A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 28th March 1971
People sometimes enquire whether enlightenment or liberation or fulfilment in the religious sense comes suddenly or gradually through effort, practice, through time. The actual realization or enlightenment is momentary, it comes in a flash, but it comes because there has been a gathering momentum towards that fruition through a period of time. Occasionally something suddenly comes out of the blue in our lives and we say that that was the beginning, not the climax of long effort through the past. But I believe that if we are able to investigate all the factors of play in such a situation we will find that there were so many things unbeknown to the person which took place and made their contribution, and then in the ripeness of circumstance, in which the individual himself and his whole environment were just in the perfect relationship to each other, the precipitation into the realization takes place. The within has to meet the without in a state of perfection. The effort of the within, within oneself, can be defeated by circumstance time and again, or the favourable circumstance might not find a proper response, an urge, an outgoing from within. So nothing happens. But in that magical moment when the two are in real harmony, lo and behold, enlightenment takes place. Both elements, the within and the without, have played their part and continuously play their part.
This is one of the very important things we must bear in mind always, that where religious fulfilment is concerned, there is no such thing as coming to an end in terms of enlightenment, fulfilment, liberation or whatever you like. The enlightened state, the liberated state, the perfection which one is looking for, is of the nature of Life. Take our own physical body. The heart beats from before we are born until we are dead. The blood streams through the body all the time. Nothing stops that, everything goes on. In those marvellous states when one is feeling absolutely fine, there is a peak point of cooperation and efficiency in every part of the body working in perfect coordination. So too with fulfilment and liberation. It is not like a school course or a university career where finally you take an examination, obtain your degree, and that’s finished. You have come to a dead end. Or, if you like, with your career in a business or whatever it is, you climb the ladder, as we call it, step by step, reach the top. And there is a top in all these other circumstances and situations, because these circumstances and situations are completely confined to the sphere of the limited, the particular, the finite, something which begins, proceeds and ends, which belongs to the sphere of the mortal. But where the religious life is concerned, we are in the sphere of the im-mortal, the non-particular, the un-limited, the in-finite. There is no measurement here. There is in actual fact no beginning or ending, no movement in terms of beginning or ending as we understand beginning and ending in finite terms, in space and time. But there is a movement, if you like, that is to say, an activity which goes on in that inner life, all of its own nature which escapes perception or analysis by the brain, by our sense-mind activity, because this transcends the activity of sense and mind.
So, the everlastingness, the continuity if you like (it is difficult word to use in this context but we will use it), of the state of perfection, of holiness, of fulfilment, of enlightenment, of liberation, is not a measurable continuity. It is of a nature where you cannot follow the steps. But it is. In its extraordinary isness it contains time and all the limitations of time. In its extraordinary isness its essential timelessness and immortality are embodied and manifested in terms of the movement through time and limited manifestation. This holiness literally means the unbroken holiness of Reality, of Totality, an unbroken holiness. But when it manifests in the outer world which we experience, it manifests only through the individual, the separate individual who has become unresisting, completely sensitive, a perfect channel for this manifestation to take place.
So now, naturally we ask the question, “So this implies that we must make a continuous effort?” Effort not in the sense of resisting or opposing anything whatsoever. Our common conception of effort and the good life is the usual common-or-garden “Fight the good fight, resist the evil with all your might,” and all the rest of it. Not that way. Whatever evil I resist is strengthened by my resistance. The evil which I am resisting is in my own self. It is part and parcel of my psychical being and if I wrestle with it and struggle with it, it will also get strong. Two lads get together, good friends, they say, “Let’s have a wrestle.” They are wrestling out of friendship, but in that struggling with each other the one strengthens the other, the muscles of both of them get stronger and stronger. That is how it is with our psychical being. So, it is an effort which is not a resistance, it is not a contradiction to something which we call good within ourselves. This is one of the difficult things to appreciate in this whole process. We are constantly resisting what we call evil.
Consider carefully another aspect of this. If we resist something, it is because we believe that, if that were out of the way, something more desirable would take its place. But in all such situations my standards and criteria are worldly standards and criteria. I can very easily fool myself that they are spiritual, that they are pure. They are not. Every single one of those standards of judgement, my criteria, my yardsticks for measurement, are all related to myself, they are self-oriented. In finality all that happens is that this self-enclosingness from which we all suffer becomes greater than ever. To put it in other terms, we are lonelier than ever, and we fail to realize the true aloneness, the true individuality in which we are not only a harmony within but are completely related to everything without, free of any dependence upon the without. Then you are the true individual, the undivided from the whole. You are independent but completely related. You stand on your own feet, whereas all worldly criteria and standards according to which we act, think and direct our efforts, all of them are self-oriented.
