The Pulse of Creation: Life/Other Life
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 8th September 1973
I have often said that the context of the heart of religion is Transcendence itself. If we want to understand correctly what any of the great scriptures are about, we must realize that as the fundamental fact. It is the real starting point, not the end point, from which one can understand the scriptures, which of course puts us into a curious situation. We understand the truth of the scriptures only when we have gone beyond the need of reading and studying them, because we have realized this inexpressible Transcendent which the scriptures try to convey through expression. This is a point which very few people throughout the centuries have ever understood and sufficiently deeply appreciated, so that you find volumes and volumes produced by theologians and philosophers and others about truth in the sense of that religious truth which is the realization of Transcendence.
Now the question immediately arises, I, the man of the world, being what I am, surely am in a hopeless situation, because I have not realized Transcendence. This truth, this fulfilment of the religious being which is man has to be there first, before I can understand the scriptures, but, not being there, is it going to be impossible to understand them? Not at all, it is not going to be impossible, because at whatever stage we are, whatever condition we are in, there is always some point of contact within ourselves with that Transcendent Real. Supposing we regard ourselves, each one of us, as a sort of receiving set. There is at least one point of sensitivity in this receiving set which can be caught and which will enable the whole being suddenly to be lighted up for a moment and to respond to that Supreme Reality, and in that response, this spark within us, which is the spark of enlightenment, of divinity, call it what you will, glows brighter and brighter, until full Realization comes, if one has cared in the right way for religious truth. This is the point. We have to care for it in the right way. This is our personal responsibility, and to care for it in the right way requires great intelligence, because this caring is not just an emotional upsurge. It is not, or it must not be, the fleeing from sorrow, the reaction against misery and pain, the seeking of consolation, of refuge in that which is Transcendent. The idea of seeking refuge in God, or the dharma, or any such thing is a totally mistaken idea. Dharma, the truth of religion, is not a refuge. It is if you like a port of destination, which is quite a different thing from refuge. If we flee from anything whatsoever, we will always find ourselves imprisoned by that from which we are trying to flee, because that from which we are trying to flee is merely the opposite, the ambivalent opposite of what we postulate as the escape from that which torments us.
The ambivalence is inside us, so both aspects remain present continuously. We never do escape, escape is the wrong word. On the other hand, if we adopt the so-called positive attitude and attack the problem, then again we are on the wrong track, because no violence produces harmony. Violence defeats the realization of Transcendence. In fact anything which belongs to the ambivalent sphere, the either/or sphere, the sphere of duality, love, hate, cruelty, kindness, intelligence, stupidity, all these opposites have to be transcended, and the transcending of the opposites is a totally different thing from either fleeing from any one of the opposites, or attacking it, overcoming the evil, as we say. Transcendence is the totality, the whole thing, there is nothing excluded in it. What is it that I call evil? Only that which in the limited context of my own consciousness and of my own little limited environment and life I dislike, I disapprove of, I find troublesome or painful. But supposing my context grows and grows till it embraces the Totality, then what shall I call evil? It is all within me, it is all there, it is part and parcel of my whole being, and in that case it does not hurt, neither do I like it, nor do I dislike it, neither do I approve nor do I disapprove of it. I am that Totality. But how is the individual to be Totality apart from being one with Totality in awareness, in consciousness? Not as a thought merely? That is no good, it does not help. The thought, the idea is of course a starting point, because unless you get the idea in the first instance you will never know anything about it. You cannot work towards it unless you know something about it as a starting point.
In awareness one can realize, one can see intensely that where the Totality is concerned all the opposites, which we experience because we are limited, get resolved into a complete harmony. This resolution is the thing that emerges out of us as we live the good life, the holy life, the pure life, the religious life, use whatever terms you like. This sense of Totality, this sense of Transcendence is our starting point. If it is there, if the slightest spark of it is there to start with, then whatsoever else we do in the limited context gets related to it, and then we are unlikely to go wrong in the limited context. It is only in my unawareness that I separate out this from that, it is only because I am conscious in this clouded, confused, limited way that I choose this against that. But both this and that are part and parcel of the whole world. Take the situation where human relationships are concerned. That man is my enemy, this man is my friend, this is what I out of my shortness of vision say. But that man and this man are my fellow men and are men exactly as I am. If I see that, if I truly see it, my attitude towards that man will be free from aversion, towards this man will be free from attachment. It will be free from bondage to the one I like, it will be free from bondage to the one I dislike, because both attachment and aversion bring about bondage, this is the point. So that it is only a question of the transformation of the manner in which I am aware of existence which brings about the fulfilment of the religious life.
