Paul Zwollo – the Netherlands
Over the entrance to the Temple of Delphi in ancient Greece, was written: “Man Know Thyself.” Inside, were inscribed the words, “And by knowing thyself, thou shalt know the world.” Knowing oneself comes first. Knowing the world is secondary. Is not today's trend just the contrary? Education and science are mainly directed at knowing the outside world down to the minutest detail.
Large sums of money are spent on it, and nations, groups and individuals vie with each other. An old fairy tale verse rings true: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest, the richest and cleverest of us all?” Thus, competition is set as the key to progress. And progress means only bigger cars, more luxuries, and more holidays a year, etc.
True, we cannot ignore the world and turn inside thereby hoping to realize ourselves, while remaining indifferent to mankind's suffering. Our reincarnation into this world is a fact. We cannot ignore our responsibility.
Our relations with those around us: family, colleagues and fellow men, must be harmonized. If we do not succeed here, it is doubtful if we will ever succeed in knowing ourselves. There is no inner mutation possible without sufficient outer preparation. And every serious one should change his daily life in a far-reaching manner. Nowadays it is not difficult to be a vegetarian, even in the West.
The Five Precepts of the Lord Buddha for his lay disciples still hold: not to kill, steal, or lie, right relations, and to refrain from intoxicating drugs. These conditions to know oneself have not changed since Buddha taught in Aryavarta. They will never change as they are integral with the Great Laws that govern the universe and guide the evolution of humanity.
We have to pay attention to the outer world as well as to the inner world; find and tread the middle way between these two. HPB already gave us the advice to avoid all extremes, and, most of all, to use our common sense. Let us start to be a centre of peace and harmony in our immediate surroundings, ever remembering to turn inwards. Discovering the heart of our being is the greatest adventure we can undertake. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us, says the Bible.
Our physical body is a temple of the living God, the divine spark. Liberation means restoring the long since sundered relation, and becoming one again.
The parable of the prodigal son returning to his father's home signifies that homeward journey we are all on as part of the Cycle of Necessity (The Second Fundamental Proposition- SD). Once part of the Great Life-wave and subject to the Divine Plan, we cannot but follow its course, unconsciously in the beginning, but gradually cooperating consciously with what is in store for us.
Yet our freedom is not affected, our uniqueness not interfered with. On the contrary, spiritual growth can only enhance our own unique characteristics. To be co-workers with Nature and the Divine Plan of Evolution is only possible if we do it of our own accord, with dedication and enthusiasm. The seeds of liberation are hidden in each of us, in our higher principles.
They have been dormant for millions of years, till we knock at the door and ask our innermost being.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:8)
In the measure of the intensity of the enquiry is the need of the reply. Now what prevents people from following and treading the Path of Holiness? The Mahatma Letters state that by merely studying the Esoteric Teachings one already attracts the attention of the Great One. However, our attempt must not be half-hearted. Mr. Sinnett, who was unwilling to change his life, was chided:
“Why is it that doubt and foul suspicion seem to beset every aspirant for chelaship? My friend, in the Masonic Lodges of old times, the neophyte was subjected to a series of frightful tests of his constancy, courage and presence of mind. The rule is inflexible, and no one escapes. Occult teaching has no effect upon the unreceptive mind.”
“In man are both, the tempter as well as the regulator. What destroys us are within us, not outside. Truly has it been said: 'Not that which goes into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Matt. 15: 11)
Self-observation, meditation, complete attention and awareness, have been practiced by yogis and seers from time immemorial. Do we allow ourselves to practice all these? Is there enough tapas or austerity in our lives? We are all supposed to cross what is called 'the sea of life', samsara. Its vastness and wild waves symbolize our many desires and passions. Only eternal vigilance will help us calm the high seas and help our crossing.
Our journey in the Cycle of Necessity spans numerous incarnations. From an inert perfection in the beginning, we gradually become involved in matter, become consciously imperfect, only to evolve and become consciously perfect in the end. Real yoga integrates us with the wholeness of life. As long as we do not experience that wholeness, the feeling of incompleteness will continue. Could we but surrender to the Great Law of Righteousness of which HPB spoke, and become a channel of the Divine Force, a ray of which each of us is. Robert Browning wrote:
“There is an inmost centre in us all, where truth abides in fullness. That centre knows no day and night, is never asleep but always awake. It just is.”
It has often been said that the road to adeptship runs only via self-knowledge. This enormous task is crucial and cannot be avoided. In finding the correct answer to the question “Who Am I?” retail knowledge is not appropriate. Neither will vicarious aids do. We have to know ourselves. The question demands no pat answer short of a lifelong consecration to self-enquiry.
[The article was published previously in The Theosophist, y1999, v120, May p793]