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    The Light that Shines by …

Transmutation by Genius

A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 14th December 1974


Music is the marriage of heaven and earth. Consider for a few moments the nature of music. It is a movement in sound, different voices moving together, and as these voices move they come to positions of discord and then they move on into positions of concord. The concord is the resolution of the discord. And this is how the movement of sound known as music takes place. But supposing we had all concords we would soon be bored with what we heard. That which we call the discord is an essential part of the music. And if the discords and concords move in the right way the overall effect is harmony. So harmony in the deep sense, the full sense, is not merely a pleasant state, a state of concord, it must also have discords in it, and the two have to play together, so to say, play with each other, sometimes complementarily, in co-operation, at other times apparently in opposition. The discord calls for, evokes, the concord. The concord in due time gives itself up to a situation of discord.

Now it is very helpful for those who are concerned with the living of the religious life to understand this matter very carefully, very deeply. If we do not understand this we shall always be stuck in this conflicting situation of taking sides with one thing against another. We shall either be always troublemakers disrupting things, or always, and often somewhat spineless, bringers of pleasantness according to our little lights. Now that is not the way life goes on. Life has this dualism of discord and concord which, when working together in the right way, become integrated into something Transcendent, and that Transcendent is beyond both concord and discord and is the true meaning of harmony. Harmony is not a mere opposite — it is true that in the language we have the word disharmony — but if we look deeply into our own minds we shall see that our tendency is to think of discord as an enemy of both concord and harmony. But in actual fact harmony is the inter-play of these two elements. Look again at the nature of discord. Life is something which flows along continuously. There come situations externally as well as in our own inner life in which this flow is hindered. It goes back on itself. It concretizes — it hardens and it becomes an obstacle to life in its totality, in its wholeness. And it becomes solid, hard earth. Now, if your composer has true genius he is not concerned merely with producing a concord according to the rules in order to resolve this discord. That discord is taken right into his inner being and it undergoes a process of transmutation, psycho-spiritually in his own being. Psycho-spiritually, remember. And then he produces his harmony out of the movement of both concord and discord. The discord is a challenge and the challenge is met, not in opposition but with that Transcendent power which does away with mere conflict and opposition and produces immortal beauty.

That is why I started off with the statement, “Music is the marriage of heaven and earth”. This thing, immortal beauty, or if you like transcendent love, or goodness, or truth, or virtue, or whatever word you like, in its transcendent sense is not a mere opposite of any one of the duals in which we find ourselves embroiled in our ordinary everyday life. There is something transcendent there, and in great art we have perhaps some of the finest expressions of this kind of realization, which is not merely a triumph of a musician, but it is Transcendence itself — the one total reality coming to fruition through this particular focus point, which is the right focus point because of genius, in the case of a composer. In the case of the religious person, the religious life, because of his utter purity and clear insight, has come to fruition; and therefore there shines forth the Transcendent in varied forms of expression, fundamentally One Total Reality, One Absolute, but its expressions have no end whatsoever. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa said to Arjuna, “There is no end to my glories, O Arjuna. With a fragment of myself I create the Universe, and remain”.

We glimpse something of the nature of the practical aspect of the living of the holy life, the living of the religious life. We all know that we constantly come up against discord in our everyday life, discords which when confined to the purely psycho-physical level of existence become fixations, as the psychologists say. They are tumours in the psyche, they are set ways physically, and if the situation goes very much out of hand, then there are diseases of the body also associated with the psychical ill-health. These are the discords. This obstructive, solidified earth prevents the free flow, the resilient expression of the harmonious movement of life in us as human beings. So our lives are sub-human, instead of being truly human. We meet these, and our task is really like the task of the creative genius. So we see why the living of the religious life really is a difficult thing, to use an under-stating word.

I stress the aspect of the creative genius for this reason. A creative genius is wholly individual. He is unique. The uniqueness in him has come to full fruition. In the early stages, perhaps, in terms of resisting opposition, overcoming difficulties, conquest is still in the realm of duality, and then when that genius has fully flowered there is no more duality. Transcendence works freely through him, and it is only then when he is totally unselfed that he is the creative, the happy creative being. And it is precisely that which we have to do in living the religious life, and it can only come from within ourselves, because with us it is the within-ness in this particular creature called a man which nature, plus God, is trying to bring to fulfilment. The rest of the world, at least as far as I can see, lives in accord with the laws of its being inter-acting with its environment. There is no option possible to a stone or a tree. Option begins to be exercised with the animals, and in us option has reached its peak point. We can choose this way or that. We can choose to be in line, in tune with the great upsurge of life throwing out greater and greater beauty and marvel, or we can remain blind and ignorant, stuck in the mire, the mire of pleasantness, of comfort, of what we fondly, in the sense of foolishly, call security, the mire of success. These are our real enemies where our true fulfilment is concerned. If we are concerned with these things and achieve them, as we say, then we just remain of the earth, earthy. There is no heavenly element playing in our lives, no coming to fruition of Transcendence which is embodied in us. And remember that Transcendence never compels. Transcendence, God, Brahman, the Unborn, the Unmade, use any term you like, functions in eternity, not in time. Functioning in eternity and not in time it does not function in terms of the relative, therefore there is no comparison, no standard involved. Whatsoever emerges out of the true creative action of Transcendence is Absolute in itself. It has no motive, no purpose, it is Absolute and wonderful beyond imagination or conception in itself. And all this is trying to emerge out of us.

