A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 14th November 1981
During the last two months we have been considering the topic of meditation. In September we looked into the deep, true meaning of meditation. It is not what people normally imagine or do, namely spending so much time in musing or in attempting to concentrate attention upon a chosen subject, whatever that subject may be. But if one examines that process very critically and carefully, one will see that merely concentrating attention upon a subject makes no difference to the fact that one is still musing, only musing more intently. The value of that type of thinking quietly, which is miscalled true meditation, is that it develops our power of attentiveness. We can attend to something definitely and we can turn our attention to the desired subject of attention and deal with it in the proper way. This of course is extremely valuable in ordinary everyday life, which means the worldly life. But meditation is not concerned with the worldly life as such, directly. Indirectly it is very intensely concerned with the worldly life, because he who can meditate in the true sense of the word is a person whose whole worldly life becomes utterly transformed into the true human life which is the real meaning of the religious life, minus all the defects which we apply to humanity as such.
We say that it is human to err, I say it is sub-human to err, it is not truly human. We are on the way towards becoming fully human as a species. The implication of that is something absolutely tremendous, it is very difficult to put it into words. But one can observe certain things about it, namely that what we commonly regard and call Transcendence or the Divine, or whatever term you like to use, becomes an actual reality in everyday consciousness. This is the great transformation that takes place, all your thoughts and feelings, your mental states, as we call them, your emotional states, your speech and all your actions undergo a complete transformation. They belong henceforth to the realm of the Absolute Good. There is no question of being subject to the ambivalence of the psyche. The ambivalence of the psyche has disappeared. The psyche has become completely pure, completely whole, and as such it has become the instrument of the Transcendent Energy, which is the energy of Creation itself, which flows freely through you and out of you, affecting your whole environment.
People often say, “What is the use of this religious life and sort of going off into all kinds of wonderful deep states, and so forth?” The person who makes that criticism just has not got the qualifications to observe just what happens. He doesn’t know and he naturally talks from his level. So we can dismiss that criticism and only find out for ourselves what is the truth of the matter by living the religious life. By living the religious life I mean living the purely human life which is the very reverse of what is commonly understood as the human life. The meditative state as such, therefore, is that state in which consciousness functions at its own Transcendent level. There is nothing further to do where our own human evolution or development is concerned. This is the purpose of the whole human species, the release of this state of mind and consciousness, this fruition of humanity, which enables Transcendent energies to function in everyday life through each one of us as an individual. It is perfectly true that not everyone will attain this sort of thing because it is something like this. There are thousands of people who are fond of music and who like to write music. But there is only one Beethoven, one Bach, one Wagner, and so forth, the first fruits of the particular line of development. And the first fruits of humanity are those Perfected Holy Ones whose lives are the sort of guiding light for all of us, if only we could see it. If we can see it and will take the trouble to see it, then not only do we undergo the transformation but our influence upon our society is such that it inevitably changes society as a whole. Every single individual affects the whole of humanity, just as the whole of humanity interacts with every single individual.
So you see, we get some sort of sense of at least one of the purposes of our existence as such. Now that truly meditative state, then, is that state in which consciousness functions at its deepest level and its sublimest height, if you like to put it that way. To realize that state one cannot follow any of the ordinary laid down worldly techniques of meditation. These are all techniques of musing upon a particular chosen subject, or of concentrating attention upon it. It is helpful insofar as it enables us to be able to attend to whatever we are doing or to whatever we have to do, but only that far. Let us never delude ourselves that we are becoming something like the angels of Heaven or something. We remain more or less what we are, sub-humans, and a good many remain the devils that they are. Let us have no illusions about that. The transformation which takes place is of a nature that one does not measure or try to measure, because the Transcendent is the immeasurable, the incomparable. If one realizes those two things, the immeasurability and the incomparability of this Transcendent fruition of man as man, in the full sense of the word, then so many problems, so many difficulties, so many disagreements between man and his fellow man would just disappear altogether and we would not be on the wrong track. We would just be ourselves fully realized in the true sense, and, if one realizes that true sense, then there are no thoughts or words in which to clothe this state, the condition of that person.
