THERE has sprung
up of late a certain class of Theosophists
— whose number we hope is not large — who complain
that though they have been Fellows of the Theosophical Society
for several years, leading a moral life, studying the theosophical
literature, and moreover, strict vegetarians, yet they see
hardly any perceptible signs of spiritual progress, nor have
they been able to attract the attention of the masters, much
as they wished it.
To such we say:
All that you have been doing is well and good, and is sure
to form a firm ground-work for future advancement; but we
only regret you could not see for yourself the impossibility
of negative virtues and mere intellectual culture, even when
rightly directed, forming the direct instrument of the soul's
elevation. An intellectual grasp of the broad truths of occult
science is indeed indispensable as a first step, in so far
as they acquaint you, however vaguely it may be, with what
should be the aim of your precious life, and how you are
to work in order to attain the end. But no one in the Theosophical
Society, so far as we know, postulated the absurdity that
a life of vegetarianism, coupled with the study of a few
books would, like the magical slippers, transport you to
the desired goal. If then you have been disappointed in the
realization of hopes which you never cared to work for, you
have nobody to blame but yourself; and unless you choose
now to go beyond the vain acquisition of a surface acquaintance
with uncommon technical names and metaphysical ideas — so “to
look big and talk away" — the approach to the
land of Mystic Rest must for ever remain barred against your
Much of the difficulty seems to have arisen from the misunderstanding of the term Gyan — which, in Sanscrit works on occultism, has been called the sole instrument of Mukti — as signifying knowledge acquired on the intellectual plane and that only. From a similar misconception has also originated the deplorable ill-feeling that may be observed even to this day between the respective followers of Gyan-marga and Bhakti-marga. The Gyan, referred to as forming the means of Moksha, is not the mere intellectual understanding of scientific and philosophic [Page 13] truths, but signifies the intuitive perception of the real, as distinguished from the unreal world of phenomena. Now it is difficult to see how one can attain this perception without having a quantum sufficit of what is called Bhakti, without being permeated, as it were, with a rapt devotion towards the God within — without paying “the profound obeisance of the soul to the dim star that burns within". It is known to all how powerful are the attractions of sense objects, and any amount of simple will-power will not be enough of itself to counteract the inherent tendencies of a myriad-fold existence, unless the will itself is strengthened and vivified by some higher impulse from the soul. No one has urged the necessity of Gyan more forcibly than the sage Sankara, and yet his enumeration of the means of liberation are Shraddha, Bhakti, Dhyan, and Yoga. On the other hand, Bhakti, unless properly directed, and controlled by right discrimination, cannot acquire the momentum necessary to push one beyond the attraction of the world of sense, and to carry one to the Supreme goal; as it will be evident on a little consideration that such a refined and spiritual force cannot flow with the same vigour when applied to material conceptions, as when directed to the pure Spirit alone. To us, therefore, Bhakti and Gyan in their true sense appear to be, if not two names for the identical subjective elevation that becomes the lot of spiritual persons, at any rate the two aspects of the same state, the one being the inseparable complement of the other.
It will thus be seen that spiritual development requires for its basis the cultivation of the heart rather than that of the head, although the latter cannot, as we have said, be dispensed with altogether. In the dreary journey of every man's life there come moments when, withdrawing from the lurid glare of the outside world, he sinks into the inmost depths of his soul, and here resting upon the bosom of Infinity, hears a voice speaking to him in soft and silent whispers: — “Child of the earth! the life thou livest is all a dream. Wake up to find thyself transformed into an angel ! " And blessed is he that not only hears with a sense of passing delight, but has also the heart and strength to obey. But how is he to obey? During moments of exaltation we do indeed feel how delusive is the world in which we live, and how shadowy are our highest aspirations, our deepest sorrows and joys; but how are we to awake from our dream? The flow of the spirit descends upon us even as the “dew of heaven", unsolicited and unnoticed; how then, finite as we are, can we command it, and transforming its fitful gushes into a steady, constant current, cause it to break down the barriers of illusion and bear us to the reality beyond? Is there no end to this dream, no means of obtaining more frequent draughts of this Soma-juice? Surely there must be, since so many have safely crossed this ocean of delusion. Shall we try to suggest a mean ? Thought, meditation, Vichara — herein lies the secret of success. Does not the thrice-great Hermes say that “without philosophy there is no lofty religion", and does not the Holy Sankara entreat you thus:-
‘Kasyatwam vá kuba áyata Tattwam chintaya adidam bhrata."
brother! meditate upon the truth as to whose you are and
whence you come." Here is the path for you to
follow. Develop thought — ponder day and night over
the unreality of all your surroundings and of yourself, and
try with unceasing effort to realize that underneath this
array of phantoms there is all essence, unknown and unheeded
in the tumult of everyday life, but nevertheless, the only
Reality from whence has sprung all that has the appearance
of beauty, of love and of joy.
