediate situation, often and often. But choice has no place in pure observation. You can observe a quality without exercising choice. It is an extraordinary thing. If I say, “This is beautiful”, that means I have chosen to describe it as beautiful in the sense that it is not ugly. It is a very subtle matter altogether. Supposing I see, “This is beautiful.” Supposing I see, “That is ugly.” In that pure seeing there is no personal involvement.

Student C: But then of course in the phenomenal world beauty and ugliness are relative. If I say that something is beautiful, you might not agree with me.

Phiroz: Perfectly true. But pay attention to this business of personal involvement. This is the key to it. If there is no personal involvement, there is neither attachment nor aversion, neither attachment to the beautiful, nor aversion against the ugly, because this produces conflict. It is a state of conflict which breeds many conflicts, because the moment there is attachment, possessiveness comes up. “I would like to have that in reference to this,” which means I am telling life, “Give me this but don’t give me that.”

Student A: I mishandled a very personal relationship this week because I had become personally involved, and therefore my judgement was not dispassionate. I myself had become too involved. It’s the personal involvement, and the extraordinary thing is that once there is no personal involvement and there is just the seeing, then your action is absolutely correct. There’s no question of whether it’s been a good judgement, a wise or unwise one, it is absolutely right.

Student C: Provided your judgement is absolutely selfless.

Phiroz: Not personally involved. Now there is the other situation where personal involvement is essential, and it enters into our life this way — really caring. Really caring means personal involvement without any of the limitations of separate personality coming into that involvement. To understand our inner life and its process and to understand the flowering out of this purified consciousness, this pure awareness, is an extremely subtle and difficult matter. It is very, very complex indeed. Otherwise we would all be enlightened ones, there would be thousands of enlightened ones over the globe in double quick time! But we aren’t like that. It is very subtle. To care, really to care, is personal involvement in the profound sense. But there must be no element of separate personality interfering with that kind of personal involvement. This is a personal involvement in which my separate personality is completely out. I am not there, That, the Totality, is. I don’t cast a shadow upon the situation. If there is no personal involvement in the judgement, then you can be free of attachment on the one hand or aversion on the other hand. When you are free of attachment on the one hand and aversion on the other hand, then you are personally involved in the true sense, in the  sense of caring, which is pure love, pure consideration for the whole situation, not merely the other. We talk about helping others, thinking of others, being nice to others, but I am just emphasizing the difference between myself and the other fellow all the time. Be helpful, be kind, be truthful in the whole sense which will include me, and which will function with an all-inclusive consciousness so that there are no others whom you are benefiting.

In the Prajñāpāramitā you will find the Buddha saying openly, “There are no others to be led to Nirvana,” and therefore a bodhisattva has led no beings to perfect wisdom at all. When you go into the deeps, the thing becomes extremely complex. The trouble is that we make it complicated. Take the living organism. It is an extremely complex organism. But when in the working of this wonderfully complex organism something goes wrong, then, as the doctor quite correctly says, complication has set in, which is a different matter. You look at a Bach fugue, an extraordinarily complex structure. But if you try to write a fugue and the thing goes wrong and you can’t write it properly, it becomes complicated.

Now, one last point in this connection, because we can’t go on for ever! What is the fundamental basis for the religious life? It is just the simple moralities, again and again, nothing else. Abstain from harming in thought and feeling, in speech and in act. How often through the day do I hurt in thought and feeling? Every time I am angry or annoyed, every time I use bad language. Speech is such a beautiful thing, such a wonderful faculty that we have, such an exquisite thing. Speech rightly used has worked wonders throughout the ages, and speech wrongly used or evilly used has brought man untold suffering and sorrow, inflaming a person’s mind against another. Is it in Othello that you get Iago inflaming Othello’s mind? And see what happens, the tragedy that evolves out of it. Lady Macbeth talking to Macbeth, see what evolves out of it. Ribbentrop telling Hitler that England was now debased and incapable, and what came out of it, the mistaken step that Hitler took. (I mean, that is just one of the factors that played its part and so on.) So, not to harm in thought and feeling, not to harm in speech, and obviously of course not to harm in act. But the mind is the most important thing, because if one completely can abstain from harming where the mind is concerned, then there is no personal involvement.

Student A: But then one must be free of fear.

Phiroz: Well, of course all that comes into play, all these things work one with another. And then, when there is the culmination, there is realization, when one is the Perfected Holy One and all the rest of it, what happens? He lives abstaining from harming, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from self-indulgence, all foolish self-indulgence, and that’s all. The source and the goal are the same. But the Perfected Holy One has become free of his sub-human condition and has become the pure full human. This brings out the point about the trend in life, growth. In this movement of growth, this evolutionary movement, which is a limited context for us as humans, judgements have their place. What we call good and evil have their place. So, when I perceive the good wholly, when I perceive the evil wholly, without that personal involvement, which means taking sides, then one gets free of the conflict of the duals and realizes Transcendence.

We are so concerned with changing the shape of things. “I don’t like the house in which I am staying, I want a better house, I want this, I want the other.” It may be the fact that it would be better for one to be living in a different place, that may be a fact. But this involvement of desire, this personal desire, is what spoils it and lands us into mistakes. If it doesn’t come, all right, it doesn’t come. I remain in the house in which I am, fully aware of what it is and how it is. You will find that in a mysterious way the change will come at the right time in the right way in the right place. This is a mystery which operates everywhere and we are all unconscious of it. What determines the external shape of events is your innermost consciousness which is formless, it has no form or shape. But the way in which the living individual is aware in his innermost consciousness, which he cannot see, liberates those forces which alter the external shape, and by the external shape I mean his psychical life as well as his physical life. Things change.

