Earth Meditation: Meditative Walking
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, Hampshire on 15th June 1976
Meditation essentially means being in communion, in the state of the supreme togetherness. This is the fundamental, the real, the all-inclusive meaning of the word samādhi. It has usually been translated as concentration, but to translate it as concentration is a little bit misleading. Concentration in this context means that the whole of you is completely self-collected and in complete harmony with the total self which is the total universe. In that sense you are concentrated, but only in that sense, not in the sense of paying exclusive attention to any one particular point or subject or whatever it may be, because there you are still confined to the realm of the finite and the particular, and everything that is finite and particular is mortal. It comes into being, it makes its passage through time and it dies. But samādhi is the timeless state. This communion, this supreme togetherness, is timelessness realized here and now through every single moment in time. This is the great mystery. You are aware in terms of timelessness but the organism functions thus in terms of movement through time. The astonishing part of this process is that, during this state of supreme samādhi, there is no decay taking place in the organism. That is the difference. But that lasts only for a certain while because the organism cannot defy the laws of nature and continue perpetually through time and space as a finite organism. Anything finite has to disrupt sometime or other.
So now, meditation means being in that state of communion in the supreme sense. And it implies most importantly the emptying of the content of the mind. Why? Because the content of the mind simply is a collection of mental constructs, and all constructs, howsoever sublime or wonderful, are themselves finite and particular. As such, they belong to the realm of mortality, and, as such, belong to the realm of that which is obstructive to the timeless, the infinite, the immortal. So, it is the dissolution of these, the quietening down of these. It becomes the whole mind which, in the ordinary way, is like a muddied stream. It becomes a perfectly pellucid stream. It is a pellucid stream which is moving through time and space in terms of an integrated space-time consciousness, in harmony with the stream of life eternal. This is what meditation really implies and means. This is the climactic point of all religious disciplines, of all spiritual realization, of all complete and utter human fulfilment, the Nirvana here-now. The literal meaning of the world Nirvana is extinction, that is its first meaning. But it means the extinction of all that obstructs the inextinguishable, and that is our particular, finite, limited mortal thoughts, feelings, ideas, states of mind, desires, everything that has a particular manifestation. These things could not be said at all, had they not been realized, become real, made real, by living human beings, the great spiritual teachers. And that is our most supreme and most precious heritage, and it is that which we can treasure, the spirit of it. Do not bother about the words too much. Here is a set of words which, if they inspire you, you can muse upon when you are by yourself.
In the ordinary way the time sense is associated with space, space in the sense of a limited locality, not in space in its infinitude. When this timeless condition is realized, is being experienced in immediate awareness, as such, then you are functioning in the real integrated space-time. This old teaching about the infinity of space and time was not very happily presented as separate stages, infinity of space, ākāśa, and then the infinity of consciousness, because consciousness is tied up with time and emerges after bondage to time into timelessness. It was spoken of in separate terms. It is an integrated unity, this space-time consciousness, and it is a curious thing that, at the beginning of this century, Einstein presenting his special theory of relativity brought out this space-time integration concept through sheer mathematical and scientific genius. He penetrated, without being able to form pictures of it, concepts of it, through the right utilization of pure symbols, which means functioning in the realm of pure mind, into this inmost reality, and it has made all the difference from 1905 onwards to our conception of the fundamental nature of things. This fundamental nature of things and the understanding of it has come so close now to the profound truths which were presented partly in Upaniṣadic terms and largely in terms of Mahayāna Buddhism, so many centuries ago. (In Mahayāna Buddhism these great teachings were presented eighteen or nineteen centuries ago). We live in a wonderful world. Our modes of meditation also must necessarily introduce the newness, the creative renewal which should characterize our present age and our present stage. This is where we make a little mistake if we just hark back to the age-old set-down lines. We start with them, of course, we must understand them, thoroughly know them, and then, if we thoroughly know them and they have become simple enough for us, we transcend them and are able to enter into the new. This is how mankind progresses in any and every sphere of life, isn’t that so? It is the simple fact of how mankind progresses, otherwise there is no meaning to the word progress, no real worthwhile meaning.
What can we do as a group here and now immediately? We can try out certain little things. Most of you know what I have called the Earth Meditation. It is a simple way of unifying our idea of time and space and extending it, making it inclusive. Don’t imagine for a moment that when we practise this we shall all sort of fly off into celestial realms of integrated space-time! Nothing of the sort! Let us just practise this and get the feel of this inclusiveness, and see how it affects the whole psycho-physical organism.
