Opportunities and Tests in Daily Life
The Theosophical Movement
“How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That hath such people in 't!”
—“The Tempest”, Shakespeare, Act V, Scene 1
It is sometimes true that where a few may fail, the many will succeed. Where efforts are no longer selfish, work done in the company of the like-minded is bound to achieve its results in time. Centres of the United Lodge of Theosophists were established to draw aspiring hearts together, to canalize their efforts along the right lines of endeavour and to bring home to the many the soothing message of the Wisdom-Religion. Theirs is a call to serve, to suffer and to sacrifice. Personal gains have to be discounted in favour of shared by all pure souls equally. Autonomous in its working, each such centre of the one Lodge is meant to serve as an oasis in the arid deserts of a sense-intoxicated world.
What does an Association calling itself the United Lodge of Theosophists seek to achieve? The answer is contained in the "Declaration" which is adopted by all U.L.T. centres the world over. In that document, which is in fact the charter of the Lodge, the work to be done by the associates who have joined together in a common endeavour is thus set forth:
“That work and that end is the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the Philosophy of Theosophy, and the exemplification in practice of those principles, through a truer realization of the SELF, a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood.”
When a Brotherhood of this kind is aimed at, what is it that is implied? Of exactly what relationship between man and man are we to become profoundly convinced? No doubt, the juxtaposition of the two ideas—the one of a truer realization of the Self, the other of a conviction of Universal Brotherhood—provides the clue. But before the intimate connection of both these ideas can be seen, it becomes necessary that we ascertain where even at comparatively lower levels true brotherhood can be seen and practised. What is aimed at is no mere sentimental unity of an hour nor a mere joining together in a brotherhood of convenience. Correct friendship—“satsang”—would be meaningless if vice can claim brotherhood with virtue. Light and darkness cannot be made to merge on any plane though they have their appointed tasks and each exists for the experience of the Soul. But they must be recognized for what they are—as two extreme poles of the same magnet. However, when they are pitted the one against the other, their needs must remain separate and opposing poles. The student dare not equate the shades of darkness with the active forms of day.
In an Association like U.L.T., where each associate is thrown on his own responsibility under the Declaration and the Pledge of association, it is well to consider the limiting and sometimes conflicting atmosphere that each aspirant is likely to bring and which in larger or smaller measure may militate against the knitting of the Lodge into a homogeneous and cohesive whole. All depends on the contribution each one brings as his own offering to the Lodge. This offering may outwardly look specific. In reality, the associate is offering up his own conglomerate self, that strange mixture of good and bad which for the time being constitutes his own diversified make-up. Each aspiring soul longs to be assured that its weaknesses can be kept away and immunized so that they do not weaken the brotherhood nor taint the image of the Lodge. Vain hopes these; but the Lodge exists to take these weaknesses in its stride. With the help of the united many, the failing brother can be lifted out of his personal rut of misery. In the measure that this is achieved or abandoned, is the measure of the innate strength of any Lodge.
It is important that each associate realize that he and his co-associates bring into the group the impact of their personalities. Desires in all their variegated shades will be there—those that are patent as well as those that are unexpressed or supressed. All these have the potency to spread their magnetic influence within the group. Anger will be there; bottled up most of the time yet bursting at the seams in moments of unrestrained passion, and sought to be excused by that term which has all too often become the opiate of the Soul—"righteous anger." Greed will be there too, ready to pounce on somebody's territory, jealous of its own possessions, gloating over its ill-gotten gains. Only the sentimental and the foolish will refuse to see these forces working away among brothers and associates, corroding friendships and undermining unity. It is the presence or absence of these forces which makes the image of the Lodge dark and foreboding and sterile, or light and beneficent and potent.
When an associate comes across a blemish in another associate, he rarely brings to mind the parable of the mote in the eye. His first reaction is often one of revulsion. "How can I call such an one my brother or affirm before the world my close association with him!" To each brother comes a time when he poses this question to himself. He is of course unmindful of the fact that the insidious force of his own latent qualities may have been the influence—unseen, impalpable—which may have pushed his brother over the brink! Then, there is always the human frailty of magnifying another's fault and turning the blind eye to one's own divagations. Leaving considerations of self-righteousness out of the reckoning, the opportunities afforded by such circumstances are unique. Transplanting the same experience to another sphere, we might ask: What should be the attitude of a brother to another who has succumbed to a contagion? Should he disown the relationship? Should he isolate himself and refuse to be near his brother till the latter has regained his health? Is he not entitled to treat him as a leper, a being to be avoided, his company shunned till he comes back to normal health? It is under circumstances such as these which try one's soul that lessons in ethics are imbibed. The same circumstances also present invaluable opportunities for the failing brother. Will he, for instance, get dejected when, instead of sympathy and the helping hand which he expected, he gets the glassy eye and the perfunctory hullo? Will he be quick to acknowledge his fault and make atonement? Will he seek the appropriate remedy in the Scriptures? Will he be humble enough to receive proffered help and sympathy, or will he stand in proud isolation amid the turmoil of his griefs?
