Perceptions — and the Truth
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 9th March 1979
As you all know, we have been considering during the last few meetings some very significant and deep matters which are intimately related to this transformation of one’s mode of awareness of existence. We have been considering this whole question of perceptions.
What we call perceptions are the result of our senses and brain functioning, the senses to receive impressions and the brain to synthesize and make some sort of meaningful pattern of those impressions, and we say that we perceive this, that or the other accordingly. Then there is the inward activity of the brain itself irrespective of immediate precepts, because the brain is able to use its accumulated store of concepts and its power of speech and its faculty for reasoning logically in order to produce more perceptions, more of an abstract nature this time. Now, all this takes place in the context of limitation, of the finite, the mortal, the ever changing, that which never remains the same. It is important to bear this in mind. And so we always have this profoundly difficult question to answer: What is reality? Is it this which seemed to me reality five years ago or even five days ago, or is it something else? And therefore, if we are truly sensitive, if we remain watchful and alert and open minded, we will find that our perceptions, that is to say what we believed hitherto were true perceptions, are not true perceptions. Reality, then we begin to say, is something different. And in which way is it different from what we thought was reality up to date? If the process reaches its culmination some time or other in our lifetime, and it happens to a very few people only, we will see that the ultimate which remains as a true perception is the Infinite, the Emptiness.
It is not at all easy to get the feel of this fact, that it all starts from this mysterious Void, this Emptiness, which is pure potentiality, pure creative energy out of which, in the process of manifestation, emerge all so-called perceptions, which are not true perceptions at all. If we really see this, better still, if we are capable in our deep moments to experience this, then we shall find that in our lifetime we become free of intellectual distress. We become free of this overriding urge to seek the Truth, the Real. There is no such thing as finding the Truth in the realm of the finite and the mortal and the ever changing. That changeless state is the state in which there is no such thing as perceiving, in our sense of the word, which means perceiving through the functioning of the senses and the brain. So one actually becomes conscious of the Reality of Emptiness, the Reality of the Immeasurable, the Infinite, that which cannot be restricted, cannot be bound. And therefore one experiences the full and true meaning of spiritual freedom.
I say spiritual freedom, but it is actually our true ultimate freedom possible to us as human beings. This freedom of the spirit, this freedom of the mind, is the ability now to remain in that state of complete open mindedness in which one has ceased to be liable to any sort of delusion. All the ephemeral pictures, the passing perceptions, will of course come, because we are alive in a physical body which has senses and a brain. Therefore they will come, but the practical manifestation of our freedom will consist in the fact that we do not grasp those perceptions and say, “This is the Truth.” And we will not therefore be deluded by all these which are only but phantoms of the physical process, nothing else. They are relatively true perceptions in the immediate moment, in the immediate environment which is under constraint through the actual immediate conditions prevailing, the limiting factors, in other words, which are prevailing. But those are all changing. What we human beings in the world have done and do and will do for another million years at least, perhaps, is to hold onto these perceptions as ultimate facts. Ultimateness in itself is not finite, it is Infinite, it belongs to the context of Eternity, it is not subject to the limitations of time and space, it is not subject to any laws which we believe are the laws of nature, or the laws of our life, particularly our conceptions of causation. They all disappear, causality as such vanishes. So, you see, you are conscious of this as a fact. You do not hold onto it merely as an idea. When anybody speaks about these things or one sees it written anywhere, the spoken word and the written word represent the particular idea at that moment, a fixation now. Once it is spoken and you have heard it, if you keep holding onto it, it is a fixation, it prevents the maturing process, the purification process, of the whole psyche, and therefore Mind, the universal Transcendent energy, which in itself is the Void, out of which is manifested the Plenitude, never comes to fruition through that particular individual. As and when it does, he has become the full human, the true manifestation of Divinity itself. He is not just a genius with remarkable insight as we say, or with wonderful perceptions. It is nothing like that. It is this Transcendent Emptiness which is the ultimate which we as human beings can realize as the Supreme Reality, because this Ultimate Emptiness is only another way for our brains to try and see the meaning of the Primordial Creative Energy functioning all the time. Now you see, when one is conscious of that and does not hold it merely as a thought or a belief, out of blind faith more or less, then one’s whole life changes quite naturally and spontaneously. You do not have to think about doing the right thing, and so forth, the rightist possible thing happens through you spontaneously, naturally, in a sense, not unjustifiably, we may so call it unconsciously .
