2 October 2009

WHAT IS TRUE DETACHMENT?


Living in the World of Light and Truth


The Theosophical Movement

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Reproduced from the February
2003 edition of  the monthly
magazine “The Theosophical
Movement”, Mumbai, India.
Original title: “True Detachment”.

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“Be in the world but not of the world.”

For all student-practitioners of the Wisdom-Religion, the above words are very important and significant. Theosophy exists today to enable men and women to live in the world, but above and beyond the ways of the world. Theosophy condemns the idea of running away from the world, neglecting all duties and obligations, in the belief that thus one may be free from the yoke of karma. Such a selfish choice can never bring true spiritual freedom. Theosophy always emphasizes the right performance of every duty, to be free from the subjection of the lower, personal consciousness and kamic propensities; for this alone can free one from the bondage of personal existence. Otherwise, as soon as one returns to the world from his seclusion he would have to face again the enemies within and without. So it is best to live wherever and however one happens to be situated, follow the true precepts of the ageless wisdom, and fulfil one's responsibilities to the best of one's ability.

St. Paul advised his followers to "come out from among them and be...separate." This does not mean a sense of superiority over others, nor isolation from them; it rather implies the giving up of a mode of thinking and of living which is world-oriented.  “The Voice of the Silence” teaches us: "Give up thy life, if thou would'st live."  One has to change completely one's mode, one's attitude, one's way of life, and adapt oneself to the spiritual precepts given by all the great Teachers down the ages. Living in the world but not being of the world means becoming thoroughly detached from the lower self and living more and more in communion with the Divine Parent, the Higher Self, the ray of the Supreme Self. The lower self has to become a perfect instrument, a proper channel for the work of the Spirit within, for then only can it become the friend of the Higher Self and the conflict between the two will stop. What higher Lord can there be to give true guidance, solace and comfort?

It is essential to kill out all sense of separateness through a right understanding of the unity of the One Life, so naturally we look upon a criminal, a drunkard, or a wicked person as an unfortunate brother; but brotherliness does not mean that one has to follow their habits. Similarly, a priest with his rituals and ceremonies, and a rank materialist denying spirit and soul in man, though brothers, are entirely opposed in their ideas. Similarity of aim, purpose and teaching is the necessary basis for the formation of a true brotherhood of those who live in the world yet are not of the world.

An excellent exemplar of such an attitude to life was King Janaka, who, though outwardly engaged in the affairs of State, was so detached from the worldly ways that he could lead the spiritual life of a Rajarishi. "He too, while in the world, was not of the world." (See U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 12, pp. 5-6)

“The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real.” So the beginning must be with the mind. It can enable one to go forward or backward, to be constructive or destructive, to do good or evil, etc. The seeds of Karma are generated in the mind, peace and war start in the mind. Therefore in the human kingdom it occupies an important position. The gift of mind was given to mindless men by the mind-born sons of Brahma in order that human beings may become divine beings, fully illuminated and enlightened, with hearts open to the suffering of others. The roots of suffering are in trishna-tanha, thirst for personal existence. When that is put out, the mind can occupy its own place in the human constitution, and with the divine light of Buddhi can become a power by itself.

Emerson says: "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." It is usual with the majority of people to live after the world's opinion, whether it be right or wrong, without any serious thinking or positive choices, just behaving like a flock of sheep. So one has to question the why and wherefore of any step and then make a decision. It is also easy to be in solitude and lead a quiet life according to one's own ideas. The difficulty comes when one lives in the world, amidst pleasure and pain, tests and trials, contacting other human beings, facing conflicts, disturbances of one kind or another, and yet keeping perfectly calm and independent. Then it is that we live in the world but are not of the world. Where is the merit in keeping calm and peaceful in solitude? When everything is pleasant, it is easy to stay happy, but one has to be of good cheer in spite of the difficulties in the way.

This earth is known as the Hall of Sorrow and also as the Hall of Ignorance. It is in such a world that one is born, lives and dies. Herein are laid the traps to ensnare one's Ego by various types of delusions, the chief of which is the sense of separateness; therefore it is also known as the Hall of Ignorance. People are not aware of the true nature of the Ego and of the human constitution, and therefore they do not distinguish between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the transitory, the immortal and the mortal. Thus moves the wheel of life from the cradle to the grave, man ever following impulses from without instead of following the true guidance from within in accordance with the principles of the divine Instructors. Through deliberate ideation and action, the Hall of Sorrow can be transformed into the Hall of Joy, and the Hall of Ignorance into the Hall of Wisdom. These are states of consciousness to a higher level, advancing step by step to the snow-capped mount of purity eternal. This cannot be done overnight, the great task is to be performed steadfastly and diligently through sustained daily efforts, and therefore are patience and perseverance so essential for the spiritual aspirant. This is what is meant by living in the world without being of the world.

To help nature and work on with her, understanding her great laws—the law of cause and effect, the law of cycles, the law of unity and harmony, the law of necessity—means to live in the world yet not be of the world. To rise above the pairs of opposites—success and failure, love and hate, heat and cold, pain and pleasure—and keep oneself equipoised, well balanced, is not to be of the world, though living in it.

Each one at his own stage, in his own circumstances, with his own make-up, physical, mental, moral, spiritual, can come out and leave behind this world of darkness and try to live in the world of light and truth, of wisdom and compassion, of peace and joy.


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“The Theosophical Movement” is published by associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists.  It is one of the two existing monthly international magazines in the theosophical movement nowadays. Its entire collection can be seen at the website www.ultindia.org/current_issues.html.

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