A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 8th February 1976
No-one here is unaware of the tragedy of Guatemala, Nature’s cataclysm in which thousands of people are made to suffer destruction, pain, death indiscriminately. In situations like that, and it happens again and again throughout our history, people around and people from all quarters of the globe rush in to help, deeply moved by the suffering of mankind. Those who help sometimes may come from lands which are supposed to be inimical to the people of the land which has suffered the cataclysm, enemies, in short, politically, in their social systems, their ideologies, their philosophies of life, may rush to help each other under such circumstances. But it is a strange thing that, where our ordinary everyday life is concerned and our everyday human relationships all over the globe, we are not so helpful, either towards each other, or even towards ourselves, for all too often we are our own enemies. How does this happen? It is not perhaps fundamentally due to the fact that we are not in tune with life and the trends of life, life not merely as we understand it, because our understanding is so very short, but life in its real nature? Life in its real nature with respect to each living kingdom of Nature on the globe is purposive, it brings the different animal and plant species to fruition. We can see a developmental process, an evolutionary process if you like to look at it that way.
We human beings have observed this from the earliest times. Those whom we call primitive peoples were just as interested in their way in observing and understanding the processes of life around them as we are. In the course of the millennia we humans have developed techniques of observation and, in rather less than a thousand years, we have developed techniques of experimentation and verification of what we deduce from our observations, which have taught us a very great deal about the processes of life around us. We have also learnt a very great deal about what happens to our own bodies under various conditions. These happenings are related to the health and well-being or the state of disease and illness of the body. And yet only a few have ever understood what is the trend of life for us human beings and how we may live in harmony with that trend of life. Everyone knows that mankind has suffered terribly, emotionally, intellectually, and has also known deep spiritual distress from the beginning of human history. We all know of the universality of human suffering. And remember our suffering is essentially a suffering of the mind. It is important to bear this in mind. If we had no mind or if our minds were restricted in scope and potentiality to a degree similar to the scope and potentiality of simple animals or still more so of plants, then our suffering would not be anything comparable to the actual suffering that we do experience because of the extraordinary complexity and development of our own human psyche and mind.
This gives us a key, or one of the keys, to understanding ourselves, the fact that the mind of man is something remarkably complex. And if this which we call the mind or the psyche is so very remarkably complex in structure, it also means that its functioning is equally complex, and the hidden potentialities within are tremendous in proportion to that complexity. Animals do not produce geniuses like the human race does. Animals do not produce such devils of destructive evil, cruelty and horror as the human race produces. Our potentiality is something quite extraordinary, and it is summed up in the great religions of the world in the one word which stands for the Supreme, the Ultimate, the Absolute, whatever the terminology may be, a Supreme Being, God, Allah, Ahura Mazda or, as in the Hindu presentation, Brahman or Ātma, or as in the Buddhist presentation, which is in philosophical terms, the Unborn, the Unmade, the Unbecome, and so forth. But the important point to bear in mind is that this word or words, which represent our inner potentiality, which stand for the highest, represent in actual fact that towards which Nature, (which we can see and observe and understand on the one hand) and this Transcendent Reality (which is the mysterious unknown, this creative power of the universe), are constantly drawing us. There is a very interesting contrast between the two. Nature, so to say, pushes us towards this grand consummation for the human race. The Transcendent never pushes, God never compels, there is no drive there because, that word God, or Transcendence, if you like, represents that which is totally beyond, and also includes in a mysterious way all our analytical categories, all our specialized terms to express that which seems to be the supreme goal for mankind. So we talk in terms of Divine or Absolute Love or Wisdom or Truth or Beauty or Goodness, or whatever it is. But every sound that we make like that, with respect to the Transcendent, is a sound whose meaning is completely beyond all intellectual comprehension, but well within the scope of our spiritual understanding, which is not analytical but which functions as actually being that which the words stand for without intellectual definition of the words.
