Theosophical University Press Online Edition
The Vision of the Lord Buddha
Rules of Conduct
Common Sense in the Home
An Attitude of Balance and Vision
Forgiveness and Karmic Action
Capturing a World with Ideas
Karmic Results and the Bardo
The Guerdon of Self-Forgetfulness
"Vengeance Is Mine"
When I was a boy of twelve I came upon a Buddhist quotation which fascinated imagination, mind, and heart. I think it was one of the things which in this life awoke me more than any other thing that I can recollect. It is pure theosophy and genuine Buddhist doctrine. It is this: the Lord Buddha is speaking, and I am paraphrasing his words in order to make them clearer: "O disciples, never let discouragement enter into your souls. See you suffering in the world, see you unhappiness and pain and ignorance, misery and distress which wring the heart? Disciples, all things are destined to pass into buddhahood: the stones, the plants, the beasts, all the component atoms of these, each and every one, aye, and sun and moon and stars and planets — all in future ages will become buddha. Each one will become a buddha."
What a marvelous picture! How it quiets the heart and stills the mind; for if one atom, one man, become a buddha, everything will, for this universe is one, broken into multitudes during manvantara or manifestation; rooted in that One, living from it, and by it. In it we live and we move and have all our being. Therefore some day, somewhere in the incalculable aeons of what we call the future, all now of the multitudes, suns and stars, planets, comets, gods, men, animals, plants, stones, atoms, elements, worlds, everything, each as individual, is destined for buddhahood.
When I read that, for nearly three months I went around in a daze of spiritual delight and inner reawakening. To this day I could not tell you whether I ate or drank or slept. I know I must have done so, but I have no recollection of anything except light; and the raising of the eyes inner and outer, upward and inward. Just that thought broke open the doors closed when I drank of the waters of Lethe, of forgetfulness, when last I died. The doors opened and the light came in, began to come in.
I think this extract gives us a most wonderful picture. Take the mineral kingdom: it is formed entirely of unconscient monads, that is monads unconscient on this plane, never unconscient in their own spheres. But what we call monads in the mineral kingdom are as it were the expressions of essential spiritual monads working and evolving down here on this plane, and going through these Gilgulim, as the Hebrew Qabbalah has it, meaning these lower halls of life and experience, these worlds of the ceaseless evolutionary journey; yet each one is essentially a god, each one in essence a buddha, a ray of the Adi-buddha or the cosmic Buddha. And so it is with all things.
Therefore, the Lord Buddha said: "Disciples, when sorrow wrings your heart, when pain and suffering are too bitter to bear, when you see others dying for the mere needs of life: be not discouraged. Look into the future. Every one of the multitudes some day will be a buddha, Adi-buddha, therefore a buddha, stones and plants, and beasts and men and gods, suns and stars and comets and the elements of them all."
Yet this recognition of the essential divinity of all, and the certain future buddhahood of all, should never at any moment stay our hands from works of loving pity and helpfulness here and now; for it is here and now that lies our sublime duty of doing all we can to alleviate the world's suffering and need that are incident and necessary to the monads on their evolutionary journey.
The way to become like unto the Great Ones is by beginning to become like unto them. Just that. Would you like a few rules? I will give them to you; but as soon as the brain-mind begins to think about rules, it begins to ask questions and make objections and exceptions. Nevertheless, here they are. Is your conduct in your daily life such that when you lie down to sleep at night, you can review the events of the day just closing and say to yourself: this I have done well; that I might have done better; that was not well done? and take your discoveries to yourself so to heart that when the next day dawns, and you may be faced with the same temptations, the end of the second day will find you reclining on your couch more at peace with yourself?
Tell the truth always, except when telling the truth will bring injury and suffering to others. Then be compassionate and suffer yourself in silence. In attaining what you desire, is there danger that you can obtain it, achieve it, only at the cost of suffering or loss to others; and even then that you can get it, attain it, only by double dealing, what is called the double-cross? Are you large enough to refuse to take that step downwards, it may be the first, towards the Pit? Do you realize that the next step, if you take that first step downwards, will be followed by an attempt to cover what you yourself are ashamed to tell? You become thereafter not merely a double-crosser, but a hypocrite; and the third step is easy, when discovery threatens to tempt you to cover your tracks by pleading charity, forgiveness, pity for others, and you acted thus for so-and-so because your heart ached to say aught.
Three steps: and have you noticed that each one of these steps is a distortion of your character, a twisting of your mind, and of the natural human impulses of your heart? That you thereby have made a definite mark upon your character which perdure, it may be for aeons? How much better and simpler is it to do one's best to avoid having the feet mired in wrongdoing. Or if one is caught, to break free and ally yourself with the gods at any cost.
