Theosophy

The Power of One:  Collective Consciousness and Individuality

Esther Pockrandt – Australia

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[Part 2: Individuality; for Part 1 click HERE] 

The Theosophical emblem is surrounded by the translation of the Sanskrit words, “Satyāt nāsti paro dharmah”, ‘There is no Religion (or path) Higher than Truth’.

ANNIE Besant

Annie Besant

In the Ageless Wisdom texts, we are constantly reminded that we are ONE and that that which separates or divides is not the Truth. We know this intellectually and repeat it in our spiritual circles. We recite The Universal Prayer by Annie Besant:

Oh hidden life vibrant in every atom,

Oh hidden light shining in every creature,

Oh hidden love uniting all in Oneness,

May all who feel themselves as one with Thee,

Know they are therefore one with every other.

There is that deeply meaningful Indian greeting with hands folded in prayer, Namaskar, which means, “I greet the Divine in you”. Before ,‘Hello’, replaced greetings internationally, in German the greeting was, “Grüß Gott”, which means, “Greetings to God”. When we look at words we use habitually more deeply, what other treasures of sacredness we could find! Reminders are everywhere. Yet how hard is it, if  we  are being honest, to actually live this wisdom in our daily encounters. Everything we do, say, or think emphasizes the ‘me’ and by corollary, the ‘them’. It is that ego-centric view of the world and our existence again, like that of those who believed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe and that everything revolved around the Earth. Why is this so? What is it that leads us into such thinking and so, unknowingly too, ignoring how interdependent everything is, that I exist because of you and you and you, where the you can also be a rock and a grain of sand, a droplet of water, the air I breathe, and the need to live, and so on!? And where the you then no longer is the other as it determines the me! That is however, how we don’t position ourselves in our ‘me, mine, my’ culture.

yoga sutras 980x634

We read in yogic texts that Maya, is the illusory world the mind creates, collectively and individually. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali start significantly with, “Yoga cita vritti nirodhaha”, meaning, Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. Madame Blavatsky starts the translation from the Buddhist esoteric text, The Golden Precepts with, “The mind is the great slayer of the real” - Helena P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence, Fragment 1, verse 4.

What is ‘real’ we may well ask, when we observe and notice that all is change and movement? Even that humble droplet of water vaporizes and becomes steam, a cloud, or freezes to become an ice crystal, or even merges to become undetectable in a stream, pond or the ocean. It is ferocious at one time creating havoc on earth, or calm and soothing in sound and in nurture. Yet chemically it is in essence still water - H2O.

What are these fluctuations that distract us from what is never changing, the essence, that which is ‘real’? According to The Yoga Sutras they are the mind’s habits of judgement, analysis, comparison, labelling, memory recall,  speculation or story-making among others that all create separation, division and take us away from the present moment of what is, as we dwell on what might be or with what was. All these of course are useful in our scientific, study and business pursuits, but ultimately even there they can become a  hindrance when we forget the context of wholeness and interrelationship that all these exist within. Our human body with its organs is a prime example of the interrelationship and workings of one organ or  network upon the whole. The body is our most immediate example of moment-to-moment harmony balancing and team work in total service to us, all the time, whether we support the whole system for health maintenance or not. It still does its best under the worst circumstances often, until function ceases, one organ at a time, others no longer able to take on its load or compensate and our vehicle comes to succumb to its ‘use-by date’ – death. What happened to the illusion of what was ‘real’? Is there an unchanging essence, a residue that remains somewhere, somehow, invisible to the eye?

The Field and Peace Meditation 

Meditation Is Easier Than You Think 2

There is a whole body of mysticism and new science which advocates thought hygiene, as our thoughts are vibrational energy and powerful beyond measure affecting our bodies physically and energetically. We saw that with the experiments with sound and sand and raindrops on a pond surface in the previous article  (published in the December 2023 issue of Theosophy Downunder.) Kyrlian Photography is interesting in this regard. What if people could read all our thoughts, where our auras blew our carefully constructed personas out of the water,  totally, ‘naked emperor-like’!