I used a bad word, “trying”, it doesn’t try, it just is. I have to wake up to this and cease to obstruct it. I have to cease to be a miserable block, a proper block-head, and wake up, clear away the cobwebs of my ideas and desires and fancies and pursuits and whims and all the stupidity with which I am plagued. And let this, the supremely marvellous thing, the Absolute thing, come to fruition. If I don’t do it I am just part of the flotsam and jetsam on the stream of life. I don’t matter at all. To start with in any case I am but just flotsam and jetsam, but when I see that, “Yes, this is what I am, nothing at all, just nothing at all,” then Transcendence brings about the transformation of me. And the me naturally gives up, just naturally disentangles itself from the miserable “dear me” attitude and conception which plagues humanity throughout its life. Then Heaven has played its part, and then life, as manifested through this very me, through this self which is nothing at all, now by virtue of having become unselfed is the instrument, the perfect instrument of the Divine Orchestra which makes the Divine Music always.

This unselfing must not be regarded as a goal to be pursued. As long as there is a pursuing there is a self, a separate self, pursuing. How shall I pursue Transcendence or God or Truth? It is here, all the time. To pursue, to grasp, to achieve, has no meaning whatsoever, in the context of of the Absolute, of Eternity, of Transcendent Reality — Reality is Transcendent. And remember Reality is not a mere concept. It is not a vapour of an imperfect mind. Reality, if you derive the word from its Latin origin res, is a thing. This is the one thing, the only thing. It is not a thought, it is not a concept, it is not a doctrine or a dogma, it is not a mysterious separate something which I as another separate something can pursue. It is a case really, as far as the real living of the religious life is concerned, of letting be. Let everything be. But let it be not through indifference, not through ignorance, not through fear or any such thing, but because you are wide awake to the fact that it is. Have we ever considered this extraordinary thing that there is no explanation really of why anything at all exists? We don’t know. At least I don’t know. How is it that there is the microphone? Of course you can give me a description of how it is manufactured, and so forth, and the parts which compose it — I can ask the same question. How is anything there at all? It is a mystery — a complete mystery. To the ratiocinative mind searching for an ultimate something which it can grasp, the ultimate something is myself, is yourself, is Totality, is Transcendence, is God, but none of these words mean anything in fact. I can’t grasp God or Transcendence, or myself. Have you ever tried to grasp yourself? Try and see what happens. I might seize hold of my ear or my nose, I might seize hold of some of my thoughts, and then what happens? It all comes to an end. I can’t seize those things.

So you see all the great teachers taught without exception to cease from grasping anything. They taught the end of greed, of envy, of ambition, of jealousy, of anger, to put it in another form — of all self—centredness, of all selfness, because when one wakes up to exactly how one does function, then one ceases to try to draw the world to oneself. This is the fundamental selfness, the selfishness, which functions all the time throughout our conscious and sub-conscious life. When we really see it and are wide awake, then quite naturally we don’t function in the self-ish way. I can’t fight against selfishness as such, that is an intellectually conceived thing — which sets up a battle. The Total Reality does not battle — it just is. Whittle down the Total Reality to my single body. If any one part of my body starts battling with the other part I’d be in a sorry state, wouldn’t I? So Transcendence or Totality or any one particular thing which is complete and whole and wonderful in itself does not battle. It is only I, a man, who has this capacity to look within, look without, and separate the two, who indulges in this foolish thing called battling. And so through the ages this has been embodied in these funny phrases, “fighting for truth, for honour, for justice, for regard”. But that is precisely what the Devil does all the time. And he has glorious victories in his efforts through each and every one of us not altogether human beings. We must laugh at ourselves a little bit over this.

When we see these things, really see them, the intellectual grasping is just the superficial first step. Intellectual grasping will lead to argument inside the mind. Now if we go through that and say, “This is what that monkey, the intellect does, chatters away”, and then let that monkey settle down, and let the mind be quiet, then something else happens — we have to use the word “seeing” because we talk of the psyche in terms which are analogical with the body senses. This seeing takes place. When that seeing is really full and complete and it shines like a light, then that is the complete end of all inward struggles.

