Copyright © 1997 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
| Devachan and Nirvana | Free Will |
G. de P. — It would help us all if we cleared out of our minds the idea that the devachan is some exterior realm into which we enter after we die. It is not so. The devachan is simply a change of consciousness of the human being which takes place after death. Devachan is no locality; it has therefore no position anywhere; it is change of consciousness from earth-consciousness to intellectual-spiritual consciousness. That is all. That is the devachan. It is the child-monad of the spiritual monad, in other words the human monad, which has this change of spiritual outlook and feeling, change of consciousness. That is its devachan; and this is precisely why every devachan is unique to the individual. One man has a long devachan, another man has a short devachan; one a high and lofty devachan, another a devachan of a much inferior degree.
Nirvana is likewise a change of consciousness, but one which takes place in a much more radical degree. Nirvana is the pilgrim-monad's casting off and complete freeing from itself of all its inferior parts, portions, passions, impulses, emotions; so that it enters into perfect wisdom, perfect peace, perfect bliss. It is for the time being utterly free, living in its own essence, a jivanmukta, a freed jiva. A jiva is a monad.
Do not think at any time of the devachan as being something exterior to yourself, as a realm even of consciousness into which you pass. It is you yourself who make each one your own devachan. You become your devachan because for each one of you your devachan is a change in your consciousness. Devachan has no locality, no position in space; and thus it is that the excarnate entity may have its devachan, from the standpoint of position, virtually anywhere in the solar system: the heart of the sun, the heart of the earth, in a filmy cloud, in the petal of a flower, in an atom in your hand — anywhere, it matters not. It has no consciousness of position; it is a point of consciousness in a beautiful dream state; a point of consciousness is the human monad. Death frees it from the magnetic and emotional attractions which bind it to this life of flesh. Being freed from these lower attractions it can indulge its dreams, its yearnings for beauty, peace, love, happiness, grandeur, philosophy, religion, music, whatever it has been most intent upon and spiritually attached to while alive in the body.
That is the devachan. Each individual makes its own devachan. I do hope this is made clear. I repeat, do not think of the devachan as a place or realm or kingdom or sphere to which you travel after death, or into which you enter after death. It is a change of consciousness, just exactly as a man may awaken from sleep in the morning unhappy, let us say, wretched about some thought he has in his mind, some worry. An idea touches his mind and brightens it, and he becomes happy and his heart sings. It is just a change of consciousness. That is a sort of devachan; and actually many people live in devachan while they are incarnate in a body on earth. They are devachanis, they are not awake, they do not really live, they live in a dream-land, happy it may be but temporarily insensate because unreal.
Now nirvana, contrariwise, is consciousness and vision of Reality, because the consciousness then is freed of all crippling, enshrouding veils which blind it. It cognizes, knows, "feels," and understands essences exactly as they are. Why? Because the consciousness of the monad for the time being has become co-extensive and co-vibrational with the cosmic mind, with the cosmic soul, the anima mundi. The dewdrop for the time being slips into the shining sea.
There is a seeming reluctance on your part, my Brothers, boldly to face and to understand the so-called problem of free will. There is no need to shirk this problem. The essence of a man is will, which is one of the facets of that eternal mystery of which other facets are consciousness, intelligence, love — human words, but it is in words that we imbody our intuitions of these realities. Every monad of the countless hosts of them — and they are infinite in number, which means beginningless and endless — every monad, however far evolved or however greatly unevolved, has its modicum or portion of free will, which it has self-won by evolving forth its own essence through striving — but through karma likewise. Why? Here is the secret, and you have been told it time and time again. The core of the core of the heart of the heart of each one of you is THAT, Parabrahman, the Boundless. Strip off sheath after sheath after sheath of consciousness through almost endless ages. That final kernel — you will never reach it because it is infinity — that final kernel, that ultimate something, is THAT, the heart of the Boundless: Tat twam asi, That thou art.
Therefore our free will, however much it may be crippled through our ignorance, stupidity, and sleeping in matter, that free will is essentially the free will of infinitude with which each one of us is inherently endowed, because it is a part of our essence, since we are all children of this infinitude. We are drops in the ocean of cosmic life, and the heart of each such drop contains its portion of that cosmic ocean's free will. And a man's free will becomes progressively freer precisely in proportion as he can outgrow his humanity and become more divine, which means become more alike unto his own inner center of being, the heart of things, the heart of the universe, Parabrahman, THAT.
What is karma? Karma comes upon us because we are integral and inseparable parts of a greater cosmic life which works upon us, which reacts against our feeble efforts to kick against the pricks: that is to say, willfully to follow our selfish or quasi-selfish passions and thoughts. Nature strives eternally to re-establish broken equilibriums, which mean disharmonies. As long as a being lives for itself alone, or partially so, and forgets the universe of which it is an inseparable part and the rights and interests of other beings, just so long will such action be selfish or partially selfish — and the great weight of nature will be reacting against such selfish procedures. This action and its consequent reaction form karma. The road to peace, inexpressible power and bliss, is by remembering — and acting upon the remembrance — that we are all integral parts in the greater life in which we live. This greater life in its turn is but one of a multitude of other greater lives forming a still greater life; and this forms part of the background, the ocean of consciousness, which rolls its waves through us, unconsciously to us. This greater life in its turn is but one unit in a body, an aggregate, forming an atom, if you like, in the being of a still greater consciousness; and so on as far as our universe extends. And our universe is only one of an infinite number of others, which in their fashion build up still greater structures of cosmic existence.
Now, you have all the weight of these various aggregates pressing upon the will of each one of you; and your will is supreme above them all, if you will use it; for you are a child of the Boundless. That slender thread of will which is a function of consciousness, of intelligence, can prevail over a universe. The weight of the universe cannot crush it out, for that universe is but a larger imbodiment of the same thing, which finds its more feeble thread of action in each one of us. The very heart of a man is free will — but this is not the indeterminacy of which modern scientists are talking, not at all. There is absolutely naught that is fortuitous or chancy about it. It is the very essence of things. A man has free will because he is an integral and inseparable drop in the cosmic life-intelligence; and as a man enters ever more and more into the wondrous deeps of his being, he comes into ever larger and larger measure of will, of intelligence, of wisdom, of love, of all the cosmic qualities of which we feel but feeble reflections.
Now, an atom, a molecule, or a cell in our physical bodies is as much an entity as any one of you is — because each one is a composite being, just as you are in your composite character, and yet each one imbodies a monad just as each one of you imbodies a monad. Each such individual feels all the weight and the urge of the will, the aspirations, and the sins, of the man whose body it helps to build. Yet nothing that the man can do, no matter how greatly he sin or how greatly he rise, can change that spark of free will in that molecule, in that atom, in that electron, in that inhabitant of an electron, or in that cell which helps to build his body; and that entity, call it by what name you will, can strive against the great weight of your will and your karma acting upon it, and react against it. Just so we human beings, or the gods, or the beasts, or what not in our own universe, strive against the surrounding weight of the universe which presses against us. We act upon it, and it reacts against us; yet it cannot crush us. We can control it, or portions of it, if we use our will, just as it to a certain extent controls us and uses us.
Do not get the idea that man is a mere machine. It is not true. Man has free will, because his essence, the fountain of his being, that kernel in him from which flows forth into manifestation all that is, that heart, the core of that kernel, is That — and all relations between it and any individual offspring of it are karma. This is so because the part, the offspring, is absolutely and unto eternity inseparable from the whole. Tat twam asi.