Discourses (Meher Baba)
Discourses, 7th edition, 1987
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Discourses (ISBN 1-880619-09-1) is a book by Meher Baba that has had seven editions since 1939 and is still in print. Next to God Speaks it is considered the second most important of Meher Baba's books by his followers.
The book covers many subjects, both practical and highly esoteric. Some chapters go into the human search for the Truth and God, spiritual advancement, aspirants, various states of God-realized beings, the Avatar and discipleship. Other chapters deal methodically with several aspects of spiritual advancement and the spiritual path, such as the formation and removal of sanskaras (mental impressions), various aspects of meditation, transcending good and evil, and clarify Meher Baba's views on such topics as occultism, reincarnation and maya. Several chapters are discourses on individual subjects such as selfishness, violence, sex, love, happiness and spiritual work. Due to the nature of the Discourses, some topics occur repeatedly in various contexts. Yet the book maintains a methodical flow and structure rather than being a random collection of individual discourses.
The nature of the ego and its termination
The use of the term Ego in the Discourses does not follow the Freudian definition, although generally it refers to the same concept and many parallels can be drawn. Baba makes no mention of the Id or the Super-ego, but only the distinction between the implicit and the explicit ego. The latter finds manifestation in consciousness, whereas the former remains in the subconscious mind. Isolated subconscious tendencies stored in the implicit ego must come to the explicit side to take part in a conscious process. Yet the explicit ego is very intricately organized and has self-protection mechanisms that act as a repressive barrier to subconscious tendencies. Since spiritual progress requires all subconscious tendencies to gradually pass through the conscious part of the mind and become refined and eventually eliminated, the explicit ego has to be weakened, under certain conditions, to permit this to happen.
Evolutionarily, the ego is formed by the inherent nature of living beings to store, integrate and evaluate experience around a central mental point. The organized mental structure of experience eventually takes over the sense of "I" and starts considering itself as the central identity of the individual. This creates various erroneous assumptions from the ego's side, such as identifying itself with the physical body, the psychological functions or the mind of the individual, or endowing external objects and events with values that don't really belong to them but that it projects on them. Generally the ego is the central cause of all mental conflict. Its presence during the evolution of consciousness is of instrumental importance, but from a certain point on it starts acting as a hindrance to the further development of self-consciousness. A lot of spiritual effort has to be made to weaken the ego's dominance on self-consciousness and as the effort moves deeper it becomes increasingly difficult to proceed. The individual can get indefinitely stuck in some stages and therefore help from outside becomes very important. The final emancipation of consciousness from the ego is practically impossible without the intervention of a perfect master or sadguru.
Self-consciousness and the consciousness of the apparent universe do not end after the dissolution of the ego and several chapters of the book are dedicated to the states of consciousness gained by those who have transcended the ego. Also, most chapters of the book get into particular practices for the emancipation of consciousness from the ego, qualities that have to be developed by the individual, and examine important issues that have to be confronted in the process.
The concept of Maya, or the principle of illusion, is not new to oriental philosophy. The concept appears at least as early as the works of Indian philosopher Adi Shankara writing in the 9th century. Meher Baba makes a distinction, however, from the traditional interpretation of Maya as illusion itself, and says that it is that principle that causes one to be deceived into seeing the false as real.
Maya is not illusion; it is the creator of illusion. Maya is not false; it is that which gives false impressions. Maya is not unreal; it is that which makes the real appear unreal and the unreal appear real. Maya is not duality; it is that which causes duality.
Maya does not mean this world and its affairs. The illusion that this world and everything in it is real – and of feeling happy or unhappy over certain conditions – is Maya.
For its spiritual significance, Maya is primarily connected to intellectual misjudgments. But while errors on objective facts (such as the size of an object) can be relatively easily corrected, errors in valuation (such as considering rituals as ends in themselves) are much harder to correct, because they are connected to subjective desires. This second kind of misjudgment leads to false beliefs, which are taken as self-evident and are the hardest to eliminate. From the point of view of the awakening individual, however, Maya disappears completely as consciousness becomes free of its grasp. This awakening from Maya is also termed Mahapralaya, or the final annihilation of the world, since the world is the creation of Maya. This also stands in view of the statement: “The soul in its transcendental state is One, Formless, Eternal and Infinite, yet identifies itself with the phenomenal world of forms, which are many, finite and destructible. This is Maya or the cosmic illusion”.
