In every human being is something which longs for compassion, love, happiness, and peace. Far too often this longing is disregarded by us or, so we often think, by our fellows. Yet is anything more fundamental than these urges streaming from our hearts?
We start in this world as small seeds of life. Very soon the human-in-seed accumulates substance around itself, provided through the caring mother. The baby grows and after nine months leaves the womb to enter upon the stage of life. But for what purpose? There is one, and it is a divine purpose as we shall see.
The baby passes through many experiences and grows and learns with amazing rapidity. We all know what a baby needs most: love and care. And, although we truthfully say a baby is not wise, yet the little one knows how to provide the caring elders with love and happiness. When we progress from child to adult, this gift of passing on love is more difficult to offer in daily life. What has changed? For one thing, the baby in the meantime has acquired a measure of self-consciousness, so that the little human may reflect and perceive. During the first few years the baby learns to use his sense organs to differentiate between self and objects, and also to speak. Speech transforms thoughts into sounds which others can understand, which in turn provides the opportunity for an exchange of ideas.
Around the age of seven a new critical stage is entered. Profound questions are often raised by the child with a firm desire to know about his or her origin, destiny, and the wonders of Mother Nature that surround us. Because the young child is able to raise questions which touch so deeply upon the essentials of existence, many times the parents are completely baffled.
The evolution of mind reaches a new critical point during the often frightening years of adolescence. The youngster starts to recognize more fully that he or she is an individual who is part of this world, of this great plan, an individual who is entitled to have some responsibility of his own; furthermore, an individual who desires to make choices himself, who wants to take his own evolution in hand using his own mind.
Such a right we do indeed have, but how shall we use it? The same process has taken place with all of us throughout the history of mankind. And the process continues, for history has not yet been fully written. How indeed do we continue? The roots of mind can be traced back to the period of "innocence," during which babies instinctively pour forth from the roots of their being streams of love. Can we not say that mind has developed in order to do this self-consciously rather than merely instinctively? The mind, then, is necessary to implement the common divine heritage which we bring over from the other shore of life, and which, in time, we will come to know in a self-conscious and responsible way. This is our main purpose, our main task, our grand duty.
A study of our origin, nature, and destiny increasingly expands our consciousness because we discover that we are more than we have ever dreamed of, that our destiny is larger than we ever hoped for, and that our origin is altogether indescribable. G. de Purucker wrote about seven "jewels of wisdom." The grand vistas of these timeless concepts give us purpose and meaning, and challenge us if we turn to them and apply them. These jewels are interrelated with a knowledge of how and why to love, to raise our minds, to live in harmony, to be virtuous.
What are these jewels? The first is reimbodiment. It tells us that the inner being takes on bodies again and again in order to manifest, experience, learn, become. The teaching of reimbodiment enlarges our vision of life. It becomes apparent that we live not only once, which is nothing on a cosmic time scale, but many times. Moreover, it shows that the real person is the inner being, who each time takes on new vestures at birth and after death, which is only a change of condition and plane. The teaching becomes clearer when we realize that universes, planets, mayflies, and even atoms also "change clothes." New stars "turn on" in their bodies of interstellar dust and "turn off" when their lifetime is finished, leaving behind the interstellar dust they used. Could we not truly say that the real star comes and goes?
The second jewel concerns karma or causation. It tells us that everything is in constant motion and that all beings are interrelated by an infinite chain of action and reaction. The teaching of karma — or perfect justice — can give new meaning to our lives. It brings home that there is not the slightest thing we do, nor the slightest thing that crosses our path, but is rooted in the past and extending into the future. It shows us that we can bless or mar our lives, and that we are our own judge. Linking the teaching of karma with reimbodiment reveals that this chain of cause and effect, which makes us what we are, reaches back infinite lives and will reach infinite lives into the future. In other words, the teaching implies that we will reap only what we have sown. If we are careful to sow deeds of love and compassion, we can trust in the results.
The third jewel is the doctrine of hierarchies of beings forming worlds, all working through and upon each other, the great containing the small. Coming to understand that our world is one of many in this vast universe creates an awareness of the beautiful, yet responsible, journey we are making. Why? Because we are linked with the All, from the smallest atom to the largest universe, our actions are not limited to ourselves in their effects. The whole of existence is thoroughly interdependent.
