Theosophy

Mastering the Cyclic Nature of Existence – 2

Elena Dovalsantos – USA

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Elena's (the author) favorite flower - to read part 1 click HERE

Part I of this talk presented a theosophical perspective of the unity of all life. This view is based on the Ageless Wisdom teachings that (1) the same divine essence and consciousness pervades all things; and (2) that we are all evolving towards greater and greater realization and expression of our shared divinity.

Cycles at all levels allow for endless opportunities for this evolutionary development. In particular, reincarnation and the universal law of karma provide the necessary lessons to awaken us from our tendencies towards identification with worldly life, separateness, and craving for fleeting pleasures. These are what inevitably bring pain and suffering to ourselves and others.

As humans, we can decide to take matters into our own hands and hasten our awakening. We can stop being hapless victims of circumstance, trapped in the wheel of karma and rebirth, and instead be masters of our destinies. But how do we achieve this liberation when existence seems to entail endless creation of karma?

The Lesson of Harmony

H. P. Blavatsky (HPB), who brought the wisdom of the ages to the Western world when she co-founded the Theosophical Society (TS), referred to karma as “the law of universal harmony” (Collected Writings, 13:365). “The only decree of karma — an eternal and immutable decree — is absolute harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of spirit.” (The Secret Doctrine, 1:643).

When harmony breaks down, as when selfishness predominates, karma steps in to restore the balance. In The Voice of the Silence, (v. 208) HPB writes that harmony in word and act is “the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for karmic action.” Actions that are based on selflessness and are in harmony with all life, actions that are true and good and beautiful, would be those that keep us from returning time and again to a world of sorrows.

Every vibrant whole requires the harmonious working together of all its parts. Just as our fingers must work together for our hand to achieve its purpose, if we cannot work harmoniously and coexist, it will be difficult for us to achieve the purpose of this evolutionary journey that we are on.

Harmony is the order of the Universe. Nature works in accord with this Universal Order and when there is complete harmony and equilibrium, heaven can be reflected on Earth!

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The clues to the interrelatedness of everything are evident everywhere if we can look closely. Nature speaks, but only ever so softly that if we are not attentive, we miss the message. There is therefore the need for the quietude that enables us to perceive more deeply.

Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr was an American polar explorer who lived from 1888 to 1957. Hungering for the ultimate solitude, he spent five months alone in the South Pole. In his book entitled Alone, he described an experience that can only come from the silence that allows for a communion with the One Reality that is in all things. It is the sort of experience that is usually described by mystics. He wrote:

I paused to listen to the silence.  The day was dying, the night being born, but with great peace. Here were the imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. Harmony — that was it! That was what came out of the silence — a gentle rhythm, the strain of a perfect chord, the music of the spheres, perhaps.

It was enough to catch that rhythm, momentarily to be myself a part of it. In that instant I could feel no doubt of our oneness with the universe. The conviction came that the rhythm was too orderly, too harmonious, too perfect to be a product of blind chance — that, therefore, there must be purpose in the whole and that we were part of that whole and not an accidental offshoot. It was a feeling that transcended reason; that went to the heart of human despair and found it groundless. . . .

And in view of the southern lights in the Antarctic, he continued:

The human race, my intuition tells me, is not outside the cosmic process and is not an accident. It is as much a part of the universe as the trees, the mountains, the aurora, and the stars.

Harmony is the secret of happiness. Being harmonious makes us happy because it is an expression of our true being, which is one with all. It explains why we find happiness in making someone else happy; even making our pets happy. Even a plant thriving with our love and care cannot but elicit a smile. These actions make us feel fulfilled somehow. Alternatively, when our relationships are not going well, we feel miserable. We cringe when we see intense pain in another.

Somehow, we feel it too, in the deepest part of our being. Thus, if we can pay more attention, empathy and compassion can come  naturally,  and  perhaps  we  can make this a better world.

One of the most often-quoted verses in The Voice of the Silence (vv. 300–301) reads: “Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of laws — eternal harmony . . . the law of love eternal. The more thou dost become one  with  it,  thy  being  melted in its BEING, the more thy Soul unites with  that  which  IS,  the  more  thou  wilt become  COMPASSION ABSOLUTE.”  To be able to respond to the divine essence in all persons and all things is the basis of right action.

Geoffrey  Hodson  expressed  this  in another way when he said: “The highest expression  possible  to  mankind  of  the fact of a shared Source of Existence or Divine Life consists of an unfailing love for all others; and the elevation of compassion, humaneness, and simple kindliness to the most prominent position in our lives.”

