Universal Brotherhood: The Need of the Hour

Deepa Padhi – India  


The author during a presentation for the 147th International Convention at Adyar

In the hymns of the Rigveda one finds the concept of Universal Brotherhood:

Let us move together,

Let us come to know our minds together,

Let us share like sages of the past,

That all individuals together may enjoy the Universe.

Unite our intentions,

Let our hearts be inseparable,

Our minds as one Mind,

As we truly know one another,

Become One.

Universal Brotherhood is the key concept of Theosophy and forms the first Object of the Theosophical Society (TS). It is best expressed in the Universal Prayer composed by Dr Annie Besant, the second international President of the TS. If one understands this prayer in its true sense, one realizes Universal Brotherhood. The last two sentences of the prayer read:

May each who feels himself as one with Thee,

Know he is therefore one with every other.

Here, “Thee” refers to the One Divine Source, Consciousness, the one source from which everything emerges. That one absolute Consciousness is the originating point and the culminating point of all beings and things.

We know we are not physical bodies having souls or consciousness, but consciousness having physical bodies. I am a soul or consciousness, so are you, and so is everyone. Therefore, in this sense, there is no “other”. The Maha Upanishad states:

ayam bandhurayam neti

gananâ laghuchetasâm

udâracharitânâm tu

vasudhaiva kutumbakam

This means, “this is my friend, the other is not”, which is the thinking of a narrow-minded person. For those who are magnanimous, the whole world is but one big family.

What scientists were talking about as the global village in the 20th century, our ancient sages had believed millennia ago, as one cosmic family.

In 1880, Mahatma Koothoomi wrote:

The term “Universal Brotherhood” is no idle phrase. Humanity in the mass has a paramount claim upon us. . . . It is the only secure foundation for universal morality. If it be a dream, it is at least a noble one for humankind: and it is the aspiration of the true adept. (The Mahatma Letters, ML-4)

Madame H. P. Blavatsky has said: “It is because there is one soul common to all men [and women], that brotherhood . . . is possible. Bring men [people] to rest on that, and they will be safe.” It was her belief that there is a divine power or consciousness in every man which rules his life.

Krishna says in the Bhagavadgitâ: “There is nothing whatsoever higher than Me, O Dhananjaya. All this is strung in Me, as clusters of gems on a string.” (7.7) There lies an inherent bonding of divine kinship among human beings, among all other living creatures, like animals, plants, and inanimate things like earth, water, air, minerals, and so on. If this brotherhood is accepted universally, most of our social evils, global conflicts, and crises will disappear. Diversity is the essence and beauty of life. We are spiritually one but physically many and different.

At present we are living in such a globalized world that, in one day, one can have breakfast in one country, lunch in another country, and dinner in still another. Through the advancement of science and technology, the world has become a global village. But unfortunately, in spite of globalization, war, terrorism, racism, gender inequality, environmental imbalance, and pandemics are the major challenges facing the whole world today.

The Russia-Ukraine war is a burning example that even with the advancement of science and technology, people are fighting each other knowing fully well the dreadful global consequences. Each one of us is responsible for such wars, misery, destruction, and disharmony that take place because of our greed, competitiveness, and hunger for power. Why is this happening? Because we are doing what we should not be doing. Humanity is now facing the “Duryodhana (of the Mahabharata) Syndrome”. Duryodhana expresses his weakness by saying: “I know what is good and right (dharma), but I have no inclination for it. I know what is bad and wrong (adharma), but cannot resist it.”

At present, most people are suffering from this syndrome because they have become spiritually bankrupt. People in general do not know who they are, where they have come from, where they want to go, and how they should interact and behave with others in this interconnected world. It is high time, they are aware of all these and learn how to live globally and peacefully with others. Theosophy is the right knowledge (Ageless Wisdom) and the Theosophical Society is the right forum to impart this knowledge to spiritually ignorant people.

