July 2008 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the July 2008 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
“So far -- WE KNOW. Within and to the utmost limit, to the very edge of the cosmic veil we know the fact to be correct -- owing to personal experience; for the information gathered as to what takes place beyond we are indebted to the Planetary Spirits, to our blessed Lord Buddha. This of course may be regarded as secondhand information. There are those who, rather than yield to the evidence of fact will prefer regarding even the planetary gods as “erring” disembodied philosophers if not actually liars. Be it so. “Everyone is master of his own wisdom” -- says a Tibetan proverb, and he is at liberty either to honour or degrade his slave. However, I will go on for the benefit of those who may yet seize my explanation of the problem and understand the nature of the solution.”
A Master of the Wisdom
The Asala Festival
Bishop C. W. Leadbeater wrote in The Masters And The Path, which was first published in 1925, the following account of the Asala Festival.
“Besides the great Wesak Festival there is one other occasion in each year when the members of the Brotherhood all meet together officially. The meeting in this case is usually held in the private house of the Lord Maitreya, situated also in the Himalayas, but on the southern instead of the northern slopes. On this occasion no pilgrims on the physical plane are present, but all astral visitors who know of the celebration are welcome to attend it. It is held on the full moon day of the month of Asala, (in Sanskrit Asâdha), usually corresponding to the English July.
This is the anniversary of the delivery by the Lord Buddha of His first announcement of the great discovery—the sermon which He preached to his five disciples, commonly known as the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta, which has been poetically translated by Rhys Davids as “The Setting in Motion of the Royal Chariot Wheels of the Kingdom of Righteousness”. It is often more briefly described in Buddhist books as “The Turning of the Wheel of the Law”. It explains for the first time the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, expounding the great middle way of the Buddha—the life of perfect righteousness in the world, which lies midway between the extravagances of asceticism on the one hand and the carelessness of mere worldly life on the other.
In His love for His great predecessor the Lord Maitreya has ordained that, whenever the anniversary of that first preaching comes round, the same sermon shall be recited once more in the presence of the assembled Brotherhood; and He usually adds to it a simple address of His own, expounding and applying it. The recitation of the sermon commences at the moment of full moon, and the reading and the address are usually over in about half an hour. The Lord Maitreya generally takes His place upon the marble seat which is set at the edge of a raised terrace in the lovely garden just in front of His house. The greatest of the Officials sit close about Him, while the rest of the Brotherhood is grouped in the garden a few feet below. On this occasion, as on the other, there is often an opportunity for pleasant converse, and kindly greetings and benedictions are distributed by the Masters among Their pupils and those who aspire to be Their pupils.
It may be useful to give some account of the ceremony, and of what is usually said at these Festivals, though it is, of course, utterly impossible to reproduce the wonder and the beauty and the eloquence of the words of the Lord Maitreya on such occasions. The account which follows does not attempt to report any single discourse; it is a combination of, I fear, very imperfectly remembered fragments, some of which have already appeared elsewhere; but it will give to those who have not previously heard of it some idea of the line generally taken.
That great sermon is wonderfully simple, and its points are repeated over and over again. There was no shorthand in those days, so that it might be taken down and read by every one afterwards; His disciples had to remember His words by the impression made on them at the time. So He made them simple, and He repeated them again and again like a refrain, so that the people might be sure of them. One may readily see in reading it that it is constructed for this special purpose—that it may be easily remembered. Its points are arranged categorically, so that when it has once been heard each point reminds one of the next, as though it were a kind of mnemonic, and to the Buddhist each of these separate and easily remembered words suggests a whole body of related ideas, so that the sermon, short and simple as it is, contains an explanation and a rule of life.
One might well think that all that can be said about the sermon has been said already many times over; yet the Lord, with His wonderful eloquence and the way in which He puts it, makes it every year seem something new, and each person feels its message as though it were specially addressed to himself. On that occasion, as in the original preaching, the Pentecostal miracle repeats itself. The Lord speaks in the original sonorous Pâli, but every one present hears Him “in his own tongue wherein he was born,” as is said in the Acts of the Apostles.”
