A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Elmau, Bavaria on 21st September 1975
It has been thought by the people of our own day and age that human beings in the past, in the very dim distant past, as well as people who have flourished during, say, the last six thousand years, were a backward, primitive, ignorant people. But thanks to the researches that have gone on during the last two centuries or so, we are discovering in increasing measure that people in past ages were not so ignorant or foolish, incapable or uncivilised as we have tended to think they were. We are discovering, as indeed we have been discovering for well over a hundred years, the wonderful monuments that those people have left behind them, in the arts of civilisation, and in the institutions that flourished in their day, the kind of social or political order they had, and the sense of at-one-ment and close connection, at least, with nature and the great forces of nature, which to them represented the power of spiritual entities. They have left behind them much art, poetry, a certain amount of music and wonderful sculpture and architecture. Through the ages, then, man has developed along these lines in the most extraordinary way, and he has gained considerable control over the forces of nature, and he has utilized these forces to serve his own purposes. But great as has been the advance, although we have seen great mountain peaks, so to say, solitary, distant, magnificent, in the world of music and poetry, and in the spiritual world too, wonderful as all that has been, we have won it at a terrible cost.
In spite of it all man today is still unhappy, he is groping, he is trying to understand the meaning and purpose of his existence, and how he can best fulfil it. And the pathetic part of the story of his achievements is that so many of his great discoveries and achievements have been turned to the destruction of his fellow men. There is no kingdom in nature in which such deliberate cruelty of some of its members upon other members has been practised as in the human kingdom, no other kingdom where such exploitation of one member by another has taken place. It is man who has done that, and he is perplexed, he is confused, he is frightened today, because now, having once broken through into the secrets of the atomic world, he possesses in his hands the power for destruction which absolutely terrifies him, and naturally so. There is no one in the world who can be trusted not to make some awful mistake someday, and let loose a flood of destruction upon the whole human race, out of stupidity, out of the passion to satisfy his power lust, or out of fear for his own safety by using a weapon of destruction which would engulf practically all mankind. And in our own day, therefore, we find many people concerned with the great problem of why this has come about. They want to understand what are the forces, or the conditions, which have brought this state of things into being. Unfortunately the greater part of these people who are seriously concerned have the tendency to look outwards to circumstances, to institutions, to systems, political, economic, social and so on. Very few have the intelligence and still fewer have the courage to look for the real origin of the forces of destruction, which in fact is also the source for the forces of construction. Both our damnation and our salvation come from within ourselves. We must face this fact. It is our personal responsibility and it is the responsibility of each and every single human being on the face of the globe to look within himself and see how he desires, feels, thinks, plans and then acts.
Now, the difficult part of the situation is just this. Each individual is a free being inside himself. Also each being is a secret being inside himself. If you look at a person sitting quietly you don’t know what’s going on in his mind. You meet a person, you don’t know what his real desires and motivations are. He is unpredictable. It is only the Perfected Holy Ones who can see inside a person’s mind and heart. But for us every person’s mind and heart is a closed book. It is a castle that cannot be invaded. At the same time it is a sanctuary of the Supreme which should not be invaded, but it should be understood and loved and reverenced. Now this is the difficulty of the situation, that each one of us in a sense is a complete island to himself in an ocean of mankind. And there is another point, no good can be realized by attempting to control another person, or to compel him, to try to compel him, to do the right thing. That is utterly futile, it has been tried again and again the world over throughout history with terrible suffering to mankind, and no good has ever come out of it. We today have to wake up to the supreme fact that each one of us is self-responsible, it is our self-responsibility to enquire, to discover the trend of life, to have a vision of a purpose of our existence, a purpose which does not reflect our petty little desires and conflicts and fears and stupidities, but a purpose which is in line with the movement of life itself. And life is the Totality. And if we don’t wake up to this, life will just finally wipe the slate clean.