Begin, then, by checking all thoughts that relate to the illusory life. Depend no more on the mercy of such noble and elevating thoughts as may chance at intervals to sweep over your heart. No appreciable change will be observed if you leave yourself to the help of such fortuitous advents of spiritual impulse. Look around and see how untiringly men have to work to obtain such trifles as have aroused their fancy. Think you then, that such a glorious result as freedom from the clutches of Death and Misery — supposed to be the inevitable companions of human life — can be attained without hard labour ? Ah no! All your energies, active and dormant, will have to put forth their utmost strength before you can reach the end of your journey. Strive then, by concentrating the whole force of your soul, to shut the door of your mind to all stray thoughts, allowing none to enter but those calculated to reveal to you the unreality of sense-life and the Peace of the Inner World. You have to address your own soul in the words of the Prince of Denmark :—
" Yea, from the table of my memory
I'II wipe away all fond trivial records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter."
We have often
felt that to a person turning towards the life of occultism,
the springing up of evil thoughts is less injurious than
that of idle and indifferent ones. Because as to evil thoughts
he is always on his guard, and having determined to fight
and conquer them, they help in developing his will-power.
Indifferent thoughts, however, serve merely to distract
his attention and waste his energy without imparting the
slightest benefit. Avoid therefore carefully, all “fruitless
thinking, thinking of possibilities, and contradictory thinking".
The first great basic delusion you have to get over is the identification of yourself with the physical body. The form of language in vogue in this material age of ours has much to answer for in this egregious error that has taken root in us. Even in childhood our susceptible nature is broken upon the wheel of this crushing blunder when we hear all around us sounds of “I go”, “I come", and so on, when it is merely the physical envelope that is seen to perform the act. The ascetics of India are the only people who always speak of “Sarira" as distinct from themselves and thus take care not to mislead people into an erroneous belief. Consider within yourself, without being deluded by the false notions floating around you, and begin to think of this body as nothing better than the house you have to dwell in for a time, and then you will never yield to its [Page 15] temptations. Wherein, dear friend, does the mass of flesh you are not ashamed to call yourself, differ from the tree in your garden ? Does not the axe cut it, the fire burn it ? Does it not wither and die even more rapidly ? What better than the air and water that supply nourishment to the tree is the food you eat with so much relish ? Ah! sad fate! amazing fall! you who are a God, yet revelling in the delight of flesh and blood! And lo ! you are enamoured of this fantastically shaped puppet, and spend your invaluable life in decorating and clothing it in strange garbs, so that other puppets may bend before it. Answer candidly if this mere puppet-show is worth your life's devotion. Serve the body only if it helps you in serving your God; otherwise it were far better for you that it should perish and be scattered in pieces, than serve the purpose of creating a host of delusions to enslave you. Work for it never so faithfully, it will inevitably betray you some day; so take warning while yet there is time. Sink into nothingness all concerns about its comforts, and, awakening to the true object for which you are born, devote every moment of your time in advancing towards the centre of Light that is beckoning you from afar.
When you have in some degree realized the insignificance of the gross body, you will begin to doubt if the idea of self, which springs up almost entirely from the sensations derived from the body, is really your true Self. How can the world, in relation to which alone the false self exists, have any more reality or permanency than a dream, when there is absolutely no proof of the objective existence of matter apart from the cognizing mind? Analyze thus constantly the phantom to which you have given the name of self and reflect upon its illusory character. Try also with consistent attempts to conquer the prominent weaknesses of your nature by developing thought in the direction that will kill each particular passion. Are you home-sick ? Then will you tell us, dear brother, what is it that attracts you ? Is it the fond caresses and sweet speech of your relatives ? Know you not that all your connection with the persons you regard as your own, arises from the body, and that even while you are enjoying their embraces, if the machine stops, they are the first to turn you out of doors ? Cease then to love any forms of clay. You will not thereby be deprived of the only fire that makes life divine. Begin to love the Unseen Principle, set all your affections on him, and you will then bask beneath the Sun of Love from which at present only a few stray rays now and then pierce through the darkness of your heart. Be home-sick as passionately as you can, but let it be the true home that you long for and not a pile of bricks. Again, are you sensitive to the injustice and vile slanders of people around you ? Then ask yourself why you suffer. Is it not wholly due to your own actions, and would you not have suffered as certainly and as bitterly if the person against whom you are irritated had never existed ? Why then indulge angry feelings against the unfortunate person who has merely formed the instrument of the Law? Pity rather the poor mortal who has thus added to the heavy burden of his sin. Pray heartily for the erring brother that the iron will of Karma, which never stops, may not grind him utterly [Page 16] to dust. This you can do only by having a firm faith in Karma. This, on serious thought, all weakness will be found to arise in some error; use head and heart to drive it out.