Meher Baba describes meditation as the path that an individual makes for himself in his effort to get beyond the limitations of the mind. He distinguishes meditation from concentration in that in the former the mind moves from one relevant idea to the other, whereas in the latter there is no movement in the mind, which remains fixed on its object. Meher Baba disqualifies as meditation any other mental process that doesn't have spiritual significance for the subject. However, he accepts philosophical thinking, as a general type of meditation, provided its goal is to grasp the ultimate nature of life and the universe. He also points out that any effort to force the mind during meditation is bound to be spiritually fruitless. Spontaneity and love for the object of meditation are of utmost importance. He considers seclusion and silence as necessary for meditation and states some helpful factors, such as darkness, posture and place, but leaves much room for alternatives (“Even when walking, one may be absorbed in meditation”). In the case of aspirants who are in harmony with each other and when one is not concerned about the other's course of meditation, collective meditation is also possible and can even be helpful for the individual. He warns also that many disturbing thoughts are bound to try to distract the mind from its object and he advises patience and the confidence that they will subside. Any direct effort to repress them, apart from being a waste of psychic energy, is bound to entangle further the mind with the disturbance and therefore strengthen it.
In the relatively long chapter The Types of Meditation, Meher Baba makes very elaborate classifications of the various types of meditation. He makes three different types of classifications: one based on their functionality in spiritual advancement, one according to the predominant part of the personality that is involved in the process and one on the basis of items of experiences pondered.
First classification of meditation
According to the meditation's functionality in spiritual advancement, Meher Baba distinguishes between associative meditation, in which consciousness associates itself with various aspects of the eternal Truth (such as "I am Infinite") and dissociative meditation, where consciousness dissociates itself from illusion (such as "I am not my desires"). In the associative type the synthetic activity of the mind (Anwaya) is involved, while in the dissociative type the analytic activity of the mind (Vyatireka) is at work. Dissociative meditation prepares the way for associative meditation, which is spiritually more fruitful than the former. Translator E.B. Cowell defines anwaya-vyatireka as "affirmative and negative induction," in his edition of Colebrooke's Essays, vol. i., p. 315, note 3.
Second classification of meditation
According to the predominant part of the personality involved in the meditation, Baba distinguishes between "discriminative meditation", where the intellect is predominant and can include both types of the previous system, the "meditation of the heart", where the heart is predominant in a steady flow of love from the aspirant towards the Divine Beloved, and the "meditation of action", where the active nature of man is predominant, in the form of selfless service of the Master or humanity. These three types, although undertaken one at a time, are to be used complementarily, but in such a manner that the one doesn't interfere with the progress of the other.
Third classification of meditation
According to items of experiences involved, two subdivisions are made: general meditation, which aims at the mental assimilation of the Divine Truths (through philosophical thinking, hearing discourses from the Masters, or reading the written expositions of the Masters), and specialized meditation (meditation concerned with the object of experience, meditation concerned with the subject of experience and meditation concerned with mental processes), in which the mind is exclusively concerned with some definite experience it selects. In this system of classification are also mentioned two types of meditation of the Spiritually Perfect: Nirvana (or absorption) and the Nirvikalpa State (or divinity in expression).
In the Discourses, love is mentioned in many forms. Love pervades the universe. The first fundamental force known to have split as an independent principle from the original primordial unity in recent Cosmology is gravity. Baba says that gravity is the reflection of love. All the forces of attraction and of repulsion in every level (from small particles to material objects to living organisms) are expressions of love. In the animal kingdom this love becomes explicit in conscious processes through instinctive drives. The drive to look for nutrition is love. Sex-attraction is love. Actually anything that drives an organism to fulfill a bodily impulse or desire is love.
In the human level, with the development of consciousness, love, although continuous with its lower forms, attains a higher form because of its relation to reason. In the beginning these two factors are in a natural harmony, but the one doesn't have conscious access to the other. Each one operates almost separately from the other. Then comes a stage where reason and love come in rapport and conflict with each other, yet the important factor is that they start coming simultaneously in the conscious sphere. Then comes a third stage where a synthesis of love and reason is achieved to bring an altogether new type of consciousness, best described as superconsciousness.
Obviously the longest part of human development deals with the second phase. Yet from the effort to resolve the conflicts brought about between love and reason there arises spiritual progress. As lower forms of love come in conflict with higher ones, human love is limited by many factors. Lust, greed and anger are limiting factors mentioned in many philosophies. The only hope of breaking these limits is the appearance of a pure form of love, called Divine love. This love can only arise through the grace of spiritual Masters. This is not a momentary event. The Avatar comes to awaken humanity to this higher love. An individual has to develop a conscious longing for this love and has to give up all forms of desires except for the desire to attain it. In human love the duality of the lover and the Beloved persist. In Divine love, lover and Beloved are indivisibly one.
