Preethi Muthiah – India
Simply put, the answer to the title question is “by living the teachings.” A corollary, however, is “What does it mean to live Theosophy?”
In a world that is largely divided—by religion, race, gender, or material affluence—Theosophy has a very relevant message to give to the world, but before it can do that, we who are its “flag-bearers” must live the teachings at our most personal level. Living those teachings does not imply that we have no problems but rather that, as we grapple with imperfections in ourselves, we also learn to be forgiving and tolerant of these in others. The pitfalls for us are greater because we have a large storehouse of knowledge open to us and thus can become very smug in our scholarliness, ignoring in the process the little things that count.
The most essential of the things that count is our relationship with fellow humans. Are we open to questions—even criticism—from outsiders? Or do we shut people out when they seem to disagree with us? In dealing with our relationship to others at a deeper, personal level, we should realize that unless we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, we cannot have a good one with someone else. And so we do need to get down to the basics and make changes at the most micro level before we can hope to make Theosophy a living force in the world. The question we must fundamentally ask ourselves is: How comfortable are we being ourselves?
This question is not a judgmental one but rather a factual one, in the sense of being comfortable with our own faults, weaknesses, strengths, and competencies—all of which are part of us at the moment. Mostly, we are comfortable to the point of enjoyment with our strengths and competencies, but cringe at the very mention of our faults, failings, and weaknesses. To add to this schism is the fact that we have the ideal examples that the World Teachers have given to us, and mostly we are in a rush to attain to their state without having lived out or experienced fully the human stage. This means that for the most part we are half-ripe or half-baked.
The other part of this conundrum is that we tend to think of the Teachers’ states of being as a set of behaviors, while that is definitely not what the thing is about. So, for example, the Buddha said “Be compassionate,” which most people interpret as “behave compassionately.” But since merely behaving compassionately is not an inner reality and does not include oneself, it is fake compassion—if there is such a thing. Compassion is not a set of behaviors but rather the attainment to a state of being from which compassionate action emanates as a natural outpouring. The compassionate act is who the person is. In other words, compassionate action/behavior flows from a compassionate being. The same can be said for the other virtues as well.
To better elucidate this point, let us see what happens when someone does something that hurts us. We rave, rant, and cry about the trust that is broken. In the middle of this, we suddenly remember the words of a Wise One and then try to put on what we consider to be the desired behavior. But this habitual going back and forth between the two poles of feeling hurt and resentful, on the one hand, and trying to live up to a Teacher’s words, on the other, causes deep-seated disintegration.
The next time you are hurt, try to accept that hurt, be with it, and see what happens. I have found that the hurting part of me feels listened to, cared for, respected—not by an outsider, but inwardly by me, which is very healing. When I stand with myself for who I am, I eventually become comfortable with myself. The more comfortable I am with myself, the easier it is for me, on the one hand, to accept criticism and, on the other, to be truly of help to someone who is going through an internal struggle. Thus being comfortable with oneself does not imply ignoring one’s faults, but rather knowing that one is worthy of love and respect because of and in spite of these. It does not imply a refusal to change, but rather that one will change with love and care. Love and care are essential to change; in the absence of these there is only resistance, which is not life.
The more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more integrated we become. In this inner integrity, we find love, wisdom, compassion, power, and beauty residing simultaneously with our human imperfections. This integrity has the power to heal and to inspire. Living from this state is part of “living the teachings.”