First of all, we have to accept the fact that there is diversity in Nature’s creations and we need to discover unity in diversity. Everyone has their own way of living. From a practical standpoint, we have no right to judge a person on the basis of their attire, the way they look, the way they speak, the way they live their life. One should not have any problems with persons who are in a living-in relationship, gays, or transgenders. They too are human beings and have the right to live in this world as per their choice as long as they do not harm others. We have no right to judge them. Similarly, people from different religious beliefs have their own ways of living and doing rituals and prayers. We should not say anything negative about them. We need to accept others as they are. Acceptance and tolerance are essential qualities for peaceful co-existence.

Theosophy speaks of the need for human beings to rise above humanity and extending fellowship to plants, animals, even to the inanimates, because every created thing and being partakes of the same essence — the Universal Consciousness. We should know that all things and beings in the universe are interconnected and interdependent. However small and insignificant they may be, they should not be ignored. If a tiny ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. All living forms in Nature live by collaboration, cooperation, accommodation, and exchange. Our happiness and peace is interconnected with that of others.

Recently the Covid-19 pandemic taught the world that one cannot remain safe if others are at risk. The coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan, initially infected eighty-thousand people, but more than 228 countries got affected and six-hundred million people were in isolation in their homes due to the disease. Because of the interconnectedness, the whole world suffered from the dreaded disease. At the same time, because of the feeling of brotherhood, people survived through the invention of vaccines and the untiring effort of doctors, and health and frontline workers. Disasters and pandemics often remind us that we all belong to one planet as brothers and sisters.

The Law of Karma also has a role in brotherhood, as it proves that one cannot harm another without harming oneself. We need to be conscious of our thoughts, words, and actions, so that we do not create negative Karma through them. Sometimes the question arises regarding how to know the difference between good and bad Karma. To me, good Karma is that which is created when we do good to others or help others selflessly, and bad Karma is that which is created when we do harm or hurt others directly or indirectly for some selfish purpose.

All our external crises are nothing but different facets of the fundamental inner crisis, which, as Fritjof Capra says, is “a crisis of perception”, and therefore needs a change in our vision, thought, and values. What is this crisis of perception? It is the narrow and wrong belief of the individual about himself and the world around him. For example, out of arrogance, human beings think that they are the highest creation having intelligence, and that other life forms exist only for their enjoyment. This is an erroneous perception. And with this perception and belief, man has been exploiting Nature for his own interest to maximize his comforts, luxuries, and pleasures of life.

In the present scenario, we feel the need of Universal Brotherhood more because of the increase in social evils like violence against women and children, religious intolerance, wars, and so on. Similarly, there should not be any manmade division between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, higher and lower social status, and so forth. All should be treated alike, as we are all essentially one. It is high time that we change our narrow, individual perceptions, thoughts, and values.

Often a question arises: Can universal brotherhood be attained? I would say, yes. Transformation of an individual at the inner level can transform society on a larger scale. Therefore, we must focus on our own self. This should start with ourselves as individuals, and our families. It should manifest in every action of ours in relation to other members of our family. Gradually we need to expand ourselves, our consciousness, to include our neighborhood, then our countrymen, then the whole of humanity, and ultimately embrace the whole of Nature, animate and inanimate. It will be an awakening to the experience of interconnectedness.

Man is a part of the whole cosmic order which runs by its own dynamics. Being intelligent, man has to serve the whole, both animate and inanimate, because by serving the whole, the part is taken care of. The whole does not get meaning from the parts but, the parts get meaning from the whole.

Therefore, to think and care for the so called “others” is to think and care for oneself. We can have a peaceful life if only we allow others to live in peace. In other words, “live and let live” should be the guiding principle for our day-to-day life in the present times.

With the development and advancement of science and technology in the material world, if people cultivate, at the same time, spiritual values within themselves like altruism, compassion, love, empathy, tolerance, acceptance, and so on, then there will be peaceful coexistence of all living forms and Universal Brotherhood can be achieved. Humanity cannot be served without cultivating these virtues.

This is what the Mission Statement of the TS aims at, as approved by its General Council: “To serve humanity by cultivating an ever-deepening understanding and realization of the Ageless Wisdom, spiritual self-transformation, and the unity of all life.”

This article was also published in The Theosophist VOL. 144 NO. 4 JANUARY 2023

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

To read the JANUARY, 2023 issue click HERE 

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