All the above are the reasons why, before we start Peace Meditations, or send out healing vibrations to others, we start with our own inner clean-up so our energy is pure, not coaxed back into divisive patterns but instead able to radiate unconditional love, for harmony to flood the world, to smoothen out those ripples, to heal, if possible, but above all, strengthen the hearts and minds of all, to best deal with the challenges so harmony is restored and all may return to simply live in peace.

It is important we see this thought emission for healing in our minds as a manifested ‘best scenario’ outcome already, at least so that all who are going through hard times, have the strength and inner peace to endure until whatever karma comes to resolution - nationally, individually, community and relationship wise, which has to be worked through. As the Dalai Lama, said, quoted earlier in the previous article, ‘And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them’. We are all on a journey, each one of us with our own unique challenges to work through, that karmic residue, as Madame Blavatsky called it in The Key to Theosophy, also quoted in the previous article.

Field Theory, the work by Ken Wilber, adds to the idea of karmic residue, when he proposes ‘Spiral Dynamics’ as a natural evolutionary process, as a learning spiral, the spiral, consciously and unconsciously, a continuum of integration of all its component parts back towards wholeness.

Equanimity 

The wisdom which comes through meditation and contemplation makes us valuable instruments in lifting up our fellow traveler. It guards us from falling into a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mind set. It guards us against burnout and disillusionment, or just retreating, with that all too common complacency, ‘it’s their karma, it’s not my problem’. The latter is an unfortunate expression of helplessness, of fear, a misunderstanding, or, ignorance of the law of karma: that we ultimately and in this moment ‘inter-are’.

Steadfastness in our ‘quiet’ practice, helps us catch our disappointments, harsh self-judgment or judgment of others, hurts, losses, fears before they fester into bitterness, vengeful anger, deep depression, withdrawal or neuroses. Even though it would seem impossible, when we view life from this bigger picture lens, we are able to move beyond forgiveness even, and into releasing all of these people and events attached to the negative feelings of pain and hurt, which we have harbored for so long. We are able to let go of the ingrained destructive self-talk also and as a consequence finally open the door of our own cages and free everyone, ourselves included.

It is also said about karma: “What others do to us is their karma. How we react is our karma”. However, that does not mean we become indifferent, insensitive to others’ suffering. There is a great misunderstanding of what being equanimous actually looks and feels like. Equanimity is often equated with being above feeling. It is that argument between Stoics and Nietsche. It is a fact that the more aware or awake we become, the more we actually experience the interconnectedness of everything. As a consequence, we feel the suffering AND JOY! around us, more intensely than ever, as if it were our own. In Buddhism there is a meditation practice of Tonglen, which means breathing in the suffering and negativity of others and breathing out happiness and well-being. It is not for the faint hearted! To remain centred, despite the overwhelm of this collective pain could cause us to bear, the anger at the cruelty that might well up in us, wanting to lash out in retaliation, is what heightens our awareness of all these often-suppressed emotions within us, now arising, being released from the pressure cooker that has held them in check perhaps even carefully reasoned away on our spiritual quests, yet still lurking.  

This intense practice allows us to acknowledge, first-hand, that which we have pushed away or suppressed. To understand the origin of our emotions, that we too at one time may have been the perpetrator, is a huge insight, while still retaining that deep feeling from which compassion can arise. Compassion cannot reside where any hint of anger or self-interest dwells. It is not easy to remain awake to it all, to remain in-sight filled and to remain poised for appropriate engagement, if that is what we are called to do, to help ease, or, at least, not add to the suffering by our too common tumultuous emotional reactions when unchecked.

22thich quotes superJumbo

Thich Nath Hahn

Master Thich Nath Hahn reminds us,  

We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapons, arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds, our own prejudices, fears and ignorance.

