Meditation and Meditative Walking (I)
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Elmau, Bavaria on 20th September 1975
It is essential to grasp the fact that the separation that people have made through the centuries between the everyday worldly life and the religious life is a grave mistake. The religious life and the secular life actually should be one single life. Religiousness is a quality which is distinctive of man, conscious religiousness. Man is able to awake to a sense of that which is much greater than himself.
Animals who live in a herd all together, a small herd, have a group sense. That sense is what we would in our human societies call a social sense. We are the family, a group, we are the community, a nation, it is a social sense, and that social sense for us is a first step towards being free of being confined to the sense of oneself only. Animals have that social sense, but animals do not have something else that we humans have, that we can go right beyond the social sense. We can have a sense, a real sensitivity to the wholeness of the entire world, the known world as well as all that we do not know, because our intelligence is of such a nature that we understand that, in addition to what we know, there is an endless amount which is still unknown. Not only does our natural sensitivity and our education also show us quite distinctly that what we know, what we can know, what any one man or woman can know, is only a little bit. There is much more to be known. But even beyond this man has a sense which completely distinguishes him from any other creation, that is the sense of what he calls the Transcendent, the unknown which remains an unknowable through the senses and the logical, discursive intellect, through the senses and the mind which constantly talks, which gives verbal shape to what the mind conceives. Quite beyond that is Transcendence and an unknowable unknown which is a real fact.
We can ask, “Well, how do you know that is there if it is quite beyond our senses, quite beyond our intelligence?” The intellect knows by analysis, the intellect knows what is particular, finite, what is mortal, what comes into being and passes away. The intellect knows all that. But there is a sensitivity within us which becomes aware in a curious way of this Transcendent reality. It becomes aware of it fully, that is as fully as possible for any human being, when in the waking state, not when you are asleep. But in your waking state, the whole thought process completely calms down and all the senses and the sense functioning are at peace. When the sense functioning is at peace and the thought process is utterly calm and yet you are fully awake, what are you awake to? This is the condition which the great teachers knew, they experienced it.
So this Transcendent reality is something which we experience, but we can never know and describe it. It is beyond description, that is, beyond being given shape, but it is a reality because you are in it. Supposing a child can swim and it dives into the sea. The immensity of the sea it can never know, it can never measure it, it can never give shape to it, but it can swim in it. It is in it. Take another example. You and I live in this open space, as we call it. Can we measure it, can we describe it? We have no means of describing space. When we say that the space in this room is so many cubic metres, what we mean is, that if we make a measurement with a ruler of the width, the length and the height of the room and multiply them all together, we get a figure which the intellect arbitrarily says is the volume of the space there. But you cannot experience space with your senses, you cannot describe it mentally, you cannot make a concept of it, you can only make a statement about it. And yet it is quite real.
It is the same with this realization of this Transcendent awareness. The senses and the thought process, which means the talking process in the mind, are completely quiet, they are silent. And you are in this state because you know that the body is awake. This is the state which the great teachers, and particularly the great mystics, all over the world have talked of as the ultimate which is possible for man to realize in mind and consciousness, not the analytical mind but through the coming to life and activity of this extraordinary sensitivity within the mind, which is quite beyond the sensitivities which we ordinarily have.
Now, those who practise meditation or contemplative prayer or desire to enter the unio mystica, as they call it, have this as the goal, so to say. We must be very careful: if we deliberately practise meditation in order to produce this result, we shall never enter into this state, because the power of desire in us at its human level and the working of the intellect in its limited sphere, which will invariably try to give shape to the nature of the event, prevent Transcendence from being fully realized. You, so to say, completely lose yourself. Supposing I were a drop of water, (it is rather interesting that St. Teresa uses the identical simile in her book The Interior Castle for instance, she uses it again and again), supposing I were a drop of water, suspended in the air, we’ll say, or falling from the cloud, supposing I were a conscious drop of water and could speak, say, a language, I would say to myself, “I am this drop of water.” Once I am in the river or in the ocean, then where is the I, the separateness of the drop? In the same way, we are like that. We are completely one with the ocean. The moment we are in that ocean of Transcendent awareness, there is no consciousness “I-am-I”, absolutely none. But then you will say, “But I am lost.” No, you are not. This thing is here, and when it comes back to ordinary consciousness you are you again, you are not lost. But you cannot say truthfully, “I was there in a particular state of Divinity or Transcendence,” because, if you were to try to say that, you have made of Divinity or Transcendence a particular thing also. I am in a small hut living my life, I enter a mighty palace, but a mighty palace is still a thing, it has shape, form, it has definition, it has limitation, size.
