April 2013 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the April 2013 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
Remarks on Adyar Day, 17 February 2012
By Ravi Ravindra
Reprinted from the February 2013 issue of The Theosophist
WHAT an extraordinary confluence of subtle energies there is in the life and work of the TS on 17 February! It is the day of the passing of Col. Olcott and of J. Krishnamurti. It is also the day when Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake by the Catholic Church in 1600 for holding scientific perspectives about multiple universes and the infinite dimensions of the universe. It is said that Annie Besant was an incarnation of Bruno. Also, it was 17 February in India, when C. W. Leadbeater was born on 16 February in his native land! We can only speculate why there has been such an incredible confluence of energies, and wonder.
It is difficult to imagine the TS without the skill, dedication and hard work of Col. Olcott. Given his special dedication to the teachings of the Buddha, it is useful for us to recall a remark of the Buddha: ‘Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.’ Without question, this was true of Olcott. He discovered his work and then gave himself to it with all his heart.
We can only marvel at the occult perception of Leadbeater to have seen a scrawny young boy, Jiddu Krishnamurti, at some distance and recognize the future great world teacher. And many other amazing perceptions of Leadbeater’s have been well documented.
Annie Besant could certainly have been an incarnation of the energy also embodied by Bruno. She had great courage and remarkable insight, but greatness of heart was her special strength. She was compassion incarnate. I heard Krishnaji say that if you wish to know what compassion is, you should learn about Annie Besant. I was happy to find a statue labelled ‘Annie Besant, the Hindu Saint’ in the Bharat Samaj Temple in Haridwar, commemorating the Hindu sages and saints over the ages.
It is awe-inspiring that Adyar Day should be a reminder of all these very great personages at this place, and all in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It is good for us to remind ourselves of the enormously large forces running the cosmos. Even during this morning’s gathering, galaxies are appearing and disappearing. A very helpful reminder by Albert Einstein is: ‘Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust — we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.’
Out of the incredibly large amounts of energy and matter in the universe, for a few decades, we — each one of us, is made sufficiently coherent for us to be able to think, feel and act. It seems almost obvious that in the midst of these vast cosmological forces, we human beings have only two options: we can be unconscious slaves of these forces or willing servants. If we wish to be servants rather than slaves, it is necessary for us to try to understand the intricate laws and energies that govern the workings of the cosmos and to try to understand what the great sages in the various traditions have understood and have tried to teach us. This naturally brings us to the emphasis of the TS on a study of science, philosophy and religion — across traditions and, even more importantly, with an emphasis on subtler levels of reality.
A sense of service to Truth and to the Society is perhaps the outstanding characteristic of all the four persons whose names are associated with Adyar Day — Olcott, Leadbeater, Annie Besant and Krishnamurti. For them, it was not a compulsion or restriction on their lives. They would have happily agreed with a remark of Rabindranath Tagore: ‘I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.’
My own connection with the TS started in 1979, thirty-three years ago, when Mrs Dora Kunz, the then President of the American Section, somehow found out that I was at that time a professor both of Physics and of Religion at Dalhousie University in Canada. She was intrigued by what to most people seems an incongruous combination of interests, and invited me to speak at Olcott in Wheaton, the headquarters of the TS in USA. A couple of years later, in 1981, I landed in Adyar. I was invited to give a public lecture in the headquarters building. The response of the President, Dr Radha Burnier, was enthusiastic and generous. She said: ‘Any time you wish to come and teach in the School of the Wisdom here, we will be happy to have you.’ Since then until now, I must have taught in the School at least a dozen times.
If I add up all the time I have spent in Adyar — by which I mean only the TS campus for I quite seldom go out — it will amount to more than a year. I have always been treated here with goodwill, courtesy and generosity. I have experienced the greatest freedom in exploring various topics in the School, as I have generally taken a subject to teach, not because I know it, but because I wish to learn. These subjects have been across the usual boundaries of disciplines, cultures and epochs. My experience of the participants in the School — consisting of many young searchers, experienced scholars, occasionally monks or priests of one or another religious order — has been very rewarding. Participants have come from many countries, with varying backgrounds and accents. On occasion I have found myself translating American accents for the Indian participants, and vice versa! I have not experienced such variety of interest, of seriousness, and of background expertise in any other audience as repeatedly as in the School of the Wisdom. It is both a challenge and a blessing.
In more than one case, a course in the School resulted in editing or publication of a book. For example, this was true for my books, Science and the Sacred and Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna. A part of the generosity of the TS at Adyar for me has been the publication of several of my books by TPH. Both of the books just mentioned were first published by TPH in Adyar; only later did other publishers bring them out in USA. Some other books published elsewhere have also been published by TPH Adyar for the Indian market.
