Visitors to this website may have read or heard of the book
“The Doctrine of the Bhagavad Gita” by Bhavani Shankar. The contents of that book – which appeals to Theosophists and Hindus alike – are transcripts of talks Bhavani Shankar gave in Calcutta and Madras, India, in 1914 and 1925. “The Doctrine of the Bhagavad Gita” was first published by the Popular Prakashan company in Bombay in 1966. Later, it was republished by the United Lodge of Theosophists in Santa Barbara, California, USA, through their Concord Grove Press. Unfortunately both these editions are now out of print.
As we have explained elsewhere:
Bhavani Shankar (1859-1936) was one of the most prominent of the last surviving Indian chelas (disciples) of the Masters from H. P. Blavatsky’s Adyar days. He is spoken of in glowing terms by the Masters in their Letters and elsewhere and was a chela of the Master K.H.
Neither he, nor any of the other individuals who were objectively proven and known to be chelas of the Masters, ever supported or endorsed in any way the work and teachings of those various later “Theosophists” who claimed (but could never actually prove or demonstrate) to be the chelas of the same Masters, such as Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, and Alice Bailey.
Recalling the written words of one of the Masters that the Adyar Society had become “a soulless corpse,” destined to “fall to pieces” as the inevitable Karmic result of its infidelity to HPB, and seeing how Besant and Leadbeater seemed hell-bent on destroying the legacy and sacrifices of HPB and thoroughly rewriting and altering the teachings of Theosophy beyond all recognition, Bhavani Shankar separated himself entirely from the Theosophical Society and aligned himself instead with the United Lodge of Theosophists (often known simply as the ULT) when B. P. Wadia established it at Bombay.
He felt that here was an association – apparently the only one – which was true to the real Cause and real Teachings of the real Masters of whom he was the faithful disciple and with whom he was personally acquainted. As part of his regular daily sadhana or spiritual practice in the latter part of his life, Bhavani Shankar used to focus on HPB in heartfelt and reverential meditation and invited and encouraged others to do the same.
As for the attitudes and teachings of the likes of Leadbeater, Besant, and Bailey, he described them as “blasphemous talk” and “flippant prattle,” saying that in their books “high names and doctrines have been dragged down to the level of modern ignorance.”
The November 1931 issue of “The Theosophical Movement” magazine, started by B. P. Wadia and still published today by the Mumbai (formerly Bombay) ULT in India, shared the following under the heading “PANDIT BHAVANI SHANKAR”:
“Under the auspices of the Bombay U.L.T. the veteran and venerated Theosophist Pandit Bhavani Shankar gave a series of heart-stirring talks on the Bhagavad-Gita. “Principles of Cosmos” “Principles of the Solar System” “Principles of Man” and “Raja Vidya or Theosophy” were the subjects of the four lectures: a fifth evening was set aside for answering questions.
“Pandit Bhavani Shankar rallied round the flag of H.P.B. in Bombay in 1880, and gave himself to the Cause of pure Theosophy as taught by her and her Masters. For forty years he has gone up and down the vast territory of his beloved India, preaching the Theosophic gospel of the Bhagavad-Gita. His consecrated life of a bhakta or devotee has been a channel of uplift for many souls. He was one of those few who saw, at an early hour, the degeneration that had begun to corrupt and kill the Adyar T.S., and did what he could to save it from the decay caused by psychism and spiritual degradation. For some years past he has been unable to do public lecturing work on account of old age and other causes; it was a happy occasion to see him once again ascend the lecture platform to serve the new generation of true students of Theosophy whose spiritual home is the Bombay U.L.T.”
In the August 1936 issue the news of his passing was shared under the heading “PANDIT BHAWANI SHANKAR”:
“With deep regret we have to chronicle the passing of our good friend Pandit Bhawani Shankar on the Full Moon day of the Hindu month of Ashadha – the 4th of July. Born in August 1859, he was seventy-seven years of age, active to the last in the regular performance of his Tapas and ever ready to help and instruct his fellow men. H. P. B. landed in Bombay in February 1879 and not long after Bhawani Shankar came, a young man of twenty, and put himself under her guidance. On several occasions he was among those who saw the Masters and when doubts arose in some and attacks were made against H. P. B. he had the courage to make the following public declaration.
““Many sceptics having rashly and ignorantly denied the existence of the so called “Himalayan Brothers,” I am provoked by a sense of duty to declare solemnly that such assertions are false. For, I have seen the Brothers not once, but numerous times in and near the headquarters in bright moonlight. I have heard them talk to our respected Madame Blavatsky, and have seen them delivering important messages in connection with the work of the Theosophical Society, whose progress they have condescended to watch. They are not disembodied spirits, as the Spiritualists would force us to believe, but living men. I was on seeing them neither hallucinated nor entranced; for there are other deserving fellows of our Society who had the honour to see them with me, and who could verify my statements. And this, once for all, is the answer that I, as a Theosophist and Hindu Brahmin, give to disbelievers, viz., that these Brothers are not mere fictions of our respectable Madame Blavatsky’s imagination, but real personages, whose existence to us is not a matter of mere belief, but of actual knowledge. BHAWANISHANKAR GANESH MULLAPOORCAR”
“In more than one place the Masters referred to him and below we print but two short statements both made by Mahatma K. H. :–
““Bhavani Shanker is with O. and he is stronger and fitter in many a way more than Damodar or even our mutual “female” friend.”
““Bhavani Shanker has seen me in my own physical body and he can point out the way to others. He has been working unselfishly for his fellowmen through the T. S. and he is having his reward though he may not always notice it.”
“After the departure of H. P. B. and Damodar from India in 1885 he took earnestly to the study of the Gita which became his text-book for Theosophical exposition. Up and down the vast peninsula Bhawani Shankar travelled from 1891-1909. Serious differences with the Adyar leaders resulted in his limiting his service to small groups of independent students who needed him and welcomed him.
“After the formation of the U. L. T. in Bombay he very soon recognized that the real Theosophical Work was being carried on and under its auspices gave a series of talks in October 1931, September 1932 and September 1933.
“He participated in White Lotus Day meetings of the Bombay U. L. T. – the last occasion was in 1934. Soon after he went North and never returned to this city. The U. L. T. has lost a good and valued friend in the passing of this great Devotee.”
In our article The Occult Life of B. P. Wadia we mentioned the following:
“From Dallas Tenbroeck we learn that at some point following Mr Wadia’s joining of the ULT, Bhavani Shankar “was living temporarily at Versova (north of Bombay, near Juhu beach, where the Wadias had been given land in part payment for their services as ship-builders many years before, by the British East India Company). BPW was invited to come and to attend the Pandit’s “morning puja” – a period which he spent in meditation and devotion with thought centered on HPB and the Masters. This, BPW said, began at 4.00 a.m. and would continue for a period of 4 to 5 hours. Bhawani Shankar used at that time a special bell. It had a “peculiar, a curious ring to it” which “produced a deep psychological effect on those who heard it.”
“Further: “At the time of his death, Bhawani Shankar asked B. P. Wadia to come and visit him. He apparently delayed that event until his arrival. They had a private talk, after which he expired. The date was the Full Moon of the month of Ashadha – the 4th of July 1936. Born in 1859, Bhawani Shankar was 77 years old, and, active to the last, was ever ready to help and instruct his fellows.”
“One may conclude that the closeness and nature of the relation and contact between Mr Wadia and Mr Shankar is further indication as to Mr Wadia’s own occult status and connection with the Great Ones.”
Those who know of and appreciate Bhavani Shankar will be heartened to learn that “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” is not the only record of his talks which has been preserved.
B. P. Wadia started and edited “The Aryan Path” magazine, a socio-cultural journal with a Theosophical basis, “Aryan” of course being used in its original and ancient meaning of “Noble,” and a total of nineteen articles appeared in it between 1930-1934 signed by “B.M.” As shown above, these were Bhavani Shankar’s initials, for Bhavanishankar was actually his first name and his surname was Mullapoorcar. It was further confirmed to us a few years ago by the Bangalore ULT in India that these were indeed authored by this same Bhavani Shankar.
Each article was prefaced with the following:
“B.M. is an old-world man living by his old-world methods in our era. We are fortunate in having secured a few reports of his talks to his intimate friends. The Bhagavad-Gita is the book he has mastered through long years of study and meditation; but further, having lived according to its tenets more successfully than is generally possible, his thoughts breathe a peculiar fragrance. The papers have been translated from the vernacular; it should be understood that they are not literal translations, and the translator has adhered more to ideas and principles than to words. Although B.M. knows English, his inspiration becomes impeded in employing that medium of expression and so he prefers not to use it. We think our readers will find real inspiration in this series.”
The titles of these “reports of his talks” were: “The Great Hunger” (January 1930), “The Power of Passion” (February 1930), “Spiritual Democracy” (March 1930), “Shall We Become Civilized?” (April 1930), “The Right Resolve” (June 1930), “The Unbridled Tongue” (July 1930), “Who, Where, What is God?” (August 1930), “Where To Begin?” (September 1930), “Self, The Disciplinarian” (October 1930), “The Nature of the Lower Self” (February 1931), “To Which Class Do You Belong?” (March 1931), “Heaven and Hell” (April 1931), “Renunciation – True and False” (December 1931), “The Family” (February 1933), “On Hearing” (May 1933), “The Wise One” (July 1933), “The Work of the Aspirant” (October 1933), “Kindling The Fire” (May 1934), “The Structure of The Mind” (November 1934).
In this present article, these are now all published online and made widely available for the first time, thanks in part to the work and efforts of a ULT associate in Chile, South America.
One will not find complex metaphysical theory or disclosure of esoteric mysteries in these talks/articles. Those do have their place and can be found above all in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, some of which are quoted from here by Bhavani Shankar. But these talks/articles are straightforward, practical, and speak largely to the heart, and are sure to bring some fresh inspiration and impetus to students of the Theosophical teachings.
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THE GREAT HUNGER
“The hungry man loseth sight of every other object but the gratification of his appetite, and when he is become acquainted with the Supreme, he loseth all taste for objects of whatever kind.” – Bhagavad-Gita, II. 59.
To hunger and thirst after righteousness, which our Christian brethren ought to do, following the advice of their teachers, was advocated many centuries earlier by the Gita. Food, either for the body, or mind or soul is the necessary basis–upadhi for experience, and the relish of food is dependent upon hunger and thirst. Over-eating is the order of this day and the beauty and utility of hunger are unknown among the well-to-do. It looks as if in former Yugas when Plenty blessed this land our own ancestors forgot to practise the rules of fasting. So Karma has overtaken people and to-day Poverty stalks the land. Our future would be more glorious than our past if our millions were taught the beneficent influence of adversity; and who can do this save our well-to-do and educated leaders? But most of them are educated in western ways and have forgotten the wisdom of their fathers, and their physical wealth increases their moral and spiritual poverty. Our India is trampled under foot not so much by foreigners as by her own sons, and in our daily personal lives we degrade her almost every hour. Not until we take to high-thinking which purifies us from our petty meanness, small selfishnesses, constant immoralities, will India be really free. Our educated men and women, our natural leaders, will err in administration and in advice just as the British rulers blunder and give wrong advice, because they are beset with blemishes which result from false views of life, of state, of progress.
It is the individual who reforms himself who will be able to reform others; he who rules himself, and he alone, is fit to govern the destinies of masses. The blind are leading the blind in most countries. The very measure of physical wealth and economic prosperity whereby countries are regarded as great or backward is false. If India does not get away from that basis of thought she will suffer, as rich and influential western states are suffering.
Just as food is the basis of life on the economic plane, so Knowledge is the basis on the plane of soul. There are poisons which kill the soul, there are intoxicants which madden the soul, there are foods which nourish the soul. There are systems of thought which produce actions that kill the soul, and living men become dead units. There are millions in this land who are soul-less. Lust produces sex perversions (birth-control is one of them), anger produces hatred (communalism is a species of it), greed produces selfishness (family law-suits are an example) and these tend to poison the soul. All intoxicants are poisonous and slowly lessen the power of the soul in the body.
Soul-nourishment must be sought and we must hunger and thirst after it. Soul-knowledge is desired when lust and anger and greed do not disturb. Most men are not aware of the sweets and high pleasures of soul-knowledge, as the eater of dogs who never tasted fruits knows not its lusciousness. Once the fruit is tasted and its juice currents mingle in our blood the hunger for it begins. Intuitively all men long for soul-contentment and soul-growth, because in golden ages of the past the impress of wisdom was burnt into them by the Compassionate Ones. Now, darkness envelops us, for this is the dark age, Kali Yuga; and soul-knowledge changes decade by decade – candle light, oil-light, gas-light, electric light, because there is no Sun.
This innate desire for spiritual life leads people in wrong paths, because they mistake the part for the whole and the semblance for the reality. But in this verse Master Krishna gives one word, the Supreme, which the hungry soul needs. The most objectionable feature of orthodox religions is the false and unspiritual view of Deity. Spirit is materialized, God is carnalized and egotism enlarges the shadow of the cruel task-master which it fears. Such is the magic of Maya!
