August 2004 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the August 2004 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
The Pursuit of Wisdom
N. Sri Ram
Mr N. Sri Ram was
President of the TS from 1953 to 1973, and Editor of
The Theosophist. This is
an extract from a talk given at Adyar, 25 January 1970.
THE character of any organization does not depend entirely upon its aims, however wonderful and noble they may be, because those who constitute the organization will interpret those aims in their own way. Therefore, the actual character of such an organization as the Theosophical Society depends upon the individual members, what they think, how they feel and act. There can be no objects nobler than those of the Society. The very word ‘Theosophy’ suggests something transcendental, supreme, out of this earth. The name of the organization and its objects as formulated are as wide and lofty.
Yet, with such aims, is the Society actually fulfilling its mission of promoting the progress of humanity, making an impact upon the human mind and affairs? When one looks at it in that manner and thinks of how wonderful an organization the Theosophical Society can be, in fact as well as in theory, one realizes that a radical change must come about in the mentality, in the outlook and way of life pursued by the members themselves. Then anyone who looks at the Society will feel immediately that it is something outside the ordinary, that the truth which we call Theosophy is perhaps much more important than the truth which people seek in other fields, such as modern science.
It is not a change in organization that is needed. There are many people who make suggestions and proposals for tinkering with the organization and methods of propaganda. There are suggestions such as: let us not have Lodges at all, but depend only upon study classes; or, we need to use television and radio instead of having lectures; we must employ experts in public relations; and then the Society will come to be known and will become a world force; and so on.
But what is important is a change in the quality of the life that flows through the organization; that seems so much more important than procedures and outer forms. Is the life flowing in every part of the organization? Or does it just stand still, like water in a stagnant pool? Are we merely cutting stencils of thought in smaller or larger quantities and selling them, to use an American expression?
The very nature of the mind is to fragment the expression of life which is an energy that always flows and expresses itself in various forms, but everywhere life expresses itself in a certain inner unity. But the mind, looking at the form and not at the energy that flows from it or its nature, fragments that expression and sees only the parts. It then puts the parts together to make a whole; it is good at assembling! That is the nature of the present mechanical civilization. The parts are assembled cunningly, a very elaborate organization is created for a particular purpose and no other. So our present civilization is essentially technological, but soulless.
In the pursuit of what is called knowledge the analytical mind breaks everything into different parts, studies their formal aspect but allows the life within to disappear. Where Theosophy becomes a mere matter of intellectualism it will fail to reach the hearts of people. They may be stimulated for a time by one subject of discussion or another but that will not really make a change in their lives or make Theosophy attractive.
Some say that science has gone far beyond Theosophy as presented in our books, and, as other pursuits are more pleasing to the modern mind, we cannot make any impression with such an old-fashioned and sticky thing as Theosophy. People who say this perhaps do not understand the nature of this Wisdom which we call Theosophy, and merely look at it superficially.
In one of the Letters from the Mahatmas the Master says, ‘few of us would care to play the part in life of a desiccated pansy between the leaves of a volume of solemn poetry’. The Mahatmas are not bloodless, dried-up, prosaic, just repeating certain words. The knowledge of the Mahatmas does not pertain merely to the superficial aspect of things, but of that which lies within, of life as well as of form. It is not just head-learning which consists of mere intellectual concepts but does not touch the nature of the person, or affect the quality of his life. The learning occupies the brain and the brain occupies itself with the learning.
The Adepts have knowledge gained by a process of knowing through living their lives completely, and this knowing is not isolated from life, but is an expression of it. When knowledge is gained in that manner then it is not just mental knowledge. So, what we should seek is not merely to occupy the mind with themes which we consider important, but to act in a different way, which will bring about a change in our very being.
When we use the words ‘science’ and ‘religion’ they really refer to these two different modes of action. Science, in the modern sense, can be pursued on the intellectual plane, the heart has nothing to do with it. But when we speak of religion, it refers to a different kind of action that takes place in the individual. Perhaps one might use the words ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ instead of ‘science’ and ‘religion’. But unfortunately, the heart can be as narrow as the mind, as rigid and stilted, and also the word ‘heart’ conveys different meanings to different people. One may have all kinds of personal and petty emotions and reactions which might be termed the heart of the individual. But there is no other English word which can convey that quality or aspect of consciousness which is capable of functioning as a totality.
What really characterizes the religious attitude or spirit is not the beliefs or the practices or the allegiances; these vary from one religion to another. We are not speaking of any particular religion but of Religion itself, of what characterizes the religious attitude. It is wholeheartedness, complete dedication. In a religious man you will find the total response, devotion in the real sense is total, complete; there is no reservation whatever, nothing is held back. And that is really the action of the totality of one’s being. The attitude of the religious man is really one which is completely unified, totally undivided. The Sanskrit word advaita refers to this unity which exists within oneself. When people say that there is the One and no other and therefore there is not duality at all, that is only an idea. But it is possible, as a matter of living, of one’s own experiencing, to be completely undivided in oneself.
Our true nature, which is ever unconditioned, is that of peace, goodness and undividedness. In the Upanishadic stanzas used for meditation, there are the words, śāntam, śivam, advaitam—peace, goodness, undividedness. And that nature can be experienced within ourselves.
We can know for ourselves that it is possible to live with a nature which is unified, completely undivided, which is at peace in itself, in which there is not a dual conflicting personality. Such a nature can act with the whole of itself, without any reservation, and such action is very different from the action of the mind, which is only an instrument of the whole being of man.