Now, this is one aspect, a very deep and an important aspect, of the spiritual development of the living person. A faculty of supreme worth, which is now his, is this faculty of letting go whatever comes, because whatsoever is at this moment is undergoing complete change and transformation. If we try to hold onto it, we are trying to fixate that which is moving on, and Life is omnipotent, it smashes it up to our detriment and distress. You see, we truly live by the grace of the Divine. We do so much to spoil our lives, even to destroy our lives, by grasping at things. This is one of the deep meanings of the word greed, as used in Buddhism. This is our fundamental greed, our fundamental spiritual greed, and it is associated with fear, because we want security in thought. We say we want peace of mind, but it is not peace of mind that we are really seeking. Peace of mind is here and now, absolutely so, but if we give up this floundering and struggling for security in terms of fixed doctrines, beliefs, ideas and so forth, we are hindering, very effectively hindering, our peace of mind. When one is conscious in that way, really conscious of it, then there is the state of liberation.
This is one aspect of it, there is the corresponding other aspect of it, and this is the aspect which comes under compassion. This first aspect comes under insight, the Transcendent insight, the full awakening of intelligence which sees the truth of things immediately. When you see the truth of things immediately, you do not grasp at anything, including what you have seen. Corresponding to that which we call the great insight, Transcendent Wisdom is completely contrasted with knowledge, knowledge which we acquire. Knowledge is something which you acquire, which you store up and hinder the mind from coming to fruition through you, the individual, because Mind is utterly free, utterly new every time, creatively new.
This other aspect is Transcendent Love, compassion, the great compassion. We cannot seek or arouse compassion, just as we cannot seek or arouse wisdom. These Transcendent, archetypal modes of manifestation of the Primordial Creative Energy, which we call Transcendent Love, or wisdom or goodness or beauty, and so forth, they are all completely contained within the single context of Eternity, of Immortality. You cannot seek anything in the context of the Infinite. The word seek has no meaning, the word seek simply means, implies straightaway particularity. How can you seek the Infinite? It is the Infinite which completely holds within itself all the finite, and holds all the multitudinous finites in complete inter-relationship.
If and when we awake to that complete inter-relationship, then we are conscious of the Infinite. To be conscious, let me repeat, is quite different from holding a thought. A thought means that there is a limited form given to that which you are thinking of, and it is only temporal, it is mortal, it is not the immortal reality. But we use these terms, Transcendent wisdom, compassion, simply because what other words in our languages can we use? To express means to constrict, to make finite, that is the meaning of expression, to press out of. All finites are ex-pressed out of the In-finite. All time and our experiences of what we call the timeless are ex-pressed out of Eternity. So these are the only words we can use, Words, concepts as a mode of communication must of necessity suffer from the constraints of finitude and mortality. Therefore try to be awake to the fact, the fact which I do not know at the moment, and will never know, but it is possible for me, not knowing, never knowing, to be conscious in those terms. You see, we restrict the meaning of the words conscious and consciousness to discriminative, analytical consciousness, which brings about the finite, the particular, the limited, missing out its relationships, its complete relationships, with everything else that is in manifestation. You see, that is what we do, that is how we actually function in our innermost psychical processes.
We may say that, “Oh, we have had wonderful inspirations, it seemed as if God was walking with me!” Yes, of course, these are beautiful pictures, illusions. They are stages, if you like. But if you bear in mind that all this is changing, changing, changing, and if you bear in mind that we must never seek for a final something which can be used as an anchor for safety for the rest of our days, then, if you are free of that, your discriminative consciousness will undergo that transformation which makes the awareness of actuality, of the truth, to function through you, and your brain which says “I” will not know that you are actually functioning like the Eternal. You see, when the Upaniṣadic teachers said words like these, aham brahma’smi, “I am Brahman”, this was not a case of hubris, that terrible, unforgivable spiritual pride which, particularly the theistic world and the post-Grecian world in the west, Europe and America, say that those old sages were guilty of. “Terrible pride, no humility.” One has gone right beyond the conflict of modesty and humility and so forth, then that realization is there. If it is a question of saying “I” achieved this, then that is an expression of pride. But if one does not say “I” achieved this, but is fully awake to the fact that it is the Totality that has at last come to fruition through this individual as Man, then the supreme Manhood is manifest in that individual as long as he lives on this earth. And there is no life afterwards. When a form disrupts, all the elements associated with it go completely. The finite expressions, the finite bits and bobs, return into the Infinite. The mortal returns into the Immortal. Now, there is no possibility of identifiable entity there.
This is one of the most terrible things to face. I know what distress it causes to be able finally to say this quite confidently and fearlessly. I have been through a good forty years at least of terrific intellectual distress battling with this problem. Then suddenly one sees, “Yes, this is it.” (The 21st of September 1969). Then one knows, it becomes quite matter-of-fact. “Here it is, Eternity, Infinity.” You are at home with it just as much as you are at home with your own house, your own body. (Are we all at home with our own body? Yogis, speak up!)