What happened to the dinosaurs? After 150 million years on the globe, because they were unable to advance in rhythm, in step with the life urge and the trends of life, they just perished. What happens to the primitive tribes that exist on the globe today? If and when they are unable to be in step with the purposes of life, they just fade away. Now I mentioned dinosaurs and I mentioned human tribes, for one reason specially. It is difficult to conceive of dinosaurs being aware of their own spiritual reality. They do not know that, they are unawake to such a thing. They know organic existence, physical organic existence, but we have developed and grown in such a way that a whole new world of the spirit and of the mind has opened up. A whole universe has come into being inside ourselves. This spiritual universe is not out there, it’s in here, in one’s own brain, in one’s own heart. This is what we must well realize. It is not outside of us, it is within us, but insofar as it is within ourselves (and this is one of the great mysteries) it includes that which we ordinarily call the outside. We have therefore to wake up to this, and wake up to this selfresponsibly. We cannot be compelled, we cannot compel any other person. Each one has to wake up to this fact. This is the meaning of our religiousness, this something which awakes and knows that this organism which is here, like the dinosaurs, or the apes or any other species, this organism is not all. This organism is the vehicle for something which has emerged out of it, because of its natural evolution in the first instance, and its cultural development in the second instance, and it is something which utterly transcends all the limitations which are inherent in any one particular living creature. We have to acknowledge this Transcendence therefore, acknowledge it and completely give ourselves to it. That is to say this vehicle, this organic vehicle, which is an animal body, has to learn to live not merely in line with the laws which apply to our animal existence, our physical existence, but with the laws of the spirit. Now the law of our animal existence is that we draw the world to ourselves in order to continue to live. But the law of the mind and the spirit is that whatsoever there is within me is not grasped and kept within me for myself or for my purposes, but that it is given out to the entire world. So you see the forces of life as they play, incoming in order that oneself may continue to exist, and then outgoing in order that oneself may fulfil the purpose of one’s existence. Release this religiousness into full fruition and thereby let humanity become true humanity.
This, it seems to me, is how we have to try and approach and understand the world’s situation and our own personal situation. We cannot deal with the world’s situation by tackling world affairs, it’s quite impossible. It has been tried through the ages, they have altered political systems, they have altered economic systems, they have done this, they have done the other, they have blamed this condition and situation, they have blamed that person and this authority and so forth. They have never had the truthfulness, the simplicity, the humility, the beauty of acknowledging that I myself am the source of the world’s evil, just as I myself am and can be, even more than ever, the source of the world’s good. This is very important.
So we have to tackle ourselves all the time. And this is the practical aspect of religion in its deepest and purest sense. The glory of God shines through you. God is not concerned with his glory, he knows of course, ‘I am glorious’; but that glory has to manifest in the world. How? Through that which is created by that divine creative power, and which is growing and coming to fruition and fulfilment. Look at the marvellous fulfilment of this glory in terms of nature, and we who are here find it impossible to deny it, just look at the beauty of this place. Rest in it, swim in it, and know the exaltation, the supreme exaltation of the realization that within oneself is divinity embodied, just as the mountains and the streams and the trees and the very clear mountain air and the sunshine and the clouds and thunderstorms are also all the manifestations of this one Supreme Transcendent Reality, in perfection there but in imperfection in me. I am the only imperfect thing on this planet. Everything else is wonderful and beautiful. It is wonderful and beautiful unconsciously, it is the purpose of life that it shall become wonderful and beautiful through me, a human being, fully awake, fully conscious, naturally co-operating with the divine purpose.
Now, how is it that with all this wonderful heritage of the past in so many directions and in so many ways, with all that man has been able to, as he says, achieve, we are still in this terrible condition? What’s gone wrong inside us? This is the question which we must explore, and explore with an open mind, explore very courageously. You all know the most difficult thing in the world is to face one’s own soul, and acknowledge the truth of what one sees there with clear eyes, with healthy eyes which see truly. This requires courage. And this courage to face your own soul is the human expression and meaning of that phrase which you find in the great religions of the world, ‘the fear of the Lord.’ It’s a strange paradox that this courage with which you face your own soul is identical with ‘the fear of the Lord’. This fear is not fright, the fright of a coward running away, it’s not that, this fear is a sense of apprehension that something extraordinarily wonderful is going to come into being, and you are thrilling with a kind of a nervousness, a healthy nervousness, not an unhealthy nervousness. That thrill is ‘the fear of the Lord’, and that thrill is experienced by human beings sometimes in terms of the fear of the consummation of union. In the supreme ultimate fulfilment of love, that fear is felt, that is the ‘fear of the Lord’. And this ‘fear of the Lord’, the Transcendent, is the courage with which we must face our own souls. So; let us be free of our preconceptions and our assumptions, our prejudices and our biases, and just try and penetrate into the essential points concerned here.
