Mini–interviews Second Quarter 2013

Article Index

Opinions and ideas expressed in the mini-interviews are exclusively of those who are being interviewed. They don’t necessarily represent the ideas and opinions of the compilers of Theosophy Forward.

The responses of the interviewees are not edited for content. Some contributors give short answers to the questions while others touch upon the subject more elaborately.

Please note that the mini-interview at the end is actually a “maxi” interview. Members of the Vasanta Youth Lodge in Adyar have done fine job making the interview a joint effort.

 

 


Abraham Oron

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Abraham Oron, I live in Israel and I am a member since 1978.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am lecturing and organizing the work of the TS in Israel. We have one lodge consisting of 80 members and about 3000 sympathizers with whom we are in touch. We have 5 study groups which are open also to non-members. Here are some of the activities which we offer to the public:
•    An introductory course of Theosophy named: “Meditation Theosophy and Self Transformation.”
•    A course of 12 sessions on the emotional nature of man in which we give Theosophical and Buddhist perspectives on dealing with harmful emotions.
•    A workshop consisting of 5 sessions named “Helping our neighbor” which provides tools and insights for gaining inner peace. The study material for this workshop can be found on Theosophy Forward’s website.  

3.   How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I learned about Theosophy through an advertisement in a vegetarian magazine, about 3 years after I had been following a transcendental meditation course and meditating regularly. At the time I was desperately in search for spiritual books and that particular advertisement mentioned a library. So I went to one of their meetings which I did not find very interesting, but the library which contained mainly Theosophical books in English interested me very much, so I joined as a member on the spot. Now I seem to be like the biblical king Saul who as a common villager went in search for his lost mares but found a kingdom. I searched for books but I found the ocean of Divine Wisdom.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

Theosophy for me is the hope for a better world and a better life for humanity. It brought so much light into my life, and I deeply feel that this light and profound knowledge should be made available to all, by making it clear, simple and practical. We can make Theosophy much more understandable if we avoid using complex jargon while introducing Theosophy to the public or to beginners.

Theosophy can be made more interesting and practical if we could start by teaching some of the principles of Theosophy through subjects such as: meditation, the power of thought, Theosophical values for understanding our emotional nature and coping with harmful emotions and basic Theosophical teachings which help in understanding intuition and its development. If we would like to make Theosophy vital in creating a better world, we would have to avoid using too many abstract expressions; those should be kept for a later stage.

5.    What is your favorite Theosophical book and why?

I like books which inspire for a deeper understanding of the principles of spiritual life and Self Realization: Light on the Path, The Voice of the Silence, Practical Occultism, and Letters from the Masters of Wisdom. I study these books again and again together with the Bhagavad-Gita, Vivekachudamani (The crest jewel of discrimination by Shankaracharia) and the Dhamapada by the Buddha.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

To be more involved and creative in preparing a dynamic leadership which can present Theosophy in new and inspiring forms, emphasizing the practical side of Theosophy in making life and relationships more meaningful and harmonious.

7.  Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

That the rich treasures of knowledge and wisdom in the TS will find ways to the hearts of the younger generation.





Ed Abdill

1.     What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

Ed Abdill from New York City. I’ve been a member of the TS since 1959.

2.     Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am active in the NYTS and the Theosophical Society in America. I lecture for the Society throughout the United States and internationally. I wrote The Secret Gateway – Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition to give a contemporary overview of Theosophical philosophy.

3.     How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I learned about Theosophy from a Spanish language teacher in 1955. For a conversation exam I spoke about an essay I wrote in high school on comparative religion. Next day she gave me a pamphlet written in Spanish. It was about Theosophy. More on this is in a preface of The Secret Gateway.

4.     What does Theosophy mean to you?

Theosophy means everything to me. It appeals to my mind and heart, and while it has, in Blavatsky’s words, not solved the riddles of the universe, it has lifted a corner of the veil. I take to heart H. P. B ’s warning that we cannot expect to “get it” in words. The words appeal to “the higher faculties,” toward truth that can flash on the mind as insight.

5.   What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

The Voice of the Silence is my favourite because it appeals to spiritual Intuition. Some of its poetry would make Shakespeare jealous.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar  (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the TS Adyar and all Theosophical organizations is find ways to help people understand that Theosophical principles are practical, common sense, and applicable in daily life. The didactic method was used in the past and still has some use, but the challenge is to help people focus their minds in such a way that they get flashes of understanding within themselves. It seems to me that is the only way Theosophy can become a living force in the world, a force that is not a creed but a guide to harmonious living.

