Meditation and Meditative Walking (II)
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Elmau, Bavaria on 21st September 1975
One’s own self, the instrument, must be in tune in order that the music of Transcendence may sound and be heard by us. To prepare the ground for communion (and this communion is the music of Transcendence, it is the great Song of Life throughout the universe), and remembering that prayer or meditation energizes all aspects of the psyche, good and bad alike, it is necessary to be free of the hindrances which stand in our path when we sit down specially for meditation.
You know how the mind is preoccupied with the affairs of the day, with oneself, one’s own feelings and thoughts and moods and the little problems which arise immediately we get up in the morning almost, in terms of relationships with those around us, not only the persons around us, but the actual prevailing conditions. Is it a sunny day, is it a foggy day, is it going to be nice, what are we going to eat today? And all that kind of thing. So, this preoccupation with all the little turmoil and confusion of the worldly life is an obstacle to meditation. It is like an instrument in an orchestra which is out of tune. Obviously it won’t make music until it is tuned up. Now this tuning up of the mind means that certain obvious obstructions in the mind must disappear, we must be free of them. These obstructions can be seen in this way for instance. There is all the natural grasping, the lust for pleasure, for power, for sensational experience and so on, the grasping for oneself, what we commonly call lust, in English anyway. This is one of the great obstructions, and even when the mind is not consciously occupied with these, there are very powerful forces in our whole psycho-physical being by virtue of our heritage through natural evolution. The body itself and all the psychical phenomena naturally associated with the body give rise to all this. So that is one great obstruction.
The next obstruction which makes this instrument out of tune is malevolence, ill feeling, anger, everything which comes under the category of hate, of aversion. Usually this hate, aversion or anger is associated with the frustration of our desire. If our desire is prevented by something, by some circumstance or by some person, we react with anger. Anger constantly arises throughout the physical life, and all kinds of other hidden, sometimes minor forces which are allied to anger, arise in us at the same time. So this is something which the mind must be free of.
Those are two of the main obstructions. Then there are others too. There is the state of disinclination: You don’t feel like meditating, very much like a schoolchild who doesn’t feel like doing its homework, or even its schoolwork at school. There is a slowness, a feeling of falling asleep in class, sloth and torpor, as we might call it. Sometimes it is a sheer heaviness of the body. The body is somehow not properly awake. And then it is not wise to force it to be awake. Let it be restful for a time and let it become properly awake before you attempt meditation.
Then there is the state of worry, one is not calm, one is not peaceful. And when the mind is not calm one is unable just to say to oneself, “Let everything be quiet and I shall practise a little meditation.” If the mind is like that, the body is in a state of nervous tension. You see, if you force yourself to enter into meditation (and this is where you have to be particularly careful with methods which have been prevalent, for example, in India for nearly 4,000 years), and to use mantras, to repeat a word, a phrase, in order to compel the nervous disturbance to subside, then that will produce consequences in terms of reaction bodily and emotionally, which are not particularly beneficial. So you have to bear that in mind. So you see, no worry, no flurry, no tensions, be at ease. If you are fidgety in the presence of the Lord, he might blow you out of Heaven!
Then there is this question of doubt. You start wondering, “Well, what’s all this about? Am I just on a wild goose chase? Am I chasing a will-o’-the-wisp, just a firefly in the dark forest, uselessly?” And you begin to wonder what it is all about. If doubt is of that nature which is associated with real enquiry, then that doubt must not be put aside. When you meditate or when you study, question “Is this so, is it really so?” Because that is the practical, scientific approach in order to find out the truth. Never say, “Oh yes, I am on the right lines, my teacher has told me so, my past experience has told me so, I will do as before.” Then you just go round and round in a rut and you are no further: You start with ABC on the first day and the second day and the millionth day. The wrong sort of doubt is always arising for example when you come across people who always say, “Oh, I don’t agree with you, I doubt it, I doubt it.” What they are doing is not trying to enquire honestly what is the truth, but they are just having a mental argument with you, just fencing with you all the time. Whatever you say they will oppose. If you say that it is a fine day, they will say, “Oh no, no, it’s not so very fine, I doubt what you say.” And if you say it’s a wet day, “Oh no, I don’t agree with you.” They won’t enquire and find out what sort of a day it is actually. So that sort of doubting is a nuisance and a hindrance to meditation. In other words, where this question of doubt is concerned, the real thing, if you want to put it positively, is to have a completely open mind.