So, let us start. Let the body be comfortable, not slack, but free of strains and stresses, and let your breathing be just quite easy. … Now be aware of the fact that each one of us (I’ll use the term “I”), that I am in this room. Be conscious of this body-mind organism. Let the rhythm of the breath affect the body in a happy way so that the whole body feels peaceful, feels alive, calmly alive, not restless, just calmly alive, but so happily alive that one says, “It is good to be alive.” …
Now be aware of the fact that there are forty-two people here present. We are all one group. In mind and consciousness I don’t come to the end of my universe with my own skin, but in mind and consciousness I can hold all of you in a single awareness of a unitary whole. Now in this unitary whole all antagonisms sink into nothing, in actual fact are resolved into right relationship. We must not picture this right relationship, just hold the idea of right relationship pervading all of us here. We are a unity, a great organism instead of the little organism which is oneself. There is nothing sentimental about it, nothing emotional, nor is there a cold impotent thought, nor a disturbing hot feeling, but a comfortable, warm feeling conducive to life in terms of wholeness. Let the breath rhythm embody that for each one of you and make it spread through the body and include everybody. This is what we are doing at this moment here, at this time of the day, nearing five o’clock. Let your imagination carry you right along the longitude in which we live from the North Pole to the South Pole in this half of the world, with the different people doing similar things and different things, having tea, talking, etc., at this moment all along this longitude. And in imagination (you will need some time over this), go eastwards where time is further on. They will be having supper perhaps, they will be going to theatres or discussing business or whatever it is. See this great arc of life from our longitude steadily sweep round the globe, the regions of midnight, of the small hours of the morning, of five o’clock on the opposite side of the globe in the morning. Gradually see that you are sweeping round and coming back to where we are. Hold it in your imagination and see that all mankind at this single moment is thinking, feeling, speaking, doing all the things that characterize the life activity of man in every different place. There is war, horror, destruction, scheming, machinations, there is kindness and courtesy and the work of healing and constructing and so on; everything is taking place simultaneously now. In this single moment of the planet’s life, everything that happens in this life of mankind during twenty-four hours is taking place now. Get the feel of that now in the here, the here being the planet, not just this room in Park Place. Get the feel of it. … Let the mind see clearly how unhappily man pursues the wrong things, how few there are who have true vision, who have inner poise and skill of hand, cool judgement of the head and the warm, healing compassion of the heart. It is these things which can heal individuals and mankind. Just feel it all at once now. The whole Earth in a single instant is equal to all mankind’s twenty-four hours. … So get the feel of living relationships. It is these living relationships as they are which have to be cherished, fostered, loved, understood and healed, made whole, holy. … If you can feel this and understand it with intensity you will experience even here now a certain freedom in inner consciousness from the limitations imposed by space and time and by confinement to the drive of desire, the drive of pleasure, the cloying fear and anxiety which overcomes us and so on. My life, your life, mankind’s life are all one universal life in reality, however disparate they may appear to the superficial glance.
And if oneself is in a state of calm now, come back quietly to where we are at Park Place. And maintain this state of mind which you have entered into because this is our limited expression and experiencing of a state of wholeness, and to that extent it is a holiness, despite our knowledge of the deficiencies and defilements that lie within us. Now try and preserve this state as we go out.
But before we go out, there is one little point we might emphasize. If we can maintain this state of mind, we might associate our meditative walking with the idea of an exercise in freedom from greed, from lust, which is perhaps one of the fundamental ills of the mind, lust for possessions, power, security, lust for God, for perfection, for Nirvana, and all the rest of it. Just to illustrate how universal all this teaching is, I am just going to read a few words from Clement of Alexandria’s Stormata:
“The divine law trains men specially to self-restraint, laying this as the foundation of the virtues. If then we are to exercise control over the belly and what is below the belly, it is clear that we are to check lust by the law.” (Remember that this is ancient formulation, the beginning of the Christian era). “And this will be completely effected if we unfeignedly condemn what is the fuel of lust, I mean pleasure.”
That is what Clement wrote. It is a remarkable thing that he used the word fuel, the fuel of lust, a word which you find frequently in the Buddhist texts. “This is the fuel for so-and-so.” And just one other sentence:
“The Gnostic, the knowing one, is firm, not alone, so as not to be corrupted, but so as not to be tempted. For he never exposes his soul to submission or capture at the hands of pleasure or pain.”
After this talk Phiroz led the group into the grounds for meditative walking