This is the meaning of Transcendence, that it is a dimension of being and consciousness in which everything which is made finite and particular, which is taken apart out of the Totality, is completely subsumed and which is at the same time other than, every single particular. This kind of thing cannot be conceived of or thought of, you cannot build logical philosophies on it, but this is the marvel of our existence. We have that sensitivity innate within us which can thrill in response to the reality of this unknown and unknowable creative power, and, thrilling in response to it, we can be in tune with it, in harmony with it without our knowing it. If we try to know, then we are making a mistake, that is to say, knowing in analytical, intellectual terms. This is where faith in its profoundest aspect comes in. But it is not faith which is a blind belief in a formula, in an analytical presentation, but a faith which, because of this mysterious sensitivity in us, enables us to some extent or other, insofar as we are capable of responding to this, to be that to which we are responding. In other words God or the Absolute or Unbecome, the Unmade, the Transcendent, whatever it is, is the fulfilled state of you and of me, we who are ordinary, imperfect human beings. It is to this that the evolutionary process of Nature is pushing us. The strict scientist is not permitted to agree with a thing like this. When he does agree he always qualifies it with statements that, “It appears as if … one may conjecture from our scientific research that such and such may be the case.” Of course he is perfectly right in putting it that way, his business as a scientist prevents him from putting it in the way that the mystic or the religieux or the creative artist would put it.
To be in tune with this and to be able to respond to it, that is the meaning of religion, and whatsoever mode of discipline emerges within our own life which helps towards that fruition, that movement towards Divinity, towards that flowering out into the perfect flower of humanity, of which we are buds only, whatsoever moves towards that, is religious discipline. If one tries to understand this in depth and work out all the implications of what I have tried to put very succinctly, one will see that the religious life therefore is the life that includes every single aspect of life for each one of us individually. Here we can put our finger on one of the fundamental mistakes that mankind has made. ”This is my religious life, this is my ordinary, everyday, worldly, daily life.” And the two have very little relationship to each other. Why is there such little relationship? Who is the producer of this discord, this divorce, this dichotomy between the religious and the secular? I myself. There is no separation where life in its reality is concerned between the religious and the secular. Life is a totality. If I fragment that totality deliberately, through my ignorance, through my slavery to my pleasure-drives, to my egoistic self-assertiveness, and so forth in life, I am the criminal, I am the devil, I myself, because I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse even to see and examine and then acknowledge, the truth that life is one whole, one unfragmented whole. It is a total living organism. It is not like a machine composed of a hundred or a thousand or a million different parts where you can just separate the parts, or throw out a part which is not working too well and put in another one instead. It is not like that. That is all mechanical analysing and synthesizing. Life, and that means you and I as living beings, is a live, integrative totality and process. The whole process of life is an integrative process, and we have not woken up to this at all as a human race. Unfortunately a great many of us who have an intellectual vision of these things just leave it at the level of an intellectual vision, which means something which the brain has seen outside oneself as a logical system. ”Yes, this is a fine philosophy.” Exactly, and it suffers the fate of all fine philosophies. It is on the top shelf collecting dust. We do not live it. So we are out of tune with life, we are not in rhythm with this totality, this universe, this world in which we live. The outstanding characteristic of being out of tune is the fact that we are conscious from moment to moment in terms of I and the rest, you, he, she, it, this, that, the circumstance, the situation, the government, etc., etc., all bits and bobs, pushed out of my consciousness. I am here and all these other things and people are there. And because I, as the imperfect so-called human, am conscious in this split way, in this fragmented way, of the One Total Reality, (which is the actual fact of the universe, it is One Total Reality), because I am conscious of it in this false way, I am perpetually in the state of inward conflict within myself and am constantly the producer of conflict. Everywhere, whatsoever I touch or do or think or say is tainted with this fundamental state of disunity which is the meaning of being in the state of sin. We can never repeat that too often, the fundamental meaning of the word ‘sin’ is that which sunders or tends to sunder the fundamental unity of the universe.
