A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 12th March 1976
Religious living enables man to grow into mature, perfect manhood. It would be a rash person who would claim to be mature in mind and the perfected man. And people through the ages knowing, or rather feeling very strongly that there is a purpose of our existence which is over and above, far greater than, and including the ordinary purposes of everyday life, feeling that intensely they have sought to understand what that purpose is, how it shall be fulfilled. And this is the main significance of what we human beings call religion and religious living. Those who through the ages discovered this purpose and the way to realize this purpose became the Perfected Holy Ones. But in becoming that they went through the process of transformation, (in fact the better word would be transmutation), by which they were so utterly changed from the imperfect condition that they were what their vision showed them. Now vision with most people is something external to them, you see a vision outside yourself, the vision which comes through insight, through inspiration. But these people by living the religious life became that vision. The Buddha says for instance, “He who beholds me, beholds the dhamma”, the teaching, the doctrine, the truth, (the word dhamma has all these meanings). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. The Buddha also said not only that he himself was the vision, the doctrine, the truth embodied, but he also said, “He who beholds me, beholds Brahmā and Brahmā means God.
Now statements like that are tremendous statements. But for those who have made the effort, who are profoundly concerned and interested in this fulfilment of our human nature, such statements are pointers towards what we are all growing into. Not that the bulk of human beings ever do grow into it, only the few realize, but then we must see that, whilst there are hundreds of people who have sincere, genuine interest in realizing this, that or the other, not all of them succeed in achieving that. We see that particularly in the case of genius, in any of the arts or sciences.
There are hundreds of scientists, but only one Newton, one Einstein and so on, hundreds of artists, but just a few of them realize the peak of perfection. But this does not discourage other people from making the attempt. They also strive to become artists, scientists, philosophers, philanthropists, whatever it is. Similarly for us there has to be the striving. I want to use that word rather carefully, because where the things of this world are concerned, art, science, philosophy, the striving is by oneself, through oneself, and essentially for oneself. I want to be a poet, a musician, a physicist, a cosmologist, whatever it is. But where religion is concerned and religious living is concerned, which means where true human fulfilment is concerned, the “I” disappears in the process of fulfilment. This is where the element of utter transcendence comes in. This is not confined to the world. It is true that the profoundest art, the most wonderful poetry or music do embody the influence of transcendent realization, but it is a vision of transcendent realization which comes through in the art or the philosophy. The person himself has not become that which his vision represents, whereas with religion it is something different, the person is his vision. Hence, “I am the way, the truth, the life,” as Jesus said. “Who beholds dhamma beholds me,” and vice-versa, and so on. You have that terrific statement in the Upaniṣads where you get the sentence “Aham brahma’smi.”
“I am Brahman, the absolute reality.” Normally men and women in the world would say that the man is either a megalomaniac or completely crazy, or a fairly harmless lunatic. It is a tremendous statement to make. And yet it is transcendentally true. It helps us to see how it is transcendentally true when we appreciate this point, that in the process of the fulfilment of the human being, the “I” has disappeared.
Now the meaning of that is simply this. Ordinarily we are conscious in terms of “I am I” and not you or this object, or anything else. There is an otherness involved in this situation, something which is other than myself. There is the self, there is the not-self. But in complete realization the not-self has disappeared, and the self too has disappeared. This distinction in consciousness, thou and I, the world and I, has vanished altogether. And in that sense, in consciousness, in mind and consciousness there is no separation in actual awareness. There is clear perception that the organism, the human being who has come to this realization, is of course, this finite, limited human being. And what is commonly called the not-self, the world, consisting of innumerable particulars, remains the world with its innumerable particulars, as a physical manifested fact. But in consciousness, the sense of separation is completely out, this is the important thing. Now if the sense of separation is completely out, that person’s thought and feeling, his speech, his actions in everyday life represent perfect humanity, represent all that we commonly call the virtues. So through the ages people have sought to cultivate virtue.