The Eternal, the Immortal, the Transcendent, this wonderful creative power, which is the origin out of which every limited thing emerges, has no shape, no size, no form, it is the Divine Mystery, the Supreme Mystery, and for us in intellectual terms it always remains the Divine Mystery.
I am saying all this because there are those who have sort of experienced certain deep things. I have myself heard two or three people at least in my lifetime openly say, “Oh, I know God. I have talked with God.” Well, it is not a very wise statement to make. You will understand now, I trust, why I say that. Because this is the Infinite, and we have to approach it in utter reverence, in utter self-surrender. You might say, “Then what is the point in going through this experience if afterwards you just come back here and you are yourself?” There is a great point. The question which we ask, “What is the use of it?”, is a question which is self-concerned. Anybody who asks that question is thinking of himself, “What is it for me?” That question must disappear from our lives, that is the childish stage. The child wants everything for itself. It wants its parents, it wants its toys, it wants to get everything. But that is childish, suitable for the child, yes, but are we going to remain everlasting children? We won’t. We have to grow out of it. So, the question itself is a wrong question. We can look at it this way. This is the way, this is how this process of life coming to fruition takes place through human beings. It cannot happen through animals, it cannot happen through trees or stones, in this way. As I said yesterday, they are in unconscious communion, but we awake to that communion. The body is fully awake when this state of communion is established. If we once really see this, and see the imperative necessity of having no self involved in this, no desire for self at all, then this wonderful reality, this real experience of Transcendence takes place.
Always remember that it is Transcendence which comes to fruition in you or me, it is not you or I who achieve. Perhaps an analogy may be of some use, but it is still a poor analogy. The great composers wrote wonderful music. When the soloist or the orchestra or the quartet performs that, it is the great composer who has come to fruition through the quartet. It is his music, his creation, isn’t it? It is like that. It is not that the soloist has achieved the music, or has attained the supreme beauty which is there in the music. It is the composer’s creation, the music which comes to fruition through the skilled performer. So we have to release that kind of skill in ourselves spiritually. And when that happens at last we are fully human, simple humans. We call ourselves human by actually we are sub-human, we are not true humans. This was realized right in ancient times. In the Christian formulation, the Son of Man is the Son of God. In India we say that the Manuṣyaputra, the Son of Man, the Son of Mind, is also the Brahmaputra, the Son of the Supreme. So, this is our fruition. And this is not a case of religion or of religiousness which is apart from everyday life. This spirit, this awareness, this utter purity of inward vision has to enter into everything that we do everyday. Now, this is perpetual meditation, is it not? It is not a case of setting aside half an hour or an hour or whatever it is and going through a particular routine. The routine of everyday life is the vessel, the instrument, through which this meditative living takes place, that is, living in complete communion.
I have talked a lot. Let us practise for a few moments just becoming quiet. Let the body be at rest, at ease, free of stresses and strains, free of tensions, and let the rhythm of the breath flow gently. Let the attention be fully awake, very alert, and be sensitive to the state of the living psycho-physical organism, the body-mind organism.
Once this life-rhythm is established there comes the point when you experience a sense of peace, of quietude, and in a few moments that quietude gives place to a stream of thought, of silent talk. Let the body remain quiet and calm, because that can remain quiet and calm, and watch this silent stream of thought. Don’t produce it, if you can remain quiet with your breathing, remain in that state of quietude. Don’t get sleepy, be intensely awake, but if the stream of thought interferes, all right, just watch it and note what it is about.
Don’t try to force the mind to attend to anything specially. The mind wanders, yes, that is the fact. Just watch where it wanders, and with what we are preoccupied.