How many more rules might I not give. They are the simplest things in the world, these rules. They are so wonderfully occult, so simple and plain, that people won't believe in their efficacy half the time, and yet they are the rules made by the world's greatest sages and seers: live uprightly, speak the truth, let your life be clean, cleanly, so that you can look man or woman in the face without shame. Do unto others — I will put it in the other form — do not do unto others what you yourself object to having others do unto you. It is in this way that in due course of time Buddhas are born, the holiest men on earth.
It is my most earnest conviction that the so-called spiritual problems of the young are no greater today than ever they have been — not a whit greater; nor are they different or more embarrassing for children and parents alike. Human character does not change overnight. The Great War, supposed to have destroyed all old moralities, was simply the bursting of a dam, the flood sweeping away certain restrictions and limitations which nevertheless were good, and we have not as yet learned how to build up other fences of protection around our homes and our young people. But our young people are no worse and no better than we were, and the same fundamental problems of human character that faced us, face them. It is somewhat as an old boy that I myself write, for I believe that children are old folks not yet grown up, adults not yet matured, and that adults are still boys and girls.
I think one of the greatest spiritual problems for youth is their parents; and this is saying nothing against the parents, because they were youths at one time and had their parents. And the youth today will grow up and be parents equally relatively futile, and, alas, relatively inadequate! If there are any spiritual problems affecting the youth at any time, it is largely the fault of the parents, and I will tell you why I think so. The parents do not err from lack of love. They err from lack of common sense as to how to treat growing youngsters — Just common sense.
If you want to correct a fault in some other man, you cannot do it by going to him and preaching at him, laying down the law. The chances are nine out of ten that he will resent it instantly. But by example you can make your words good to that man's mind and he will begin to admire you and respect you for exemplifying what you yourself talk about.
There is not anything that fascinates the mind of the growing youth so much as a striking remarkable example seen daily before the eye. It is worth years of talking and preaching, years and years of reading books that are stuck under its nose till it learns to hate these books. When it sees around itself in the home what is going on, snappy speeches from side to side, little selfish actions, unkindnesses done by father to mother, or vice versa, quarrels perhaps, short, irritable speeches, perhaps no words at all but the obvious habit of self-seeking in taking the easiest chair, the better light, the larger portion, in lack of courtesy to the other — when a child sees these things it remembers. These are the things which hurt the child. You older ones, put yourselves back into your childhood and remember whether you have not seen things in your own parents that hurt like the very dickens when you discovered them, and you wondered . . . And yet your parents may have been half saints — I do not mean to say that parents are bad. Not at all. But parents lack common sense. They wonder why their children go wrong sometimes. And here I am speaking of the normal child; if a child is born a degenerate, that of course is a cause for special treatment.
You have no right to have children unless you honestly feel in your hearts that you can bring them up properly. It is of infinite importance to make a child love and respect you, not for what it receives from you as gifts, which are often bribes to keep it from shrieking or making a noise, but love and respect you for what you are.
In my opinion, subject to correction by wiser minds than mine, the very best way to solve most of the so-called problems that face children is to let them see daily examples of unremitting courtesy at home. Just that one thing: unremitting kindliness and courtesy. Now what does that involve? It involves first of all self-control. Next, kindliness which means thoughtfulness for others. This is a wonderful discipline which a child understands and admires and loves to see. It sinks into the child's mind and heart; and these things are not forgotten. When a child is brought up in a home where there are lackadaisical conditions, slackness, not bad but little selfishnesses of the home, combined with emotional outbreaks of any kind, it in turn, because very imitative, becomes lackadaisical, emotionally unstable, unambitious to improve itself, slow in mind, discourteous to others, because too lazy to be courteous. It does not care. In a home where courtesy rules, everyone is happy. The child remembers the things it sees, and learns, because the example sinks into the mind. It becomes habitual in the child's thought, the child begins to pride itself on being courteous to others.
The whole root of the so-called difficult problem is this: we older people try to preach at the younger ones in giving them brain-mind thoughts; schemes to do this, and schemes to do that, which the children see the parents themselves do not practice. How can anyone respect something which is preached at him all the time and which he sees nobody else following or practicing? It is a very lovely idea, for instance, when parents want to have their children study beautiful books which give noble thoughts. They consider it a method of training, no doubt, presenting beauty to the mind of the child; but my opinion is well, if I had children and I made them read for example the Bhagavad-Gita, or any other similar book all day long; or if whenever they wanted to read they were given the Bhagavad-Gita, before they were even fifteen years old, I know that they would hate that book like nothing else on earth. They would have to grow to be eighty years old before they would see the wondrous beauty of books like that. The child is quick to see that Daddy and Mother do not pass all their time when they have a little leisure at home in reading the Bhagavad-Gita. They see that in their leisure they read other books, of a lighter character. There is an instance. You cannot expect your child to do what you yourself do not do. You as parents have to set the example. Now it is right to keep out of the home books which are obviously wrong, lewd or obscene or pornographic in tone. It is obviously wrong for adults or children to go to movies which picture the same ignoble things or precepts or examples. But I am not speaking of things which everyone condemns, nor am I decrying really good and elevating movies.