Supreme, Param, is described at length in this chapter – the one impartite, omnipresent Self, which is the Source and Soul of every creature. The Inner Ruler in the heart of each is the King of Kings, and it is the knowledge about It, the science of Its emanations, the philosophy of Its permeation, for which we must hunger and thirst.
In a famine-stricken land people eat whatever comes; so it is now. Carrion, strewn all around, is near at hand and people devour it. Rather that we die than pollute the shrine of the Soul! False ways which look like short-cuts are impulsively taken. Dangerous practices which sound easy are ignorantly adopted. False knowledge is accepted because it sounds plausible, – for example, the craze for worship of the dead called Spiritualism.
The effort to know what the soul is, as taught by the Knowers of the Self – that is the first step. There are hungers and hungers, but we must hunger after the Self within and It will guide us to the food It verily needs. The Gita answers both questions – what is the soul? what is soul-nourishment? – and as we shall see later, it expounds in detail how that nourishment should be absorbed and assimilated.
First then, let us hunger and thirst after the Soul within.
THE POWER OF PASSION
“As the flame is surrounded by smoke, and a mirror by rust, and as the womb envelopes the foetus, so is the universe surrounded by passion.” – Bhagavad-Gita, III. 38.
The mighty magic of prakriti or nature expresses itself in and by the law of contrast. Light and Darkness are the world’s eternal ways. In us mortals also that duality works, and as a result we have two natures, the higher god-like and the lower demoniacal.
Those of us who are courageous enough to face our own minds know that every time in such a process we are made aware of the existence of our asuric or devilish disposition; the more vigorous the examination, the more appalling the vision of ourselves as embodied devils. This begets despondency.
We muster courage and gird up our loins to fight, taking a solemn resolve not to err in the sphere of passion, not to lapse into anger, not to slide down into avarice. Then real troubles begin and we say with St. Paul: “What I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans, VII, 15).
This is the state of Arjuna, the strong armed striver after perfection, when he asks of his Guru Krishna: “By what, O Varshnaya, is man propelled to commit offences, seemingly against his will and as if constrained by some secret force?” This secret force, he is told by his Master, is Kama-Passion – the enemy of man on earth, the first of the three gates to Hell.
Our knowledge and discrimination are most of the time vitiated by this passion. On the other hand it is the energizer of our senses and organs of bodily action. Its subtle influence reaches far and deep, and clouds and deludes the Lord in the body. All these considerations make men wellnigh hopeless and they often give up the good fight. Who can blame them for wanting to retreat from this Kurukshetra, the field of Holy War? It is easier to kill the tiger in the jungle, or overthrow the tyrant of the state, than to defeat this subtle enemy of the God within our hearts.
But Krishna says that knowing the nature of our Higher Self, the Lord Ishvara, in the heart of each of us, and invoking His aid, and strengthening the lower self by the Higher Self, this foe may be slain. This is the final summation of His discourse on Karma Yoga, the right performance of action. In a single verse the profound answer is given. Its understanding requires meditation, while its application and practice is a question of sustained effort for years.
According to our Shastras, Kamadeva is the son of Dharma and Shraddha–Duty is his father and Faith his mother; and yet he is the tormentor of the Atman in us! Such is his magic and its maya.
Will is born of Kamadeva, it is said. The old Hermetists asserted “Behind will stands desire”; and the Rig Veda Hymn refers to the primal arising of Desire in the unknown First Cause. Translating these metaphysical ideas into terms of the human plane we may say that all our thoughts and feelings, all our resolves and actions proceed from the principle of Passion-Kama in us: some are of the nature of lust and low passion, others of love and compassion. Lust and love, passion and compassion, all stream forth from but one source. In our delusion we seek for different sources and trace the one to a God, the other to a devil, both outside of us. The source is single, the human heart: one stream goes upwards and compassion, knowledge and thoughtful action result; the other downwards to manufacture lust, gluttony and avarice. Our past thoughts and feelings and will-resolves produce in us the manifestation of Ahura-Mazda as also of Ahriman: Suras and Asuras are both produced in us and by us.
There are two kinds of desires in us, the higher and the lower. Who is not familiar with the lower? Not many know the nature and working of the higher.
The passion-principle of Kama is the central one in the human constitution. The Higher Self with its discriminating and thinking faculties is the spiritual triad in man; the personal man with his body and the energy or vitality – prana – is the second triad. Between these two is Kama; there is desire in and of the higher, as there is desire in and of the lower triad. The senses and sense-organs are the instruments of the lower desires; the discerning intuition and the thinking mind are the instruments of the higher.
When an individual has more of the lower desires than the higher, and when he gives way to them, he is seen as an evil man; when the higher desires show themselves we have a good and noble person. In most people there is the mixture of good and evil, and it is so persistent that it is taken as natural and therefore unalterable. This is due to lack of knowledge about ourselves, about the seat of both kinds of desires in us, and about how these desires go round unceasingly until the laws of our and their beings are in some measure understood.
It is said that the higher passions are three: (1) Desire for the Wisdom about the Divine Self in each; (2) Desire for the company of Holy Men, that is, those who are the possessors of such Wisdom; and (3) Desire to apply the Teachings of that Wisdom to ourselves in daily living. The starting point in reforming ourselves lies in arousing one or more of these higher passions. We need not wait for them to come to birth naturally; we must strive to awaken them.
Without knowledge no warfare can be carried on successfully; this greatest of all wars, the one in which we want to fight and demolish our moral and mental pravity requires precise knowledge. The Gita gives that knowledge, and so its study is necessary.
“Even if thou art the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge.” – Bhagavad-Gita, IV, 36.
This is the most enheartening promise which the Gita offers. As Shri Krishna typifies the perfected soul or Mahatma, this assurance coming from such divine lips ought to be considered by us all seriously. Earlier in the same fourth discourse, He refers to the four castes, and He also gives us a glimpse into the nature of those who have transcended all castes and conditions, including Himself. Therefore, when He follows it up with this plain unequivocal statement it is a matter of rejoicing – nay more, a subject for meditation. For most of us in reality belong to one caste or another; there are many Iyengars and Iyers, many Pandits and Shastris, who in reality are untouchable pariahs, because of the grossness of their conduct, their pride, and their cruelty; on the other hand, among the despised Panchamas are pure-minded, humble and even wise individuals, who in reality are Brahmanas. There are Kshattriyas among Parsis, Muslims and Christians. In every country there are Shudras and in every nation there are Vaishyas. Emancipated Mahatmas are not the product of India alone; They flower in every clime.
The Gita gives the above assurance to all sinners – wherever they may be, whoever they may be. Here is a statement of Spiritual Democracy. Krishna, like the Buddha, like all Mahatmas, is not a political but a spiritual Democrat – a lover and server of all souls. Upali, the barber, was received in His Sangha by Gotama in answer to his question: “Is Nirvana for such as I?” For all, for every one of us, there is the possibility of overcoming sins.
But note one condition. Shri Krishna does not say: “Go on sinning and I will take you onward to the Supreme Place.” There is no forgiveness of our sins by others; what a hopeless task it would be for any one of us, who is poor of labours under the vow of poverty, if we depended upon a purohit, a qazi, a dastur, or a cardinal, for the forgiveness of our sins! Not even a Krishna or a Christ can save us. The Mahatmas can but point the way. In the above shloka, the way is shown: “Cross in the bark of spiritual knowledge.” We are told that “every nation without exception is comprehended in spiritual knowledge,” and the injunction is for us “to seek the Wisdom.”
If it is for all, and if every action can be evaluated in terms of the Wisdom, it is clear that we need not become sannyasis, faqirs, bikkhus and monks and don the cloak of orange, of yellow, or of black. It is not a matter of growing hair as faqirs and sannyasis do, or of shaving as with Buddhist monks and Christian. It is not any forced outer observance, but the inner perception and understanding which enable any of us to turn our back on sin. Mere wish and desire to grow in wisdom and purity is of little value; when the wish becomes a solemn resolve, and the desire is transformed into acts of will we begin to tread the Path which takes us to Mahatmas and to Mahatmahood.
What is meant by the bark of spiritual knowledge? How should we get hold of it? It is not purchasable, nor do the Gods bestow it as a gift. Krishna does not leave us stranded with only a solemn assurance. He lays down very definite steps whereby the search for wisdom should be pursued.
Wisdom is defined as the supreme purifier and it spontaneously springs up in the man who is perfected in Yoga, union with his own Higher Self. But as that is the summation and end of our life-unfoldment, what are the steps leading thereto?What shall we do to bring about that spontaneity? What, to move in the direction of complete union with the Spirit of our being? We are given a triple remedy: (1) Obeisance, (2) Enquiry, (3) Service.
Humble approach to the Path is needful: not coming to it in all the pride of possession, but full of the chastening power of poverty. In leaving behind worldly wisdom we acquire the higher innocence which recognizes that head-learning without soul-wisdom is dangerous to head and soul alike. This stage the Christian Mystics described when they said: Naked follow the naked Jesus.
Enquiry and questioning and search must be strong. For the mentally lazy the Science of Life must remain a riddle. Mind is the most valuable possession of man; coming under the dominance of the senses it slays the Real, but controlling the senses enables it to be controlled by the Spirit who is the real Man; thus mind gains illumination and learns the truths about the reality of things.
Service is the service of the One Self. The God in us is also the God in each and so our emancipation implies freedom from the bondage of all. It is the service of all – saint and sinner alike. No Mahatma can be served save by the service of those whom He serves. But it is the service of the Soul, not the body of the soul, nor its mind, nor any other aspect thereof. It means that in every service rendered the place and power of the Soul should be taken into account. When we feed or clothe the body of a brother without thinking of the Soul, we but render partial service, and often do wrong having set out to do right. When we nourish his mind without due regard to the Soul we may retard his true progress, and often hurl him to hell while our intention was to waft him to heaven.
Humility, questioning, service are to be practised simultaneously. A little of each every day – self-control, spiritual study, soul-sacrifice practised every day will bring triumph in the process of time. Thus we too who are sinful will cross over to the other shore. But all the time we shall have to bear in mid that “the pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.”
SHALL WE BECOME CIVILIZED?
“The truly devoted, for the purification of the heart, perform actions with their bodies, their minds, their understanding, and their senses, putting away all self-interest.” – Bhagavad-Gita, V, 11.
India is cursed with millions of idlers who call themselves Sannyasis and are generally accepted as such. They not only make the economic situation of this poor country worse than it already is, but also are a moral plague, for they exploit the devotion of millions of villagers, especially the women. They are false and fleeting shadows, but faintly indicative of the very few and the rarely to be encountered true sons of light, the genuine Sannyasis. To such true ones we give salutations and say – Namastae!
The Gita is the book of rules and conduct for true Sannyasis. Its fifth discourse is named Sannyasa-Yoga, yoga or devotion by means of renunciation of action. In the shloka quoted above, we find described by Shri Krishna what a Yogi does. A real Yogi is a truly devoted person, and he performs many kinds of actions. He is not idle either with his body and its senses, or with his mind, or with his discriminative Buddhi.
It is a matter of conviction with us that India’s emancipation depends on India producing Sannyasis of the true type. Towards that end the idea should go abroad that to support and feed the idler who poses as a Sannyasi is irreligious and unspiritual, and that it is false charity, for it is given to the wrong person, at the wrong place and at the wrong time. An elimination of false Yogis and Sannyasis must take place.
How can India produce true Yogis and Sannyasis? First, by understanding what the words imply, and then by a few patriot souls setting out not to talk but to practise Yoga and Sannyasa.
A Yogi is one who has taken the path in the direction of his own Inner God, of Higher Self, and recognizing It as his admonisher and sustainer has begun to act selflessly.
A Sannyasi is one who renounces not the doing of actions but the result of their performance. He goes through his appointed work in life, follows the wheel of duty to race and kin, to friend and foe, but endeavours seriously and regularly to close his mind to pleasures as to pains.
These definitions arise, over and over again, in our study of the Gita. The Mahatma speaking to his Chela repeats the concepts of real Sannyasa and true Tyaga, and quotes Himself and His like as examples of Men who act, Their renunciation being of the sweet fruits of Their deeds.
There is another thing which the Gita brings out. Nowhere do we find that only a caste-man or even an Aryan alone can enter the Path of Renunciation. Can Musalmans become Sannyasis without turning infidels? Of course they can. Every real Sufi is a Sannyasi, every true Dervish is a Yogi, and the noble word Faqir has been as debased by its application to worthless beggars as the name Tyagi. Can Parsis practise Yoga? Certainly; for every Parsi heart is the receptacle of the embers of the Sacred Fire, which when once kindled, makes him the Son of Ahura Mazda. For the Christians, St. Paul’s admonition holds true: “If the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans, VIII, 11). Every true Buddhist knows the injunction of Gotama: “Look within, thou art Buddha.” Every Jew familiar with his Kabala knows about the alchemical process whereby the self is raised unto the Self.