Student C: That can work in both ways. If you have the mind of a Hitler…

Phiroz: But of course, exactly, exactly. But do not seek deliberately to change the shape of things for the better. When I say deliberately, I mean through desire merely. Pure perception is free of the bondage of desire. Pure perception is a very different thing. If one has pure perception, one has the power to let be. You see, there is a thing like providence, there is a thing like fate, use what words you like. If it is not pure perception, but my desire, then I am intruding self upon the world situation. There is no patience in that attitude, there is no forbearance. Such a person is not capable of bearing for other people’s sake. We do it in the business world, right, left, and centre, only our present social structure is making it more difficult. In the old days, for instance, if an employee wasn’t the right man, the businessman just threw him out, just like that, without caring twopence what happened to him afterwards. Now we haven’t got that power, because when he is thrown out, all the others walk out and demand twice the wage and get it!

Student A: But you still say there is a destiny which shapes our [inaudible]. How does this function at the same time as the fact that all the others walk out and the others who don’t walk out we have to beg to stay because we can’t replace them?

Phiroz: In the immediate situation this is what has happened. But wait and see what happens later! Unfortunately a very unhappy thing happens. One gets into deeper and deeper water, into greater and greater difficulties till one drowns in the whirlpool which one has created.

Student C: We reap what we sow inevitably.

Phiroz: Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, yes. So, the religious consciousness steps in here and enables one to see things in a human way and not a sub-human way. You see, ordinarily when we get into touch with societies and groups of people who are concerned with religion and philosophy and so forth, it is largely a different kind of entertainment for us. We are anxious to learn all about this marvellous new system of thought. We are all anxious to develop some powers here! Look at the appeal made by most of these societies and groups. “You will get such and such admirable and desirable results.” And if you look at all that they offer you in the way of results, what are the results? That which is supposed to be the very pleasant self-aggrandizing. “Practise Pelmanism, practise this, practise the other, do all these wonderful things and see what will happen!”

You see the kind of appeal that is made. And the same thing happens with the spiritual and religious groups. “We will free you from your complexes and your neuroses and so on, and you can enjoy…” The stress is upon the separate personality, the separate self, emphasizing selfness all along the line. But this is the very root of the world’s ill! It is very hard to see it, very hard. After fifty-six years of working along these lines, I am just beginning to see it in myself! It’s very subtle. It’s no use approaching religion in its depths unless we put aside every desire, lurking desire, for personal benefit or gain. But somebody might say, “But surely you don’t object to my becoming a better person, how much more useful I would be to humanity!” A big question mark! Humanity got along very well without me for all these millions of years and will get along without me when I am dead! You see how ego is at play there. It’s a very subtle working of the ego.

If we can make this one — let me use this term — breakthrough and become so awake that we will always catch the selfness in us at work, there will be a tremendous transformation. Get at the heart of the matter all the time. We don’t get at the heart of the matter. If we get interested for instance in Vedānta, then we want to make a complete study of Śaṇkara, which is absolute non-duality, Rāmānuja, which is qualified non-duality, and Madhva, who distinctly stood up for duality, and all the rest of it. And we want to know all about this, or we learn all about the different cycles of evolution, and how man climbs from this step to that step. What is all this foolery about? And I, who swallow all this conversation and so-called holy instruction, am impatient with the fellow next to me simply because of some insignificant little thing! You see, the holy life is here, now, this moment.

You know, Soloman when he taught me the piano started me off with five-finger exercises, although in my amateur fashion I used to play some big works, and all the rest of it. He started me off with five-finger exercises, he told me to put aside all the big Beethoven or Chopin or whatever I played. If you get your ABC right, you’ve done marvels! Then all the rest comes out of it. If there is anything wrong with the seed, what comes out of the seed will bear that wrongness, won’t it? But if the seed is right, the starting point, rightness can come out of it.

That is why I keep on suggesting now, be very mindful throughout the day. Be very mindful without looking for results, that is to say, without wanting a result. Let it work by itself. Have faith in that sense. Now look, we all have faith in the food we eat, haven’t we? If we have more or less the right food, we have faith in that food, and we more or less trust our insides to do the necessary work in connection with the food that is put in, and we shall be all right, and we are! Cannot we have faith in this, be mindful with respect to this selfness, mindful with respect to what we send out of the mind in response, not merely because each one of us wants to learn, to grow, to develop, and so forth, but because the whole world will be happy thereby, maybe?

If this can happen, you’ll never feel loneliness, although you may not see another person for the next six months. Loneliness is my deliberate self-isolation. I isolate myself because I’m thinking about myself. To observe oneself, to observe just as the fact, is essential, necessary all the time. But when there comes this personal involvement, this attachment and aversion, then I am in the whirlpool.

As I said earlier, it all sounds very childish, childlike, but it is very deep. Dear Ānanda said to the Buddha, “Lord, deep and wonderful is the paicca-samuppāda.” “Ah, say not so, Ānanda, say not so,” said the Buddha, and he then repeated exactly what Ānanda said! It took my years to understand what on earth that Discourse meant. It is in the Mahā-Nidāna Sutta, the whole of the Mahā-Nidāna Sutta. Why did the Buddha say, “Say not so, say not so”? And then he just repeated the whole thing over again! We think we have seen, we think we have understood, we imagine we have observed. We haven’t. All the time I am obstructing that Transcendence and that Totality which is trying to flow through me unresistingly. When I do really wake up to this selfness, this has ceased to obstruct. And then you will know that the simple things, the childlike things, are the beginning and the end of the whole thing.


Tim Surtell
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