This word denotes a topic much to the fore nowadays; but it is customary to lay too much stress on the formal and ritualistic aspect of the question, to the neglect of its all-important real meaning. This shows a materialistic attitude, such as that whereby religions have deteriorated so that the outward and visible form has overshadowed the inward and spiritual grace. We have here a touchstone by which to distinguish the spurious from the genuine.
It is doubtless true that a day will eventually come to any aspiring pilgrim on the path of Wisdom when he will be called upon to undergo some special and formal initiations and to pass or fail to pass certain severe tests of his character and worthiness. But towards such a prospect as this it would be well to observe an unexpecting attitude, and not try to forestall it in our thoughts; for in the meantime there are so many vital opportunities occurring at every step in the life which we have to lead, by which we may win either success or failure in the apparently insignificant, but really all-important incidents of ordinary experience. These are the real initiations, and it is upon them that our eyes should be fixed — on the now rather than the distant prospect.
Initiation means the progressive unification of the personal self and the Higher Self; a process which can go on all the time, and by which we may ascend step after step if we are sufficiently in earnest. Further, we may be sure that we shall never be judged fit to undergo the higher and more formal initiation until we have shown by our success in these daily trials that we are deemed worthy of being so tested with any chance of success.
The necessary preliminaries to true initiation are to be found set forth in The Voice of the Silence, Third Fragment.
The first is:
Dana, the key of charity and love immortal.
The Sanskrit word means "giving." The motive for entering initiation must be unselfish. This rules out all systems of "initiation" which appeal to personal ambition. It is a thing which we may cultivate all the time; and until we have mastered it, our further progress will be barred; but what vistas may open up to us if we succeed in this first step! Think of the chances we miss; think of our complaints that we do not progress.
A pure strong unselfish thought beaming in the mind lifts the whole being to the heights of Light.
Thus said a Teacher. True, we cannot leap at one bound from selfishness to unselfishness, nor would it be wise to attempt it; but we can progress continually, and go forward in spite of many slips back; we can "grow as the flower grows."
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.
This means acquiescence in whatever Karma has in store; so that we shall not be forever carping, running away from one thing and running after another — harmony in thought and act, the Gita attitude. This again will come gradually; in its turn this is an acquiescence of the lower mind in the wisdom of the Higher; so that its purport is the same as that of the first key.
3. Kshanti, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
This involves Faith, reliance on the wisdom of the Higher Self, on the Buddhic light that can illumine the Manas and blow away the dust from the mirror. Union between lower and Higher again, as in the first two keys. The lower mind gets busy trying to fix things, and thus worries us and interferes with the steady patient wisdom of the Higher. Impatience is of the lower passional nature.
Such are a few hints as to the true meaning of initiation. If we can turn our minds more from speculating on the grandiose aspect of the question, and condescend to stoop to the less spectacular but far more important and really weighty affairs of the passing moment, we may pass successfully (or miss another fine chance) at any time. The lower man, not wishing to be dethroned, will use the mind for devising all sorts of excuses for evading what it fears so much. You do not want to become pious or a prig; it is unhealthy to be always brooding over trifles — and so on. But it is possible that some people may view the matter rationally rather than emotionally, and be enough in earnest to experiment.