THE YOGA OF PURITY
The Living Ethics of Theosophy
It is perhaps a little known fact to those who are not Theosophists themselves that the constant underlying theme and heartbeat of Theosophy is selfless service to humanity, absolute altruism, and the Bodhisattva ideal of renouncing all self-interest and personal desire in order to live solely to be of the utmost possible help and benefit to all living beings.
There is certainly no higher, nobler, or more truly spiritual ideal known to human thought and aspiration. The true origin, nature, and worth of any system of spiritual teaching or any spiritual or religious movement can be easily determined by assessing what degree of emphasis and importance is placed upon service and upon the individual becoming a true helper and server of the human race.
Many popular spiritual teachings today have absolutely nothing to say about such things and focus largely or even exclusively on achieving the manifestation of all personal desires and ambitions, acquiring wealth and material possessions through metaphysical means, or simply attaining spiritual bliss, peace, and happiness for oneself.
Theosophy, like all Ancient Wisdom, has always taken the opposite stance to such approaches, which it would not hesitate to class as selfishness. The Theosophical teaching states that if we are pursuing the spiritual life and the path of spiritual development solely – or even only partially – for our own sake, then we have missed the whole point. It’s not about us; it’s about humanity itself, from which none of us can separate ourselves, since all life is truly the ONE Life.
Theosophy endorses and encourages a life of personal purity and selflessness akin to that described so vigorously and rigorously in all the great Eastern teachings, from the precepts and teachings of Buddha in the Dhammapada to the wisdom of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita and the repeated emphasis on mental and moral purity and desirelessness that permeates the Upanishads.
Many Theosophists are vegetarians and also abstain from drinking alcohol and over the years a relatively significant number have also chosen to remain unmarried and celibate in order to expend their focus, energy, and devotion solely towards the spiritual life and being of service to the human family.
It is not popular today to place emphasis on living a life of purity, cleanliness, and holiness. To many such a thing sounds both unnecessary and impossible of attainment. Perhaps this attitude is partly due to centuries of Christian hypocrisy, in which the pure moral and ethical principles of Jesus were constantly preached and memorised but rarely, if ever, acted upon and made a permanent part of life – whether personal, family, social, or business life – by those who professed them.
The passages quoted below from “The Voice of the Silence” – the final book written by H.P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Movement, and translated by her from the esoteric treatise “The Book of the Golden Precepts” – place much emphasis on self-denial, self-discipline, self-mastery, control and purification of the mind and thoughts, humility, the practical application of compassion and lovingkindness, and the importance of killing out all personal desire and ambition.
Such ideas no doubt sound somewhat extreme to many Westerners, regardless of whether they view themselves as spiritual or not, yet they seem perfectly natural, normal, and reasonable to Hindus and Buddhists, whose religions and philosophies are veritably founded upon such principles, ideals, and practices. The only enemy of selflessness is selfishness and this is the great disease of the Western soul especially and the curse of humanity at large.
Madame Blavatsky laboured under no illusions and recognised the tremendous grip and power over the human race of selfishness, the “personal idea,” and the vain and constant struggle of the masses for self-centred fulfillment and achievement. She wrote in the preface to “The Voice of the Silence” that the reason the book was so short, consisting of the translations of but three fragments of text – namely “The Voice of the Silence,” “The Two Paths,” and “The Seven Portals” – was due to the sorrowful fact that even those would barely be given a second glance by the vast majority of people. That powerful and inspiring little book was thus “Dedicated to the Few.”
It is true that Theosophy has much to say about metaphysical and esoteric matters and that its voluminous literature abounds with teachings and references on such things as Brahman, Parabrahm, the Logos, planetary chains, root races, Dhyani Buddhas, Fohat, Atlantis, Lemuria, the Higher Self, the astral body, Manvantara and Pralaya, Kamaloka and Devachan, the nature of the soul, Nirvana, the seven planes of existence, and so on and so forth.
All these have their place and their own importance. Yet at the end of her life, HPB stated that the most vitally important things for the student of Theosophy to understand and to promulgate are Karma, Reincarnation, and the Ethics of Theosophy. It is only the firm and clear knowledge and understanding of these principles, and the sincere application in daily life and thought of that knowledge and understanding, that can save humanity.
