From the notes of a talk given at the
United Lodge of Theosophists in London, England
What does it mean to live life consciously? It’s probably something that we all would like to do but it’s also probably something that most – if not all – of us do not yet do or at least only do to a relatively small degree. Why is that? Mainly because it takes effort. The reason it takes effort is because we’ve spent so many years and so much time doing the exact opposite. Today’s way of living and the rhythm and focuses of modern life tend to lead people into a very unconscious state of being.
But imagine what it would be like to be FULLY CONSCIOUS of – and in – everything that you do, every thought that you think, every feeling that you have, and every word that you speak…and to do all of that from a higher, more perceptive, more transcendent, and much purer state of consciousness than you currently do.
In order to be able to live consciously, one has to adopt a higher mental position, a higher sense of self-identity.
One has to endeavour to always look upon the body and the whole personal self as not the real Self but merely as an instrument and vehicle; a Karmically produced vehicle in and through which the real You lives and operates and functions, when awake on this plane.
There’s no escaping the fact that our Karma, our own self-created destiny, has put us in this body, in this personality, here and now, as the inevitable consequence, effect, and reaction, to our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, in a previous lifetime. But we can take control and decide that our daily watchwords will be three: self-discipline, self-denial, spiritual self-mastery. We do not have to be victim to our own creation, this admittedly imperfect personal self. We can master it and use it consciously, to be and do good in this world.
Since everything proceeds from within without, we have to look within.
It may aid us to learn by heart the definition that H.P. Blavatsky gives of “Raja Yoga” in “The Theosophical Glossary.” She says it is the conscious exercise, regulation, and concentration, of thought. The conscious EXERCISE of thought. The conscious REGULATION of thought. The conscious CONCENTRATION of thought.
Obviously this has to be a perpetual practice in order to produce perpetual results. It should ideally take place every moment, expressing itself in the conscious and meditative living of life. This is living life consciously and harmlessly and living at the highest point of consciousness possible, every moment possible.
HPB writes: “Be hopeful then, not despairing. With each morning’s awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher Self. ‘Try’ is the battle-cry taught by the teacher to each pupil. Naught else is expected of you. One who does his best does all that can be asked. There is a moment when even a Buddha ceases to be a sinning mortal and takes his first step toward Buddhahood.” (“She Being Dead Yet Speaketh,” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 115 and HPB Pamphlet #4 “Theosophy and H.P.B.”)
Let’s look briefly at those 3 facets of HPB’s definition of Raja Yoga.
The conscious EXERCISE of thought means that we have to learn to think. We have to exercise our minds. We have to put aside all mental laziness and we have to go beyond the untheosophical idea that thought is bad or that mind is an obstacle and make use of this divinely gifted and sacred faculty of thought which is literally a gift of the gods, as Theosophy teaches us. If our aim is to live consciously then we can exercise our thought in matters of high spiritual philosophy and esotericism or metaphysics.
HPB is quoted as saying: “See in study [of “The Secret Doctrine”] a means of exercising and developing the mind never touched by other studies.” “Theosophy . . . is for those who can think, or for those who can drive themselves to think, not mental sluggards.”
This is something very important and which shouldn’t be minimised. But by itself it isn’t enough. It’s only 1/3 of the Raja Yogic trinity.
As well as the conscious EXERCISE of thought there is also the conscious REGULATION of thought.
This includes the continual purification and elevation of the mind. That is, never allowing one’s thoughts to descend to the sensual, passionate, or animalistic level but keeping the mind constantly and consciously focussed on the higher, the pure, the clean, and the holy. This is staying ever established in Sattva Guna, as Krishna advises Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. To regulate one’s thought is to order and control it.
Jesus said that if a man looks lustfully at a woman he has already – by that very act of lustful thought and imagination – he has already committed adultery with her. That’s how Karmically serious this is and of course it also applies for women looking at or thinking about men. This is all considered normal, natural, and unavoidable behaviour in today’s world but this is not what the Ancient Wisdom teaches. It’s very serious about these things and about treading the path of purity.
And then the conscious CONCENTRATION of thought relates to the fact that most of us do many things without concentrating on them at all and in fact pass much of our lives in a sort of half-dazed state without even knowing it. The aim of cultivating concentration is to get the individual fully attentive, conscious, and aware of their surroundings, activities, and actions. When we become aware that we’ve just been doing something in a non-concentrated state of mind we then make the attempt to concentrate and to carry on like that.
