By the editors of Lucifer – the Netherlands
[This is a reprint from Lucifer – the Messenger of Light, an original publication of I.S.I.S. Foundation, i.e. International Study-centre for Independent Search for truth. The editor is grateful for the permission given to make this important paper available for all readers of Theosophy Forward.]
In simple words, the Theosophical vision on life could be described as ‘Unity in Diversity’. The boundless Unity, outlined in the article about the three propositions, expresses itself in an equally boundless variety. The fourth Jewel of Wisdom, ‘self-becoming’, refers to the fact that each being is unique. And just like the previous three Jewels, we can draw inspiring lessons from it for our daily life.
Each one of us is different. Everybody observes and experiences things differently. We look at things and situations with a different view, we have different experiences. We organize our life in our way, set our own goals and find our own ways to achieve these goals. No two people have the same character.
When we look around us with an open mind, then we discover that every being in the Cosmos has its own unique characteristics. These differences in characteristics are more easy to recognize among higher evolved beings, such as a star, planet, or man. Each star has a unique spectrum of wavelengths. But the situation is not different in the lower Kingdoms of Nature. Each dog or cat has its own character, as we all know very well. You will not find two identical leaves in a wood. And chemical molecules of one type sometimes show a behavior quite different from each other. (1) In fact, if two beings in the Cosmos would be completely identical in character, they would not be two beings but one.
In the Ancient Wisdom, the Theosophy, you will find the fundamental fact that each being is unique in the doctrine of swabhâva. Swabhâva is a Sanskrit word which means: the essential characteristic of any entity. ‘Swa’ means ‘self’, ‘bhâva’ is derived from the verb ‘bhû’ which means ‘to become’. Together ‘selfbecoming’: what we are in essence – our essential characteristic – is what we express, what we will evolve. (2)
The idea is so simple that it is easy to pass by without noticing. Behind and in an apple seed there is a characteristic force or impulse, through which that seed develops into an apple tree and not into a pear or cherry tree. At the moment when time was ready for us as a reincarnating human being to be born again on this earth, the essential characteristic of our consciousness made the fertilized ovum grow into a physical body that matched perfectly to our individual character.
The unraveling of the genetic material (DNA) in 1953 did not explain this fact to its full extent. Consider as an example identical twins: although they possess identical genetic material, they clearly are two different human beings. DNA cannot function without a guiding and selecting power. That power is the leading consciousness. The doctrine provides us with a clear insight as well on the hot issue of organ transplantation. Why do you think, does the physical body reject a donated organ? The answer can be found in the doctrine of swabhâva. Each organ originates from a unique being. It only fits in the constitution of that man. When it is transplanted into the unique physical body of another man, it will be rejected.
We are our own creator
The meaning of self-becoming contains two aspects or ‘layers’. The primary and most fundamental meaning refers to the fact that each being is its own creator. We are following our own unique path of evolution, all the time unfolding our inherent powers and characteristics, a process which never stops (see the fifth Jewel). The ‘drive’ for this process of unfolding lies in ourselves, in our swabhâva. This process will continue in the never-ending future, we will always become ourselves.
Our character therefore is not unchangeable, it is not a permanent thing. As explained in the article about the Jewel karma, we can change our character by the cyclic process of thought – act – habit – character. This brings us to an important ethical conclusion: we can never pass on the responsibility for our character to a God who created us, or a blind fate, or even a kind of swabhâva outside ourselves. Unless we accept our responsibility and reform our minds, making room for more universal thoughts, our character will not change and we will keep running around in circles meeting the same problems every time again. As long as we are satisfied with that, we will not see the problem, but once we see to what a great extent we are connected with everyone else and share the same destiny, instantly the impulse to unselfish ideals awakens.
We express what we are in our inner nature
The second meaning of swabhâva is as follows: what we are spiritually, in our higher nature, that is what we will be. In other words: as long as in our consciousness the characteristic of man is prominent, we will express ourselves as humans (and will not be reborn as an animal, as some Hindus and Buddhists believe). The same applies of course for all beings. A rose entity becomes a rose, a dog entity becomes a dog, a divine entity becomes a god and an oxygen entity of course an oxygen atom.
The fourth Key of Wisdom explains perfectly what we refer to as ‘heredity’. Our parents did not ‘create’ us, they functioned as a gate: they provided us with the opportunity to build up our own physical body. The reason why children in their appearance often resemble their parents (but never completely!) can be explained as follows: the reincarnating human being is psychically attracted to parents with characteristics most similar to its own. Though there is a resemblance between parents and their children, it is a fact that every human being is a unique combination of its own attributes. We inherit our physical body from ourselves.