                     Living Buddha, Living Christ, 20th Anniversary edition, Riverhead; New York, 2007

And he continues on this Inter-relationship theme in this poem,

YOU are me, I am you.

Isn't it obvious that we inter-are?

You cultivate the flower of your self.

So that I will be beautiful,

I transform the garbage in myself,

so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;

you support me.

I am in this world to offer you peace;

you are in this world to bring me joy. 

            Call me by My True Names - The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press, 2005

Beating ourselves up for not being able to meditate, or not being good enough, for example, is therefore equally as violent, a declaration of war on our very being. Perfection is not what we are striving for to perfect, the art of looking at ourselves is, and doing something about what we discern needs polishing up is, so that  perfect diamond of our eternal selves can shine forth fully, “… you cultivate the flower of your self, I transform the garbage in myself’.

It is pure and simple, gardener wisdom, ‘the purpose of the art of composting kitchen waste is, to make  flowers grow’. Composting takes time, patience, persistence, understanding, but is so worthwhile, when we bite into a juicy freshly picked sun warmed tomato, or smell the heavy fragrance of a rose.

That’s all that is needed, some humble composting, a dusting off of the mirror daily, or the emptying of the metaphoric rubbish-bin at each day end, to be recycled, we then ready for the new dawn and day, a fresh start therefore, reinspired. After all, each sunrise heralds a rebirth. We have every reason to wake with our hearts filled with gratitude to be granted another go. Reincarnation right before our eyes! Every day an opportunity to live a little wiser.

With this we can see that the focus solely upon our sinful natures, our imperfections, is only a distracting, unbalanced, an unrealistic view of ourselves, that somehow, however, we’ve been led to believe to be our true natures. If left to grow, this distractive thought will become self-destructive. Admittedly, it is a hard merry-go-round to get off, when we have made it a life-long habit, but ‘get off’ we must. It is not who we are, blame who we will, the church, or parents, teachers, society, belief systems and dogma, whatever. Many people today are in therapy for a life-time. It is big business. In the 1970’s it was fashionable even to be in psychoanalysis for a lifetime, and it was almost a mark of status, in intellectual, well to do hip circles in New York. We laugh when we watch those Woody Allen movies now!

Yet, when we consider lifelong therapy, isn’t that a sign the therapy isn’t working? Something surely must be missing for people to stay stuck. There is the danger that endless therapy promotes self-absorption, a form of narcissism also, strengthens that ‘I-ness’, and creates a dependency, a pathology to cling to, a reliving of a past life, but with no growth in viewing life through a bigger picture lens, the now lens. Svadhyaya, self-study, by contrast, is not living in the past.

Ultimately the purpose of meditation and the way of meditation is NOT to sit for hours on a cushion either but to live meditatively as we go about living, as all is ultimately relationship upon relationship in full awakeness being totally present to what is now and doing our best. Buddha means the ‘awake one’, awake in every sense, full of compassion for all that arises. It actually creates a more efficient way of living when we awake to our reactive and dreamy natures. The mind has such a tendency to be everywhere else but in the moment.

Although Svadhyaya, self-study is a spiritual practice, and an important one, any excess of any practice, can become an addiction and a distraction at best. Might reading and reflecting on, The Voice of the Silence, or, The Yoga Sutras, or sitting with our thoughts, not engaging but just observing, to gain insight into their fleeting nature, or treating ourselves to a Vipassana silent meditation retreat, not also give us the insights into the how to of the freedom from suffering we seek? There is a wonderful book by Lama Yeshe, Becoming Your Own Therapist: Make Your Mind an Ocean. It is worth a read.

