Our Awakening to Transcendence
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 8th March 1987
Let there be no illusions regarding the nature and the spiritual stature of the great teachers. They who could help disciples to realize the Unconditioned and awaken to the Transcendent were themselves in living communion with the Supreme. In the Scriptures can be read the signs of the Holy Ones, for the real inward experiencing of communion is exoterically expressed in several of the great affirmations that they made. As regards this statement, that the teachers could help their disciples to realize the Unconditioned and awaken to the Transcendent, this awakening to the Transcendent is a limited thing, because what is Transcendent for us will not be Transcendent to those who come long after and are very much more evolved than us. What does the Transcendent mean? It means that which is beyond my ken at the moment. But the history of the human race and one’s own life experience show that that which is beyond our ken now does come within our ken at some time or other, if we proceed in the practical, sensible way of realizing what is beyond our ken. What is Transcendent for us human beings at present, for example Holistic Consciousness, that will come within our ken as time goes on. But the knowledge of that coming within our ken of Holistic Consciousness has to be spread, and that is one of the tasks for each and every one of us who is really interested in religious living, which means, of course, essentially in true human living.
We say “Humanum est errare”, it is human to err. It is not human to err, it is subhuman. We as we are are still subhumans because the word human essentially means the Happy Creator. And who is regarded as the Happy Creator? We talk of God as being Creator and in bliss always. We are not blissful creators, unless and except when we possess some great artistic or scientific or philosophical gift and are able to produce that in perfection and present it to the world. Then we feel happy, we feel blissful, and as far as that goes the meaning of the word human as Blissful Creator is fulfilled. But most of us are not like that. Most of us are so conditioned that we know so much suffering. Dukkha is the Pali word for suffering. The word dukkha is derived from du, meaning bad or spoilt, and kha. Kha comes in the Upaniṣadic writings also and stands for the Infinite and therefore the Eternal. The Infinite-Eternal spoilt is dukkha, suffering, sorrow, misery, grief, and all the rest of it. Since we humans ordinarily are far from the Eternal, we are in a state of suffering, even though outwardly we may experience so much pleasure, which we call happiness. Happiness, pleasure, joy, all these words have the same sort of meaning. But it is a happiness which is not permanent. It would be difficult to find even one hundred people in the world who enjoy a permanent peace of mind, a blissful state within themselves. There may be a few but only a very few, and there are more than five thousand millions of us on the globe nowadays. So now, what for us would be unconditioned is not by any means unconditioned for whatsoever Nature may bring forth that is more evolved, more developed, than us. We as compared with most of the animal species are certainly far more developed, and we can understand the meaning of our conditioning and deal with it. If we deal with it in the right way we are relatively unconditioned. So do not take these words as an ultimate absolute truth. All these statements have only a relative value, everything has only a relative value. You know how the word God is described in the various religions. If you look at the descriptions given of God in the various religions, what will you find? They are projections out of man’s brain of an apotheosized human being, that is all. “I can love, therefore God is Absolute Love.” The good things that are in me are absolute for the God projected out of my brain. But we leave out all the ill things in me with that conception. It is a conspiracy on the part of all human beings never to ascribe evil to God. But look at your Scriptures carefully. For instance in Isaiah chapter 45 verse 7 the Lord God tells Isaiah, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil.” Look at Deuteronomy, chapter 30 verse 19. Look there carefully and see what is said there. But these things are not sufficiently noticed and sufficiently investigated by organised established religion. Otherwise the establishers would be out of a job very quickly!