Recall if you like in the first chapter of Genesis verses 26 and 27 the statement that “Elohim made man in his own living likeness.” That is my own translation, “his own likeness”. The usual translation is that God made man in his own image, which is a hopelessly bad, misleading translation. An image is a fossil, it is only the living reality which is the source of inspiration and power and fruition. So if you regard it that way, that Elohim made man in his own living likeness, then you will begin to shiver and be afraid! “Good heavens, is that what I’ve got to be?” It is something tremendous, it is a super-doctorate of divinity, if you like!
Last month we paid attention to one or two very important points in this connection. What is the implication for the psyche of each person when he sees this and moves towards this fruition? I would prefer not to use the word goal, for the simple reason that the moment we say goal in this context we already have some preconception of the nature of that goal. I, the imperfect man, can never form any true preconception of that. I cannot conceive the inconceivable, it is beyond me, it is Transcendent to me. Therefore it is unwise to make a picture in my mind and say that this is the sort of goal I have to strive for. If I make a picture like that, I will always make a mess and a muddle of the whole thing. It will happen by itself. When you and I were born, as the one day old infant, we had no preconception as to into what we are going to grow, none at all, and we couldn’t have a preconception. If we tried to, we would probably have such a rotten preconception that, if we did succeed in fulfilling it, we would have been something, well, not very nice to know! That preconception would have been the result of the ignorant state. This is what we have to remember. When we talk of the fruition of man and that Divinity within which has to flower out, we must form no picture of what that flowered-out Divinity means. We must be free of that, because then we are imposing the ideas of the imperfect brain upon that which is Absolute Perfection, which is incomparable and immeasurable. So we saw last time that the psyche becomes utterly free of all defects, of all defilements of thought and feeling, speech and action. That is the principle change which takes place in the psyche, and as such it becomes free of the very limiting and evil-bringing conception of oneself as a subject who is different from all the objects of the universe.
It is this consciousness of separativeness, I and the world, I and others, which is the root source of the sinful state. The Catholic presentation that man is born in sin means in its deepest sense just precisely that, that he has no awareness of his inter-relationship, his complete interaction with the totality of the universe in which he is born. So he is in a state of separation, of division, of discord, of disharmony, and that is the state of sin. That is the original meaning of the word sin, it should not be confined purely to the ethical idea of sin as such. But this is the actual fact of what we are, and that is why I say that we are in the sub-human state. In the fully human state one is aware, one is awake to the complete inter-relationship and interaction with the totality around one. So that is one great difference which takes place in the psyche, it becomes freed of the separate “I am” misconception. It is very important to bear this in mind.
And the next very important thing is the practice of mindfulness, constant watchfulness. You will find all the great religions of the world, in the disciplines which they suggest, give mindfulness probably prime importance with regard to the living of the religious life. We have to be awake to each and every single thought and feeling, word and action that comes out of us. Be fully aware of it, be aware of its nature, see what it does and how it operates. Thereby one releases the faculty of becoming free from all the evil which is attached to it.
So today we can consider this point. There are two categories into which we can separate out all our thoughts and feelings, our mental states and so forth. One category will contain the lust for sense-pleasures and for power and possessions and so forth. We can class all that under sense-pleasures. The other is harming and hurting. If we take the trouble to watch our moment to moment thought and feeling process, we will see how extraordinarily ego-centred it is. It is all concerned with “I wish, I want, I should do this, I should do that”, and so forth. And they are all there with the idea that this will give happiness, pleasure, give me. They are all self-centred. Sometimes the thought, the idea in itself may be along the right lines, but it will be on the right lines by accident rather than through pure vision.