Can we put our finger upon the very root of all this? Remember, last time we started with quite a short meditation in which we saw that this organism which goes by our name in the world is what we refer to as I. Every other similar organism in the world (and there are three thousand five hundred millions of them) we refer to as you. Every single you is similarly oriented towards all the others. Three thousand five hundred million people in the world refer to themselves as I, and the remaining three thousand five hundred millions as you. One would think that by that token there ought to be three thousand five hundred million squared yous in the world, and only three thousand five hundred million Is. In actual fact there are only three thousand five hundred million people. There is neither addition nor multiplication applying in this sphere. But if you are you for me and I am you for you, what is the relationship between this I and this you? What is its essential meaning? Because we are conscious in this separative way, this isolative way, where you are the other, the non-being, the not-self, and I am the self, because of this isolative consciousness, do we not break up the unity of the One Total Reality? This sundering of the unity in our consciousness is the fundamental meaning and fact of the word sin. When Roman Catholicism declares that we are all born in sin, this is a real meaning of that statement. It has nothing to do with the way that the physical body is appropriated, that is all nonsense, that is just Nature’s way, and since the Lord God himself was responsible for Nature’s way, well, if you want to put any blame, put it on the Lord God, not upon the individual! He is the great sinner if that is the absurd meaning of the word sin! The word sin literally means to try to sunder the unity, that is sin. And the unity, remember, between innumerable unique particulars is in terms of relationship. It is the relationship which makes the unity, otherwise we just have a characterless uniformity all the way through. But everything is individual and unique. But its real individuality consists not in its apparent separateness but in the fact that it is harmoniously related to the Totality. This isolative self-consciousness is the villain of the piece.
Now there is another point to consider. Each one of us as an individual is not to blame for this. We can’t help it, we are born in ignorance, we don’t know, we have not got the faculties to perceive and be responsive to all the relationships that actually exist between all persons and all things throughout the universe. We just haven’t got that faculty, that capacity. We begin to see it when we read about it or somebody talks about it. That is the first intimation we get about it. Sometimes intimations come without talking or reading. Perhaps all of you at some time or other, especially in childhood, have been suddenly wondering, “What am I really, what is all this?” In that state, if there were by great good fortune an inner quietness at that time, you may suddenly have felt, “But everything is I.” The child will only think in those terms, I, it won’t think in terms of you. Everything is I, everything is myself, I am the flower, I am the sky. You know how we ambitiously and egoistically want to become as tall as the sky, I did anyway! So that is a possibility, and that may happen not merely in childhood, it may happen later on in life. You are suddenly overwhelmed with this sense of the One Total Reality, and that One Total Reality is you yourself. The flaw here is that one still thinks of oneself as a specific self in the midst of that unity. So one slips back to ordinary isolative self-consciousness. Self-consciousness as such is not the trouble. We have to be self-conscious otherwise we could not even cross the street in safety. We have to be conscious in the separatist way in order to be aware that there are vehicles, there are other people, there are trees, there are walls, otherwise we could not move about at all! But when that self-consciousness takes the next step of being constantly concerned with itself and isolating itself from everything else and not waking up to the fact of the relationships that exist, then this isolative self-consciousness lies at the root of all pain, sorrow, difficulty, misery, problems and so on. What is the meaning of the word problem? The relationships are not understood. The problem is there because one does not see, one does not understand. What is the supreme problem that we have through our lives? Our own self. Do we understand ourself, do we really see ourself as we are in actual fact, or do we just have an image of ourself?
As and when we begin to be really attentive, watchful in the right way, completely alert but quiet, passive, neither indulging nor fighting against whatsoever comes up in the mind, when we begin to do that, we may begin to awake to the relationships between this which we call ourself and all the rest which we dump under the one word not-self. Some of these relationships we become aware of in clear analytical terms, but the whole relationship is something which we sense, it is a sense, it is an awareness as distinct from consciousness. Consciousness as such implies I the subject observing you or that, the object. There is a separation between the two. Consciousness functions mostly in analytical terms, the analysed parts being immediately synthesized in order to get the wholeness of the pattern. But awareness is something which you cannot analyse. It is like a touch sense as compared with a sight sense. Consciousness sees, awareness touches.