Now, take one of these affirmations. It is said in Genesis chapter 5 that Adam lived for so many years and he died. Then his son Seth lived so many years and he died, and so it goes on until it comes to the seventh name, Enoch. The name Enoch in Hebrew means tuition, intuition, the teacher. It is said that Enoch walked with God. How does a human being, the seventh in the line from Adam, walk with God? God has not got two legs to walk with! It means essentially that here was a man, Enoch, who, through living the religious life in the real sense, realized that state of Holistic Consciousness which enabled him to be in harmony with that which was Transcendent, the Transcendent possible for any human being. Other cases are Elijah, Elisha and so on. I am just talking of the Bible, but if you take the Upaniṣads, all the Hindu scriptures, the Buddhist teachings and so on, you will see that in the course of the last six thousand years at least there have been hundreds of truly spiritual people who have realized a peak point of human development and evolution, and have exemplified the true meaning of the word human. These were the Perfected Holy Ones, as they are quite rightly called. It does not say that Enoch died after so many years. “For Enoch was not for God took him”. The ordinary man in the street may feel like being facetious and say, “Where did God take Enoch?” It simply means that in that state of Holistic Consciousness one experiences reality in a manner which is Transcendent to our experience here. That Transcendent experience of reality is of such a nature that it belongs to and can help others to be completely purified and thus realize what is possible for human beings at the present stage of evolution to realize. Neanderthalers never could have realized what has been realized during the last six thousand years. Proconsul and Australopithecus and all those creatures in central Africa were nowhere near this, they had just evolved out of the anthropoid ape stage, and they could not possibly realize such things. So there has been a development which has culminated during the last six thousand years in the expressions which we find in scriptural writings. And they must not be taken as absolute truth, they are relative truth. They are good enough for us to go on with. So the meaning of “for God took him” was that Enoch was capable of Holistic Consciousness and of staying in that consciousness as long as he wanted to stay in it. The Buddha for instance, speaking to some of the followers of the Jain teacher Māhāvira, says to them that he can enter that state and stay in that state without moving, without eating or drinking or sleeping for seven days and nights continuously. But he limits it to seven. We may ask, “Why does the Perfected Holy One, the Enlightened One, limit it to seven?” Simply because a physical body needs to have sustenance, it needs to assimilate, to eliminate, to rest and so on. It needs all those things, otherwise it would perish!
There is another statement. This comes in the Ṛg-veda first and then in the Aitareya Upaniṣad. Vāmadeva, one of the Perfected Holy Ones, (he was a great teacher), “having ascended aloft from this world became immortal, yea, became immortal.” The Ascension is ascribed to Jesus, as you know. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” This cloud is really the Cloud of Unknowing. The phenomenon of Ascension has been known since Egyptian times. When the Holy One enters into the profoundest meditative state possible to human beings, constituted as we are at present, then in his consciousness he ascends into that state (you can call it a descent if you like), which is the ultimate state that the human organism can realize. That is what it means.
Now, as regards Jesus and the cloud receiving him out of sight. This cloud really is, as I said, the Cloud of Unknowing. Why do I call it the Cloud of Unknowing? When in the course of the religious life you are capable of entering into those profound contemplative or meditative states which ultimately transcend all expression in ordinary terms in our human life, then you know in an un-knowing way, that is to say, un-knowing in terms of the activity of the brain. The brain does not know anything about it. It does not mean you are unconscious of it, but that of which you are conscious is so profound, so deep, so real, that there are no thoughts, no words which can express that. You will find this in the writings of all the great mystics of the world, the great mystics without exception, and there were many. Again, Joseph and Moses see or speak with the Lord face to face. That is stated openly. But it is also stated openly in Genesis that no one can see the Lord or speak with the Lord and live. That has been interpreted (and I would positively say misinterpreted) as meaning that if you see the Lord you will die. No, you won’t. On the contrary you will be alive as no ordinary human being is alive, because to see the Lord face to face means that you are in the state of Holistic Consciousness which does not kill you, far from it. Speaking with the Lord means being at home yourself in the profoundest state of consciousness in terms of Infinity and Eternity. Now where Infinity is concerned there is no here, no there, there is no this, no that, no up, no down, no forward, no backward and so on, no attaining, no achieving, because those things apply only to the personal, separate and isolative consciousness of the ordinary human being. And in Eternity there is no past, there is no present, there is no future. Those of you who have read along these lines will probably be inclined to say to me, “Eternity is expressed in the Eternal Now.” But what is the Eternal Now? The Eternal Now is the resultant of the whole of what we call the past and also is interacting with the whole of the future in the immediate present. They have said in all the religions, “God is omniscient.” What does this omniscience mean? God is not a super encyclopaedia! There is no such person, separate individual person, as God. There is a Transcendent Reality on which we must not plaster our limitations.
