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.]
A younger Radha Burnier (on the right) with Clara Codd
We have been pondering the subject of regeneration for several days. We shall also obtain copies of talks, questions and answers. These will help us remember to give our attention to this subject for a long time to come. The ending of the seminar will not be the ending of the subject, because of its vital nature. Since we know how essential it is, we should not fall back into a routine approach.
Though we think we see the importance of regeneration, we do not really see. We see a bit of it. In a small way, we know that human beings must become less selfish, or else the world will be in great danger. But we do not see it as a whole, feel the full weight of the problem. Therefore the need to bring about a radical change does not become imperative in our lives. So the vitality of the problem should be felt. How can we do this? When we go back to our household work, office, daily preoccupations, will it fade away? If that happens nothing will change. Shall we give thought to keeping the subject alive until it evokes the passion for bringing about regeneration?
The story is told of a person who asked his teacher: 'How can I become liberated?' The teacher dunked him in water and held him down until he was panting for breath. Then he explained that he who longs for liberation as one longs for air when under water, will find it. This is the meaning of mumukshutva, a qualification on the spiritual path. It really means wholeheartedness, single-mindedness.
HPB suggests that if we read for five minutes, we should meditate over what has been read for many hours - not necessarily at a continuous stretch. I think it means we must keep the subject in the background of the mind, keep it alive. An important text on the spiritual life compares this to a person in love, who may be occupied in many ways, cooking, washing, or ploughing. But all the time there is a song in the heart, the inner feeling of relationship with the lover, experiencing the beauty of love. It is in the background all the time. So the awareness must remain within, to guide us to further understanding.
Regeneration does not normally take place all of a sudden.
Such immediate transformation cannot be ruled out as a theoretical possibility, but normally it must be preceded by persevering work. Krishnamurti spoke of immediate and total change, but he also said that this cannot be done in one dramatic act. Every time we see a thought arise from the unregenerate mind, we must wipe it off. This means sustained attention, self-knowledge. On another occasion he compared the work to a garden you tend. If you prepare the ground, plant the seeds and then take a vacation, there will be no garden. The seeds may be fine seeds, but the garden will be full of weeds. Tending a garden means preparing the soil, sowing the seeds, watching and removing weeds, watering the seedlings, and so on - continual care, attention, and labour.
The regeneration process is like that. It is not enough to come to the seminar, become enthusiastic and then go on vacation. The garden must be looked after; the song must remain in the heart, deeply affecting us by its harmony. If we dwell with the urge for regeneration within ourselves, more and more light will come with regard to what we must do, how we can pass on something, share with others what we have received.
One of the best ways of receiving more understanding is by trying to share. When we share, we receive. But this sharing is a very delicate matter. We cannot go around trying to convert people. The missionary spirit must be completely absent in the Theosophical Society! We must not imagine that we know about it. It is a matter of finding out together with others who have not been here what regeneration is. Is there any other way for humanity to break out of its problems? Is it enough to find superficial ways of solving problems? These questions can be shared with others. It cannot be a once-and-for-ever activity, of course.
As we said, delicacy is needed. When we have received something of value, we must share and communicate, but with tentativeness and humility. Throughout our lives understanding must grow about how the impure, unregenerate mind works. Self-knowledge is very important.
We may try various experiments. For a few months, one could try never to 'refer to oneself. Much of our conversation is about ourselves and our feelings. Suppose we try not to talk about any personal experiences, about what we have eaten or done, and why we did it. Is it of great importance? Why should everybody else know about it? Everybody is not longing to know about it, but we are so full of ourselves that everything about ourselves seems important: the clothes we wear, the colour we like and so on. Why not put a stop to that, not speak a word about oneself, except when strictly necessary at a practical level? This practice could make us notice how seemingly innocently the'!' sustains itself. There are a number of interesting experiments one could try.
Bringing about anew mind need not only be based on observing or pondering. It could be experimental. The important thing is to keep going in this direction. If regeneration is alive for ourselves, it will become alive in the theosophical lodge or in the group with which we work.
We cannot keep it alive if it is only a mental concept. It must be a reality, a growing reality.
To be continued