Echoing all of the great World Saviours of past ages, “The Voice of the Silence” says “Give up thy life, if thou wouldst live!” To actually and definitely make the sacrifice of the little personal self for the sake of the One Self and to live thereafter with the sole intention and aspiration of living simply to be an impersonal beneficent force for good in this world and beyond…there is nothing higher than this. Such commitment and consecration carries the soul to levels and vistas of thought, perception, experience, and inner evolution that nothing else can bring about.
“The man must die so that the saint may be born,” says a Sufi proverb.
The average person may perhaps not be able to gain such an aspiration or actualisation in their present lifetime but those who can should endeavour to do so and to then serve as guiding lights, beacons of hope and inspiration, for the rest.
To help, to heal, and to love. This is the constant heartbeat and motto of the sincere Theosophist. There are many sources from which we could have quoted in this article, particularly “Light on the Path” (said to have been dictated to Mabel Collins by the Master Hilarion) but we have decided to quote here from just one book, “The Voice of the Silence.” Readers in the UK who may be interested after reading these in acquiring their own copy of the book in its entirety can do so in person or by online order for just £1.30 from the ULT (United Lodge of Theosophists) in London.
H.P. Blavatsky was herself one of the great World Teachers and Saviours of humanity…providing mankind with the means and the knowledge with which to save themselves and embodying in herself the principles and qualities of altruistic self-sacrifice and enduring compassion despite intense physical suffering and illness and being the victim of more appallingly slanderous attacks, lies, and constant persecution than almost any other public figure in modern history.
Ex oriente lux – the Light comes from the East. May we all embrace and embody that Light and set foot upon the long, weary, yet joyous path which eventually will result in us becoming Bodhisattvas in our own right.
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* Eternal life’s pure waters, clear and crystal, with the monsoon tempest’s muddy torrents cannot mingle.
Heaven’s dew-drop glittering in the morn’s first sun-beam within the bosom of the lotus, when dropped on earth becomes a piece of clay; behold, the pearl is now a speck of mire.
Strive with thy thoughts unclean before they overpower thee. Use them as they will thee, for if thou sparest them and they take root and grow, know well, these thoughts will overpower and kill thee. Beware, Disciple, suffer not, e’en though it be their shadow, to approach. For it will grow, increase in size and power, and then this thing of darkness will absorb thy being before thou hast well realized the black foul monster’s presence.
* The Self of matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both.
Ere thy Soul’s mind can understand, the bud of personality must be crushed out, the worm of sense destroyed past resurrection.
Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself.
* Let thy Soul lend its ear to every cry of pain like as the lotus bares its heart to drink the morning sun.
Let not the fierce Sun dry one tear of pain before thyself hast wiped it from the sufferer’s eye.
But let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain, nor ever brush it off, until the pain that caused it is removed.
* Kill out desire; but if thou killest it take heed lest from the dead it should again arise.
Kill love of life, but if thou slayest tanha, let this not be for thirst of life eternal, but to replace the fleeting by the everlasting.
Desire nothing. Chafe not at Karma, nor at Nature’s changeless laws. But struggle only with the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the perishable.
Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance.
* Kill thy desires, Lanoo, make thy vices impotent, ere the first step is taken on the solemn journey.
Strangle thy sins, and make them dumb for ever, before thou dost lift one foot to mount the ladder.
* Kill in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or thou art lost.
Do not believe that lust can ever be killed out if gratified or satiated, for this is an abomination inspired by Mara. It is by feeding vice that it expands and waxes strong, like to the worm that fattens on the blossom’s heart.
* Shun ignorance, and likewise shun illusion. Avert thy face from world deceptions; mistrust thy senses, they are false. But within thy body – the shrine of thy sensations – seek in the Impersonal for the “eternal man”; and having sought him out, look inward: thou art Buddha.
* Shun praise, O Devotee. Praise leads to self-delusion. Thy body is not self, thy SELF is in itself without a body, and either praise or blame affects it not.
Self-gratulation, O disciple, is like unto a lofty tower, up which a haughty fool has climbed. Thereon he sits in prideful solitude and unperceived by any but himself.
* To live to benefit mankind is the first step. To practise the six glorious virtues is the second.
To don Nirmanakaya’s humble robe is to forego eternal bliss for Self, to help on man’s salvation. To reach Nirvana’s bliss, but to renounce it, is the supreme, the final step – the highest on Renunciation’s Path.
