When the great Prince Siddhartha of India had attained to Buddhahood, and returned to the cities to teach the common people, he used to begin by pointing out the universal overwhelming fact of Sorrow. This obvious truth arrested their attention, so that they listened eagerly while the Master went on to tell them the cause of their pain, and its cure.
To-day, 2500 years after the passing of the gentle Prince, we still live familiarly with sorrow, brought upon ourselves by what he called desire, and what our modern teachers sometimes call "the heresy of separateness"; for to desire anything implies a real or imagined separateness from that thing; and every evil in the universe may be traced to man's continual and pitiful conviction that he is separate from that universe, and that all its forces are arrayed against him. And just as fear, in an animal, causes physical contraction, an automatic preparation for fight or flight, so the fear, in man, of a supposedly hostile universe, causes a spiritual contraction, a density, which makes it almost impossible for his own inner light to shine through.
So is formed a vicious circle, of fear prolonging ignorance, and ignorance causing fear; ignorance of that law which is the basis of Theosophy and the supreme fact of the universe — the Law of Unity. Life is one. And since we are taught that there is no such thing as a particle of dead matter, and that everything that exists, whether seen or unseen, is a vibrating mass of myriads of lives, it follows that man, being one with a living universe, is about as reasonable in his fear as a drop of ocean spray would be if it feared to fall back into the sea.
"What a piece of work is a man! . . .. in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!".
Shakespeare might have added that man is of all beings the completest representative of the All. He is, in fact, the universe in miniature. Standing at the middle point of the path of evolution, he may claim kinship with every phase of existence, material or ethereal, each having its counterpart in his own sevenfold constitution. The beasts below him lack the thinking principle. The gods above him have no further need for the physical body. But man is god, thinker and animal in one — a spark of the Divine, enwrapped in layer upon layer of consciousness epitomising in successive stages the entire plan of the universe.
In the Stanzas of Dzyan we are told how the spirits of the sun, moon and earth combined to produce the form of man; how every kingdom of nature contributed its share; and how, at length, when the vehicle was ready, the gods themselves leaned down and added of their own immortal essence — the crowning endowment of Mind.
How indissolubly linked is this son of the gods with the universe that produced him, may be seen for example in the action of the cyclic law, to which he is subject in common with every other form of life.
The circling of the planets, the procession of the seasons, the rise and fall of civilizations, the tides of the sea, express a rhythm which is equally apparent in the life of man, in his breathing, in his sleeping and waking, his working and resting, his successive incarnations upon earth.
And if his composite and complicated nature makes of him a sort of battleground, and causes trials and difficulties, it should also, when even a little understood, give him joy as a vessel of eternal truth, dignity as an incarnate god, serenity as a child-soul of the great soul of the universe, and compassion as an elder brother of less evolved men and of beasts.
The beginning of an understanding of himself will lead to the realization of the folly of fear; to the expansion of mind and spirit until they embrace the whole of humanity, so that he will regard personal misfortune no longer as something hostile, but as an opportunity to lift at least a small part of the vast accumulation of Karmic debt forever from the shoulders of men. That which the world calls good fortune, he will see as something neither to be courted nor shunned, but to be shared and passed on to his brothers; even as their kindness to him, their help in trouble, is a thing not necessarily to be repaid to the giver, but to be passed on again to those who need it. He will feel an added tenderness for friends who for untold ages have trod the pilgrim's path beside him; and a new and kindlier interest in enemies, whom he himself has caused as it were to haunt him, but whose innermost light is identical with his own.
He will look upon his present fleeting personality as a guise, a mask, a medium for earthly experience; upon the span of life as one short chapter in a breathlessly exciting tale; upon the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth with its mountains and molehills, its birds and its beasts and its rivers and every speck of dust and blade of grass upon it, as his own, his companions, his greater and lesser brothers, his fellow-pilgrims, all subject to the one vast and ultimately friendly Law, all striving, toiling, gradually evolving towards the perfect beauty, the perfect harmony, the perfect peace. He will cherish this perfection, which, though seen dimly and afar, yet abides eternally and mysteriously at the heart of him; and he will know himself to be forever unassailable and indestructible, depending only for his guidance on that inner divinity which the followers of the gentle Siddhartha proclaim to this day:
"I take my refuge in the Buddha."
"I unify myself with the god within me."
1. Reprinted from Y Fforwm Theosoffaid, May,1938. (return to text)
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