This is perhaps one of the most important aspects for right meditation, to have a completely open mind, never to think, “I have now got the truth.” The truth keeps emerging. If I stop grasping at a particular truth which has been formulated as an idea, then there is the possibility of a far more wonderful idea growing out of the old one, otherwise I don’t grow, I am stuck fast. We have seen this in the history of the religions of the world, the dogmas and the doctrines, “I believe this, that and the other, and that’s the finish of it.” You see what terrible harm that has done in history in connection with practically all the religions of the world. So, keep an open mind. The open mind means that your heart is open, and if you heart is also open, then there is love, and in the state of open hearted love, wisdom can grow.
So now, we should realize that these are the hindrances. Obviously we cannot deal with all of them straightaway either today or tomorrow, and then after that our course is over. But just remember these, and you can practise for yourself, bearing in mind each.
Now today we will turn our attention in meditation to the process of thought which comes up in the mind as soon as we start. So, let the body be perfectly comfortable, balanced and just feel at ease, perfect ease of body, and let the rhythm of the breath be very comfortable, the rhythm of the breathing… See if there are any strains in the abdominal region, no tension there, then no tension in the diaphragm, and you will find that you will sit comfortably erect, elastically erect, not stiffly erect, but comfortably erect. Let the head balance perfectly upon a relaxed and easy neck. Now you will find that your breathing is at ease, just your natural breathing… Just be aware of what the physiologists call the vigilance centre, which is just about here at the back of the head. There is a nerve centre in the brain there which is the vigilance centre, that is to say, when you are awake you know you are awake, and it is that which is associated with paying attention to anything. So let that vigilance centre be the officer in command, so to say, and be completely aware of the whole body. And let the feeling of peace and quiet come from there right down into the whole body, through the whole body, remembering that the whole physical body (and this is scientifically known nowadays) is surrounded with an electrical field, which is due to the living body itself… Now after a few moments, after feeling a sense of peace, in a few seconds, you will probably find various thoughts or pictures coming into your mind. Just note those pictures for a couple of minutes… Don’t try to stop them, and don’t criticise them, just see exactly what they are… For this morning’s special practice see in which way they are related to the grasping for pleasure, for satisfaction of one’s desires or ambitions or whatever it is. Just see in what way they are related to the root of the difficulty, namely greed… Notice particularly the subtle forms which greed takes, particularly culturally. You may say that there are no thoughts or desires in my mind at the moment, perhaps tunes are running through your mind or pictures, or your thoughts are towards some teacher whom you follow or would like to follow, or some particular ideal which you have. But notice the power of greed at work in all these subtle forms. You enjoy these, you want to possess them. The very act of giving yourself to God or the teacher or anything has a possessive element in it. Watch it very carefully, it is very subtle, very deep. And whatever it is, don’t say to yourself, “I must get rid of it.” Don’t get rid of it. This is your teacher, this is the actual fact about oneself. I am like that, I am this greed. Look at it that way. Look quietly… The vigilance centre, the attentiveness, which is the officer in command, so to say, must remain perfectly poised, giving no orders either for or against, but just watching, watching… As you watch don’t say, “I am experiencing this” or “I am like this”. Just observe the fact, that this is greed… You may notice if you are attentive intensely and rightly that when you see, actually see, not merely say, but really see, that this is greed, you are aware of the force of greed throughout the world. And you see how greed, not only in oneself but throughout the world, gives rise to evil, to the diseased state of the mind, and therefore to sorrow, unnecessary sorrow. See it, don’t be shocked by it, don’t be afraid of it, just quietly look at it. Don’t dislike it or hate it. There it is — greed. And if your attentiveness is pure and you are calm inside, you will experience the reality of compassion coming right out of your innermost being, your very physical heart, so to say, and spreading through you, just compassion, something which we do not experience in the ordinary way. And you will realize in actual awareness the unity with all mankind. There is this suffering for oneself, for mankind through greed. See it…
Here follows a period of meditative walking
You hear that stream flowing past. It makes a sound, a single note. It can be heard, let the ear hear it. Just here is this rocky cliff, just see it. Inside one’s own body the bloodstream flows making its own sound, the heartbeats making their own sound, and everything in harmony with everything else. So there is the Song of Life going on. Just as that Song goes on and no one instrument, so to say, interferes with another but harmonizes with all the others, so do the stream, the rock, the trees, the air, the clouds all make one great harmony. We have lost our sense of harmony with Nature. Here is a living organism, Nature is a living organism, and every particular living organism is part of the whole living organism. It is that wholeness of which we are rarely aware, but in surroundings like this and walking like this, you can restore that awareness.