Your first efforts in this direction, however, are likely to prove discouraging. Not only will you be unable to observe any signs of development, or to feel any nearer the spiritual Light, but on the other hand you will find yourself sinking under such a deadweight as will make you stagger, and doubt if it will ever be in your power to lift it up. Your incipient efforts have now detached you from objects of sense only in so far that you cannot take anything like your original delight in friends, relatives or amusements; but they have not yet supplied you with the true ambrosia that cannot only fill their place, but absorb your whole being into itself; you begin to feel a sort of indescribable vacuum in your heart — we say indescribable, because nothing akin to that painful blankness is felt even in the saddest moments of worldly life. Particularly will this terrible monster of hollowness oppress you when you wake up from sleep; because on the dream-plane you will find yourself attracted to and made happy in your former delights; but as soon as you open your eyes, you find yourself, with a suddenness that takes your breath away, transplanted into a land of nameless
horror, where there is nothing that can give you a moment's pleasure. The very fountain from which you now and then received refreshing draughts of the elixir seems to be dried up for ever, and for some time you walk upon the earth a disconsolate being under a grim shade, without one ray of hope or joy to cheer you. Here it is that the poor souls that are not firm-footed, stumble. But you, noble aspirant — you who would fain enter the sanctuary of truth — Despair not ! Doubt not! Falter not! beloved of the sages — for here it is that glorious saints are waiting with cups of infinite bliss for you, will you but take one more step undismayed.
There would be greater reason to doubt the law of expansion by heat (because certain organic substances contract by heat, owing to the moisture they contain), than for you to doubt the final expansion of your soul because of the apparent contraction you may be experiencing. Know you not it is but the driving out of the rheum and the filthy moisture of your heart. Regard this shade, then, as the soft twilight heralding the rise of the sun of Ananda (spiritual bliss). Pursue your determined course with undaunted courage and the clouds will break. The weight under whose pressure you had all but succumbed, will then be lifted up, and your heart will spring back into the free air with an elasticity unknown before. Once more the life-imparting stream of your soul begins to flow, but it is more continuous, and its waters more tranquil and pellucid. Once more you are blessed with “angelic visits", but not “few and far between " as before. Remember, that sadness is by no means the unmitigated evil it is supposed to be, and that there is a limit to the pain caused by it. When that limit is passed you enter quite unexpectedly into a region of unthought-of beauty, just as a ray of light is refracted or broken until the critical angle is reached, after which refraction gives place to the perfect reflection called “total reflection". [Page 17]
Bear in mind that sadness has two stages. First, the painful, which is almost the only one known to the ordinary material man; and second, the serene, into which the first gradually merges in the case of comparatively pure persons even as calm follows storm. In fact, on surviving the first terrible blow of despondency, you will learn the novel lesson that sadness is not after all the fabled vulture devouring the heart of Prometheus to eternity. You will no longer dread it and fly impatiently from it, but will try to use it as a ladder to ascend to the clear sky. You will recognise it as the shadow of the Light that shines beyond. It is only in the Cimmerian darkness of all-absorbing material occupation that there is neither light nor shadow. Sometimes when the serenity of your soul will be marred by some worldly engrossment, sadness will prove a welcome guest — nay, you will yearn to fly to it for refuge, so that it may infuse into you the calm of a life the busy world knows nothing about, and for which your heart pines. You would much rather have your soul drowned in the sweetness of melancholy, than lost in the noisy hubbub and meaningless laughter of what is called social life. Brother I do not hastily turn round and say: Would you then deprive man of his sole delight, the capacity for laughter? No, indeed !We are only suggesting the replacing of mimicry by reality — by that centre from which radiate beams of cheerfulness not only lighting up the gloom of men, but piercing to the very heart of the earth. Laugh, then, the laugh of the Spirit, if you can, otherwise keep silent. “Silence is golden", is an old saying, but if we may be permitted the liberty of