This transformation of course needs all that is comprised within the phrase religious discipline. Of course immediately everybody says, “Yes, give us the discipline.” It cannot be done. No discipline can be laid upon a living being to bring his life to fruition. You might say, “But surely it is like this, I want to become a fine mathematician, I have a little bit of gift in mathematics, I will go to school, I will take up this, that and the other course, my teachers will teach me, I will do as they tell me, I will get into the university, I will finally get my doctorate, and I shall be master of mathematics.” Yes, you will. Or you may say, “I am going to be an engineer”, you learn all about engines and so forth, you acquire a know-how, you develop a skill. Perfectly true. But this analogy does not apply in the context of life, your own living life process. This is the point everybody forgets. You can acquire a mechanical skill, but this is an acquired knowledge, not the release of wisdom, this is an acquired taste, an acquired liking, a preference because you have some gift along a certain line. This is of the world, of mortality, of ambivalence, of conflict, of sorrow and joy and all the rest of it. But this other thing, this life within you coming to fruition, is not of the ambivalent sphere, it is of Transcendence. Does this body live and remain alive by virtue of any special technique taught me? Not a bit of it, all that happens inside this living body is something which I don’t deal with, apart from being sensible enough to take the right food and drink, and have the necessary exercise and rest, and so forth. Everything just happens by itself, this mystery of the living process. The emerging into fruition as a human being is a living process of this nature. This is the religious life. Therefore the meaning of religious discipline is something utterly different from the discipline which is academic or mechanical or whatever it is in the world of affairs, utterly different in nature, and there is no relationship between them.
What is this difference in essence? If I go to school or to the factory or whatever it is, and learn a particular know-how, a mechanical skill, I am learning, I say. This is one aspect of learning in which an imposed discipline is the only available method for producing this result. Of course that is perfectly right in that context, but learning in the context of life does not mean acquiring knowledge or a skill. It means growing from within, and a growing process, a life process, as it takes place in the living Now, is not something which you know, which you can see. After the growth, you see it. You have a tree growing, an acorn has fallen in the garden and next year you see a little thing creeping up. If you have your garden for forty years, what happens at the end of those forty years? By the time forty years have passed, an oak tree, you might say, like any other oak tree. Yes, like any other oak tree only in so far as it is an oak tree, and not a lime tree or something else. Only in so far as it is an oak tree it is like any other oak tree, but any one oak tree is unique placed beside every other oak tree, unique, beautiful, wonderful, living, coming to fruit, to fulfulment. That is what you are like. It happens with every one of us in his or her own unique way, which the organism itself cannot see. Does the oak know that it is growing? Does the rose know that it is so beautiful and giving out a marvellous perfume? Does the rose know that it has terrible thorns which evoke not very pleasant sentiments from the person who happens to prick his finger? No. This is how it is. Therefore religious discipline is a learning which is a growing from within.
But just as the process of growth needs the right sort of sustenance for it, what is the right sustenance where religious learning is concerned? Here you have certain powers within yourself which are that religious sustenance, your power of attention, first and foremost, your capacity for mindfulness, your real, pure passion for it, your freedom from all selfness as to what you will gain as a result. You will gain nothing whatsoever. The living of the good life, the pure life, the religious life brings no gain whatsoever (gain is the wrong word altogether). But coming to fruition is something transcendent, and Transcendence keeps no ledger account, no profit and loss account, absolutely none. You have these powers within you, everyone of us has, and in so far as there is this pure passion for truth, for reality, for letting life come to its fruition without my obstructing it through my pleasure lusts primarily, then the lovely thing happens, just happens, spontaneously, naturally, perfectly by itself.