The minds of children are especially susceptible to suggestion and example. Precept is excellent, but precept comes afterwards when the child begins to ask questions: why? Then is the time to give the precept, to explain. But the child never forgets an example, and for the reason that children are old souls in immature bodies, souls coming to us out of the past, ages and ages of the past, having lived time and time and time again. They are wonderfully instinctive in catching things in you which finally become habitual in their thought and growth. They actually reason; and also commonly do they intuit things.
One of the greatest follies that parents commit is to bribe their children, is to talk to them and act towards them as if they were not reasoning beings. I believe it is all wrong. As a matter of fact I know it is, because I have seen how children despise in their hearts actions that their parents do in order to win acquiescence or approval, or a sweet smile from the child. What kind of love is it that the child gives to its parents, which has to be bought or bribed for? You don't need anything of that sort. The character of youth is intrinsically that of the hero-worshiper; it loves the ideal, the beautiful, what strikes it as strong and grand. I believe that youth loves these things more than we sophisticated older people do who have lost that appreciation.
Half the fear in the world begins in the home. It is a psychical injury to the child's mind, originated or brought about often by some circumstance or some ghastly thing that it has seen, that hurts, shocks. And the mind, by so much, is warped, hurt, injured, with fear. It is — I don't want to be uncomplimentary to the youth — but it is exactly the same principle by which a dog is trained, or a horse. You can make a dog or horse a vicious beast by ill-treating it. But if you treat a dog as you would a human being, in courtesy and kindliness and considerate action, you make that dog gentle towards others as well as towards you. That dog actually is in degree humanized. And the only difference in principle between us and the beasts is that we are far more evolved.
Make your homes centers of kindliness and courtesy — the parents to each other. That is the main thing. I do not mean manners only. That is only a part. I mean the actual instinctual wish to be kindly and courteous to the other; make this wish so strong in you that it takes action. The children sense it and see it and copy it, and they learn as they copy that it takes self-control to do it, to give up what "I" want in order to do a courteous act to others. This discipline teaches self-control, self-abnegation, self-respect; and when children discover that they win the respect of others for being this way, instinctively that self-respect is added to; they begin to see and feel that others have got the same feeling that they have, that others too admire and respect kindliness and courtesy. And then there grows in youth the feeling of fellowship, of brotherhood.
The old idea of a child honoring its parents and obeying them is a beautiful ideal, and is as valid in human conduct as ever it was. But the basis upon which this honor of parental dignity and standing should lie is the instinctive respect born in the minds of children and youth for their parents, because the parents themselves are seen by children to honor honor, respect respect, and revere reverence.
It is true that the world is in a saddened and anxious state. But I think it unwise and spiritually and psychologically unwholesome to emphasize this, for it raises none to higher things but depresses courage, the courage to meet life and carry on in a higher and nobler way. See the beauty in and behind things, see the beauty in your fellowmen; see likewise the ignominy and the ugliness in life, although do not let these latter depress you or discourage you. There is no reason to lose our calm, our inner peace, in order to become like unto them of the mobs, passion driven, governed by prejudice. Such an attitude will not help us or those who suffer. But we can send forth into the world thoughts of courage and hope and an optimistic looking into the future: that no matter what happens through man's folly or infamy or infidelity to his inner god, to his spiritual essence, there are always right and justice which will ultimately triumph over all. The only thing is to be sure we are on the side of right and justice — and we cannot always judge by appearances.
The English poet Robert Browning expresses this thought, albeit in the theological language of the time, when he said: "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world." Those who do not like this optimistic outlook and conviction and who are trying to get down into the arena of hysteria and discouragement, mock at it; yet every sane man who keeps his mind cool and clear and can think for himself realizes full well that the mightiest forces in this world are cosmic right and cosmic justice, and that they in the long run will always prevail. There is no need to be discouraged. Avoid hysterias; on the other hand, avoid running at one and the same time with the hares and chasing with the hounds, which is what we all do more or less. Have your own convictions, and sometimes hide them if it is not wise to shout them from the housetops; but keep your own heart upright, in love with love, hating hate, always standing up for justice and innate right. Only be sure that when you stand up you are not standing up for the propaganda atmosphere around you, but for something that you in your own heart know to be right and true.
It would be a sorry thing indeed if there were naught to our world but what we see around us today, or have seen at particular intervals during the past; but every time and always the conscience and the sense of justice of mankind have proved supreme over all and risen above human feelings and follies, and marched onwards and upwards to balance and harmony. Don't be downhearted or discouraged or think the world is going to the devil because you don't like what is going on. You have a right to like it or to dislike it. But be sure that you, as an individual, on your part do not add to the hatred in the world, to its discouragement and unhappiness. That is my point.
