Ananya Rajan - USA
[This talk was given during 15th Annual International Theosophy Conference held in August 2013 in New York. The theme title of the conference was “How to Awaken Compassion? - H. P. Blavatsky and the Eternal Secret Doctrine”]
The theme of this conference is “How to Awaken Compassion: H.P. Blavatsky and the Eternal Secret Doctrine.” Keeping the theme of the conference in mind, I think it’s important for us to realize that we are the “Eternal Secret Doctrine.” Within us resides everything we need to know. Our bodies are a living library of ancient cultures and traditions despite not remembering on a conscious level. We come from the Eternal and we will eventually return to the Eternal. All we need to do is look harder. As H. P. B. showed us from her writings, we cannot evolve without understanding who we are. I do not mean from the scientific, psychological or philosophical point of view. These are views from an outside intellectual perspective. To understand the Self is work that must only be done by the individual alone. It is up to the individual to press on, looking harder into their sense of who they are. This can be intimidating for many. We want to believe we know ourselves, but often times we don’t.
Through her life, H. P. B. lived the example of her teachings. She showed us who she was, never gave up when ridiculed, wasn't afraid as a woman to show her emotions---which even in today’s modern world and almost 140 years later is still a source of conversation. A man can lose his temper and be considered justified while a woman is considered emotional. Of course in H. P. B.’s time, women didn't raise their voices. Yet, she courageously stood against the majority, despite being ridiculed. All she wanted to do was to share with us what she was taught and she did that through her life and her life’s work. She lived theosophy and in turn showed us that theosophy needs to be lived. When we live it, it becomes a part of our life and practical. In The Key to Theosophy under the heading of “What is Practical Theosophy,” H. P. B. states that members best help the movement by Theosophy being an example in their lives.
So what does living the example of Theosophy in one’s life mean? To me, practical Theosophy means love. Not love in the romantic sense of the word, but love without boundaries, without conditions, and without sentimentality. It is love that embodies compassion for all beings, great and small. It is love that allows the heart to be open. It is love that allows freedom for every individual to be who they are, but love that uses discernment as its guard.
Living Theosophy is living altruistically. It is heart work at the core. Our intelligence can only take us so far. Eventually we need to turn off our minds and open our hearts. Given the time period of H. P. B.’s life, I have come to believe that she was careful to use the word love minimally because of the misinterpretation that can surround it. Instead she used language that at times seems “heady” to say the least. In The Secret Doctrine, her volume on Cosmogenesis is actually a beautiful love story. Coded in allegory, it paints the picture of the Absolute selflessly giving in order to know itself. When we look at the teachings from this perspective, we can realize that we truly are the microcosm of the macrocosm. The sayings “As above, so below” or “As within, so without” come to mind. And if we follow the qualities of the Divine, such as selflessness, we will live a life that brings us back into touch with our own divinity and our connection to the All That Is. We are once again reunited with the Beloved. What greater love story is there? And, as mentioned earlier, none of this has to do with romance for real love is more than poetic words and gestures. It goes beyond the human desires. Love has to do with self-sacrifice, freedom, compassion, and the wisdom to know thy Self. Interestingly, as a mental health counselor, these are the same qualities I encourage clients to have in their relationships. But sadly, I can’t seem to get them to read the Secret Doctrine. I really can’t understand why.
It is very easy for us to get caught up in the descriptions in H. P. B.’s writings and forget that they are clues to who we are. Her work Isis Unveiled, I feel, is an introduction to the basis of Theosophy and gives us a better understanding of the ancient teachings and our connection with the world around us. In this work H. P. B.’s descriptions of rituals of purification and initiation performed by ancient societies give us a glimpse into the unseen world and our connection to it. She begins by asking “Is it too much to believe that man should be developing new sensibilities and a closer relationship with nature?” We can begin to understand that our life is more than this physical realm and that by having a closer relationship with nature, we will have the ability to discover hidden powers latent within us to create the world we want to live in. It is also here that we realize that if we want to awaken the powers within us, we must, without question, choose love in our lives.
When we chose love it is a path of self-sacrifice. We are choosing to sacrifice the personal wants and desires, the personality, in order to know the Higher Self. This choice is not made lightly by those who commit to it. The Road is Steep and Thorny and the Divine Witness is forever reminding us of the karmic repercussions that we will endure when right thought, action, and word is not followed. If we truly commit to the path of love, we step into a world where vibration and energy dominate, leaving aside the physical realm, and we wait for the Voice of the Silence to speak to us in a whisper. It is truly a world of self-sacrifice, because the self is no longer the focus. Like a mother caring for her young, gone are the days where one thinks of themselves first. Every action is based on what is best for the whole. Karma rules the tongue so words are watched carefully and the guardian of the gate keeps watch over our thoughts. We know within our heart of hearts that this physical realm is just a breath of the Divine Mother, breathing us into existence.
Choosing the path of love and living a life of altruism are two very different actions. Here is where things get sticky. H. P. B. deciphers between being a member of an organization, i.e. choosing a path of love with all the good intentions, and being a Theosophist, i.e. living an altruistic life. Trying to live altruistically can get difficult when we are active in the world and are in contact with more people who can irritate us. It is easy to be a member of an organization, and say we are loving, but to live the ideals of the organization every day is difficult. We are “to be in the world, but not of it.” In other words, to rise above the irritations of the world and this takes a lot of inner work which leads to self-sacrifice. Awareness in our daily lives is one of the most difficult tasks we can undergo, but one of the most crucial stepping stones to an altruistic life. It is the awareness that allows us to discern reality from illusion; keeps the ego in check and opens our minds to new experiences. Theosophy waits for those who knock.
