Barbara Hebert – USA
Theosophy is available in today’s world in order to help humanity. In fact, this statement is made very clearly by HPB, her teachers, and others. For instance, we can look to the Maha Chohan letter that was written in late 1881 or early 1882 by the Mahatma KH regarding a conversation held with the Maha Chohan about the teachings shared by the Theosophical Society. We read
For our doctrines to practically re-act on the so-called moral code or the ideas of truthfulness, purity, self-denial, charity, etc., we have to preach and popularise a knowledge of Theosophy. It is not the individual and determined purpose of attaining [for] oneself Nirvana (the culmination of all knowledge and absolute wisdom) which is, after all only an exalted and glorious selfishness, but the self-sacrificing pursuit of the best means to lead on the right path our neighbour, to cause as many of our fellow creatures as we possibly can to benefit by it, which constitutes the true Theosophist.
In a different letter, the Mahatma KH writes: “The first object of the Society is philanthropy. The true theosophist is the Philanthropist who—‘not for himself, but for the world he lives.’" (Jinarajadasa, Letter #68). In The Key to Theosophy, HPB tells us “Every true Theosophist is morally bound to sacrifice the personal to the impersonal, his own present good to the future benefit of other people” (p. 282). She defined true occultism as “altruism” and she further tells us “a true Theosophist must put in practice the loftiest moral ideal, must strive to realise his unity with the whole of humanity, and work ceaselessly for others” (Key to Theosophy, p. 25). In his 2011 Blavatsky Lecture entitled “The Bodhisattva Path,” Bhupendra R. Vora, tells us
The Bodhisattvas or Mahatmas are driven by an impelling desire to help alleviate suffering in the world and to lead all sentient life to liberation. They are not merely beings on their way to the status of fully enlightened Buddhas or Adepts, but are beings who through their great compassion … for all sentient life, renounce the ultimate bliss for themselves. (p. 7)
He also writes
It is this spirit of compassion and love, implicit in the principle of Universal Brotherhood, which should be the guiding light of a Theosophist. To understand the oneness of all existence, is to develop an intense state of spiritual love, divine wisdom and compassion, founded upon an impelling will to help all sentient life. (p. 9)
At some point in our individual spiritual journeys, many of us realized that we were committed to following in the path of the Mahatmas, the teachers of Blavatsky. We made a consciousness decision to become true occultists--philanthropic, altruistic, Theosophists--whose goal is to work for those Great Ones in service to humanity. We chose to follow the Bodhisattva Path. This path, according to HPB, is one that
… although [the Mahatmas] have attained the right to enter in Nirvāṇa they renounce it in order to stay in touch with humanity. . . .the hitherto very esoteric doctrine of the Nirmanakayas was lately brought forward as a proof and explained in the treatise called The Voice of the Silence. These Nirmanakayas are the Bodhisattvas or late Adepts, who having reached Nirvana and liberation from rebirth, renounce it voluntarily in order to remain invisibly amidst the world to help poor ignorant Humanity within the lines permitted by Karma. (Collected Writings, Vol. XII, p. 31)
We have chosen to focus--to the best of our ability, whatever that is—on alleviating the suffering of humanity. One who follows the Bodhisattva Path is an individual whose thoughts, words, and actions focus on serving the well-being of all others, not merely in a physical sense, but in the highest sense of facilitating enlightenment. The Voice of the Silence asks: “Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shall thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?” (III: 307) We have taken this verse to heart and responded that we will serve until all are liberated from rebirth.
This is the Bodhisattva Path. How do we, as human beings who often struggle just to get through our own days, serve others? There are two aspects that are worth exploring that may shed light on how we, in physical manifestation, can follow the Bodhisattva Path and serve humanity.
One aspect is the physical service that we can provide to others. Many theosophists are already engaged in this type of work, whether as their career or as volunteers. Many are innately drawn to social service work in some form or other, while others spend time working for food banks or homeless shelters. Some work to provide support for those impacted by crises, trauma, or catastrophes. Others work for social justice and equality in the world. And, the list goes on and on. It is important, however, that we remain aware that our personalities can easily get caught up in our efforts to serve. Self-observation of our motives, especially deeply hidden ones, is essential.