Any man or woman acquiring a new attitude to life can tread the Path of Renunciation. Such a man need not give up his home to make the jungle his habitat; he has to begin to live in the home differently. He must not commit the sin of running away from his duties, but should perform every single one of them, without anxiety about the accruing results. He must train and control his senses; he must exercise and make agile and healthy his body; he must act mentally, i.e., study and reflect upon what he studies, and make use of his discrimination born of his meditations in the performance of all acts. Throughout he must bear in mind the object, which the above-quoted Gita verse advocates – purification of the heart. Body and its senses, mind and its powers are but the instruments which are to be used to purify the heart.
It is not what we do that alone matters, but also how we do anything. What we should avoid doing are those acts which take us away from our congenital duties; what we should be attentive to is the timely performance of all that is to be done. The method of such performance makes the Yogi, the Sannyasi, the Tyagi – to do our duty by every duty, regardless of consequences; to learn that in every station of life the Soul is educating itself, and that what matters is that education continues irrespective of its bestowing on us pleasure or inflicting on us pain. In opulence and poverty alike the Soul grows – more in poverty than in opulence.
To educate ourselves in the school of life we need a discipline, and the Gita supplies it for every stage of human evolution. We have to impose that discipline on ourselves. The barbarian in us receives his death-warrant when we take ourselves in hand and energize ourselves to act with thought and deliberation. To be self-reliant is to be dependent on the Great Self within and not on any outside agency. To acquire true individuality we must live daily by self-induced and self-devised efforts, and even though our past errors may check and thwart us we must persist and ascend through all degrees of intelligence till perfection is reached. To start this journey is to touch civilization, for thus we leave chaos behind and enter the world of order. To start us on that journey the Wise One said:
Rouse thyself by thy Self, examine thyself by thy Self; thus Self-protected and attentive wilt thou live happily –Dhammapada, 379.
THE RIGHT RESOLVE
“Even if the man of most evil ways worship me with exclusive devotion, he is to be considered as righteous, for he hath judged aright.” – Bhagavad-Gita, IX. 30.
Such verses as the above in the different scriptural books have been misinterpreted by the priest and purohit in every age and clime. Every religion nowadays is presented to the world for its superior claims. The truly spiritual man knows that all religions are true at their root and false as separated and separative factors.
The study of religions leads us to the eclectic nature of Religion. The Gita is an eclectic book. It is meant for all, even for one “who may be of the womb of sin.” In the above Shloka it is not said that only a Brahman or an Aryan who had judged aright must be considered righteous, but all, whoever and whatever they be, provided of course that they “worship me” i.e., Krishna. But the Lord of Mystery was not ignorant that different men follow diverse ways of worship. He refers to them in this very ninth discourse. He also says: “I am the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings” (X. 20), including the man of most evil ways.
It is a well-known philosophical axiom that each one of us understands the universe in terms of his own power of senses, of mind, or of heart. The resplendent universe does not exist for the blind; the laws of Nature exist not for the lunatic; the good, the beautiful, the true exist not for the hard-hearted, the ugly tempered, and the selfish individual. Thus also, we are able to cognize the nature of Krishna only by the aid of that Spirit in us which is Himself. Thus we can see that it is the spirit of Krishna which in the true Christian is named the spirit of Christ, and unless, it is said, the Christ be born in him, he may be a church-goer but not a Christian. A Buddhist may repeat “I worship the Buddha”; unless the Tathagata light is lighted in his heart, he is not a true follower of the Enlightened One.
Krishna is the Self within each one of us. The first step in spiritual evolution is the acknowledgement of that fact. We may call it the Christ within, or the Buddha within; we may call ourselves “sons of Ahura Mazda” or “servants of Allah”; we have to recognize that names matter little and the reality they represent means everything.
Just as a single idea can be expressed in any tongue, and in pictorial and symbolic ideographs, so also the Spirit in man is one and the same though its shining forth in each is different according to the evolution of each human being. There are men of evil ways in each religion and nation, and for them all a method is here presented.
If a man resolves aright he is to be considered righteous; and his resolve is true when he has taken to “worshipping” Krishna. This is the first step: each person must begin to worship the Spirit of Deity which dwells in his own heart. What is worship? – it is becoming worthy of relationship; to be united to the Divinity within is the object of worship. We are in essence divine and spiritual. To succeed in transferring that divinity and spirituality to the living, toiling, suffering man is the task set out before us, by the Gita. To be united to the Higher Self is Yoga, and Yoga and worship are synonymous. So any man or woman who has resolved to listen to the voice of his own conscience, to seek for the still small Voice of God in his own heart, to gain communion with his own Higher Self, has judged and resolved rightly and is to be accounted righteous. In this doctrine is not offered some vicarious atonement, some hope of distant heaven, to some special few. Here is more than hope – certitude for each and every one, provided he exerts himself along the right line.
To sit in judgment over our lower self and to note all its foibles; to review its mischievous tendencies and correct them; – this is the task each one of us must perform at the close of every day. This leads to right resolve and the Great Light dawns in our consciousness as we repeat to ourselves the words of a Great Sage: “He who will not find our truths in his soul and within himself, has poor chances of success in Occultism.”
THE UNBRIDLED TONGUE
“Among the wise of secret knowledge I am their silence.” – Bhagavad-Gita X. 38.
In the tenth discourse of the Gita, Krishna, as Ishvara the Lord, describes his powers and excellences – Vibhutis. The Parsis will find a similar description in their Ahuramazda Yasht, and thus see that Krishna and Ahuramazda are but two names of the same omnipresent force or power that ordinarily we call Deity or God.
Among these divine excellences the Mahatma names – Silence. Those who are wise keep silent about many things. The speech which is necessary is alone indulged in by great Souls. Speech being a creative power and its effects more widespread than ordinarily recognized; those who start to tread the Path of Holiness are called upon to control their tongue and purify their speech. Not only angry and ugly words are to be discarded but also unnecessary ones. The young chela is known as a shravaka, a listener; and Pythagoras, taught by his Aryan Gurus, introduced in his own school at Crotona the degree of – the hearers. Modern society is mostly run on talk. The art of conversation has very greatly degenerated and useless talk is the order of the day. As is to be expected such useless talk soon degenerates into gossip, and kind men and women turn cruel. To kill the reputation or fair name or character of another is greater cruelty than to kill his body.
We have to learn the scientific fact that speech is creative, that words have power. Those who have observed the effects of mere physical sounds in the formation of complex patterns in fine sand can understand how the same sounds must produce in invisible substances like Ether other forms and effects. Add to this the fact that our words carry feelings and thoughts, and it is logical to deduce that the potency residing in the spoken word is tremendous indeed.
Often we do not learn the mischief caused by our own talk. We indulge in small talk and even in gossip thoughtlessly. Though we all are aware that there are beings who call themselves humans who talk loosely and abominably of a set purpose, and indulge in gossip deliberately, fortunately the number of such wicked ones is not great. Most of us slip into the sin of injurious speech, and pay for the slip and the sin in the form of a debasing influence on our own character. A foul-mouthed person, an unconscious gossip, a small talker or a shop talker, as a silent muni, all carry the marks of their habit and indulgence in their own characters.
What shall we do, those of us who desire to ennoble our characters, purify our conduct, and perform self-less actions? We are taught by all great sages to practise mortification and austerities of speech. They, knowing the intimacy subsisting between thought and word, ask us to proceed to the root and guard our internal thoughts. Words are like bodies and their souls are thoughts. Therefore, we are told to read and repeat words embodying grand and glorious ideas. Every religion imposes on its believers the task of reading and repeating the scriptures. In these generations the wise and salutary injunction is either not observed, or when it is observed it is casual, formal, not understood and a travesty of efficacious practice. Prayers muttered without understanding are useless; reading of the Holy Writ with attention, and reflecting on the Teachings which they impart are great energizers, and raise our consciousness to an elevation from which a quiet survey of life-events and happenings is possible and profitable.
No man can see clearly without some reflection; no man can act worthily without elevating ideas. In stress of circumstances we cannot succeed without a storing of noble thoughts in quiet hours. Thus it becomes essential that each one of us keep the company of inspiring words, of potent words, day by day and secure for ourselves the beneficent influence they emit. Gentle speech, truthful speech, friendly speech flowers from a dwelling on and recitation of great words such as are to be found in the Gita and the Upanishads, in Dhammapada and Suttanipata, in the Gathas and the Yashats, in Tao-Teh King and Sermon on the Mount and that priceless gem for all aspirants of the higher life, The Voice of the Silence.
Another course is also laid down: every day we must practise silence and control of speech. We must give Mother Nature a chance to speak to us; she has songs for our soul’s ear; we fail to hear them because our mind, with its memory and attention, is engaged with things of the senses and the flesh. Before the day’s activities begin, or after they come to a close, we must remain silent making our own mind-contents silent and then repeat some memorized idea or another expressed by a master mind and dwell thereon. During the activities of mundane life we must learn to guard our tongue, and though hard is the task, gradually success will be attained, for man can do what men have done.
As a third step we are told that we must keep the company of holy men. Sat-sang, good company, is a necessity of the higher life. Not in solitude but in company of like-minded souls is real progress made. The company of students of the Wisdom and of wise persons gives us the practice to speak good and holy words. Every time wise words are uttered, the power to speak them again is unfolded. “Attain to knowledge and you will attain to speech” it is said. Knowledge comes from written and spoken words, and to keep contact with them is beneficial.
Therefore it is said – “Learn the value of a man’s words and expressions, and you know him. Each man has a measure of his own for everything. This he offers you, inadvertently, in his words.”
WHO, WHERE, WHAT IS GOD?
“Behold, O son of Pritha, my forms by hundreds and by thousands, of diverse kinds divine, of many shapes and fashions.” – Bhagavad-Gita, XI. 5.
By study and search truth can be known about all things and about the source of all things. The general ignorance and confusion about the nature of Deity is chiefly due to the notion that nothing can be really known about it. This is contrary to the teachings of all sages, seers and prophets. Such Divine Men as Krishna and Rama, Gotama and Tsong-Kha-Pa, Jesus and Zarathushtra, Lao Tzu and Pythagoras, have taught how they attained the knowledge of the Supreme, nay more, how we too can attain. We may not succeed so completely, but surely we are capable of learning something of what they taught, of practising what we learn, and of realizing, in some measure, the fruits of our practice.
Almost all religions have been degraded, and the grand concept of an omnipresent, eternal, boundless and immutable Principle which is Life and Deity has become transformed into an illogical and absurd belief in a Personal God, outside of His Universe. It is late in the day to write against the blasphemy which is connected with the idea of a Personal God; it is impossible for intuition to accept, and for reason to assent to, the dogma of belief in a Personal God, separate from His Universe which, for some mysterious and never to be found out purpose, He has created. Every thinking man has put away that childish superstition.
Religion is supposed to be a matter of belief; it ought to be a subject for study, for strong search, for fearless questioning.
In all religions, Deity is said to be omnipresent and the simple logical deduction is that It is everywhere and in all things. The notion of everywhere is related to space, and therefore we can say that space is another name for Deity.
Also in all religions Deity is emanating; from within Its bosom things, forces and beings stream forth. But this is the property of Life. Forms of Life are made by Life, made of Life, made in Life. With propriety then we can name Deity as Life.
Thus Living Space, known and to be known, emerges as our primary concept of God and Deity.
This brings us to the second idea of all religious philosophies; the dual aspects of the One Concept – Space and Life, Matter and Spirit, Body and Soul. These are two aspects of the One Reality which is Deity. Ignorance and misunderstanding of this teaching have produced the faulty view of God and Satan, Ormazd and Ahriman. The correct teaching is that good and evil are but relative aspects of the One. Thus Spirit and Matter are but a pair, like Spento and Angro Mainyu of our Parsi brothers, both aspects of the One Life, of the One Ahura Mazda. (See Yasna, XLV–2.)
But there is a third factor, which also all ancient religious philosophies have taken account of – Intelligence of Spirit and of Matter, of Spento and of Angro, of God and of Satan. Life in Space, Spirit in Matter, Spento operating with Angro, Satan fighting against God, all imply and indicate the existence of Intelligence, of Mind. This is degraded into the carnalized and anthropomorphized notion of the Trinity and Trimurti – three Persons, three Separate Gods, to be prayed to and propitiated.
Life, Space, Intelligence are three aspects of Deity, omnipresent and ever active. Nowhere in nature is anything bereft of these three. Dead things are alive; there is no empty space; some form of intelligence works incessantly everywhere.
How can these metaphysical ideas be used by us in a practical manner?
