The Daily Life Of Those Who Decided to Learn
The Theosophical Movement
The following article was first published by
the “The Theosophical Movement” magazine
in Mumbai, India, in its January 2003 edition.
“Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the
pupil must seek out the Rajah of the senses, the Thought-
Producer, he who awakes illusion….
When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all
the forms he sees in dreams;
When he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the
ONE – the inner sound which kills the outer….
Before the Soul can comprehend and may remember, she
must unto the Silent Speaker be united….
For then the Soul will hear, and will remember.
And then to the inner ear will speak.”
– “The Voice of the Silence”, a book by H. P. Blavatsky.
It is round these few lines that the student of Theosophy must build his resolve, his course of conduct and his daily spiritual exercise. His efforts have to be concentrated towards one objective only – that he may discern the ONE – the inner sound which kills the outer. If this were beyond the capacity of the aspirant, the instruction would not have been worded in the manner in which it stands today. In fact, unless the few directions contained in these verses are followed, the rest of the book will have hardly anything to offer. It is only to those who try to become indifferent to objects of perception and who persist in the endeavour as year piles upon year that the message of the spiritual life comes loud and clear.
Before meditation can be thought of, the aspirant has to achieve some degree of concentration. At all times, before he enters upon his sacred hour dedicated to the spiritual, he has to immunize himself against all earthly reactions and stabilize himself by becoming indifferent to outer as well as to inner sights and sounds that project objects of perception on to his mind. His preliminary endeavour must be to render the emotions powerless to disturb his serenity at least for the hour. The smarting under a wrong; the indignation and the shame of being the target of calumny; the feeling of being ostracized by the very persons from whom love and tolerance are due – these are but a few circumstances which life throws up and which, if rightly approached, become the training media for achieving the higher indifference. It is circumstances such as these which teach the disciple to go through the foul atmosphere of personal existence. Then, there are days of gloom when nothing seems to go right and sitting for concentration arouses only greater oscillations. There come moments when undesirable images come trooping in, unbidden, devilish and full of terror. Matter has these tendencies, but the Soul of man is stronger than any compulsion which these may impose. There also come days when, squirming under the tyranny of others, he wonders whether brotherhood does exist and is the key to emancipation. Such are the events which try men’s souls and which by their very virulence arouse the soul’s strength to stand up and conquer.
A person is said to be concentrated when he makes his entire consciousness (body, desires, mind) converge to a focal point of attention. At such times, he brings the entire force of his thoughts to rest upon a single point, so that there is no straying away, no relaxation of effort during the time that concentration is practised. The energy thus fixed on any subject or object is intense and produces results the magnitude of which surpasses the achievements of what the world calls brilliant minds. In such a state of concentrated effort, there can be no deviation of attention, no lessening of the compact oneness of the effort. Fixity of purpose, one-pointedness, the refusal to be drawn away from the desired objective, and the shutting off of all channels that can bring in outside disturbing elements, are requisites for its practice. The health of the body is as vital to its practice as is the peace of mind and serenity of temperament. As a practice conducive to an awakening of the Soul, it demands an exclusive devotion that discriminates between sights, sounds, emotions and acts, and divides them into those favourable and those inimical to its development. Of this, Krishna speaks:
“This divine discipline is not to be attained by the man who eateth more than enough or too little, nor by him who has a habit of sleeping much, nor by him who is given to overwatching. The meditation which destroyeth pain is produced in him who is moderate in eating and in recreation, of moderate exertion in his actions, and regulated in sleeping and waking.” (“Bhagavad-Gita”, Theosophy Company, Chapter VI, 16-17)
He then goes on to advise that such a person should centre his heart in the true Self and be exempt from attachment to all desires. He alone should adopt the practice who is prepared to centre his heart in the true Self which is the Self of all creatures. He who practises concentration for ends other than these is no devotee of the Highest and but makes the effort to possess the higher force for lesser and even non-spiritual ends.
If Krishna’s words of wisdom are given their due importance, it will be found that they demand an active awareness of the entire daily life of the aspirant, no moment excluded. In such context, the trivia of a day may for the higher life be stumbling-blocks, the ordinary modes of society inimical, rivalry in business and the pursuit of “innocent” pleasures a deterrent and a bar to progress. “Concentration” is the act, conscious and cautious, of trying to find an emplacement of the Soul in the Highest. No light task this, for, as late as in the Eleventh Chapter of the “Gita”, Arjuna confesses that during his walk in life he had forgotten who Krishna was and had therefore been guilty of not paying due reverence to the ubiquitous presence that is Krishna. Even though a disciple of Krishna, he had failed to discriminate between the mortal and the Krishna-aspect of things. It is in this wide context that Arjuna’s words have to be placed. Says he:
“Having been ignorant of thy majesty, I took thee for a friend, and have called thee ‘O Krishna, O son of Yadu, O friend’; and blinded by my affection and presumption, I have at times treated thee without respect in sport, in recreation, in repose, in thy chair, and at thy meals, in private and in public.”