So when we approach this problem of our isolative self-consciousness, let the awareness of Totality grow. There is nothing to do positively, as we say in the ordinary sense, a particular course of action. Just be watchful, alert and quiet inside, as quiet as possible. Things come every day in our life to upset the quietness, we all know that. Watch the upset state, do not fight against it, just watch it, observe it, because in that observing there is a learning, and forces are released within our own psychical being which perform the task of healing, just as the physical body if wounded has a tendency to heal itself. The psyche heals itself if you let it alone. In the case of the psyche, it performs the task of healing completely, which the body does not do. If the body is sufficiently wounded, it will perish, the whole organism will die. But with the psyche it is different. You can thrust any number of swords through the psyche or throw any number of atom bombs at it. You can’t destroy it, it is there always. It is in-substantial. That is the extraordinary thing about it. But it will heal if you let it heal.
Here perhaps we have the key for approaching all our problems. All our problems, our difficulties in the office, our matrimonial problems, our business problems, or whatever they are, we want to solve them. What will we accept as the solution? If a shape, a pattern of things which I like comes into being, then I say, “The problem is solved.” Any pattern of things which I like, whatsoever it may be, and the other way round, any pattern of things which I dislike, both of them contain the seeds of death in them, and they contain the seeds of disharmony in them, because with the disappearance of what I like, I am miserable. This is something which we think we understand. We say, “I am a Vedantist, I am a Buddhist, I am a Christian, I have been taught to submit to the will of the Lord God, I am a Moslem.” (The word Moslem means complete submission to the will of God.) Collect all the Christians and Hindus and Buddhists and Moslems and so on all over the world and just see to what extent they have given themselves to the Totality in this sense. Not a bit of it. “Oh, Lord God, I am thy slave, but please let me have everything the way I like it.” This is human nature, or rather, more accurately sub-human nature. This is what we are. We really must recognise this. We imagine, “Oh yes, I understand this and I try to act accordingly.” We don’t. This isolative self-consciousness is so powerful, it so permeates our entire being, (it is in every single one of the fifteen million million cells that make up the body) that really to see and let the light penetrate this tremendous fog, or more than that, this solid opacity which is the body, is a titanic task. I can’t carry out the titanic task as an I determined to achieve this. It’s quite impossible. Recall that marvellous myth of Herakles and the Augean stables. No one can clean out the Augean stables, they are so vast and so filthy, and the filth is like cast iron. What did Herakles do? He just turned the stream, the river of life, of pure life. He did not struggle against the thing, he just let life, and the stables were cleaned out. That is a tremendous lesson for us. But it took the Man-God (Herakles was the son of Zeus himself, the Lord of Olympus, and of Alcmene, a mortal), it took this extraordinary creature, born of the immortal and the mortal, to do it. What does it mean for us? If within each one of us, a sense of Transcendence has really began to emerge, then that sense of Transcendence is the father here, Zeus the Lord of Olympus, and our own psyche is the human female Alcmene, and of the two in activity within us there emerges Herakles. Alcmene belongs to the realm of the limited, the particular, the mortal realm. Zeus belongs to the realm of the immortal. You see how the two blend to produce that new something in our own being which will carry out the task.
Every day in our lives situations arise in which we inevitably do the wrong thing because of isolative self-consciousness. Supposing we spend just five or six minutes recalling some particular situation during this last week in which we were caught napping, so to say, in which isolative self-consciousness was at work and spoilt the situation. We made a mistake or a series of mistakes. Just try and recall some situation like that. Look at it very very calmly and quietly, but see it very clearly, some situation in which we lost our temper or got frightened, or were overcome by anxiety or annoyance or positive jealousy or hate or envy or whatever it was. Let us spend five or six minutes and see isolative self-consciousness at work.
Try and see it very calmly without regrets and that sort of thing.
Also as we observe any details which are responsible for disharmony, trouble and so forth, be free of any determination to avoid that in future, not a fixed determination which causes a blockage in the psyche. Just see the fact, really see it as such.
If we pay attention intensely but passively, just observing the fact quietly, then we will be free of conflict inside which is the really important thing, free of inner conflict.
Do not attempt to find reasons or give explanations inside one’s own mind, do not conduct a court case for or against the plaintiff or defendant or whatever it is, just look quietly, that is all, no condemnations.
See that at the root of it all is this isolative self-consciousness.