Notice how in Nature the stream rushes down from the mountainside. And how does it move? Along the path of least resistance. It does not impose its will, it cannot impose its will upon the banks, it just flows down where it finds its proper place. We impose our will, we do not flow with the stream of life, we do not flow with the stream but impose our will because we are slaves of our particular desires. Therefore we come into conflict with people, with situations and so on. This conflict in us is the source of everlasting unnecessary sorrow. Most of our sorrow and trouble and anxiety is unnecessary, we don’t really learn from it, we only hurt ourselves, and, worse still, we hurt others. But here when you walk meditatively like this you restore the whole consciousness of harmonising with life. You restore that consciousness and then amongst men and in the city and in what we call difficult circumstances, this consciousness of harmony is at work, and we do the least possible harm then in our life, otherwise we do much more harm.
Look again how the stream rushes down, down, down, down, till it meets the ocean and loses its identity. It is always moving downwards, and look at the way the roots of a tree go downwards towards the centre of the earth, towards a centre. In Nature this is the tendency, towards a centre. The idea of the centre comes to full consciousness in man, self-consciousness. And then he becomes self-ish, self-centred, but he has to grow out of that into the Infinite, and he is ignorant of that. Therefore he struggles. But do not despise selfishness or say, “That is evil, I must get rid of it.” No, learn from it. All life coming down to a centre, a single centre, is the energy of the Infinite imploding upon itself to become this supremely dense and ultimate material manifestation.
This is a fact in the whole cosmos, what scientists have called the black holes in space for example. And what happens afterwards? First consider what happens with the black hole. Light itself cannot move out of that confinement because the gravitation, the gravity, the density, in Sanskrit tamas, darkness, is so powerful that light itself cannot escape. That’s why we call it a black hole, we can’t see what’s happening. But this tremendous condensation or concentration is the very thing that ultimately explodes and becomes a galaxy, becomes a universe. So you see the great movement of the Infinite from the infinitely large to the infinitely small and back again into the infinitely large. So the infinitely small, the very dense, the utterly self-centred must not be despised. The utterly self-centred becomes invisible like the black hole in space. Light can’t come out of it. We restore ourselves to our true relationship by understanding this self-centredness. If you understand it then the extreme concentration into materiality changes, and thereby you are Man, not otherwise.
The sound of that stream is a mantra, a spell, a word of power. The sound of the stream you can hear, the sound of the wind when it blows hard through the trees you can hear, the sound of this rock you cannot hear. But touch this rock. This rock is me, is like me, I am like it. That stream is like me, I am like it. The air, the light, what we call empty space, they are all combined in Man, the little cosmos. And every one of them is a thing of power, a note of power in the great symphony of life.
So let the mind be very, very quiet, and you will become sensitive to these things. Remember, this is not just letting your imagination run riot. Do be very careful, not just imagination going wild, it has to be a sensitivity with the mind perfectly quiet. The image-making faculty, imagination, has stopped making useless fantasies and when it stops making untrue, useless fantasies, then the reality of everything becomes clear. That is why silence is necessary all the time, so that this awareness of the unity grows and grows. It is most important. This, then, is not different from that. If I hurt the rock, if I cut down the tree, I am hurting and cutting down myself. If we can bear that in mind, then we shall do the least possible harm while we are alive in this world. Nature can teach us all these things. Let’s continue our walk meditatively.