Think of what the ancients meant when they spoke of men as the kin of the gods, the children of divinities, cooperating with the divinities in the affairs of the solar kingdom. It is true; and as time goes on and from manhood we pass into godhood, into becoming gods, our contributory efforts will be much better, much more beautiful, much wider, much richer, in every way grander. We are at present young gods at school, young gods at play. Our home is the solar system. It is likewise our schoolhouse, our university. This earth is, as it were, our schoolroom at present until we graduate to a higher schoolroom; but all our activity takes place in our university of life, which is the solar system. How wonderful a picture! And I can assure you that every human thought is registered for eternity on the deathless tablets of time. A thought of mine will touch with the most delicate finger of influence the remotest star in the galaxy and will affect that star by so much, just as I am affected by all thoughts around me.
Imagine two billion human beings on earth, the human race, that is, the imbodied portion of the human race. Suppose they are thinking, especially today due to the rapid improvements of intercommunication, all more or less at the same time about the same thing and pretty much in the same way — let us say it is a scare or a war hysteria or a great hate or a great emotion do you think that that vast body of loosened psychic energy is not going to strike somewhere? Of course it will. And here is where karma comes in. It is an old, old teaching that the disasters that afflict mankind are mainly brought about by man, his own evil thinking and evil feeling throwing into the astral light or into the earth's atmosphere a simply terrific volume of energy, of force. You know the old English proverb, which is very true: "Curses like chickens come home to roost." They do not go and roost in somebody else's farm. Chickens come home. Thoughts of love, thoughts of beauty, thoughts of kindliness, benevolent thoughts and feelings: they likewise come like messengers from the gods winging their way back to us. Someday, somewhen, somewhere, we reap what we sow. If men and women knew and felt this great law, how differently would they not act towards each other! All feelings of revenge and hatred, and that diabolic fruit of self-seeking materialism that we must protect ourself at any cost against our brother: such things could never again find lodgment in our minds and hearts.
How true is the word of the old Hebrew prophet: "Vengeance is mine, . . . saith the Lord." What a warning! Theosophy shows us why and how. The man who suffers an injury would do infinitely better to accept and forgive, to take it manfully; his guerdon in recompense someday will be great, an injurer will become his benefactor; and if he stays his own hand, not only does he not add to the fearful weight of evil karma pressing on him, but he raises his enemy. An act like that is godlike. I say unto you, "Love your enemies." So spake the avatara. Do good unto those who persecute you. Give not wrong for wrong, nor hate for hate. When will human beings learn this?
It takes some courage, I mean the true courage of the seer whom naught can daunt and none may stay, to oppose a world's thought currents, and for this sublime work are called forth the truest heroism, the sublimest intellectual vision, and the deepest spiritual insight. These last prevail always. Sometimes he who runs counter to the world's thought currents loses what the world esteems highest: reputation, fortune, even perhaps life. But his work — that is never lost!
This is what H. P. Blavatsky did. And this is what the Theosophical Society has been doing ever since. It is a strange paradox of our life on this earth that the noblest things call for sacrifice, and yet it is one of the most beautiful. The world is ruled by ideas, and an inescapable truth it is also that the world's lower thought currents must be opposed by ideas higher than they. It is only a greater idea which will capture and lead captive the less idea, the smaller. Graecia capta Romam victricem captam subducit; "captured Greece leads conquering Rome captive."
What is the Theosophical movement which was so magnificently voiced in some of its teachings by H. P. Blavatsky, but a series, an aggregate of grand ideas? Not hers, not collected by her from the different great thinkers of the world, but the god-wisdom of the world. She brought together the world's human wisdom in order to bulwark, for those minds who needed such bulwarking, the grand verities shining with their stellar light, and bearing the imprint of divinity upon them. Some cannot see the imprints of divinity. Forsooth, they say, it is to be proved! They must put the finger into the nail mark, into the hole. Millions are like that, they have not learned to think yet.
So the only way to conquer ideas is to lead them captive by grander ones; and that is what theosophy does. It is a body of divine ideas — not H. P. Blavatsky's, who was but the mouthpiece of them in this day, but the ancient god-wisdom of our earth, belonging to all men, all nations, all peoples, all times; and given to protoplastic mankind in the very dawn of this earth's evolution by beings from higher spheres who had learned it themselves from beings higher still — a primeval revelation from divinities. The echo of this revelation you will find in every land, among every people, in every religion and in every philosophy that has ever gained adherents.
When H. P. Blavatsky brought theosophy to the world in our age, she did not bring something new. I repeat, she brought the cosmic wisdom studied by the seers, as understood on this earth, which had been stated in all other ages preceding that in which she came: the same starry wisdom, divine in origin science because voicing nature's facts; religion because raising man to divinity; philosophy because explanatory of all the problems that have vexed human intelligence.
