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.]
The seventh Jewel of Wisdom is the essence of all the ones preceding. In a way it summarizes and unifies them all and adds a new dimension to them.
This Jewel you could describe as knowing the Core of Life. In Sanskrit it is called Âtma-Vidyâ, which means Self-knowledge. The capital S is absolutely not without meaning. We are talking about the self, Atman, our link with the Boundless. When you focus on it, and yes, identify yourself with it, you perceive the Unity of Life, perceive that the life that flows in you is not essentially different from the life that flows in another man, in an ant, a plant, a star or whatsoever. You experience the Unity of Life.
There is Unity in Life. All beings are equal in their Core. Therefore: who understands the Core of his being, understands the Essence of Life. Such a man is liberated from the illusion of manifested life, from the illusion of death. He is.
Students often struggle with this image. Intuitively they experience the truth of this Jewel, but in our society, based on differences, it is difficult to accept it as real.
Theosophical Teachers through all ages have given hints to men, in order to help them pull the Unity into their world of experience. The large variety of life is for example compared with the beams of a sun. Each beam is individual, yet all beams come forth from that sun and are therefore fundamentally one.
You can also compare that unity with the banyan tree. This special tree forms branches, from which tendrils hang down. When these tendrils reach the soil, they strike into the ground and become roots.The tendril which grew down and rooted itself into the ground, becomes another trunk, in its turn hanging down tendrils, which become new roots, which again become new trunks, and so on. Banyans may become immense. In countries like India and Thailand they are still considered as sacred.
So there is a tree from which other trees flow. Those “offspring trees” however, remain a part of the mother tree, although they are in a certain way independent. In the same way, every being is a part of an all-encompassing Tree of Life. It is a self-dependent being, provided with its own portion of free will, but nevertheless it is a part of a bigger whole of which the entire manifestation is a part.
The Upanishads about Unity
In the Upanishads, sacred books from India, and especially in the Chhândogya-Upanishad, there are many hints on the Unity of Life. Here is an excerpt. (1)
As the bees, my son, make honey by collecting the juices of distant trees, and reduce the juice into one Form.
And as these juices have no discrimination, so that they might say, I am the juice of this tree or that, in the same manner, my son, all these creatures, when they have become merged in the True (either in deep sleep or in death), know not that they are merged in the True.
Whatever these creatures are here, whether a lion, or a wolf, or a boar, or a worm, or a midge, or a gnat, or a mosquito, that they become again and again.
Now, that which is that subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.
Please, Sir, inform me still more, said the son. Be it so, my child, the father replied.
These rivers, my son, run, the eastern (like the Ganga) toward the east, the western (like the Sindhu) toward the west. They go from sea to sea (i.e. the clouds lift up the water from the sea to the sky, and send it back as rain to the sea). They become indeed sea. And as those rivers, when they are in the sea, do not know, I am this or that river.
In the same manner, my son, all these creatures, when they have come back from the True, know not that they have come back from the True. Whatever these creatures are here, whether a lion, or a wolf, or a boar, or a worm, or a midge, or a gnat, or a mosquito, that they become again and again.
That which is that subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.
Exercises in the understanding of Unity
Maybe the most important lesson Theosophy can teach us is to be fully aware of this Unity. Intellectual knowledge won’t help much. We have to learn to be that unity.
As stated before, through the ages theosophical Teachers have tried to inspire men to be aware of this Unity. We have to practice. W.Q. Judge gave in his book Letters that have helped me a very effective meditation training. (2) One should imagine that one is not separate from anything. In the core of our being we are essentially equal. The bird, the star in the sky, every human, each being, has the same divine attributes. Rooted in a common source, we are indissolubly related to each other. The greater your range of consciousness and the closer you get to that common source, the greater is your awareness of that interconnectedness. Judge explains how you can develop this awareness.
Imagine you are everything – everything that exists. Things visible and invisible. What is outward and what is inward. Judge says it as follows: (…) I am Brahma, and Brahma is everything. But being in an illusionary world, I am surrounded by certain appearances that seem to make me separate. So I will proceed to mentally state and accept that I am all these illusions.