A walk like this is a wonderful opportunity for developing the power of the right kind of concentration of mind. Be completely attentive to this, which is here, to the fact that this living body is walking through here. You will find the flow of thought in your mind, in your brain, all sorts of memories, all sorts of associated ideas are called up. They are disturbances, they are like an audience which starts talking or clapping or humming to itself whilst the music is going on and disturbing the music. Be completely attentive to this, just this. And it is not only solid, liquid or gaseous, it is all these which the senses convey to us, and a lot more, and that lot more will somehow slowly filter through because the dormant, the sleeping power of the mind to be sensitive and respond to these forces will have a chance of gradually awakening and growing without any imaginative pictures about it. So we watch the fact that this thing keeps talking all the time. You hear the stream and it might remind you of the Pastoral Symphony, second movement! No, don’t let the mind wander, if it wanders, just notice, “Oh, the mind is wandering.” Just notice and be intensely attentive to the rock, to the living plant, to the water, to the light, everything, intensely attentive NOW. I’ll be dealing with this in our talk probably tomorrow in the afternoon.
We can only have short walks like this but, whenever you get the opportunity, especially on a brilliantly sunny day when the sky is quite clear, walk right up till you come to a path moving to the right here, we’ll come to it, and go a little way up that, and you will gradually see the entire circle of mountains around you. It’s a magnificent sight, I expect most of you know it already. Just sit quietly there and become one with the whole of Nature around you. The power and strength which is symbolised in all the mountains, in their solidity and in the way the peaks rise up pointing to infinity, is the kind of strength that is in us too in our own spirits.
Now, the mountain is fixed, is rigid. You get the blade of grass, it is utterly resilient, it is not rigid, it yields to every movement. The tree is a little stronger, but if a storm rises and the tree falls, all the blade of grass does is that, and when the storm is over the blade of grass comes up again. But the tree has fallen. And through the ages, because of wind and rain and ice and its expansion, the mountain slowly breaks. So you see what strength means, what real power means. The strength of Nature never fights against any part of itself. It just responds exactly according to the forces at play. Now that is real strength, the power to be resilient. If the wind blows, then all right, and then up. In that there is extraordinary power. We have to be firm as a rock where truth is concerned, note, not merely right and wrong because those are concepts in our mind which continuously change through the ages. What we thought right five centuries ago we don’t quite think is right now, it’s different according to circumstances. Such ideas change. But right and wrong or truth as regards the reality of our being and our growth is something firm for us like the mountains. Firm as a rock, then, where that is concerned. Give way to others in everything that does not matter so much, like the grass, and you will produce harmony far more easily than by trying to change the other person. It is very difficult but very important. But we can do it if we are like the blade of grass where our human relationships are concerned, firm as a rock where our loyalty to truth is concerned. When you walk meditatively like this, you become conscious of the way in which the forces of life work, and you get into tune with them, otherwise, ignorant of the way in which the forces of life, of the whole world work, we struggle and break ourselves in the process. And this produces unnecessary sorrow. But you have to become conscious of this. I think all of you were present yesterday evening at the talk and I mentioned this point. I just mentioned it in passing that we cause a lot of unnecessary sorrow in life by being rigid like the rock in the wrong situation. And that is because we are the slaves of our desires, our beliefs, our ideas. We don’t leave room for everything else.
Now I think we had better start walking back. And when you find a lovely cloudless day, go by yourself or with just one or two friends to a point where you can see the whole and just become one with it, and remain silent. That’s important, very, very important. It’s the supremely important thing in the discipline of the religious life, not only to keep your mouth shut (that is the kindergarten stage, to keep your mouth shut and not chatter), but this. Remember Jesus’s words “Watch and pray.” What is he asking you to watch? The dance in the dance hall? Watch this, what’s happening here right and day. And then, being in communion comes about. The Buddha said sammā sati, perfect mindfulness, perfect watchfulness, and sammā samādhi, perfect communion. So you see, there is nothing like our own body, the little cosmos, and like Nature, the big cosmos, to be our true teacher.