Compass Newsletter Spring/Summer 2007 No.6
An Early Spring Walk
“Brave soldiers need neither orders nor constant encouragement”
The Winds of Narada
… A more practical, down-to-earth approach to life and understanding
There is only One Mankind
Why it is Wrong to Judge Others?
A Tower of Boxes of all Sizes
22 March 2007 Walking along a country lane bordered by stark hedgerows between fields and copses, one notices tiny, delicate buds scattered among the tangled chaos of dead wood. It is hard to imagine that in a couple of months these minute points will bloom into a profusion of summer foliage while last seasons decayed branches will be recycled back to the soil. As ever, nature provides a template or key to Nature – the reality and truth behind matter. In this instance let us imagine that the dead branches are the desiccated remains of outworn systems and crystallised beliefs while the new shoots herald signs of a rejuvenated and enlightened future. Changing old norms and mindsets that have grown stale and obsolete can be as ravaging as the winter and spring gales. As persistent as the increase of new growth, so too is the present proliferation of altruism and widening consciousness. Successful blossoming of the latter however will depend very much on you and me. In order to counter the negative and darker forces we must be sure to transmit to the light side the strength and energy of our positive and creative thoughts. Any focusing on evil is tantamount to feeding energy to the very thing that repels you. Like vegetation’s need for balanced amounts of rain and sunshine, healthy spiritual growth goes hand in hand with altruism. Unselfishly helping others in daily thought and deed results naturally in pruning out the clutter of the personal self. Once the jungle of the lower self is weeded away, the beneficence of our Higher Self or Inner Divinity can revive us like the rising sap that produces the perfection of summer flowering.
– Renée Hall
This well known statement written to William Quan Judge seems particularly relevant to us today. Changing times have brought an apparent change of habit and custom. Students determined to find life’s answers are increasingly searching on internet. Happily, to meet this need most of our theosophical literature has been published on the HQ web site. Regular public meetings where enquirers and members sat listening to a spoken presentation seem no longer in great demand. Perhaps, expensive venues and travel, not to mention family and work commitments, old age and frail health are also partly the problem. But I think there are more subtle reasons. For decades we have tended to be content to be on the receiving end, now the emphasis seems to have gently shifted to the shoulders of each one of us. By now we have surely absorbed our philosophy to the extent that it is our turn to be teachers, giving and sharing and above all living the ethics instead of taking and waiting for directions. It is as if we have at last left school and must now go out into the world and put into practice what we have learned. After all DIY is basically what theosophy is about. However, no one of us is alone as we each possess our own inbuilt mentor.
– The Editor
The Winds of Narada
“Today, the winds of Narada, agent of karma, are toppling once seemingly impregnable barriers to make way for long-needed changes in individual and national destinies. Every nation, race, and people, indeed every human being over the globe, is subject to the bipolar force of Narada’s Siva-energy which destroys that it may rebuild. Upheavals of lesser and greater magnitude occur cyclically to insure the viability of spirit through shedding and renewal of forms. The interplay between light and shadow will continue as long as we are imbodied entities. But there are cycles within cycles, and the growth patterns of humanity reveal long periods of seeming quiescence, punctuated by apparently sudden changes. When such a “moment” of destiny has matured, we may have an influx of a new type of humanity on the scene, often accompanied by global disturbances of a physical as well as psychological character.”
