The True Cause of the Increasing Ill of the World
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 15th November 1975
It is not necessary to labour the point that all the world is in a ill state, in a sad state, and the movement of the world is towards greater difficulty, greater ill. We all know how violence and the degrading of all moral values are on the increase, rapidly on the increase. And the race of man is becoming more bestial than ever. We must try and understand how this comes about. The man of the world offers worldly reasons and explanations for this. He points the finger of blame to governments, to economic systems, to the absence of external discipline, law and order and so on. By contrast there are those idealists, people who, despite the actual fact of what is, try to uphold an optimistic view and believe in the goodness of man at heart. They say that these are the growing pains of mankind. It is perfectly true that affluence is a source of ill, for the very simple reason that human beings in the mass have no conception whatsoever how to utilize affluence rightly. In fact if they had good sense, real intelligence and skill, they would free themselves from the tide of affluence and the curse of that tide, because they would have the wisdom to see that it is the optimum that makes for human well-being and welfare. A tide of affluence means that you have gone beyond the point where wealth is helpful. There is always an optimum point where the organism and organic life are concerned, and it takes real wisdom to be able to see that optimum point. That optimum point can never be calculated. What we have in the world is a whole mass of calculations, all based upon ‘ifs’. If this is the case, assuming that and so forth, then such and such results ought to follow. And they never follow for so many reasons. I will not touch upon or try to enter into a consideration of these external reasons, because all of them fall to the ground, they are useless reasons. One must go to the heart of the matter.
What is the heart of the matter? Consider the manner in which we are aware of ourselves and of all existence. It is one’s mode of awareness of oneself and one’s environment which determines one’s whole mental, psychical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic and physical life, the mode of awareness of oneself, and by the mode of awareness I do not mean the modes of thought which we hold. It is perfectly easy to produce a pattern of thoughts which sound very good and true to life but they never are. The mode in which one is aware is the total power, conscious and unconscious, which determines our desires, thoughts, feelings, words and actions, and by thoughts I mean the way we plan things. Now consider this very intensely and very honestly. I want to stress honestly for this reason. Quite naturally all humans tend to point the finger of blame to the other person, he does not want to look into himself first and foremost and to see to what extent he himself is responsible. We always like to use a slang phrase but which is very accurate where the life of the world is concerned, we like to “pass the buck”. We are not honest, we shirk our responsibility. Now, what is our mode of awareness of our whole existence? Is it not a self-oriented, a self-centred mode of awareness? All our thinking, feeling, speaking, planning, working, doing, is directed for our personal pleasure or satisfaction or benefit or advancement as we call it. We are self-oriented to a degree that we really cannot measure. This is a fundamental fact of what we actually are. There are those who deliberately, through intellectual deliberation, work for others, as they say, for the benefit of their families, their societies, their nations, mankind, they even have the naïve, charming belief that they work for God. God is in no need of any work from us, but he can’t give us the sack because he made us!
But consider the nature of this, as they say, drive within them, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of society, and so forth. Is it not, in practically every case, an example of self-identification with something bigger than oneself? When I say that I work for my society, for my people, I work for liberation from misery for the masses and all the rest of that rubbish, what am I doing? I am identifying myself with them, and I am trying to impose my conception of what their state ought to be upon them. My neighbour might have quite different views and would want to impose another state upon them. Then we argue about it and quarrel about it - all right, that might be a little bit of fun, but it proceeds to its end point of bombs thrown at harmless, innocent people, wars, strikes on the slightest provocation. And it is always self-oriented, self-centred, an expression of one’s own power lust, of one’s own insatiable passion to impose one’s ego out of sheer conceit and vanity upon society. If this were not the case, of all the different ideologies that have sprung up in the world, at least one should have borne good fruit — has it? Has a single ‘ism’ thought out by man and imposed upon his environment borne good fruit? I should like to find a single instance of that in history. There is not one, as far as I know, and this is fundamentally due to the fact that whatsoever is planned, whatsoever activity is undertaken is self-oriented. Someone might say, “Look at so and so, he devotes himself purely to the pursuit of knowledge and discovering the truth of things.” In our modern world consider the work of the scientist. What does the scientist do? He has remarkable drive to find out the facts of nature. Very good, he proceeds with finding out the facts of nature. He wrests the secrets of nature out of her. And then what? What use is made of those secrets? The benefit of man? They might say, look at industry, invention and all the wonderful gadgets and what not. And they consider this to be progress. But man cannot live in harmony with his neighbour, he cannot live in harmony within himself, in spite of, and one could go further in many instances and say because of, these very secrets of nature which he has wrested from nature. His insatiable intellectual curiosity has driven him; it is not because he really cares for truth in the total sense. Partly, yes, but not wholly, and why not wholly? Because he is fundamentally aware of himself and existence in a fragmentary way, in an unwhole and an unwholesome way — self-oriented.
