In history and in our own experience there is abundant evidence that the Bhagavad-Gita is right in saying "spiritual knowledge includes every action without exception," and that it is to be attained by means of devotion. . . I do not decry or despise learning; it is a great possession; but if the learned man were also a devoted one in the sense of the Bhagavad-Gita, how much wider would be the sweep of his intellection no one could calculate.
Learning of the human sort is not despised among the highest Teachers and Helpers of Humanity. They use it and acquire it. They accumulate the record of the experiences of seers and devoted men of small learning for long periods of time, until a great master of both learning and devotion arises who, by reason of his profound knowledge joined to devotion, can make the wonderful deductions in the possession of the great Teachers respecting matters so far beyond us that they can with difficulty be imagined. But this again proves that devotion is the first and best, for these great Helpers would not appear unless devotion had been the aim of their existence.
Without devotion a vast confusion arises within us that has been likened by some to a whirling motion, by others to the inrushing, overpowering flow of turbid waters. Boehme calls it in some aspects "The Turba." It is the delusion produced by the senses. And so Krishna, in closing the second lecture, says:
"Let a man, restraining all these, remain in devotion when at rest, and intent on me alone. For he whose senses are under his control possesses spiritual knowledge. Attachment to objects of sense arises in a man who meditates upon them; from attachment arises desire; from desire passion springs up; from passion comes bewilderment; from bewilderment, confusion of the memory; from confusion of the memory, destruction of the intellect; from destruction of the intellect he perishes.
"But he who approaches the objects of sense with senses free from love and hate and beneath his own control, having his soul well disposed, attains to tranquility of thought. In this tranquility there springs up in him a separation from all troubles. For the mind of him whose thoughts are tranquil soon becomes perfect in concentration."
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Krishna's declaration brings up before us, not only the practices previously inculcated, but also the whole subject of death. For, in order to know how to "think of Him at the moment of death," or to have that tranquility which only perfection of devotion confers, we must find out what death is, and whether it is solely what we see going on at the decease of a human being, or more than can be gauged with the eye. A little reflection shows that what is seen and noted by physicians and spectators is but the withdrawal of the soul and energy from the outer envelope called "body." While that is going on, the person may accept rites of the church or profess adherence to any sort of doctrine whatever, even with his last outward sigh speak of heaven with its bliss awaiting him. But that is only the first step. It leaves his visible features calm and happy, perhaps, in expression; his relatives close his eyes — they call it death. He, however, has only begun to die. The soul has yet to pass through other envelopes beyond the ken of friends, beyond even the dying man's present control. All now depends upon the whole course and kind of thought in which he indulged during the life of the body. For the soul has to pass along the road by which it came, and that way is lined with the memories of a life-time; as these memories rise up they affect the departing entity, causing it to be either disturbed from concentration on the Supreme Being, or assisting to a greater perfection. If, then, some few years only near the close of life were devoted to the sort of practice inculcated by Krishna, the memories of the years previously spent in following after desires will throw a cloud over the soul and absolutely prevent it from attaining that state from which return to earth is impossible without our consent. It is more perfectly illustrated by considering life as a grand musical movement that is brought to a close by using at once all the tones sounded throughout the whole preceding portion. The result will be a combined sound, expressing neither the highest nor the lowest notes, or the sweetest or less sweet, but the resultant of all. And this last sound is the fixed vibration that governs the entity, sounding all through him, and throwing him into the state to which it corresponds or of which it is the key. Thus it is easily seen that in each thought lie the possibilities of a harmony or a discord for life's conclusion. — The Bhagavad-Gita, William Brehon, page 73
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Objections frequently raised against "Reincarnation," and that appear to those who make them to be strong, are some growing out of the emotional part of our nature. They say, "We do not wish to be some one else in another life; how can we recognize our friends and loved ones if they and we change our personality? The absorbing attachments we form here are such that happiness would seem impossible without those we love."
It is useless to say in reply, that if Reincarnation be the law, it can and will make no difference what we would like or dislike. So long as one is governed by his likes or dislikes, logical arguments will not dissipate objections, and, if it is coldly asserted that the beloved objects of our affection pass at death forever beyond us, no relief is afforded to the mind nor is a strictly accurate statement made. In fact, one of the miseries of conditioned existence is the apparent liability of forever losing those upon whom we place our hearts. So to meet this difficulty raised by our present death, the Christian churches have invented their heaven in which reunion is possible under a condition, the acceptance of the dogma of the Redeemer. None of their believers seem to consider that, inasmuch as constantly many of those most closely bound to us by every tie do not and never will meet the prerequisite condition, happiness in that heaven cannot be possible when we constantly are aware that those unbelievers are suffering in hell, for, enough memory being left to permit us to recognize believing friends, we cannot forget the others. Greater than ever, then, that difficulty becomes.