The recent project of mine in the School of the Wisdom, of even a surface exploration of the Rg Veda, turned out to be a much bigger one than I had anticipated. But I am happy to have attempted it and will leave here with much humility towards and an enormous respect for the ancient rshi-s, and with much gratitude to them for their repeated call to the realm of satyam, rtam, brhat (Truth, Order, Vastness) or satyam, rtam, jyoti (Truth, Order, Light) or that of satyam, rtam, amrtam (Truth, Order, Eternal Life).
The ancient text Śatapatha Brāhmana says: ‘When a person is born, whoever he may be, there is born simultaneously a debt to the deva-s, to the sages, to the ancestors, and to society’ (1.7,2,1), and it is only through yajńa — which is only partially correctly rendered as ‘sacrifice’ and is much closer to a collaborative activity between the deva-s and human beings — that this debt can be paid, for ‘Yajńa is the person’ (1.3,2,1).
For me, engaging in explorations of the great texts is a way to pay my debt to the sages, and sometimes when some clarity emerges and when it is communicated to the others, I feel as if I am engaged in a yajńa and, at least temporarily, a deva is invoked. I imagine all of you must have that sense occasionally when you are touched by a sense of service which is not personal and something is well attempted — whether it succeeds or not. Such moments are the treasures of benediction. We need to make our efforts; failure or success is not entirely in our hands. As the sage said in the Śvetāsvatara Upanishad (VI.21): ‘All realization is a combination of tapas prabhāva and deva prasāda — the effect of our human effort and the blessings of the deva-s.’
Everything in the Theosophical literature, and all the remarkable leaders associated with Adyar Day, call us again and again to attempt to connect with the realm of existence indicated by satyam, rtam and jyoti — Truth, Order and Light. We cannot not have a sense of gratitude for their efforts and the heritage left by them.
In closing, I would like to quote some remarks made by Krishnamurti in 1924 (The Adyar Notes and News, 12 April 1928):
I have visited many a wonderful land and seen many a famous sight, but there is none to equal the extraordinary intangible something of our Adyar. There is an atmosphere there that does not exist in many a church and temple, and there is a Presence there that we expect to perceive in a sacred shrine. One can become either a God or a pitiful sinner at Adyar. It is a wondrous spot, and it must be maintained as though it were a holy temple.
Adyar Day exists to remind the members of the glorious place and to urge them to do their best to make Adyar a worthy and dignified shrine for the Masters.
What a great challenge: one can become either a God or a pitiful sinner at Adyar! Adyar Day is a call to self-objectivity and a renewal of effort. Where do we stand? What would an impartial observer say about the life and attitudes prevalent in Adyar now? Short-time visitors can be critical of what goes on in Adyar or can be awed by its possibility too quickly. Life is never easy in any intentional community. Each one of us is constantly in danger of betraying the grand vision of a great tradition. A tradition is not kept alive by merely repeating the external forms of the tradition. Each one of us, including myself, needs to engage in deep self-questioning. In what direction are my energies and actions oriented? Towards becoming a deva or a pitiful sinner? Only impartial self-knowledge can lead to Brahma Vidyā or true Theosophy.
Talk given at Adyar. Dr Ravi Ravindra is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, Canada. He is the author of several books, including Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna. Join us at the 12th Triennial Indo-Pacific Conference in Bali (1st to 6th November 2013) and meet Dr. Ravi Ravindra who will be one of the guest speakers there.
36th Edition of A Course in Theosophy & Meditation
As part of our continuing effort to achieve our twin-object of popularizing a knowledge of theosophy and induction of new members, we will be starting our 36th edition of A Course in Theosophy & Meditation on Thursday, 3 May 2013.
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. As the Master has said, “Spheres of usefulness can be found everywhere. The first object of the Society is philanthropy. The true Theosophist is a philanthropist who—‘not for himself but for the world he lives’…” “This, and philosophy—the right comprehension of life and its mysteries—will give the ‘necessary basis’ and show the right pathway to pursue. Yet the best ‘sphere of usefulness’ for the applicant is now in his own land.”
You would have received our email appeal to publicize this course by appending the following course information to the end of all your out-going emails between now and the commencement of the course on 2nd May. That way we can collectively reach out to as many people as possible.
Once again, the theosophy course will be combined with the popular meditation course, both to optimize our resources and also to give attendees the benefit of two courses at the same time.
The schedule of the next combined course is posted on our website at singaporelodge.org/btc_dates.htm.
Do them a service, get your relatives and friends to enroll online for A Course in Theosophy & Meditation.