Now, take the educationist, the idealist educationist. He says our task with education is to try and produce a whole, integrated, human being. How far has the educationist succeeded in this, has he done anything of the sort? He never questions whether it is possible for him, one educationist, to make another human being whole and integrated. He is presuming to usurp the foundations of the Transcendent, of this mysterious power of life. He is like Lucifer aspiring to equality with the Almighty. Does this educationist know the meaning of the word ‘human’, the meaning of the word ‘man’? Has he any real vision and understanding of what is the purpose of man’s existence on the globe, and still more, how he shall fulfil it in terms of actual living? How wise is the saying, “Physician heal thyself”! Is this physician, this physician of the mind, the educationist, is he a healed, whole person? If he is, then his natural spontaneous, unconscious influence upon his environment will be one to help mankind a little bit forward towards true fruition as a human being, towards true happiness, towards the lighting up of man’s intelligence, and towards his inward spiritual freedom, which will enable him to remain poised and calm, utterly unobtrusive upon the world. Can any educationist claim that he has really succeeded in this or understands this? Why cannot he succeed and why does he not understand? Because fundamentally he is self-oriented and he is ignorant of that fact. This is the point, this is one of the most tragic aspects of the ignorance which afflicts all humanity, you and me and everybody. We are ignorant this way. We talk of the whole individual in terms of the individual as a microcosmic unit separate from the macrocosm, the Totality, all mankind. So we say, he must express himself, and the idea of self-expression is that he must be different from his neighbour. Every difference that I force upon my neighbour in order to distinguish myself as a wonderful fellow is an act of hate, an act of war. It is an unsocial act, it is a state of spiritual darkness devoid of anything like love or wisdom or beauty or goodness. Do consider this very deeply and very carefully. Every moment of our lives we are self-oriented, and our business is not just to accept these words which I say and take them as said by one who knows or is an authority — cut all that nonsense out! But awake to it yourself. If you are hungry, you have to eat, I cannot eat on your behalf, nor can anyone else eat on your behalf. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, you drink the draught of truth and the bread of real goodness, which the world lacks today in the most terrible degree. This idea of the wholeness of the individual within himself as a separate creature from other individuals only conduces to conflict between man and man. Why must it of necessity conduce to conflict between man and man? Because, so long as we are self-oriented, self-centred, isolatively self-conscious, all our thinking, feeling, speaking, doing is imperfect, it is tainted right at the very source. It bedevils everything that we attempt to do. This is not a case of just a conflict between what people call selfishness and unselfishness. That is the kindergarten stage of ambivalence. We have to get right beyond that, understand these things so completely and so totally that there is a true integration. And a true integration can take place only if there is the real healing of the whole psyche, the utter cleansing and the purifying of the mind so that it becomes utterly transparent to the light of the intelligence of Transcendence itself. Then that functions through our individual, living psycho-physical organisms and continuously one does the right thing, the best possible thing, in the situation, without our knowing that it is the right and the best thing, and without looking for results or rewards.
If we are to put it in terms of words, our task is just this. We have to become free of our self-orientedness. Instead of being conscious almost exclusively in terms of you, I, he, she, this group, that group, we have to become naturally and spontaneously aware of the Totality, of the Whole. Start with mankind, that is enough. Start with your family, with the person who is next to you, with your dog, with your cat, that might lead you to the next man or woman. But remember, not possessively, not sentimentally. There is no such thing as my cat, my dog, my husband, my wife, my child, my friend. That “my” absolutely denies the truth of husband, wife, child, friend. You may have read that wonderful discourse of Yājñavalkya in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad delivered to Maitreyī, where he says, “Not for the sake of the husband is the husband dear, but for the sake of the Ātman is the husband dear, not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear, but for the sake of the Ātman is the wife dear.” And he goes on through sons and friends and objects and everything, the whole world. The Ātman represents the difference-less, undivided and indivisible Transcendent reality, the Totality. And it represents that for us in terms of a state of awareness, of consciousness, not as a mere thought which we can rattle out in nice, high-sounding phrases. That is the Ātman. For the sake of that is the husband beloved, the wife beloved, the piano beloved, your dog beloved, the drunkard next door beloved, the murderer out there. Or it may be myself.