What is one of the deep meanings of the Fall of Adam? What is that Fall? He fell from the state of contemplation of God, which does not mean the state of just thinking about God, churning a thousand words in his brain per minute about God. Contemplation in this sense means the state of conscious, as well as what we commonly call unconscious, union with the Total Reality. That is the state of contemplation, a state of living unification, which is therefore a constantly active state. It is not a temporary unification, it is a permanent unification in mind and consciousness. And when Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Life, he did not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. He converted the Tree of Life into the Tree of Good and Evil, meaning that he began to differentiate, to separate out, fragment the unity of the universe and take sides with this which gave him pleasant sensations as against that which was displeasurable to him. I am trying to simplify things so that it will not be too difficult to follow. There are tremendous meanings in it all. I have tried to put some of them in my new book†. We are out of tune therefore in this way.
That fundamental perception, that it is not only an intellectual vision which is necessary, but the actual state of realization has to be released, has many aspects as regards the forms in which it finds fulfilment, many, many aspects. In fact I would not be far wrong in saying that the number of aspects are as multitudinous as the variety of the infinite number of particulars which compose this wonderful unity which is the universe. And if one wakes up to that, one suddenly see this word God with which we associate omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. See the tremendousness of the meaning of it all. What can man do but stand in silent awe and reverence and worship before such a tremendous reality? And if I do stand silently, completely empty and completely naked before that tremendous something, then I am in the state of unity. Why am I in the state of union with that tremendous reality? Because my isolative awareness of myself, “I and God”, has vanished. Only God is there. And that includes this which I call “I”. And it is a convenient sound, and I call that “you” and that “it” and so forth. These are convenient sounds for everyday practical purposes, but fragmentation in my awareness has vanished, and therefore the state of sin in my mind and consciousness has disappeared. I am salved, in the state of salvation, the state of health, the health of the mind, the health of the spirit. And this is very important.
I mentioned a few moments ago so many different ways, and in many of these different ways we can experience this reality here and now. Do not think about it as a course to be gone through, and then if you pass your exams you might get a first class or a second class or a third class or you might receive a polite note saying that “room will have to be made for a better student in the college. Go out.” Not in those terms, that is all worldly nonsense. But here and now in the living moment the thing can happen. And in this living moment, when that intensity of awareness of the Truth comes upon you (and it will not come upon you merely because I said it or some scripture says it or some external source says it), something will suddenly light up. It is like the striking of a match. There is the match and there is the matchbox and you do this, and lo and behold! there is a flame and a light. Something like that happens in your soul inwardly. The stimulus, the inspiring source, may be somebody’s words, may be a book, may be seeing a bird flying across the face of the moon. (How many birds fly across when there is moonshine? I don’t know, but you know what I am trying to suggest.) It may be anything at all but it will light it up suddenly. The smile upon your baby’s face and God Almighty is suddenly present. It is like that. So, it is not at the end of a course but here and now.
How does this being in tune with the Totality, being in rhythm with the creative pulse of life express itself right down here in our own bodies? Consider, we all know that there is the pulse which can be felt in various parts of the body. There is the throb of the heart, the heartbeat. There is something else, there is the rhythm of your breathing. And the rhythm of your breathing, even more sensitively and with greater variation than the beating of your heart, records your different states. Take the simple case of walking on the road. Your heartbeat will be thus and the rhythm of your breath will be thus and thus. Supposing you walk much faster. Up goes the pulse and the heartbeat and the rhythm of your breath changes. And if you run the rhythm of your breath changes still more. If you feel frightened, if you get a sudden shock, there is a change in your heartbeat, your pulse, and in the rhythm of your breath. But every small variation which in the normal way you do not notice consciously is recorded in the changing rhythm of the breath. Every thought, feeling, speaking, doing, your breath rhythm records that change.
What is this rhythm of the breath? By breath we commonly understand this mixture of nitrogen and oxygen and the other gasses of the atmosphere which we take in. We say, “Breath is life”, and so forth. It is the carrier of life, yes, indeed, the physical gasses are the carriers of life. But notice that this breathing is a rhythmic process, and the rhythm changes with every single change in your whole living being according to what you are thinking or doing or whatever is happening around you, etc. When you are happy, when you are at peace within yourself, what is your breath rhythm like? When you are very upset, when you are depressed, when you are frightened, what is your breath rhythm like? When you are angry, when you hate, when you are jealous, when you are envious, when you feel vengeful and want to take it out of somebody, what is your breath rhythm like? And in association with this change in the breath rhythm, what happens to the muscles of the body? One tenses here, there and everywhere throughout the body. The body-mind organism is a whole organism.
