February 2006 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the February 2006 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
Summary of public lecture given by the International President at the 130th Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, on 30 December 2005.
Because we human beings have been favoured with the gift of self-observation, most of us believe that we know ourselves. We are conscious of our bio-data, and if we are self-confident we may fill it with flattering items of information. But do we really know ourselves?
What do we know about ourselves? Of course, something about our physical body, how it looks, the colour of the skin, whether the hair on the head is thick or thinning. We may take pride in certain features as we look in the mirror. But, actually, we hardly know how the body is functioning, holding itself together, or maintaining the vitality and coordination it must have to survive. Therefore we do not take precautions against what may be factors of degeneration. Even doctors, biologists and zoologists do not really know how it all clicks and coordinates.
Then we ‘know’ a little bit about our emotions. We are aware of our pleasure, pain, wishes, disappointments and so on. We are capable of being aware of their inconsistency, contradictions, and the pulls and pushes of numerous circumstances which create disturbances in our emotional nature. What the Gita calls the ‘pairs of opposites’ — sometimes hope, at other times fear, feelings of honour and dishonour, success and failure create chaotic vibrations and make us slaves of a wide range of circumstances. Besides, there are subconscious feelings and motivations as well as inherited tendencies (vasana-s) which lie hidden in our psyche. If we were aware of them and understood them, the professional psychiatrists and analysts would be out of employment! In any case, they know as little about themselves as we do about ourselves.
Thirdly, the so-called knowing of oneself means we are conscious of our thoughts and thinking processes. Here there is a serious problem, because it is that part of the consciousness which is doing the thinking that is also trying to know, or believes it knows, about the thoughts and thinking that go on. It is not very satisfactory when the thief is the policeman. This is why thoughts can be inconsistent, illogical and unclear. In spite of all these uncertainties and ignorance about our body, emotions and thoughts, most of us are certain, or almost certain, that we know ourselves. We sometimes hear a person proudly declaring: “I know who I am.” We are assertive, egoistic and making out that we are superior to others, at least in some ways.
When we start observing instead of concluding that we know ourselves, we will very soon discover that other people’s appraisal of us does not tally with our own picture of ourselves, because they have a different image. The mind seems very quick to perceive defects in others, but reluctant to look at failings within. Resistance is one of the continuing obstacles to discovering oneself.
Many of us may ask: Why should I discover anything? What I know about myself is sufficient for practical purposes. The answer becomes clear with further observation and reflection, which reveals that distorted, superficial conclusions about ourselves are the basis of vast suffering — the conflicts, inequalities, frivolities and cruelty in human society. On the other hand, when one understands oneself, one also comprehends why human society is corrupt, warring, blundering — an utterly confused network of relationships. Secondly, when one has a false idea of oneself, even a little contradiction of the self-image is highly disturbing, and so we inflict suffering on ourselves, unable to be stable, serene and full of affection.
So, wise people have said you must know yourself. In her essay on ‘Practical Occultism’ HPB wrote that knowledge of self is Wisdom itself. The Sage Ramana responded to many questions by stimulating reflection on ‘Who am I?’ Krishnamurti repeatedly advised the need for vigilant observation of relationships, which will show what the ‘I’ is up to. The Lord Buddha categorically stated that I-ness is illusion; it is a mere mental construct.
But spiritual tradition also presents another approach such as the statement of Jesus: ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’ The Advaita doctrine of Shri Shankara declares that the true Self is limitless awareness, being and bliss. If we do not have so many notions and conclusions about ourselves, we will discover that we are not the petty little self which we recognize, but a vast everlasting, unbreakable, unitary consciousness — the substratum and source of all the miraculously beautiful and complex manifested life.
Discovery is not memory of other people’s concepts nor the basis for verbal discussions and arguments. In fact, many wise people have found that realization is Silence.
Even at the present stage, we may notice that whenever, even for a few minutes, the body is quiet, feelings are serene and harmonious, and the mind is still, our consciousness expands, is far more clear, perceptive, sensitive and free, because it does not relate everything which it contacts to an imaginary centre. That free and pure consciousness has no partitions in it. It is universal, the essence of all life.
A Mahatma wrote that human nature in general has not changed for a million years because of prejudice based upon selfishness and unwillingness to give up the known order of things for new modes of life and thought. What each one of us clings to most is the self-image that tethers our consciousness to a highly restricted sphere of experience and understanding.
The work of self-observation and discovery is not without danger. The spiritual path has been called the Razor-Edged Path, because there is danger all the time of losing balance. Light on the Path speaks of the ‘perilous ladder’ which leads to the path of life. There is every danger of self-observation becoming a self-centred activity.