Now, do we begin to see the meaning of the mode of awareness undergoing a complete transformation? Not a mode in terms of you or he or me or anybody else just separately but the mode in which the word us, the word we, stands for the Totality, and let me repeat, and I will repeat it a thousand times if necessary, not as a thought, not as a string of words, because they are utterly impotent by themselves, if we merely grasp at the words, if we grasp at the thought. If you grasp at the emotion involved in it, that too is impotent, because, when you grasp just at the emotion involved in it, you will find a peculiar psychological phenomenon taking place. You will have a strong drive to impose this concept upon others. If I impose any concept upon others, that concept is not true vision. True vision is infinitely patient, it is infinitely resilient, it is infinitely loving therefore, it lets be so that the other person’s freedom is never intruded upon. This is very important. To be aware in this manner is to be aware — one must really ask forgiveness for saying such a thing — as God is aware of the universe, because that is the real meaning involved in the word Man, and particularly in the word Hu-man. This is Transcendent Love. In the New Testament we find, “For God is Love.” Now that begins to have real meaning for us if we can undergo this utter transformation. And this utter transformation comes about through what is called in Christian terms the Baptism by Fire, or, if you like to use the Ṛg-vedic symbolism, when Agni, the God of Fire, touches you, or in the Zarathushtrian teachings when you are touched by fire, the purifying agent, the Sun of Ahura Mazda, the Supreme. When that fire burns you up, far from perishing, you come to life for the first time, and life which is Eternal Life. You awake to Eternal Life, and the tyranny of time moves out of your awareness, your consciousness. It really does. You are so intensely awake to Eternity that you never misuse a split second of time. I have said at previous meetings, “Eternity rides on the wings of time.” Time is Eternity’s thief, as I said this afternoon, so long as we are the slaves of time. And note how we are the slaves of time. Self-oriented people living for personal gain, advancement, pleasure, satisfaction, aggrandizement, etc., every moment of time is sold. Money-changers in the Temple of the Lord. Can we sell time or buy time? Because we try to do so, Eternity for us is darkened, life for us is darkening, fruition for us is darkened and we remain sunk in the bestial state.
I spoke a little while ago about the way in which we wrest the secrets of Nature. We want to dominate everything, and therefore we no longer have dominion over the world in which we live. It is for us to have dominion. The world is our home, we are the lords of this home, the sovereign lords and the sovereign ladies of this home. This means we are the protectors, the nourishers, the sustainers and the bringers to fruition of all that there is in this home. Mankind, the animal world, the plants, the very earth itself, are the mother, which uncomplainingly endures untold insults from us, in the way in which through our self-orientation we deal with her. This is really of tremendous importance, because once we truly understand this all the evil falls off. The evil is within our psyche. I said “falls off”, but it does not fall off. The evil is transformed. The psyche is a source of energy, a source of power, you do not throw away energy. It is transformed into energy which expresses itself in the right way. What did the Holy Ones do? They never sought power, they freed themselves from seeking for self through moral purification first and foremost, and through learning to attend so intensely to the Totality that they become free of all isolative self-consciousness. And in that state Love and wisdom, goodness, beauty, truth, all these things emerged in their Transcendent reality and functioned through them. They did not desire any more to be truthful or good, they just were truthful, good, loving, wise. They were naturally just like that, just as you or I are physically naturally what the body is. We may have a fair skin, dark hair, blue eyes, or gold hair, or whatever it is, we are naturally like that. And all these Transcendent values were natural expressions of their living psyche. Therefore they never misused power, therefore all their influence, their spontaneous, natural influence, not thought out, not looking for any desirable result, their natural influence was for permanent good, for the well-being, the welfare and the fruition of mankind. If they found themselves in a particular situation, their planning, their suggestions would be the best possible that could be produced by man.
It is very interesting to notice certain things. Take our ordinary waking life. What animates our waking life? First and foremost the drive of desire. Desire is the great driving force, the desire for pleasure, for possessions, for sensational excitement and so on. Desire has its most fundamental expressions in the natural, and perfectly right, animal urge to continue to exist, which means food, drink, sex. That means the preservation of the body and the preservation of the species. Desire starts there, and then it proliferates into all other fields of life. So we are desire-driven. And how do we use our brains or intellect, as we call it? As the slave of this desire-drive, to fulfil our desires, our ambitions, our pursuits. They become very refined and then they are more dangerous — be careful! “Oh, it’s all for art, for beauty, for cultural pursuits, how can there be anything wrong with such desires?” There is nothing wrong, do not look at it in terms of right and wrong, but see if it is self-oriented, a subtler and a subtler form of self-association with what you and I call the good and the true and the beautiful, or whether it is in terms which have transcended all isolativeness, whether it is a case of “us” awareness or “you and I” awareness. So desire is served by intellect. All our planning is in terms of our petty little knowledge from the past as to what happens if you act this way or if you act that way. And what happened in the past? History is a saddening and a very chastening study. And we want to be like that again. We are under the delusion that we are the doers, that responsibility is individual responsibility. There is a true meaning to individual responsibility, but actually we are not the doers. Can you or I do anything if not for the fact that the environment around us is what it is? The environment around us either prevents us or allows or actually helps us. This is what happens in fact. Now, am I the doer? What did Śrī Kṛṣṇa say in the Gītā? He said, “The ignorant imagine that they are the doers. They do not know that I am the doer.” (Kṛṣṇa, remember, is God Incarnate, the Totality Incarnate, he himself declares that he is the Abode of Brahman, the Absolute All). The Totality is the doer, I am the reaper. He says of himself, “I am Time laying waste the worlds, I am Death and the Origin of all things to come, I am Being and Non-Being, O Arjuna.”“ What does this mean for you and for me? It means the awakening out of this petty little enclosed self-orientedness into the awareness of Totality in which the separatist activity of the self is completely at an end. Then you are the very nexus of Transcendent energy. You have become totally Love and Truth and Wisdom, and through you the Infinite Power, the Creative Power of that which is eternal and real functions freely. Now, in this world as it is, whatsoever you think of, whatsoever you plan, whatsoever you see because of true vision is the right thing to do, that will get done because you will be the instrument through which will manifest “Thy will, not mine, O Lord, be done.” But for this you have to be awake. How many of us are awake? Are we not all asleep?