It is such loss of memory of the highest which has to be guarded against; for, without this ever-present memory the soul will not be able to rest upon the spirit in every moment of leisure.
The concentration which the disciple must seek is totally different from that which is made to go under that name in recent times. The quacks are a-plenty and the market of ambitious learners is rapidly expanding. Concentration is but the use of a force which like any other can be drawn upon for good or evil ends. There is a craze to acquire it to secure personal advancement and to obtain dominance over the destinies of other men. The student of Theosophy is warned against practising concentration for ignoble and for personal ends. As one who tries to put the interests of others above his own, he is expected to acquire steadiness of mind and accumulate reserves of power. These he must acquire so that he becomes the better equipped to serve humanity. His efforts at concentration must revolve round the desire to make Theosophy a living power which can work through his life force. In concentration, he must find that potency which will enable him to build up a vast brotherly love which cuts across the barriers of race, caste, creed and colour. He has to gather in himself vast stores of energy which will ultimately give him the strength to bestow labour unselfishly upon humanity, upon all men, whether good or bad. To attain such a high objective, he has to convert himself from the man ravaged by desires into an impersonal force for good. He trains himself to use his senses and organs of action for such efforts as shall benefit in the mass. It therefore follows that when such an aspirant sits for the practice of concentration he strives to make himself completely forgetful of his personal self. So doing, he becomes the better equipped to saturate himself with that sincere quality of altruism that knows no barriers and is free from all limits.
Granted that the student has this noble objective, how does he plan to proceed, what knowledge does he seek, what powers does he covet?
Concentration has to become a way of life, an intimate attribute of the waking man. Yet, for him who would like to be inducted into it gradually, the best exercise is that of reviewing the walk of himself as a personal man throughout the preceding twenty-four hours. Did Theosophy walk with him the thorny paths of discipline? Did it form the backdrop to his plans, his successes and his failures? Picking up each event, he has to scrutinize it as though from the throne of the Most High. Did the ideal of a universal brotherhood of humanity peep through his dealings with others? Did he show indifference to his own sufferings and bear his soul in peace even when personal injustice was meted out to him by cruel hands? Did he seek out him who sat starving for the word of wisdom and give to him the benign protection of a living LAW? Was he charitable to the weaknesses of others? Did he attend to his duties – not at all, indifferently, or with assiduity born of devotion? Did he help lame dogs over stiles? Did he step aside so that thus the advance of another was assured? Each event has to be seen in retrospect and from each has to be extracted its lesson for the living of the life.
To each act, for each reaction, the following five norms could be applied: Did it evoke in me that charity which is the manifestation of love immortal? Did it synthesize the unity of thought, word and act? Did it go to build up reserves of that calmness which would remain unshaken through all experiences? Was boldness to the fore – the boldness that comes of an awakened soul? Was a divine indifference to pleasure and to pain effectively maintained at all levels? And, whether the answer be “yes” or “no”, the effort of concentration builds up in memory the images of what should have been the ideal movement of the soul at the time when it stands allied to its parent.
All this in the retrospect – the casting up of credits and debits, the assimilation of experience, the generation of a knowledge to meet similar situations in the future. The exercise marks the closing of a twenty-four hour day. But there is yet another exercise where imagination is called upon to play a very important part in the life of the individual. The Soul has, at the start of the day, to cast its vision forth on flesh, to foresee and to plan its mind-painted images for the morrow. What duties have to be performed? What shall be his attitude at performance time? Whom is he likely to meet? Is there a possibility of his having to listen to slander? If so, how will he comport himself? Can he bring someone on to the right path? If there is a chance that another will be unjustly attacked in his presence, how shall he go to his defence and yet preserve the image of respectability, decency and good behaviour? If calamitous circumstances are likely to arise, how will he control his reactions, how turn the circumstance so as to trample a vice or help a merit grow – in himself and in others? A half-hour dedicated to such work tends to grow and grow till each moment of leisure comes to be spent in the close nearness of the man’s personality to his inner light.
Like a good artisan, the man of concentration selects and arranges his tools for the effort to be undertaken. The sculptor, the painter and the artist invoke their muse; why not therefore he who sculpts and paints with life for his creations? This is exactly what he is expected to do with the power of concentration after centring himself in the true Self. His is the privilege and the responsibility to create and project on to this plane the images that his soul builds – pictures of deeds well done and of days and nights spent in holy striving.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.