Stillness of Body and Mind (I)
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 15th June 1973
Let us start off today with a little meditation.
Let the body be perfectly balanced, comfortable, free from all strain. Let it be as easy as possible and above all as still as possible, and maintain that stillness of the body right through. Let the rhythm of your own breathing establish itself, just quietly, no special deep breathing or anything like it, just your normal breathing. Feel the diaphragm moving gently, comfortably, the lower jaw relaxed, the head perfectly poised upon the neck, and maintain that complete stillness of the body with your own established breath rhythm for a few moments. Continue to maintain the stillness of the body and the rhythm of the breath, and you will notice that this rhythm of the breath is a profound meaning of stillness. It is neither static nor does it move from one position to another especially. It is the life rhythm itself which works unobstructedly through the still body. If and when this is the case the body ceases to be an obstruction to the profoundest aspects of mind right at its own Transcendent level, and all the senses and the sense functions are completely at peace. If you like to practise this sort of thing, especially when you go to bed and in bed or when you wake up in the morning, you may notice some very interesting things happening special to yourself. The senses and the sense functions, as is said in some of Upaniṣads like the Subāla Upaniṣad, meet their ending. That is to say, they are no longer disturbing factors putting oneself out of rhythm with the great universal rhythm. Each sense separately or in conjunction with another sense comes to an ending, and when that happens, a totally new dimension of being and consciousness comes to life, and you know it, and it will maintain itself provided that the body remains perfectly still and the breath rhythm vibrates rhythmically in tune with that stillness of the body. You will find all your problems, your difficulties, appearing in their true perspective, and as such their disturbing aspect is resolved into the understanding of their true nature. It is in that moment of clarity in the mind that you may have the inspiration to know what to do. Remember, this is not very easy, it takes long practice to realize these things. But if you can do it it will open up wonderful vistas within yourself.
Always bear in mind the indispensability of perfect purity, no demands on life. One has to learn to be still so that the self which realizes its own uniqueness is completely freed of all selfness. Then you will experience something at least of the meaning of the spiritual life in terms of Transcendent power in action. You will also find in this way that emotions and thoughts, the entire thought process, will come to its ending. Note carefully that the body in itself in its own internal physiological activities, the emotions, the problems, the flow of discursive thoughts and the whole thought process is a vast complex which is a superficial disturbance in our whole self. The inner depths of being are everlastingly peaceful, and this peace and plenitude of the inner self, which never intrudes upon or tries to force the superficial disturbance to be quieted, will be allowed to come out and express itself. What happens thereby is that your particular destiny in life, unbeknown by the superficial mind, has the chance of finding expression and fulfilment. You have often heard me say, “Live by letting live.” This is the sort of thing I had in mind when I used that phrase. If oneself, the superficial disturbed self, the external turmoil, is allowed to settle down, keeping the body itself perfectly still, then this inner life flows outwards through the whole manifested being, purifies it and brings it to a state of perfect ease and harmony with this inner spiritual reality which lies outside of all discursive thought, all intellectual shapes and all speech. Its after-effects in our daily life will undoubtedly show themselves.
This is one of the old esoteric secrets actually. You can discover it for yourself if you have that kind of ability to discover, or, if as in this case, you are hearing it said by someone, just letting it lie quietly in the storehouse of your own mind. If it is of any use to you, it will take effect. If not, it won’t do you any harm.
Now let us consider another very important question. Everyone in the world seeks happiness, he wants to be happy, and of the great religious teachers it is very interesting to note that the Buddha, more specifically perhaps than any of the others, declared outright that “the ill state, the evil state, the suffering state, its origin and the way to its extinction is what I teach,” the deliverance from suffering. He does not say, “I will show you the way to happiness,” but the purport of his entire teaching is that, through the deliverance from evil, the ill state, which is essentially the state of one’s own mind, there is bound to be happiness. But he would not define it simply because true happiness is indefinable.
