The Outlook of a Theosophist
Summary of a talk given
at a Theosophical conference at Cuddapah, South India 1955
WHAT is Theosophy? It is easy to answer this by translating Theosophy into a word which is well known in India, Brahma Vidya. Vidya is knowledge. What is Brahman? An ancient Indian text declares that Brahman is Truth, Wisdom, Infinitude and Bliss. Brahman is the source of everything; but the nature of this source is a Truth in the possession of which lies infinite Bliss.
Truth of what, about what? It must be essentially a truth pertaining to the inmost nature of ourselves, or to the nature of all life, if all life is one. Nothing external to us can give us that fullness of experience, that intimacy of union, in which is bliss. If there be such a thing external to us which so completely overwhelms us, something so ravishing, so wonderfully beautiful, that the only possible relation to it is a complete surrender of ourselves to it, then in our inner nature, as conscious beings, we are one with that thing.
It has been the great teaching of all Theosophists, all wise men throughout the world, that there is such a universal Something, a Principle which underlies all things, and is within ourselves too, the nature of which can alter for us the meaning of everything in life. He who seeks to understand this, even if he has not understood it fully, may be said to be a Theosophist.
A Theosophist, then, is one who is not content with the superficial flux and efflux of things by which most people are swayed, but is one who seeks to understand the true meaning of life and its purpose.
Why all this experience of diverse sorts which we meet with in life - pleasant and unpleasant, easy and difficult, loss, death, temptation and so on.? We may explain it as karma, which only means the natural process of action and re-action. Karma in its full signification implies many things that are involved in this process - the continuity of life and responsibility, the existence of a law which, acting as if mechanically, operates with perfect justice, and a process of involution or conditioning followed by release, a process both physical and psychological.
But along with karma, there is also a law of spiritual unfoldment, which is evolution in the deepest sense, the evolution of that which is innate, that which lies beyond our mental as well as our physical nature, in a state of such concentration as to assume for us the aspect of an absolute.
If this is true, or if this is a plausible view, the purpose of life is not just to continue to act according to established modes, not the blind pursuit of wealth, pleasure, position, power and fame, which are all part of the automatic process of ignorance, giving rise to conflicts of various sorts and ever-growing discontent, but to live and act in such a way as to gain freedom from every conflict, a state of inner contentment and happiness.
The process of life, which is an expanding and inexorable process, will allow no one to isolate himself from its current.
This does not mean that every Theosophist should become a recluse or salvationist, thus escaping from the problems and responsibilities of the world. That would be only a swing to an opposite, where there is no rest. The process of life, which is an expanding and inexorable process, will allow no one to isolate himself from its current. No one can escape from his own inward process, which is part of the totality of life or evolution. To be obsessed with one’s soul, as some religious people are, is the very negation of that freedom which is essential for well-being and happiness. Anything that possesses or obsesses you cannot be the Truth that will give you freedom, peace and happiness.
Anything that possesses or obsesses you cannot be the Truth that will give you freedom, peace and happiness.
To follow neither the objects which attract the ignorant in the ways of the world, nor the objective of a personal attainment, even if we call it religious or spiritual, yet engage in action which will bring lasting happiness to all, must be the fundamental aim of the Theosophist.
This means that the Theosophist has to be different from all other people - not necessarily outwardly, but fundamentally in his inner attitude and aims. He must not be afraid of being different from the people around him. In what ways? Different, first of all, in realizing that Life is one, that each life is a part of that Unity, and Life does not have any separative label.
Even though the Theosophical Society is an organization, it must be a body of persons who have no separate aims.
Every organization, whether religious, national, political or existing for any other purpose, tends to become exclusive. Even though the Theosophical Society is an organization, it must be a body of persons who have no separate aims.
A Theosophist is one whose sole allegiance is to Truth, not to this creed or that, who has the interests of Humanity at heart, not only those of one people, one State, or one group. This means that he cannot be a nationalist, in any narrow antagonizing sense. Nor can he be a Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist in an attitude of self-righteous exclusion. He must be at heart a sannyasi who has no caste, whatever he may be outwardly. I am afraid that there are few such Theosophists in the world.
Coming to another important occurrence in our everyday experience, death, what should be the Theosophist’s attitude towards it? Innumerable people throughout the world look upon death as an unmitigated calamity. But it was not so regarded by the Buddha or Shri Shankaracharya or Plato or any other great Teacher. If Life is the great reality and Life is indestructible, Death is the greatest of illusions, because it is death only to the imprisoning form and not to the indwelling Life which is released from that form.
A Theosophist is one who on all these matters thinks for himself and refuses to follow the superstitions of the multitude . If you wish to help your brother-man, you can only help him by stating the truth, not by agreeing with him in all his opinions. There can be no question, for instance, in the eyes of a Theosophist, of superiority or inferiority of one sex in relation to another. You cannot give less freedom to another than you claim for yourself.
A man will be at the mercy of every circumstances, so long as he refuses to open his eyes and wishes to be led blindly by another who is supposed to see, but may himself be blind.
Theosophy for us must be a way of life, including thinking and feeling, not mere lecturing and attendance at meetings.
In the light of the great truths I have mentioned (I have not sought to expound Theosophy in detail) very many matters that are discussed in newspapers from day to day, or arise in our families or in the course of our social contacts, assume a different aspect.
Theosophy for us must be a way of life, including thinking and feeling, not mere lecturing and attendance at meetings. That way is one which makes the individual heir to all the truth of all the religions and philosophies, a brother to all human beings of every quarter of the globe, fearless in all situations of life and in relation to death, and able to make his life progressively a creative endeavour, less and less of a burden, and more and more of a blessing.
The Theosophist 1955
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