If Deity is everywhere it also manifests Itself as Life, Space and Intelligence in the human kingdom and therefore in all human beings. What we know ordinarily as Spirit, Soul and Body are Life, Intelligence and Space or Matter. Our intelligence or mind is the connecting link between our Individual Spirits and our bodily senses, organs and the brain. Our mentality has unfolded to the extent which enables us to be self-conscious of ourselves. Intelligence which is self-conscious is the human soul in each of us. It is unfolding, all the time; most men do not even know that unconsciously to themselves their intelligent souls are growing. It is a stupenduous change in us when we clearly perceive that the growth of the Soul is the purpose of human life. Not the acquisition of wealth, not the gain of fame, not the exertion of power or even of love in our fellow-men, is the purpose of human existence, but to learn of our own natures, spiritual, mental and bodily, to find the ways of deliberate and quickened unfolding of all three, according to and under Law. We find out by study, meditation and sacrifice that each one of us is Deity, the Mysterious Lord Krishna. “Our Father who art in heaven” of whom the Christian prayer speaks is our own Divine Soul with which, like Jesus, we shall realize our one-ness by living as he lived. Each one of us will dance, like Shiva, the Dance of Life, when all our passions and lusts have been consumed in the fire of knowledge which is symbolized by the burning place where Shiva is to be found.
A correct view of prayer as communion with the spiritual and divine aspect of ourselves which is to be found in the closet of the heart will take us into a new universe. We shall begin to look for the expression of Deity in our brother-men, and proceeding we shall perceive Its working in the many kingdoms of nature, and growing we shall gain the Vision of Arjuna who saw the Deity as Universe, the Body of Life, mysterious, conscious, resplendent, in which everything lives and moves and has its being – we blundering mortals included.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
“But those who seek this sacred ambrosia – the religion of immortality – even as I have explained it, full of faith, intent on me above all others, and united to devotion, are my most beloved.” – Bhagavad Gita, XII. 20.
The greatest virtue of the Gita is its practicality; even for the man of the modern age of gold and electricity it offers something which can be practised.
In its compact completeness the Gita proves of even greater value to the aspirant who desires to live up to his ideals. Unlike the Zoroastrian Gathas, or even the Sermon on the Mount, it is not fragmentary. The only other message of early eras as compact but not as complete is Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching. Christian Church authorities know, and many among them admit, that Christendom cannot live according to the tenets of the Sermon on the Mount without destroying itself. The main reason for this is that an equally convincing programme for the higher life such as the Sermon gives is not available in the Bible for less strong souls; it is the Sermon or nothing, and so it has naturally resulted in mostly nothing. Scepticism of Science is born of experiences which have been and are real to the consciousness of scientists. In the Church there is hardly anything except belief for the ordinary intelligent mind, – which that mind rightly rejects. This will be presently the case with all India Hindu and Muslim alike. As western education spreads and western institutions are adopted, religious dogmatism, blind belief, credulity and superstition are bound to receive rude but deserved shocks. Our only hope is that in their shattering, spiritual knowledge, faith rooted in such knowledge, open-minded enquiry into soul-life and soul-problems and the tenets of old-world philosophies will not die out, as happened in Europe and America. The transition period from the death of creeds to the birth of spiritual life may become prolonged and harmful to India if materialism and scepticism about soul-verities come to the forefront. The remedy lies in the popularizing of the teachings of the Gita, which, as we have pointed out before, is for all Indians. When creeds are discarded, there must be something to take their place, and we do not know of any Indian Message so potent and powerful as that of the Gita. Because of its sound logic, its consistency, its thorough reasonableness, it appeals to the mind of man; because of its deep spirituality it touches the intuitive heart of man; because of its vigour and practicality, it energizes man to right action in his individual as in his public life.
In the twelfth discourse will be found the different stages of the uphill path of Soul-life. The most strenuous as the most simple are described. It is the chapter on Bhakti-Yoga, and the Devotion to be practised makes the practitioner the disciple and friend of Shri Krishna, and the follower of the Religion of Immortality. All who practise their respective disciplines as herein explained are beloved of the Mahatma. After the variety of steps, suited to different stages of human evolution, is given a superb description of the man successful in his efforts: he has risen above the pairs of opposites, and is unexpecting and unsolicitous about the results of things, has acquired control over his speech, and is free from the attachments of home, country or race. He has attained that Freedom which speaks not, but is at the service of his fellows every hour of the day.
What are these steps and stages?
In verses 7 to 12 these steps and stages are described: – (1) He who having united himself to his own Higher Self acts as that Self and in his lower nature is not affected by the outside universe, and thus is free from the bondage of Karma. (2) He who with the aid of his Manas (Thinking mind) and Buddhi (Intuitive discrimination), both influenced and energized by Wisdom, endeavours to penetrate the Atman, the Self, and reaches the vicinity of the first stage of the emancipated Dhyani. (3) He who is not able to use his higher attention and image-making faculty, first requisites for the preceding stage, regularly attempts by practise to feel and come in contact with the Higher Self with the assistance of his ordinary intelligence and knowledge. (4) He who is not capable of such purification and concentration of the third stage becomes intent on the performance of only a certain class of deeds which are dana–charity, tapas–mortification, and yajna–sacrifice, exclusive of all else. (5) But the mere mortal is not able even to do this which gives him a sure refuge, unbeknown to himself, in the Higher Self, and so he is told to do all he has to do, but with self-control, and renouncing the fruits of all his actions.
Each one among us has to find out on what step on the ladder of spiritual life he stands, of what he is capable. Certain things are natural and easy to us, and the steps in advance require strenuous endeavour. If it be asked: what about someone who is not able to begin the practice of self-control and renunciation of the fruits of action? The answer is: It is not that he is not able, but that he is not prepared to commence living spiritually. In the 12th verse Krishna says that renunciation – tyaga – prescribed for the 5th or the starting stage is superior to all else, for from it results peace and tranquillity – Shanti. This because whatever the stage, the doing of deeds, the wearing of bodies, the discharge of obligations to man and Nature, are strongly and repeatedly advocated. Even the Mahatma Krishna is engaged in action all the time.
No man is denied his right to Wisdom and Immortality and for each the way begins where he is, where he actually stands – at home, in the market-place, East or West. And so it is said in the Voice of the Silence:
No warrior volunteering fight in the fierce strife between the living and the dead (the immortal Higher Ego and the lower personal ego) not one recruit can ever be refused the right to enter on the Path that leads towards the field of Battle.
For, either he shall win, or he shall fall.
Yea, if he conquers, Nirvana shall be his. Before he casts his shadow off his mortal coil, that pregnant cause of anguish and illimitable pain – in him will men a great and holy Buddha honour.
And if he falls, even then he does not fall in vain; the enemies he slew in the last battle will not return to life in the next birth that will be his.
But if thou would’st Nirvana reach, or cast the prize away, let not the fruit of action and inaction be thy motive, O thou of dauntless heart.
Know that the Bodhisattva who Liberation changes for Renunciation to don the miseries of “Secret Life” is called “Thrice Honoured,” O thou candidate for woe throughout the cycles.
SELF, THE DISCIPLINARIAN
“The Spirit in the body is called Maheswara, the Great Lord, the Spectator, the Admonisher, the Sustainer, the Enjoyer, and also Paramatma, the highest soul.” – Bhagavad-Gita, XIII-22.
To discipline the lower nature by the higher is to raise the self by the Self. The superior aspect of our being has to look after the sensuous and passional part in us.
Discipline which is imposed upon boys at school is only partially effective, as it is imposed from without. Modern educationists are finding out what the old Gurus well knew, that unless the understanding and willingness of the pupil are at work the discipline imposed remains impotent.
The school of life also imposes upon us all certain discipline; we chafe against this because we have not grasped that this is an honest universe and in it nothing happens by chance but everything is an effect from a previous cause, which effect in its turn becomes causal. The real and only teacher who can discipline us is our own Higher Self.
Suffering, chastisement, frustration, which under the Law of Karma we encounter, discipline us provided they succeed in bringing the lower and satanic nature of ours in contact with the Higher and Divine in us. Thousands suffer but do not learn from their suffering. We learn from life-events, especially the painful ones, only when our thinking-discriminating nature reviews and evaluates the event. Generally people see the finger of an outside God in all their life-events and so pray to Him and try to propitiate Him and thus prepare themselves to become rank atheists. We have to learn to see the finger of our own Higher Self, for there is the source of all adjustement and discipline.
People often say – “If I can take care of my moods and selfishness I should be all right.” They do not know the mechanics of the human machine, and ignorance cannot succeed in psychological experimentation any more than in physical. One has to know whence moods and selfishness arise, what superior agency can cure them, and how. All this knowledge is available in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The thirteenth discourse describes the human machine; how it operates ordinarily, what is the effect of its perfect operation; and what is the technique for the latter.
Concentration on the contents and characteristics of the Higher Self in us is the alpha and omega of the Hidden Life.
What the Inner Ruler in each one of us is, should be the subject for study and reflection. Once its powers are intellectually known by us we will be ready to use them and realize in ourselves their strength. We are universal and impersonal intelligences; each one of us has to know this fact in our personal beings. This is evolution. When the separated personal man recognizes that he is neither separate from the whole of Nature, nor is he the mask known to his fellow-mortals, but that he is a Centre of Life and Light in himself, he takes the first step. This intellectual recognition results from study, from meditation, and from the spirit of sacrifice.
Now, in the above-quoted verse we are taught the characteristics of the Higher Self.
In the innermost recess of the heart dwells the Lord who is the Supreme Self – Maheswara and Paramatma. In each one of us is the Lord, and in all He is a ray of the One Self. The Supreme Self is like the Sun, and Its ray dwells in each and acts as the Lord in the body.
The verse gives four striking characteristics of this Lord, the Inner Ruler immortal in us – (1) the Spectator, (2) the Admonisher, (3) the Sustainer and (4) the Enjoyer. If we could in some measure grasp this four-fold function, we should see light in the midst of the darkness which now prevails.
The God in us is the eternal witness of all that happens in or to us. The body has its powers, the mind also, with which it functions; will and feeling produce other phenomena; but whoever the agent producing action of body, speech or intellect, the Spiritual Soul, the Real Man, is the Spectator. It is true that there are Godless men, i.e., men who having denied the existence of their spiritual principles, have lost for themselves the sure guidance that comes from the Higher Self. Even such can retrace their steps by honest enquiry and persistent search. This Being in us who watches the panorama of events, has to be recognized by our brain-minds. For then he manifests his second power.
The God in us is the admonisher: whenever the senses of flesh, dragging the mind after them, make us commit wrong, as invariably happens, the Higher Self speaks. It uses our conscience which is the voice of all our accumulated experiences and tells us what not to do, where to desist. It is always well to listen to the voice of conscience, but we must learn to make sure that it is the voice of conscience, and further that it is in accord with the expressions of laws which constantly operate in Nature. When through the study of first principles and basic fundamentals which metaphysics give us we give culture to our conscience, the Higher Self reveals to us his third power.
The God in us is the sustainer of all our actions. This might sound strange and raise the question – can the Higher Self sustain the wickedness of the lower self, with which men are so closely identified? It is to be understood that every action of ours has a lesson to impart and every experience yields its power to the human soul. When we have acquired the habit of attending to our voice of conscience; and when we have learnt to move after thought on the basic principles involved in our movement, we do not indulge in deliberate wrong-doing. These two processes are our safeguards, and yet, being but frail mortals, we do commit errors. Because of the attention we have paid to our conscience, and the precaution we have taken to consult the codes of the Science of the Self, we gain even from our error due good. This is due to the sustaining characteristic of the Higher Self. His sacrificial nature is great. He, so to speak, makes himself a scape-goat for the foibles of the lower self, because that lower self has brought itself in line with the vision and admonition of the Higher. And as sacrifice always begets joy we see how the Higher Self enjoys.
The God in us is the enjoyer. In his own realm, i.e., in his own native state, the Self has no opportunity to learn about the mighty magic of prakriti or matter. That is why he embodies himself in matter, and learning in and through it becomes master of matter. When his agent and ambassador the lower self lives and moves and has its being rooted in the higher, the latter enjoys the process of unfoldment and growth. Like the bee, the Higher Self sucks the nectar of Life, till it is all-knowing self-conscious Life.
To attain contact with, and experience, the nirvanic bliss of the Spiritual Self, we must begin by recognizing the existence of the divinity in us. Next, we should proceed to listen to its admonitions and advice, and learn through proper study its ways and methods, so that its sustenance reaches us. Then its joy and bliss will be ours, and in face of trouble and encumbered with pain, we shall still radiate the Light of Wisdom which is peace and happiness.
THE NATURE OF THE LOWER SELF
“The three great qualities called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – light or truth, passion or desire, and indifference or darkness – are born from nature, and bind the imperishable soul to the body.” – Bhagavad-Gita, xiv. 5.
If the thirteenth discourse of the Gita unveils the facts about the nature of the Higher Self, the fourteenth chapter treats of the nature of the lower.
The lower self is born of Prakriti, Matter or Nature. Because matter has attributes or gunas the moment the soul contacts body, the latter binds the soul by and through those attributes. Matter is inert and dense; but it is mobile in spite of its inertia; it has rhythm of movement because it is vitalized and energized by the light of the spirit.
The Man of Matter is full of inertia, or is full of movements, or is full of harmony and rhythm, but, evil or good, he is under the sway of matter. As long as he is ensouled and aroused by any of these three he is mortal, subject to pain and decay.