It was an amazing world to which she came — the Western world I am now speaking of — a world held by one slender, yet in a way faithful, link to spirit, to wit the teachings of the avatara Jesus called the Christ, nevertheless held to by faith alone and by the efforts of a relative few in the churches. On the other hand, millions, the major part of the men and women of the West, absolutely psychologized — by what? Facts? No! By theories, postulates, ideas, which had gained currency because they were put forth aggressively and with some few natural facts contained in them. Why, all the science of those days is now practically in the discard, and the later generations of scientists have themselves overthrown the overthrower of man's hope in those days.
It was in such a time that H. P. Blavatsky came, and almost singlehanded in an era when even in the homelife, in society, it was considered exceedingly bad form to speak of the soul in a drawing room; it was considered a mark of an inferior intelligence. Alone, she wrote her books, challenging the entire thought current of the Western world, backed as it was by authority, by so-called psychology, backed by everything that then was leading men astray. Today her books are being read by some of the most eminent scientific thinkers of our time. What did she do? Mainly she based her attack on that world psychology on two things: that the facts of nature are divine; that the theories of pretentious thinkers about them are not facts of nature, but are human theorizings, and should be challenged and if good, accepted pro tempore and, if bad, cast aside. She set the example; and other minds who had the wit to catch, to see, to understand, to perceive what she was after, gathered around her. Some of the men eminent in science in her time belonged to the Theosophical Society, although they rarely worked for it. They lent their names to it occasionally. But she captured them by the ideas she enunciated, and these men did their work in their own fields. That indeed already was much.
Consider her titanic task: that of changing the shifting and varying ideas of a body of earnest scientific researchers after nature's facts: replacing these shifting ideas, then called science — which had for nearly two hundred years been casting out all that innumerable centuries of human experience had shown to be good and trustworthy — replacing these with thoughts that men could live by and become better by following, thoughts that men could die by with hope and in peace; and bringing these back into human consciousness by the power of her own intellect voicing the immemorial traditions of the god-wisdom which she brought.
I wonder if you can forget for a moment the matter-of-fact things in daily life and really feel or realize this fact: that you are going to be held to a strict accounting somewhen, somewhere, for everything that you are, which means everything that you have done, have felt, have been — karmic responsibility!
Most of us realize this and accept it as a philosophic proposition, but have not taken it into our consciousness as a serious reality facing us momently, daily, all our life long. We would be infinitely more careful than we are, not only in our feelings and in our thoughts, but of course in our actions. Whatever we do is not only going to mold our character, thereby changing our whole future destiny, but it is going to affect others; and others by that fact are going to react upon us. Action and reaction: nature's first law. That is all karma is: the doctrine of consequences, ethically speaking, the doctrine of responsibility. What ye sow, that will ye reap, not something else. The pathos of people who think that they can do what they want to do because they like it, or because they are afraid, too cowardly to do otherwise, and think they will get away with it! Never, never, never. You will pay for it to the uttermost farthing.
It is not only what happens to you. If you have hearts ever touched by the holy flame of pity, of compassion, you will realize that everything you think or feel will result in action some day, and this action will affect others, helping them, or injuring them. And you are responsible, no one else. And you will pay; yes, even if you fly to the uttermost ends of the earth, nothing can save you from resulting consequences.
By the same law, every gentle, pitiful act, every thought for others, every compassionate pulsation of the human heart, will have its holy recompense not only in the present gratitude of others, not only in their present friendship, sincere and given wholeheartedly, but even in future lives, for sympathy will have been set up between those others and yourself. How beautiful is sympathy! It is one of the things of this life of ours which not merely makes it endurable, but casts a glory around our living.
I think no man is so manly as when he does some act from compassionate urging, or refrains from acting because of the dictates of mercy whispering in his heart. A man like that is a true man and his life is beautiful. His guerdon in the bardo, as the Tibetans say, will be there for him to receive. Never think you may escape the consequences of your thoughts and feelings and acts. This truth is the lost chord in modern life; and the horrors we see in the world around us, or have seen or will see, might never have taken place, might never take place, if men could but once be convinced of this truth of the world, spiritual and natural: that you are responsible, held by nature's laws and habits to a strict accounting for all you do, which means all you think and feel carried into action. Nature's scales cannot ever be cheated.
Bardo is a word which means "between two," that is to say, between the end of this life or what we call death, and the beginning of the next imbodiment, incarnation. It means all the various things that will happen between the last physical breath of the one life, and the first physical breath of the next life, everything in between: the astral world, the kama-loka, and the devachan.
