Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World

Barbara Hebert – USA 


We, as a group, want to transform the world. We want it to be a place of peace, acceptance, and compassion. We want to live in a world where there is no judgment based upon skin color, religious or spiritual tradition, way of self-identifying, and so on. In other words, we want to live in a world where everyone realizes the essential unity of all life and has a reverence and respect for that life. As members of the Theosophical Society, we are committed to bringing about this world.

Some individuals may refer to the ideas of brotherhood and sisterhood as being inclusive. However, for those of us on this particular path, we are actually talking about moving beyond inclusion. Inclusion implies that someone or something must be excluded. From the Ageless Wisdom teachings, we are talking about a unity that is so profound that the concept of inclusion doesn’t fit. We are talking about a unity and a respect for all life that goes beyond love in the typical use of the word; rather, we are talking about LOVE for all beings because nothing else is conceivable. N. Sri Ram tells us “The love which deserves that name is impartial, non-possessive, wholly beneficent; in that love alone is to be discovered the force which will ultimately bring man to his freedom.”

It is reasonable to ask: How we will bring about this change in the world. How do we love others impartially, non-possessively, and beneficially?

The easiest answer, which paradoxically is also the most difficult answer is: We change ourselves.

In order to change the world, we must transform ourselves. Former international president of the Theosophical Society, Radha Burnier said, “The subject of human [transformation] is very important because a truly momentous change in the history of humanity will occur only when there is a revolutionary change in the human being. Probably a sufficient number of human beings must change to bring about a radical change in the course of human history.”(p.3)  What did she mean when she talked about a revolutionary or radical change in each of us?

Krishnamurti tells us “To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine...” (p. 42)

Our responsibility, then, according to Krishnamurti is our intention to understand ourselves in order to transform. We can transform through relentless self-awareness and objective self-observation. What are we thinking, feeling, saying, doing? What is the intention behind our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions?

Are we congruent? That is, do our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions match our belief system? Do they match our desire for change in ourselves and thus in the world?

This sounds very simple, yet it is perhaps one of the most difficult undertakings any of us will ever experience. Self-transformation is a process that requires honesty and courage.

In psychological circles, there are discussions about which comes first...thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. I’m not going to get into that debate at this point, but one thing is certain, our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected almost instantaneously. From the Ageless Wisdom teachings, we recognize that thoughts and feelings stem from the kama manasic field of consciousness. This is the aspect of self that involves both feelings (kama) and thoughts (manas).

Let’s consider our thoughts. Experts estimate that the brain/mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s an average of 2500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour. Other experts estimate a smaller number of 50,000 thoughts per day, which means about 2100 thoughts per hour or about 35 thoughts a minute or about 6 thoughts a second.  So, in the time that it’s taken to read this, we have all probably had about 35-50 thoughts! What were they? 

To put it very simply our thoughts are based on the conditioning inculcated from our families, our environments, our cultures, and the world in which we live. Everything contributes to our conditioning, even when we are not aware of it.

Our conditioning is frequently so deeply rooted that we have difficulty identifying it and sometimes even more difficulty “owning” the thoughts and feelings that emanate from it. Recognizing and accepting even the most deeply rooted conditioning is an integral component in our spiritual self-transformation.

We transform our consciousness by first identifying and then working to make changes: changes to our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviors. We change those aspects of ourselves that are not congruent with our belief system. We transform in order to become congruent with our belief system.

As we know, change does not happen overnight. Transformation of our consciousness is a process that takes lifetimes. It also requires practice. We will fail at times, and we will need to pick ourselves up and start over. Eventually, the new way of thinking, feeling, talking, and doing will become a part of who we are.

For how long do we do this?  Forever!  Krishnamurti writes, “The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end - you don't come to an achievement, you don't come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” (Ojai, CA, 1949) Transformation is a process that will take us, as Radha Burnier says, “...from selfishness to unity….This change to realization of unity is revolutionary, fundamental.” (p. 15)  She continues, saying “Fundamental change is ...many things. It is change from selfishness to altruism; from strife, inside and outside, to peace; from ugliness…to beauty and harmony. It is a change from a state of ignorance to wisdom.” (p. 15-16)

Therefore, if we want to change the world, then we must begin by changing ourselves.

When enough of us transform, all of humanity will transform.  As individuals change, so humanity changes. We are one and the same and can never be separated. We are like the yin yang symbol. Within each of us, we carry humanity; within humanity is a piece of us and together we are a whole.


Burnier, Radha.   Human Regeneration. (1990) Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Theosophical Publishing House.

Krishnamurti, J.  First and Last Freedom. (1975) Harper San Francisco.

“Does Self-Knowledge Come Through Searching?” Public talk 1, Ojai, CA, USA, 16 July 1949.  Retrieved 3/6/23 from:

Sri Ram, N. Thoughts for Aspirants. (1957). Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House. Retrieved 3/10/23 from:

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