The Man of Spirit is full of ideation, intuition and inspiration. The Self exists perpetually in a state of contemplation which is creative and therefore blissful.
We have to labour and free ourselves who are centred in the lower, so that we may experience in our consciousness, our brain-minds, the Presence of the higher.
In each one of us one of the three attributes predominates; the remaining two are not so active, though they operate. When Tamas–Inertia predominates we become deluded, indifferent to life and duty, lazy in body and indolent in mind. When Rajas–Mobility predominates our sense-desires flourish, love of gain increases and begets ambitions, and actions and more activities are initiated, and there is restlessness of body and mind. Large numbers of ailments and nervous disorders are due to the predominance of Rajas in our civilization. When Sattva–Rhythm predominates the man is happy, lucid and peaceful and engages himself in the study of Wisdom and in the service of his fellows. But all three imprison the soul in the body. Dhritarashtra is the symbol of Tamas, Duryodhana of Rajas, Arjuna of Sattva: Krishna is above and beyond them having transcended them.
The spiritual life is the overcoming of the influence of the gunas or attributes of matter. This means overcoming not only of evil but also of good. When we surpass the three which are coexistent with the body, we are released from pain, old age and death, for thereby we drink of the Water of Immortality. It does not mean that the body does not have its aches or old age or death, but that the man who has freed himself from the tyranny of these three powers is not affected by aches, does not feel the burden of time and age, and is untouched by death itself.
In answer to his Chela’s question, the Master Krishna describes the virtues and characteristics of the man who has overcome the gunas.
Most of us are inert and lazy and are goaded into action by the necessity of keeping body and soul together. In the competition of life we unfold ambitions, multiply desires, are entwined by activities to actions, and succeed in bringing upon ourselves afflictions; this stage leads to the next, for in anguish we begin the search, by knowledge we overcome pain and grow in contentment and thus the happy stage is reached.
Just as the perfect realization of ourselves as the Higher Self begins in the intellectual recognition of the fact that a Higher Self exists, followed by an enquiry into its powers and modes of manifestation, so also the complete freedom which emancipates the personal man from the slavery of the material qualities starts with the intellectual recognition that all persons are continuously affected by gunas or attributes of prakriti or matter and nature. The second step lies in the determining by each of his own particular predominating quality. The legitimate use of each of these properties of nature is indicated in the Gita, the remedy for overcoming the disease pertaining to each is also referred to, and how to take the next step in front of each is clearly shown. The tamasic man is evil, though not consciously active in it; the rajasic man is evil and then evil and good; the sattvic man is good; one stage leads the other and transforms the evil into the good man. But evolution does not stop there – the good man has to grow into the spiritual man. Between goodness and spirituality is a gulf, the same as between wickedness and righteousness. The selfish man becomes unselfish and then flowers into selflessness.
Is it possible for us to grow in goodness? Can we in this day and age unfold spirituality? Yes, is the answer; it is more normal to be good than otherwise; and knowledge reproclaimed in our cycle gives aid more than ever before to the aspirant to spiritual life. In the words of a modern sage: –
“That which propels towards, and forces evolution, i.e., compels the growth and development of Man towards perfection, is (a) the MONAD, or that which acts in it unconsciously through a force inherent in itself; and (b) the lower astral body or the personal SELF. The former, whether imprisoned in a vegetable or an animal body, is endowed with, is indeed itself, that force. Owing to its identity with the ALL-FORCE, which, as said, is inherent in the Monad, it is all-potent on the Arupa, or formless plane. On our plane, its essence being too pure, it remains all-potential, but individually becomes inactive: e.g., the rays of the Sun, which contribute to the growth of vegetation, do not select this or that plant to shine upon. Uproot the plant and transfer it to a piece of soil where the sunbeam cannot reach it, and the latter will not follow it. So with the Atman: unless the higher Self or EGO gravitates towards its Sun – the Monad – the lower Ego, or personal Self, will have the upper hand in every case. For it is this Ego, with its fierce Selfishness and animal desire to live a Senseless life (Tanha) which is “the maker of the tabernacle,” as Buddha calls it in Dhammapada (153 and 154) . . . It is equally true that the Atman alone warms the inner man; i.e., it enlightens it with the ray of divine life and alone is able to impart to the inner man, or the reincarnating Ego, its immortality. . . .
“Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution – at least they ought to be so. The fact that mankind was never more selfish and vicious than it is now, civilized nations having succeeded in making of the first and ethical characteristic, of the second an art, is an additional proof of the exceptional nature of the phenomenon.”
TO WHICH CLASS DO YOU BELONG?
“Those who have the eye of wisdom perceive the Spirit, and devotees who industriously strive to do so see it dwelling in their own hearts; whilst those who have not overcome themselves, who are devoid of discrimination, see it not even though they strive thereafter.” – Bhagavad-Gita, XV. 11-12.
Our humanity is composed of three classes of intelligences. First, those who not attempting control of the lower tendencies are devoid of discrimination and do not discern the spiritual aspect of their own beings. Second, those who strive to establish a unison between themselves and their higher and divine nature, having perceived that Spirit resides in their own hearts. Third, the wise who have successfully overcome the attributes of matter by knowledge, and see the things of the flesh with the single eye of Spirit.
In this era things of the senses sway the minds of people enormously. All inventions and devices of modern science are undertaken to bestow comforts and conveniences on the body and bodily senses, to energize brain and the lower intelligence. The very existence of Soul is doubted, and certainly no attention is considered fit to be given to man’s higher nature. Our school-instruction and our home-culture emphasise more the spirit of competition and ambition in us than the subdual of the lower tendencies. Therefore, very large numbers of people grow up in the belief that selfishness is necessary to advancement. There is much of unselfishness of a kind abroad: people are good and charitable and helpful to their neighbours, when to act thus does not inconvenience themselves. The rich give out of the abundance of their wealth, and such giving does not cost them any privation or even discomfort. It is natural, therefore, that in our civilization the first class of beings abound. The agencies to arouse them, to help them put their feet on the path leading to the second stage are very few. In ancient days temples and other religious institutes worked assiduously in this direction; now religious organizations may encourage superstition and blind belief or social service and vague hope, but ignorance prevails about spiritual verities and their scientific practice. This being the age of individualism par excellence, it devolves on the individual to take himself in hand. The economic pressure has compelled him to become competitive and ambitious, but even great suffering has not succeeded in arousing many to question the meaning and purpose of life.
Yet, there is a sufficient number of people who have begun the Search. The phenomenal side of Spiritual life is alluring many among them. Philosophy which requires mental alertness and leads to the exposure of intellectual dishonesty is not popular. Such movements as Spiritualism of the western sort, and the other brand of eastern mediumism and worship of the dead, Couéism and species of New Thought and Christian Science are gullibly accepted. There is much straying away from the discipline of the Secret Knowledge, Guhya Vidya of the Gita, in following some person who claims to have acquired emancipation or gained initiation! The virtues of this stage of human evolution are well defined – industrious striving after the realization of the Higher Self which is within each of us. Such striving consists of study about the nature of the Higher Self, application in daily life to live as that Self, and promulgation of the ideas about it for the benefit of others. Study, practice, service take us to tread the triple path of Knowledge–Gnyan, Devotion–Bhakti, and Sacrifice–Karma. Each human soul must learn and teach, must devotedly apply and practise, must sacrificingly serve the race as a whole.
Lives of constant endeavour bring us the grand consummation – realization of the Self in us as the Universal Self; man has become God, the Mahatma is born, most difficult to find, as the Gita teaches. He is the true Seer; not the so-called clairvoyant who sees invisible things, but one who understands all that is seen not by senses but by the mind purified of all dross and having acquired the intuitive perception. All Sages and Mahatmas have the Single Eye; having learnt to see straight, each sees the truth underlying all, and thus the One Truth. They are all of one mind, one will, one vision.
Let us overcome ourselves; our lusts and appetites, our cravings and avarice, our selfishness and egotism have to be subdued. We have to gain some impersonality in dealing with the events of life, some universal vision which would endow reality to every-day occurrences. This requires knowledge – study of true books, Holy Writ indeed, and among such the Gita takes a prominent place.
HEAVEN AND HELL
“The gates of hell are three – desire, anger, covetousness, which destroy the Soul; wherefore one should abandon them.” – Bhagavad-Gita, XVI. 21.
The ancients knew what we moderns are beginning to believe, that heaven and hell, Svarga and Naraka, are in ourselves. Religions have distorted the old truth and have made heaven and hell distant localities, instead of states of human consciousness, which they are. The Soul’s imprisonment and its deliverance do not depend upon movements in material space, but upon motions in spiritual space i.e. on elevating or lowering the ideation inherent in our own consciousness.
When a man is in the slough of jealousy or despondency he is in hell; when his thoughts soar to visualise selflessness and compassion he is in heaven. The great Buddha reiterated the fact that this earth is the lowest of hells that our humanity touches. After-death conditions for most men who die natural deaths are pleasanter than are experiences in embodied life. We suffer here, and dying naturally enjoy the reward of virtues practised, and are compensated for suffering according to the merit of each. It is the intuitive perception of this truth on the part of mankind which is responsible for the belief that death makes all men holy and pure. Death does not transform a sinner into a saint; but deprived of the possibility of committing fresh sins, he gets his due from the compassionate law of Karma, in such rest as he has himself merited.
These reflections will lead the student to perceive that each one is here and now in heaven or hell, according to the state of his thought-feelings. Our moods which come and go are but visible expressions of the inner states of our thought-feelings. In the same city dwell demoniacal beings and Divine Mahatmas; in the same village are to be found the idle and the industrious; in the same family one is selfish and another thoughtful of all; nay, in the same breast surge the cruelty that destroys and the courage that succours. It is true that “each man his prison makes.”
After death the state of the Soul is a continuation of its state as an incarnate being.
And yet each one of us should literally dread the hell-fire; most are ignorant that they are very near to it, and many burning in that pit are unaware of that fact.
The impure and wicked will not go to hell, they are in it. That is why they do not know the nature of action nor of cessation from action. The untruthful man is in hell already and his punishment begins the moment he is found out, and even before! Those who deny the existence of Soul or the Spiritual nature of this universe are in a hell of their own; and some such who are dependent on their corpus of flesh and blood and nothing higher and who advocate and practise sense and sex “enjoyment,” die in hell, to be reborn here in hell again – “with natures perverted, enemies of the world they are born to destroy.”
This sounds gruesome, because the idea is presented with some directness. Ponder over it in the light of the teachings of the Gita and its accuracy will not be denied.
There arise the practical questions – how to get out of the hell in which one may find oneself, and also what would keep a man from falling over the precipice into a fresh hell?
Krishna definitely states that there are three gates which lead us into hell: Kama–Passion, Krodha–Anger and Lobha–Greed. If we learn how to avoid these three we have turned our face heavenward. All mortals are afflicted, in small measure or great, with these three; without exception for any and every one these cause pain and suffering, in due course. We name pain and suffering as hell – they are not, for they are at once punitive and purgative. We are not in hell when we suffer from our lust and anger and avarice; we have passed out of hell into purgatory. We are in hell when we are lustful and angry and greedy. Hell’s one characteristic is its power to cause forgetfulness, loss of memory, and the man in hell knows not that he is there. He is stunned by the blow which his own lust and anger and greed have given him; when he comes to life, that is, remembers his crime, he is out of hell.
Memory, then, plays a very important role. If we can always remember; if we do not lose our power to recollect; if every time we near the cause of passion-power-pelf we collect ourselves and exclaim “Get thee behind me,” then in that process we purge ourselves and are ready to experience something heavenly.
Our deeds flow from our thoughts and feelings; the strength of will manifests according to the power of our thoughts and feelings; our motive is the hidden spring of our ideas and emotions. Therefore, we must begin there – we must question the motive of every thought-feeling, every word, every deed. Selfishness of motive is the outcome of dwelling on petty, mean, low, commonplace thoughts. Such increase egotism and selfishness. As we dwell on great and noble thoughts, impersonal feelings, universal ideas, a new force energises us, and this purifies our motives, gives them a new tone, a new direction. This leads to an inner conversion, and our outer life expresses the change for the better. Thus a man leaves hell behind, and entering heaven makes of earth a new place – no more a wilderness but a veritable Garden of Eden.
RENUNCIATION – TRUE AND FALSE
“Deeds of sacrifice, of mortification, and of charity are not to be abandoned, for they are proper to be performed, and are the purifiers of the wise. But even those works are to be performed after having renounced all selfish interest in them and in their fruits; this, O son of Pritha, is my ultimate and supreme decision.” –Bhagavad-Gita, XVIII, 5-6.
The intuitive response to the appeal of the Higher Life is natural to man. But for every one man who proceeds on this greatest of all ventures on a basis of knowledge, there are hundreds who fall a prey to the lures which beset the old and narrow way sharp as the edge of the razor. There are millions who are known as Sannyasis and Tyagis. There are rare units who are really such.
