Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil
River Bungalow “down-stairs” where your editor was staying in December of last year and January of this year (2018) with his buddy MICHIEL HAAS as his neighbor
This part of the editorial is dedicated to all those women and men who are working hard, day in day out, to keep our International Headquarters in ADYAR, and the TS world-wide running, which is not an easy task.
Volunteering: It is a calling.
Had not been in Adyar for ten years, so it was about time to renew my acquaintance with that wondrous place in faraway India, a kind of oasis in the craziness of the Chennai traffic and the hustle and bustle one encounters in any growing metropolitan city nowadays. With a population of around five million people, Chennai, as capital of the state Tamil Nadu, and as is the case in many other Indian cities, is confronted with substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems.
Each time when one arrives there and undertakes the, at times scary, but also breathtaking ride from the airport to Adyar, it becomes evident that you can actually smell India. Am not talking about the pollution here, but that rare mixture of spices, herbs and food in preparation. Oh, how I do love that smell, so familiar still, even after an absence of one decade.
Have always had the tendency not to idealize or to romanticize Adyar, as our International Headquarters. The home of the Masters …? Don’t get me wrong, I do understand what is meant by that phrase, and yes there is that historical and spiritual tie, but I happen to believe also that the Masters’ home can be in any place, providing thoughts are pure, the energy is elevating, and hearts are filled with compassion. Yet, when it comes to romance, I met my wife Terezinha there for the first time, on the stairs of Leadbeater Chambers, we fell in love on the banks of Adyar river, so who is talking? I owe Adyar so much.
Next to the fact that I visited many International Conventions and took part in sessions of the School of the Wisdom, I also worked for one year non-stop on the estate, from 2001 until 2002. I had the great opportunity to get the “taste” of Adyar, to know and feel what it is like to be a part of that group of volunteers, who are there, day in and day out, doing their utmost. Yes, people come and go in the Adyar workforce. Some remain there for many years; others are there just for a short time, but the essence is always the same: dedication, sacrifice, humility, the willingness to learn; being a part of the nucleus.
Working at Adyar requires courage and perseverance. It is not some vague adventure one gets engaged in. It certainly demands much from the volunteer. Coming to the International Headquarters based in Adyar, a region in a very crowded and noisy Chennai, to work and spend some time there, to work for the Cause, offers a unique chance for inner growth. But it doesn’t come easy, that is certain. The energy at Adyar is substantial. Visitors to the conventions notice this, but the impact of that energy becomes much stronger when one spends more time there.
Volunteers, workers, are vital assets for the success of any non-profit; so, also for the TS-Adyar, they are invaluable. The move to Adyar, getting accustomed to the Indian way of doing things and living in a highly spiritual environment – can be demanding and stressful in the beginning.
Studies however, have documented the advantages of volunteering. Health seems to improve, both physically and mentally, for those who give of themselves for others.
I am making a point here of the importance and dignity of volunteering and of celebrating our respected workers, especially since lately so much rubbish, half-truths, twisted facts and sheer nonsense was presented on the Internet. Less than a handful (!!) of dubious individuals, who, in their entire lives have done NOTHING, or better said, less than NOTHING for the TS, are going out their way to present the facts as they erroneously see it. They obviously are wrong, very wrong – and every line they write and put out on their outlets is a direct insult for the workers at Adyar, and workers elsewhere. Through the means of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, these low-level “BS producers” all of a sudden have gotten a voice and with their perverse minds, they really seem to believe that what they undertake has some kind a of value. Well, I can guarantee you all, that is not the case. It is a sign of the times though. Look what is happening in the political arenas world-wide, where leaders of some countries use their Twitter accounts to announce their wicked ideas and half-truths; we truly live in the Fake News era, therefore we need to train ourselves to separate the wheat from the chaff.
By casting unfounded doubts about the integrity of the TS and its leaders, by spreading toxic rumors and lies – the workers at our headquarters, but in fact also those thousands of volunteers all over the world, are disrespected, and that is intolerable. To make it seem as if the TS is some half-baked organization, headed by nitwits, is a humiliation not only for the, around 27,000 members in good standing world-wide, but especially for those who, by honorably doing the work, dedicate their precious time and energy to the Cause.