altering it a little we should say, " Silence is the philosopher's stone". Ordinarily it is golden, because it is of the greatest use to us even in our ordinary dealings with men, but when directed towards the contemplation of the Supreme, it becomes a true philosopher's stone. All objects which then come within its influence instantly borrow its charm, and reflect a beauty so exquisite that we feel as if everything around us had suddenly changed into something brighter and nobler. Silence, therefore, is essential for the neophyte. When, however, it proves oppressive — as it will sometimes — then talk if you will, but talk, as far as may be, only on subjects allied to what you have made the aim of your life. When the mind is fatigued by continuous meditation, or when it is rambling, books on spiritual subjects are of great help, but much depends on your selection of such books and how you read them. Your object in study should not be, as is usual with men, a confused mixture of obtaining a tremendous amount of information, and of finding a sort of sedative amusement for the intellect. You should have a well-defined purpose in view — and need we say what that should be ? Surely none other than to achieve that which you have made your life-effort — Soul-elevation. You must, therefore, read little and think more, in order to " feed the flame of thought". Give up all desire of turning into a gourmand, devouring a heap of sundry books. Oh I how gladly would we part with a whole library of books for one such invaluable gem as the Bhagavad-Gita, Light on the Path, The ldyll of the White Lotus, or Sowing and Reaping. With one such book in your hand, ponder well till you find yourself absorbed into the Spirit of Truth. " Read to live, and do not live to read." [Page 18]
A general complaint that often reaches our ears is that one is not placed in circumstances favourable for progress, and that much as one desires to live and work for the higher life, there are embarrassments that make it completely out of his power to advance, even a single step. How deeply such a person laments his peculiarly harrowing strait, and how vainly he thinks he would attempt and succeed in living the life of the soul, were he better situated. We say to such persons, you are but throwing away the energy of your soul in foolish lamentation, and cheating yourself with fine imagery as an excuse for negligence and want of determined effort. Firstly, you who are acquainted with and believe in the law of Karma, ought to know that favouring circumstances are the result of hard work in a previous incarnation, and not the offspring of the injustice of a blind destiny. Sri Krishna says that only those who have worked up to a certain point in occultism in one life are blessed in the next with surroundings suited to soul-growth. Why, then, complain for not having what you do not deserve? And unless you determine now to create better circumstances for the future, you may go on idly wishing for a change in which you please yourself with the belief that you will thrive; but be sure that nothing is attained without working for it. Surely the beginning must be made somewhere, by controlling circumstances and by working up to a certain degree, and then you can hope for and obtain surroundings calculated to assist your efforts. Then again, you should begin to realize that the circumstances under which you are placed can obtain no mastery over you, unless you deliberately put your neck under the yoke. The surroundings, however manifold, have no inherent power in them to distract your attention from the one star that is the guide of your life unless you voluntarily give them the power. Even a school boy knows that a quantity, however large, if raised to the power zero gives unity as the result. So you should constantly deny to all outside objects the slightest power over you, and then, though their number be infinite, you will see nothing but unity. It is merely your own desire that restrains you from soaring high. The fact is beautifully illustrated in Indian books by the way in which monkey-traps are made in that country. A quantity of gram is placed in an earthen vessel in which there is a small opening, just large enough to let the open palm of the monkey pass in. When he has closed his fist, having a handful of gram, he cannot take it out. If he only lets the gram drop, he can with the greatest ease run away and be free. But no! The attraction of the gram so bewilders his sense that he begins to think himself a captive and is thus caught. Exactly the same is the case with man; there is nothing to bind him to slavery if he can but see through the folly of unchecked Vasna (desire). It is your own weakness that is forming the obstacles for you. There is positively nothing outside of yourself that can in the least hinder your progress.