The Master Krishna makes it abundantly clear that whatever we may be doing, we find ourselves performing works. And yet the Gita is the book par excellence which treats on of Sannyasa–Renunciation; it is sometimes called the Book of Karma-Yoga, union with the Higher Self through deeds; but more truly it may be called the Book of Renunciation, for it advocates renunciation as the highest form of action and teaches how man – not some particular caste man, but every man – should renounce.
Whatever one’s condition of life, a man is called upon to do every day three kinds of deeds – Yagna–Sacrifice, Tapas–Mortification, Dana–Charity. These three should never be disregarded. They purify the whole man.
Living in a competitive world, with cares and worries meeting us at every turn, how can a man even remember to perform regularly some work which is sacrificial, some which is mortifying, and some which is charitable?
The Gita does not offer these as spiritual luxuries, which the privileged few alone may indulge in; they are regarded as necessities of soul-life, which no human being can set aside without psychic and spiritual peril to himself. And further, in one single, straightforward injunction it says that even these acts of sacrifice, mortification and charity “are to be performed after having renounced all selfish interest in them and in their fruits,” and thus with a majestic and sweeping gesture defines what true charity, austerity and sacrifice are.
But is it right for a man to perform these at the cost of his own congenital and congenial duties? How can a twentieth-century mortal find time or spare energy for these deeds of Krishna, when all his forces and resources are exhausted in doing his own natural duties? This question does not arise for the student of the Gita; for he clearly perceives that, in the very performance of the natural duties, in the very environment of each, are ample opportunities to be found to sacrifice joyously, to practise self-control and to be charitable on more planes than that of economics alone.
It is the very doing of our duties, but with a new attitude, which the Gita teaches. It lays down certain fundamental principles. Let us look at them.
Necessary and obligatory works should be performed – such are duties. That which is not necessary for us to perform, that which is not obligatory, that which is not due from us to nature or to man is not duty. In the performance of such deeds of duties two ideas should be borne in mind. We should not abstain from works through bodily propensity, saying: “It is painful,” any more than indulge in acts because the pleasurable feeling tempts us in their direction. Thus, the motive and the desire for the fruits of works have to be thought about. Not the renunciation of necessary duties; but the renunciation of the fruit of all obligatory actions, performed without attachment, because they ought to be done; herein is described renunciation, false and true.
Thus those who desire to lead the Spiritual life have to seek opportunities in their own environment for practising sacrifice, self-control and charity. They will not have far to go. Near at hand, in their own circumstances, in a very short while, they will find more than ample scope for the fulfillment of their wishes. In the home, in the market-place, in public life, hundreds of opportunities arise, and arise constantly, to do the triple deed, dear to the heart of the Mahatma, the perfect performer of perfect deeds.
However difficult this practice of sacrifice, austerity and charity, in daily life, the nature of what is expected of us is easily understandable. One has only to look within at one’s self and around at his kin, friends and fellows, and it does not require much thought to learn how we can be sacrificing, how we can mortify our lower characteristics, and how we can be charitable in thought and feeling, in words and works.
To guide us in complexities which must arise, the Gita defines what is correct and incorrect yagna, tapas, and dana.
That sacrifice which violates not the laws of Nature and is in consonance with some understanding of those laws, when done without expectation of any reward and with the conviction that it is necessary to be done, is correct and beneficent. Sacrifices done with an eye to reward and esteem, or as an ostentation for piety, are not spiritual, though they are better than those which are not according to the precepts of Bodhi-dharma, Wisdom-Religion, the Science of the Self or Atma-Vidya, and which are undertaken without any conviction.
Contemplating with reverence the laws of and processes in Nature; esteeming the beneficent deeds of holy men and sages with a view to emulate them; purifying ourselves so that rectitude, chastity and harmlessness are practised; – these constitute right mortification or austerity of the body. Speech which is gentle, true and friendly and which results from diligence in the reading of the records of the Wise – that is mortification of speech. Serenity, mildness of temper, silence, self-restraint, absolute straightforwardness in conduct are called tapas or mortification of mind.
And last – Dana, Charity: gifts of knowledge or wealth which are bestowed at the proper time on the proper person, and by men who are not desirous of a return, comprise true charity. And whatever is given should be bestowed with proper attention, without a feeling of superiority or scorn. In the giving of gifts we should avoid calculating what spiritual or other benefit may accrue to us from such giving, also avoid making any gift reluctantly or half-heartedly; but above all turn away from the temptation of gifts given out of place and season and to unworthy persons, even though they be friends or relatives.
Here is the basis of the true religion of works, which purifies the mind, ennobles the conduct, and which, the Gita says, is possible for any earnest soul to practise; for it enables a man to discharge his duties and fulfill his obligations without running away from the station in life in which his own aspirations, deeds and misdeeds have placed him.
“From the influence of impiety the females of a family grow vicious; and from women that are become vicious arises the confusion of castes.” – Bhagavad-Gita, I, 41.
Such is the reason Arjuna advances to Krishna in the very first chapter; he explains his argument in subsequent verses. Not as an excuse for his timidity does Arjuna wear the mask of a philosopher. Hero of a thousand battles, not a trace of cowardice remained in his blood. What was his argument? He who disturbs the peace of the family precipitates the destruction of the family. Such disturbance of family life (Kula-dharma) culminates in the loss of virtue of the women of that family; this, in its turn, shakes the very foundations of society, because the vicious woman becomes the womb of outcaste. Once the family dharma – laws which uphold and sustain the family – is disregarded, the larger unit, the society, is corrupted.
Arjuna reasons: If he and his brothers disturb the peace of the family even though their own relatives were evil, were over-throwing justice and torturing righteousness, they themselves would be responsible for the ultimate destruction of the whole kingdom. Where was the glory and what was the good of ruling over a people who would be casteless?
Now, the Gita is a book of many meanings and many messages: its metaphysics and philosophy tell the story of the macrocosm, its psychology that of the microcosm; it is history concerned with weak humans, and myth concerned with mighty gods; above all it teaches the Secret Science, i.e., the Science of the Soul; and how? As the hidden soul in man unfolds, it hears message after message hidden in this Song of Life.
Therefore Kula-dharma, family-life, and corruption of women, and the arising of caste confusion – all have different meanings. Thus, there is the psychological confusion of caste in most men of to-day, for their inner aspirations do not harmonize with their desires and cause confusion in body and brain. Each one of us is male-female. Just as in the body of every male the female exists in latency and vice versa, so also in our minds and morals, we may be male or female or both – generally both. There is a whole male line of evolution, and there is another, the female line; both these mix and mingle in the human being.
Celibacy which chelas of real Gurus are called upon to practise extends to all states of consciousness; there is mental celibacy, there is emotional chastity, there is psychic virginity, there is noetic continence, and so forth; and without these the legitimate and healthy birth of intuition cannot result. Each human being is a family in himself, and each one has to observe his own family-dharma within himself. Corruption of this particular family-dharma begets its own confusion; on the other hand, its correct observance begets the Deathless Race of Immortals. So there are different ways in which this as all other Gita doctrines can be interpreted. The soul, through its progressive awakenings, obtains one key and then another, which enables it to perceive these interpretations.
But let us consider the society around us in the light of this principle. Caste-destruction did take place and confusion ensued: India is said to be caste-ridden; it is with false castes. For 5000 years now the colours (varna) of our peoples have become mixed; for 5000 years on this sacred soil the confusion of castes has flourished, dragging India down and down. It is notable that Krishna did not answer, did not even consider, the specific objection Arjuna raised. He began with most lofty ideas, metaphysical and ethical; and when he came to speak of castes, He mentioned Karma–effects of Gunas–qualities, according to which the colours (varna) of men’s characters and dispositions show themselves, life after life. Moreover, caste confusion prevails all over the world, and not only in our India.
Caste-confusion is the outstanding mark of the Kaliyuga, the cycle inaugurated by Krishna. It will persist among the masses of mankind who belong to Kali-yuga. That confusion will continue to disturb family-life (Kula-dharma), will continue to corrupt the morals of womankind, and will ultimately compel people to doubt their own ways, their reasonings, themselves even, and then set them thinking. This is what is happening in our midst, but not on any large scale, because sex evil is almost universal, and more, it is not even looked upon as evil but it is considered to be a natural phenomenon. Corrupt family life of this age is the direct outcome of sex evil.
Why did Krishna inaugurate such an era? To give direction to human evolution. Teachers and Revelations (Rishis and Shastras) help men in earlier cycles; through obedience and belief they grow; they are helped by Nature, as the infant is fed by the mother; the impulse given by Divine Incarnations and Holy Books carries them along. When that is withdrawn good living becomes mechanical and would disappear producing a greater chaos than even now exists, if Krishna did not set into motion His own wheel. The aim of Krishna then was to help men to live by conviction and not by belief. Not to allow the complete obliteration of the work of the previous Incarnations did Krishna come, but to sustain Their labour in the only right way open to Him, viz., to make men rely on the impacts within themselves, impacts received by them from Teachers and Revelations. That is why Krishna is considered the most important of the avataras of Vishnu. Living in bliss within themselves, living at peace with all, people did not know for themselves what Light was. Shadows became necessary; a dark-cycle, Kali-yuga, became due; and Krishna ushered in that new era.
The second outstanding mark of this Iron Age is individualism. The way of growth is individualistic. Why? Because each man has to make his own effort, unaided by any one, save by that which he has acquired and which is within himself. Each man, each woman must remove his or her own caste-confusion, by re-establishing his or her own family-dharma.
The way out of the darkness of this age for every individual is through the family-unit. Arjuna’s fear was not unfounded; but Krishna did not come to destroy family-life, Kula-dharma, but to help men and women establish it on the rock of knowledge, so that it can never again become mechanical, never again become a matter of belief, of tradition, of form.
Manu-Smriti, the tradition handed down by Manu, gives the necessary information, but we must practise it intelligently, after due study and understanding.
[NOTE: Manusmriti, better known as The Laws of Manu, is an old Hindu scripture, largely on the subject of domestic life, which has now lost popularity and influence with many Hindus. But this is justifiable, as in its current form it contains many degrading, insulting, offensive remarks about women and their role and character, and is misogynistic and sexist in the extreme. But H. P. Blavatsky asserts that the original Manusmriti was not like this and that its present form is due to the text having been tampered with by the Brahmin priests of orthodox Hinduism. In her article “Misconceptions” she says, “The Brahmins have embellished their laws of Manu in the post-Mahabharatean period. . . . It is wrong to say that these institutions [i.e. various customs and traditions demeaning to women, including the burning of widows] have been established during the reign of Esotericism. It is the loss of the keys to symbolism and to the laws of Manu which has produced all the errors and all the abuses that have infiltrated into Brahmanism. . . . The Brahmins . . . those at least who have remained ultra-orthodox and who fight every benevolent reform – persecute us and hate us as much as do the Christian clergy and the missionaries. We break their idols; they endeavour to smash our reputations and to soil our honour.” So Bhavani Shankar must have been talking about the real Manusmriti, although that is not readily available or accessible to the world today.]
श्रोतव्यस्य श्रुतस्य च ||
This expression occurs (Gita II. 52) in Krishna’s exposition of Buddhi Yoga, the method of purifying buddhi, the power of discernment. This buddhi is translated as intellect, mind, heart; but it is a faculty of the lower man and must not be confused with Buddhi of the inner and higher man which Buddhi is a ray of Mahabuddhi, or Mahat, the Universal Mind.
Our understanding-discernment is clouded. Illusion (maya), delusion (moha), ever envelop the man. Buddhi-Yoga frees us from this bondage. Several are the marks of this bondage. Among them is this one – about what is heard and what remains to be heard. But every mark of bondage has within it the power to remove that bondage. The creator of the bondage and the maker of Karma is stronger than the bondage or the Karma.
Sight is regarded as the instrument of perception. Peoples’ beliefs are based on what is seen, and those who believe on hearsay are looked down upon. That is right, for people should not act on hearsay. But to depend on our sight and say “I believe because I see,” is also wrong. All belief is to be discouraged, whether it is due to hearing or to seeing.
Come to knowledge. We find that in modern science, observation, i.e., sight, precedes deduction, theory, and report. When an experimenter’s sight is satisfied he speaks, and on his report other scientists observe, and then the world hears and repeats – “science teaches.” But this is unsatisfactory; for again and again science contradicts itself.
Turn to the world of Maharishis and Mahatmas. Their Divine Science, Brahma-Vidya, describes the evolution of the universe as based on Sound.