As Hodson had actively campaigned against cruelty to animals and had written widely about devas (angels) who watch over our natural environment, it is doubtless that the foregoing statement must be taken to include the humane treatment of animals and also our planet. He wrote:

“Gentleness, kindness, tenderness, caring deeply . . . these are ways, however humble, by which the very best in a person can shine forth.”

Therefore, a very simple advice from Geoffrey Hodson is to: “Care deeply for all others.(Sharing the Light, 2:764)

Learning from Nature

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it is always a challenge to maintain harmony. We are pushed and pulled in various directions. And just when we start to feel good about ourselves, thinking we have conquered some of our shortcomings, then tests and challenges sometimes tend to get the better of us again.

As we strive to overcome the hurdles of life, how can we get clues to guide our actions? As has already been mentioned, one practice that may help is attentiveness. If the statement of Hermes Trismegistus, “As above, so below” is true, then the harmony of the spheres must also be reflected everywhere in Nature down here. We only have to realize it.

So how do we take clues from Nature for the everyday conduct of our lives? Let us take water, one of the most abundant compounds on Earth, as an example. A very wise friend once said: “Study water, and more than one secret will be revealed to you.” As there was no explanation, I have often thought about what secrets water may hold.

Water is a beautiful and powerful metaphor frequently used in the Tao Te Ching. It has been said that the way of water is the way of a sage. Interestingly, we may even see parallels between the qualities of water and the Buddhist pâramitâs, the glorious virtues said to be the golden keys that open the gates of the Portals leading “to the other shore”. (The Voice of the Silence, vv. 206–213)

Below are seven excerpts on water from the Tao Te Ching. (Lao Tsu, translators: Kwok, Palmer and Ramsay; Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English; Stephen Mitchell). The pâramitâs are in parentheses:

1, The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. Seeking nothing for itself, water, by its existence alone, is a benediction to all life. (dâna, charity)

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2, Water flows around obstacles and fulfills its purpose without violence. (sila, perfect harmony in word and act)

Instead of fighting obstacles, water flows around the blocks, creating new pathways if necessary. In the process, it erodes the sharp edges of the rocks that block its path, smoothening them as it prevails. In this way it both maintains and creates harmony.

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3, Like water, the sage waits for the moment to ripen and be right; water, you know, never fights.  kshânti, patience, endurance, forbearance) Water is the most yielding substance, but over time it can wear away the hardest of rocks. Thus with patience, water, which is soft, can overcome the hard.

As the Roman poet Ovid wrote: “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”

And from Mahatma Gandhi: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

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4, Water is content with the low places that people disdain. (virâga, indifference to pleasure and pain)

Most people would want to be at a higher place in life — to be admired, to be looked up to. But water teaches humility: it flows even to the lowest levels most people would rather avoid.

Having no ego and no desires of its own, water works in harmony with natural forces and adapts to its environment. It embodies the way of Nature.

In the Tao Te Ching, it is asked: Why is the sea the king of a hundred streams? The answer is: Because it lies below them. This is a teaching for the sage who would lead or guide the people: serve with humility.

Water is flexible and adaptable. It can take the shape of a glass or a teapot or, as when spilled on the ground, it may have no shape at all. It can be solid, liquid, or gas. Thus did Lao Tsu state:

A man is born gentle and weak. At his death he is hard and stiff.

Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry.

Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.

The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.

5, The weak can overcome the strong; the supple can overcome the hard. (virya, dauntless energy, fortitude, steadfast exertion)

Nothing in the world is softer than water. It may appear weaker and softer than a mountain, but did you know that the Colorado River carved what is now the Grand Canyon in the US? It did this over millions of years. It has a strength and power of its own.

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6, The sage, practicing Tao in the world, is like a river flowing home to the sea, gathering the waters of the streams into himself as he goes. (dhyâna, spiritual contemplation)

Tao can mean “the Way”, “the Path”, the natural order of the universe, or the all-embracing Unity. So, the practice of Tao is a flowing home to that essential unity of all streams. This also reflects our journey as we aspire to return to the ocean of Oneness from which we all came and to which we belong.

Finally:

7. Like a lake, the heart must be calm and quiet, having great depth beneath it. It is in this silence, this calm and quiet, that we can embrace the ONE.(prajñâ, wisdom, which is the result of Self-realization.)

Therefore, with gentleness, compassion, humility, patience, flexibility, an inner strength, and harmony, like water, we too may be able to work around crises of life, master the cycles of existence, and eventually be like the dewdrop that slips into the shining sea, where all is ONE.

