The Singapore Lodge Theosophical Society
The following articles are reproduced from the February 2023 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
By N. Sri Ram
Reprinted from The Theosophist, March 1956
EACH year, as February 17th comes round, Adyar Day, as the day is named, is celebrated both at the Theosophical Society, Adyar and in Lodges all over the world, with a view to commemorate the life and work of the President-Founder, Colonel Olcott, who passed away at Adyar on 17 February 1907 at 7.17 a.m. It happens also to be the birthdate of Brother C. W. Leadbeater, to whom the movement owes so very much, and we think of him also on this day with affection and gratitude.
“Adyar” began as the administrative headquarters of the Society in 1882, when the Society was still in its early adolescence. Today the Society has reached the fullness of its stature, it has thrown its branches far and wide, and many a pillar has taken root in the ground to support this wide-spreading tree. Many a member even in faraway Sections such as New Zealand, Argentina and Finland — it is needless to name others — regards Adyar as a source of inspiration to him as well as for the whole Society. Brother Jinarâjadâsa once described Adyar as “a vision of hope for mankind”. All the great thoughts which give rise to such a hope, which we can find in the Theosophical literature, seem in some way to be centred at Adyar. It is, therefore, well that there should be one day in the year which is dedicated to this Centre.
Adyar is largely maintained physically by donations from members in many National Societies, made out of their abundant goodwill and faith. It is also constantly strengthened by their thoughts.
The main link between Adyar and the members who are abroad has always been The Theosophist which was founded by H. P. Blavatsky herself and has had after her a succession of eminent Editors. It is a magazine which goes out to Lodges and members in various parts of the globe, carrying with it the influence of Adyar, as well as the thoughts contained in its articles. There is, of course, much correspondence with Sections and members taking place all the time, through the President, the Recording Secretary, and no doubt also some of the workers who come from abroad and stay at Adyar for a while. The letters which go out from here, as well as the writings published and sold, have influenced the minds of members in a way which has kept up the unique place which Adyar holds in the Society.
Dr Besant loved to call Adyar “The Masters’ Home”; for so she regarded it. The early writings are full of references to their visits on a number of occasions in their materialized forms. And if Brother C. W. Leadbeater’s testimony can be accepted, it has since then been frequently visited by them, though invisibly. According to Brother Jinarâjadâsa, it is their “brooding thought” which gives Adyar its special atmosphere, which even many people not connected with the Society feel quite often. The magnetism engendered by their visits and thought must be present here, in addition to the magnetism of the various leaders who have lived and worked here. Those of us who look up to them for guidance may well regard it therefore as a place dedicated to them.
I referred to the leaders of the Society. With hardly an exception, all of them have been here for a longer or shorter time. Surely that fact alone makes it unique among the various theosophical centres. Each centre, each Lodge, has a magnetism of its own; but part of the work of Adyar is to radiate that quality which is needed by all.
It is a remarkable fact that Theosophy as we have it can be presented to even the simplest minds in a form which they can easily grasp. HPB, in her monumental work The Secret Doctrine, refers to an ancient scroll which contains only a few symbols, and she explains how the meaning of each of these symbols can be expanded to comprise the various stages of the whole cosmic process. A symbol may be quite simple, easily understandable; yet inside such a symbol as, say, a circle, there can be drawn many circles, different radii can be inscribed, and there can be gradually created a beautiful and complicated pattern. But it is not necessary to be acquainted with the intricacy of the pattern in order to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the whole. Similarly Theosophy can be explained simply in fundamental terms, as well as presented in a complex, intricate pattern. It is the simple understanding which, I think, is the more important.
Brother C. W. Leadbeater was also very closely associated with Adyar. He has described his coming to Adyar with HPB and his early experiences here in his book How Theosophy Came to Me. He has been in Adyar since then for different periods, and much of his important work has been done here.
Among others who have left their impress on this place I would like to mention Mr J. Krishnamurti, who is regarded with affection and great respect by many, many Theosophists, although he is not now a member. He has lived here at different times in the past and spoken on different occasions on this estate. If you read what he has written about Adyar in the earlier years, you will know what he thought about the place at that time. I do hope, and believe, that what was true to him then still holds good.
