Christmas: A Holy Day (I)
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 14th December 1973
We are approaching one of the supreme festival days of the world, the day which we call Christmas. What is the significance in depth of this day, the day which is treated as a holiday the world over, but which indeed is a profoundly holy day?
Consider the time of the year first in which it occurs, just about the time when we have passed the shortest day and the longest night in the northern hemisphere and the sun is once more returning to us and the days become longer and longer. The light has passed its dimmest point, so to say. We enter gradually into the darkness, not necessarily the darkness of ignorance or evil, but into that darkness which we must enter in the religious sense if we are to re-emerge re-enlightened. It is in the darkness that mysteriously all the creative living processes take place, uninterfered with by us. That perhaps is one of the significances of this day. Of course it is the reverse for the southern hemisphere. But we who live here will confine ourselves to the northern hemisphere.
So this is the sort of day, as far as its place in the year is concerned, which we call Christmas, and it is the day in which traditionally Jesus, the son of Mary, was supposed to have been born. All these days really are symbolical days insofar as they attribute the birth of some great Teacher to the day.
Who was this Jesus? YHShWH is his real Hebrew name, Yod Hay Sheen Vav Hay is the spelling. If you look carefully at that name, bear in mind that the word name stands in a deep sense for the informing principle of the living being. That is the name, the nomen, and it was used in that sense right up to the Middle Ages. Then we lost it. This name, YHShWH, has the letter Sheen between Yod Hay and Vav Hay, the famous tetragrammaton, the Holy Name of the Jews, the name which must not be pronounced, and which is the legacy of one of the world’s supreme esoteric teachings, the Kabala. This Sheen which united the two parts, Yod Hay Vav Hay, enables the enfleshment of Yahweh (we commonly use the word Jehovah) to take place. Otherwise Yahweh is an abstraction and remains an abstraction. Yod Hay and Vav Hay represent the physical and psychical aspects of our life amongst other things which they represent. And the one is the container of the other, and they mutually fertilize each other. But the fertilization to come to fruition needs must have fulfilment, and the name of Jesus, YHShWH, represents this enfleshment. So this one is said to have been born on Christmas Day. It is not as if there is an entity, YHWH, pre-existing in time and space. It is Man himself, you yourself, I myself, who have come to Realization and then re-present that which has been realized in the innermost depths of consciousness in these terms. And YHWH or God or Ahura Mazda or Brahman or whoever it is that we present is a projection out of our own minds and given a name in order to represent that which happens to you and to me in our profoundest fulfilment, in the full Realization of our true humanity, of our true humanness. We have become free of the bondage in which we live sub-humanly and are at last free human beings. And then we talk about this in this manner. We must always bear that in mind.
This person, YHShWH, a real person, a real human being like you or me, that is to say the completely flowered, manifested being the like of which you and I are in potentiality still, (that is what I mean when I say he is like you or me), this being is born when, having entered the darkness, the quiet, the mystery, the light begins to re-emerge and to grow greater and greater. This is something most worthwhile meditating upon deeply. You have to do it by yourselves. When you have the opportunity, the inclination, let the mind be quiet, body and mind be quiet and just let the mind dwell upon the Name, its significance, in the quietness which is the equivalent of the day, just having passed the darkest day, so to say, of the year.
In that quietness your awareness of the Reality which this represents will intensify. This is real meditation, not going through a verbal ritual, not merely shuffling a pack of cards composed of concepts, because our concepts belong to the past, something which we have been, known, named, ticketed, docketed, tabulated, put in its pigeon hole. It is in the pigeon hole. Let it collect dust. Go on, walk on. The walking on is the creative meditating. This is very important. You can always pick out any one of the concepts which are mouldering away in their particular pigeon holes. They are merely a stimulus to set the mind ready for new creative activity which is the living meditation. That is why we cannot discard concepts at all. The names of the Holy Ones are concepts for us. What do they mean for us? They are words after all. They represent our mind-projections and no one else’s. The name YHShWH may mean the supreme thing in the world for you, or it may not, or it may mean whatever it does mean for you. But the meaning for each and every person will necessarily be different. Don’t try and change that thinking, “Some-body else has a better meaning.” Not somebody else’s meaning because that will be just an image, an idol, no use. Let your concept be your concept. Vivify it with your energy, with your life-power, and then you grow spiritually. This is how we can deal with our concepts.
