Shikar Agnihotri – India
Let us consider the very existence of the Theosophical Society (TS), in a changing world. Everything is changing within and without. So, one has to constantly listen to the march of the future, and remain relevant to the contemporary needs and requirements, yet not at the cost of diluting the teachings, but, instead, making them more appealing to the prevailing times, with the help of intuition, as for as possible.
We cannot listen to the future without giving due attention to the past because the past is the basis of the present, and the present is the seed for the future. Looking at the past, I would like to emphasize the aim with which the TS was founded, not in terms of its Objects but rather the approach that was to be taken. A very good expression of this is found in the foreword to the small but valuable booklet, Five Messages to American Theosophists, from H. P. Blavatsky. It says:
Theosophy commands us to work for humanity; that service is of a particular character; its nature is spiritual; the method whereof is twofold:
- to watch the steps of erring humanity and erect signposts against certain pitfalls;
- to hold aloft the beacon light of instruction which cheers the weary pilgrim and inspires him to make his very own the Power which is Peace, and the Service which is Joy.
We all are trying to do this by using the various resources available to us: by writing articles in newspapers, arranging lectures for the public and college students, and so on. Apart from this, most of us are aware of the fast pace with which modern technology has overrun our lives. We have become so used to it that we just cannot imagine our lives without it. Due to this fact, I feel that technology can be used as much as possible to better our effort in the propagation of Theosophy, which is already being done. Today it is much more convenient for a person to read an update on a social networking site or email, rather than taking time out for a two- or three-day study course, for which maybe he gets time only once a year. For a few weeks now, we have been posting the synopsis of our Lodge meetings on a social networking site, and it does have its effect. It serves two purposes. First, the members who could not attend the meeting can read the synopsis and at least get some idea about the subject. Second, those who are not yet members but who are interested in such subjects become inclined to attend the same.
At the national and international level we have already seen considerable progress in this direction. The Society’s website is now very informative, including minute details. The most astonishing effect of technology, if properly used, is that it tends to develop in us, members in different geographical areas, a sense of connectedness, a sense of family, which is the Society’s real source of strength. Now everyone is just a click away and no doubt it does make the bond of friendship stronger by removing the hesitancy.
In the same light, the second Object of the TS gives us a direction: To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science. Practically, the number of religions and philosophies are limited, but there is one aspect which is ever reinventing itself, and that is science. Unfortunately, science has brought in the same limitation which organised religion has been doing for centuries, and that is blind faith. Today anything that is told to us in the name of scientific research, we tend to believe it, no matter what. Even the fact that the next research project often contradicts the previous one, and more so that many such researches are sponsored to have specific desired outcomes, do not deter us. So, as theosophists, being in possession of a large body of knowledge in the form of Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine and The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, it is our duty to:
(1) Gradually acquaint ourselves with this knowledge so that we can not only correlate it with modern scientific findings, (2) but also point out its limitations, and thus (3) try to awaken a few scientific minds to the fact that it is not only through physical means that we can find the secrets of existence. We can also create and strengthen a platform where such correlations can be explained and dis- cussed with people at large, to open their mind to the divine wisdom which is Theosophy. Thus, by making Theosophy more visible through various means, it is possible to give a ray of hope to those who have developed their mental faculties to some extent, and have faced or are facing their share of highs and lows in life and looking for answers.
But is that enough? There is a greater challenge when it comes to those who, although having a religious bent of mind, do not think that such teachings can be implemented in daily life by an average householder. They think this is work designated only for some great souls and we are here just to worship them. It is this mentality that we have to fight, within and without, because it does not let us make a whole-hearted effort. It comes up very often during day-to-day conversations that reactions like anger, irritation, greed, and so on, are part of human nature and cannot be gotten rid of. Why has this mentality become so common? Because there is a tendency of the mind to compare itself with its surroundings and when the mind sees the majority going in a particular direction it assumes that to be the correct path. To make matters worse, it does not find any real-life examples in its immediate surroundings.
In this case, the work as a theosophist is all the more difficult because unlike other organizations working with similar objects, there is no uniform set of rituals or way of greeting by which a theosophist can be recognized, which is also the beauty of the TS, as it has carefully kept itself free from any creed. At the same time, it is the test of a theosophist who has to solely depend upon his behavior or character to convincingly convey his words. This behavior or character is not just limited to the Lodge or the campus of the TS. It extends far and beyond. It permeates each and every aspect of our daily life. And it is this behavior and character of a person which is perceived first by the people around him.
We may say that this is nothing new; we have been doing this for long, and I think the same. But I am sure we all understand that there are no shortcuts to this work.
And it is in this “sincere effort-making” process that we develop patience and perseverance, hope and strength, love and wisdom, which begin to reflect themselves out- side in the form of various efforts, and in turn strengthens the organization. Many of us here may attest, based on their personal experiences, to the fact that when we begin to work on ourselves, with every step that we take ahead, we see someone asking for assistance from the step we left behind. This is for the simple reason that one life pervades all and all units of consciousness have this inherent thirst for growth; when some progress is made by one unit, other units are automatically drawn towards it. That is my understanding of the statement: “Where there is honey, bees will come.”
And this is the only way to fight this pessimism or inertia that ideals are for worshipping and not for living. I am not implying that we become perfect in the first attempt. We may fail miserably in- numerable times, but that does not matter; we should have the firm conviction that “failing while trying is not failure, but failing to try is the real failure”. It is this inertia of not trying wholeheartedly that we have to shake off ourselves. And it can start right where we live, whatever situations we are facing. This attitude completely removes doubts about the value of one’s effort as a member. That is why the following powerful statement by Col H. S. Olcott is included, which instills energy and hope every time it is read:
I wish that everybody in the Society could realize how certain it is that those Great Brothers who are behind our work keep a vigilant eye upon all of us who with a pure heart and unselfish mind throw our energies into it. (From: Old Diary Leaves)
I do not think we can ask for any more persuasion about the significance of even a small effort made with an altruistic attitude towards the Society.