The real teaching of the Tibetans regarding the bardo is identical with our own, because it came from the same source; but the Tibetan practices connected with the doctrine of the bardo are not our own. These practices came from the original Bhons who were converted to Buddhism, and are often black magic. Yet it is unfair to call them black magic as the Tibetans practice them today, because the motive is good.
What are these practices? When a man is supposed to be dying or on the verge of death, lamas are sent for to come to his bedside, sit near him and whisper to him, telling him to have strong courage, to fear not, to keep his mind pure. And then they explain to him all the things that are going to happen to him when he dies. These are the practices that we would not endorse because they affect the departing soul, not necessarily adversely, but affect it in giving it a direction of thought, instead of allowing the karma of the last life to make its own aggregate of the last thoughts.
As a matter of fact in the more orthodox Christian churches they have something of the same idea. The clergyman or the priest will come to the bedside of the dying man, administering consolation and other things — all of which affect the mind of the dying man. If the dying man is rather simple, believes things easily, and all his life long has been an adherent of the church, and believes in it, probably no great harm is done.
But I merely point out that the Tibetans are not the only ones who have antemortem practices of that kind, as they express it, to speed the soul on its way. Infinitely better not! Let karma, let the voice of the silence, speak. Let the magic of weaving thought and feeling filled with the fabric of consciousness pursue its silent way undisturbed. Compassionate nature takes care of all, and it is infinitely better for those last holy moments of the departing consciousness to be in utter silence.
Beware then that at the bedside of the dying there be no loud noise, no weeping. Let there be utter silence and an atmosphere of peace. This is rich in kindliness and understanding. When the time comes when you die, you will remember this, and mayhap be thankful that those around you are not disturbing those last moments that you have.
Theosophy works a magic upon us which is grander by far than merely telling us of the undoubted and beautiful truth of our essential divinity. It transmutes our weak and often evil manhood into godhood. It teaches us to forget ourselves for others — for the world. It so washes our natures and our hearts and our minds of the personal and limited that in time we are led on even to forget ourselves and live in the universal.
To me this is the lost keynote of modern civilization, whirling as it does around the egoisms born in us. If we can instill into the thought life of the world, of our fellowmen, ideas, principles of thought, and consequent conduct, teachings of religious and philosophical and of scientific character and value, which will teach men, enable them to learn, to forget themselves and live for others, then I think we shall have done more than teaching them the undoubtedly sublime verity of their oneness with divinity — one of my own favorite thoughts and teachings! For even that can have an atmosphere of egoism about it, of spiritual selfishness.
I really believe that if our sad and suffering world, hovering on the brink of disaster as it is — this world taken distributively as individual men and women — could learn the one simple lesson of self-forgetfulness, and the beauty, the immense satisfaction of heart and mind, that come from such self-forgetfulness, living for others, for the world, I honestly believe with all my heart that ninety-nine percent of humanity's troubles would be solved. Politics would then become an engine of human achievement and not of selfishness and often destruction. Works of philanthropy would be considered the noblest in the world, because they would be guided by the wisdom of an awakened heart. For no man's eye sees clearly when it whirls around the pivot of the personal self; but it will see clearly when its vision becomes universal, because then all in the field comes within the compass, within the reach, of its sight.
Am I not right, therefore, in believing that, beautiful as are the teachings which, as individual men, we can study in theosophy, and great as will be the advantage that individually we shall draw from these teachings, there is indeed something still higher which it teaches: that we reach our highest, our sublimest, peaks of achievement when we forget ourselves? And may we not find the same sublime verity at the heart of, as the essence of, the burden of, every one of the great religions of the past, provided we strip away the dogmatic excrescences born of the brains of smaller men?
Remember that true theosophy is a matter of the heart-life, and of the heart-light, as well as of deep intellectual understanding; but so many people do not realize this, and look upon theosophy as merely a kind of intellectual philosophy, which is only a part of it.
While the selfless life as taught in theosophy is considered by us to be the most beautiful because universal and all-inclusive, yet can we properly be living such a selfless life if we ignore those duties lying nearest at hand? In other words, if a man so yearns to help the world that he goes out into it and neglects duties that he already has assumed, is he doing the thing which is manly? Is he living the selfless life; or is he following a secret, selfish yearning for personal advancement? Is he even logical? Selflessness means never to neglect a duty, because if you do that, upon examination you will discover that you are following a desire, a selfish thought. It is in doing every duty fully and to the end, thereby gaining peace and wisdom, that you live the life which is the most unselfish.
There is no escaping nature's law that an effect follows upon a cause. There is no escape. No prayers, no petitions, nothing will change the sweep of the divine mandate: As you are and as your works are, so will be the fruits which you will produce. They will be your children. Do good: good will come unto you. Do evil: nature will bring the very same inharmonious vibrations and reactions upon the evildoer.