To continually and really practice this conscious exercise, regulation, and concentration of the mind from when we wake up in the morning to when we fall asleep at night is not easy. We have to expect to encounter difficulties with it, so that we don’t become too frustrated or despondent. Even a little sincere effort and intention and exercise in this regard every day will bear valuable fruit – and practice makes perfect.
The fact that others – such as Those we speak of as the Masters of Wisdom – the fact that They have done all this, is the proof that we can do all this, if we truly want to. We are the only one who stands in our own way. Sooner or later we have to get out of our own way and move onwards and upwards, in order to go with the evolutionary flow.
Here are five brief points for consideration which may be helpful:
#1. Every moment counts. There is never a split second of time when we are not both experiencing and creating Karma. We are setting causes in motion every moment with our every thought, feeling, word, and deed. In the past we created our present. In the present we are creating our future, whether we realise it or not, and our life and future is inextricably bound up with that of the whole human family. We are thus extremely, severely, awfully, responsible beings and we have to be willing to take that responsibility and live accordingly.
#2. Most of us know about the Paramitas or Golden Virtues which form the basis of living the higher life. All are important but let us never lose sight of the second, called Shila. This perfect harmony in word and act means living a life in which the words we say accurately reflect and represent everything that we do and in which all that we do is exactly in line and harmony with all that we say. There is thus no place for hypocrisy or deception. There can only be perfect honesty, truth, and integrity. At this stage in our lives and inner journey we should not under any circumstances be saying or doing – whether publicly or privately – anything which we would be ashamed for anyone else to know about. Shila is defined by some as “moral discipline.”
#3. William Judge says that HPB once gave him this valuable advice in a letter: “Be more charitable for others than for yourself and more severe on yourself than on others.” Mr Judge added in his own words:
“If you find friction between yourself and another or others, never stop to think where they are wrong. Everybody is always wrong somewhere; and, apart from that, it would be easy enough to find their errors in your own imagination. Their errors, real or imaginary, are no concern of yours, are not your duty, and need not and should not be considered by you. For you to do so would be to make an occult “break.” What concerns you and what is your duty is to discover wherein you have been at fault. If, on finding friction of any sort, you will look back over your past thoughts and words and deeds, you will surely find you have erred, either directly or indirectly, by leaving something undone or unsaid. By living that way you will learn a good deal about yourself, while by looking for and noting the possible faults of others – no matter how greatly they have sinned, in your opinion – you will learn nothing and will merely prove yourself an ass.” (“Letters That Have Helped Me” p. 170)
#4. Remember what the fourth Paramita is. Being the fourth of the seven means that it’s the central one. Called Vairagya in Sanskrit, it is dispassion, detachment, desirelessness; indifference to one’s own so-called pleasure and so-called pain. We read in “The Voice of the Silence” that “stern and exacting is the virtue of Vairagya” and again, “Mara’s arrows ever smite the man who has not reached Vairagya.”
#5. Remember the Daily Initiation. Mr Judge writes that testing experiences and opportunities arise each day in the life of the serious student and dedicated aspirant to the Esoteric Wisdom. We must be prepared for these daily initiations and to recognise them when they come and to ensure that we pass through them successfully and triumphantly.
The following words from Robert Crosbie sum up very nicely all that has been put across here:
“How shall we apply Theosophy in daily life? First, to think what we are in reality, on arising; to endeavor to realize what this small segment of our great existence may mean in the long series of such existences; to resolve to live throughout the day from the highest of our realizations; to see in each event and circumstance a reproduction in small or in great of that which has been; and to deal with each and every one of these from that same high point. Resolve to deal with them as though each had a deep occult meaning and presented an opportunity to further the successes of the past, or undo the errors. Thus living from moment to moment, hour to hour, life will be seen as a portion of a great web of action and reaction, intermeshed at every point, and connected with the Soul which provided the energy that sustained it. If each event is so considered throughout the day, be it small or great, the power to guide and control your energies will in no long time be yours. The smaller cycles of the personal ego will be related to the Divine Ego and the force that flows from the latter will show itself in every way, will strengthen the whole nature, and will even change the conditions, physical and otherwise, which surround you.”