Why Do We Talk At All?
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 2nd July 1983
Before we climb a mountain or go along the top of the range for any distance, we have to make several preparatory movements. We have to know something about the district to which we are going or, if we are starting a business, the nature of the business which we are wanting to start, we have to make preparations with regard to where we are going to stay, how we shall put up our tents and so on if we are travelling somewhere where we have not been before, and make all sorts of arrangements beforehand. If everything goes smoothly, the whole project might prove a satisfactory project and bring about some desired results. It is quite different with the living of the religious life. There are no maps where the religious life is concerned. We enter into, or try to enter into, a realm which is quite other than the worldly realm. We do not have to make preparations beforehand, in fact we cannot with regard to our food, (I don’t mean physical food), because where Transcendence is concerned, the spiritual food which sustains us is something utterly unknown to us. It cannot be bought, it cannot be sold. We do not have to make any arrangements about where we shall be or how we shall move and so on, because in the context of the Transcendent, which is the Infinite and the Eternal, no such arrangements can be made. There is no here nor there, forwards nor backwards where the Infinite-Eternal is concerned, because in that context there is only Unitariness, complete, absolute Unitariness. So there are no arrangements to be made of any sort.
One may wonder, “Well, how shall we progress in that case?” First, bear in mind that there is no such thing as progress in any meaning of that word which we already know. In the Transcendent context there is no becoming, there is only the Absolute IS. You see, it is necessary to try and get some sort of feeling, some sort of sense, however vague it may be, of the nature of that to which we are aspiring. We are aspiring for reuniting ourselves with the Absolute. That is in short the whole meaning of the religious life and spiritual development, advancement. Now those words are not good words, development, advancement , because their meanings for us are all self-oriented and they all are in limited terms, quantities, size, qualities, characteristics, and so forth. We have to keep ourselves so quiet, so clean in ourselves, so utterly open that there is no possibility of our trying to describe or name the indescribable. Inevitably, because we talk with each other about these things, we try to communicate, we use words which will always be the wrong words, it is impossible to avoid that. However we must try to avoid that as as far as it is possible for us to do so. This realization within ourselves which reunites us to Transcendence is a progressive intensification of our own consciousness. There again I have used a troublesome phrase, “an intensification of our own consciousness.” In two respects at least that is a misleading way of putting it. In Transcendence there is no “our own consciousness”, because “our own” implies the separate self-consciousness, the isolative consciousness, which puts us outside Transcendence.
That is one thing, and the other thing is that consciousness in terms of the Ultimate Realization is something utterly different from what we understand as our consciousness. We associate knowing, becoming, doing and all our activities with consciousness as it functions in us. Ours is a discriminative consciousness. The pure consciousness which is the origin, which is also the Primordial Creative Energy, has no such discrimination or analytical consciousness at all. It is Transcendent, and it is very, very hard to begin to get the feel of Transcendence. If it is all so very impossible to know, to think of, to try to get some idea about, then why do we talk at all? The process of talk with the intention of trying to communicate something which in its absolute sense is incommunicable does sometimes prove helpful if our language is suggestive, not assertive. Our language can be affirmative without being dogmatic. One can affirm what one has somehow, in some degree or other, already touched, and therefore we can talk about it, and that kind of talk could prove suggestive enough to be of some use to the listener. That is why we talk about these things, otherwise all our talk is useless. It is wastepaper basket stuff where Transcendence is concerned! Of course Transcendence has no wastepaper basket handy! However we must keep that in mind.
So now, the one thing we can perhaps try to sense is this intensification of consciousness, by which a totally different mode of awareness of Reality comes into being; not merely a mode of awareness of the world we live in, in all its aspects, but a mode of awareness of that which completely subsumes and completely interpenetrates the whole of the finite, the temporal and the mortal. What brings that about essentially is our own quietness, the quietness of the brain, the quietness of our whole psychological process, and with the quietness of the whole psychological life we get that extraordinary silence in which there is no intrusion upon one’s own awareness. Thereby this transformation of one’s mode of awareness of existence undergoes a complete change. The transformation of the mode of awareness of existence radically alters our attitude and understanding of the manifested world in which we live. It brings that about, and that leads to the awareness of that other order of Reality which we name Transcendence or God or Brahman, use any word that you like. It all means one and the same thing, although people will argue about that. But then they argue about that because they are professionals, whose business it is to argue! With the priest and the theologian it is their business to argue, they make their living thereby! Otherwise they wouldn’t argue! An argument does not either purify our own psyche and mind, nor does it lead to any true sensitivity to Transcendence itself.