This Eternal Now, as I say, is the resultant of the whole of the past evolved and the present right here at this very moment. That is what we call the Now. But it also is all of the future expressed in the Now, because that which draws the past out and makes it evolve and grow is the future. You can see what the word prophecy means. It does not mean foretelling events to come. Sometimes you can foretell events to come if you are perceptive enough, and sensible enough, and knowledgeable enough. You can see obviously that this, that and the other is bound to happen, and so you can foretell something like that. But you cannot unfold the future at all. The future is not fixed, there is no such thing as predestination or predetermination of the future. Everything evolves and changes, and there is ample room because of elasticity, as a characteristic of the whole universe and universal process. There is room for elasticity and therefore for chance, and that is coming more and more into prominence through the work of modern scientists. I think all of you must have heard of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and that uncertainty principle was discovered with research into the nature of subatomic particles. You can take for instance an electron. If your experiment is directed towards finding the position of the electron, you cannot discover its momentum. Momentum is the product of the velocity of something by the mass of something. If your weight is ten stone and you are running at the rate of ten feet per second, then your momentum is 10 times 10! On the other hand if the scientist investigates by an experiment what is the momentum of that electron, he cannot pinpoint its position. He can only say that it is likely to exist somewhere within this region, that is all, the electron cloud as it is called. It is funny how that word cloud has all sorts of contexts in which it can be used.
So, there is this principle of uncertainty operating throughout the universal process. That is why foretelling an event is out of the question. There are people, as I said earlier, who can foretell events and they do come off. But, as I say, if you have sufficient percipience, your perceptive power penetrates deeply, and you have sufficient good sense and knowledge at the same time, you can foretell certain things, it is not difficult to do that. We who are grown up can easily foretell to a child, “If you put your hand into the fire you will start crying,” and isn’t that true? But where is the foretelling in the sense that we understand foretelling? So, Eternity holds the whole of the future, drawing the past all the time, beckoning to the past. Its manifestation takes place here and now. The here is an Infinity always. When I say Infinity, the natural tendency is immediately to think in terms of bigness, hugeness; it’s so big, so big… You know the good old story of the frog. A creature came and trampled upon the little frogs, and when mother frog came back she asked those who were left, “Was it as big as this?”, and the mother frog expanded. “No, much bigger.” “As this, as this?”, until the mother frog burst. Infinity is here now. What does Infinity mean? Not-finite. The finite is measurable, the Infinite is immeasurable. Your geometrical point, your true point, has no length, no breadth, no depth, it is immeasurable, it is In-finite. If the brain can free itself from its limitation of associating Infinity with hugeness, then you will find that your sense of proportion in all the practical, ordinary things of everyday life will be sensible, will be very different. You will find yourself much more happy, and, to use a common-or-garden word in the language, more successful. But beware of success. It is as bad as failure. Things happen, they evolve, and when they have come to their fruition they must of necessity pass away and die. If you can see this and accept it, death will have no fear whatsoever for you. But you must see it inwardly. That does not mean that you will not feel pain at death, pain and sorrow. I shall be 85 this year. When I heard about last night’s tragedy with the Zeebrugge ferry, tears came, I could not stop them. Of course that is due to sympathy, compassion, to suffer with those who suffer, and sometimes there is the physical expression of that suffering. I always tell people who have lost, as they say, their beloved or dear one or whoever it is, “Don’t suppress your tears, don’t keep a stiff upper lip, it’s a great mistake, cry it out.” Let the feeling flow out and then there will be peace later on, and it will be a stable peace, and also there will be a truer compassion for all who suffer, that is what is necessary. Usually the ordinary man’s compassion is merely pity, and pity has a ‘looking down upon’ aspect to it. There will be no looking down. You will experience your complete unity with the one who is suffering, and in that there is compassion, there is real love. That is the beginning, if you like, of Transcendent love, which has no possessiveness whatsoever in it.