At this morning’s meeting we touched upon the hindrances to meditation, that is, the hindrances to the state of communion, which is the natural, or rather will be a natural, spontaneous state in which mankind can find itself. Now how did these hindrances come into being? Let us consider carefully what happens to this physical organism which we call Man after birth. The psycho-physical organism receives impressions, stimuli from outside, objects which are seen, sounds which are heard, touches which are felt, tastes and smells and so on. Now nature which has made this physical organism, (first it grows inside the mother’s body and then after birth we directly experience all these things), nature which has made this organism has supplied a very remarkable mechanism, the pleasure-pain mechanism of the body. Every impression we receive, every stimulus, every sensation, if it is an agreeable sensation, it is healthy. If it is a disagreeable sensation it is likely to be unhealthy, and if it is too disagreeable, too painful, it can kill, destroy the organism. So the body is endowed with this pleasure-pain mechanism, which acts as a compass for physical growth. Like a compass used by a sailor, this pleasure-pain mechanism is our means of knowing that the growth of the body is moving in the right direction. A pleasurable sensation comes, it is over, an unpleasurable sensation comes and then that is over. The tendency of the body, the instinctive tendency is to say ‘Yes’ to the pleasurable sensation, and to beware of the unpleasurable sensation, that is to say, to beware of the source from which the unpleasurable sensation comes, otherwise if it becomes too painful we will die. Now, with us human beings because we are psycho-physical organisms there is a psychological counterpart to the pure pleasure-pain nervous sensation of the body. The pleasurable nervous sensation of the body raises up in the mind the feeling of ‘Oh, I like this’. Having said, ‘I like this’, the person goes a step further, and says, ‘Oh, I would like to experience that again, it is nice, it is pleasant’, he gets attached to that kind of experience, to that kind of sensation. Take the opposite case, an unpleasurable sensation, ‘I don’t like it, I dislike it, I am against it, I shall get rid of it, or I shall destroy the source from which the unpleasant sensation comes. I’ll break it up.’ So you see what happens. ‘I like it’ — and there is attachment. The moment there is attachment and the desire for repetition of the pleasant thing, there is greed, there is grasping, and I am bound to this, I am a slave to it. Take the opposite case. When I react against the unpleasurable situation and would like to destroy the source of the unpleasurable, there is resentment, anger, hate, destructiveness, aversion. So on the one hand there grows attachment, on the other hand there grows aversion, and with that situation there grows in the growing child preferential choice, to prefer this to the other, because he likes it.
Now this is the root of our bondage. On the one hand the liking produces craving, and when there is craving you become the slave of what you crave for. And where there is disliking and aversion you become destructive, hating what causes you displeasure. So there is conflict within oneself. And you see what happens with craving, there is that lovely Japanese saying, ‘First a man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.’ And you see what the consequences are. Now this is exactly what happens with us, with our cravings. This force of craving grows and grows, and on the other hand this aversion and this destructiveness, this hate and resentment, all that also grows. Now comes in a very important point. This is confined to pure organic existence. I am just an animal, and I am now a bad animal, not a good animal, because I’ve got a brain unfortunately, as compared with the animal. The animal responds, reacts just more or less instinctively and automatically, but I can think and plan and exercise domination over circumstance, which the animal can’t. The animal can only adapt himself up to a point to the environment. I can adapt myself to a very great extent to the environment and, over and above, I can dominate my environment. So you see, I live and grow as a bad animal, or shall I put it the other way, as a sub-human creature in relation to my environment, I am not in tune with it. I am out of harmony with it. So I am constantly attempting to dominate my environment, and my environment contains human beings, each one of whom is like me. Now we see the root source of our conflicts.