Mabel Collins in her essay on Karma at the end of the book Light on the Path reminds us of this, saying
Desire to sow no seed for your own harvesting; desire only to sow that seed the fruit of which shall feed the world. You are a part of the world; in giving it food you feed yourself. Yet in even this thought there lurks a great danger which starts forward and faces the disciple who has for long thought himself working for good, while in his inmost soul he had perceived only evil; that is, he has thought himself to be intending great benefit to the world, while all the time he has unconsciously embraced the thought of karma; and the great benefit he works for is for himself. (p. 61-62)
Also, as we see the consequences of the inhumanity inflicted upon others, we may get caught up in blaming or becoming angry with the one who is inflicting suffering—something that is particularly relevant in our world today. William Q Judge, in his article “How to Treat Others,” tells us
The Master "K. H.," once writing to Mr. Sinnett in the Occult World, and speaking for his whole order and not for himself only, distinctly wrote that the man who goes to denounce a criminal or an offender works not with nature and harmony but against both, and that such act tends to destruction instead of construction. Whether the act be large or small, whether it be the denunciation of a criminal, or only your own insistence on rules or laws or rights, does not alter the matter or take it out of the rule laid down by that Adept. For the only difference between the acts mentioned is a difference of degree alone; the act is the same in kind as the violent denunciation of a criminal. Either this Adept was right or wrong. If wrong, why do we follow the philosophy laid down by him and his messenger, and concurred in by all the sages and teachers of the past? If right, why this swimming in an adverse current, as he said himself, why this attempt to show that we can set aside karma and act as we please without consequences following us to the end of time? I know not. I prefer to follow the Adept, and especially so when I see that what he says is in line with facts in nature and is a certain conclusion from the system of philosophy I have found in Theosophy.
Upon reading Judge’s comments, it may be helpful for each of us to consider whether we are working in accord with harmony and nature, or not.
The second aspect of following the Bodhisattva Path while in physical existence and possibly the most important component of this journey is that in order to serve others, we must work on ourselves. This statement may seem paradoxical: to help others, we work on ourselves. Yet, we know from our theosophical studies that the unity which binds us all provides clarification for this statement. As one individual changes, it causes a change in the whole. Therefore, as each one of us works on ourselves, we are, in essence, working on and for the whole. In the words of HPB:
It is a fundamental doctrine of Theosophy that the “eparateeness” which we feel between ourselves and the world of living beings around us is an illusion, not a reality. In very deed and truth, all men are one, not in a feeling of sentimental gush and hysterical enthusiasm, but in sober earnest. As all Eastern philosophy teaches, there is but ONE SELF in all the infinite Universe, and what we men call “self” is but the illusionary reflection of the ONE SELF in the heaving waters of earth. True Occultism is the destruction of the false idea of Self, and therefore true spiritual perfection and knowledge are nothing else but the complete identification of our finite “selves” with the Great All. It follows, therefore, that no spiritual progress at all is possible except by and through the bulk of Humanity. It is only when the whole of Humanity has attained happiness that the individual can hope to become permanently happy—for the individual is an inseparable part of the Whole. (Collected Writings, Vol XI, p. 104-105)
Our role, then, is to grow spiritually, to expand our consciousness so that we are facilitating the change of consciousness in all living beings. While our paths may look different, they inherently have the same goal: to grow spiritually and to expand our consciousness in order to reach the summit of human existence so that we may serve in ever deepening ways.
My grandmother had a painting of a mountain with pilgrims following the long and circuitous path around the mountain toward its summit. The path, as with most mountain paths, was filled with switchbacks, thus making the route even longer. However, here and there in the painting, there were pilgrims who had abandoned the slower path and were making their way upward, blazing their own trails.
We are the pilgrims blazing our own trails up the side of the mountain; therefore, we are, to continue the metaphor, facing more obstacles in a shorter period of time than our brothers and sisters who are following the well-worn path. Importantly, we are not better than those on the well-worn path up the mountain; however, we are different. We are striving to understand ourselves, to gain control over the personality, and to reach toward those highest aspects of ourselves in the shortest amount of time so that we may serve humanity. Serving humanity is the goal for those on the Bodhisattva Path. Serving humanity is our goal.
Blavatsky, H.P. Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 104-105.
Blavatsky, H.P. Collected Writings, vol. XII (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, p. 31.
Blavatsky, H.P. The Key to Theosophy, (1889) London: Theosophical Publishing House.
Blavatsky, H.P. Voice of the Silence in Inspirations from Ancient Wisdom, (1999) Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.
Collins, M. Light on the Path, in Inspirations from Ancient Wisdom, (1999) Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.
Collins, M. “Essay on Karma” Light on the Path, in Inspirations from Ancient Wisdom, (1999) Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.
Jinarajadasa, C. Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom Second Series No. 68 (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1977), 125.
Judge, W.Q. “How to Treat Others” Theosophy Trust,
Vora, B. R. “The Bodhisattva Path” https://archive.org/details/BL2011VoraTheBodhisattvaPath