We read about the Mount of the Lord, and Jesus spending forty days and forty nights there. The Mount of the Lord of the Old Testament has its counterpart in the Zarathushtrian Ushidaraena. Of course our dear scholars give all sorts of wonderful explanations, geographical being one of them, and so forth, but you can put that in your pocket and forget all about it! Ushidaraena refers to that state of Holistic Consciousness, the Mount of the Lord, the Hindu Mount Meru, the sahasrāra cakra of ku nd alini yoga, the Brahmaloka of Buddhist meditation. This is the Mount of the Lord. The Buddha and his great disciples can spend seven days and nights continuously in the deep communion called the cessation. You may wonder, the cessation of what? It is the cessation of all perception and feeling at the subhuman level. That completely ceases, and when that completely ceases you will discover that the brain stops talking, not only whilst you are awake but in your sleep. If you look at your thought process, which is of course an activity of the brain, it is always chattering, and that chattering is centred round “I”. You cannot watch your thought process for five minutes without saying “I” five hundred times! It is absolutely astonishing. It is the limiting process, and it is all about things worldly, things which tie you down and prevent you from developing within yourself. You have to think of worldly things because we have to get up in the morning, take a shower or bath, we have to have breakfast, we have to go to work, we have to do all that, we have to pay attention to everything. But if we learn the art of paying attention in the right way, then that attentiveness, which will be transcendent to our ordinary attentiveness, will permeate the other ordinary attentiveness of everyday life, and you will be able to tackle everyday life in a much better way altogether.
So, the cessation. In Holistic Consciousness the brain stops talking, and when the brain stops talking, Mind in its purity, in its Transcendent reality functions through you. It functions through your brain, and it actually transforms physically some at least of the cells of the brain. This is being investigated now more and more of recent years. Therefore the disturbance which the brain normally causes in our ordinary, everyday life is at an end. You see what religious living means. Rituals, prayers, genuflexions and all the gestures which are considered religious have a place in life for those whose temperament is such that it elevates them, it puts them into a sublime mood. But it is a temporary sublime mood, that is all, whereas, with the right way in which you develop your own power of attentiveness without reacting for or against anything (that is the whole secret of it), you will realize your true humanity. The author of the Creation hymn in the Ṛg-veda is named Prajāpati Parame st hin. Prajāpati means the Lord of all creatures and creation. Prajā is the population (Lord of all humanity). Parameṣṭhin means the Supreme Being. These old poet-seers, Perfected Holy Ones, who produced the Ṛg-Veda, realized the state of Holistic Consciousness, and they never put down their own personal names, they always took an assumed name. There are swamis in London, Swami Avyetananda or Swami Paramananda or whoever it is. The ānanda part is the blissful part, and avyeta means unlimited, and so on. Of course these Holy Ones who produced the great Scriptures had a perfect right to do so. They were true mahā yogis, mahā ṛṣis. Ṛṣi is a singer of a song, the song of Eternal Life. They were the psalms of Life. Just as you have psalms in the Old Testament, these were the songs of Eternal Life which the great ṛṣis sung. And they were entitled to them, the title was given to them by their disciples and by the people who venerated them. They never had the presumption to assume titles such as Maharishi, Mahayogi, or anything like that. You know how humility is one of the earliest virtues emphasized in all religions. Now the name Elijah in the Old Testament means God Himself, Eli-Yah. The word El, Ele–, the name, means the Strong One, the One to be worshipped, the One worthy of worship, and Yah is the part of the name Yahweh. the Hebrew letters yod, hay, vav, hay. They actually represent male-female in conjunction. They represent the positive and negative, the male and female aspects of all the creative activity which is the universal process, that is what Yahweh really stands for. Then there is the name of another one of these teachers, Bṛhaddiva. Bṛhaddiva in one of the hymns that he wrote declares that he had thrown open all the doors of light. And this was said by Bṛhaddiva at least a thousand years before the Buddha declared:
“Open are the doors of deathlessness.”