Over the years I have written much about these trolls, never ever having the illusion for one moment that I would be able to stop them, one way or another. They will continue with whatever they have pledged to do, since that’s all they can do, but from our end we don’t have to always accept this without making at least a little noise! Labelling themselves as grand inquisitors, they can evidently only prosper by making use of apparent confusion, mistakes they think others make (what if they turned the searchlight inward and on themselves?), and by taking the written or spoken word hopelessly out of context. Their bottom line, if there is any, is always negative.
When our Society is unjustly attacked, when good folks are dragged through the mud, we should show some fighting spirit, and make an effort to know what the real facts are. We don’t have to be a bunch of soft cookies. Yes, we need to be fair, loving, compassionate, but at the same time, also be discriminative, knowing that the LAW of LAWS always works.
If there is any doubt, about anything, simply contact your General Secretary, or other representatives and put your questions before them. There is clearly no secrecy in the TS-Adyar. If you are confused about what came your way while surfing on the Internet, get hold of those who really know, or get in touch with me even, and if I indeed can help you out, I will be most willing to do so.
Remember, our leaders, officers and also our International President for example, are human beings, so, thank God, they are not perfect. How boring it would be if they were perfect. Mistakes are made, of course, but rather than throwing stones, we need to learn from them and see to it that next time these errors do not repeat themselves. We’re all privileged to be a part of this growth process.
With the Internet spreading information, true or false, at high speed and with a world full of conflict, while it is getting smaller every day, we sometimes feel confronted, disillusioned, angry and depressed. There is so much negativity going on left and right. What do to do about that?
Below are some useful tips to deal with the negative tendencies we all sometimes face.
Some people find it more helpful to practice replacing negative qualities with positive. However, it is important not just to repress negative feelings. We must always be in tune with and acknowledge our true feelings, but we need not remain stuck in the negative. Below are listed several ways of replacing negative attitudes and reactions with positive ones. Choose those that appeal to you most and, one by one, try them out every day for a week. Note in your journal how well or poorly different exercises worked. You soon will discover the methods that are most suitable for you. *
1. Cultivate healthful, positive thoughts. Think of the good qualities in others, rather than criticizing them. Train yourself to expect positive things in life, rather than fearing negative ones. Try to stay cheerful and make light of troubles. Deliberately replace negative feelings with positive ones.
2.Visualize yourself as having the qualities you want to develop. Imagine situations in which you show those qualities. Mentally replay old situations in a new way, this time responding in the way you feel is better.
3. Act as if you had the needed quality. If you are fearful, admit it, but act as if you are self-confident. If you are angry, own up to it, but act as if you are accepting and peaceful. This may seem uncomfortable and dishonest at first, but the action will eventually evoke the corresponding feeling in you.
4. The moment you begin to feel upset, visualize someone you love and for whom you have positive feelings. Or think of a peaceful scene in nature or any symbol of peace, such as a cross or mandala, that is meaningful to you. This will head off the negative pattern.
5. Use animations, in your meditation and throughout the day, that remind you of the quality you want to encourage, such as “Peace” or “Joy” or “Courage.” This will help evoke the quality in you and make you more aware of times when you need it.
6. Practice radiating love, good will, joy, confidence, both in meditation and for a moment at various times throughout the day. This will trigger these positive responses in you.
7. Try to feel yourself into the consciousness of a great one such as Christ, the Buddha, a saint, sage or Master. For an hour or two, try to see things that occur in your life from that advanced person's point of view. Imagine what attitudes and responses he or she would make in actual situations that you handle. This exercise done occasionally can stretch your perspective and reveal petty, inconsequential and unloving reactions on your part.
[*Source: A program for living the Spiritual Life by Shirley Nicholson]
This editorial continues with an outstanding write up by Jonathan Colbert, a ULT student and board-member of International Theosophy Conferences.
IMPRESSIONS OF ADYAR, THE 142nd CONVENTION
Jonathan Colbert – USA
Jonathan Colbert, the author
The sense of wonder… signifies that the world is profounder, more all-embracing and mysterious than the logic of everyday reason had taught us to believe.
Quote by Josef Pieper [German Catholic philosopher and an important figure in the resurgence of interest in the thought of Thomas Aquinas in early-to-mid 20th-century philosophy.]
Like Shangri-la beneath the summer moon,
I will return again…
Let me take you there,
Come on, oh let me take you there
Text by Robert Plant [English singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Led Zeppelin.]