I said that Transcendence keeps no ledger account of profit and loss. Why? We are coming now to the central point, the very core of the whole thing. Transcendence keeps no account because Transcendence is not that which merely puts things together and takes them apart. Transcendence (use the word God, use anything you like which represents the Supreme Reality for you) is continuously creative. Now we do not know the meaning of creativeness. We think we do, we have a vague idea about it. The shadow of the ghost of real creativeness is what we may experience in life. We, as men and women in the world, as we are, are procreative. (Biologically of course every living creature has procreative power). We are procreative biologically, and in the case of us humans we are procreative culturally through our arts, philosophies and so forth. We say we create a poem, a symphony, a statue, etc. This is a procreative activity, not a truly creative activity in the supreme sense of the word creativeness, which is something which the world does not really understand yet or know of. Nevertheless this is a reflection of that which is true creation.
What is the nature of this true creation, this creative activity that goes on? It is a continuous pulsation, that is to say that it goes on constantly, but each pulse is not tied up with the previous pulse. The actual pulsation is discontinuous, but it never ceases. (We are getting right into deep waters, I want you to stretch your mental and spiritual muscles to the uttermost to get the feel of this thing, because as far as I know this is the very core of the whole thing, to sense this creative pulse and something of the nature of this creative pulse). As expressed throughout the centuries in these secret teachings, really, of all the scriptures, it is a pulsation of Life/Death. I do not think that Death is the right word in this context at all. The word Death has a feel of a sudden stoppage altogether, an annihilation almost. The word Dying has a different feel to it, it is a process, it is going on, just as being coming to birth is a process. If you can really get the feel of this, you will see that both being born and dying represent change, continuous change, the coming into Being, the appearance in other words, and then the passing out of that Being. But the passing out of that Being is not annihilation, nor is it the continuity of Being in any sense whatsoever. This is the very difficult thing which has defeated the theologies of the world for clarity of expression. Every single one of them has failed, and they have failed because they have used this word Death, Life/Death pulse, even in the esoteric teachings. Look at it this way (all I can claim for it is that it is probably less misleading than all the other expressions which have gone before), look at it as the pulse of Life/Other Life, but notice that there is a tremendous contrast between these two aspects. Under Life we have distinct beings, things, objects and a process of change. When Being disappears — I use that word deliberately — into Other Life, Being has disappeared into Non-Being. But Non-Being is just as much as Being is. Non-Being, which of necessity must be One Total Reality, characterless, unformed, no shape, no size, no process, no time, no space, no substance, nothing involved in it — that is Non-Being. Think of it, more than think of it, feel it, this extraordinary state of Non-Being, where all our criteria, our knowledge, everything just fades away. Now you can see why I say you cannot think these things out. All our knowledge and all our criteria fade away, but you can sense it, in all beings there is this possibility of sensing. This is how we are constructed. Out of this One Non-Being we see innumerable beings come into existence. The One Non-Being precipitates millions of beings. You see why I always object to talking of God in anthropomorphic terms, as a being, an entity who is like this or that or the other. This is utter nonsensical talk, degrading God down to my petty little level, the level of the theologian who doesn’t know too much, to tell you the truth: into this One Non-Being, the Unknown, the Unknowable (because all our criteria of knowledge are out, they just do not apply) space, time, matter, cause effect, everything disappears into this. And out of that One Non-Being are precipitated millions of beings, objects, things, situations, events, time, space, everything comes down, so to say, as separate individual realities, and every one of them in the process of change disappears back into the Non-Being. This creative pulse of Life/Other Life produces this extraordinary situation, the precipitation into Being, the disappearance of Being into Non-Being.