This is something we must bear in mind. We are the slaves of our pleasure-drive, absolutely the slaves of our pleasure-drive. It is very amusing to listen to songs which say that the Chinese, or Britons, or Timbuktuans will never never be slaves! The whole lot of us in the world are absolute slaves to our defects and our pleasure-lust to start with. Then again observe, the result of this pleasure-drive being thwarted or frustrated is the uprising of thoughts and feelings of harmfulness. We want to hurt the person who has thwarted us. We see that right from the beginning, from childhood onwards, brothers and sisters are notoriously unbrotherly and unsisterly. How they will sort of smite each other if they are deprived of something! “Oh, that’s mine, give it to me”, and there’s an unholy row! This sort of thing goes right through life. Its primary manifestation in the world of affairs may perhaps be put down as competition. Why do people compete one against the other? Because they want to down the other and uphold their own ego. “I want to be the king of the castle”, as we say in those childhood games. So the thoughts of harming and hurting, thoughts and feelings which come under the category of hate, deal with malevolence, ill will, envy, jealousy, anger and so on, the whole lot of them. That is a tremendous category. If we watch our thoughts and feelings we will find how they operate that way. Sometimes we will excuse the uprising of anger by saying that it is righteous indignation. Pleasant rubbish! What is indignation? We get the feeling of anger when we see and hear of people being ill-treated, being exploited so that they are starved and so forth. Of course something frightfully evil is taking place. See the evil as the evil, but there is no point in feeling angry, no really worthwhile result flows from it in feeling angry with the person who is perpetrating the evil. If we do not feel enmity and hate towards the evildoer, then it could become possible to include him in our circle, so to say, and exercise an influence which will change the evildoer. Of course if it is totally impossible for us to do so, we see what happens in the world, the evildoer is liquidated, is eliminated somehow or other, in the name of the law and justice and so forth, or in some other way. This process takes place. But the fact remains that from the point of view of the best possible means of bringing about a healthy, happy society, we must be free of all malevolence, all ill will.
It is very difficult, that is why I constantly say, “Don’t take to religion and the religious life if you find it too much beyond you.” If it is too much beyond you and you try to live up to an imposed ideal upon yourself and force the psyche and the body to do that which is not within the capacity of the psyche and the body to do, then you will not only harm yourself with neurosis and psychosis and so forth but you will harm the society in which you live. This is the great thing. Ideals are right only up to a limited point. They are all right insofar as we learn from them that ideals are imposed ideas. They do not lead to natural, spontaneous living in that ideal state. This is one of the great difficulties about idealists and idealism, but people do not see that. I know from my experience, and my experience spans well over seventy years of all this, how ideals can mislead you and trap you. Ideals are very often like Mephistopheles dealing with Faust, very often. They exalt our ego, “Oh, I am the benefactor of humanity, I am the bringer of good things for my family, my society and all the rest of it.” So my vanity and my egoism are pampered and they expand. Beware of all that. That is the way to live the sub-human life, the inhuman life.
Then the question arises, “What do we do when thoughts of the indulgence in sense-pleasures rise up or thoughts of malevolence and harmful thoughts and feelings rise up?” Do not fight against them, do not attempt to overcome them, because my thoughts and feelings, my words and my actions are myself. If I were to start fighting with myself, what happens? Supposing I win out in the fight, I will kill myself, won’t I? I will destroy myself. That is what I am, all right, I must see what I am, really awake to the truth of my own nature, and in awaking to the truth of my own nature, if I really fully awaken to it, then a transformation of the evil takes place. This is what even modern psychologists who are supposed to understand and know the psyche do not know really. They talk of coming to terms with the shadow side and so forth, which is all nonsense.