H. P. B. states in The Key to Theosophy “Much must necessarily be left to the individual judgment” about whether our actions are in line with the commitment we have made. As Theosophists, we must promote true brotherhood “by inculcating those higher and nobler conceptions of public and private duties which lie at the root of all spiritual and material development” and “our daily individual life must radiate those higher spiritual forces which alone can regenerate his fellow man.”
The individual journey is left to the individual alone. There is no dogma, there are no hard and fast rules, there is no guru to tell us what to do. However, there are keys as I mentioned earlier such H. P. B.’s opening question in Isis Unveiled and our connection to Nature. Another key are the “Golden Stairs” which are simple instructions for our own individual journey, but difficult to achieve. And yet, they are instructions to a life of spiritual fulfillment and love. I have personally found that by meditating and living by the “Golden Stairs,” as well as one can, one’s life can be transformed. We begin to have compassion for everything around us, including ourselves.
A clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception, a brotherliness for one’s co-disciple, a readiness to give and receive advice and instruction, a loyal sense of duty to the teacher, a willing obedience to the behest of truth once we have placed our confidence in and believe that teacher to be in possession of it, a courageous endurance for personal injustice, a brave declaration of principles, a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked and a constant eye to the ideal of human progression and perfection which the secret science depicts. These are the Golden Stairs.
We can take these words at face value by doing the minimum of eating a nutritious diet, keeping our body and surroundings clean, and basically being of good character. We can keep an open mind by being accepting of others and generally being open to new experiences and so on. In order to be pure hearted we can make sure we think good thoughts—whatever that may mean to one—and try not to talk disparagingly about another, and on it goes. Face value is basically touching just the surface where it is comfortable.
However, if we decide to live an altruistic life--which eventually brings us into touch with the love that brought us here in the first place—we cannot touch the tip of the iceberg. We need to go deep, deep within ourselves to places where a serpent lies coiled under every flower. It is only when we truly question ourselves that we can break apart the Real from the Unreal. The Voice of the Silence states that “The Mind is the great slayer of the Real. Let the disciple slay the slayer.” (I think of the Goddess Kali holding a human head in her one hand and a saber in another.) In other words the work we need to do cannot be done by the mind. It must come from a deeper place within us where the ego does not reside, where we give up our attachment to being right, to feeling powerful and having control, to our feeling of importance. So when we state that we are living a clean life—are we? Are we honest with ourselves? Do we give freedom to the other sentient beings around us or is it a relationship based on what is best for us? Are we who we say we are, or are we living a life according to an image? Are we transparent like a clean piece of glass?
A great test for open-mindedness is to walk in circles where we aren’t comfortable, to be with people who live differently from ourselves, whether culturally, economically, or even personally. I often think of the number of people H. P. B. met who were so different from herself. Can we still be as loving with others as we are with those whose lifestyles match our own? Are we being genuine or are we just “tolerating” others? This is where our pure heartedness comes into question. Are we being pure hearted? What does pure hearted mean? How do we know when we aren’t being pure hearted?
It is only the individual who can answer these questions about his or her life. No one can walk the journey of another and we should try—“try” being the key word here—as much as possible to step back to allow others to make their own decisions. And we should try never to judge another for what they have chosen to do or experience. We are not living their life. Every experience can only be seen through the eyes of the experiencer.
It is no wonder that H. P. B. discusses the Path as an arduous journey. Not only do we have to contend with the emotions of the personality, but the mind as well. And knowing this to be so, she is careful to note that through our own will, we are the makers of our own destiny. She is constantly stressing the need for the individual to decide what is right for them. Thus she provides an example of one of the qualities of love: freedom. Connecting to the Higher Self cannot be achieved if we are restricted in our journey. We must find our own way. While she gives an outline for us to follow, there is no one there to tell us whether we are following the outline correctly. Only the individual knows what is right for them.
In my counseling practice, I have come across so many people who are completely out of touch with themselves. I believe this happens because we live in a society where we are constantly being told we are doing things wrong or that there is someone more knowledgeable to go to who can tell us what we need. I find myself constantly asking the question “What do you feel is best for you?” I don’t ask what do you think is best for you, but what do you feel? We, as humans, are often out of touch with what our bodies are telling us. In reality, our body is our conscience. It will tell us whether we are following our own path or someone else’s. It will tell us whether we are being ourselves or pretending to be someone else.
As we all know, the soul incarnates to experience and learn so it may know itself. Incarnation in itself is an act of divine love because we come into this life to continue a journey so all of humanity may progress. It is not just about our own individual journey. We are part of the One. Whatever progress we make in this blink of a lifetime, impacts the One. We, all beings great and small, do not incarnate without purpose. Every sentient being has a purpose in this life given to it from the Divine. As humans, we forget that every moment is a moment we need to be aware. Aware of what we think, say, and do and just by that awareness we are treading the path of altruism.
When we know ourselves, meet and greet every sentient being as we would want to be greeted, and truly see ourselves as a part of the Divine, there is a connection to the seen and unseen worlds that cannot be put into words. A peace that passeth understanding surrounds us and every action we do, is done from the heart. There are no words, there is only a feeling of oneness and this is altruism.