Do remember the functioning of the psyche is a curious sort of functioning. Where the body is concerned we have separate organs, the eyes which are indispensable for seeing, the ears, our sense of touch etc., they are all localised, they are all ordered in that way. They function separately on their own in relationship to the rest of the body and especially in so far as they connect up with the brain. Similarly the other organs like the kidneys, the liver, the heart, they are all special organs for special purposes, etc. But now, take the psyche, the mind, when one says that “I” am examining this which is inside me. Let us take this hard rock of hate against such and such a person, or such and such a institution, or whatever it is. Now, can I localise hate in the psyche as I can localise my liver or my teeth or something? Is not the whole psyche in the state of hate, when experiencing hate? You see, if something goes wrong with the body we can say, “Something is wrong with the blood there, or with the skin there.” Can we do that with the psyche? “It’s this bit of the psyche which is hate or hating.” It isn’t. In actual fact there is a phenomenon taking place in the living organism which, through the combination of our ignorance and for the sake of convenience, we denominate as a particular state of mind, a mood, a feeling, a thought or whatever it is. There is a mental process going on. There is a mental phenomenon taking place, and we name it like that and apparently localise it out of the inveterate habit we have of making analogies with our physical experience. It does not apply with the psyche. The whole psyche is in that state. And when I say in the process of self-examination that I am examining the state of hate or the state of overflowing kindness towards so-and-so, who is this “I” who is examining? Again is it not the whole psyche at play? The whole psyche is seeing the whole psyche. This is the peculiarity of our psychical or mortal life. The mind functions as a whole, and whatsoever happens, as we call it, mentally, happens as a whole. There are no separate organs, or compartments, in the mind. It is the entire thing. Such is the nature of the functioning which goes on, which we present as a psychical or a mental phenomenon or process.

Now, what is it in us which is our instrument of salvation, when we see the disharmony? I use the word disharmony. We see the earthiness that is so strong in us — the obstructive earthiness. Earth by itself is good earth — fertile, good stuff. But this hard earthiness, this desert-like stuff, is different, it is an obstruction to the free flow of life. Now what is our instrument of salvation? Is it not our power of attention? If we attend, that attention is directed towards the whole psycho-physical organism, pure attention, without prejudices, preconceptions, set standards, criteria interfering and spoiling the complete purity of the attention. This is very important and this is where we all fall down in religious discipline. And it is very easy to fall down. That attention has to be pure attention, pure attentiveness, and when that pure attentiveness is at play it is like a pure light which makes the entire organism transparent. The psyche is completely transparent then, made transparent with that pure attentiveness. And thereby the whole person now represents the harmony of life functioning in the full meaning and significance of the word human.

We have gone into the meaning of the word human several times, but as some of you are here for the first time just let me repeat the true meaning of this word human. Its Sanskrit root is man and there is the prefix hu. Hu means happy. Hu or su, ( h and s can be interchanged in the language) means that which is well gone, well done, perfect, come to fruition, etc. That is the meaning of that prefix. And man means the creative thought or thinking when we say “I think”. That simply means that I am talking silently, that is all, not talking aloud. Look at our thinking process, it is one long chatter. And notice how extraordinarily inconsequential and petty and foolish and sometimes malicious and devilish it is. And sometimes it aspires to the Supreme and at all times almost it is dreadfully egotistic. Even when it aspires to the Supreme it is not an unselfed aspiration, it is “I am going to be one with God.” This miserable “I”, as if God wants me at all! We have to bear all this in mind. Now the hu-man is the happy creator. But creation does not take place in time-space. Creation takes place in that immeasurable condition, which is beyond all description, there are no words at all. It is the mystery, the unknowable. But this is the description of God if you like. This is how we talk of God, the ever-blissful, God the Creator, or if you like to use a scientific word you can say energy. Creative action, creative energy are synonymous. There is no such thing as creative energy by itself divorced from creative action all the time. It has no meaning. It is not like electricity for instance, which we can store up, night storage for electricity in order to save expense, and then utilize later. It is not that kind of energy. This transcendent energy is perpetual creative action. It goes on endlessly. And a hu-man is the happy creator.