There is, however, another truth that has to be so learnt and assimilated as to form a corner-stone of your belief. You have to understand that the aim of nature being identical with your own, all that you, in your ignorance, call sufferings and obstacles, are in reality the mysterious efforts of nature to help you in [Page 19] your work if you can manage them properly. An idea of how Karma is a never-failing aid to evolution can be gleaned from the consideration that resistance always develops the Will-power. The mental height and quiet that has been attained by overcoming obstacles, form a guarantee of our having advanced some distance, and give us the assurance that it is no fungus-growth, destined to live but for a day. Moksha being another name for perfection, requires that you should have experienced all phases of existence; hence you should look upon all circumstances with the gratitude of a pupil. All complaint is a silent rebellion against the law of progress. An occultist's object being to hurry on the work of evolution, if you complain you will, instead of reaping any benefit thereby, retard your progress. Leaving all complaint aside, devote yourself heart and soul in the work of helping the growth of your soul. All disturbance of equilibrium is prejudicial; bearing in mind, therefore, that there is but one pivot in the universe on which equilibrium can be restored, detach yourself with effort from objects of sense, and fix your heart on the Supreme Unity. Equilibrium, however, is of three kinds, on the mental as well as on the physical plane. First, unstable equilibrium, in which if the mind is disturbed ever so little, it turns away the more forcibly from its position of rest. This is the nature of the devout feelings that incidentally fall to the lot of the man of the world and which are next to useless for an occultist. Second, neutral equilibrium, in which there is no active tendency either way, and the mind is occupied either in sublime thoughts or in objects of sense. This is a distinct step no doubt, but you must not rest satisfied with it, but should strive to attain the third — stable equilibrium. At this stage, however busy a man may be in the performance of his material duties, his heart for ever flies from them to attain calmness and peace. So our final advice is, that all duties should be performed conscientiously with the conviction that their avoidance, instead of being a help, is sure to prove an obstacle. At the same time never forget for a moment that the aim for which you work is not what your hands are plying for. Ever take care not to be so attracted by work as to lose sight, even for a short time, of the magic charms which your soul reveals. Love solitude with all your heart and enjoy it whenever you can afford to fly to it. Imagination is of the greatest help in the elevation of the soul. You will realize its power only when you apply it to a distinct end under the command of your will. Retire to a secluded spot — the bank of a river or a solitary grove if possible — and call up spiritual scenes before your mind's eye, and in thought lose yourself in the supreme self. Dreaming is supposed to be an odd and foolish habit in this matter-of-fact, practical age of ours. Hardly is it guessed that dreaming spiritual dreams is the highest heritage of the human race. Yes, we say, conjure up dreams by Will and then calmly drink in the invigorating amrita that will then flow into your heart. Learn to withdraw into the sanctum sanctorum of your soul, and the bliss of all the three worlds is there. Be meditative, and you will reach the goal of all happiness. The divine flute of Krishna is ever sending forth celestial melodies in the very atmosphere which we breathe, but we can hear it only when the chaotic tumult of worldly thoughts [Page 20] has been laid asleep. Drowned in the solemn profundity of your soul, worship devoutly the sweet influence which then remains upon you, and from this it is, you should know, that you are to derive strength to fight with the terrible foes around you. Look back upon the earlier portion of your life, and there, buried under the ashes of subsequent physical experiences, you will find the glowing embers having a spiritual fire. In childhood the consciousness is not completely materialized, and as we are just then bringing to a close a period of spiritual existence, we continue to be vivified by soul-influence. Then, we do not quite understand nor very much care for the wild chatter of men around, and have no option but to dream happily. What will help you most in spiritual development is the putting forth of all your energies to keep the Mystic Peace of your soul undisturbed, even in the midst of worldly company and in the thick of material affairs. While conversing, to all appearances, with your friends and relatives try with head and heart to live in a world of your own creation. Create in yourself a sort of inward yearning for the soul, a ‘Heartache for the Beloved", to use the language of the Sufis, without whom your very life would be one vast barren desert of horror and pain. How pathetically does the Sufis poet sing:—
" Marà dar manzile jánàn ché anno
ayesh chem hardum.
that we are talking of vague improbabilities. See in the case
of a mesmerist, what human Will, though distracted by a thousand
and one material ambitions, can do. What then of the Will,
subtle as it is, when it is directed on the highest subtlety,
and, moreover, spirit, body and soul are all working in the
same direction — which cannot be possible in any other pursuit.
Only try constantly to live in the Inner World of Rest and
Calm, and your external consciousness will then lose its
intensity of colour. True you will move in the world all
the same, but its appearances and events will affect you
but as dreams — compared to the beauties of the new
life you have begun to live. See how the moon which shines
with all effulgence by the reflection of the light of the
sun, loses its brightness and turns into a pale piece of
cloud on the rise of the sun itself; so our external consciousness
that shines with a dazzle by the reflection of the spiritual
light gets dimmed and pale on the approach of a higher consciousness.
Therefore, whether you are travelling lonely and unfriended
to a distant country, or are living on the bosom of a dear
wife enjoying the sweets of a comfortable home, forget not
that you are but a pilgrim journeying to your native land
from which you have strayed out. Let us then pray in Matthew
Arnold's sad, sweet words :—
Jaras faryàd midárad ké bar bundaid mahmilha."
"What possible delight could I find in the stages of my journey
to the beloved when every moment arises the sound:
Prepare for thy journey."
"Calm soul of all things! Make it mine
To feel amid the city's jar.
That there abides a piece of thine,
Man did not make, and cannot mar !
The will to neither strive nor cry,
The power to feel with others give !
Calm, calm me more! nor let me die
Before I have begun to live."
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