Now this is where people make an error, make a mistake. You cannot cultivate what we call virtue, because virtue in its reality, which means in its transcendent sense, actually constitutes you. You cannot search for, seek to obtain, to grasp, that which already constitutes you. I have a mouth, I can’t search for a mouth or try to possess it, it is there, it constitutes me. So virtue in its transcendent sense constitutes each individual. But virtue in its dualistic sense, the virtue-vice ambivalence, and all the conflict, difficulty and trouble that it entails, is the thing that troubles us. When we talk of a virtue, say the virtue of kindness, or generosity, we have in mind at the same time the opposite. We understand any particular virtue because we know its opposite, as we call it. But in terms of transcendence there are no opposites. That which is the complete integrated whole has no opposites in it. You see where the difficulty comes. This fact cannot be conceptualised, we cannot reduce it to intellectual terms, because anything and everything in intellectual terms necessitates the contrast of what we ordinarily call an opposite. Through the ages people have argued about God, so poor old God is torn into a thousand million fragments, and no-one knows God at all. Any description, any thought, a concept, an idea, a formulation necessitates a limitation, and it is this, and therefore not that. But if it is the unlimited totality, the whole, where are you going to find “not this” and “not that”? When you are conscious in terms of totality then all irreconcilable oppositeness has completely gone out of the situation.
So virtue in this transcendent sense we cannot seek. What can we do then? This is the important point. Now, let us start from where we are. I, as I am, am immature, imperfect. But because I am thus, I can see for myself, watch and examine for myself the manifestations of this imperfection, in my thought and feeling, in my speech, in my daily action, in all that makes up the sum total of my everyday life. This is what I can watch. In the process of watching we pass judgements. This is good, this is bad, this is virtuous, that is vicious. Now you see one is caught in the trap at once. In passing judgements we are utilizing all our dualistic, limited, confused, misleading awareness of the nature of reality, because how can I say that this is virtuous and that is vicious? How do I say it, why do I say it? — because I have certain standards, certain criteria, I have a measuring rod. But another person may come along and say that it is not at all virtuous, it is not at all vicious. What then? You and I do not believe in ruthless murder. Look at the increasing number of people who are indulging in ruthless murder throughout the world and considering it virtue because they are going to bring about a marvellous good result, which is their idea of what ought to be. So you see this realm of relativity is the thing we have to free of, which means being free of relativity in the sense of not being restricted to a particular viewpoint.
That is how we must watch all our thoughts and feelings, our words, our actions. See them for what they are actually, without passing judgement. How do you cognize at all, what is the point in watching? Supposing you experience a reaction in your mind of violence or hate, and you do not condemn it as we ordinarily do in everyday life. Then how do you grow, how do you improve, how do you become better? Now the point is this, this is a very subtle point, and it is very difficult for any one of us as far as our intellectual perception is concerned. We see a thing for what it is, which means that there is a judgement involved, a judgement in the sphere of relativity, this is evil, this is kind, good, beneficial, helpful. The observation is there, but that further psychical reaction from us which attends our judgement, which accompanies our judgement, is absent. If I say, “This is good”, then I want to possess it, to make it grow for myself, and I get attached to it. If I get attached to something which I call good, I am getting attached to the real goodness part of it, plus a great deal else which is my subconscious reaction towards it, and here all kinds of strange troublesome things can come into being. If I pronounce the judgement, this is evil, then I experience aversion towards it. But if I experience aversion towards evil, then virtue in the transcendent sense is not there. If I experience attachment to what I call good, then again virtue in its transcendence is not there. When you see anything and everything for what it actually is, and are free of attachment on the one hand and aversion on the other hand, of approval and of condemnation, then a new factor comes into being, a factor which otherwise is dormant in our subconscious mind. And this is the factor of transcending the vision of reality in terms of limits, of measurement. You see the whole thing, not just a part of it. Now with our physical eyes we know that we can only see a part of anything.
If I am looking at you I see only a part of you. I may be looking at a person straight in the eyes, or I may be looking at the mouth, I am vaguely aware of the rest, but the sight is concentrated and really takes in only that little area. Now, it is the same sort of procedure with the mind functioning in relative terms, just a limited area is taken in, and the rest is not there. But in the absence of attachment and aversion this new faculty takes in the whole thing.
Take another simile, here on this earth one’s vision is bounded by one’s horizon, one cannot see any further than that. Go up in a plane and your horizon widens and widens, until finally you will see the full half of the earth, and even with the plane you cannot see more than the full half. We only see one half of the moon, we cannot see the other side of the moon. Similarly you will see only part of the earth, not the other side of the earth. But in terms of mind and consciousness something else happens, because you reach the stage where you do not look at, you do not observe with the mind your inner reactions as if they were something at a distance outside you, you are in them, and in that the wholeness comes into awareness. It is a most extraordinary experience, it actually takes place, and I find it almost impossible to describe anything like that, because all verbal description inevitably analyses and splits things up, splits up the wholeness, it inevitably does it. But this extraordinary faculty of the mind which is released enables you to be that which you are observing, to be that thing in mind and consciousness.