Now comes another point, not only are we confined to our sub-human, bad animal, bestial side, not the good animal, but, because we live in social groups, we are under restriction, in order that the social unit may be preserved and continue to live. There are restrictive laws always in society. There have to be, you can’t get away from it, if society is to live as society under the conditions of our present development of true intelligence and our religiousness. So these laws are there, and what does a man do? He tries to discover ways and means of circumventing the law, to do what he wants to do because he likes it, because it satisfies his lust for pleasure, for possessions, for power, and not pay the penalty for it. We all do that. How do we approach the filling up of tax forms, income tax? How do we carry on business, how do we do anything, and above all how do we function in terms of international relationships, always trying to get the best out of the other person, instead of coming to a mutual agreement as human beings who love and respect and reverence each other’s humanity? There is this grasping, this passion to dominate.
So, we have the imposed laws and in addition there is an imposed culture. ‘It is not right to do this or that but it is right to do that and that’. Now you see when this is imposed upon the child there isn’t sufficient understanding on the part of the child or the adolescent or the adult as to how and why there should be such laws. So he is everlastingly in this sub-human state fighting against the entire situation. And my confusion, my conflict, my frustrations, my passion to dominate and so forth, are throwing out into the world forces of disharmony all the time. I am the source of the world’s disharmony because I am in disharmony myself, because I am self-centred. Now this is one of the most important things we must see. We must see it, we must fully acknowledge it, to ourselves, we don’t need to acknowledge it to anyone else, we must acknowledge it fully to ourselves and seek the means of release from the bondage we have imposed on ourselves. No one else can come and untie the ropes which bind us fast. Why? The ropes are inside ourselves. If somebody binds you bodily, another person can untie those ropes. But the bondages which are inside ourselves are absolutely our own world, no one can enter there. Another person may give you affection, sympathy, understanding, comfort and so forth, that can help, of course it can help, it can more than help it can inspire you, but the actual untying of the ropes which bind me inside myself has to be done by me, just as the food which I eat can be digested only by me, it cannot be digested by somebody else on my behalf.
Now this is where the difficulty comes. Where do our misery, our sorrow, our joy, our confusion and our clear vision, where do they all arise? In the mind. Man means a creature of mind, he is the Son of Man, the Son of Mind. It arises in the mind, and the mind is our withinness, not outside us, it is our withinness which we call mind. Now what is the instrument of salvation of the mind? The instrument which is our supreme power of salvation is our mindfulness, our attentiveness, to be awake, alert, watchful of what happens inside the mind. Watch every single reaction to every single stimulus. Watch every single mood, every feeling, every thought. When we study, when we talk with others, observe carefully how we study, how we talk. I will give you a personal example of the difficulty involved. Like a great many other children, when I was a little child I had implicit trust in what my mother or my father told me. I believed that was gospel truth. And that attitude also entered my life as a student. If I read anything I believed that what was in the book was gospel truth, absolute truth. A child’s mind is like that, an adolescent’s mind is also like that, and in many cases even the adult and the old are like that still. ‘Oh, it was in the papers, therefore it must be true’. Now, we have to grow out of this state where we do not observe — fulfil our self-responsibility to examine what is there. Keep an open mind and examine it. So our attentiveness must be directed in such a manner that we really see the fact of the situation undistorted by our conditioning, our biases, our prejudices, our preconceptions and our assumptions. You will discover, as you grow in your mind and as you grow spiritually, that there is not a single preconception or assumption, and certainly not a prejudice or a bias, which has any warrant in terms of a final truth — none whatever. They all dissolve away, ephemeral shapes coloured by imagination, poisoned by all the ill forces in us, of greed, of hate, of delusion, of ambition, of jealousy of self-ness, of self-centredness, self-concernedness. None of these have any warrant in truth. And if we pay attention that way constantly, as Jesus said, ‘Watch and pray’, as the Buddha said, ‘sammā satī’, perfect mindfulness, and ‘sammā samādhi’, perfect communion, if we do it that way then you will experience something quite extraordinary. You will discover that the mind is a creative energy inside yourself which, if allowed to function healthily and purely is constantly throwing out ideas and thoughts, that the ideas and thoughts are not the truth. The truth is that you are a creative power, a creative source, and the mind if pure is constantly throwing out thoughts, ideas and so forth. And the pure mind never holds to the thought, to the idea, to the ideal even, because all these are temporary shapes in time and space. It is the mind’s business continually to throw out these things. Its inward living life expresses itself by throwing out ideas and ideals and wonderful imaginations and so forth, great and beautiful as they are. But never grasp them, let them go. Something more wonderful keeps emerging all the time, something truer to the reality, so that what we commonly call our mind becomes empty, totally empty. Our doctrines, our dogmas, our fixed beliefs, howsoever they may have been regarded as sacred through the ages, are all mental constructs made by our own limited perception and our limited faculties. Mental constructs are fixtures, they are fixations, and if we cling to those fixations inside the mind, the mind is ill.