To all who would learn from Nature, who would help her and work with her, the assurance is given:

She will open wide before thee the portals of her secret chambers, lay bare before thy gaze the treasures hidden in the very depths of her pure virgin bosom . . . Then will she show thee the means and way, the first gate and the second, the third, up to the very seventh. And then, the goal — beyond which lie, bathed in the sunlight of the Spirit, glories untold, unseen by any save the eye of the Soul. (The Voice of the Silence, vv. 66–68)

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From the Q&A after the above International Convention talk in December 2020:

Q: Could you talk a little about (COVID-19) your perspectives about why it may be happening now, and maybe a bit about the astral light, please?

A: As mentioned in the talk, the astral light is said to be the lowest level of the âkâsa, just above the physical plane. The âkâsic levels closest to our terrestrial atmosphere absorb the lowest vibrations and are therefore more prone tobeing polluted by coarse emanations generated on the planet. In time, the astral light reflects back to Earth whatever it has received.

HPB wrote that the astral light is the memory tablet of the animal man, while the highest level of âkâsa is the tablet of memory of the spiritual Ego. Another way HPB described the astral light is that it is like the photographer’s negative plate, whereas we are like the sensitive paper underneath on which the picture is printed. So whatever we have imprinted there is what we get back.

Coarse thoughts and actions generated by humans and stored in the astral light may combine with similar vibrations to gain more strength. They may stay there for long periods; but the more that gets accumulated, the more devastating the effect on us when it returns. Who knows when the karmic consequences of our actions are to come back to us? No one can tell.

Now let us think of the human iniquities generated in just the last 100 years through genocides, wars, mass murders,  tortures, hate crimes, hunting for sport, and massive slaughter of animals. HPB, Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, Geoffrey Hodson, all wrote that disease is the karma of cruelty. This is very sad, because, surely, in our long string of lives all of us have committed crimes of cruelty against others, especially in those lives when we did not know any better. Hopefully, with more knowledge and wisdom, we are no longer generating such karma. However, whatever has been put in motion cannot be stopped; it has to take its course. So, COVID (corona virus disease) could very well be the karmic effect of the cruelty that humanity has generated and inflicted on itself. The effects have now to be endured, worked out, and learned from.

The best thing that we can do from here on is to generate positive effects. We can fill our mental atmosphere with thoughts of benevolence, kindness, understanding, compassion, and peace. Instead of criticizing other persons for their failings, how about reminding ourselves that we too are still imperfect and send a helpful thought to them? At the same time, let us stop creating new kârmic debts.

It is like managing a bank account. If we only generate debt, we will end up in a deep, miserable financial hole. Instead of adding to the negative karma accumulating in the astral light, how about banking good deeds every opportunity we get? If we imprint higher aspirations and noble acts on the astral light, we will not only attract back to ourselves helpful influences, but we will positively impact those around us as well.

In the Mahatma Letters we are enjoined to “firmly build a new continent of thought, so that no opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow shall prevail”. When I was watching the opening of the last online international Convention of the TS Adyar, listening to the greetings from the various Sections, I was touched by the warmth between theosophists scattered all over the world. Is it possible to harness this link between us all across the globe, and help generate this new continent of thought?

Thoughts are so powerful, more powerful even than physical actions. Why is that? Thoughts can travel far and wide in an instant, without regard to international borders. They can affect every plane of existence, not just the physical. They can linger long after an action has been completed. We can utilize the power of thought and it would not even cost us anything!

We can be generating good thoughts while sitting comfortably in our living rooms, when we are falling asleep at night, the moment we wake up in the morning, or when there is a little break during the day. Why don’t we form the habit of generating positive thoughts to neutralize the negative impressions in the mental atmosphere? That could be a very important service that any and all of us could do for the world.

In The Voice of the Silence there is also the idea of the “Guardian Wall, or “Wall of Protection”. All of us who feel so linked to each other — and I could feel that bond while listening to the greetings during the opening of the Convention — can we, all across the world, visualize ourselves holding hands, or standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, encircling this planet as a “Guardian Wall”? It is said that adepts, saints, and yogis over the ages have been keeping this wall of protection around our humanity to prevent further and even worse sorrows from coming and affecting us.

Can all throughout the world who feel this unity, encircle our planet in thought and be a channel for the divine light to come down and provide a beneficent influence upon humanity and all life that is evolving here? We can do it! This is a challenge, a rallying call for all of us. When a Theosophical Convention or any spiritual gathering comes to an end, we usually leave with some inspiration for our lives and work. Can we also go away with the conviction that we can do something together by linking ourselves and doing this service for humanity?

This article was also published in The Theosophist, VOL. 142 NO. 12 SEPTEMBER 2021

The Theosophist is the official organ of the International President, founded by H. P. Blavatsky on 1 Oct. 1879.

To read the AUGUST, 2021 issue, click HERE

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