Now, if you are that which you are observing, can you hate cruelty, violence, the awful things? Seeing them at a distance they are cruel, violent, awful, but I am that. When that observation is no longer pushed outside me, but in mind and consciousness it is taken into my being, I have become that. And on the other hand, that which is called good is no longer outside me, I am that.
Now when I am that in mind and consciousness, there is a whole integrated state which, as I said, is impossible to describe, but in that integrated state there is no greed or hate or delusion or any such thing involved in it. There is in fact no separate “I” factor involved in it. It is the separate “I” which wants to possess, which wants something for itself, that factor goes completely out. And you will say, all right what happens then, how do we free the world from evil? You see you have freed yourself from evil, haven’t you, by this? You have also freed yourself from what in terms of relativity is called good, so that you are utterly free in your inner mind from the whole realm of relativity.
This completely changes the person, altogether changes the person, and not only changes the person, but altogether changes that person’s influence upon the world. I, as I am, you as you are, are constantly exercising an influence upon our environment all the time, non-stop, in our sleep also. We are exercising an influence and that influence is exactly according to what you are or I am. If I or you become quite free of this relativity, then the energies, the creative energies of the universe, transcendence itself, God himself, function through you unhindered. This is why that which was taught by the Perfected Holy Ones has lived through the ages, not only through centuries but through millennia. It is the simple truth. But its very simplicity is the thing that defeats us, because we are confused in mind, we are all complicated and tied up in knots in our psyche. This is the task of the religieux, this is the whole work of the Yogi, this freeing oneself from this complicated, tied up condition, being released into that simplicity which is a state of wholeness. And obviously that wholeness is not restricted to anything. That wholeness, that simplicity, that perfection is already embodied in oneself. It is embodied there and as such it is our divine potentiality. But when a child is born it is born asleep, it is not awakened to this potentiality. It is born into a situation and an environment which on the whole is of little help but considerable hindrance to the release of this light within, the light within the soul, within the mind, within your own brain, within every single cell of your own body.
So these are difficulties, and yet it is an extraordinary fact that hundreds of millions of human beings throughout the world have this longing, this urge towards something which is wonderful, which somehow they feel is real happiness, is real fulfilment. They feel that but they just are unable to bring it out. And as I said in the beginning, we make the mistake of striving, as we call it, positively. Our striving has to be negative, the negative striving is the really effective striving. Do remember that it is the electrons, the particles of negative electricity which are the great doers and the bestowers of all the properties and everything of any blessed element whatsoever. The positive male proton just sits at the centre and snores away, does nothing. But he does something which is transcendent, inspires by sheer presence. That’s it. God does nothing. The dear old theologians have wasted gallons of ink and tons of paper uselessly trying to solve this problem of why does God or why does not God. The simplest and straightforward answer is, God knows! Let me shut up and mind my own business, which is to let this transcendence emerge by observation, by watchfulness, by this freedom from attachment and aversion of what I watch. This is very difficult.
Now, in Yoga for instance we have, as we call it, a whole system, a whole technique. The Upaniṣads are the origin. Patañjali’s Yoga treatise comes centuries after the original teachings which were given and were realized at least as far back as 3,000BC. That is 5,000 years ago, whereas Patañjali’s Yoga philosophy is just 3rd century BC or thereabouts. Do remember that. If you really go into the depths you will find that this so-called system is not a system. It is, if you like to put it in these words, the system of the whole of life. The system of the whole of life is the totality, it is not a particular system separated from any other aspects of life. It is life in its totality, its wholeness, and that means that each one of us has to awaken to that wholeness, and then we will see the manner in which it is formulated, the indispensable basic morality, the aspiration towards and the giving of all one’s energy towards this release of perfection of the heart and the mind, of the heart and of the intellect. The physical discipline is for the purpose of making the physical organism more sensitive, making it pure and clean, and it involves all sorts of other things, food, drink, sleep, work, profession and all those things. And then there is this process of tremendous awakenedness throughout every day, which gets involved in the pratyāhāra (The pratyāhāra is freedom from aversion and attachment). And then the dharma, dhyāna, samādhi, this attentiveness, this watchfulness, this awakenedness. It is the totality of life, and Yoga uses these terms. But all the religious disciplines of the world, whatever they are, they all involve all those aspects, every one of them does in some form or another. The Yoga system as such has given much greater attention to the mastery of the body, because those people knew what energies are involved here. One has to be particularity careful with the release of these energies, they must be released side by side with the moral aspect and with the aspect of pure perception.