Characters complement each other
Characters complement each other. Every human being is a unique and indispensable link or thread in the enormous network of Life. Each being communicates with its fellow beings in accordance with its own character. Realizing that, men instantly understand their own uniqueness and that of all other people they live with, and that everyone deserves room and respect.
We should not confuse ourselves thinking that our uniqueness is a reason to do whatever we feel like, saying, “that is just the way I am”. No, we also have free will and the possibility to improve ourselves. In this respect, it is essential to keep the ideal of a Universal Brotherhood of men in our mind, based on the structure of Nature, where everything is interconnected and interwoven with everything else.
The more our understanding of Unity grows, the more universal our character will become. This does not imply we are losing our individual character – even the highest god we can imagine has its own individual character – but it means we have developed such a universal vision on Life that we are able to work with Nature in harmony, and to support all other beings (seventh Jewel).
When each organ in our body functions in harmony with the other organs, the whole body functions at its best. When in our human society the postman and the sage both do their duty and do not envy each other nor compete each other, a perfect society will exist. The practical value of this idea becomes very clear in the following story, which was told to us by a staff member from a day care center. “I once watched some toddlers in a sandbox who were getting angry with each other and becoming violent. I asked the children to sit down in a circle. That worked well. The children told each other that hitting each other was not a good thing. To be friends was good.
I had read about swabhâva, about becoming who you are. In the circle we started to look at each other’s noses, which the children enjoyed very much. Together we arrived at the conclusion that a different nose was not a reason to hurt each other. We subsequently applied this new-found wisdom on other differences between people.
On jealousy: each child mentioned its favorite tree, and we spoke about its leaves, flowers and fruits. And about the importance to be a good oak, beech or birch tree. During the process, we imagined various combinations. The children however found it strange for instance, that if you are a birch tree and you fancy the nuts of a beech tree, that you also want to get beech nuts on your own birch tree, or would not tolerate the beech tree to carry its own fruits, etc. Eventually we used in our play examples from daily life and spoke about our own individual characteristics.
In this way I applied the Theosophical teachings as guidance, in particular for the awakening of impersonal Love and of an awareness of the various qualities that make up man.”
The best society is a dynamic society
As a consequence of the doctrine of self-becoming, our vision of an ideal society changes. Attempts to build a society on one way of thinking and one way of action always fail. By the ‘constructive collision’ of ideas, visions and ideals in our society we all learn the most eventually. We can all agree on the core ideas of Theosophy, for the simple reason they prove to be universally applicable. But every human being must find his own way to express the universal principle of Unity. Keeping up appearances does not work. As we can find in chapter 3, verse 35 of The Bhagavad-Gîtâ:
“It is better to do one’s own duty, even though it be devoid of excellence, than to perform another’s duty well. It is better to perish in the performance of one’s own duty; the duty of another is full of danger.” (3)
Everyone can develop the universal aspects of his character
We learn from the doctrine of self-becoming that we are in fact our own children. We created and ‘colored’ our character, which is ourselves, through the choices we made in the past. And the thoughts we are thinking now determine our future character. There are always two paths we can choose between: do we want to develop the universal aspects of our character or the selfish aspects (see fifth Jewel)? And with what motive will we unfold our dormant powers: for certain selfish spiritual purposes, or to support and inspire to the best of our abilities the entire cosmic society we are an inseparable part of (see sixth Jewel)? The following two articles will further discuss this.
Erik M.H.P. van Dijk, Jordi Hernando, Juan-José García-López, Mercedes Crego-Calama, David N. Reinhoudt, Laurens Kuipers, María F. García-Parajó, and Niek F. van Hulst, ‘Single-Molecule Pump-Probe Detection Resolves Ultrafast Pathways in Individual and Coupled Quantum Systems’. Article in Physical Review Letters , 2005 February 25; 94(7):078302. A popular Dutch explanation of the experiments may be found at: www.fom.nl/live/nieuws/archief_persberichten/2005/artikel. pag?objectnumber=11324
J. Tyberg, Sanskrit Keys to the Wisdom Religion . Point Loma Publications, San Diego 1976, p. 102.
The Bhagavad-Gîtâ , chapter 3, verse 35; translated by W.Q. Judge. Online source: www.theosociety.org/pasadena/gita/ bg3.htm
To be continued