Balance and the threes have it again! 

gunas rajas tamas sattva yoga

Excess of anything creates dysfunction, imbalance. It is like the three Gunas: Rajas, Tamas, Sattva, or, the Ayurvedic classification of energetic states, the three doshas in the body: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, or even the three energy channels moving up the spine in the Yoga wisdom, also called the serpent channels, Ida, Pingala and the central channel, harmonizing and containing both, the Shushumna. All three are needed in these  classifications for balance and each is predominant of necessity at certain times when life demands it, but must come back to balance at the end of their purpose and need. It is the ancient healing wisdom of Yoga and Qigong practices.

qigong

Qigong is a system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation

It is the imbalance which the ancient healing arts know to rebalance, also through dietary wisdom, where food is classified into these three Gunas, where food is seen as medicine, or the cause of energetic and mental disturbance. But that is for another time. There is much wisdom in serpent myths also.

Cultivating an equanimous mind, is cultivating that energetic balance, which requires study and meditation to integrate the study of self also. It means that we are then enabled, because of this deep, heightened sensitivity to all that is, however, emotionally uncluttered, to be even brighter lighthouses still, for all the ships adrift in the ocean of life. Had we not done some inner housekeeping, cleaned those mirrors, thrown out the garbage e could not be lighthouses. There is a difference between being flung about on the ocean of emotion on the one hand and on the other hand, feeling deeply what is, but still swimming steadfastly to shore. Patience and perseverance has the ‘snail win the race’.

‘IT IS AN OCCULT LAW’: you are the light, so dare to shine!

energy light 11759 full

To feel is human, and feeling leads to compassionate action. As Helena Blavatsky says, in The Key to Theosophy, 

It is an occult law moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part.

Helena P Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, Theosophy Publishing Company, LA 1930 Edition, p 203.

When we become obsessed with our slow progress, or our imperfections, when we become impatient with ourselves, see only our faults, it is helpful to regain perspective, to breathe deep and see the light we cannot help but still shine, when we read,

If Sun thou can’st not be, then be the humble planet. Aye, if thou art debarred from flaming like the noon-day Sun upon the snow-capped mount of purity eternal, then choose, O Neophyte, a humbler course. Point out the “Way” — however dimly, and lost among the host — as does the evening star to those who tread their path in darkness. –

                                           Helena P Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence, Fragment 2, verse 155/156.

No sincere effort is ever lost. Living with gratitude for all that life presents us with, all the good as well as the challenging, the pain and the joy, the difficult people too, is what our work is about. Karma is our ally, not our

foe, on our spiral quest. Reincarnation is the gift that keeps on giving for us to have opportunity after  opportunity, ‘to get it’. How loving is that!

Walking the earth with childlike eyes of awe, delight and wonder, finding the sacred in the prism of a dew drop, or seeing the universe and world in a grain of sand in the palm of the hand, as William Blake so beautifully put it in Auguries of Innocence, is in itself a wake-walking meditation and a worthwhile practice for daily living. Watching an insect or anything which fills us with fear, to understand it’s little life and ways, is so also. Saying grace and meaning it before we take a bite to eat, thanking all the forces that have come together to give us a plate of food to eat, or giving gratitude to the water before we drink it or wash our hands as well might just be the most powerful way to enter into the sacred. This is living a meditative life ‘off the meditation cushion’. Yet all these seemingly small things, our hearts full of gratitude for the breath that breathes us too, without us ever asking it to, may give us the peace we seek to finally sit in stillness on our cushions at the end of the day and before the start of the next….in total absorption of what is. That is the quality of listening deeply, of living from a deeper well.

A Basket of Fruit

fruit

In conclusion and to put the purpose of our lives into perspective yet again, let us recall this wonderful story from Africa, where, as the story goes, an anthropologist proposed a game to children in an African tribal village. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and said, that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruit. But when he gave them the signal to run, to his surprise, they all took each other's hands and ran together. And when they reached the tree, they sat in a circle sharing and passing the fruit around, each one enjoying their share. When he asked them, why they chose to run as a group, when one could have been the fastest and so have won the basket of fruit to feast on all alone, one child spoke up and said:  UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?" UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means:

"I am because we are" or “I am because you are”. 

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This article also appeared in March 2024 issue the magazine Theosophy Downunder (TS-Pasadena)

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