Consider this peculiar element in all the Scriptures of the world. God never comes to terms with the Devil, nor does the Devil ever come to terms with God. In Revelations you know how it is said that Satan will be released out of hell for a thousand years, during which time he can play the devil just as he likes! But after the thousand years, back again to his proper domain. What is the significance of all that? There is no reconciliation possible between two absolutely contradictory opposites. They are not complementary poles. But in this type of presentation in the Scriptures of the world what has slipped out of consideration is the fact that the process of transformation can take place. Who is the Devil? I am. Who is God? I am. We have godliness in us, we have devilishness in us. The two together constitute the totality, the conflicting, contradictory totality within me myself. My task is to awaken to the Devil fully and completely and understand the devilishness. Once I begin to understand that I will notice that there is a transformation taking place, and if in your practice of musing or meditation you find evil thoughts and feelings cropping up, just observe carefully and recognise them for what they are. You will find that they will slowly and steadily and surely subside, and they will not interfere with your practice of meditation.
This is one of the very difficult things. Again and again people practise these laid-down meditations for forty or nearly fifty years and then they say at the end of it (to themselves, of course, they will not confess it to others), “But I am just where I was, perhaps I am almost a little bit worse rather than better, as a result of my meditative practices and so forth. I am befuddled and confused and goodness knows where I am going.” Well, exactly. You have tried to achieve something for yourself. The whole effort is a self-oriented effort and therefore doomed to failure from the start. Therefore do not fight against the evil. Recognise the evil completely and absolutely, and as you recognise it as evil that psychical energy within oneself, which expressed itself in a unhealthy, ill manner, will now get healed and it will begin to express itself in a healthy, a harmonious and a human manner, and in that way there is nothing lost by your practice. Nor is there anything else gained in the ordinary sense of the word gained. What has happened is that the psyche will become healed, it will become whole, holy. Wholeness is holiness. This is where the Zarathushtrian scriptures are very remarkable. They talk about the gift of God. God in Zarathushtrianism is named Lord of Life and Wisdom, Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda gives his great gift of haurvatat to him who will be watchful and awaken to the truth of himself and go through this process of the purification of the psyche. Purity is about the most strongly emphasized quality in Zarathushtrian teachings. Haurvatat means wholeness, health, holiness, and together with holiness and wholeness goes ameretat , which is immortality. That is not to say that you, as you are, the existential psycho-physical being, or some postulated immortal soul or spirit or something, are going to live for ever and ever in time. All that is man’s wishful thinking and his unclear perception of the actuality, of the reality, the fact of existence. Immortality means fundamentally that you are so completely awake to the entire life process within yourself whilst you are alive here and now that there is no break in this process of growth in terms of the death of the old.
All growth implies the death of what is now. If a child at ten ceases to grow altogether, it means that the child will die, it is the cessation of growth. Growth means change but the living change which takes place implies the death of that which was the previous condition, and when you are fully awake to this, any sort of fear or anxiety concerning yourself, your existence, your life and so forth, all that disappears. All ideas of the future and of the past and so forth they disappear too. What a lot we suffer through remorse at what could have been the situation, “If only I had not been so foolish as to…”, whatever it may be! All that remorse is just an obstruction to one’s development and fulfilment, it is no use at all. It is no use feeling guilty, it is no use feeling elated at the good things we have done, because then we became conceited and proud. Pride is one of the last things, spiritual pride particularly, to undergo complete transformation and free the psyche from all bondage to all our ignorance, our folly and so on.