If we really perceive the activity of this isolative self-consciousness, we will really understand that everything that is manifested is impermanent. We say intellectually because we accept it in a sort of a logical way, “Yes, whatever we see will perish some day or some time”, and so forth. Having said that, we remain unaffected by it, which means that it has not gone deeply, it has only scratched the surface layer of the brain cells and nothing else. But if it is not purely a brain knowledge, merely a brain knowledge, but is something which we are completely aware of, when our whole sensitivity has seen that and responded to it, then we shall be free of grasping at anything and everything. We shall be free of wanting to possess anything, to hold on to it, like holding on to life like grim death. This is exactly what people do do! Consider the freedom within. This does not mean that one will become indifferent to persons or things, or one’s duties or procedures or techniques or whatever they are. One does not become indifferent at all, but because one has that inner freedom through non-grasping and that sensitivity, which is the result of being free of isolative self-consciousness, one’s whole life energy will go easily and sweetly into whatsoever task has to be performed. And what’s more, one is intelligent enough to see what is one’s proper task and what is one’s proper business at the moment, and one minds one’s own business and does not meddle with other people’s affairs and so forth. Aren’t we all awful meddlers in everybody else’s business all along the line? We find wonderful excuses for it. The most powerful example of that is of parents toward their child. “Ah, but it’s my child, I must do this, that and the other for the child’s sake.” I am assuming that I know in the first instance just what I should do for the child. If indeed I do know that, then I am a super genius! It is an extraordinary conceit, it is really a lack of love which makes a parent do that. If he really loved the child, he would be so aware of the fact that he himself knows next to nothing that he will have a better chance of letting the child grow peacefully and happily.
Psychology in this century has begun to find out in some very considerable measure just how the parents spoil the life of a child. When we go to an analyst or somebody like that and he asks questions, we trace back the history of the present malaise to childhood conditions, the influence of the parents and so on. This is true, that such and such influences did play their part. What do we do next if we are wise? Do we, who suffer from the malaise, which is attributed to our parents, either try to forgive in lordly fashion what the parents did, or to forget all about it? That sort of forgiving and forgetting, both of them, are mistakes. You cannot forget. The conscious mind has the power to shut its eyes just like the body has the power to shut its eyes. The unconscious mind cannot shut its eyes. It cannot not see, it cannot forget. It is there. If I have a peptic ulcer and pretend it is not there, the peptic ulcer will carry on merrily giving me pain constantly. I can’t pretend that way. You can’t play ostrich with life, bury your head in the sand and pretend the difficulty is not there. So forgetting is an absurdity. One has to be mindful to remember, and remember without wanting the shape of that thing to be altered into another shape which is pleasant to me. Then understanding grows, then the real psychological healing takes place, because if I observe the thing quietly, not giving way to my isolative self-consciousness at work, I completely absorb the whole situation, the whole trouble (and this applies to the opposite of trouble, the pleasant things too), I absorb the whole of it, and in that absorption is the transmutation of the trouble.
That is the complete healing, the real healing, because you have got at the very root, my own isolative self-consciousness. Then there is love in operation, which has nothing to do with sentiment or emotion or any sort of possessive relationship. Love as we know it in the world today is one of the most powerful forces (not altogether, but a good part of it) for hurting, for distorting the beauty of life. And we call it love, this thing of attachment, this thing of claws and tentacles which wants to possess for the self. It is conditional, it is reciprocal, it lays down its laws. “I will love, honour and co-operate or obey you provided you love, honour and co-operate with me in the manner which I consider is loving, honouring and co-operating.” This is the isolative self-consciousness at work, this is our fundamental ignorance at work. It is all the grasping, all the resentment, when it is not fulfilled, all the ill will, malice, jealousy, anger, hate, everything comes up in this complex, and its root is this isolative self-consciousness, “I am I and you are you, and we’ll make a bargain about living together.” The unity of the One Total Reality is an absolute fact. I can’t improve it, I can’t spoil it, as far as the fact is concerned. In the act of resisting it, through the misfortune of being ignorant of it, I will suffer and get ill and produce suffering outside me. But when I begin to see it as such and remain quiet and not fight against my own difficulties inside, then this isolative self-consciousness changes and I become aware of constant relationship. You become aware of wonderful things which are the reality between man and man, between man and things.
Another thing we cease to grasp, another thing we drop, are all ideals. The ideal is the desired thing, but when your ideal and my ideal clash, then what? Where are we? “I’ve had twenty-five years of experience in this situation, my dear sir, who are you to tell me how it should be done?” “You don’t know about it,” the other fellow says to me, “You fool, I have had thirty-five years of experience at it, and I know better than you because I have had thirty-five years of experience at it!” But thirty-five years of grinding the wrong way round will not produce the right result! If a person insists on trying to play a piano with his nose, he will only get a nose ache! Isn’t that true?