As you watch, see if it is possible to let one aspect of the mind be as quiet and poised as the body is quiet, and let that be the onlooker, the one who looks on at the passing stream of thought or feeling.
Notice whether looking on like this brings about the state in which you are no longer disturbed by the passing stream of thought. It has become like a calm river flowing past, and the mind remains in a state of peace looking on at this river. You will probably get the picture of a physical river flowing past, but try and be free of that.
That passing stream of thought, if it captures your attention, is a disturbing stream, but if your attentiveness is calm and quiet, that passing stream of thought is quite calm.
You may notice that, when that stream of thought is calm and does not disturb your mental poise, then you will see the truth of what that stream of thought represents. Otherwise you have all sorts of wrong values attached. One feels anxious, or one feels fear or annoyance, and so forth. All that is out. The passing stream of thought could easily concern the business of the day, the things one has to attend to, and they keep crowding into the mind suddenly at the very time when you desire the mind to be at peace. But that is how it always happens. Just look at it.
If the peace of mind is released, naturally released, then you will have right insight, true insight into how to deal with all that comes your way.
See how that stream of thought is full of things which seem to be important at first when they disturb your poise, but which, when you are poised, are quite unimportant. They have no real significance, let them go. As we say in English, just flotsam and jetsam floating on the surface of a rushing stream. Let them go, and be calm and happy in the state of inward poise.
If you feel that state of ease right through the body and the mind, just say quietly to yourself, “Let that state of ease stay throughout the day.” Let it stay, not as a desire, not as something which one grasps for oneself, but just let it stay.
We will stop now and try to keep this state of ease as we go for our little walk.
Here follows a period of meditative walking
Note how the mind may react as we walk. Last September all this clearance had not been made. There was just a simple, natural, narrow path coming up here, and when ones sees this, the mind thinks in terms of the intrusion of machines and the mechanical upon what is natural and what is living. And then the mind will rebel against it and wish it were otherwise. But you see the rebellion and wishing anything otherwise is a state of rejection of what actually is present, which means communion is lost. This is how it is, not for me to reject it or hate it. One notices the difference, and that is all. And that inner poise remains unshaken, but because we see the actual effect upon the beauty of the place, then we have learnt a lesson how not to spoil the beauty of nature. It is a necessity, perhaps, for business reasons, etc., very good, and therefore it happens and that is all. But if oneself were faced with the circumstance where one had to choose, then, because one is poised inside, one chooses without desire, without grasping for oneself and without aversion. The choice is dispassionate and it does not harm, it does not interfere with the universal process. Man is a terrible interferer.
So, be sensitive and let us learn to be sensitive in a new way. Let the eyes see, let the ears hear, let the body sensitively touch, don’t deliberately touch. Don’t have admiration running here, “Oh, isn’t this wonderful, isn’t this beautiful, etc.” My admiration is an intrusion upon the sanctity and the peace of that which is divinely created. I am imposing myself with my admiration. It is very difficult to realize this, but you see this is where the value of meditative walking like this comes in. Even with two or three walks like this, and if you really attend and learn not to impose the self upon the situation, then the whole world opens its arms to you and gives all that you need, all the time. And there is a right relationship. This is very, very important, this inward right relationship. It is relationship of true love and of true wisdom.
So let the eyes see, don’t look for this, that and the other. Whatever there is, let the eyes see. This is the art of the development of the senses, the right development of the senses. We develop our senses wrongly. A scientist for example is trained to look, but he is also trained to look for particular results, he has a purpose, he is imposing himself upon the situation. It is a relationship of domination, not of communion. Any relationship of domination means sorrow and misery. So just let the eyes see, let the ears hear, and if you can let that happen, it is one of the easiest trainings of the religieux, one of the easiest things to train and develop. You will find that in course of time it is not you or I who is looking, but God himself is looking through your eyes, and seeing his own eternal beauty, which these eyes, belonging to me, can never see. This is the meaning of the Third Eye which they talk of in religious literature. There is no mysterious Third Eye at the back there and so forth! This is the Third Eye, the Eye of Śiva, as they call it. Let’s go on.