Radha Burnier – India
[Recognizing regeneration as the kernel of all Theosophical work, the International Theosophical Centre at Naarden, the Netherlands, jointly with the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, organized two seminars in July 1990, with a number of office bearers, workers and members of the Society from different countries as participants. Proceedings of the seminar were published as a book under the title Human Regeneration: Lectures and Discussion (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij der Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1990). This chapter (discussions) is here slightly revised.]
Radha Burnier in a typical pose talking to members in India
T.S. Work and the Fundamental Change in Man and Society
RB: The purpose of organizing these two seminars here is a practical one; we hope that as a result of the discussions we will all have a clearer idea about the work of the Society. There are representatives here from many countries in Europe and also from other continents. In many parts of the world there are sections, lodges and groups of the T.S.; some of them lack clarity about the aims of the Society and the universal brotherhood without distinctions which is our aim. Many here hold responsible offices in the sections and we must be clear about the thrust the T.S. should give to human thinking, understanding, and perspectives. If we are, it may dynamize the Society. That is what we hope. If we are not, vague activities may go on in the different branches without really promoting the work of the Society.
But the central purpose of the Society must be fulfilled by all the different units of the Society. So we hope that these discussions will bring about a clear understanding of the subjects chosen for the different days, and that we can take back to our countries and areas a new comprehension of what needs to be done.
[The questions and discussions which follow are not in chronological order. They have been rearranged according to the themes of the lectures]
What is the fundamental change necessary for the T.S. to be a really useful organization for human regeneration?
DC: There is no T.S. without its members. The T.S. is all of us, and in the measure we regenerate ourselves, the T.S. will be regenerated. We always think that the other has to change, but we have to start with ourselves.
PO: In the early days of the Society, there was an insistence upon being “ a true Theosophist”. And there is a depth of meaning in it, which incorporates many things relevant to our discussions, like viveka, vichara, and compassion. Perhaps we can help in making the T.S. a useful channel for human progress, as we ourselves endeavour to become “true Theosophists” – a lifetime task.
WV: It seems to me that this question and many other questions can all be answered in the same way. We have to give so much (divine) energy to the question that as a result something entirely new comes about, which might be called an evolutionary step or regeneration.
CC: If any institution forgets to pay attention to unintended phenomena, there is damage. People must be aware of the processes taking place inside in the here and now, and feed this back meaningfully into the institutional life. That, I think, would be the best way of regenerating the institution.
How should we view karma and reincarnation with respect to human regeneration?
RB: There are two different approaches to such concepts. One is concerned with the mechanics and not with the inner content or purpose of the processes of karma and reincarnation; this may not be sufficient for regeneration. It is helpful to know something about the process of karma and reincarnation; people who are unaware of it are so afraid of what will happen after the body dies. They become victims of priests, their promises and threats. When they know something about karma, they realize that their destiny is in their own hands, and not in the hands of an arbitrary power on earth or in the heavens.
These subjects can be presented in some detail, but knowing the details does not help in gaining wisdom. Suppose we acquire concepts about how many reincarnations are necessary before liberation, how many years pass between one incarnation and another, what are the karmic consequences of a certain deed, and so forth. Does it really bring about a new understanding?
The second approach reveals the whole process of reincarnation and karma as a movement in the course of which the human consciousness wakes up to the deep significance of life. So it is related to regeneration. If we understand karma and reincarnation properly, we see what is happening at a deeper level in the process. Everything which karma brings contains within itself the opportunity for awakening. Madame Blavatsky says: Karma brings about the good. Karma implies not only disasters and crises. Karma is everything. If we are here together, it is part of our karma and it is an opportunity. Every pain is an opportunity to respond in the right way. The whole process is a movement. Experiences face us so that we may learn to respond to challenges adequately. Something happens, even though unconsciously through karma and an assimilation takes place between one incarnation and another. We cannot consider this subject in detail, but we have said enough to realize that if the study of karma and reincarnation brings some comprehension of what is being inwardly achieved by this process, it has much to do with regeneration, but not if we get lost in little details.
EA: I think it is important to see how such things relate to our daily life. Let us take karma for example. We see that something happens to us and we cannot control what happens. But we can control our response, what we do with karma, with what we encounter, and that is our future karma. We are free to react to what happens.
RH: If we know that we have many lives before us, that we can improve from life to life and this improvement is in our own hands, then we realize how fruitful will be any effort to be better more perfect human beings, what help we can bring to others in the future, once we have improved. We have to become the leaven that enables the human dough to rise, give inspiration to others so that humanity as a whole can improve through the effort which we make. Then every effort is worthwhile.
RB: Krishnamurti sometimes said to Indian audiences: You do not believe in karma, you only say you believe in karma. If you believed in it, you would be very careful what you think, what you do, what your motives are ... This is a lesson for all of us. Is the law of kar:'1a apart from our daily lives, or intimately connected with the movement of progress?
Should we accept any guidelines?
RB: There are guidelines in Theosophy. One such guideline is that we should not become dependent, acquire crutches. Is that not clear? Do not cling to a teacher and hope that he will regenerate you. Do not depend on some scripture. If we cast the responsibility outside, there will be no regeneration. The test of a true teacher is that he will not make people dependent. The Buddha said: Do not believe anything because I say it; find out for yourself. “Be a lamp unto yourself.” Is that not a clear guideline? There are other Theosophical guidelines. Such guidelines do not bind us, but make us freer. We should not only avoid becoming dependent, but refrain from merely repeating what somebody else says, and believing or accepting blindly. We should be enquiring, as this starts the process of regeneration.
What does enquiry mean? It means reflection, questioning, looking, digging deeper and probing. In the “Golden Stairs” of HPB, she ends with the words: “These are the golden stairs up the steps of which the learner may climb to the temple of divine wisdom.” Unfortunately in some languages the word “learner” has been converted into something which does not mean the same thing. Learning means “continual enquiry”, going deeper and deeper, seeing more and more of the inwardness of everything in life. Regeneration takes place through enquiry, reflection, meditation, silent observation.
How important are guidelines?
RB: Does it not depend on what sort of guidelines? For us who seek wisdom there may be some fundamental guidelines which are important. We can say that one of the guidelines is unity. If you keep this guideline, the principle of unity, in mind you know what ideas are right. If they divide, create barriers, something is wrong. If they promote unity, universal love, then there is good in them. Is my action right or wrong? Think whether it is “on the side of love”, as Annie Besant called it, or the contrary. This is a useful and even important guideline. Another guideline is in the statement illumination comes from within. When you hear music to which you are not accustomed, in the beginning you hear the sounds, not music. But if you go on listening, the sound conveys music, because receptivity has increased within. We can only see what we make ourselves capable of seeing. We can only hear the truth for which we make ourselves ready. This is an important guideline in Theosophy. We do not need to search for gurus. We must mistrust the gurus who offer rewards
To be continued