– G. F. Knoche, To Light a Thousand Lamps, p.163
Few women in our time have been more persistently misrepresented, slandered and defamed than Madame Blavatsky, but though malice and ignorance did their worst upon her there are abundant indications that her lifework will vindicate itself; that it will endure; and that it will operate for good. She was the founder of the Theosophical Society, an organization now fully and firmly established, which has branches in many countries, East and West, and which is devoted to studies and practices the innocence and the elevating character of which are becoming more generally recognized continually. The life of Madame Blavatsky was a remarkable one, but this is not the place or time to speak of its vicissitudes. It must suffice to say that for nearly twenty years she had devoted herself to the dissemination of doctrines the fundamental principles of which are of the loftiest ethical character. However Utopian may appear to some minds an attempt in the nineteenth century to break down the barriers of race, nationality, caste and class prejudice, and to inculcate that spirit of brotherly love which the greatest of all Teachers enjoined in the first century, the nobility of the aim can only be impeached by those who repudiate Christianity. Madame Blavatsky held that the regeneration of mankind must be based upon the development of altruism. In this she was at one with the greatest thinkers, not alone of the present day, but of all time; and at one, it is becoming more and more apparent, with the strongest spiritual tendencies of the age. This alone would entitle her teachings to the candid and serious consideration of all who respect the influences that make for righteousness. In another direction, though in close association with the cult of universal fraternity, she did important work. No one in the present generation, it may be said, has done more toward reopening the long-sealed treasures of Eastern thought, wisdom, and philosophy. No one certainly has done so much toward elucidating that profound wisdom-religion wrought out by the ever-cogitating Orient, and bringing into the light those ancient literary works whose scope and depth have so astonished the Western world, brought up in the insular belief that the East had produced only crudities and puerilities in the domain of speculative thought. Her own knowledge of Oriental philosophy and esotericism was comprehensive. No candid mind can doubt this after reading her two principal works. Her steps often led, indeed, where only a few initiates could follow, but the tone and tendency of all her writings were healthful, bracing and stimulating. The lesson which was constantly impressed by her was assuredly that which the world most needs, and has always needed, namely, the necessity of subduing self and of working for others. Doubtless such a doctrine is distasteful to the ego-worshippers, and perhaps it has little chance of anything like general acceptance, to say nothing of general application. But the man or woman who deliberately renounces all personal aims and ambitions in order to forward such beliefs is certainly entitled to respect, even from such as feel least capable of obeying the call to a higher life. The work of Madame Blavatsky has already borne fruit, and is destined, apparently, to produce still more marked and salutary effects in the future. Careful observers of the time long since discerned that the tone of current thought in many directions was being affected by it. A broader humanity, a more liberal speculation, a disposition to investigate ancient philosophies from a higher point of view, have no indirect association with the teachings referred to. Thus Madame Blavatsky has made her mark upon the time, and thus, too, her works will follow her. She herself has finished the course, and after a strenuous life she rests. But her personal influence is not necessary to the continuance of the great work to which she put her hand. That will go on with the impulse it has received, and some day, if not at once, the loftiness and purity of her aims, the wisdom and scope of her teachings, will be recognized more fully, and her memory will be accorded the honor to which it is justly entitled.
– Reprinted from the New York Daily Tribune, Sunday, May 10, 1891. Published by Blavatsky Study Centre.
Maya is explained by G de Purucker in his Occult Glossary to mean ‘limitation’ or ’restriction’, and therefore imperfect cognition and recognition of reality. The imperfect mind does not see perfect truth. It labours under an illusion corresponding with its own imperfections, under a maya, a limitation.
From my point of view, Theosophy as we know it, when it carries over into the next century, will take a more practical, down-to-earth approach to life and understanding. Up to now, except for the devotional angle which we find in common with all the world’s scriptures, most of the technical doctrines behind our philosophy have not been sufficiently translated into day-to-day practical adoption. Devotional principles, yes, such as the Golden Rule which is so obvious to every human being whose eyes are looking upward. But when it comes to the enigmas of life and death and eons of time and series of incarnations, and the basis and reason for wanting to grow and become ever more selfless – we ought to be able to answer these questions in simple human terms. This is what we can and should provide. Don’t you see how everything contributes to everything else, and how the pieces all link together ? We have a vast reserve of inner strength, limitless resources, not in a magic sense, but right within our own constitution. What is so inspiring is that the qualities and the energies that flow through our auric envelope are in truth co-mingling at the same time with other human beings; and, if we only knew it, with the very gods, the hierarchy above. `So let’s not dwell on the sludge aspect but bring out the nobler side of our humanity. That is what we have a higher self for. It is hovering over our mayavic companion, just waiting for our bidding and for us to stand aside from all our petty foibles and say: “Here I am, do with me as you will.” Then every answer to every question in our life will be found within the area of our constitution, taken in its entirety. here is no lack there, none whatever; and if our attitude is right we will attract whatever we need because of the constant circulation that is going on. We have available to us not only the finest human thoughts from past ages as well as the present – for everything is recorded in Nature’s memory-bank – but also all that we require from the kingdoms above us. Likewise, as we earn the right, we have at our command the lower kingdoms who can serve us in our efforts. Thus there is an unlimited spacial availability, inwardly, and we don’t need to worry about the outward. What is more, this tremendous reach possible for man can be his constant help in elevating his mayavic companion, in transmuting its negative aspects into constructive qualities.