Observe carefully, be awake, that is all. You will find that this awakened state will be present during your sleep too. If you look into the Upaniṣads very carefully and the Buddha’s teachings and listen nowadays in our own day and time to some of the things that Krishnamurti says, you will find what the true meaning of Immortality is, and what true freedom is. But you will have to look into these things and study them free of the preconceptions which we already have in our own brains. Our preconceptions, prejudices, biases and our assumptions are all obstructions, every one of them, not one of them has any warrant in terms of the Truth, whatever the Truth stands for. I think Krishnamurti has presented one of the finest ways of looking at this question of what is the Truth. It is being wholly awake to the immediate Now , to what is actually present. Be wholly awake to it, and that awakenedness may give rise to various conceptions and verbal formulations regarding what is actually present here now. It may do that, but we must not grasp them, that is to say, we must not get hold of them and keep to what we have got hold of. Let it go, because life and growth imply perpetual change, the one changeless Reality of the total Universe. Modern science confirms that. It is perpetual change. What sort of a change? A change not necessarily into something which we like or which we would like to see instead of what is actually present. That is a superb mistake and we pay the penalty for it! We have to be with the change and go with the change, not in the sense in which people nowadays say, “He is not with it”. Thank goodness he or she is not with it, because most of this change is a repressive change. It is a change which has brought about so much suffering and evil into the world. It has broken the moral backbone of societies all over the world. The change has to be a progressive change. How will you recognise the progressiveness of the change? Your sense of inner freedom, your sense of inward poise and peace and your capacity to be balanced, calm, steady in any and every circumstance will be greater from day to day. But these are criteria which are very difficult to apply, because with all criteria we have preconceived notions about the criteria, interfering with them. This in what we have got to be very careful about.
There was a delightful story which I heard many many years ago. A black man and a white man were talking about deep things with each other. It ended up with the black man telling the white man, “Aw, be yourself, man!” Profound truth, but not fully understood. Being myself is usually interpreted as my image of myself, my preconception of myself. “I am this sort of fellow, that sort of fellow.” I am not. That is all nonsense. We are in a state of darkness, a state of blindness, we cannot see the reality. We may get glimpses of it occasionally but we do not see ourselves as we really are. This in one of the most important aspects of perpetual mindfulness and therefore of true meditation, awakening absolutely to the actuality of what we are. In awakening to the actuality of what we are we awaken also to the actuality of what all other people are, because you and I all belong to the same species, we are all of a similar nature fundamentally, subject to the same difficulties, the same problems, and also subject to the same delusions and illusions, this is one of the greatest difficulties. But once you really get on the way like this you will see this for yourself, and you will experience the reality of happiness, of inner calm, of inward poise, and then you will find extraordinary things happening.
Perhaps one of the most important things that will happen is that we will talk very much less than we do. Ninety nine per cent of the world’s chatter is useless rubbish, and it is not only useless, it is very harmful and mischievous, gossipy and setting man against man. Someday perhaps I will read to you what comes in one of the Buddhist scriptures on this subject of speech. I can tell you briefly just now. There are four types of speech which are evil and are sources of great sorrow and suffering in the world; speech which is lying, which is slanderous, which is hurtful to others, and speech which is just idle gossip. If you want to know what the Buddha meant by idle gossip, remember it applies to his time and age but it also applies to our time and age. This is what the Buddha called low conversation; talk about kings, robbers, ministers of state (remember that the Buddha was the son of a small king), war, terrors, battles, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives and relationships, equipages, villages, towns, cities, countries, talk about women and heroes (we might add not only talks about women but talks about men also in our day and age), gossip at street corners or wells, ghost stories, desultory talk, speculation about the land and sea, about becoming this or that or the other, idle gossip, low conversation. If one really seriously looks into that and considers that, one will see that it is best to keep one’s mouth shut!
Never forget: A wise old bird sat upon an oak, the more he heard the less he spoke, the less he spoke the more he heard, why can’t we be like that wise old bird? I have always said that one of the basic rules of the religious life is, never take leave of good sense, and if one would like to add a second basic rule, keep your mouth shut. Listen carefully all the time, look, look clearly, without prejudice, without preconception and assumption, and you will find that life will undergo an extraordinary transformation. This does not mean therefore that one must refuse to speak where it is necessary for one to speak, as for example when I have to talk to you! Of course I believe that it is necessary but I don’t know whether anyone else believes that! That is another matter! However, this is very important, because when one stops chattering then the brain becomes quiet, and in that quietude there can emerge, not only glimpses, but the actual light of Transcendence shining through you here and now.