The fourth jewel teaches the fundamental individuality of each entity. It is the doctrine of self-becoming, the self-generation of the essential characteristics at the heart of every individual. At the heart of each one lives a spiritual being who
can evolve only by raising inferior souls and psychological vehicles into self-conscious entities, which thus in turn themselves become monads. THIS IS THE GENERALIZED AND ENTIRE PLAN OF EVOLUTION ON ALL PLANES. This is our great work. This is our high destiny. Our supreme self, our Param\matman, our supreme monad, our highest self, the summit of our hierarchy, is doing that work consciously; we as self-conscious humans are doing it in our smaller way; . . . No man can live unto himself alone; no man can rise to spirit alone. It is of the very essence of nature that he must, willy-nilly, carry with him, up or down, innumerable other entities and inferior selves, along the upward or the downward path. — G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 188
This implies that there is a spiritual being at the heart of ourselves trying to help, trying to initiate us. This is not fatalism, because we have to take the initiative in order to receive assistance. In the words of the Buddha, we have to "work out our own salvation," which also means that we have to face ourselves. This spiritual being is like a parent to the baby; it is our teacher, our inner master. Yet we have to call forth our own master, self-developed, self-generated. This is a very subtle thought. It is like taking advice from a wise man or woman, but before we benefit from it we must practice it ourselves, possibly over and over, because we do not yet catch the idea thoroughly enough — we have not yet thoroughly become it. All of us know how difficult it can be to put good advice into practice because our personal self resists and we need to give up a part of our limited selves. We need to let go and move on.
This teaching leaves no room for an almighty, redeeming God who will do it for us. It doesn't mean that we will eventually merge into a wholeness in which we utterly lose our individuality, or that we do not need to think. Rather, it points to an idea so beautifully expressed by an Oriental poet — that we all can and do contribute our essential characteristic part to the great plan in which we live and have our being:
Are we not the tunes of the same one dream?
Are we not the stars of the same one gleam?
Are we not the fruits of the same one tree?
Are we not the waves of the same one sea?
What hope, what perspective — yet such a grand symphony necessarily includes dissonances. They are required for the composition, but we need not choose to play them ourselves. However, nobody has the right to condemn others for choosing to play a dissonant note. Besides, we should carefully concentrate on playing our own tune, and make sure that it is in harmony with the larger symphony.
The fifth jewel, evolution, means unfolding from within outwards and infolding from without inwards. The urge necessary for this evolution is found in the preceding concept of self-generation: we bring ourselves forth out of the depths of our being because the urge radiating from our spiritual self touches our heart — the moment we are ready to become it, it is there, at that very moment. Assuredly, because we have everything in potential, everything is contained in the smallest seed of life from which blossom the great trees of being. It can touch upon our sleeping and dreaming faculties, awaken us out of our deep sleep, yet our sleep was at the same time coming to its end, and while slumbering we already desired to rise. And why do we rise? In order to evolve, in order that our faculties which rested for a while might develop further and bring out the infinite potential each one contains. This amazing process happens each morning in the small, and its counterpart occurs each evening. In this we can see an illustration of how to apply profound knowledge in understanding our daily lives, and how the great is contained in the small, and the small in the great.
Winging to the sixth jewel we learn about the two paths: the spiritual path for oneself, and the path of immortality which implies the giving up of self. This jewel challenges us to deepen our motives. Thinking about how wonderful the mysteries of life are, and what benefit they could bring if we were but able to unlock them, is of the utmost importance. Who or what do we want to benefit by it? Ourselves? Others? Mankind? Both ourselves and others? First ourselves, then others? Others first, but then ourselves? There are many possible motives for action. As is the case with thoughts, motives are generally a mixture of noble and selfish characteristics. Our motives should be as clear as the waters of a mountain lake. The upward path of spiritual growth has altruism as its foundation. The whole cosmic plan is based upon entities evolving and raising the entities below, showing them the path to growth; the entities below evolving themselves and raising other entities still beneath them, and so on throughout an infinite chain of teacher and pupil, parent and child.
This jewel teaches about the upward path which at the end is twofold. The first path is called LIBERATION or the "Open Way," and leads to the unspeakable bliss of nirvana. The second path is called RENUNCIATION or the "Secret Way," where nirvana is renounced by the eternal pilgrim in order to become a beneficent force in the world. The pilgrim on the first path makes his obeisance but to his supreme self. The pilgrim on the second path makes obeisance to the LAW of Laws — divine compassion:
Now bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva — Compassion speaks and saith: "Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?" — H. P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence, p. 71
The pilgrim will decide, but the decision is based on all the motives, thoughts, and actions out of which he carves his path upwards.
The last jewel is said to be the most difficult to understand because it teaches, among other things, about our supreme self, our root origin, so it necessarily includes all the other jewels. The essential meaning is how and why the One becomes many, the one gleam becomes many stars, one tree becomes many fruits, and the one sea breaks into many waves. Yet the One never becomes the many, remaining eternally itself — a sublime and wonderful paradox. "Containing all things in the summit of his own hyparxis, he himself subsists wholly beyond" (Proclus, The Theology of Plato, Bk. III). This is the most difficult problem the human spirit is faced with. To solve it we must become the One, live in the One, as its spiritual beam lives in us.
These, then, are the jewels of wisdom roughly outlined. Our understanding of them is a work of ages. Developing our understanding with a clear and flexible mind creates more and more awareness of what they mean, and throws new light upon them again and again. The only way to acquire any certainty is to ensoul the teachings in our lives. And what makes all this possible? Using our mind to grow, reflect, and become ever more fully conscious of our greater self, and acting accordingly. The core of it all is love or compassion, binding all beings into one eternal BECOMING, a universal brotherhood.
(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 1999. Copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press)