Remember, there is this element, the container as we call it and there is that other element, the contained. In finality they are identical, the contained makes its own container because it is primordial life-energy and it is perpetually creative. In that creativeness it resists itself and by the resistance makes limitation which is its container. That makes possible the thing we call knowledge for us at our level, at our ordinary, usual level. When you go into deep meditation you transcend your own ordinary, usual level, and you enter into the creative realm where Transcendent energy within you is now resisting itself, making its own container. Quite extraordinary things happen then. There is a transformation, a transmutation of your own psyche, Mind in you, a distinctive of you and specific to you. There is a transmutation of it, this extraordinary process of purification goes on that way. These are the deeper aspects of the work of purification and it has its reflection, at our ordinary everyday level again, in terms of the moral and intellectual purification.
You all know what moral purification implies and means. The intellectual purification means becoming freer and freer of misconceptions, distorted views and ideas and all the rest of it, becoming free of our biases, our prejudices, our preconceptions and our assumptions, because when you go through the real discipline along such lines as we are trying to consider, you will find that none of these preconceptions and assumptions have any warrant in Truth. We tend to hold on tight to our preconceptions and assumptions, believing that this is Truth, the Truth. It is not. Every preconception, every assumption is formulated in words, and the whole realm of words and of conceptions is the realm of limitation, not the realm of freedom. Concepts and words are thrown out of us by the creative activity within, and it is that creative activity which brings about that transformation of mind and heart to which we afterwards give names — freedom, truth, wisdom, love, beauty and so on. This is our great difficulty, is it not?, that we are so caught up with the shadow, we are in a prison house which is built up of shadow stuff, to use a self-contradictory phrase! Shadow stuff makes our prison house. But by virtue of the fact that it is shadow stuff, it really is so easy to escape from it, to dispel the shadow very simply by seeing the light. And the seeing of the light is something never formulated and presented as light. Every time it is formulated, if you have really become wise, you will know that this is a mere formulation, another shadow. There is no way of handing over the light to another. You can be the light, but you cannot hand over the light to another. You can hand over a shadow, a suggestion, a stimulation to the other. Yes, the shadow can stimulate. Then that is the work.
Christmas Day represents the birth of YHShWH, the enfleshment, the embodiment of YHWH, the abstraction which represents the Unknown, the Supreme, the Mystery actually realized at last in the living being, the living being who is here. Now the living being is limited, is finite, he is distinguishable from everybody else and he is mortal. That Infinite is the Immortal, the Non-Descript. Enlightenment, Realization means precisely this: that we ourselves, when we awake out of our state of blankness, or ignorance, see that this thing, the body, that which is manifest, which is limited, finite and mortal, is the very means, the only means, through which the Infinite, the Immortal manifests itself, and is actually embodied in this which is mortal. You know how the Buddhists put it, Mahayana Buddhism certainly. “Nirvana is saṁsāra and saṁsāra is Nirvana.” They realized the deep truth of that. This realization comes in the quiet when you are not wanting it and you are not trying to grasp it. No grasping. You cannot grab God or fulfilment or perfection. As I have said a thousand times if I have said it once, try and grab some space, a little bit of space! You cannot do it. In the same way we cannot grab at that which is the ungraspable.
Now let us return to the theme of that which is born, or is said to be born, on Christmas Day, and it is a holy day. Why is it a holy day? That word Christ, which came into being with and after Jesus, has as far as I am aware no place in the original Kabala as such. It is a new word. The Kabala knew and taught about Solomon’s Temple, the middle pillar and the two side pillars. And this Temple is your own living body. The middle pillar symbolically represents the Supreme, Unknown, Unthinkable, Indescribable Ultimate which is associated with the head. The next stage on that middle pillar is here at your breast level which is the sixth Sephira, Tiphereth as it is called in the Kabala. Tiphereth stands for beauty, harmony, justice. It is the mediator between mercy and stern judgement. Bear that in mind. Tiphereth is regarded as the Son of the Supreme Holy One, the Son of God idea of Christianity. The Christ-consciousness is associated with this centre here. This is symbolical, remember, but it is a way of understanding it.
