Attend to the Now
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 1st January 1972
During the last two months we have tried to understand deeply the meaning of Pure Mind and of Psyche, and the very important, the crucial position of the human psyche.
You may recall that we saw that psyche has its roots in the physical body. The word physical means natural and it is the result of the interaction of this Transcendent energy, Pure Mind, which is of the nature of Eternity, Immortality, Immeasurability, with the body, which belongs to time, procedure, decay and death. We also saw that we, here as we are, are subject to two main forces attracting the psyche. One belongs to the animal realm, the drive for self-preservation and the preservation of the species and all the psychical qualities and activities associated with those two drives, which belong to the animal part of us. And there is that other which is not a drive, not a pull, which really is indescribable, that power of Transcendence which is embedded through and through the whole psycho-physical organism. The law of the organism, because of its animal evolution, is the law of the animal, of the jungle, and the law of Pure Mind is the law of Spirit, the Transcendent Law. We are subject to, we are affected by, these two main forces. It is very important to understand this very clearly and to be aware of the forces as forces, not only to be conscious of them descriptively. We use words and say the law of the animal, the law of the jungle. Having said the words the brain ticks it off as, “Well, that’s done with now.” That is of no use. In terms of discriminative consciousness we have merely kept ourselves apart from the reality which those words try to indicate. When we understand their real meaning then we have become that meaning. There is no necessity for us to examine the meaning as something apart from ourselves. Then we have really understood, there is no confusion. There is real awareness, when we really know this is so. There is no question about it. You will find that when we emerge into that state of “this is so”, we cease to describe it, we do not need to describe it, because the words are always a screen between us, ourselves, the living persons, and the living Reality.
It is easier for us to understand the part with which we are familiar in our everyday life, the animal part. It is not quite so easy to understand the Transcendent part. The full understanding of the Transcendent part means that one’s self has really become that Transcendence, not because one’s self through one’s own efforts has grown into something which was seen in a vision beforehand or was predetermined, but because one has so understood and is so awake to all that obstructs Transcendence that in that intense awareness and attentiveness, the obstructions disappear. And then Transcendence functions and works through the psycho-physical organism. It does not need any knowing in the ordinary sense of the knowing subject coming to know an external observed object.
One may repeat this again and again and one may say, “Yes, I’ve heard that before, I’ve got it.” What have I got? Nothing at all. If I have got it, it is something different, separate from me. And that’s all. If I have got Transcendence, if I were so absurd as to say such a thing, then I possess Transcendence in my pocket, which obviously is absurd. All that can happen is that this obstructiveness of the isolative self-consciousness can be so out of the way, one can be so healed of that illness, that Transcendence is here within the living organism unobstructed. We get the idea, but we have to go right beyond the idea. To give rather a crude physical analogy, it is as if we were always with the banana skin in our hands but the banana falls away and is lost. It is not that. It is the real thing. The analogy fails hopelessly because, whereas with Transcendence, Transcendence gets you, you get and eat the banana and throw away the skin! It goes upside down, so to say!
With regard to emerging into this state of realization — we must become intensely aware of the obstructive factors. As you know, we are the creatures of our conditioning, our animal heritage as well as our socio-cultural heritage. This socio-cultural heritage conditions the psyche so very strongly that this power of pure Mind in us gets locked up, imprisoned by it. If Pure Mind functioned freely without being obstructed, we would be constantly intelligent in the true sense of the term. That means, constantly able to perceive the truth of that which is actually present without making any error. Our insight would be perfect insight all the time everywhere. But the psyche is so strongly conditioned and our speech faculty and technique are so strong that it is always the external shape, the description, the unreal, which is uppermost in our consciousness. The inner reality which that description is supposed to convey we are blind to. This is our difficulty.
This power of awareness, this, which has been called, particularly in India, absolute consciousness, pure consciousness, the One without a second and so forth, this consciousness is something which we do not know, which we are not. It is this which has to find release and perfect expression through the psycho-physical organism which is ourself. It is very easy to feel, “Oh, yes, at last I’ve got that, I have really seen it, I had a real inspiration this morning, or whatever it was, and now I really know.” This is an illusion. The real knowing always is actual being. He who really knows God is God. He know really knows Truth in the spiritual Transcendent sense is himself the Truth. When Kṛṣṇa, Jesus, al-Hallāj, the Sufi mystic who was martyred, said “I am the Truth,” they knew what they were saying. They were the Truth, the Truth which cannot be given over, parcelled out to another, the Truth which is Being. The Truth which is Being is always indescribable. Why is it indescribable? Because all description is in the terms of sense-functioning. We utilize all our accumulated knowledge through the use of our sight, our hearing, our touch and then our talking, which we call thinking, our emotions, our feelings and all the rest of it, we utilize all that material in order to describe. All that has validity within the restricted sphere of the ambivalent, of duality, of multiplicity, in which there is the whole of the becoming process. But this is mortal, this is measurable. That Other which is immortal, immeasurable, in which all this mortal and measurable is completely subsumed, that is completely beyond all descriptive processes.