Now this transformation of the mode of our awareness is tied up with the way in which we live our daily life. You will notice that every single religion or philosophy (when I say philosophy, I mean religious philosophy), has one point of agreement. This is where everything comes together, so to say. That is in the presenting of the ethic of human living, what we commonly call living according to the Commandments or the Sīlas or the Precepts, use what word you like. If we live in that manner there is a gradual cessation, an elimination of all the disturbing elements which prevent us from becoming sufficiently sensitive to this Transcendent order as such. And everything changes. But do not imagine that the change will necessarily bring pleasure, joy, calm, fulfilment in the way we think of these things. It will bring everything to us which characterises the world of duality, the world of multiplicity, with all its conflicts, its troubles and so forth. Do not forget how it is said in Mahayana that the path of a Buddha is filled with unutterable woe. Now, we may ask, if we strive to live the pure life, the good life and live it reasonably accurately, according to our good sense, our understanding and all the rest of it, why should it bring all these conflicts and so forth? You see, when we live truly ethically we are getting into touch, more and more intimate touch, with the life of the world as a whole. Now, consider, what is the nature of the life of the world as a whole? Is it a pure life, a peaceful life, a truthful life, a beautiful life? Up to a point it is, and yet that little goes a very long way. But very largely it is a life of conflict born of self-orientation all the time. Self-orientation is the sort of primary evil in our existence because it cuts us off from the Totality, and in that cutting off we are going on strike against Transcendence all the time. Our self-consciousness in terms of self and not-self is the very root of all conflict, and it is such a root of conflict that when we think about these things we postulate Transcendence or God or fulfilment or the order of reality as something other than ourselves. “I want to be in union with That.” But so long as I am aware in terms of “I” and “That”, there is the root of conflict, self, not-self. As we proceed with living the ethical life, this separative self-consciousness dissolves, dissolves rather slowly, that is the difficult part of the story! It dissolves somewhat slowly, but if and when it does dissolve, we are so much in tune with the Totality that all that takes place throughout manifestation affects us, just as we affect it.
This reminds me immediately of that saying of Jesus, when the wealthy young man came along and said, “Master, what shall I do to gain eternal life?” “Give all that thou hast unto the poor and then take up thy cross and follow me.” Not “thy feather bed.” “Take up thy cross and follow me.” I wonder how many people have ever realized the tremendous significance of that. The whole of the manifested universe is represented rightly by the old teachers in terms of a cross. This represents the deliberate self-restriction by Transcendence of itself into manifestation. You may naturally ask, “Why on earth (or why in heaven!) did God restrict himself in order to make this troublesome universe?” God is a child, God plays, he thought that he would amuse himself, he wanted a mirror to see what he looked like. So God or Transcendence, being creative energy fundamentally, as well as absolute consciousness, by self-limitation produced this mirror, the total universal process in which to find himself (to find itself, if you like). But Transcendence did not perhaps realize (but there again it is an absurd way of talking, Transcendence never realizes as we realize, however let us use that absurd way of talking), Transcendence did not realize that when, putting itself out into manifestation and ultimately producing Man, or, say, producing Man at some stage of that process of self-restriction, it produced something which has proved itself indispensable to Transcendence. It is very difficult to swallow! The Absolute, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent has produced something which is indispensable to its own Omnipotence, because, insofar as you or I or any human being (and maybe other kinds of creatures throughout this universe, I don’t know), insofar as you or I awake to this Transcendence and gradually change in that manner which fructifies in Transcendent realization, we affect Transcendence and (it’s a funny way of talking) save Transcendence from restricting itself still more, again and again, putting itself down as human beings, as creatures, in order to find itself, to see itself.
Is all this just verbiage? In a sense it is verbiage, but it is the sort of verbiage which, if it produces a flash of real illumination in some person, is prophetic speech for that person in whom that illumination arises. And so the process goes on, and the real transformation of the entire cosmos is helped forward. Again, bear in mind that the cosmos belongs to the context of the finite, the temporal and the mortal. Therefore it can be helped on, therefore there is development, there is fulfilment, there is fruition. But once that fruition takes place in the individual who becomes the Perfected Holy One, for that individual there is no further development or anything at all. “It is finished,” to use Jesus’s last words as put in St. John’s Gospel; it is completed. And when the Buddha used the term sammā for all the elements of the Way, sammā sati, sammā samādhi, sammā vācā, sammā sankappo, and so on, that word sammā is usually translated as “right”, and that translation is not wrong, but it is flebile, I feel. “Perfect” is a better word, and perhaps a still better word is “complete”, complete in the sense of Absoluteness.
So, this completion takes place in man, that is why man has dared to call himself the Child of God. We are all the Children of a Child, the Divine Child, but insofar as we realize that state of perfect holiness, we become the Divine Child too, the tiny Child, the very, very little Child of the big Child! It is like that .
