Radha Burnier – India
[Recognizing regeneration as the kernel of all Theosophical work, the International Theosophical Centre at Naarden, the Netherlands, jointly with the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, organized two seminars in July 1990, with a number of office bearers, workers and members of the Society from different countries as participants. Proceedings of the seminar were published as a book under the title Human Regeneration: Lectures and Discussion (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij der Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland, 1990). This chapter is here slightly revised.]
The Source of Spiritual Energy
It is important to discover the real source of energy. Some of you may have read the following from the writings of N. Sri Ram: “There are so many members who expect the ‘leaders’ of the Society to keep up their enthusiasm. They will speak of the sad decline of the Lodge, and say that in the old days when so-and-so was the leader, there used to be so much vitality and enthusiasm. But in such a remark, their own personal responsibility is overlooked. It is a question of what each individual member is doing here and now to create enthusiasm. Merely to look to somebody else, however high his position, or to the Masters to transform the conditions that obtain, or even to look to God in prayer to produce the change which apparently He wants ourselves to produce is really a course of futility.”
Even now there are many lodges, and quite a number of members, waiting for somebody to come and inspire them. I am not saying that it is not useful to receive a visiting lecturer or member. It is always good to have contacts with each other, but it is not good to wait for other people to provide inspiration, or feel that the Section has not done enough, that the international Society is not sending instructions and so on.
There is a source of energy and inspiration which is more constant, readily available, and which never fades away. That source of energy which never diminishes with the passage of time or aging of body, but on the contrary flows more freely and abundantly when we learn to let it do so, is within. Every one of us must discover that source, that perennial spring. Otherwise we become dependent on others to stimulate or lead us, or to organize seminars every now and again. After a time all activities become stale. There are people who are addicted to attending meetings or lectures, or to the lectures of a particular person, following him throughout the world, listening to him all the time. In the end, they are not much better than before, or at least there is no visible difference.
Where can we discover an unfailing source of inspiration and vitality except in ourselves, for we are always with ourselves? We cannot go away from ourselves. This source is there – only we must learn to draw out the hidden light, energy and inspiration.
A learned Buddhist scholar was asked the question: “Who is the Buddha?” and his reply was “The awakened consciousness.”' The Buddha is not necessarily a historical figure, or somebody in a faraway world of cosmic consciousness. The Buddha may be there, but he is also here 'nearer than hands and feet'. The literal meaning of the word buddha is “the awakened one” and that principle which must awaken is the source of inspiration and energy. It is the Christ within.
Christ has been called “the only wise counsellor.” This is an absolute truth, for within is the consciousness, potentially or actually awake, and that is the only wise counsellor. Let us look at this more carefully. We may say there is inspiration elsewhere. I feel inspired when I walk in the woods, when I am with Nature. True, but you feel inspired only when your consciousness is receptive to the woods, to the presence of the trees, not merely to the substance of the trees. Another day you may be anxious, afraid, self-preoccupied and the woods offer no inspiration. There are people who do not find any use for the woods except to cut them. Similarly, when a teacher speaks, or a lecturer speaks, we derive inspiration – but only when we are open to what the lecturer says, to what the teacher teaches. In other words, when the consciousness is receptive.
What is the difference between a state of receptiveness and one of nonreceptiveness? Receptivity implies that the consciousness, or a particular area in it, has opened up in some way. Then it seems to derive inspiration or wisdom from elsewhere.
If it is not open, the teacher may speak, the lecturer may say something very good, but it makes no impact. If people believe that the words are from a spiritually important person, they may say “yes, we accept this”, and then convert the teachings to suit their own opinions and preconceived ideas. This is what happens in every religion. We all hear, see and understand only what we make ourselves capable of receiving. So if our own consciousness does not come to the point where it can be inspired, there cannot be inspiration outside. We are all from time to time receptive to something, which is good. We receive inspiration from a walk in a beautiful place, from contact with another person, from reflecting over the truth stated in a book, from sitting in a lovely church or temple for a while. The inspiration is temporary, then passes away. One cannot sit in a church all the time. If one becomes dependent, it is bad. If things become “familiar” they lose their charm after a while. But if we are open not only to some things, to the moments in the church or the woods, or to a particular person, if there is a state of openness, it is an awakening in our own consciousness. The degree may vary, but to whatever degree the consciousness is open, energy flows. One may expend that energy, but since it is flowing from oneself, it is always renewed.
Let us consider some of Krishnamurti's words. “Most of us have very little energy; we spend it in conflict, in struggle, we waste it in various manners – not only sexually, but also a great deal of it is wasted in contradictions and in the fragmentation of ourselves which brings about conflict. Conflict is definitely a great waste of energy – the “voltage” decreases. Not only is physical energy necessary, but so also is psychological energy, with a mind that is immensely clear, logical, healthy, undistorted, and a heart that has no sentiment whatsoever, no emotion, but the quality of abundance of love, of compassion. All this gives a great intensity, passion. You need that; otherwise you cannot take a journey into this thing called meditation. You may sit cross-legged, breathe, do fantastic things, but you will never come to it.”