Another kind of inertia that very often overcomes us as members arises out of the belief that it is the job of the office- bearers, whether at the Federation, the Section or the International level, to do everything. Yes, it is true that the growth of a unit depends a lot on the enthusiasm and ability of the office-bearers, but each and every effort, however small, by any member bears an equal significance because it is not the President or the Secretary of the TS or a Section that comes in day-to-day contact with the people. It is the members like you and me who are the ambassadors of the TS in our immediate surroundings. So we can very easily realize the amount of responsibility that lies with us as individuals while representing Theosophy and the TS in our surroundings, and here arises the importance of a Lodge.
Although the headquarters, whether national or international, have a significant role to play as a nucleus of inspiration and vitality, a Lodge is that organ of the Society which deals with the immediate surroundings on a day-to-day basis. Not everyone has the responsibility to work in the headquarters due to individual karma, but the very same karma gives us an opportunity to work with similar zeal and enthusiasm in our Lodges if we are willing.
A Lodge acts as a nucleus which is the source and channel of subtler forms of energies and, without a doubt, a blessing for the society or area around it. An effort has to be made consciously to have more and more of such vital nuclei. We may think it is easier said than done, and of course it is not easy. A lot of effort has to be put into it. And here comes the role of the Lodges or members who are old enough to give birth to new ones, not as replacements but as supplements. There is no quick fix or shortcut to strengthen ourselves as an organization. In the words of HPB in her Five Messages to American Theosophists:
The multiplication of local centres should be a foremost consideration in your minds, and each man should strive to be a centre of work in himself. When his inner development has reached a certain point, he will naturally draw those with whom he is in contact under the same influence; a nucleus will be formed, round which other people will gather, forming a centre from which information and spiritual influence radiate, and towards which higher influences are directed.
To give an example, I feel that ten centers with seven members each is more beneficent, than having one center with 70 members. From a cursory glance it seems that a gathering of 70 members at one place is a lot better than 7 members because we all know how the power of thought increases geometrically with the number of people. But a deeper look reveals that due to various deterrents like old age, lack of conveyance, inconvenient timings, traffic, travel time, and so on, out of the 70 only 10 to 15 are able to attend the weekly study meetings on a regular basis. On the other hand, if there were a greater number of centres strategically located, not necessarily in a Society building, with the meetings done at members’ homes on a rotational basis, which is very practical, we would be able to avoid the deterrents just talked about, and not only will the number of members attending the study be greater but the group’s influence will be better felt in that larger area as well.
There is one more aspect to this effort of ours, and that is motive. What is the motive behind doing all this? Being students of theosophy we all know that it is the motive which is the real weaver of karma, whether individually or collectively as an organization. So how are we listening to the future? Are we doing it the way the CEO of a private company does? Which is, seeing how to make more and more profit, which in our case may be a greater number of members. Also, do we want to do this because “I” am related to this organization and “I” am more important than the teachings promulgated? If these are the only motives, then they may not be enough. How can that be, if the essence of theosophy is altruism? Is it not a better motive to bring theosophy to more and more people whether or not they become members; to bring the light of theosophy to the souls caught in between brutal materialism and exploitative spiritualism? And further, not because “I” am related to the Society but because it is the right thing to do, as the TS was founded as a channel for disseminating the knowledge of Theosophy and students of the same can very easily identify that the teachings and principles of Theosophy are all-inclusive. Only that which is all-inclusive can offer a solution to any possible situation known as a problem in any aspect of life of an individual, society, country or the planet. Be it the problem of climate change, of terrorism, of religious intolerance and sectarian violence, of violence against children, women and the elderly, and so on. Thus when we work for Theosophy and the TS we are actually performing our universal responsibility. If selfless devotion to the cause of Theosophy be the motive, which I assume most of us have, then we generate a force beyond the mental plane which practically moves unopposed and which as per the law of karma will bring its consequences. These consequences will not only be positive but also long-lasting.
As far as the membership is concerned there will always be sufficient embodied souls to continue the work of the TS who by their karmic link, whether to the Society or the teachings, will get attracted towards it. Many of us may have real- life examples of how someone just saw the signboard of a theosophical Lodge, walked in, and very soon became a willing student of Theosophy.
Further, working together for a social cause tends to bring the members closer, and the Theosophical Order of Service (TOS) is really helpful in this regard. Ideally, with every TS Lodge there should be a TOS Group as well, or, if not a formal Group, at least the TS Lodge should engage in some TOS activities. Then, as a group we will be trying to make Theo- sophy a living wisdom, making the bond stronger among the members.
Lastly, HPB warns us against the dangers of the craze for psychic development without a foundation of moral strength, which has once again become, or is gradually becoming, the cause of exploitation of sincere spiritual aspirants. Various entities are also offering instant yoga or nirvana by way of a shortcut. We as theosophists need to not only remain vigilant of our temptation for such things, but also try to communicate the related dangers to those who come in contact with us. The ethics of Theosophy are even more important than the scientific aspects of the psychic facts of Nature and man.
We all can and are contributing in this effort, whether by sharing our time or finances, by sharing our views in the form of a lecture, by writing an article, by acts of charity, by spreading theosophical literature, by attending a study class, by starting a study centre or Lodge, by meditation or by any other means available. This has been clearly stated by HPB in The Key to Theosophy:
The future of the TS will depend almost entirely upon the degree of selflessness, earnestness, devotion, and last but not least, on the amount of knowledge and wisdom possessed by those members, on whom it will fall to carry on the work.