You see where our trouble comes in. We seek happiness, but we have a very clear conception of what we mean by happiness — dancing, polo, world travel, entomology, being a world conqueror, and worst of all self-indulgence. In fact all our definitions of happiness are the perfect roads to misery, to the ill state. But we do not appreciate this. We may subscribe to it intellectually. The very very deep well of our mind and particularly what we nowadays commonly call the unconscious depths, this deep well, is filled with all sorts of misconceptions of happiness and with the drives to produce this kind of happiness as misconceived by us. So we rebel against life, we think that life has given us a raw deal. Of course we have suffered. Of course we do suffer. Things come along. “Nobody in the world suffers like I do!” I, of course, am the only pebble on the beach! The beach is just myself. It is not more extensive than that. So of course therefore I am the only pebble on it! We are so caught up in these illusions. These illusions are spun out because of our conditioning, because of our drive, our chase, our fevered pursuit of sensational excitement, delight, pleasure, all the time intending that that pursuit must of necessity exclude everything that does not belong to my definition of my pursuit, in one word, pain, difficulty, loss, discomfort, worldly insecurity and so forth.
Worldly insecurity is an inescapable fact. Whatsoever comes into being and perishes is insecure. There is no security of course, there never can be. Nor can there be security in what we call the deep truths we have seen. There can be no security in the conceived God, Heaven or the Buddha, or Zarathushtra, or holiness, because we define all these things. The reality of these things, of each and every one of them is there. But that reality is reality only insofar as it is unbesmirched by my definitions of it. What I can define I have limited, I have grasped, and because I have limited, I am a jailer of that which I have limited. But in that very act I myself have become the prisoner. If I hold your hand and don’t let go, then I also am caught by my touching your hand! There is no freedom. In the actions of that profundity of freedom, there is neither truth, nor beauty, nor love, nor wisdom, nor goodness, nor anything which is real.
Now let me relate this to the little meditation which we practised. Everything comes to its ending, the activity of the senses. Let us say a few words about that. Certain things we see with our eyes and we think that we are seeing this. But that statement that I am seeing, say, a tree depends upon the fact that I am at a certain distance from the tree. Let me come closer and closer and closer to the tree, and there comes the point where my eyes fail to function properly. It becomes a blur, and finally what is there right against my eyes might be anything at all. I don’t know the distinction between a tree or a donkey or a grain of sand or whatever it is, if I am sufficiently close to it, as far as my sense of sight is concerned. But then the sense of sight ceases to operate, it comes to its ending. In the case of the tree, if I come still closer my sense of touch will take over from there. But there comes a point when all the senses will come to their ending in the stillness. But this does not mean the solution into vacuity. This is the mistake which people make.
If you can practise this successfully, you will find that, although the senses have ceased to function, instead of there being a vacuity, this new dimension of consciousness will open up. Do not ask me what is this new dimension of consciousness. There are no words in the language to describe it. There are no words in the language to describe it because thought cannot picture that which is not finite. The Infinite cannot be pictured, it cannot be heard, it cannot be tasted, it cannot be smelt. It cannot be imagined. You cannot imagine the Infinite. You will find that the mind starts playing tricks of bigness towards the confines of space, if there are any confines of space. That is the Infinite. But what have you done actually? Looked at the picture of the mind as created. It is a child’s sand castle on the seashore. You do not even have the pleasure of yourself getting rid of it, a wave comes and sweeps it away! And that’s that, the result of all your effort! Thought cannot picture this, it is outside the realm of the thinking process.
Remember that the thinking process is the activity of speech integrating into already known patterns the different sense impressions that have come to you during your lifetime. All our thinking, what we call the definite thoughts as such, look at any one of them. Where did they originate, how did they originate? First in the act of seeing something or hearing something or touching something, etc. and then that accumulates again and again. The collection of percepts is converted by the brain into a concept. And now comes the cold storage part of it! The concept dismisses the immediate percept and says, “Oh, that’s a tree.” So you don’t look at that particular tree. The thinking process is the speech activity, integrating if you like, patterning all the sense impressions. We just juggle about with them, like turning a kaleidoscope round and round, with charming little patterns, and they keep recurring. You will notice that your thinking process is always producing recurring patterns. They are not new creations. They are just changing the furniture about, the same old furniture. We delude ourselves, “We are creating profound philosophies.” We are doing nothing of the sort, we are children on the seashore just playing with the sand.
This complete stillness of the body is not easy to attain, do remember that, with no muscle tense or in a state of strain. If you maintain it and let the rhythm of the breath just go on like that, you will find that all these things which hinder that inward spiritual reality from coming into free functioning through you, all those things will come to their ending. That coming to their ending is one of the deep meanings of the word the body. It is not an emptiness in the sense of a nothingness. This void is a non-blocking of Eternal Reality, whatever that may be. For all my life, as far as me, the thinking, speaking creature is concerned, that Eternal Reality will ever be the unknowable, inexpressible, unimaginable, unthinkable.