7.  Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

My fervent wish is that by living the life required to come to the wisdom we might be a beacon to others and lead them to richer and fuller lives.


Ken Small

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Ken Small and I grew up in the area of San Diego, California called Point Loma. I am not a member of any particular TS and facilitate the 'Point Loma School of Theosophic Perennialism', www.pointlomaschool.com for study and classes in the Theosophic Perennialism, which is the successor organization to Point Loma Publications.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

Through the 'Point Loma School of Theosophic Perennialism', www.pointlomaschool.com we host discussion groups and study in the Blavatsky and Theosophic Perennialism of the Point Loma tradition. Additionally I express my 'theosophic' effort in teaching meditation and mindfulness through Zen and Buddhist groups at Enso Meditation in San Diego and other groups. In my view, Theosophy met the interests and needs of the late 19th century with what was at the time, revolutionary teachings on karma and reincarnation. Today's dynamic exploration and need is in the arena of understanding the nature of consciousness and also the very practical need to have tools to ameliorate our own stress and suffering. Meditation is relevant and offers solutions and understanding in both of these areas and Theosophic Perennialism has deep insights to offer here.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

My parents and grandparents were ‘Point Loma’ Theosophists, so I grew up immersed in the broad context of theosophy. I realize now, that there was perhaps an added openness of inquiry due to fact that my parents and their large global Theosophical network of friends and associates were all no longer associated with any particular Theosophical society. Being exiles due to the fragmentation of the Point Loma society because of conflicting leadership claims after de Purucker's death, they were all in a sense quite free of organizational constraints. They manifest a rather unusual and continuous Theosophic creativity, which can be seen in the writings and work of this loosely associated group of de Purucker's closest esoteric students. (e.g. de Zirkoff, Iverson and Helen Harris, Gordon Plummer, Geoffrey and Ila Barborka, Emmett Small, Helen Todd, Elsie Benjamin etc.) For example, this organizational freedom opened the door to a great deal of positive Theosophic collaboration especially with the Adyar society during the late 1960's through mid-1980's.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

I find resonance with Blavatsky’s expansive idea where she says:
'Vaughan offers a far better, more philosophical definition. "A Theosophist," he says--"is one who gives you a theory of God or the works of God, which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his own for its basis." In this view every great thinker and philosopher, especially every founder of a new religion, school of philosophy, or sect, is necessarily a Theosophist.'

I think it is important to always remember Blavatsky's broad and generous view! It is also summed up in the Theosophical motto: “There is no religion higher than truth”.

5.    What is your favorite Theosophical book and why?

Blavatsky's The Voice of the Silence I feel for myself, is still the most pivotal book in all Theosophical literature, because it opens the door to the practice of meditation and also the way of compassion and ideal of the Bodhisattva. It could be called a manual of the ethics for inner development, which is the inner 'fuel' that drives the Theosophical Movement.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

Certainly it could be easily stated: 'All the Theosophical organizations are ingrown and rather toxic', but however true, this is too simplistic. The heart of the matter is in all of us. So to always remain clear that 'I' am the 'biggest challenge' and to keep in mind:  "How do we authentically challenge ourselves?" I think this is the only real question and that all the organizational questions are quite secondary.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

It appears that there has been at times, in the historical dynamics of Theosophy, the tendency to lapse into, either, mere metaphysical descriptive replication from the past or follow the incomplete delusions of personal revelation. I would hope that the Theosophical Movement will be able to maintain its root source which can guide it through this inauthentic tendency to externalize the genuine 'inner light'.





Mahendra Singhal

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Mahendra Prakash Singhal. I was born in the State of Uttar Pradesh, India and I became a member of TS on December 31, 1978.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I was President of the Besant Theosophical Lodge from 1998 until 2011 and President of the Delhi Theosophical Federation for three periods.  As President of the Delhi Federation I created a financial corpus of Rs. 500,000/- from individual donations to provide for its self-sufficiency. Was also General Secretary of the Indian Section from 1993 until 1998. From 2012 onwards I’m serving as International Vice President of the Theosophical Society, Adyar.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I was married into a Theosophical family and that brought me in contact with Theosophy .

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

I get a compass of life from its teachings and laws of life. I learn that life’s development has limitless possibilities only if we take ourselves in hand with definiteness of purpose (Self-Realization) and deliberateness of action with perseverance, determination, confidence and hard work.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

My favourite book is The First Principles of Theosophy by C. Jinerajadasa. The book is largely based on observations and experiences of the author; the concepts are illustrated by diagrams. It has all the material in its 15 chapters a reader needs to get a basic idea of Theosophical principles and march ahead if he wishes to do so. 