We do spend much energy on all kinds of trivial things. Conflict of course is a waste of energy, but apart from conflict, there are numerous distractions which wear us out: the futilities we talk about, unimportant events which imprison our thoughts, and so on. If we examine our daily lives we can see all this expenditure of energy. The small desires, wanting to be president of something or seeking appreciation and thanks, perhaps wanting to get more recognition than somebody else, the little achievements and possessions — there are many superficial, trivial things which draw our attention. It is all wasted energy. As for conflict, it drains energy, even the small frictions, misunderstandings, dislike of other people, intolerance, anxiety, fear, worry. This sort of energy is unspiritual, if we can classify energy, because it is productive of what may generally be called pain. It does not leave us peaceful and happy. Spiritual energy, on the other hand, brings with it the gifts of the spirit, a sense of harmony, affection for all, beauty and wisdom.
How can the boundless energy of the spiritual nature within ourselves, hidden, unawakened, open up and flow unimpeded? Perhaps one must start by disengaging from the body and its sensations. We believe the brain-mind is ourselves. We should question whether this is so. It is the brain-mind which drives us to acquire, to fight, to fear; it is based on memories, past thoughts, and prejudices. When all unnecessary memories and prejudices end, there is a new birth. Every little child has innocence and charm, because the load of the brain-mind has been discarded. Obviously that is not the real source of spiritual energy. Yet we are so wrapped up in it, and identified with it. Can we disengage?
HPB warned that sensual or even mental self-gratification involves the immediate loss of the power of discernment. It is often a combination of the two. When there is sensual pleasure the mind works upon it, and says “I want it again, I will not let somebody else have more than I have.” Or we want thanks, we feel hurt if others do not appreciate what we have done. As an exercise, can we live for a time without thanking each other and see what happens? Is it not natural to be helpful? So why not take it as a natural act? Why feed ourselves on what others say, or make sure that they recognize our merit?
Everyone sees during moments of reflection the unreality of self-gratification. Yet we revert to the same reflexes. Viveka is the constant examination and putting aside of the unreal and the relatively real. It is clarity about our wants, emotions, sensory pleasures, mental gratifications, and therefore understanding of relationships, speech, experience of every kind.
The beautiful little Isha Upanishad begins with a verse, saying that all “this” — that is, the world of manifestation, Nature, everything that moves or does not move, the rocks, the earth, minerals, the apparently inanimate, as well as that which appears animate and mobile, you, me, the insect, everything — all this universe is the dwelling place of a Divine Power or Energy. It is everywhere, without frontiers. The Upanishad says,”Experience with restraint.” Don't go about grasping at things, not only physically, but mentally. It is not yours. It is the dwelling place of that other thing, the great Reality. Let us not be greedy or utilitarian, in small or big ways, then we might be in contact with that Energy. Although in the modern world many people do not like such advice, they think it deprives them of their freedom; there must be a quality of restraint in one's behavior.
HPB wrote, “Meditation, abstinence, the observation of moral duties, gentle thoughts, good deeds and kind words, as good will to all and entire oblivion of self, are the most efficacious means of attaining knowledge and preparing for the reception of higher wisdom.” The ethical life cannot be ignored if one aspires to find this endless Energy, a constant source of inspiration. The unethical life is the expression of the brain-mind, the superficial consciousness of the outer self with its memories, knowledge, desires and distractions, its arrogance, fears and hopes. I-ness must die, and yield place to the vastness of life. According to Krishnamurti there is no meditation without righteousness. One can use what word one likes: restraint, righteousness, ethical life, discipline, self-discipline. The word is not important, but the fact it connotes is.
Why has every true religious school spoken about morality?
Not conventional morality, because the morality of a particular people, age, or society, may be a form of immorality. It is often a compromise, based on the expediency of the moment. Laws too are made in that way. We are concerned with true morality. What is really ethical? This is surely connected with the unity of· life, experiencing nonseparateness from all the forms of life. Yoga-teaching holds ethics to be the basis of meditation, and hence the practices called yama and niyama are prescribed. The path according to Buddhism calls for right means of livelihood means which do no harm to others, right thought, right speech, and so on. We can find the same in other teachings.
Without watching oneself and learning to live a truly righteous or ethical life, it is impossible to reach the deeper spiritual nature. If we believe meditation to be apart from daily living, failure can be predicted right from the beginning. That is what many do. They give a little time to 'meditation', repeat formulas to quieten the mind for a while, and then that activity ends, and the daily life goes on a course that is quite different. But meditation is the touching of that deeper source of energy which belongs to the spiritual nature. Can it be done if we are dominated by the outer personality? We must remember that the unethical, superficial life of the brain-mind is the cause of disturbances. We do not deal with that cause, the 'me'. The 'me' can disturb anything! When meeting a great spiritual teacher, it is still in conflict, as symbolized by the acts of Judas or Devadatta, who set himself against the Buddha. So the “me” can make a problem of everything, create a dispute where there is none. If we do not deal with that, but wish through 'meditation' to find peace and silence, we attempt the impossible. The “me” and silence cannot coexist. Without morality, meditation, meaning the way to that deeper real energy, is not possible.