This is the meaning of the old Jewish Christian statement: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" — words that men have talked about and preached about for 2,000 years, and have not believed in sufficiently to trust in their power. In other words they have added evil unto evil by trying to check evil with evil, which is making the thing worse. Figure it out in the ordinary affairs of human existence. Revenge is no way to reform the evildoer. You are but convincing him that he is right after all: he is going to get his revenge and you are attempting to revenge yourself upon him. Restraint at times, yes, certainly. But you cannot check evil with evil, you cannot fight fear with fear, you cannot fight hatred with hatred. Foolish men have been trying it for heaven knows how many millennia, and have they ever succeeded? The world itself is the answer.
Even our ordinary human laws in civilized society won't allow a man to take the law into his own hands and retaliate. They recognize the idiocy of it, and that it produces more evil than good. The ordinary principles governing human society contain more good sensible wisdom than nations apply to themselves, or than humans as individuals apply amongst themselves. The law won't allow you to take the law into your own hands and seek revenge upon one who hurts you; and wisely, because the principle is based upon a profound teaching of wisdom. Nature won't tolerate it.
Men have forgotten that what ye sow ye shall reap — not something else. Think what this means; no matter how dark may be the day, no matter how desperate may be the situation, the worker of evil and the worker of good receive recompense in time exactly in proportion to the good or the evil they have wrought. People forget that you cannot think thoughts of hatred without distorting your own character, which means weakening it, rendering it less strong, less brilliant, less intuitive, less penetrating. It takes strength to be a good man and to follow the law, and that is a strength which grows mightily by the exercise of it.
Look what human society does; it protects itself. In accordance as human society is more civilized, the restraining of the evil is more humane. In proportion as human society is less civilized, the restraints imposed by it upon the doers of evil are cruel, harsh, and unjust. And they do not last. Why? Because men and women intrinsically are decent. I have found decency even in the heart and mind of a criminal — one with a desperate character. Even such a man knew what decency was, but he had become psychologized by the idea that it was utterly useless for him to try any more because no matter how much he tried there was his record against him; his life would be just one long hell.
What you sow you are going to reap, and what you are reaping now is what you have sown in the past. That is just what the world is experiencing now: the reaping of what it has sown. It won't last, it is not eternal, it is only temporary. What we call the iron ages of trial and sorrow are succeeded by a gentler and kindlier age, until men grow tired of beauty and harmony and invent the evil contributions and machinations of veritable genius; and then comes in a new dark age, a new age of horror, when men want to get all they can, and think they can get it without paying for it. They cannot.
That is a fine old saying: vengeance — no, not revenge; we can translate it as the bringing back of equilibrium, of justice, of harmony in the universe — vengeance is mine. No sane man doubts it. We all know that if we mistrust ourselves nature will demand retribution. If we abuse our bodies, one part of ourselves, even by such small indulgences as ordinary evildoing, it will not be long before nature will demand retribution, and we have pain, maybe disease. And all other disturbances of natural law and harmony have to be paid for.
This is the grandest doctrine that human genius ever brought forth from the womb of cosmic truth: there is no escape. See what a wonderful rule of conduct this brings into a man's life. You can never get away with it, even if you try. There is no escape. You pay to the uttermost farthing, and then your new chance begins. You have paid your debt. That is the doctrine of karma, and some people who do not understand it may think it cruel and unkind that nature should have her laws and exact retribution for disturbance of those laws, for the protecting of cosmic harmony. But think what would make you obey if it were not so. Why, human beings would have no protection, the gods would have no protection. There would be no law and order. The reestablishment of harmony is nature's greatest and most wonderful procedure. It is the great thought of refuge of the good, the great principle of conduct of the good, and the warning to the evildoer.
Take courage. Meet what is coming to you like a man, and if you have been at fault in the past you will pay your debt, and then you will be free with a clean sheet, to write upon it your new destiny. No longer will it be the warning of the Babylonian writing on the wall. But nature says: "yes, child, it is finished. A new path now opens before you, a new chance. You are now free. You have paid your debt. You are out of the prison of fell circumstance."
It seems to me that there is nothing so comforting and so beautiful as to reflect that nature around us, by which I do not mean only physical nature, but the divine womb of being out of which we came in the dawn of time, is still our Mother, Father-Mother, that we are children of the cosmic harmony, and that in that harmony lie infinite peace and happiness in our own daily lives, and a code of conduct which will fail us never. Do good, and good will come back to you. Sow peace, and peace will come to you. Give others a little of the joy that is in your own heart, and joy will come back to your heart and in times of trouble the joy will bring peace. Sow evil in the world, and that evil, like the widening circles of destiny, will enclose you some day, and then it will be utterly useless for you to groan out to the gods: "Why did this come upon me?" You are paying your debt. It is painful, but once the debt is paid, you are free. Now isn't that a doctrine of comfort — sane, sensible, and comforting in every way?