You might feel like asking, how does it affect my practical daily life and my problems? Try it out and see what happens. If you can do it, you will find (how can I put it?) the sun rises and the mists begin to lift up and disappear. The sun shines in a clear and cloudless sky, and all is peace around you. The point which arises in connection with that is this, we all of us at some time or other experience this kind of thing. When the sun in the cloudless sky shines like that and all is peace and clarity, how long do I let it be so? Don’t I intrude upon it long before any clouds have begun to form again and shut out the sun? I am the greatest shutter-out of my sunlight, the sunlight for me which is bestowed by infinite grace. This is where the stillness and the silence become important. Do remember, this stillness is not supine inactivity. It is the cessation of all unnecessary disturbance which we mistake for activity. This silence is not a closing up, a shutting up of the book of like. On the contrary it is reading the book of life by being the whole of it, with everything simultaneously in the immediate Now.
We have not even begun to know the meaning of being alive, of the zest of life. When this happens you will know the richness, the inexhaustible marvel and wonder of being Man, truly Man. When you really experience this remember one important sign which will tell you whether you are being deluded or whether it is the real thing. If you are being deluded you will be in the disturbance of ecstasy, the disturbance of being beside yourself. You are not beside yourself at all. You are just yourself totally unresisting towards Transcendent energy functioning freely through your psycho-physical being. This is something of the joys of Heaven, as the theists express it. In actual fact it is not easy to put these things in words. Sometimes one can say the right sort of words.
This is the happy state, this is the state of ease, it is the state of freedom and peace and all the sorrows of the world go to sleep. So you see, the Buddha’s teaching, which, as far as the verbal presentation of what he was trying to teach is concerned, was presented in the apparently negative form. This is sound psychology. Happiness, peace I don’t know. What I do know is misery and disturbance. All right, let me deal with it, because this disturbance, although superficial as I said before, is me. How often have I said, I can’t take a bit of myself which is don’t like and throw it out of the window! If I were to do that in all seriousness and earnestness you will find all of me outside the window in bits! That is an act of self hate, or self oppression. If I can oppress myself, I can more easily and successfully oppress you.
Here perhaps is another approach to the understanding of this problem in connection with the word happiness. The longing for happiness stems from the reality of happiness which is the living characteristic of the whole universe, the actual stuff of the universe. I can talk in those terms quite freely without fear of any cynical criticism from the scientific mind. No less that Eddington said that the only objective realities are life, mind, consciousness. Right, put them into a laboratory and carry out experiments if you can! What is their weight, their size, their colour, their measure, their chemical properties, or something else? He said that, and therefore I can also make bold and say that the actual stuff of the universe, the real stuff of the universe, is love, beauty, wisdom and so forth.
In Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation of the Mahábhinishkramana, (or rather his poem The Light of Asia based upon the Mahábhinishkramana which is the legendary life of the Buddha) there is among many others one very marvellous statement: “At the heart of being lies celestial bliss.” Let that bliss do its work through you. It is my business to be patiently enduring, to be forbearing, to be understanding, to be awake and learning my lesson every split second of the day. If I do that then that bliss at the heart, that celestial bliss at the heart of all being, will find its expression through the clean vessel, that is the point. You can, if you like, apply this in your own lives, to your own problems, and see how your particular desires and concerns, to achieve this, to gain that, to establish this, to be secure here, etc., are all related to this. What I do not try to grab tends to flow into me. You know how it is in physical life. Look at children playing. One child makes a grab at another and the other immediately sort of reacts against this one. But supposing no such grab is made, there is the open state, the free state, the friendly state. Then the other comes in and there can be a harmony. Our difficulty is that we see these things after many many years when we are nearing the end of the lane. But don’t try to measure the reality of fulfilment and happiness in terms of time. The most miserable being in creation if he has done right in even one tiny little insignificant thing throughout his life, at the moment of death he will suddenly find himself in the state of Eternal Reality. He will be taken in in that suddenly. It is very true of the death experience.
We fear death, we dislike death, and thereby we are trying to put a distance between that which is the real power for transformation in us and ourselves. That we must not do. But if we learn to be still (you can practise it, as I suggested, when you are going to bed, when you are waking up in the morning) you will experience the reality of death, the liberator for our finite being into the non-finitude. And you experience that liberation in the state of finitude.