In the modern utilitarian world the whole idea of restraint and self-discipline is at a discount. If we always do what the world around us does, we are sure to be misled. Of course, we must find out what self-discipline means. It is not suppression, which is simply hiding the problem. The “self”, in Theosophical terminology the “lower self”, cannot be dismissed. Only when the time comes, when we have made ourselves fit for that, we will be released from the lower personality; but meanwhile the point is to bring order and harmony into it.
The word “discipline”, like the word “disciple”, is said to be connected with learning. If there is disorder within, the contradiction of different or opposed desires, how can we live in a healthy, wise way? There is the desire to eat what is not good and also the desire to keep healthy – a contradiction from which many people suffer. But there are similar and subtler forms of disorder inside, which we never resolve.
It is necessary to bring about a condition of inward harmony in every part of ourselves, the body, the emotions, thoughts, to enable the consciousness to become spiritually awake, clear, subtle, profound, sensitive. To do that, a quality of mindfulness, of attention is needed.
Both in ancient as well as in more recent teaching, the importance of attention has been brought to our notice. Attention grows with quiet observation of what passes within as well as without. It is not a matter of always observing oneself. If we do that, we may become deplorably self-preoccupied. Not thinking of anything except self-improvement is a very sorry state. One must not lose the capacity for relaxation, joy and harmony. Therefore, one must observe in general, both the within and the without. Human nature can be studied not only by seeing ourselves face to face, but by looking at human nature in general. One can learn a great deal, provided one watches impersonally, objectively, not in order to say: “look at that person; he is jealous.” Let us just look to see how jealousy works. If it works out there in that way, it may work in a similar manner in me also. For the moment it may not be active, but when I am in another situation or in another incarnation, as long as “I-ness” is inside, it may come out. All personal passions and traits are only different branches of the single tree of “I-ness.” Today, I may not be greedy because I happen to be in a fortunate position; I have everything I want. Another time I may prove myself to be greedy. So when we look at others, it should not be to point the finger at them, but to learn what can happen, how the mind works, how easily it deceives itself. Along with this, there is also quiet observation of the sunlight, the shadows, the grass, everything outside and inside. Observation makes the mind more awake.
Listening, too, is important, for it is a way of being receptive and purging the mind of its contents. We should not say “I am listening to music”; listening to music is fairly easy. One must learn just to listen – to anything that may be there, to life in the tree, to the glory in your friend, or even in one who is not so much a friend. Attention includes listening. In the school of Pythagoras neophytes learned to listen, and also in the Vedanta it was taught. Quiet listening empties the mind. Listening with attention is also listening to something deep within yourself. For this one must listen from the heart, not with the ear or the mind.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, in the course of an anecdote, questions are asked: How can the hidden Reality, the inmost self of all, the Atman, be discovered? The wise teacher says: It is realized by seeing, listening, pondering, and meditating. By living thus, slowly, silence comes within. You may speak to a friend, but still in the background you live more silently. Your periods of silence become easier, more natural. The silence of the tongue then reflects the silence of the brain-mind; it is the silencing of the separative self. That is the true silence, sometimes called the “grand silence.”
Pondering on the deeper questions of life is part of the work leading to meditation. Deeper questions have universal import, and contemplating them gives a different tone to the mind. Most of us are only concerned with immediate personal problems. When we appear to think of a group problem, or even a world problem, it is generally from the personal point of view. There is much difference between “how can I escape sorrow and turmoil?”, and “what is the way out of suffering?” If it is the real way, it is the way for everybody, but our approach to the question must be truly reflective not personally involved. If it is, it is not real reflection.
When a young woman went to the Buddha and pleaded with him to restore the life of her dead child the Buddha. In his compassion, said: Bring me a handful of mustard from a house where there has been no death. After a futile search, she came back. He was not hard-hearted. He was telling her to look at the problem as a universal problem, not as her problem. The problem of death is that of parting from things to which we have become attached, which is universal. If we live with greater depth of awareness, sensitivity and clarity, a certain richness, an unfailing energy and inspiration will be there, because these are qualities of the new mind. Regeneration is a wonderful thing. When the mind becomes different, it is full of vitality; it has virtue and goodness.
Let us not be satisfied to remain at a comparatively shallow level in the Theosophical Society. Many people want meditation; perhaps there are people eager for the spiritual life. But what do we mean by meditation? As Krishnamurti said, it is not simply sitting cross-legged, breathing, or practicing some formula. It is a way to a radical change in ourselves, bringing abundant energy, inspiration and understanding.
To be continued