We think that this occupies a vast time span. This is another fundamental mistake of which India, I am afraid, is really guilty, because it is Indian theology which has presented the concept of the vast process, the divine process, taking hundreds of millions and billions of years, and all the rest of it. See this as completely devoid of the time process, it is an instantaneous immeasurable Now. Does any one of us know, by being actually conscious of, the immediate Now? We do not. We say, “That’s what happened a second ago, a year ago, a hundred years ago, and the rest is still to come,” but this immediate Now, the point of eternity, which is also the infinitude of eternity, I do not know. It is the unknown, it is the unknowable, it is the mystery. This is the awesomeness, the majesty of Transcendence, of God, of the Supreme Reality. But this mind of man can be sensitive to it, the heart of man is sensitive to it, and then the mind perhaps formulates or tries to suggest a way of understanding how the heart of love has lost itself completely in the Supreme Reality. So this happens, this pulse of Life/Other Life takes place in the immeasurable Now.
The question arises, why is it then, that since I do experience time, I cannot see this pulsation at all? Well of course I cannot. One must have eyes to see. We have not the eyes to see. The sort of eyes that we have, the sort of sensitivity that we have, the sort of intellect that we have, the sort of consciousness that we have are so sluggish. We are frightfully slow coaches, sluggards of the first order. We are a little bit like the dinosaurs who had only a little bit of brain, and the tip of their tail was a mile off, and if a cat went and bit that tail it took about two and a half weeks before the impulse reached the brain! And then the dinosaur said, “I believe there’s a cat somewhere, where is he?,” and in the meantime the cat had gone for another dinosaur! That is the way in which we become aware, which is extraordinarily sluggish. So everything takes on this appearance of time, a great time process, and the movement which is activity, this pulsation and the total action which is involved in it, are seen by us as a movement in time through space. This of course applies to us, constituted as we are in our physical world, but this mind, the soul, the spirit, the intelligence, the buddhi — use whatever word you like — which is imprisoned in this sluggish envelope has the capacity in its imprisoned state to come to the full realization possible of the imprisonment. And this disimprisonment can never be reached merely through thinking as a matter of logical philosophizing. You may produce the words, a philosopher can produce these words because he has a brilliant intellect, but it does not lead to this inward realization by means of which he is at-oned with the Transcendent pulsation. That’s a different matter.
So you see why religious discipline means learning, which is growing, which is a coming to fruition, which of necessity cannot be preconceived by us or predetermined by us. Whenever we try to interfere with life, we merely burn our fingers, we must swim with the stream of life, life in its reality. So religious discipline, which is learning, is this sort of thing. We awaken to this pulse of creation, our inward sensitivity suddenly finds no Obstruction in its path, and this innermost sensitivity in us vibrates in harmony with that Transcendent pulse. Then you really know the meaning of holiness, you know the meaning of human fulfilment.
We know the meaning of the term ‘the Son of Man’ as used in the West, the manuṣyaputra, as used in India. Man is derived from the Sanskrit Man-, from which the word mind comes, and it means ‘to think’ in the sense of ‘to create’. Manyate, in Sanskrit to think, is the thinking of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, God, use whatever word you like. How does God think? Like you or I think? Good God, no! Thinking, when used in conjunction with a term like God or Transcendence or the Truth or Reality, is instantaneous creation. This is thought. This is thought power, mind power, this creative something, and this is the innermost essential point, reality, fact, concerning Transcendence, concerning each one of us. Why have the scriptures of the world presented the God concept, first and foremost, as God the Creator? That is the first thing, God created, everything else follows afterwards. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son.” Whatever else is said about God — you can read the Upanishads, you can read anything you like, all the scriptures of the world — all the rest follows from the Creator. And how does man state that, or rather what made man state it? He was only ascribing to this Transcendent Reality that which he realized within himself. Every description of God is man in apotheosis, that’s all, it is not God. God has a twinkle in his eye when he reads, occasionally he turns over the pages of our scriptures, for fun, and says, “These children, one or two are coming along!”
This is the great thing, this creative pulse, and I am devoting the whole of this afternoon just to that matter. Try and let the sense of this creativeness emerge out of you. You cannot bring it forth, if you can bring this forth you can just tell God what to do and he will do it quite obediently! Let it grow. Let life grow, but if you make a grab for it, then you will get slapped in the face. Just remain quiet.