So you are your friends. Ponder on them. Ponder on everyone individually and collectively. Feel what moves them. What do they need to be happy? But you are also your enemies. Ponder on them as well, individually and as a group. Don’t think of them emotionally, but realize that you are the other. You are the one who dislikes you. You are the ignorant one who knows his moments of sadness and doubt and who asks himself about the meaning of life. In this way, you should ponder on all the people of the town you live in; ponder on all the inhabitants of your country. You are they. But of course there are many countries. Ponder on the peoples of all countries. Be with them in your thoughts. Feel them. You are all those people with all the capacities and wisdom they encompass. But also with their fears, their anger and their ignorance. Imagine you are the Boundless Life, from the infinitesimal atom up to the most powerful and mighty god. From plant or animal up to a galaxy. You are all of them.
A mystical exercise like this teaches us to think impersonally. You build a bridge to your spiritual divine nature, in which your awareness of Unity, ethics and compassion already lives. Those impersonal thoughts will color the daily thoughts you think.
By doing this, you will make these thoughts strong and they will become a part of you. When you carry them with you in your daily life, you learn how to work with them. You will build up new capacities and habits. Applying these ideas will become natural, because when you find yourself in certain situations, you almost automatically go back to what you learned in this meditation exercise. You won’t get angry or sad when somebody insults you. And when somebody is treated unjustly, you immediately defend him.
We can make our image of Unity very practical. Therefore we need to create an Ideal, and by this we mean of course not a personal ideal, but a sublime Ideal of Unity and Brotherhood. Form for yourself a mental image of the ideal world and the ideal man. Focus your thoughts on that image and apply it in your life. Live your Ideal.
Many scholars have experienced that Theosophy inspires to form such an impersonal Ideal. All Theosophical teachings show the unity of all life and are therefore arguments to conform to the Unity of Life.
Theosophy also teaches that you don`t have to strive for this Ideal. By doing this, you place it outside of yourself. You have to live it.
Living your Ideal relates to everything. It should penetrate all your daily habits. You will consider your old habits critically. Things you did before without thinking are not so obvious anymore. You are going to ask yourself questions. Should I put my money in that bank? Does this bank invest in shares of the armament industry? Are the clothes that I use to buy made by children in miserable circumstances? Should I continue to eat meat or fish? How can I handle that tiresome neighbor? How can I – and my country – contribute to peace in a distant country? When you live your Ideal, you have a naturally calm and friendly view on life. You always live in the perception of compassion. You are always there when people need you. Your mind is always focused on beautiful, spiritual thoughts, so that every duty is easy to fulfill.
There are people who have to conquer themselves every time their help is needed. And in our cold world this is of course better than when you are deaf to the cry for help from others. But a man who carries within his mind twenty four hours a day his impersonal Ideal of Universal Brotherhood, is always helping and inspiring others, even when he is alone in his room. After all, his thought life is always a paragon of unity and compassion, so that he incessantly spreads a kind-hearted sphere.
Let your Ideal constantly grow
Everyone can create and live a practical Ideal. It doesn’t matter where you live, what kind of work you do, if you are rich or poor, if you are respected or not. This Ideal doesn’t necessarily need to concern just your own circumstances, because when it is based on clear, tested principles, then it has a universal validity and is therefore also universally applicable.
Those clear principles are the three fundamental propositions and the seven Jewels of Wisdom. They form the ingredients for the Universal Image of the genuine brotherhood of all that lives.
Beware: that image should not petrify, for if it turns into a dogma, then it will lead to separateness and enmity instead of to compassion and friendship. Then there is the danger that you will say that your ideal is better than that of another.
In the Boundlessness your Ideal can constantly grow, be sharpened, deepened and refined. Keep your Ideal flexible and try to make it more and more universal. And – oh great paradox! – the more universal you make your image, the clearer it will become, so that it will be easier to apply it everywhere, because you became that image.
Again: there is Unity. We should learn to be aware of the Unity.
- Chhândogya-Upanishad, book 6, verses 9 and 10. Online source: www.hinduwebsite.com/sacredscripts/hinduism/upanishads/chandogya.asp#Pra6
- W.Q. Judge, Letters that have helped me. Many editions. First Part, letter 4.
To be continued