Our Present Work: After saying all this, the note that I would like to strike is: It is of little use for us to subsist on past glories or make such capital out of them as we can. The question which everyone at Adyar should put to himself is: “How far do I contribute to the peace, the harmony, the brotherly understanding and dynamism of this place?” By putting that question to ourselves in a constructive spirit we would benefit Adyar greatly and ourselves. How far in our talk, in our contacts with fellow students, do we see the good in them and draw a veil over their faults and weaknesses?
We are all only too prone to talk about what we consider to be the defects of other people. But actually their defects may have a different look if viewed not through our personal reactions, but from a standpoint which is completely outside us both. It may be that what we think is the worst side of another does not represent his fundamental fault at all. That fault may be elsewhere, may be different from what appears on the surface.
Although Adyar has a magnetism of its own, a tremendously strong atmosphere, according to Brother Leadbeater, the maintenance of that atmosphere depends largely upon those who live and work here. It may be that the influence of Adyar is radiated from each part of the estate, even from its trees and its very ground. For an influence which is spiritual can attach itself not only to human beings, but even more perhaps to such things of Nature as trees, leaves and stones which are more passive than man. Nevertheless much depends on what we do and think when we are here.
Dynamism: I have used the word “dynamism”. That dynamism does not consist merely in showing a certain excitement, in celebrating this or that, or in disturbing other people. True dynamism, from the real, spiritual standpoint, is different from what people in general understand it to be. It stands still even when it is moving. Using the language of poetry, the lotus, as it rises out of the mud and opens its heart to the sunlight and the fresh air, is a picture of both dynamism and creation. It is really the divine energy in a tree which presently covers it with blossoms, causing it to overflow with the wine of life. To be similarly overflowing not with the mere “vital breath”, but with the life of the Spirit, which rises from the tranquil depths, is to be really creative. Those of us who are here should live, as far as possible, not superficially but from those inexhaustible depths.
Dr Besant, our late President, wanted Adyar to be a Flaming Centre. But what kind of a flame? Again, I would say that it should be the flame of the deep, cool spaces, that each one metaphorically holds within himself, the flame that creates beauty, not ostentatiously but in a natural course, that creates music of the heart, a music which is one with its silence. Does not music, when it is divine, seem to melt into and become one with the silence of the heart which is receptive to the music?
Every one who is here at Adyar, or who wants to help the theosophical movement anywhere, should learn to live from his depths, not only realizing but becoming the very expression of the truths we call Theosophy. He should express them in his life, his relationships, his speech and all his little actions. That is one thing which Brother Leadbeater taught those around him, that one can live a truly beautiful, spiritual life, even attending to the simple duties of one’s daily routine. He himself came to Adyar expecting nothing. He thought he would probably be given the job of sticking stamps or sweeping the floor. In those days there were no servants on the estate. He was quite prepared to do such work, and that was all he expected to do. He did not come with the hope of seeing the Masters, because he had too much reverence for them to expect that They would manifest themselves to him. Nor did he come with the idea of developing all kinds of psychic faculties, of impressing the world with his revelations, of sending out works of revolutionary significance and import.
There are not many in this world who are willing to serve the general good without any personal ambition, free from any self-importance that they can derive from their work, not asking for reward or recognition. If Adyar is to become a greater spiritual Centre, that aim will be accomplished only by making this whole estate a kind of temple-court with an atmosphere which is beautifully sensitive yet brooks no petty thoughts or aims. There are temples in India with several courts one within the other, and as the devout pilgrim walks into the first court of the temple, even that is regarded as sacred. We should help to create a similar feeling with regard to this estate. My own hope is that some day Adyar may be made beautiful even physically in every aspect of it, not by gaudy decorations but in a naturally simple manner. Its landscape at every point, the trees, the architecture and the whole ensemble should be such as to make a pure appeal to the heart, an appeal which opens up a vision of brotherliness and harmony.
Simply but Beautifully: We have all to learn to live simply and beautifully, in sympathy with the Nature around us. Thus we may create, as Nature creates, with a quality which comes deeply from within ourselves. It is not the smallness or bigness of our work that matters, but its quality. It is not the size of the stone which makes it precious, but its pure water, the lustre with which it shines.