We talk day and night, literally day and night, we talk in our sleep, not loudly but we keep on talking. The good old encephalographs reveal a good deal. We go on talking all the time. But we do not realize, we are not really awake to the fact that all this is about that which is born and dies only, saṃsarā, that which begins, proceeds, finishes, which is born, which decays, suffers, dies. So all our descriptive activities are confined to this realm of death. The Prince of this world, the Lord of Death is the supreme one in the realm of multiplicity. But there is that which is other than Death. And that which is other than Death is this itself here, which, because of our descriptive activity and discriminative consciousness we are aware of only as a becoming process and Death. There is no separate, different world which is the realm of God, of Transcendence, or Immortality or Eternity. It is This. The difficulty is in my psycho-physical being. This psycho-physical organism is an instrument, a vehicle, which is still incapable of experiencing and realizing that change by which the Immeasurable, the Eternal is freely manifest through this perishable psycho-physical organism.
This is why it is ultimately always a matter of the transformation of one’s mode of awareness of existence. Reality, Truth is only One, One Whole Absolute, whatever it is. But this living being called a human being is aware, is conscious in such limited terms that that Oneness, that Wholeness, is only a thing in the distance, a thing of desire, a thing of aspiration, an ideal. And whatsoever is a thing of aspiration, an ideal, a desire, is an obstruction to Transcendence, because every ideal, every aspiration and every desire is a limited something, a finite something, therefore belonging to Death. And it drives us, it moves us to the objective which itself is a limited, finite thing which is a thing of Death. If my objective is God, I could find that God and in the moment of the finding He will be dead. He will be not wanted.
What happens whenever we have satisfied our passion? We turn away from the object of passion. Supposing one is gifted as a musician. A violinist will want to possess a Stradivarius or other of the most marvellous violins of the world. His whole energy will go into grasping that, into obtaining it. When he has obtained it, his whole energy flops down and he turns away from it. He values the instrument, he utilizes it but in that process he is constantly going to it and turning away from it. It is the realm of duality, it is the birth/death realm, it is the joy/sorrow, pain/pleasure realm, it is the realm of the unsatisfactory as some schools of Buddhism would present it. But Transcendence you never go to, you never turn away from. Is there anything which you or I have realized in our own life, in our own living experience which was of such a nature that we never went to it and never turned away from it? But it was there, everlastingly. Is there anything? The Omnipresent, the Indescribable, the Ungraspable, the thing which is not of desire and therefore the barb of disappointment and grief, is there? Yes, there is. Space… Space, the absolutely undeniable, the unknowable, the ungraspable, the thing which is without finitude, insubstantial, out of which miraculously comes our substance which you and I can experience with the senses. Just as space is this Transcendent origin of matter, there is also Transcendent origin of consciousness, pure consciousness itself. It is man, this creature man on this planet, through which this is emerging. This is the purpose of our existence, the supreme and the religious purpose of our existence.
If one is, at least intellectually, strongly aware of that as a fact, then it becomes relatively easy to see all our conditioning. Where do we see our conditioning and how do we see it? Only in our daily experience from moment to moment, that which actually is present. The important point here is not so much the external, physical material, the room, the chairs, the tea, the meeting, the performance, the office, the typewriter, etc., it is not merely that, and the activities that we go through, eating, drinking, sleeping, and all the rest of it. It is what happens in here inside our own brains, inside our own minds, all the time in relationship to that. Otherwise we will inevitably have a wrong attitude towards our external conditioning. Why will we have a wrong attitude towards our external conditioning? Because, seeing the external shape of things around us (and you know how true this is), we are all cussed enough to want it to be different. “No, I don’t want it that way, I want it this way.” Then your husband, your wife, or father or brother or friend or somebody says, “Oh no, don’t do it like that, do it like this.” And then some clever writer just observes all this fiddle-faddle which goes on between human beings, writes novels, plays, and there we are… churning up the stuff of existence.