The name alone, however, is not the sole indicator of him who knows communion. His exemplary life and his teachings prove the name.
We must remember that these Perfected Holy Ones were the embodiment of Truth, of Love, of Wisdom, of Goodness, of Purity, of Beauty. Beauty did not receive sufficient emphasis until the time of Plato. You know Plato’s great trinity, Truth, Goodness, Beauty. Beauty is essential because Beauty has no criterion like the criteria which we use in terms of art and poetry and everything else. All our man-made criteria are related to the fact that that is how we like it. But the good God made a universe which is of such a nature that there are innumerable things that we do not like, which we would say are terrible. You know that it is said that galaxies clash, collide. But do you know how galaxies collide? Have you ever seen one galaxy colliding with another? In any galaxy, the stars composing that galaxy are not millions, or billions, but at least trillions of miles apart, so the colliding of one galaxy with another is very much like a celestial ballet. They move through each other perfectly. Watching a perfect ballet you think that the men and women are going to clash — not at all, they just move past each other beautifully. And that is Beauty. It gives you delight, doesn’t it? How many of you do not go to the ballet? You don’t? Nor do I! But when I was at Cambridge, then I went several times to the ballet. I saw Pavlova, Nenchinova, Markova. I played the piano for Markova at one of her recitals there in Cambridge. But there you are, galaxies clashing are a celestial ballet. We can make a celestial ballet of our lives even when we clash in reality. Supposing two people start quarrelling with each other, accusing each other, “You really are thoughtless and inconsiderate” and so forth. Then if one of them has the sense to point out where they do not clash, and where they do this, that and the other for the other, and the other does similarly, what happens to the quarrel? It may come to an end, but then there are not so many people who have that much sense! You see, we have to laugh at life!
Very significant is the presentation of the teachings in the form of the Divine Dialogue. In several of the Upaniṣads a short question is asked, the answer to which is put into the mouth of one or the other of the three persons of the Hindu Trinity. In the Maitreya, Maitreya is answered by Mahādeva, the great god Śiva. In the Kaivalya, Aśvalāyana is answered by Brahmā the Creator. In the Ātmabodha, the teaching is given by Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme Being, and so forth. The point is that various are the approaches to the Supreme Communion in silent alone-ness. You have to ask your deep questions of yourself. Do not ask another person. What another person tells you or conveys to you will not be your unique realization. Each and every one of us is a unique person, there is no one else in the world like any and every one of us. And that applies to the whole world. One of our tasks in life is to realize that uniqueness, but realize it in a way that does not make us conceited. This is the important thing. If you feel conceit, then believe me, you have not discovered your true uniqueness, because the countless uniquenesses of the whole universe are all embraced within the Supreme Uniqueness of the One Total Reality. So discover uniqueness in that way, and you will be in harmony with the entire universe. And in that state of course, as I said earlier too, the brain has stopped talking, you are silent. In the silence you enter the adytum, the innermost temple. In the Skanda and the Maitreya Upaniṣads it is said that the organism, the body, is the temple; the dweller in the temple is Śiva, the third person of the Trinity. Śiva is sometimes regarded as the destroyer but actually he is the regenerator, and in order to regenerate you have to change the old structure. Take for instance a common-or-garden example in building. If an old house is really in a bad state, a developer buys it off, breaks down the old house and builds a new one. It is a regeneration process in relationship to the third person of the Trinity, not a destructive process. When the heart grows still with the touch of beauty, when self so surrenders that passion meets love as the river meets the sea, when the mind is so free of all images that Truth shines shadowless, or when the votive act flows into the heart of infinite grace, there are no gates to bar the way to your own fulfilment.
Love hearing other teachings explained. Thank you.
Tom, 28th February 2019