According to these Sages, evolution is an unfoldment and a procession, really speaking an unfolding-procession. The order is – Life as basic, immovable and immortal Spirit; then, Life as creative energy (Daiviprakriti); and then Life as ever-breaking, ever-multiplying matter (Mulaprakriti). All three are Life, or Life in three states – the root-states of what we call gaseous, liquid and solid conditions of matter. All that is gaseous corresponds to spirit, all that is liquid corresponds to energy, all that is solid corresponds to matter. Each of these states is a wave of Life in which spirit-beings, energy-beings, matter-beings, emerge as a procession. The differentiating power, that which enables us to cognize the One as three, – and Life cannot be cognized otherwise, – is Sound. Sound-vibration (nada-dhvani), condensing or materializing, forms stars; sound inherent in each orb produces forms belonging to that orb – down to the very atoms. Shabda-Brahman is Word-God, i.e., the universe as a Living-Word. The music of the spheres is a fact; it is heard, not seen.
Again, these old Sages teach that of all our senses, that of hearing unfolded first; the human body evolved the ear as the primary organ; therefore it is said that man hears and should hear before he sees. Adopting the order of Nature these Sages, in Their system of education, put sound before sight – that which is heard before that which is seen.
The Vedas were heard, then repeated, then recorded. It is said that if one wants to understand fully the Vedas, he must hear them. Reading may yield a meaning for the mind, but hearing brings a meaning for buddhi, heart or intellect.
The order to be observed in gaining knowledge is – (1) Hear, (2) Memorize, (3) Contemplate, (4) Understand, and (5) Teach. In our Holy Order these are the five steps. What do we hear? Shruti, Revelation; when that is memorized we have what is called Smriti, Tradition; these two give the subject for, and become the cause of, contemplation; then understanding results; when one has understood through meditation on that which was memorized and heard, then he is to teach; and that fifth step is part of learning. Even understanding is insufficient; when all that is understood is repeated for the benefit of others, then is the gaining of knowledge completed.
When the Sages laid the foundation of Society in ancient and glorious India, They devised numerous rituals; each ceremony was a reminder to mortals, and told them of some spiritual truth. The Thread ceremony dramatized this fact, for during that rite is whispered into the ear of the boy the sacred text which is his subject of meditation and his guide in life. He followed the same order: he heard, memorized, contemplated, understood and taught.
This is the real order. Aspirants must never try to see or understand that which they have not heard. Prying and curiosity are undesirable; to try to see and understand that about which we have not heard, invariably proves fatal; even were it not dangerous, such an habit delays the secure of true knowledge; but it is dangerous, for we come under the influence of foreign evil influences.
The true Gurus have a definite way of training Their chelas. The five steps are purificatory; they cleanse the heart or buddhi, and adjust the vision of the chela. Just as for ordinary seeing the right focusing of the eyes is essential, so also for seeing ideas; the chela must learn the right focusing of his heart, otherwise intuition will not function. This adjustment of inner vision, which enables the chela to see truths, is made through his ear. Those who try to see without prior hearing are deluded psychics. Even when they are successful in rending the visible veil, they do not understand what they see, and what they see is like unto what the poor man whose eyes are out of focus sees. Never attempt to investigate or experiment with the invisible, unless the Guru’s word on the subject has been heard. There is never a new discovery in the realm of knowledge; all intellects discover the same facts and truths; each aspirant has to learn this – in theory first, and then by practice.
There are truths which are already heard and those which are yet to be heard; therefore, this method and these rules do not only apply to aspirants and disciples, but belong to Guruparampara – the whole chain of Gurus. A Rishi is one who having heard the Vedas chants them for the benefit of the world. Some doctrines are already taught to us, others are yet to be taught. We must not allow ourselves to be snared by this pair, any more than by any other pair. How? We must not be proud of what we know, nor be anxious that others shall accept our knowledge; on the other hand, we must not be impatient about what we have still to learn, nor must we attempt to turn another page of the Book of Wisdom. That Book is a Living Book, and its pages turn by themselves for each learner. Our faith in what has been heard and what has been taught is tested through our attitude to what shall be heard, to doctrines yet to be taught. Detachment about gaining Wisdom is a virtue necessary in the practise of Buddhi-Yoga – the Path of Purifying the Heart.
THE WISE ONE
Unto the Supreme Spirit (Brahman) goeth he who maketh the Supreme Spirit the object of his meditation in performing his actions. – Bhagavad Gita, IV. 24.
This verse ends the description of the Sage (Buddha).
The Buddha is one whose buddhi is lighted by the Light of Gayatri or of Mahachaitanyam, i.e. of the Spiritual Sun hidden in our visible sun. Just as our minds are enlightened by wisdom, so in the course of evolution our intuitive-soul (buddhi) is enlightened by super-wisdom, the soul of wisdom, the secret wisdom, which solves the mystery of the universe. Then man becomes Super-Man or Buddha.
Ordinary knowledge may be compared to prose, but the other is like poetry and song. Gayatri is the spirit of poetry, and real poetry of sound and words is composed by intuitive-souls and is fully grasped by intuition; prose is born of and can be grasped by mind. The true words of any Sage possess poetic rhythm and beauty; to understand that we must feel them.
Again, there is philosophy, which gives us principles and details of what human minds have thought out, and such philosophy helps our mental growth. But there is super-philosophy; the pure intellect (buddhi) reflects within itself Divine Images or Ideas, and such intuitive-souls make a record of them. Such a record of super-philosophy is like a mirror in which Nature reflects herself.
Therefore the Sage (Buddha) is a poet and a philosopher.
Then Buddha is the Aged One – old of Soul, hoary with experience. That experience is so profound that its possessor is able to penetrate directly and simply all problems and phenomena. The child is direct and simple in questioning; the Sage is direct and simple in answering; mental questioning, fretting, doubt, puzzlement, worry exist not in him, and so this Aged One is ever young.
This description of the Sage is in the fourth discourse in which Krishna speaks of the mysterious doctrine of Avataras, Divine Incarnations. In verses 16 to 24 we are given a picture, a description of the Sage whose goal is the Source of Avataras.
Gupta-Vidya, Occultism or Esoteric Philosophy teaches that there are four classes of Jivan-Muktas, Emancipated Beings. All such have overcome Karma, i.e., they need not perform any action, they need not exert themselves, because for them nothing remains to be known or obtained. They know themselves as impartite Universal Beings, and experience the joy within their own consciousness while reposing in the ocean of peace.
Of these four classes of liberated souls there are some who resolve to follow the Path of Krishna, the Path of Avataras; they resolve to descend to earth, and out of their own choice live in bondage for the sake of the race. That kind of a Sage is very rare – he who lives ever awake, ever active. It is said that the idea and ideal of performing Karmas produce the four classes of Jivan-Muktas. Just as by Guna-Karma, qualities of past deeds, the four castes arise in the human kingdom, so also by a similar process four classes of Jivan-Muktas arise. They are: (1) Those who live in Turya – a state of deepest trance; (2) Those who live in Sushupti – highest meditation; (3) Those who live in Svapna – exhilarating dream condition. Then there is the fourth: Those who live in Jagrat –in the waking, active state on earth. This last type of Jivan-Mukta, Free Man, gives up his Impartite State of Turya, his Meditative State of Sushupti, his happy and exhilarating state of Svapna, and assumes the active life of Jagrat. He is the real Living Mahatma. By special discipline and training he fits himself to serve the three worlds throughout Ananta-Yuga, the Boundless Age. In Buddhistic terminology he is called Bodhi-Sattva: he who incarnates in his pure buddhi or intuitive-soul the truths of Adi-Buddha, the Primeval Buddha.
The Sage described in the fourth discourse which deals with the Doctrine of Avataras is the Living Mahatma, who is active for the sake of others. The Path of Krishna, which He says is superior to all other paths, treading which this last class of Sages reach Him, and having attained never never fall, but are ever engaged in revolving His Wheel – that Path one in a million treads. It is of such Mahatmas difficult to find (vii. 19) that Krishna enumerates the qualities.
We who are attempting and learning to walk that Way must use these nine verses. They provide a channel for us who aspire to sense inwardly the nature of the living Mahatma, the Wakeful, Watchful, Active Mahatma. These verses make a Picture, a mental Image; what an idol is to the physical eyes, an object of contemplation and adoration not because of its substance but because of its symbology, that too is this description to the eye of the Soul. Reading these verses, memorizing them, thinking about them, using them to build an image, to paint a picture, to carve an idol, we will glimpse the Spiritual Face and the Lotus Feet of the Living Mahatma.
Let us look at these verses. They deal with action and an actor of a particular kind. Actions bind; actions set free; inaction deludes, inaction enlightens. In the first of these verses, the sixteenth, Krishna says that even bards and poets (काव्य:) who possess insight and intuition are confused as to action-inaction. Therefore Krishna explains the nature and mode of that particular kind of action whose performance produces no bondage, nay more, the Living Mahatma engages himself in such performance. In that performance we are able to feel that no action has been committed. It is effortless action, because it comes easily to us, is natural. When one strains oneself in the doing of a deed it is of the nature of Rajas, the motion of desire.
Now, all actions of the Living Mahatma are such easy, flowing, natural actions, and two characteristics are common to all of them: (1) the action of the Sage is never rooted in desire; (2) the action of the Sage is begun, carried on and ended by the Light of His philosophy and wisdom.
In performing actions day by day we must be guided by this Picture of the Sage, whose hands bless us; whose head creates the thought-dreams which impart knowledge to us; whose heart-meditation rays forth compassion which brings us His Vision; and drawing us into His innermost high trance state, He makes us the gift of gifts – opening our sight for a moment, He makes us behold the Glories and Excellencies of the Temple of the World.
THE WORK OF THE ASPIRANT
He who while living in the world and before the liberation of the Soul from the body, can resist the impulse arising from desire and anger he is a devotee (yukta) and a happy man.
He who is happy within himself, who is delighted within, who is illuminated within, is a yogi; partaking of the Nature of the Supreme he has attained to Brahma-Nirvana. – Bhagavad-Gita, V. 23-24
These two verses describe the condition of the aspirant-practitioner and of the master who has attained. They are strikingly straightforward. They strike us with their depth and simplicity, with their self-evident truth which study and thought reveal as profound. In them we are told what the source of difficulty for the aspirant is, how and where and when the yoke can be thrown off; and with what virtues the Divine Being and the Divine World shine.
The first verse contains the word yukta (युक्त) and it is differently rendered, and it is necessary to render it differently to bring out the real meaning. This word is used in numerous places in the Gita and like the term dharma is understood appropriately in different places. But unless some meditation is done on the word, irrespective of its context, in every instance, we are apt to gain only partial understanding of the verses in which it appears.
First and foremost the aspirant must be resourceful, which implies both adaptability with existing circumstances and preparation for improving them; then he must have contrivance and expediency requiring simple trick or magical artifice. It further implies an inner steadiness in executing outer action and a condition of balance and harmony.
The street-conjurer and magician and his young assistant perform two phenomena with the rope: one, to show physical skill and control over bodily balance by walking on the rope; the other is the famous though rare rope-trick, in which superphysical forces are used. To acquire that balance mere knowledge of the body and the bodily parts is not sought; a physiologist or an anatomist cannot walk the rope. To produce the other kind of phenomenon, more than one law of super-physics is used and often their manipulation is not acquired knowledge but is an inheritance.
Now, compare the Path of the Spiritual Life to the rope; the person must gain that balance; without it the very treading is not possible. The disappearance and reappearance of the boy in the second phenomenon may be compared to the visible climbing by the aspirant in the world, his disappearance from it during the period of his real training, and then his reappearance as the adept-servant of humanity, when he is acclaimed with shouts of wonder, and laughter, and curiosity and questioning, but rarely with the genuine desire to find out the facts and the truths.
Balance, harmony, is that inner equanimity which the aspirant must develop, and the task must be accomplished while living in the world, for it offers an excellent training ground. The Bala-Yogi, the boy-yogi, is the rarest of occult phenomena; at the end of a long time of incarnations one can be born with the marks of a yogi, all ready and prepared to retire at once from the world and undertake the development of siddhis or divine powers. For most people the struggles of life, and especially the home (grihastha-ashrama) are most excellent. Therefore our verse refers to “living in the world.”
Then the second clause: during incarnation, not after death, can this practice be undertaken. A preta or bhut cannot fight desire and anger, for it is nothing else but a bundle of passions and the Soul is absent; neither in Pitri Loka or Swarga can the exercise be done, for the force to be attacked and endured is absent when man reaches those states. Only here, in the incarnated existence, the complete assemblage takes place, making the spiritual life possible. After death conditions may be compared to the self-imposed truce observed by both the armies of Rama and of Ravana during the nights; only during the day combatants come to grips. In this, however, a very important idea is involved. Spiritual life is not for the man who is but a bhut, a shade, a moving-talking-living rupa but devoid of the qualities of manhood. Also, spiritual life is not possible for the deva, who has not yet left his child-state, who is happy but knows not that he is happy, nor what happiness is. The man of effort and balance (yukta) is called a happy man in this verse. There are forms of yoga (I do not mean hatha-yoga) which bring about the separation of the Soul from the body, before the Soul has learnt why he entered the body, and before he has done his duty by the body and the lower kingdoms in which it is rooted. Happiness (Sukh) for the body is one thing, for the deva-god is another thing, and the happy-man (sukhi-nara) is neither a bhuta nor a deva, but nara-man. The duty and function of Nara-Man (remember it is one of the names of Arjuna, and every Name contains truth which can be learnt by meditation on that Name) is to experience through contact with good and evil that higher happiness which fears not matter and is free from limitations. People who run after inner peace and happiness often sleep while their bodies are awake, sometimes dream during such sleep and fancy that final liberation is obtained. Beware of such people and their fragile talk!