The guideline for testing the existence of brotherhood was given by a Master of Wisdom when he wrote that what hurts one must hurt the other, and that which gladdens the heart of "A" must fill with pleasure "B". What is one to do when a brother looks on the downfall of another with smug satisfaction the usual "I told you so"? What when a brother covets the job of another and schemes to oust him from it? Does love triumph, or will recrimination and bitterness cast their sickly hue on the whole group? Is there going to be an unseemly scramble for the seats of power; the jockeying for positions; the recourse to courts of law; the washing of dirty linen? The history of the first 50 years of the Movement saw all these questions put squarely to the members of the then Theosophical Society. In the scramble for positions, unity went by the board. But such circumstances must always arise where personality clashes with personality and the larger issues are forgotten. The froth must come to the surface whenever the heat is applied; but then, if you want gold, smelting of the ore becomes a necessity. It is those only who can take the rough with the smooth, who understand that brotherhood stems from something deeper than the personality, deeper than either mind or soul, it is these alone who will be able to carry on through good and evil report and keep the lines unbroken.
The Declaration aims at the dawning of a deep "conviction" in the associates of a sense of Universal Brotherhood. Does the Declaration also give a basis on which such a conviction can be founded and fostered? Says the Declaration: "It holds that the unassailable Basis for
among Theosophists, wherever and however situated, is ‘similarly of aim,
purpose and teaching’." It is only on this basis
that the firm conviction can be founded. If there is anythig that goes counter
to the "aim," it has to be eschewed. If there is any action that is
likely to go counter to the "purpose," it has to be examined, judged
upon and put aside if found unworthy. If there is a "teaching" that
is not in conformity with the teachings of Madame Blavatsky and her Masters, it
has to be noted and laid aside in the same manner as the student lays aside the
teachings of orthodox creeds and fanatic sects. If in the world there were only
a few who adhered strictly to the triple unity of "aim, purpose and
teaching," a cohering force whould be generated which could permeate and
protect the whole. Each unit of the group has to understand that he alone does
not have the cause of the Movement at heart. He must realize that others, too,
feel for the cause as he does, and perhaps more strongly. What is important is
that each brother salute in the other his selfless desire for service and
sacrifice. Brotherhood when it is actively pursued will therefore imply the
observance of the triple unity in oneself, the unstinted appreciation of work
done along the same lines by others and the reaching out of a willing and
anxious hand to those who are in need of support in their own work towards the
furtherance of that unity. Even a little of this practice if diligently pursued
with a firm position taken and with the end in view will strengthen the inner
resistance to forces of disunity.
The conviction of Universal Brotherhood must, however, remain partial—a conviction by degrees—so long as the individuals or for the matter of that the group, has not realized the Self, and this is a work of ages. The consciousness having been located in the higher mind, the aspiring Soul must reach out and beyond towards that which is superior to that higher mind. That which chains the human consciousness to lowly things is the entanglement of the mind with matters, issues and considerations which are by their very nature impermanent. The body and its adornments, the desires and their trappings, the aspirations and their self-centring attachments are so many dragging weights that clip the wings of the higher mind and prevent it from soaring towards the empyrean blue.
An association such as is envisaged by the Declaration of the U.L.T. becomes the training-ground for any aspiring soul that chooses the special path chalked out by the Masters of Wisdom. Here, the student meets with problems and circumstances where he can exercise his new skill at eschewing the personal and the selfish. Years and lives must necessarily pass in endeavours when from little acts of service the associates rises to a total surrender of that portion of time, money and effort which is his to command. There must come descending cycles also of gloom and uncertainty when the wavering soul wonders whether the "cause" is worth it all, and whether he should not divert some of his possessions to family, friends and household. Some associates have thus fallen by the wayside and have given to individuals that which was dedicated to mankind. They pass on, their past efforts not wholly lost, leaving the aroma or their previous aspirations. There is hope for them still. A few more incarnations in humble settings, and the lesson would have been learnt. But this is important to note: No human judgements, no criticisms and raising of the shoulders is permissible even in the case of outright failures. They who have invoked their Self in the work to be done in the company of other associates are individuals apart whose only judge, saviour, refuge, resting-place and friend is that Self. Bow down to that Self, and steadily, as you watch and worship, its light will grow stronger. There is a time to work and also a time to watch and to wait.
[Reproduced from the monthly magazine “The Theosophical Movement”,
June 2003.] Mumbai, India
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