One of the most interesting things in the human constitution is what we call the consciousness, and it is a curious paradox that it is just about consciousness that the least is known. Everybody talks about it; everybody says consciousness, consciousness, consciousness; but when you ask a man: what do you mean by those words, he begins to hem and to haw. Shall we say it is awareness? Yes, that is one of the functions of consciousness. The only thing we can say is that it is, and we all know what it is; it does not need to be described. As soon as you begin to try to define it, you tangle yourself up in words, and you actually lose all intuition, all feel of what it is. Your consciousness goes as it were from your central consciousness into the low small consciousness of words. We all know of people who become so tangled up in words in trying to explain themselves that they actually forget what they are talking about because their consciousness just won't fit into details and words. They have lost grip of the main thing.
Now human consciousness is unitary and integral, that is to say there are not two or three or more kinds of consciousness in the human constitution. But it is a unitary consciousness which comes down into our brain-minds or into our ordinary consciousness from the spirit of us, the divine center where the truth abides in fullness; and this human center of us cannot transmit this celestial visitant fully because this human part of us is beclouded, heavy and thick with the sheaths of the lower consciousness. Our thoughts and feelings and emotions rise around us like a thick thundercloud under the sun. But behind the cloud is the one sunlight. So it is with consciousness.
Theosophical seers for many ages and belonging to different religions and philosophies have classified human consciousness, for purposes of convenient understanding, into four divisions: jagrat, the waking state, svapna, the sleeping state, sushupti, the utter dreamless sleep, the state of death for most men; and turiya, the state of the divine, which god-men and the great seers and sages have told us of, because to a certain extent they experience it. But it is all one consciousness. Jagrat is the state in which we all here are now — unless there is someone asleep in the audience and, if he is, he will be in the svapna state, the sleeping state in which he is more or less dreaming. Sometimes people are half dreaming when they are in the jagrat state. We call it daydreaming. I do not mean creative dreaming of thought; I mean just the lazy dreaming where the thought wanders. It is part svapna in the jagrat state. Then comes the sushupti, which in sleep is dreamless. It is the state of most human souls after death: perfect, sweet, undreaming consciousness, in which a thousand days are as a day, and time exists not because the consciousness is not in these lower realms of time measured by clocks, watches, movements of the celestial spheres. Consciousness there is not in the time-state. Then the highest of this same unitary consciousness, the source of our consciousness, is called turiya. The Buddhists call it nirvana. The Hindus call it mukti or moksha. We use these terms also for they are so definitely descriptive. It is the pure consciousness of the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, or a spark from the divine.
Now then, here is the deduction, the moral to be drawn from these facts. All of us have this one state of consciousness manifesting to most of us in these three terms: physical waking, sleeping with dreams, dreamless sleep or the death-state for most people until they imbody themselves. Do you know what this means? It means that we are not alert to what is in us and what we can do. There is the key to the mysteries of initiation. First learn to be fully awake when you are in the jagrat state as we are now — physical awakening. Learn to be fully awake. Next, learn to carry that state of self-consciousness when you sleep, so that you will be as self-conscious when you sleep as you are, or think you are, when you are awake. Third and next, the highest: learn to be self-consciously awake after death. For it is one consciousness working through all three states, and everyone of us has it; and everyone of us is subject to these three lower conditions or states of this one unitary consciousness.
Think what this means for our future evolutionary progress. Why should we not begin now? I remember a story that was told of the founder of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky. One of her pupils came to her one day and said: "H.P.B., you know I am awfully tired; I have been working all day long." "So sorry," said H.P.B., "you had better go and rest. By the way, do you sleep when you sleep, truly sleep? Well, you are doing better than I do. I am working while I am sleeping." She had reached that point where she could keep conscious, in self-conscious awarement, while other men slept; in other words she could be self-consciously aware when most people go to sleep.
The third stage, as I have said, is to be self-consciously aware after death. When you have attained that, then the next is the state of the god-men, or the men-gods, whom the human race has known, the Buddhas and Christs, men like Sankaracharya, Tsong-kha-pa, and Apollonius. When you reach that stage you have to be conscious all the time, waking, sleeping, after death, and until you return, for you will then have found yourself.
Have you never asked yourself why is it that after dreamless sleep or dreaming sleep, you awaken the same man? It is so common, so ordinary, it slips the attention of the average man, showing that he is not fully aware, not fully awake. But the genius sees this, and he recognizes that this most common phenomenon is precisely one that has never been explained by science, and yet the explanation is with us all the time. We return because we have never left. We rebecome our self-conscious selves again because we were never anything other. Consciousness is a continuity. We have not taught ourselves to be self-consciously awake when we sleep, self-consciously awake when we die. But the power is in you. It is yours for the asking. You remember that Pythagoras called those who were sleeping this life and death away, the "living dead." How long are you going to stand that for yourselves?