What happens if the food that you eat were to remain just that same food, and not undergo the process of transformation, by which there is assimilation into the body through complete transformation, and there is rejection of that part of the food which is not required? You would be ill, and you would get so ill that you would die before long, if the food were to remain just that food. It’s the same with the ideas, and the beliefs and the doctrines, and the convictions and everything. Don’t let them stagnate inside the mind, because that will kill the mind. You see, this is what you will discover if you are really attentive to everything inside. And then you will find that the mind is becoming mature, is becoming healthy, and it remains clean, which means empty of fixed ideas, and, as I said a few moments ago, the mind is constantly producing ideas. But throw them out of the mind, they must go outwards. So you do not cling to these ideas and so forth. What happens then?
I said the mind is empty, I’ll say something else now. The mind becomes utterly transparent, and in this transparency of the mind the light that is within you shines without obstruction, and it is the same as the transcendent light which comes flooding into you, because there is nothing in your mind to act as a block to that light. The divine inspiration flows into you and it undergoes a wonderful change into something unspeakably beautiful, and goes outwards into the world without being stopped by your own mind. And when that happens in this mental life, this inner mental spiritual life, then you are the true human. I mentioned yesterday the meaning of true intelligence. Intelligence is this power of the purified empty mind, this transparent mind, to see the facts exactly as they are. You are not liable to delusion, you are not the producer of illusory imaginative pictures of any sort. This is your spiritual freedom, which is the crown of your spiritual being. Just as with the power of insight, with the purified mind, this pure intelligence is the crown of your mental being. What do you think will happen then in the outer world, in outer life? Every action that you perform will inevitably be the best possible action under the circumstances. You must remember, howsoever pure we may become, howsoever much the Son of Man may realize the truth that he is the Son of God, howsoever much there may be this perfection realized through the purification and through the insight, there are others around who are free beings, and they are free to produce evil.
So, the world atmosphere is charged with this mixture, so to say, of pure influences from you the purified, and the impure influences from those who are still blind, deaf, dumb, incapable where the living of the true human life is concerned. That is why whatever we may do and the more we make ourselves sensitive, the more this will affect us. We are always subject to this pressure of evil in the world upon us. Now, we must not fight against the evil in the world, we have to maintain inward poise. The light from within is unquenchable, it can never be put out, as long as you yourself are pure, completely pure, free of all self-ness. And that way man, the individual man, realizes his true individuality. Starting from childhood, he has to realize true individuality within himself, the microcosmos, the little cosmos, then he is the fully self-contained individual. Individual means that which is not divided and broken up. It is whole, complete, healthy, which means ‘holy’, that is the holy thing. And then comes that other aspect, where you don’t stop at self-consciousness, but you become the complete, true individual in relationship to the entire universe. And that is your real individuality because in you as Man is the possibility (and it has been demonstrated through the centuries by the Holy Ones) of including the whole cosmos within your vision, your understanding, your love, your wisdom and your purity.