Adyar can flame more. Look at certain trees which are covered with flowers so that they appear the most wonderful things on earth. But it is possible for our earth to produce something even more beautiful and for us to receive that beauty in our hearts. There is no limit to the beauty that life can create and express.
N. Sri Ram was the fifth international President of the Theosophical Society from 1953–1973
An Overview of The Mahatma Letters
One of the greatest sources of theosophical teachings comes from the writings of the Masters of the Wisdom. Earnest students will know that Madame H. P. Blavatsky served as the amanuensis of the Masters when she wrote her great book Isis Unveiled in 1877 and later her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine in 1888. Furthermore, a significant amount of direct teachings is found in the private letters the Masters wrote to early members of the Theosophical Society. Indeed, one of the greatest phenomena in the history of The Theosophical Society is the Mahatma Letters. It is not just the phenomenal ways in which the letters were received but the omniscience and encyclopedic knowledge of the Mahatmas that are remarkable.
In the formative years of the TS, some early members were blessed to receive direct communications from the Masters of the Wisdom. The first letter was received in 1870 and the last known letter in 1900. More than 300 letters from seven Mahatmas were received by various members of the TS, mostly in the period 1875 to 1886. These do not count the letters that were not published or kept private by the recipients. The principal recipient was Mr. A. P. Sinnett. The letters cover wide ranging subjects including those of personal counsel and instructions. Most invaluable for students are the esoteric teachings given to A. P. Sinnett and A. O. Hume.
Earnest students all over world have studied the Mahatma Letters closely and are greatly inspired by the writings. Most of the Mahatma Letters were published in three books, namely, The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett and Letters from The Masters of the Wisdom, First and Second Series. These three books collectively contain 303 letters from the Masters. Of these, three letters to C. W. Leadbeater were separately published with commentaries by C. Jinarājadāsa in The “K.H.” Letters to C. W. Leadbeater. In February 2013, Daniel Caldwell published Mrs. Holloway and the Mahatmas, containing 12 previously unpublished letters from the private collection of Mrs. Holloway. We may never know how many letters were written by the Masters that have remained unpublished.
From the teachings contained in the letters received, Mr. A. P. Sinnett wrote two books, The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism. While the former testifies to the existence of the Mahatmas and the invisible worlds around us, the latter gives to the world the esoteric philosophy expounded by the Masters of the Wisdom. These two books, in turn, attracted to the Theosophical Society some of the most prominent members of the Society including C. W. Leadbeater.
Earnest students have greatly benefitted from the publication of the Mahatma Letters. Yet, they might not have been published at all. Indeed, publication was expressly forbidden by the Master K. H., the author of most of the letters. A. P. Sinnett was permitted to quote some letters in The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism. He respected the Masters’ instruction and prohibition. Nevertheless, after his death, his legatee Miss Maud Hoffman decided to make the letters public and chose Mr. A. Trevor Barker as editor. Though Mr. Barker knew of the prohibition of the Mahatma K. H. concerning the publication in full of the correspondence, nevertheless he published all the letters in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in 1923.
For obvious reasons, many members of the Theosophical Society around the world have engaged themselves in the study of the Mahatma Letters, rediscovering the gems of Wisdom contained therein. Many studied privately while others gathered in groups like what we have done to benefit from the synergy of group study. We first conducted the Mahatma Letters Study Class in 1999 through to 2000. The class commenced on March 27, 1999 and concluded on March 25, 2000, exactly a year later. Considering some discontinuity, we had all in all 40 weekly sessions, each session varying between 2 to 4 hours, or well over 100 hours of study in total.
The Mahatma Letters Study Class was reprised ten years later in 2009 through to 2011, commencing May 19, 2009 and concluding on January 25, 2011. This second time round, it took us 80 weeks over 160 hours to complete the study over an elapse of 88 weeks and 136 students participating.
Chong Sanne who conducted both the 1999 and 2009 Study Classes will give members an overview of the Mahatma Letters on 11 February 2023 at 4:30 p.m. Those who have not attended the Mahatma Letters Study Class will find the overview useful and may conceivably inspire them to study the Mahatma Letters.