Hence, it is essential, while giving sustained attention to one’s own attitudes, beliefs, and so forth in order to realize what is illusory and what is not, to respond to all of life with heart and mind. Therefore Light on the Path says: ‘Regard earnestly all the life that surrounds you. Learn to look intelligently into the hearts of men.’
Each one of us is an indivisible unit of a vast immeasurable consciousness, universal life, but limited by the material of the vehicles through which we must train ourselves to work. As we regard earnestly the beauty and complexity of the life around us and see how the human mind acts in our fellow human beings, instead of relapsing into self-centredness, we might be uplifted into increasing awareness of the wonderful, measureless mystery that is life.
In Memory of Bro. Kwee Sim Djiang
Brother Kwee Sim Djiang joined The Theosophical Society in 1957 and was a member for more than 45 years when he passed on to higher light in December 2002. Unlike some other older members who found it unnecessary to come to the lodge, Brother Kwee would come to the lodge every week, without fail, other than those times when he was out of town. He was a man of means but he lived a frugal and modest life. Yet he was known for his kindness, generosity and charity. He was very supportive of The Singapore Lodge and had been a source of constant encouragement for the executive committee. He served as the Vice President for three terms and was re-elected again as the Vice President for the fourth term at the 2002 AGM. As a matter of fact, in his earlier years he had also served in the committee in various capacities including that of Treasurer. His service in the committee was particularly significant as he represented the minority of the old members, as the current membership of The Singapore Lodge is composed predominantly of new members. He recognized the importance of the drive to get new members to regenerate the Singapore Lodge. Consequently, he came and attended the complete Basic Theosophy Course no less than three times, just to lend his support to the workers and to mingle with the attendees. Considering that each Basic Theosophy Course used to span nine weeks, that was a great commitment made by an elderly man. His unwavering support will always be remembered. It was, indeed, a privilege and an honour to know this noble person who left us with fond memories.
Brother Kwee Sim Djiang did not have any particular religious belief but he firmly believed in the theosophical cause and embraced Theosophy unreservedly. He had an enquiring mind and never considered himself above learning new things. He had great humility, was never too proud to learn and was most supportive of all lectures conducted by the Lodge. Not only was he a staunch believer of the theosophical tenets, he also lived a near exemplary life of a true theosophist.
In her obituary message, Mrs. Radha Burnier, our International President writes:
“It is inspiring to remember one who has lived a truly theosophical life. I hope there will be others in the Singapore Lodge who will follow his noble example.”
What most members do not know is the fact that Bro. Kwee Sim Djiang was a great benefactor of the Singapore Lodge. Respecting his request for anonymity, we have kept silent about his philanthropy. Now that three years have passed since he left us, we felt it is only right that we have a memorial for him. At our 117th Anniversary, we dedicated and named our library Kwee Sim Djiang Library in memory of our benefactor. This is appropriate as Bro. Kwee was an avid reader and a frequent user of our library.
We normally have about 5 minutes of meditative attunement before we start the programme for the day. In response to the request of some members, we are introducing longer meditation sessions, once or twice a month. The duration of each session will be about half an hour, from 4:15 pm to 4:45 pm. The first of such sessions will be held on 4th February 2006. Depending on the response of members, we may increase the frequency or we may decide to discontinue if the response is poor. So if you are in favour, please participate.
Adyar Day Celebration
Adyar Day was initiated in 1922, Dr Besant (President) accepting the suggestion that 17 February should be the day on which ‘the thoughts and love of all our members scattered over the whole wide world should turn to Adyar’. On this day H. S. Olcott and J. Krishnamurti shed their mortal bodies and C. W. Leadbeater was born. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake on this day in 1600. Thus on Adyar Day, homage is paid to the Society’s Leaders and other great theosophists.
On this occasion donations are made to the Adyar Fund.
Dr Besant has said: ‘The place of Adyar in the history of the Theosophical Society is unique, and centuries hence it will still be a spiritual centre of the Society.’
For the convenience of members, the Singapore Lodge will celebrate Adyar Day on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 5 p.m. Our delegation to the 130th Annual International Convention of the Theosophical Society will give an audio video account of their experience in Adyar for the benefit of all members.
As part of our continuing effort to achieve our twin-object of popularizing a knowledge of theosophy and induction of new members, we shall be starting our 22nd Theosophy Course on Monday, 20 March 2006.
Theosophy encompasses the science of life and the philosophy of living and has helped many people in the world. All members can help in the mission of popularizing a knowledge of theosophy. You will be doing humanity a great service by reaching out and bringing newcomers to the Society, to expose them to the theosophical teachings.
For enrolment and details of the course, you may go to our webpage at www.singaporelodge.org/btc_dates.htm .