So now, in this living of the religious life, we have to learn to become quiet, but we learn to become quiet by being noisy at first. We have to learn to become empty by becoming full at first. We become noisy with all our self-motivated activities, and they all make a noise in the world. We are soap box orators in this, that or the other cause all along the line. We continue that until we wake up to the fact that this belongs to the mortal, to the temporal, to the finite. It comes into being and it will just die. But if we understand that death is the inevitable end of it all, then we might cease to make that noise. And we fill ourselves with knowledge, worldly knowledge. A minimum amount of worldly knowledge is essential in order to walk in the street, drive the car, write letters, pay taxes and all the rest of that nonsense! All these things are really very nonsensical where the perfected human life is concerned. However we have to have that amount of knowledge. But we fill ourselves with so much knowledge thinking that we are going to progress that way intellectually, spiritually and so forth. We do acquire considerably where the intellect is concerned, true, but all that is a noise where the mind is concerned.
Finally we have to learn to let it go completely, and then there is the real emptiness. And this is tied up with the ethical life because the ethical life is the life which enables us to be free of the influence of our animal heritage, the crocodile brain in us for instance, and all the aggressiveness, the fear and the folly associated with its activity. It is a strange thing after three or four million years at least of human evolution that that crocodile brain is so crocodilian in its manifestation in the human race, but there it is! The ethical life gradually transforms all that energy that expresses itself in conflict, misery, destruction and so forth, and produces a more harmonious expression of that transformed energy, and energy which is in line with Transcendence. You know how Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the Gītā says, “Arjuna, perform all action as unto Me, not for the fruits of action.” When Arjuna says to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the earlier part of the Gita that Kṛṣṇa a praises action and also praises inaction, the path of the Yogi and so forth, he wants to know which is the better path. The answer which Śrī Kṛṣṇa gives contains these words, “Arjuna, if I did not constantly engage in action, all these worlds would perish.” Now, what does that mean? You ask your good old hard-headed European what on earth did Śrī Kṛṣṇa mean and he would say, “Just nonsense, how can an Indian cease from action, so that if he ceased from action all the worlds would perish?” From his point of view he would be quite right. But his point of view belongs to the finite and the perishable! The point is this, Śrī Kṛṣṇa represents as the Perfected Holy One the complete unity with Transcendence. Therefore when he uses the word “I”, aham, it is not “I” who am separate from “you” or anything throughout the cosmos, it is the “I” which is completely integrated into the whole cosmos and into the context of the Transcendence, the Infinite, the Eternal and the Immortal. The Infinite, Eternal and Immortal is this Primordial Creative Energy which knows no cessation of creativeness. Therefore if Śrī Kṛṣṇa is this Totality (or if one were to use the Jewish word ehyeh, the I AM) then he is perfectly right in saying that, “If I cease from action (which means constant creative activity) then all this would perish.” It would not be there any longer. Just as this constantly active creative energy is Transcendence itself, it is also dependent upon that which it creates. You might say, “It’s a case of 50–50 perhaps. Supposing that which is created just becomes utterly devilish, how is one to envisage the situation?” It cannot become utterly devilish, because the self-restriction of anything will always bear in the restricted the essential nature of that which restricted itself. So the essential nature of Transcendence, of constant creative activity, of absolute pure consciousness is present in everything throughout the cosmos. The cosmos can be wayward but it cannot go wrong in the absolute sense, the absolute destructive sense. When the cosmos fulfils itself, or has fulfilled itself, which will be in process of time, then that fulfilment takes it right back into the primordial origin which is pure creative action, pure consciousness, which is the Absolute Good, if one may use such a word .
So now, this living of the religious life (at least what little I can see of it, and it is a frightfully little that I do see, a grain of sand is the size of a universe compared with what little I do see) involves sensitivity to all these things, sensitivity to the Absolute, the Supreme Transcendent. In our meetings in March and April we considered a few points in connection with these words Infinity and Eternity. Perhaps you may remember them or perhaps you may not, but it does not matter, one goes on all the same. So, do not feel despondent for any reason. One may say, “But this is all so up in the Himalayan heights, I can’t climb there.” You do not need to climb there, the Himalayan heights are here. Have we not tried to penetrate the Himalayan heights this afternoon in a very real sense? Whatsoever you do, if you have done it because it is expressing what you see in yourself as the pure self, the true self, is fulfilment. Do not want to be fulfilled, do not want to be the Perfected Holy One. If you cook a perfect meal tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow evening and die in your sleep, you will die fulfilled, perfected, holy, because you have cooked the perfect meal. You see, do not try to measure these things, otherwise you will get into all sorts of confusions and bring trouble on yourself. This transformation of your discriminative consciousness into the pure consciousness which touches that order of Transcendent Reality will happen in its own little measure in each one of us. Out with ambition! Do you remember Shakespeare? “Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition: By that sin fell the angels.”