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

The biggest challenge is to make Universal Brotherhood a reality among those members who do not live Theosophy.  Presently very few study seriously, they contemplate little and practice seldom. So the challenge for TS Adyar (as an organization) is to understand this issue seriously and devise innovative methods to inspire members to live Theosophy. It means first finding sufficient competent people who will teach others rigorously.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

I wish more members would become serious students of Theosophy, contemplate deeply on is concepts and principles and practice them in daily life.






Marijn Gijsbers

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Marijn Gijsbers, Marino for those who are not Dutch. I am from the Netherlands and I have been a member of the TS Point Loma for about 10 years.


2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am a member of the Dutch board of the TS Point Loma organisation and work with a group of fellow members preparing and presenting conferences, both nationally and internationally.


3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

Someone who worked with a client asked if I knew the story of Plato’s cave. After an interesting conversation he invited me to a public lecture. The gentleman who introduced the speaker started by emphasizing to the audience the importance of not just believing what would be presented, but to investigate it’s truth in our own lives. That was such a different tone from anything I had seen or heard before that it really got my attention. I took the two courses that the TS Point Loma offers, ‘think differently’ and ‘wisdom of life’ to continue that investigation. It did not take long to realise that I had ‘come home’, so I joined.  

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

Theosophy means many things to me. First and foremost it means purpose. Since adolescence I was fascinated by the world behind the ‘phenomena’. I never seemed to be able to find answers to my many questions that satisfied my intuition or seemed logical, until I found Theosophy (and Theosophy found me). Always fond of travelling and discovering new horizons I was quite aware of the suffering of mankind. It had taken quite a few years to figure out why we as mankind often screw up so badly. When I came to what I thought were the root causes, the obvious next question was: how can we improve, how can we grow, together? The answers I also found in Theosophy. Theosophy changed and refined my perspective on many things, thus becoming more and more a way of life.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

Until I read this question I never thought of any one particular book to favour over others. 
I guess now The Voice of Silence by H. P. Blavatsky and many of the writings of G. De Purucker are the ones I most often consult and find tremendously inspiring.


6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

Since I am not a member of TS Adyar, let me answer that question in general.
The challenge in my perspective for members of all Theosophical organizations is threefold:
1)    to go beyond the mental exercise and make Theosophy a living power by constantly finding ways to apply it to our everyday lives
2)    to keep the windows to the world open and find ways to share this incredible wealth of wisdom, in language, examples and solutions that people understand, for mankind badly needs it
3)    to realise that our similarities are so much greater than our differences. So many Theosophical organizations serving the same noble cause. Can we find a way to work together, acknowledging, even embracing our differences as a living example of Brotherhood?  The efforts set forward by the International Theosophical Conferences, this website and quite a few others are promising.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

For it to remain a beacon of light in troubled times, which is only possible if its’ torch bearers keep the link unbroken.




Navin B. Shah

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Navin B. Shah.  I am from Nairobi, Kenya and I have been a member of the TS for 47 years (since 1966)

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

Yes, I am active at both, Lodge and Section level.  I am the current Hon. Treasurer of Nairobi Lodge which is the premier lodge in East & Central Africa.  I was previously Lodge Chairman.  I am the current General Secretary of our Section. I have held this position since 2007, 6 years now.  I play an active role in all aspects of TS admin work as well as the Theosophical side, including editing of newsletters, souvenir issues, etc.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

If my memory serves me right, I first came in touch with Theosophy in 1959 when I was in the final class at High School in Mombasa at the Kenya Coast, where I was born and did my primary and secondary schooling, when I went to listen to the well-known Indian Theosophist, Rohit Mehta.  I had no further contact with Theosophy till 1966 when our Section's Convention was being held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.  I had not been to Dar-es-Salaam before and thought it would be good to travel with the Nairobi delegates and see Dar-es-Salaam.  It was at this Convention that I became a member of the T.S.  Incidentally, it was also in Dar-es-Salaam, in 2007, that I was elected to the position of General Secretary of our Section.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

Theosophy means a lot to me.  It has given me insights into real purpose of our coming into this world, about evolution and relationships.  I have become more tolerant and understanding of people as to why they behave as they do.  Theosophy, to cut it short, means the whole world to me and I count myself as a very lucky person to have found Theosophy.  But then let me stop here, as you know, one can write a whole chapter on this question.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