According to Meher Baba, the aim of all beings in creation, in fact the very purpose of creation, is God-realization. A soul is God-realized when it has first traversed evolution, taking each successive form in creation until it achieves full consciousness in the human form (the terminus of physical evolution according to Meher Baba), then has gone through successive lives during reincarnation, and finally, having traversed the inner planes of consciousness during involution, has achieved consciousness of its true original identity as God. This experience of Oneness with God, according to Meher Baba, is not the same as simply a discursive realization of this condition through reading or contemplation, but rather must be fully experienced with the help of a perfect master or sadguru. Thus he emphasized that a man who reads, in Vedanta literature for instance, that he is God and then says that he is God, is in fact a hypocrite, since he does not have this experience. The goal of life, instead, is to achieve this "I am God" state as a permanent and genuine experience. According to Meher Baba this ultimate experience, for which the universe came into being and is continually sustained, cannot be described or talked about, but only lived and directly experienced.
History of the Discourses
The text of the Discourses was originally published serially as essays dictated by Baba on spiritual subjects, intended for inclusion in a monthly periodical titled Meher Baba Journal. The Journal was edited in India and published in New York, and lasted from 1938 to 1943. At the end of each year of publication, the essays by Baba from the Journal were compiled into a single volume, published in India. These compilation printings, over the period from 1939 to 1954, resulted in a five-volume set of books titled Discourses of Meher Baba. As these went out of print, slightly corrected editions were released of each volume. These printings are now collectively referred to as the 1st - 5th editions of the Discourses.
In 1955 an early single volume edition edited by C. B. Purdom titled God to Man and Man to God: The Discourses of Meher Baba was published by Victor Gollancz Ltd, London. This volume keeps the same titles of the discourses as in the original journals, but with significant rearrangement of their order, and includes simplification of sentences and passages to appeal to western readers. This volume was later republished in paperback by Sheriar Foundation in 1975, reprinted 1986.
In the late 1950s, Meher Baba asked his American disciple Don E. Stevens to re-edit the discourses from their original five-volume set, with an eye to improving their readability. The result was released in 1967 as a three-volume set published by Sufism Reoriented known as the sixth edition. The sixth edition of Discourses sold well and received five printings, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, and 1973.
Nearly twenty years after Baba's death, under the supervision of Baba's mandali (close disciples) Eruch Jessawalla and Bal Natu, the discourses were given their final editing and took on their current form in a single volume, published by Sheriar Foundation in 1987 as the seventh edition, which remains in print.
In the 2000s, as a result of a series of board meetings on publication policies, the Avatar Meher Baba Trust decided to additionally re-release the sixth edition, being the last version of the discourses checked and approved by Meher Baba personally. As a result, in 2007 a Revised Sixth Edition - based on the 1973 printing of the sixth edition - was published by Sheriar Foundation as a four-volume set, comprising the three original volumes of the 1967 sixth edition plus an additional volume that includes a history of the Discourses, appendices, bibliography, register of editorial alterations, glossary, and an index.
|1st - 5th editions||Adi K. Irani, Ahmednagar, India||1939 – 1942|
|6th edition||Sufism Reoriented, San Francisco||1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973|
|God to Man and Man to God||Victor Gollancz Ltd., London||1955|
|God to Man and Man to God||Sheriar Foundation, Myrtle Beach||1975, 1986|
|7th edition||Sheriar Foundation, Myrtle Beach||1987|
|Revised 6th edition||Sheriar Foundation, Myrtle Beach||2007|
- Discourses, Meher Baba, 1967, Volume II p. 71 The Nature of the Ego and Its Termination: II
- Discourses, Meher Baba, 1967, Volume II p. 74 The Nature of the Ego and Its Termination: II
- Discourses, Meher Baba, 1967, Volume III p. 155 Maya: IV
- Lord Meher, Bhau Kalchuri, Manifestation, Inc. 1986, p. 1991
- A Short Publication History of the Five-volume Set
- A Short History of God to Man and Man to God
- A Short History of the Sixth Edition
- For the complete history of the discourses of Meher Baba, see: Discourses, Sheriar Foundation, Revised 6th Ed. 2007, Vol. IV, A History of the Discourses. pp. 3-81