– J. A. Long, From a letter To All FTS March 21, 1967
“If I were a Jew or a Gypsy, the Holocaust would be the most horrible event in history. If I were a black African it would Slavery and Apartheid. If I were a Native American, it would be the discovery of the New World by European explorers and settlers that resulted in near total extermination. If I were an Armenian it would be the Ottoman- Turkish massacres. And if I happen to be Palestinian, it would be the Nakba-Catastrophe. No one people has a monopoly on human suffering. It is not advisable to try to establish a hierarchy of suffering. Humanity should consider all the above as morally repugnant and politically unacceptable. And humanity is increasingly beginning to express its adhesion to the principle that there is only one mankind and not different kinds of men and women.”
– A quoted extract from Palestine a Personal History by Karl Sabbagh
There are many reasons – more than one. There is the ethical reason. It is wrong to judge others, because what right have I to judge my brother? I am not wise enough. I think I see that he is doing right and I judge him, and I say he is a good man. Well, that is all right because I do him no harm. But I see my brother, I think he is doing wrong, and I judge him, and I say that he is a bad man. Now that is not right. I am not wise enough. If I see him doing an act which I know is wrong, it is right to judge the act, but not to judge the man, because we do not know what the motive was. We have no right to sit in judgement on our brothers. The scientific reason is that the man who judges others warps, shrivels, distorts, twists, his own mind; because usually when we judge our brothers, adversely that is, unkindly, we imprint on our own souls a mark of unkindness, and distort the fabric of our consciousness equivalently. We are playing with fire which burns us. Do not judge others, for by your own judgement you will be judged because you are imprinting on your soul memories of your judgements, and distorting your character which thereafter will act in a distorted way; and the same thing you will become. If, for instance, I judge my brother as being a dishonest man – I will use this as an example – then on my own soul I leave a print of dishonesty because I had this thought so strongly in my mind it prints itself on my own mind, in my own soul; and my own mind becomes dishonest because I think so much about it, and because it automatically follows the psychic twist that I have given to it. I warp, distort, twist, my own soul. And if you do this repeatedly and continuously and do not do other noble acts, kindly acts, that at least will balance or neutralise, Nature’s own judgement – balance will lean down and you will thus be weighed in your own scales of judgement, and found wanting. By your own acts you will be judged. Karma will find in the mind which has misjudged others continuously, a distorted, warped, twisted, weakened character. Thoughts of love make us beautiful. Thoughts of hatred make us ugly. Consequently, when we judge others unkindly, because these are thoughts of evil and hatred, we become ugly inside. Therefore the rule is; judge not others. Be very severe with yourself, but forgive others their trespasses against yourself as you hope others will forgive you. Learn to love and learn to forgive. This brings about a beautiful, symmetrically shaped character.