Without being religious in any conventional sense, it is possible to be wholehearted and completely selfless, in a state of love. If a person is in that condition, if he is really selfless, if it is not the so-called love which is an expression of the self for its own purposes, then he is wholehearted. In fact, that is the only state in which one really experiences the wholeness of one’s being. Love, in the real sense, is wholly voluntary, it is pure goodwill. It is only at such times that one experiences the truth of what might be described as the totality of action. One’s whole nature acts.
Therefore, no one is truly religious except when he acts with a nature of love, a nature which is without a self. We speak of a man as religious when he shows devotion. The word ‘devotion’ which conveys the idea of wholeheartedness, self-abnegation, a certain force which is capable of action, really denotes love without any element of self. We may have a sense of awe when we are in the presence of a great Being, but that sense of awe is not fear. There is the biblical phrase, ‘Perfect love casteth out fear’. Fear arises because you are afraid that another person may hurt you. But when you completely trust another person, then there can be no fear. You do not think of what might happen to you, because there is no ‘I’ or ‘you’ in this love. It is possible to be in that state of love only when there is no element of fear. Fear inhibits. You approach someone for a reason, but are inhibited by your fear that he may not think well of you, that he may find out your weaknesses, and think you are petty. That means you are afraid of losing you own self-esteem, you fear that you will fall in this great person’s estimation. But only if you do not seek anyone’s estimation, or feel the need to be thought good or important, and have no fear at all, can you give absolute love.
Our so-called devotion is mostly a kind of service, or loyalty with expectations. They may not be verbally expressed, but do exist. We expect, at least, approval, goodwill, blessing or some kind of a benefit. If I say that I am loyal to my God, in that very expression there is a feeling of possession; I am loyal to him because I desire his grace, his goodwill, his protection; I want to be able to call upon him whenever I am in trouble.
When we understand the true meaning of the word ‘heart’ which is not one’s petty personal emotions, we can realize that it is to be associated with all that is most beautiful in life. It is a wonderful feeling, devoid of fear and expectation; a state of being undivided, in which there is only the giving of itself. And that really points to certain depths which the mind cannot fathom, however clever one may be, however good the intellect may be. One cannot talk much of soul-wisdom, which The Voice of the Silence distinguishes from head-leaning, because it does not lend itself to the language of the mind. It has to be experienced personally. Nothing more can be said about it.
The principal quest of the Society is not just knowledge of various aspects of Nature which are beyond our present ken. You may know about various Rounds, Chains and so on, but you still do not become a different being because of that knowledge. The true value of knowledge is perceived only in the light of whatever wisdom one may possess.
The word ‘Theosophy’ means this Wisdom, which the Bhagavadgitā describes as lifegiving, and not just information because that does not make much of a difference to our lives. If, in each of its parts, the Society pursues this Wisdom, as distinguished from mere knowledge, it will have a different character. Then the Society will be really able to be a factor in bringing about the change that is needed by the whole world. One’s entire life has to be dedicated to the pursuit of Wisdom, and not just in the study classes. Really speaking, the Wisdom is a certain approach which has to manifest itself all the time and in relation to all incidents, circumstances and people. It would be a wonderful Society if even a good number of its members are really dedicated to the pursuit of that extraordinary thing which is called Theosophy. The ordinary is what the mind can grasp, but the extraordinary is something which is to be experienced only in the depths of ourselves, and we can experience it only when our whole nature is rid of all impediment, when it has been cleansed of all its wrong ideas, its wrong beliefs and wrong thinking.
So far more than 60 overseas members have registered for the Indo-Pacific Conference. The participants are coming from Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, USA and even South America. More are expected to register before the deadline which is 31 August 2004. Among those coming are dedicated workers of the TS including presidents of the various sections in the Asia-Pacific region. Luminaries include Mrs. Radha Burnier and Miss Joy Mills.
For details of the Ninth Triennial Conference of the Indo-Pacific Federation of the Theosophical Society which will be held in Singapore from 5th to 7th November, 2004 go to our web-page at www.singaporelodge.org/ipc.htm.
The conference will be held at RELC in Orange Grove Road, where our international visitors will be staying. We will be using the RELC theatre/auditorium which has a seating capacity of 489 for the conference. The conference fees, inclusive of full conference participation, lunch and two coffee breaks for each of the three days is $170 per member. There is an optional dinner on the first night with the international visitors at $30 per head. In other words, the total cost per member is $200 with dinner or $170 without dinner. So far, only 27 members from Singapore have registered since registration opened in March. It is a pity not more have decided to attend. Do not miss this unique opportunity to meet so many fellow members coming from afar. It will not be for a long while before the Indo-Pacific Conference comes back to Singapore. Please confirm your intention to participate in the Indo-Pacific Conference by registering on-line indicating whether you will be joining the dinner. Payment must be made to the Hon. Treasurer, Bro. N. C. Raghava, by 31 August 2004.
Our website, www.singaporelodge.org, has achieved top-ranking with both Google and Yahoo! search engines. Anyone in the world searching for “Theosophical Society in Singapore” or “theosophy in Singapore” with either search engine will find our website being returned with multiple entries on the first page―as a matter of fact, the very first result on the first page! This is wonderful, as Google and Yahoo! handle 75% of all Internet searches. It makes our website readily accessible by interested parties. It has surprisingly attracted much attention internationally.
We have had 25,000 ‘hits’ since it was published in March, or an average of 5,000 ‘hits’ per month by some 300 ‘unique visitors’. This may not seem a lot, but it is certainly beyond our expectations.
Do check the website for any changes in our weekly programme as it is kept up to date. Bookmark www.singaporelodge.org/programme.htm for quick reference.