I talked a little while earlier about our waking state. In the light of all this, consider, are we in the truly waking state? Not at all. We are in a stupor, in a coma, we are drunk, we are drug-poisoned, we follow the path of Circe the enchantress, not the path of Athene, the Goddess of Wisdom. But when you and I, imperfect as we are, go to sleep at night and enjoy those hours in our sleep which are hours of deep, profound slumber, the real deep slumber state, which has gone right beyond the dream state, what happens then? The entire psycho-physical organism is perfectly quiet, it is calm, it is in the state in which it is altogether harmless in relation to its environment. That is the time when I do no harm whatsoever. In that state do you know that there is no entry of desire or thought or any sort of grasping for self? Self-consciousness as such has totally gone to sleep, and it is in that state that the organism is revitalised, rejuvenated. That is the state which in the Upaniṣads has been called suṣupti, that deep slumber state. And they were extraordinarily wise, they knew what they were talking of. They said, “This is the Supreme state.” And of course, reading the Upaniṣads, one thinks that, “All I’ve got to do is to go to sleep and get into a lovely deep slumber and, lo and behold! I shall be one of God’s own angels on earth.” Nothing of the sort. When I wake up I shall be the same old devil. We have to realize this state in waking consciousness. This is where the whole living of the holy life comes in, the moralities, the purification, the constant mindfulness, watchfulness, attentiveness, and being awake to this poisonous weed inside us which wants to keep us isolated and separate from Totality. That is Yoga in its supreme sense, that is why Yoga in the real sense cannot be pursued. You may go through practices, which we call beneficial, which make you healthy, make you well, and we quote, “Mens sana in corpore sano,” a healthy mind in a healthy body and all that sort of thing. But beware! “I am going to have a healthy mind in a healthy body.” As long as that drive is there, deep in the unconscious part of me, that I am going to have this, it bedevils what I do, because, when a person deliberately sets out to be well and healthy and so forth, how does he use his health and strength? How wonderfully he misuses it! Have we forgotten our childhood days? You and I were stronger than that fellow and therefore we imposed our will and our egos bloated and bloated, until some bigger fellow pricked a pin, and then we were miserable. That is how we utilized our strength. And quite seriously, how tragically man has misused his strength throughout his whole evolutionary career! It is the same with religion. Why do you and I consider religion and the religious life? Look deep into the well of the unconscious and see this drive of desire. “I want my reserved seat in the nice place.” And, mind you, I am going to lay down what “the nice place” should be like: I would like two big bedrooms, three guestrooms and this, that and the other. But the Lord God might say, “But my dear fellow, it will be very cold here!” He might say, “In Heaven it is minus 273ºC always!” Then what are you going to do, get back to hell? But we all do do that, we get back to hell. The Buddha said, “Cooled am I”, utterly cooled, where the smoky fire of passion, fear, anger, malice and so on is concerned.
So now, the state of the world. The whole world is reflected in each one of us, the microcosm. See that that microcosm awakes to Totality in mind and consciousness, and, in the light of that awakening, all the growth and the fruition that takes place in one’s own body and mind will bear fruit for the benefit of all mankind. Put aside all planning and scheming and so forth and what ought to be. You cannot change it. If an earthquake takes place, it is no good saying, “The earth ought not to have quaked just here because it hurts me.” This is very serious. One has to be really intelligent, really practical about this, and really intelligent does not mean being clever, being very knowledgeable in the world’s sense of the term. But it means that your mind is utterly free of all bias or prejudice, of preconception and assumption, all sorts of beliefs and convictions dependent upon the dead shapes of the past which you bear in your memories. We cling to our sorrow, we cling to our power to do ill. Do we ever see that? It is a terrible thing to face one’s own soul. One could not say things like this unless oneself has been through the mill. But be through the mill. You are unkillable this way when you look into yourself. Therefore go on. Keep going without flagging, and you will become right, whole, and, as you become right and whole, the world becomes right and whole, holy.