A wise Theosophist told me just days before going to India for my first time, “When you go there, let India come to you.” Although I had no idea what this would mean, I sensed that a process both externally and within, would have to be allowed. Since childhood, India, the land of the rishis and of Mahatma Gandhi, “the Alma Mater” of civilization – was the goal. So when Jan Nicolaas Kind, my colleague in the International Theosophy Conferences, ITC, in consultation with Mr. Tim Boyd, the President of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, asked me as an Associate of the United Lodge of Theosophists to speak at the 142nd International Convention there, I knew it was “time.” I was told that I could speak on any topic I wanted, provided it was related to the theme of the Conference, “From Teaching to Insight: The Altruistic Heart.” When I heard that this would be the conference theme, I thought, “What a privilege to even go to such a conference, let alone be able to speak at such an occasion.” Clearly, the leadership at Adyar was trying to bring out the importance of making Theosophy a living reality in the hearts of Theosophists. Even though the lion’s share of my journey would be that of learning and listening and I felt that my speaking there was comparatively incidental, nevertheless, I was tasked with offering a talk. What might I, myself, contribute?
Questions welled up in my mind about what might be the most important thing our society needs at this point from Theosophy. Sure, the message of universal brotherhood is desperately needed in any age, but what, specifically, is needed in this particular cycle?
I didn’t start thinking about my talk in earnest, until I had boarded the Airbus A380 from LAX to Dubai. Flying at 40,000 feet, marveling that the shortest distance around the globe is over the North Pole – the mystery of Meditation, Self-study and the Therapeutics of Speech, the talk title I had registered, finally didn’t seem that foreign to me. From cruising altitude, all things subjective seemed clearer, more objective. Touching down on the Dubai tarmac in the blackness of the desert night, the landing, at least from within that big A380, seemed effortless, seamless. The Dubai airport with its capacious interiors, people movers and shopping malls, glittered and glowed. Yet it was quiet. Absent, were the echoing intercom commands heard at most airports. The only audible sounds you could hear were the muffled murmurings of travelers on the move. Amongst an itinerant village of fellow sojourners from the Middle East and the Indian Sub-continent, I finally slept on the second leg of the trip, from Dubai to Chennai.
The feel of the Chennai Airport was like a coming home for me. Christopher, a long-time worker at Adyar, found and escorted me to a place outside of the main exit and convinced me to “stand, right there.” Then a colleague of his hurried to another place out of sight and came back with a young woman with smiling eyes. Having loaded our luggage in a small car, we were soon, all four of us, careening along, Christopher in the front, his cohort at the wheel (on the right side) – ignoring nonchalantly, stop signs and signals. The woman was Virginie Schwartz, from France. Making conversation, I asked her if she had been to India before. In slightly halting English, she said that she had, but only to Northern India. Having been for several years fascinated with the Dalai Lama’s frequent references to the ancient temple university of Nalanda, I took the chance of asking her if she had ever heard of Nalanda. She knew all about Nalanda! For the remainder of the ride from the airport to Adyar, we finished each other’s sentences about the Dalai Lama and Nalanda.
I had heard ahead of time that the sleeping accommodations at Leadbeater Chambers were stoic to say the least: a room with concrete floors would be shared with three other men; a bathroom with a shower but no hot water; and with hard beds under a mosquito netting. Happy just to not be moving any more, my tired head found refuge on the pillow. For me the bed was quite comfortable. Lying on the flat, hard bed, my back settled into the gladsome relief of rest and realignment. Wow, its 5:30 A.M. – and I’m in India! Isn’t it afternoon in California? Soon I was emailing Jan Kind, “Good morning Jan, what are you up to?” Being naturally an early riser, he replied right away. He would meet me in an hour, he wrote, but why don’t I go down and get some breakfast? As the darkness of pre-dawn transitioned to light, two of my roommates, who had arrived only a couple of hours before me, arose and we introduced. They took me downstairs to Leadbeater Chambers’ diner, a roofed, yet outdoor communal eating, greeting and reuniting place where there was excellent vegetarian food and where we would now enjoy our first meal.