– G de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, p.423
In a Tibetan story once there was a humble ani, a nun, who loved the enlightened lady Tara with all her heart. Every day when the sun was rising over the mountains she climbed up to her rooftop. There in a loud voice, with palms together, she chanted her prayer to Tara. And the man who lived next door couldn’t help but hear it. He winced as if the sound hurt his ears. The ani chanted the prayer with so many mistakes. She never got all the words right. She even left some out. The man was a scholar and knew very well how the prayer ought to be done yet he was puzzled. For every day in the light of the rising sun, he saw the glorious Tara herself limping to the roof next door. How amazing, he thought, how strange that Tara was coming to visit the ignorant ani. Why was she limping ? Surely it must be due to all the mistakes in the prayer. So he went next door and the ani greeted him with a smile. The scholar said,” I am sorry but you are not chanting to Tara properly. You are doing it wrong.” The smile fell from the ani’s face. Her eyes filled with tears. “Don’t worry,” the man said,”I can teach you.” So the ani tried hard to learn, little by little, until at last she was able to say each syllable right, each word in the proper order, leaving nothing out. Then every morning the scholar was pleased to hear her chanting without a single mistake. After a while, he noticed that Tara never came to visit the ani any more. He puzzled over this. Finally he went next door. Greeting the ani with palms together he said,”I am the one who made the big mistake. Please go back to chanting as you did before.” So she did. Joyfully, the ani prayed as she always had. Her face shone with devotion. She sang out in a loud voice with his whole heart. She didn’t say all the words right. She even left some out. But now the scholar heard only a voice of pure faith. And sure enough, every day in the light of the rising sun he saw the glorious Tara herself come limping back again.
– Barbara Helen Berger
This retelling is based on a story told by Anam Thubten Rinpoche. In exploring another spiritual tradition than the one we grew up in, we may try in all sincerity to “get it right “ and still be full of errors in both understanding and practice. Even the Tibetan nun in the story chants her prayer with many mistakes. Yet the divine Tara appears to her as if out of the light itself, called by the heartfelt faith of the ani’s prayer. The scholar focuses only on the errors. He sets out to correct them. But the effort meddles with a flow of sacred presence. Something essential has been disrupted by mere correctness. He sees his own mistake was to interfere. When the ani’s genuine feeling is restored, Tara comes again. But she is still limping. With this light touch, we know the story isn’t meant to excuse our own sloppiness or lack of knowledge, but to assure us that a pure and deeply felt intention is always stronger. Though Tara appears to be limping, her nature can never be maimed or diminished. For hers is the indestructible Buddha nature, the vast space of wisdom giving rise to boundless compassion for all beings. Our own true nature is also this, the Dharma teachings say. We too have the potential to fully realise this. It may seem the ani is praying to a deity outside herself, but the core of her faith is the awakening of her own mind. Thanks to Eloise Hart for sharing this.
A question in the Correspondence Course based on The Key to Theosophy poses the question: A plant is used to portray humanity and its interrelatedness. Can you give other examples of interrelatedness? [This answer struck me as worth sharing – editor]
When I taught a class of children who were constantly quarrelling and fighting among themselves in the playground, I frequently found I could resolve their conflicts with used boxes of different sizes. Each child was given a box and asked to write on it his/her name followed by something that he or she was good at, and then to add on something else that he or she was good at. When there was still writing space on the box the children were invited to help each other. “You are also good at … aren’t you?“ And so it was written on the box. After a while everyone had a lot of good qualities added to their respective boxes. Then very carefully, they had to build a tower with the boxes. “This is our class!” they proudly replied, when asked what they were doing. But what happened when quarrelling broke out again? Two or more young combatants were asked to remove their particular boxes and as they did so, of course part of the tower collapsed. The rest of the class felt dismay that the beauty and harmony of their tower was spoiled. “What now?” was their immediate question: “Try to build your tower again.” So they did and for many days the tower of boxes stood as a symbol of their interrelatedness. Last time I did this was with a well identified quarrelsome class of 6 -7 year old boys and girls. The next day, one of my colleagues, the mother of one of the boys, came to me: “What did you do yesterday in class? My boy is so full of it. He says he learned about peace, and that it was so beautiful… I can’t understand – he’s only 6!” For me and all these children, that tower clearly demonstrated interdependency. I thought how easy it is to teach children but how difficult to teach adults this principle.
– Gerda Horemans, Belgium