In addition to the account by C. W. Leadbeater we also have the testimonial of Geoffrey Hodson (1886-1983), a renowned theosophist and clairvoyant and also a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church, regarding the Asala Festival. In his occult diary, his wife Sandra Hodson wrote on July 7, 1976, “Geoffrey recorded to me verbally that on one or more occasions he remembered, on awakening, an out-of-the-body experience following the Asala Festival, of attendance at the home and garden of the Lord Maitreya. Geoffrey stated, “As far as my memory goes, not only Adepts, but a considerable number of aspirants to Adeptship—devotees of the Lord Buddha, the Lord Maitreya, and the Masters of the Wisdom—were also present and listened to the discourse. Most of them, in physically influenced memory, were floating in their subtle bodies, as it were, in the air above the Lord’s garden on the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains.”
We extend a warm welcome to Sister Dianne Kynaston and Brother Gerard Brennan from Australia who will be visiting the Singapore Lodge on 12 July 2008 to meet our members. Sis. Dianne will also give a talk on “The Price of Experience” and invite members to participate in a discussion on the subject.
Dianne joined the TS in London in 1974 whilst working there, but has been a member of Newcastle Lodge since her return to Australia in 1976. She has been a president and is currently secretary of the Newcastle Lodge. Even though she actually lives in Sydney (at the Manor) she goes back and forth to Newcastle every two weeks for meetings. She moved to Sydney in 1983 when she became the General Secretary (now called President) of the Australian Section - a post she held for 8 years. She has also had a term of office as president of the Indo-Pacific Federation back in 1986-1988. She has lectured for the TS around Australia and New Zealand, in India, Pakistan and in Europe.
Accompanying Diane is Gerard Brennan. Gerard is also a long-time active member of the Theosophical Society. He is attached to the Blavatsky Lodge, and has been its secretary and a committee member. Come and meet both Dianne and Gerard on Saturday, 12 July 2008 at 5 p.m.
The Theosophical Society does not have any dogma and does not impose on its members any restrictions with respect to personal preferences, be it religion, method of meditation or diet. It may be therefore curious to the uninitiated why most of the leaders of the Society are vegetarians. Is there something they know that makes them so? On the other hand, it is also true that vegetarianism is one of the prerequisites when a member joins the Esoteric School of Theosophy. Then again, why? Another case in point are the Theravada Buddhist monks. Although this particular Buddhist tradition does not require their bhikhus to be vegetarians, you will find that the elders in the Sangha are mostly vegetarians.
As a matter of fact, there is a growing population of vegetarians world-wide—a greater awareness, perhaps, of the benefits of being a vegetarian. Consequently, these days, when one travels around the world, it is not uncommon to find a vegetarian section in the menu of a regular restaurant to cater for those who observe a strict vegetarian diet. So what motivates more and more people to become vegetarians voluntarily? And why do some schools of occultism, such as our EST, make vegetarianism mandatory for its members?
When asked, some would say they are vegetarian either because of religious or health reasons. Broadly speaking, other than those who were born in a vegetarian family and raised as one, a person becomes a vegetarian for one or both of the following reasons. Firstly, it has to do with pursuit of good health or occult development. Most, if not all, true occultists and earnest students of occultism are vegetarians. In reply to the question “Is it necessary to be a vegetarian in order to be an occultist and does vegetarianism help one on the path of occultism?”, Mr. Geoffrey Hodson, a devoted theosophist and a renowned clairvoyant answered “Yes!” on both counts. We are what we eat. Students of theosophy know that in addition to the physical body, we have several other subtle bodies, each of which is affected greatly by what we eat. Secondly, there are many who became vegetarian simply because they do not wish to take life, out of compassion, love of animals and respect for other living creatures. Hence, while the first reason might be termed selfish the second is purely altruistic.
Lily Chong will give a comprehensive talk on 5 July, 2008 at 4 p.m. on her research into vegetarianism, using copious illustrations to take us through various facets of the subject. In the talk she will debunk the myth on the lack of nutrition of a vegetarian diet. She will also show us the consequences of the demand and supply of animal products, including a video show on animal farming. Come to the talk and delight in the merits of vegetarianism. You may bring your friends along for this talk.