So now when through the power of attentiveness this extraordinary transformation is effected, this inconceivable purity of the psycho-physical being is realized, then that creative activity goes on continuously, which is the harmony of human life. It is music — the marriage of heaven and earth. Now you see why this marriage is needed. The whole of the becoming process is manifestation through space and time. But manifestation is existence. Existence means a standing out of, the derivation of existence, ex sistere. But that which stands out of has stood out of, apparently, the One Total Reality. Where has it stood out of? In my consciousness — not in fact — not in universal fact. It is not a fact of the universe — it is in my consciousness. I am aware in that manner. In other words, I am conscious, I am aware in the manner which is rightly called sin, the state of dis-unity, the type of awareness which has sundered the unity — “God is there, the perfect is there, Nirvana is there, I am here.” And it is all in my consciousness. Buddhism likes to use the term mind rather than any other term. You may use any term you like, but the important thing is to understand, to try to understand what is the fact inside. So you see in my consciousness I have created this separation of self and not-self. But through attentiveness, pure attentiveness, the wholeness is realized. Realized means made real. The purity is there, the transparency is there, the self is no longer an obstructive rock shutting out the light of truth, the fact of reality. And this is a transformation, a complete transmutation, of awareness itself, your mode of awareness of the Totality has undergone this change.

That is why this pure attentiveness is our instrument of salvation. If at any time you have actually experienced the state of pure attentiveness, afterwards the brain will reconstruct that extraordinary experiencing of complete oneness. There was no “I” attending, there was no other object being attended to. This is the absolute harmony. This is perhaps the supreme purpose of our existence on this planet. It is through us as separate individuals, as selves, as earth, that the One Self, the Total Reality, the Infinite will function freely with the complete co-operation and the awakened state of the individual — otherwise the individual man obstructs Transcendence. It is a great game, it is the divine play. And it is a game of love in a peculiar manner. You know how it is when you play a game. One person makes the first move, the other person responds. Where Transcendence and I are concerned, I apparently always make the first move towards Transcendence, but it is the power of Transcendence actually which elicited this move, which I in my ignorance thought was the first move. Transcendence does not compel in any way whatsoever. It just is, and by virtue of its total and absolute isness this move gets elicited out of this earth, because this earth has gone through such stimuli, with pain and suffering and stupidity and sorrow and all the rest of it, that it suddenly makes this move, enquiring “God in Heaven, who the Devil are you?” You see? Right — so I make the first move and Transcendence does not make any move in response because then Transcendence would become an other than myself. Then there would be two and that would only be conflict — this is a game of love. Love means unification. Transcendence just looks on wrapped up in the silent folds of eternity. It just is, and that very isness produces a move which at first I think is the response of Transcendence to my original move. It is like a man, Prince Charming, wooing the beloved in just the way that the beloved wanted him to woo, in order that she may not be compelled to give a nay but give the inevitable yea, because the Prince has elicited that yea in the manner that she wanted it elicited. It sounds very complicated but then love is very complicated. It is like that, but you see some of the implications, in terms which we can easily understand. The infinite understanding, forbearance, patience, the resiliency, resiliency of mind and heart, the utter simplicity, all this is involved, isn’t it? And if all this were not involved you and I as ordinary people living in this world would find it almost impossible to enter that realm of Transcendence.

Now consider the great teachers of the world, all of them, the great spiritual teachers, who are the instruments through whom the bread and wine of life were given, and are being given continuously, to the human race. Is this not love, is it not one meaning at least of Christ’s saying, “This one Commandment I give unto you — love ye one another as I have loved you”? How did Jesus love? Was it merely Jesus, the son of his father and mother, who gave love? Is not the sinless Perfected Holy One no longer a separate self, but one through whom the Totality, the Absolute Transcendence flows freely? When you and I are like that, pure, simple, awakened, then you and I love anything, everything all the time, everywhere in that transcendent manner, “as I have loved you”. That is, through the individual the supreme thing possible for all human beings flows and goes out to everything and everyone around him. Then one realizes the simple fact, “I am nothing”. The Total Reality alone is, and in that realization all that the Total Reality is, is also in this mysterious way, with me, for me, and mine.

Now re-read when you go home St. John chapter 17, that famous prayer of Jesus when he is by himself, and you will see extraordinary meanings in it. Or if you like consider the words of the Buddha, to his disciples, “All that a teacher out of compassion can do for his disciples that I have done for you”. What is it that the Perfected Holy One, the Enlightened One, can do for his disciples? Have we any conception? Better than conception, have we any experience of it, any insight into it? Look into it and you will see that that was the correspondence five centuries earlier of Jesus’ words to his disciples on that fateful night, “Love ye one another as I have loved you”. And in this realization we are not cutting ourselves away from the world, earth. Think of the significance of that sentence, “He came down to earth from Heaven”, and of the Buddha, “He entered the womb of the Lady Mahāmāyā”. The great illusion is the meaning of the name Mahāmāyā. He entered the womb of the great illusion, coming down from his Tushita Heaven. You will see extraordinary things, and realize that we do not cut ourselves away from the world, but are most intimately, most inextricably involved personally with the entire world. But the way to serve the world, to help the world, is to realize our own humanity.

This in its full profound religious meaning, in its transcendent meaning, is realizing the marriage of Heaven and Earth and making the music which is the music of the flowing of Eternal Life.


Tim Surtell
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