Krishna says, learn to resist and endure and bear with this force born of desire (kama) and anger (krodha). He who aspires to be a yogi must kill out this force which like smoke envelops the man. (cf. iii. 39). He must acknowledge its existence and not ignore it. He must face it and not run away from it. Above all, he must not give way to it saying it also is of the Lord, it also is of Mother Nature.
The conquest of this force with the help of the Soul within brings out the powers of that Soul. Numerous are those powers. A man who enjoys the objects of sense is fearful because in the past he has found out that pain follows, or satiation results. Then there is the creative intelligence which enjoys upliftment and while it feels, it does not know what happiness is or whence; it comes and goes. But the Soul who has fought the force of desire, who knows how to endure its presence, nay to bear with it, giving it time to gain transformation, that Soul knows what real happiness is. He knows that that happiness is not the desire-force, but is within himself; repose and light are its two expressions. The Soul’s centripetal energy is peace and repose; the centrifugal is service and enlightenment of others. Peace of the Mahatmas and the Maharshis becomes visible to us through Their Light. When an aspirant has resisted the impulse of desires and successfully retained his balance he is ready by the help of the great Gurus to know the Light, Peace and Joy of his own divine nature, which is one with the world of Divinity. Such a man is Brahma-Bhuta – an apparition of Brahman, the Messenger of Brahman, the Sage who is devoted to the good of all.
KINDLING THE FIRE
He who, unattached to the fruit of his actions, performeth such actions as should be done is both a renouncer of action (Sannyasi) and a devotee of right action (Yogi); not he who liveth without kindling sacrificial fire and without ceremonies. – Bhagavad-Gita, VI. 1.
We must have an historical setting for this verse. Its definitions are contrary to those to be found in the ancient record of Shruti, left behind by Sages and Seers. Also in the Smriti, the Persistent Tradition rooted in memory–experience, and in Yoga-Shastras, actual Instructions to aspirants for Sannyasa and Yoga. Literally speaking, the Great Master goes contrary to established accepted definitions. Why?
The first third of the Gita is devoted to and examination of the then existing schools of thought, every one of which suffered from accretions and misinterpretations. The great art of Sannyasa and Yoga had also been corrupted. The synthesis which like a Sutratma connects all points of view (Darshanas) was broken. The first six chapters of the Gita restore the synthesis, and in doing this they naturally point out the errors, by emphasizing the true points of view. These chapters are neither an attack on the false, nor a defence of the true, but a restoration of the lines of thought, at every deflection.
The position taken up by so-called Sannyasis and Yogis, 5,000 years ago, must have been something like that of our free-thinkers, who are only nominally free from the bondage of bias and fanaticism. In reality proud rationalists argue without any basis of reason and knowledge; their minds are fast bound by desires and fancy. They proceed by the negative route: we are not this, we are not that, we do not believe, we do not accept –not, not, not. The moment they begin to define what they are, and formulate their principles of ethics and of philosophy according to which they view life they become confounded. In the days when Shri Krishna taught, the Sannyasis and Yogis were taking this negative route: their proud boast was that they performed no rites and ceremonies, they kindled no fire, and so on. Yet a hundred deeds bound them fast to their pride, and much talk kindled the fire by friction, producing disunity and confusion all round. These nominal Yogis took the path of irresponsibility and indolence: they readily accepted what they should not do, but as readily rejected what they must do. They assumed virtues of omission but not of commission, and so the former became deadly sins.
On the other hand this verse has been exploited by the orthodox who make out that the Gita recommends performance of religious rites. It does not. And yet it does. It certainly does not support the view of religious orthodoxy. How can it? Synthesis of philosophies rises above and goes beyond any and every caste and race, creed and religion. Unless we look upon the Gita as Instruction for the human soul we are bound to be confused, now by one verse, now by another. Therefore if the Gita recommends performance of any ceremony it can only be such as is performed by the human Soul. This is the first lesson of the verse.
Secondly, it tells the aspirant to righteous living and soul-freedom what should be done. Not only does the Gita expose what is false, but also expounds what is true. It does not only say what a man ought not to do, but is positive and practical and says what ought to be practised. Actions must be done; fruits of action must not be allowed to interfere with that performance. What must not be done are deeds which are not duties; and duties must be done with an eye to present duties not to their future results. Thus a man is to be known not by what he does not do, but by what he actually does. Apply that to our present-day Sannyasis: do not judge by what they abjure in the name of their discipline, but by what they do and practise. This is the second lesson of the verse.
The aspirant to Righteous Life, called upon to do duties and to renounce fruits of actions, sorely needs some basic principle for this exercise. This the verse offers – indirectly and by implication. The nature of the actor, the doer of duties, has to be understood. Action is like energy–prana; its result is a form – rupa or body; but it is the actor who alone determines, like the Soul, actions and their results. Most men act unconsciously, that is, without any reference to or without any knowledge of the nature of the actor. If active doing brought peace and illumination our active civilization would be highly enlightened and calm. No – there are too many actions without a cognisance of the actor, with the result that the world is afire and and burning up with bad deeds and good deeds, but all thoughtless deeds. Fire is necessary, but not knowing the art of kindling it we are suffering from actions; the reaction will be towards non-action like those of the Sannyasis we mentioned.
This verse contains, most appropriately, the secret of kindling the fire; this instruction forms the heart of the verse; because it is hidden it is very often missed. This particular Instruction of the Gita is named Dhyana-Yoga; it is knowledge about meditation of a particular kind; in verse 46 it is shown that by this Dhyana the man attains to the superior position of a Dhyani. He is superior to the man of penances and austerities; superior also to the man of learning and even to the doer of noble deeds. He who becomes a member of this Order belongs to the Heart of the spiritual world. It is the most mysterious and secret Order whose father-head is Marichi, according to some texts. These Dhyanis are also known as Vairajas, whom fire cannot consume, because their bodies are composed of the highest essences of Fire. They are men’s real friends, guides and teachers, for They are the makers of Geniuses and Instructors. They kindle the latent Soul-Fire in the Race and feed it, from time to time, lest it go out. They feed that Soul-Fire in each of us by pointing out where the fuel of knowledge is and how it can be used.
The human Soul is born of Fire and is of the nature of fire (agni-jata); his body is the fire-censer (agni-dhana); his foremost duty is preserving and nourishing that fire (agni-rakshana). If we do not want to go wrong we must make that fire the eternal witness of all our deeds. In the marriage rite fire is the symbol of faith and love, which consume every impurity, and of creative wisdom. But that rite itself is the representative of the higher marriage between ourselves and the divinities of our Higher Selves, and it is that union which enables the Spirit-Soul to create Soul-children of radiant fiery-form (agni-rupa); this is what the true Gurus do, for Their chelas are Their children.
In the old rite of Agni-Shtoma the mystery of this Order of Dhyanis was revealed.* In our verse of the Gita the real Sannyasi and Yogi is one who knows how to preserve the Soul-fire in himself; also how to kindle it in others. He is a constant performer of ceremonies, without a thought of reward; these acts are tongues of fire and proceed from within the heart where that fire ever burns. These sacrificial acts or tongues of Soul-fire ascend towards Tapo-loka, the world of Those Dhyanis and they receive the grains of incense thrown for the blessing of our world by the Great Lords. Thus also it is not the chela, but the chela’s good sacrifices and noble acts of Soul, which attract the help and the blessing of the Guru. Actions bind the actor, not to actions but to the Great Actors when we perform deeds without caring for their fruits and rewards.
[* It is the ceremony of sacrifice performed at Spring time and it extends over several days; its symbology refers to the birth of self-consciousness caused by the higher pitris according to Hinduism, to the fall of angels according to Christianity, which process is fully discussed by H. P. Blavatsky in the second volume of The Secret Doctrine. – “The Aryan Path” Editors]
THE STRUCTURE OF THE MIND
Abandoning every desire arising from imagination. – Bhagavad-Gita, VI. 24.
The sixth song of the Great Master contains the first of the lessons in Yoga – control of the senses, desires, thoughts. In verses 24-25 the beginner is told what to do, how to start on that long ascent which ultimately brings him to the summit from which the entire universe is seen. It will take him some time to catch the first view which will convince him beyond doubt that the climb is worth it; it will take him numerous lives before he comes to experience the dazzling splendour of the Universe of Light; and then, acclimatizing himself to it he will realize the radiance and the glory which is the source of that Light Itself. But a beginning has to be made and the earlier we start the better for us.
One of the main difficulties in the control of the senses and the mind is our fanciful imagination. The sights and the sounds from outside are easily shut out when the Soul takes hold of the mind and begins to use it for his own purposes. But sights and sounds also arise within ourselves and disturb the work of the Soul with the mind, and these are formidable. They are memory pictures which have deposited in the mind, during the course of work and play since the body was born, and as we go on we find out that they are even of previous lives. The mind is called the sixth sense and its threads and fibres are interwoven with and in the five senses. All the sense functions, trivial or important, colour the mind and affect its texture. Sense impressions are of the nature of images: every impression produces an image and changes the structure of the mind; every new image affects the old ones – some are wiped out, others fade out, and so on. Now these images result from the five senses and therefore possess the properties of each of them – they have colour, tone or note, smell, feel and taste. A similar but second class of images inhere in us as a result of the function of the organs of action. Between these two sets of images there is difference, but for our purposes it is sufficient to say that they affect the mind – refine or coarsen its texture, brighten or dull its stuff, make for melody or discord. Now, these images are also vehicles of karma. Just as we have the whole complex machinery we call the brain, which is a unit, but every thought, will, feeling and deed changes it by affecting particularly one part or another, so also all these images compose a unit which represents karma. In esoteric language karma is compared to a lotus – it grows out of mud and water; its stem and leaves belong to the earthly part of man; the bud with its capacity to drink the dew of night, to inhale the light of dawn, to absorb the morning sun, represents the celestial part of man.
Therefore these images are the old soil from which new karma, new images come forth. Our ripe or prarabdha karma is a natural product of our past; but our present outlook, our discrimination, our inclinations and choices acted out, give each man a chance to improve himself, the slowly blossoming lotus bud. But for the aspirant who has chosen to tread the path and climb the mountain a new factor arises: he is called upon to abjure from creating new images; neither to dwell with past memory-pictures, nor to create by fancy, imagination, anticipation, new images, thereby strengthening his inner world of mirage. This is real renunciation: it is not the actions which are to be renounced but the force which compels actions. Similarly, our verse does not say that sankalpa–imagination is to be renounced, but the desires (kama) arising from it must be abandoned. This is important: for, just as a man renouncing action falls into the path of passivity, so also the man who refuses to treat his imagination correctly, and will not use it, believing that thus his desires will vanish, takes a wrong course.
We possess the power of imagination (kalpana-tarka-shakti). It is the highest power of man, because it is a compound power in which desire, thought, resolve, and will, all function. These others create partially but imagination creates completely. The other forces create in one state (loka) or another, but imagination is kriya-shakti, creative power, in every loka. Only one or other aspect of imagination is functioning at present; the true Magician alone uses to the full his faculty to build living images. Human evolution may be described as the process by which the Soul who is man recreates himself in order, in symmetry, in harmony, in beauty. This can only be done by imagination–sankalpa, not that fanciful tendency of Shaikh-Chilli, but that faculty by which the Soul makes a matrix in matter and builds an image by filling up that matrix with the life-essence of his own being. This is utpatti, emanation.
Now if you go to our mythology you will find that sankalpa is called one of the Prajapatis, Creators of a whole race of beings. This power ignorantly used, or misused is but a shadow of real Sankalpa, which is personified as a Prajapati. Again it is said that Sankalpa is one of the daughters of Daksha. Now Daksha is ability, dexterity and creativeness personified, and is the title of the parent-creator, lord of creatures, the father of celestial and terrestrial progeny, one of whom is Sankalpa, Imagination – a daughter who is married to Dharma, Law, Order, Wisdom. When Dharma, knowledge and wisdom, woos and weds Sankalpa, Imagination, then are born Dhyanis, true contemplators, who are also called Sankalpa-Siddhas, perfect makers or builders of Living Images.
Just as our artists make pictures and statues, so these Dhyanis fill Akasha with pictures and portraits, idols and images, and we by ceasing to create our own pictures of kama – passionate sense, learn first to see and understand, and then to copy within ourselves, these images. Just as we see constellations in the night-sky, so do we see shining-pictures in the soul-sky, and gazing at them, contemplating them, we become like unto them. The Akasha is the real Temple of the Universe in which all Powers of Nature are Living Idols or Statues and if we worship our parents, Dharma–Wisdom and Sankalpa–Imagination, we will become an Idol in that Temple.
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
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