So now, this other aspect, Transcendent compassion. Compassion is that kind of manifestation of archetypal energy which is the great cohesive force, the unifying force functioning throughout the universe. It is a strange thing to say, but I will make bold to say that it is not untrue. This unifying force is one which does two apparently opposite things, and does them simultaneously. Attraction, repulsion, they are there together. In the scientific sense we know that the north pole of a magnet will repel the north pole of another magnet, and the south pole the south pole, but inside the atom, in the nucleus, the protons, which all have positive charges of electricity, what is it that holds them together? Why don’t they fly apart? So you see our previous perception and our previously well-established law of nature that likes repel, unlikes attract, goes by the board. We also know that the other is also true under the different conditions. Now, if there is compassion in this Transcendent sense, Transcendent love, it functions both ways. It brings together and it takes apart also. If it did not do that, the great transforming process of consciousness itself cannot proceed.
Long before the days when scientific speculation started with atomic theories and so forth, round about the 5th and 6th centuries BC, the old, old people talked of demons, demonic energies and angels, angelic energies. They are only other ways of talking about the manifestation of the taking apart of the form, and in the taking apart the new is released immediately, it is there. You see, if we begin to understand things like this, we will begin to understand the profundity of the great religious teachings. Do not grasp the things of the earth, they said, the earth meaning finitude, manifestation, fixation. We have talked through the centuries about the eternal hills and the eternal stars and so forth. They are not eternal, they are temporal. They too must undergo the taking apart. The time scale is a scale where it is entirely different from the time scale of our individual human lives. We have from the time we are born maybe a hundred and ten, a hundred and twenty years perhaps. There have been cases of a little longer than that, even, so they say. Aaron lived until he was one hundred and twenty three, and Moses until he was one hundred and twenty. But even after that they had to fold up their mats and depart! Now, what is that time scale contrasted with the billions of years (I am using the American billion, thousand million) of the universal processes, where a galaxy, a star, can live that long? But in the end it becomes that mysterious thing, a black hole as it is called, and then it explodes after that tremendous implosion, and, lo and behold, another universe comes into being. To us, possessed of our consciousness and the way it functions in its limited way, we see all this as a time process, because we are looking at particular manifestations. Supposing you and I were not subject to the limitations in our consciousness of the time process, the uni-directional time process, we would be aware of the Totality in the immediate now, not in terms of bits and bobs, but in terms of the absolute Totality as such, the manifest as well as the unmanifest. Then do we say, “Ah, this has happened after twenty thousand million years, the black hole has exploded, and, lo and behold, a new universe has come into being”? We will experience the universe in its Totality. Do not try to get conscious that way, you cannot do it, at least I couldn’t whenever I tried, throughout my lifetime. Then there comes that peculiar awakening when you suddenly know, “Yes, that’s it, that’s how it happens”, and then you do not bother any more. You do not seek to experience. If you seek to experience the joys of heaven or the horrors of hell, you will be wasting your time. They are there all along.
Observe, do not grasp. And in this state, actual conscious state, not a mere imposed attitude, there awakens right inside your being this extraordinary thing of which you will say, and you will know that you are saying it legitimately, “This is the love of God for the universe.” This is God’s love, this is Transcendent Love, this is Maha-karuṇā, the Armaiti of the Zarathushtrians, and so on. But concepts you cannot form of these things. Do not try to form them. Utilise all concepts, all ideas which are presented to you or which you come across, either through the written word, the spoken word, or your own passing experiences during the course of your life. Utilise all of them insofar as you observe them with utmost intensity, with the fullness of your consciousness in the now. Do not hold onto anything, let it pass, let it move out. There are those quite naturally (this is the result of the flaws in our upbringing and education) who will say, “Ah, but this was a wonderful line of enquiry, I want to hold onto it and pursue it to the end and discover.” You cannot pursue any one thing to the end and discover. If you could pursue any one thing to the end, you will have pursued the Totality to the end, because no one thing is fully known unless everything else is also fully known. It is one of the glories of modern science that in the purely scientific sphere this is now an established fact, that we can never know all about any one thing without knowing all about everything else, because any one thing is completely and totally inter-related with everything else in the universe. The same applies to what we commonly call our spiritual life and our mental maturing. So we use these terms, Transcendent Love, Transcendent Wisdom and so forth, because we have no option but to use them as such.
Now, the question arises, how can Transcendent Love arise and function freely through us as individuals, as ordinary human beings in this world? Remain mindful, remain attentive, totally attentive, not grasping anything but wholly observant. If one is like that all the time, then there emerges a state of awareness, or pure consciousness, through which one is conscious of Totality, of Wholeness. Then the limitations of time, space, matter all disappear. As and when they disappear, Eternity, Infinity is functioning freely through you, the finite, mortal organism. When consciousness in you, therefore, awakens to that state of utter wholeness, of holiness, then Transcendent Compassion, Love is present. The brain does not and cannot know it, but it is there, and in its continuous functioning through you the person, the perfect complement of Transcendent Wisdom has come into being, and that is Nirvana.
Covers just about everything, wonderful.
Tom, 6th May 2019