Know, O Disciple, this is the Secret PATH, selected by the Buddhas of Perfection, who sacrificed The SELF to weaker Selves.
* Learn that no efforts, not the smallest – whether in right or wrong direction – can vanish from the world of causes. E’en wasted smoke remains not traceless. “A harsh word uttered in past lives, is not destroyed but ever comes again.” The pepper plant will not give birth to roses, nor the sweet jessamine’s silver star to thorn or thistle turn.
Thou canst create this “day” thy chances for thy “morrow.” In the “Great Journey,” causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for rigid Justice rules the World. With mighty sweep of never erring action, it brings to mortals lives of weal or woe, the Karmic progeny of all our former thoughts and deeds.
Take then as much as merit hath in store for thee, O thou of patient heart. Be of good cheer and rest content with fate. Such is thy Karma, the Karma of the cycle of thy births, the destiny of those, who, in their pain and sorrow, are born along with thee, rejoice and weep from life to life, chained to thy previous actions.
* If Sun thou can’st not be, then be the humble planet. Aye, if thou art debarred from flaming like the noon-day Sun upon the snow-capped mount of purity eternal, then choose, O Neophyte, a humbler course.
Point out the “Way” – however dimly, and lost among the host – as does the evening star to those who tread their path in darkness.
* Give light and comfort to the toiling pilgrim, and seek out him who knows still less than thou; who in his wretched desolation sits starving for the bread of Wisdom and the bread which feeds the shadow, without a Teacher, hope or consolation, and – let him hear the Law.
* Be humble, if thou would’st attain to Wisdom.
Be humbler still, when Wisdom thou hast mastered.
Be like the Ocean which receives all streams and rivers. The Ocean’s mighty calm remains unmoved; it feels them not.
Restrain by thy Divine thy lower Self.
Restrain by the Eternal the Divine.
Aye, great is he, who is the slayer of desire.
Still greater he, in whom the Self Divine has slain the very knowledge of desire.
Guard thou the Lower lest it soil the Higher.
The way to final freedom is within thy SELF.
That way begins and ends outside of Self.
* These Portals lead the aspirant across the waters on “to the other shore.” Each Portal hath a golden key that openeth its gate; and these keys are: –
1. DANA, the key of charity and love immortal.
2. SHILA, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
3. KSHANTI, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
4. VIRAG’, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived.
5. VIRYA, the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial.
6. DHYANA, whose golden gate once opened leads the Narjol toward the realm of Sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.
7. PRAJNA, the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis.
Such to the Portals are the golden keys.
Before thou canst approach the last, O weaver of thy freedom, thou hast to master these Paramitas of perfection – the virtues transcendental six and ten in number – along the weary Path.
* Before thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy body from the mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things, all things in SELF.
Thou shalt not let thy senses make a playground of thy mind.
Thou shalt not separate thy being from BEING, and the rest, but merge the Ocean in the drop, the drop within the Ocean.
So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother.
Of teachers there are many; the MASTER-SOUL is one, Alaya, the Universal Soul. Live in that MASTER as ITS ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they live in IT.
* If thou wouldst not be slain by them, then must thou harmless make thy own creations, the children of thy thoughts, unseen, impalpable, that swarm round humankind, the progeny and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils. Thou hast to study the voidness of the seeming full, the fullness of the seeming void.
* Have mastery o’er thy thoughts, O striver for perfection, if thou would’st cross its threshold.
Have mastery o’er thy Soul, O seeker after truths undying, if thou would’st reach the goal.
Thy Soul-gaze centre on the One Pure Light, the Light that is free from affection, and use thy golden Key.
* Canst thou destroy divine COMPASSION? Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of LAWS – eternal Harmony, Alaya’s SELF; a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right, and fitness of all things, the law of love eternal.
The more thou dost become at one with it, thy being melted in its BEING, the more thy Soul unites with that which IS, the more thou wilt become COMPASSION ABSOLUTE.
Such is the Arya Path, Path of the Buddhas of perfection.
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The first and foremost of the three stated objects or objectives of the Theosophical Movement is the actualisation of Universal Brotherhood. According to Theosophy, Universal Brotherhood is not merely a high and lofty ideal but is eternally a fact in Nature because of the oneness and divineness of all life.