As I say these things try and feel them out very clearly and deeply — beauty, harmony, justice, the mediator, the Son. Here is what is called the lesser YHWH. The Supreme One is the entirely untouchable, unreachable. You will find that all the religions of the world in some form or other present this kind of thing. But its representative is here. It itself is incarnate in the Son. This is the Son of God region if you like. It is rather interesting that it is at the level of the heart. Feel out the significance of that word heart for mankind, the way the word heart has been used in all the religions, with all the scriptures, with respect to that innermost essence of Mind, within the individual whoever he may be, which is utterly pure, untouched by evil and in direct relationship and communion with the Supreme. This is very important. This which is the mediator is the means of contact with the Supreme. When the human being has become a fully human being, completely freed of all sub-humanity, then the Christ-consciousness has come to flower, to utter fruition, and you see therefore how salvation has taken place, salving, saving, healing, making whole, becoming the Holy One himself, the living Holy One on Earth, representing the supreme and ultimate holiness which is Transcendence itself. There is your relationship, and it is all within us individuals, it is not outside there or anything like that. It is within us. You find in Buddhism, “Look within, thou art Buddha.” Realize the Within, and thou art Christ.
Where does and how does YHShWH, Jesus, claim his culmination? The culmination comes in the Crucifixion. This which was body, embodied Transcendence, now gives up body and returns unto pure Transcendence. What is the real significance of this? How often I have said that saintship is the beginning of the spiritual life, not the culmination of it. In that condition one has become freed of all sub-humanity, of all flaws, one is the true and full human, and then in that state one is the body in the full sense of the word, absolutely pure, the perfect vehicle of Transcendence. But it is the vehicle of Transcendence, it is possible to go beyond whilst living in the body. You take for instance the corresponding teachings in Buddhism and Hinduism, in the deep states of meditation. You find in the Buddhist presentation the four jhānas and then these four samāpattis. You find in the Upaniṣads the presentation of the four avasthās, of which the first, second and third are the correspondent of the four jhānas as such, and then the fourth state, the Turiya, as they call it, which is the entry into the Transcendence. Buddhism has it presented rather more schematically with their eight steps, and then the final, the ninth, the cessation of all perception and feeling in which, as the Buddha said, you touch Nirvana with the body. That saying of the Buddha gives you the hint really to understand the meaning of the Crucifixion. Having realized full humanity and in that state of purity and perfection manifested the will of the Father, as Jesus used to say (“What my Father wills and my Father desires I do”), having done that, then ones moves out of this realm of manifestation into the realm of the unmanifested self in consciousness and still maintains physical life.
There are those who, practising this sort of meditation, have sometimes lost their lives. They cannot come back and the body perishes. So, you have to cross the abyss. This crossing of the abyss is a most fearsome thing. The Kabala presents that abyss in the regions above Tiphereth. The great Christian mystics have talked of this abyss. In Buddhism you have this entry into what they call the plane of No-Thing. It is usually printed in the books as Nothing, and it is always misleading. It is No-Thing. Bear in mind the denotation as well as the connotations of No-Thing, that is, that it is not limited, finite, mortal. It is not that which is shaped, formed, has dimensions or measure. It is the immeasurable, not to be confined within the realm of concepts and therefore of comprehension as an object of knowledge. But you are fully awake in that state. This is something like your plane of No-Thing, as the Buddha called it. Then he talks of neither perception nor non-perception. He uses the same word, perception. Why? Our word perception, whether it be in the Pali or the English, (it is all the same), is the wrong word there, because we think of perception in our way, the percept born of sense function, and when the act of comprehension follows, because the percepts are repeated over and over again, then when we see something, or hear something, or touch something, we re-cognise it, and that is the perception in that moment of experiencing. It is not that perception at all, nor has it anything to do with this feeling which is present — it is a mental phenomenon of course — when we say, “I feel it in my bones”, or “I had an intuition, I had a feeling of so-and-so.” This is a touching by the mind of which seeing by the mind is the counterpart to perception. Seeing by the mind is perception, touching by the mind is feeling, is it not? It has nothing to do with this. This neither perception nor non-perception at that Transcendent level has gone quite beyond that.