What are these loves? must be asked. They are either (a) a love for the mere physical body, or (b) one for the soul within. Of course in the first case, the body being disintegrated at death, it is not possible for us, nor need we wish — unless we are grossly materialistic — to see that in the other life. And personality belongs only to the body. Hence, if the soul that we do love inhabits another physical frame, it is the law — a part of the law of Reincarnation not often stated or dwelt on — that we will again, when incarnated, meet that same soul in the new tenement. We cannot, however, always recognize it. But that, the recognition or memory of those whom we knew before, is one of the very objects of our study and practice. Not only is this the law as found in ancient books, but it has been positively stated, in the history of the Theosophical Society, in a letter from a Teacher addressed not many years ago to some London Theosophists. In it he asked them if they imagined that they were together as incarnated beings for the first time, stated that they were not, and laid down the rule that the real affinities of soul life drew them together on earth.
To be associated against our will with those who lay upon us the claim of mother, father, brother, son, or wife from a previous life would neither be just nor necessary. Those relations, as such, grew out of physical ties alone, and souls that are alike, who really love each other, as well as those who harbor hate, are brought together in mortal bodies as now father and now son — or otherwise.
So, then, with the doctrine of Devachan we have the answer. In that state we have with us, for all practical purposes and to suit our desire, every one whom we loved on earth: upon being reincarnated we are again with those whose souls we are naturally attracted to.
By living up to the highest and best of our convictions, for humanity and not for self, we make it possible that we shall at last recognize in some earth-life those persons whom we love, and to lose whom forever seems such a dreary and uninviting prospect. — Respecting Reincarnation, Editorial, page 163.
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In order to have in his turn any title to help, he must work for others, but that must not be his motive for working. He who does not feel irresistibly impelled to serve the race, whether he himself fails or not, is bound fast by his own personality, and cannot progress until he has learned that the race is himself and not that body which he now occupies. . . . 'The powers and forces of animal nature can be equally used by the selfish and revengeful, as by the unselfish and all-forgiving; the powers and forces of spirit lend themselves only to the perfectly pure in heart.'
Hear also the words of one of the Helpers of Humanity: ' Perhaps you will better appreciate our meaning when told that in our view the highest aspirations for the welfare of humanity become tainted with selfishness if, in the mind of the philanthropist, there lurks the shadow of a desire for self-benefit or a tendency to do injustice, even when these exist unconsciously to himself.'
. . . . They are well aware, however, from the repeated trials and records of centuries, and from their knowledge of our racial difficulties, how few are the persons who have any clue to their own real nature, which is the foe they attempt to conquer the moment they seek the Higher Knowledge. Hence, they endeavor, so far as Karma permits, to hold unfit individuals back from rash ventures, the results of which would recoil upon their unbalanced lives and drive them to despair.
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. . . It is within your power to constitute yourself a disciple, so far as in you lies, through the purity of your motive and effort if both are sufficiently sustained. No one can fix a period when this effort will bear fruit, and if your patience and faith are not strong enough to bear you through an unlimited (so far as you know) period of unselfish work for humanity, you had better resign your present fancy, for it is then no more than that. But if otherwise, you are to work for the spiritual enlightenment of Humanity in and through the Theosophical Society [and "Universal Brotherhood," — Editor] (which much needs such laborers), remembering the words of the Helpers of Humanity: 'He who does what he can and all that he can, and all that he knows how to do, does enough for us.' This task includes that of divesting yourself of all personality through interior effort, because that work, if done in the right spirit, is even more important to the race than any outward work we can do. Living as you now are, on the outward plane chiefly, your work is due there and is to be done there until your growth shall fit you to pass away from it altogether. . . The Theosophical Society [and "Universal Brotherhood, — Editor] then stands to you, for the time being, for you to aid and work under. If you succeed in lifting yourself and others spiritually, it will be known, no matter what the external silence may seem to be, and you will receive your full dues from those who are honest debtors and ministers of the Just and Perfect Law. You must be ready to work, to wait, and to aspire in silence, just as all do who have fixed their eyes on this goal. Remember that your truest adviser is to be found, and constantly sought, within yourself. Only by experience can you learn to know its voice from that of natural instinct or mere logic, and strengthen this power, by virtue of which the Helpers of Humanity have become what they are. — To Aspirants for Chelaship, Editorial, page 105.