Midway through breakfast, I spied Jan gliding down Blavatsky Avenue on his bicycle. I see Jan once a year at ITC Conferences, and on Skype in his office in Brasilia, but now we meet for the first time in India! Soon he would give me the full tour of the campus grounds at Adyar, the world headquarters for the Theosophical Society, he pushing his bicycle on paved roads and dirt paths, me keeping up and trying to take it all in. He showed me the Great Banyan Tree, the plant nursery run by Devadas and the other landscape workers who live and work on the campus. He showed me the Adyar Theater, the tented covering of which was still being assembled. It would soon be large enough to accommodate over a thousand people. It was also where I would soon be speaking. He showed me the Administration Building where Ms. Marja Artamaa works, Headquarters Hall where H.P. Blavatsky had her office at one time (and now where Tim Boyd has his) and around the corner, the Science Building and the River Bungalow, “downstairs”, where Jan was staying, and where it is said C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant performed their experiments while writing their famous work Occult Chemistry. From the Buddha Temple and Colonel Olcott’s tomb, Jan and I walked along the Radha Burnier Path, closely paralleling the Adyar river, which itself flows eastward into the Bay of Bengal and the Pacific. Soon we came to a full-scale construction project; actually a renovation of what I learned was the Blavatsky Bungalow. Under the new leadership of Tim Boyd, all of the major buildings at Adyar will eventually undergo similar renovation.
Jan was especially keen to make sure that I, as his friend from ULT, would feel welcome and would enjoy the full experience of Adyar. Going to Adyar was indeed a profound, eye opening, and yes, heart-opening, experience for me. Before going to India, a ULT friend told me that what the Theosophical Society had gotten “down” is the Second Object of the Theosophical Movement, which, in its modern formulation is “To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.” I knew that whatever truth about the Second Object and the Theosophical Society there was in that statement, it would probably evidence itself as something deeper than good scholarship or even something deeper than the existence there of the many temples, shrines and churches – Buddhist and Hindu, Zoroastrian, Sikh and Christian.
I think it was on that very first morning, that Jan introduced me to George Wester, a priest from the Liberal Catholic Church. George asked me, “Why don’t you come to my service tomorrow morning?” So I did. I had never been to a Catholic service before of any kind, let alone a Liberal Catholic one. George had explained to Jan and myself that the main idea of the Church is that the Christ principle is each person’s higher self and that the church and its rituals are a way of giving focus to a spiritual way of life. I was certainly impressed with the lighting of the candles, the solemnity, the attention to detail. About a dozen of us were in the pews. A couple of Indian women looked as though they were receiving tremendous help and benediction. George’s singing voice and heartfelt delivery, his sheer earnestness, was a testament to the healing power of sound.
One morning at dawn, I walked down to the beach to watch the sun rise. Others from the conference were already there when I arrived, mostly Indian members. Off the coast, there was a thick fog bank as opaque as the Himalayas themselves. The waves, perhaps a meter high, rolled in and lapped up on the sand, then washed back out, the continued sequence sounding like the winds moving through high altitude pines. While there were some beach joggers exercising their pranic prerogative, some of the elder Pranava yogins and yoginis on the beach, stood (some sat) facing east with palms pressed together in salutation to what was literally, at least for that morning, the Invisible Spiritual Sun. I hoped I could be like them. Could I too meditate in all three worlds, the terrestrial, the astral and celestial on the Spiritual Sun, wishing that all of humanity would benefit from its invisible golden light and its healing rays? Presently, the fog began to take form and shape, transitioning from amorphous opacity to a fiery firmament, now as dynamic and unpredictable as the tidal surge below. An opening developed. The big, orange sun came out from its cloud-eclipsed retirement. But wait a minute! The sun is gone again. But…another moment… now the sun has come through again; and again withdrawn. This dance of reveal and obscuration occurred three times before we all left the beach.
There are what seem like endless pathways at Adyar, some paved, others of the good earth. In any given direction, you can stop to gaze down a narrowing pathway as it disappears into a tunnel-like vortex. There is always the quietly asked question of, what of that road, should it be taken or not taken? Shrines and memorials witness the passage of time everywhere; vine covered arches of stone abound, man and nature coinciding. No less than a great bodhi tree stands before the Buddhist Shrine; the Great Banyan Tree residing in the heart of the premises, is thought to be over 400 years old. The sheer diversity of the flora and fauna at Adyar is staggering: hundreds of species of birds and insects for example, let alone the plethora of tree and shrub varieties. Sunlight filters down through the jungle growth in different angles at different times of the day, celebrating the kaleidoscopic diversity of the possibilities of light.