Then finally the cessation of all feeling and perception. So, you cross an abyss. The words are poor but if we use words we are always in the realm of the finite, we can never escape that, excepting for the words which contradict the finite, like Infinite, that is all. But then there is no meaning, you cannot conceive the Infinite, and yet you know the truth of it, because you know the finite and you are contradicting that finite, and it has become the non-finite. So that crossing takes place and it is this act of crossing where all body is left behind, is given up. The Crucifixion means killing the body, doesn’t it? It was a form of execution, sentence of death of the body, and body stands for limitation, for form, for that which is mortal, that which is subject to decay, to ill, to disease, to evil. So you see what Crucifixion implies in terms of the deeps of consciousness?
If you can really get this, you will see why the theistic religions have presented God as the Absolute Good, there was no option to that. The superficially clever intellect will say, “Couldn’t you just as well say that God is the Absolute Bad?” The superficial person can say it but it is meaningless, it is untrue. When you have gone beyond this and in consciousness realized it, in this mode of awareness which cannot be conceptualised and formulated verbally, when that has happened to you, all that is represented by body, finitude, limitation, imperfection, has undergone death. Return from that state of consciousness, that supreme state of awareness, and then you have re-surrected, risen up again in the body, because you are back again in the world of men, using your senses, your discursive mind and so forth. This is the Resurrection.
Actually I always say that the Ascension takes place before the Resurrection. You have ascended from this, by virtue of the Crucifixion taking place, to the Supreme and then, when you come back into the body, the body has resurrected. This is the meaning of the resurrection of the body. Do remember, I may be wrong, completely wrong! You must feel it out for yourselves, but this is how I see it, actually happening. Every day, every moment, it happens. But its happening in every moment is closed to our mortal eyes (I am using the word eye both literally and metaphorically), because our attention is distracted.
There is the culmination of YHShWH in that Crucifixion. So we see perhaps in a deeper way why Christmas Day is a holy day, why Easter, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are holy days, because the fulfilment of holiness, the complete fruition of it, takes place in our life here and now, as represented in the life of the person who has been known through history as Jesus Christ, as an actuality. If that one actuality took place, just as the actuality of the Enlightenment of he Buddha and many such actualities did take place in human history, if that one actuality has taken place, it is the promise of Redemption for anybody and everybody.
Now you see how the teaching is presented, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” What is the meaning of the word believe here? To believe, can you imagine what that word means, in this context I mean? To have complete faith in Transcendence, not the perishable, this is the important point. And how do you have faith in Transcendence? Never by conceptualising it, never by attempting to form a relationship in imagination between separate self and an entity which is Transcendence, but by being awake to this fact that Transcendence is the totality in which one is completely subsumed. It is an “of courseness” in which no argument takes place, no doubt enters. Start by questioning it, not by carping criticism, not by cynical doubt and all that foolishness of the vain, egoistic intellect. But question it. What is this? Question it that way. What is this? Discover it. But discover it not by pursuing anything, because you can never pursue Transcendence. But the intensity of your longing makes the thing real to you, come to light and life, and it will stand before you. It will not merely stand before you, in front of you, it will go right into your body. This is YHShWH, the enfleshment of YHWH. This is how faith in its innermost reality, the indefinable, indescribable reality, comes into being. All the great spiritual teachers emphasize the necessity of having faith in them, as the Scriptures put it. But we humans, we mortals, have misunderstood that. We think of having faith in Jesus Christ, in Gautama Buddha as a person, like John Brown or Mary Smith. Not in that sense. But they were Transcendence embodied, just as you and I are in actual fact Transcendence embodied. But they were Transcendence embodied in perfection. That embodiment had nothing in it to sully it, it was perfect, it was pure. That happens and then there is faith actually present, an operative spiritual energy which continuously transforms the whole of the psyche and the body. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to have faith in the Buddha or whatever it is, this is something as far as I can see of its real inner meaning.
It is useful to take advantage of the different times of the year when these great festivals, as we say, occur. Christmas is approaching, and the thought and feeling of millions of people are turned in that direction. So the psychical atmosphere is favourable for meditation of that sort. When Wesak comes along, it is favourable for that sort of meditation, and so forth. But let it be real meditation, an entering into the state of communion where one’s self is empty, transparent to Reality, entirely resilient, unresisting to Transcendence. Then there is meditation in the real sense, the samādhi.