We get driven by desire, and the shape that our desire takes is the index of all our conditioning. One may say, “Oh, but you are born that way with such and such ductless glands and this sort of physical structure, and therefore you behave like that.” Of course, therefore you behave like that. But that precisely is my physical conditioning, my natural physical heritage, the animal heritage in me. In addition to that is the conditioning from the time I was born of all that was said, that was done by those around me, together with the books and the customary practices, the behaviour, the action according to the customs, mores, the customs of the people. Morality is customary action, customary behaviour.
So I will be driven by desire, my desire is shaped by all this. If I pay attention only to the external shape of what is, then the immediate reactions to the what is that rise up within me, the organism, are the things which I must be really awake to and attend to, attend with pure attention, not with impure attention. We attend with impure attention. “Ah, Krishnamurti said that attentiveness is so important, Phiroz also says the same thing, somebody else says this and somebody else says that — oh yes, I must attend because, you see, thereby the millennium will dawn for me! All my problems will vanish away and the garden will become full of roses without thorns and the pond will be all milk with a little bit of honey inside it!” No, that is impure attention. That is the devil in me attending. Just attend, desirelessly mindful, and in the attempt, the effort, the giving of all your energy towards this desireless mindfulness, up will come all the secret hidden desires. You will know yourself as no external psycho-analyst can help you to know yourself. When you attend in that manner you are attending purely. As these things come up you see your own impure mindfulness. In the very seeing you are free of the impurity. You cannot acquire purity, you cannot acquire the Transcendent spiritual virtues and values. Virtue in its Transcendent Reality is you yourself, there is nothing to acquire. You have to be free of the ambivalent virtue-vice conflict. The result is virtue, just natural virtue. There comes pure attentiveness. When it functions, when it has really functioned, its effect is immediate, it completely transforms the impure state into the pure state. Then you are free of it. You are free of it because you do not get free of an impure state, because it can easily be replaced by another impure state! But this dualistic conflict in our ambivalently functioning psychical life, this dualistic conflict once and for all gets resolved. I cannot dissolve it by desiring it, by any technique or anything. If I attend purely then the resolution takes place. Something has happened, goodness knows what. But it happens, and that’s that and you are free.
We, who are creatures of conditioning and of desire, with our conditioning and our desire want to find God, to realize perfection and all the rest of it. Once we see the futility of it, the falsity of our approach, the mistaken approach we make, which will inevitably land us into fresh sorrow and difficulty, once we see that we cease to struggle in the wrong way. It is as if you are (as indeed you are at the moment) in 9 Westbourne Drive, and you are struggling away, going here, going there in the house, in order to find out where is 9 Westbourne Drive. It is here, you are in it, just be quiet, sit down, enjoy yourself! It is as simple as that! But it is as difficult as that.
The simplest things are the most difficult. I first learnt that lesson with tribulation when I tried to learn a simple Bach fugue. A fugue is simplicity itself but I happened to be one of those people who finds it extremely difficult to play contrapuntal music on a piano. My brain follows it, my fingers won’t do it, they are very rebellious, so I discovered. Here is a thing so simple. When my teacher used to play it for me, well, of course it was that, no question about it. When I tried to do it, it never was that! Simple, but very difficult.
There is one other point I would like to talk about. We have been dealing with rich stuff these last forty minutes. We talk about attending to the Now. The Perfected Holy One, the Realized Being is one who is completely attentive in the Now, the Eternal Now which is carried as the Eternal Now through Time. Have you ever watched yourself trying to attend to the Now? People ask for the method to reach the goal, to become pure, to become holy. There is not a method. But if method means Total Being, then there is method. Have you watched what happens when you attempt to attend to the Now, really attend to it? You will find all sorts of fantasies starting up, because the sense impressions caused by what actually is present in the Now, the sights, the sounds, the touches, the smells, everything, start up the accumulated sense impressions which have accumulated in what in modern psychology we call our personal unconscious. This is not new knowledge, this is at least 3,000 years old. You will find through and through in the Upaniṣads the vāsanās, the sense impressions, the mental impressions. They all start up and come up and interfere with attending to the Now.
One of the supreme signs that you are actually fully attending to the Now is that, if you do fully attend in that manner, utterly purely, you will find that there is no descriptive process going on as a result of your attention. There is a pure cognitive activity completely devoid of a re-cognitive activity. If there is this kind of pure cognitive activity devoid of the re-cognitive activity, this cognitive activity is free of the effects of memory, of all frustrations, of all desires and so forth. It is utterly free of that. It is pure cognition which moves unimpeded through every single moment of Time. Therefore Time no longer binds you but you eternally alive in that movement of the Now through Time. When this happens you have really experienced being that which you are attending to. Awareness and Being have found their identity.