Have we understood this business of Being and Non-Being, this creative pulse? This is the fundamental meaning of the word karma. We all think of karma as the adjusting of accounts, or reward, punishment, an equilibrating system. All these are childish ideas, they are almost putrid ideas. Do you know why they are so childish and putrid? It is because, instead of starting from Transcendence, from the other shore, where we are not, we want to start from here. But you cannot start from here where Transcendence is concerned. You can start from where you are where everything that belongs to the finite, the mortal, the perishable is concerned. But where the imperishable Reality is concerned, you have to start from that imperishable Reality itself, which is embodied in you. That is why you can start from there. You do not have to undergo a set discipline in order to arrive at a kind of a worthiness, a certificate which says, “John Smith, let him through, he’s all right.”
All this adjustment process, this reward/punishment process and so forth which we ascribe to the word karma is the wrong way to start to understand karma. Karma derived from the Sanskrit word kṛi-, which means ‘to do’, ‘to make’, ‘to create’. Our word create, our word creation, since English is one of the languages derived from Sanskrit, ultimately is just this, creation. Where creation is concerned, it is a-causal, there is no causality in it. ”Because of this, that is the effect.” Not at all. How does a great artist create? He gets an inspiration, there is no because involved in it. There is no originating cause, he is like that. Mozart or Beethoven, being Mozart or Beethoven, Shakespeare or Goethe, being Shakespeare or Goethe, music or poetry just flows out as a creative stream. You cannot help it, it is so, it is absolute. It is a-causal, it is timeless and spaceless, there is no adjustment made. This is creation, this at our little level. At the Transcendent level, karma, this creative pulse, is completely a-causal, it is utterly free, there is no consequence to it. We, conscious in the manner in which we are conscious, limited, ignorant, confused, frightened, all the rest of it, we separate out cause and effect. Remember the dinosaur. In actual fact this Life/Other Life pulsation is of such a nature that the effect is in the cause itself. It is in the instantaneous Now, but it is too swift for my poor little perceptions, so I see it as a continuity in time and space, and therefore say, “That was the cause and this is the effect.” But I fail to see that if I must use the words cause and effect, they are together simultaneously at every infinitesimal point all along the line. Just try and feel this out and think this out in its practical application in life. It is as if you went into a shop to buy some object, and the act of the man handing over the goods and your paying are absolutely simultaneous. As I say, we get defeated intellectually trying to picture these things, because they are somewhat un-picturable, they are outside our normal experience. But if you can get this simultaneity, this sense of the eternal Now really functioning, you will find the whole burden of sorrow and misery just falls off altogether. You will find yourself free from this tragic pursuit of pleasure, of security, of success, of happiness, of consolation, of love, of being wanted in the world, and all the rest of this petty nonsense with which mankind is plagued, and tragically plagued. But remember, no other person can make you free. Can anyone eat on your behalf or breathe on your behalf? They can’t, you have to go and do it yourself. But let the sensitivity grow.
If my faltering words can bring some sort of answering vibration out of you, the thing will happen, this Being/Non-Being, Finite/Non-Finite. Get the significance of the Non- part. The fundamental significance is that none of our standards, or criteria, our modes of knowledge apply to that, therefore that remains everlastingly the Unknown and Unknowable by me here, as I am. Then you will say, “But if that is the case how can I ever grow into it, how can that be my fruition?” It is a very legitimate question. The transformation takes place in your mode of awareness. This limited mode of awareness, tied to the realm of mortality, undergoes this transformation. Then you are no longer a conscious subject being conscious of the other object, the other thing, but you are that of which you are aware. You don’t see out of you, you don’t have to make an effort to look within you. The awareness and the being are simultaneous, and they are one and the same thing. This thing discriminative consciousness, vijñāna in Buddhistic terms (the real English translation for me at least is ‘discriminative consciousness’), this discriminative consciousness is the separator of this and that, of Being and Non-Being, of Life/Other Life. But when this discriminative consciousness undergoes that mysterious change, which it will, then suddenly the whole thing becomes one, and yet none of the uniqueness of the innumerable many which constitute the one is lost. This is the marvel and the beauty, the wonder of our existence, of our life. If you get even a glimmer of this thing, a sudden flash, your whole life will be lighted up and you will never lose that sight.