You know how in Yoga we have various aspects presented. In the western world today Yoga is spreading very rapidly, I think all too rapidly and in the wrong way very largely. The appeal is made in the usual worldly and consequently evil fashion to the vanities, the egoism, to the passion for personal gain of the individual. ”You will become fit, you will become healthy, you will get strong, you will get free of this illness and that illness and so forth.” And you wonder why on earth do I say that that is evil? What do I do with a fit body? When my body was fit to start with through Nature’s gift, through the care my parents bestowed, when they brought me up and made me strong and well, what did I do with that strength? How did I utilize it? For self aggrandisement, for self indulgence. ”I feel fine, I can eat, drink; wine, women, song and all the rest of the story.” Is not that the story of man generally all over the world with regard to his fitness? Why does he want to become fit? ”Oh, I can enjoy life better”. That’s the first thing he will say. But is not this precisely the thing that dehumanizes, subhumanizes me, instead of living unto the Totality, instead of trying to understand Nature’s most generous gifts and her gentle pushing towards a fulfilment, and that marvellous, unthinkable, unspeakable love and wisdom of Transcendence itself, just waiting and waiting and in a peculiar way irresistibly drawing one to itself? Instead of understanding all that and trying to utilize my fit body in service of that, I am serving myself, that which separates me from the rest of the world. Hence its evil. Therefore, as I have always said, set your sights upon Transcendence. One lives not unto oneself but unto Transcendence. Health, fitness, inward peace, calmness, the power to do your daily work immensely better, everything will come by itself. And then it will come without destroying you neighbour, because you have not separated yourself from your neighbour in your mind and consciousness.
You are in the actual state of love, you do not have to make yourself love your neighbour as yourself. In fact none of us really love ourselves, we have a love-hate relationship to ourselves. With the one hand we destroy ourselves and with the other we pamper ourselves and call it love. So you will not have to do that. You will really love your neighbour because you are in the truly loving state, the state which nurtures, which is unconcerned with self, which is free of all destructive expression of your life energy and you will find yourself in rhythm, in tune with the Totality of the universe.
I know that it is easy for questions to arise in the mind, “Yes, but how do you tackle earthquakes and so forth?” The simple fact is of course no one can, not even the Perfect Holy Ones can. You cannot do anything about that and you never will. These things happen. How will you tackle such and such human problems that arise in our society? How will I tackle it, somebody may ask me, and I ask myself, how will I tackle it? I cannot tackle it rightly with a consciousness in which I separate out the sinner and the saint, the right doer and the wrong doer, the oppressor and the oppressed. I do see the fact that this man is the oppressor, the knave, the villain, this man is the person who is the oppressed and the sufferer and so forth, but I cannot take sides with the one against the other, because then one is perpetuating the state of conflict. This is an extremely difficult problem. If I really understand, I include both in my own inner awareness, in own inner soul, equally without making any distinction between them, but knowing that this is the oppressed and that is the oppressor. Then my relationship to both of them is a relationship of love, of understanding. Then whatever action flows from me can only be the best possible action under the circumstances. But if I act in favour of one against the other I may apparently right a wrong but I shall have sown the seeds of a future hurt and a future wrong by taking sides because I have separated the two. This is not love, this is not wisdom, this is not truth, this is not goodness, this is not beauty, separating like that. One has to be totally in harmony.
You may practise something in relation to the breath rhythm. Take any problem that you have, with a person, with a situation. Bring it up before the mind and see it quite dispassionately and be well aware of the rhythm of your breath. You will notice some very interesting results following from it. You will see how, if you can establish the rhythm of the breath and then look at the problem, the rightest possible relationship between you and the problem will come into being and your mind will know, your intelligence will perceive what is the best thing to be done.
† The Heart of Religion, Compton Russell, 1976; Element Books, 1987