As more and more people came in from around the world, Adyar took on a new life, transitioning from the voidness of quietude – to the plentitude of nearly a thousand seekers. All come in a spirit of “I don’t know but I’m willing to learn.” Their bond isn’t so much that they all have the same teaching or even in the camaraderie of missions messianic or projects perfect – but more as fellow pilgrims, sojourners, seekers of the light as it reflects itself through the foliage of life. Their joy in reuniting periodically is that of the chance encounter of olden times when people would walk from village to village; or of modern-day hikers trekking in remote places who stop to greet each other, rest their weary muscles for a minute or two, perhaps sharing some precious water from a thermos.
The private process of the quest, the sanctity of individual self-transformation – has been jealously safeguarded in the Theosophical Society from pseudo authorities dictating to others how or what to think. No member is included or excluded by whom it is that they follow or which books suit their quest the most. Nor is anyone required to give up or renounce his or her previous religious affiliations. There really are Hindus and Buddhists, Kabalists and Christians, all seeking the beacon light of truth together at Adyar. Most, if not all, uphold a very open-textured version of their respective faiths, welcoming the light of the traditions held by their fellow seekers to filter into their own. In California we used to call such a place a Mecca for Hippies. But the seekers at Adyar are serious searchers. Their regard for truth is such that they place nothing higher. Truth’s exalted panorama of perspective cannot be finalized. The sense of wonder should never be quelled by the penultimate certainties of finitude.
It is said that Krishna helps us to find truth in whatever way we try to find it. As many seekers as there are, that’s how many paths there are to truth. Do you see how the very nature of the campus of Adyar is such an apt analogy for the richly abundant and vitally necessary diversity of approaches that there are to truth? Many kinds of flora, of fauna; many paths, many roads; many religions, many faiths; many philosophies, perspectives, sciences and systems are honored at Adyar. Even the so-called linage of theosophical writers and authors, leaders and pioneers reflect this diversity, as do even the iconoclasts.
Trying to understand Adyar is like trying to understand the sun, which itself is a great expression of electricity and magnetism, inspiration and magnanimity. Legend has it that the idea for the formation of the Theosophical Society was conceived by a brotherhood of mystics. They wanted to see what could be done to create a nucleus of spiritual regeneration, a cornerstone for future religions. Of the seventeen original founding members of the Theosophical Society back in 1875 in New York City, only its founding president, Henry S. Olcott, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and William Quan Judge became significant leaders in the Society. From what I can see, most people in the Society recognize as an authority on Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky, the great Russian occultist (and some say, founder of the New Age) and author of Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine and The Voice of the Silence. Theyalso recognize those whom she called her teachers, reverently referred to by her as “the Mahatmas.”
Another figure that you hear about at Adyar is Annie Besant, and Englishwoman who came into Theosophy in the last few years of the life of H.P.B. and who herself was gifted with tremendous powers of leadership. When she moved to India she became a central figure in the Indian Independence Movement, serving as the first women president of the Indian National Congress and the second person to ever hold that position. Among a plethora of projects, writing an astonishingly voluminous Theosophical oeuvre, she also worked with Charles W. Leadbeater to conduct occult research. These two functioned as mentors of a very spiritual youth whom they encountered right on the beach at Adyar, who would become the world-famous spiritual philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and who, mysteriously, was both associated and not associated with the Theosophical Society.
Since those heady days of the presence of H.P.B. and H.S. Olcott, the founding of Adyar, the Indian Independence Movement, the experiments in occult research and the discovery of Krishnamurti – the Theosophical Society has been a dynamic vehicle worldwide facilitating the search for knowledge.
On the “surface” (like the surface of the sun) its message has been anything but uniform or consistent; in fact, even from the standpoint of trying to discern a consistent Theosophical terminology, the paradoxical parade of somewhat conflicting Theosophical authorities down through the years, has been confusing at times.
Yet, what is the Theosophical Society’s message? Is it perfect sameness? Is it supposed to be all the members agreeing with each other in a perfect amalgamation of groupthink? Or is it that the road itself is most certainly better than the inn; the spiritual quest, infinitely greater than any fixed notion of the Holy Grail?