Phiroz Mehta: The Buddha taught something remarkably useful: do not cling to life, neither do anything to precipitate death. In other words, don’t behave like a fool! Not clinging to life is not being a fool because when the psycho-physical organism has fulfilled the purpose of its existence, it is the right time for it to change in such a manner that the person, as such, is no longer a recognisable entity; the entity vanishes.
Questioner: But that sounds nihilistic.
PM: It sounds nihilistic, but it is far from nihilistic because in actual fact nothing in the universe can be destroyed, it can only be changed. Supposing you have a wastepaper basket full of paper you don’t want and you burn it. You think you have destroyed it! But you haven’t! As paper it has disappeared, but it has become carbon dioxide, ash, and all sorts of things. Nothing is annihilated.
Everything, the manifested universe itself, is immortal. You cannot kill it off. That is why I think the Upanishadic teachers affirmed that Brahman is the Absolute-all. It’s generally translated as ‘becomes the all’, but I don’t see it that way. Brahman really is the equivalent of this fundamental creative energy, it undergoes change. People ask, ‘Why does this fundamental creative energy undergo change? What makes it change?’ There is nothing external or internal which makes it change. Perhaps one may regard it this way: desiring to know itself, it formulates itself. It is somewhat akin to what we do in our own lives. We have a body which, as a naked body, is a naked body. We wear a morning suit, a lounge suit, an evening suit, a wedding suit and so on. And when the suit is worn out, we cast it off. Similarly, the mental creative energy, this immortal ultimate thing, just casts off the different suits that it wears in terms of universal manifestation. That is how I look at it — I may be wrong!
From an interview with Phiroz Mehta, July 1988
Published in the December 1989 edition of Buddhism Now.