Forget all the words and the thoughts that come out as I speak. Get the feel of the thing, let it be like a tremendous energy, Herakles’ stream of life if you like, and let it do its own task in its own way. Forget my words and thoughts, because they are limited finite things, they are impermanent. But in the act of hearing the sound, the words, because you know the language and you know the meaning of the words attached, let in your own mind, not another thought arise, but a power be released. This is the thing. Otherwise any first-class brain can produce a wonderful pattern of thought which can be conveyed to another person or persons, a whole country, and they can all get the thought and they say, “Now the millennium will be established.” It does not get established, life is not like that. The nature of life in its insideness is something which the brain does not know and cannot know, cannot know. Don’t forget that. Truth, Reality, the ultimate things, Transcendence, is the unknown and unknowable. The knowable and knowability belong to the realm of structure only, the structure without function, it is a dead useless thing, it is a fossil. Function is this something which is life, and only when the mind is free of slavery to the outward form, the thoughts, the philosophies, the ideas, the words, when it is free of that, the limitation of those things I mean, then this living thing begins to work.
What keeps the body going? My knowledge of it? Not a bit of it. I don’t know at all how the thing functions. I may study anatomy and physiology to the nth degree and know all about it, but I don’t know how the works go! But they do. When structure and function get fully integrated in our whole being through the disappearance of this isolative self-consciousness, then you will be in the state of enlightenment, in the state of peace, in the state of being a true human. That is the meaning of the true human, the Perfected Holy One and nothing else than that. Again, don’t make pictures of the Perfected Holy One, because how can I make a picture of the Perfected Holy One? You can’t make a picture, the picture is not the living reality in any case. This is Phiroz, not that, that picture over there. We say re-presentation, but that re-presentation is a structure which will make an impression upon you as you see it, and you will re-cognise the living person of which that is a re-presentation. You see how difficult it is really to get the feel of life, to get the feel of this which is Infinite, which is Transcendent, which is the Totality, which is Reality. We are imprisoned in the structure. That is why those older teachers and philosophers said that the soul was imprisoned in the body, and the soul was always striving to get free of its prison house and shuffle off this mortal coil. But remember, no body, no soul. Body-soul, body-mind, are one reality, the psycho-physical organism. And it does not end there. This is isolative self-consciousness which has bedevilled the religious philosophies of the world. Spirit is this, soul is that, body is that, all beautifully parcelled out, so many words. People who produced the basic theologies of the great religions are Saint so-and-so, and all the rest of it! God laughs quietly at the saintly activities on the planet! This religious living is just daily living actually, but free of isolative self-consciousness.
When one gets free of just this psycho-physical organism as oneself and of ending here, then one is sensitive to the fact that there is more that this, and the more ultimately includes the Totality. Only the Totality deserves the name I, and in that I there is no you, not in terms of exclusiveness. The word I, the Sanskrit Aham, the Latin ego, not our modern English use of the word ego, but the real Latin ego, is the One Total Reality, Eternal God if you like to call it that. The word I is really a very sacred word. The Sanskrit word Aham really represents the One Total Reality which is present and which is undeniable when all the illusions concerned with it are gone. The I in that sense, in this total sense of the Ultimate Reality, is the unabandonable. You can’t abandon it, how can you? Whilst you are alive try and abandon your body. Can you? You can’t.
So in consciousness, in awareness this is where the mind comes in, it is the great link between the Absolute Transcendent and all this that we see. So when in consciousness you have realized the unabandonability of the Totality, then there is no isolative self-consciousness. There is no poisonous root of self, the root of a tree of evil, so to say, to spoil life and poison life. One of the consequences of all that, apart from being free of grasping and possessiveness and so forth? One will cease from innumerable useless activities that we carry out throughout the day. You watch these activities of human beings. If one is frightened of looking at oneself, (and sometimes oneself is better not looked at, it is a terrifying sight!) look at the activities of others. What are they born of? Vanity, egoism, pride, conceit, illusion, downright stupidity, restlessness, incapacity, ignorance, folly. But isn’t that true? If we really understand this, if we really see this, free of isolative self-consciousness, then we will see it compassionately and wisely. Otherwise we will see it critically, condemning the other or oneself, as the case may be. Or when we look at what we commonly call the good qualities, we will see it with approval, with appreciation and we will immediately grasp that and be attached to that, which is also bondage.
The whole thing, the stream of life which flows on, let it, don’t obstruct the steam of life. Life is sweet, wonderful, pure, it really is good to be alive provided one is alive. Most of us human beings wear ourselves out, kill ourselves trying to live. There is no need for that. In the quiet and in peace you will be happy.