This is the holy state, it is the whole state. There is nothing interfering, interrupting, besmirching the perfection of the Now, the Absoluteness of God here. When you attempt to attend purely you will find that all the memories, the fantasies will all come up, and you will find that they are always our frustrations or our fulfilments of the past. But the whole of the past is a mummified thing in memory. These congealed ghosts of the past carried about in our consciousness prevent us from complete and pure attention. A decaying corpse does not give you the same kind of experience that a garden full of roses in bloom gives you. There is a difference between a perfume and a stench.
You see what it means to be in the holy state, the state which is there when this turning about in the innermost seat of consciousness has taken place. You just sort of hold yourself in readiness quietly, in readiness, not expectancy. You hold yourself in readiness inwardly, you will be utterly quiet, you will be utterly still. What will be quiet and still? Awareness, consciousness, the Absolute Consciousness which is Divine Consciousness. That will be utterly quiet and still, with the quietness and stillness which permeates through and through all the sound of the becoming process. And the sound of the becoming process is made up of the agreeable sounds and the disagreeable sounds. Underneath it through it all, is the Transcendent Reality, the peace of God which passes all understanding… which passes all understanding.
This is the pure state, isn’t it? Do you have to acquire purity? All effort at acquisition is a struggle, is a disturbance. It inevitably entails conflict, and this belongs to the realm of death, the realm of the ill, dukkha, to use the Buddhist word in its supreme sense. But this pure attentiveness in the Now, undisturbed by the uprising of all this dead past, means that the psyche (and the psyche is so essential and important for us humans) is cleansed and purified altogether. Haven’t you experienced the sense of peace and calm, the sense of blessing, benediction in the presence of someone who has himself or herself seen, and still more intensely if he has become the Holy One, become the Truth? “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” The great Teachers said that, so many of them, not just two or three. Haven’t you experienced that? And if that has not been experienced in the presence of a human being, have we not experienced something like that, through those marvellous bestowers of Grace, through music, through the beauty of Nature, through something quite insignificant in itself, a little baby’s smile or something like that? You happened to be so utterly quiet and in a state of harmony that Transcendence suddenly blazed through you and spread a light in the place where you were standing. This is one of the meanings perhaps of those statements which we have in the Scriptures, “And the Angel of the Lord passed by spreading his light.” You have it in the Hindu-Buddhist form in connection with the devas appearing and lighting up the whole woodland. These are just symbolic meaningful myths. But you the living person are the meaning of that myth.
Attend to the Now, the immediate Now. You want the method? All right, here it is. Attend to the immediate Now, always, all the time. If we do that, will it be possible for us to be wayward and stray into the dark ways of planning the fulfilment of desires which arise through any and every stimulus? We won’t, because planning to satisfy our desires is the way of ill, the way of sorrow. It is in a deep sense the sin against the Holy Ghost, as put in Christian terms. What is it that the Holy Ghost wants of us, so to say? That we shall be open vessels, pure and clean, through which the power of Transcendent Mind can work. If we are free of planning, scheming and working for the fulfilment of our own desires, whatever they may be, we will also be free of an extraordinarily tremendous burden of anxiety and fear and misery in our ordinary personal lives. The ignorant one trying to be clever with us will say, “So you sort of give up the ghost and don’t care.” The man who says that has not begun to understand the true meaning of caring, that’s why he says that. When one is in that pure state, one knows what it means to care. How did the Buddha express that? In words whose very limited meaning only is understood by the conventional Buddhist world. The Buddha said, “Whatsoever a Teacher out of compassion can do for his disciples, that I have done for you. Go ye and do likewise unto others.” In St. John’s Gospel, chapter 17, look at that wonderful last prayer of Jesus by himself in the aloneness, look at that very, very carefully, sentence by sentence, word by word, and see how the Divine caring is expressed, how utterly free it is of all personal desire or will. Time and again Jesus said to his disciples, “Whatsoever my Father tells me and gives me I tell you and give unto you. It is not mine but the Father’s.” You see what purity means.
There is your secret, attend purely, completely to the immediate Now and see how everything happens. You, the psycho-physical organism, are led into fulfilment, you are returned to your original home, your original Garden of Eden as Transcendence functions freely and unobstructively through you yourself.