That, in a way, is a tough question, but still I shall try and name one book that I like to read often (I carry the small book in my car also) - so my favourite Theosophical book is: At the Feet of the Master by J. Krishnamurti (called Alcyone).  The book has set out all that we need to follow in this life to live/conduct our life such that it will take us on the Right Path.  It has set out 4 virtues that we should develop for a virtuous life:  Discrimination, Desirelessness, Good Conduct and Love.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

TS at Adyar has its own admin and related problems - due to perhaps not being willing to adapt to changing times and also not open to well-meant suggestions for change.  Several suggestions have been made to the International President to change certain clauses of the International T.S. Constitution to make them 'user friendly', remove ambiguities to make interpretations of election rules easy to follow - and there is also the lack of open dialogue by the President with those who raise issues.  It is like shutting out all communication.  These are my views and I do understand that I am coming from my limited understanding.  But then this is where we, the lesser knowing people in the scheme of things, look for frank guidance for a clearer way forward.  In short, there is a NEED FOR CHANGE with changing times.  Nomination of Additional Members should be open to all the General Secretaries rather than that being just a prerogative of the President.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

Yes, certainly.  I would wish, for the future of the Theosophical Movement, that it spreads to every home and people understand its main pillars of Karma, Reincarnation, Evolution and also learn to respect all religions and know one's own religion/belief better, so that we have a better world to live in – devoid of unnecessary wars in the name of religion and control of resources in the hands of a few.




Sandy Ravelli

1.     What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Sandy Ravelli from the NZ Section and I have been a member of the Theosophical Society since 1995.

2.     Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

At present I am actively involved as the National President of the NZ Section.

3.     How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I was studying Maori Spirituality for a Social Work degree. One day whilst visiting my mother I read in a newspaper about a lecture to be given on Maori Spirituality by one of our treasured and long term members of the NZ Section. Whilst I did not gain any further insights on the topic I did become excited about meeting people who had a curiosity about life and were happy to talk about topics and beliefs that mirrored my own inner thoughts.

4.     What does Theosophy mean to you?

It is a way of life. It gives me a framework that helps me see the connectors between all of life and life’s systems.

5.     What is your favorite Theosophical book and why?

I really like Geoffrey Barborka’s book The Divine Plan. Whilst I enjoy HPB’s expression of the wisdom traditions through Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine and the depth they offer, Barborka writes closer to today’s language clarifying what H. P. B. wrote in parable or analogy. To me there are many books that explore individual aspects of life’s wisdom but the books I have mentioned allow me to delve as deeply as I wish for those complex answers to life’s mysteries.

6.     What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

The biggest challenge to me is that as an organization we need to stand tall in the Wisdom Tradition. At the same time we need to move forward with the clarification that comes from our evolutionary development of individual and collective oneness. The challenge is to continue to further explore the connection of the written word to our own inner and outer natures.

I believe we need to avoid any dilution of the teachings through our own laziness in exploring the emotional, mental and spiritual levels of our being in relation to the depth of the teachings that have been offered. Mind through memory has been the hallmark of development throughout many Theosophical centers, whereas we need to focus on the engagement of the whole of the person. We should avoid any sense of elitism ‘that we are the grandmother of the new age’ whatever that may mean. As an organization, there seems to be a crystallization which prevents us recognizing that there are many scientific and psychological discoveries that relate to Theosophy, discovered by people who are not members of the organization.

7. Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

I would like to see the Theosophical Movement stand tall in being and sharing those truths that are the basis of Theosophy. I would wish that we would acknowledge the other holders of the incredibly helpful and wonderful information of the wisdom tradition. That will allow us to avoid any sense of separateness and come closer to fulfilling our first object to form a nucleus of brotherhood.

 

RESPONSES FROM MEMBERS OF THE VASANTA YOUTH LODGE, Adyar – India


The Vasanta Youth Lodge after a meeting

Responses from Neena Swatika
President – Vasanta Youth Lodge
Member – Vasanta Round Table

1.     What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Neena Swatika (24) and I am from Chennai. I have been a member of The Theosophical Society since 2010.

2.     How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I came to know about the Society from my father Mr. Rajalingha Rajah. Subsequently I got to know more about the Society during my internship at the Adyar Library and Research Centre, The Theosophical Society, Adyar.

3.     What does Theosophy mean to you?

To me Theosophy is an ocean of knowledge which has helped me find answers to questions unanswered in life.

4.   What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

Among the Theosophical books I have read, The Masters and The Path by C. W. Leadbeater is my favourite book because this was the book that gave me a new insight to Theosophy. It helped me understand the underlying principles that govern life.

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