Teacher and Pupil

By G. de Purucker
Be what you love. Strive after what you find beautiful and high, and let the rest go. Harmony, sacrifice, devotion: take these for keynotes; express them everywhere and in the highest possible way. -- W. Q. Judge

There is something very beautiful and encouraging in the thought that the doctrines which we study have been studied with the same devotion in other ages, not only by learners such as we are, but by the greatest minds of all times; and, furthermore, that these being the doctrines of nature, they are essentially the same in all parts of the boundless spaces of the kosmos, so that kindred thinkers on the planets of other solar systems study the same essential thoughts that we do. As the mind of man grows in its comprehension of these wonderful doctrines, as his mind expands and his soul grows greater under the inspiriting rays of his inner spiritual sun, he comes to realize that the more he learns, the more does he know that there are endless knowledges ahead to learn; until, finally, the student reaches the point where his whole soul is infilled with a reverence and a love and a devotion for truth and his teachers that know no limits; and truly, that realization is the mainspring and the inspiration of what we call the chela life.

I have been hoping to touch upon this question of the inner life of the student, the chela life, because I know nothing that is more beautiful, nothing that is so encouraging, and at the same time nothing that calls for larger exercise of the truly spiritual will and of the higher understanding than do the requirements of soul needed in order to follow that chela life; because that life calls out everything that a man has in him, or a woman has in her -- everything. You may remember that H. P. Blavatsky in several places speaks of the chela life as being very, very beautiful, and at other times as being a "terrible" thing. And so it is, and the reason is this: beautiful we know it is. But why should it be "terrible"? Because no sooner does the student set his feet finally and firmly on that still small path, which we are told leads to the very heart of the universe, than everything that is in his karma and that would find expression through many future lives perhaps, comes down upon him all at the same time, more or less; and, as H. P. Blavatsky says, to succeed requires an inflexible will of iron and an undivided concentration of all his faculties upon the great work. He must face, and conquer, in one short lifetime perhaps, the karmic fruitages of bygone mistakes and failures falling upon his devoted soul; all at once, like horrible ghosts of the past. You can imagine what that means! He must face them, and conquer. Such is the working of nature and the karmic law; and all aspirants must go through the trial. Our Teachers as well as all others have had to face karmic circumstances, and conquer them; and these things have been a puzzle to the ignorant outside world, which inevitably has most unjustly blamed the aspirant. In H. P. Blavatsky's life, to take an instance, there are passages which, as anyone who knows of and who can understand them aright will realize, redound infinitely to her credit; but the ignorant and biased and cruel world does not see the originating karmic cause of past lives in those passages, and blames her as having originated them in this life as "weaknesses" in its blind view, because it does not know of what these greater souls have to face when their devoted feet are following the path to glory and success -- "working out old karma," as the saying is.

I think that this is a very valuable truth which we should carefully reflect over; and to me it has always been a very practical and morally useful one, because it brings charity for others into our hearts, a greater kindliness, and a greater realization of the nobility, of the self-sacrifice, of those who tread this path -- not for themselves but for us, a path which yet is pure joy; it is absolutely so; but, on the other hand, until the final victories have been won, and they must be won, it is often strewn with pitfalls and surrounded with circumstances which cause the treader of that path to be grossly and cruelly misjudged by the world, which sees but understands not.

In taking up the subject of the relationship between teacher and pupil, between what the old Hindus called the guru and the chela, we are going to treat it not as that relationship has been all too often misunderstood in different countries and at different times in those periods which Plato called periods of spiritual barrenness. Our age is one of such periods or, perhaps better, is just emerging from one; one of the most beautiful of the ancient Hindu writings, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Logos Krishna states that at such periods he incarnates anew in order to save and establish the just and to overthrow the unjust and the wicked -- for the reestablishment of righteousness on earth.

This relationship is an extremely sacred one, because it is a tie which binds closely heart to heart, mind to mind; and, according to the beautiful teachings of the ancient wisdom, the preceptor, the teacher, the guru, the master -- call him or her by what name you will -- acts as the midwife, bringing to birth, helping to bring into the active life of the disciple, the hid part of the disciple, the soul of the man. You remember that Socrates always refused to hear himself called a teacher in the ordinary sense. But he said: "I am a midwife to young men, because I bring their souls to birth. I help the inner being, the inner man, to express himself." And this is exactly the spiritual relation that the teacher holds to the disciples, to the pupils, to the chelas, the learners, the hearers -- call them by what name you will.

The idea is, again, that the latent spiritual potencies in the mind and heart of the learner shall receive such assistance as the teacher can give, but it does not mean that the teacher shall do all the work that the disciple himself or herself must do. No child can be taught to walk merely by seeing its parents walk; and no parent can eat for its child, or drink for its child, or learn for its child. The child must do these things itself. You may remember that H. P. Blavatsky frequently points out that, according to the old teachings, the relationship of teacher and disciple is infinitely more sacred even than that of parent and child; because, while the parents give the body to the incoming soul, the teacher brings forth that soul itself and teaches it to see, and teaches it to know, and teaches it to become what it is in its inmost being -- a divine thing.

Masterhood is the end of discipleship; not, however, that this ideal should be set before us merely as an end to attain to as something of benefit for one's own self, because that very thought is a selfish one and therefore a stumbling on the path. It is for the individual's benefit, of course; yet the true idea is that everything and every faculty that is in the man or the woman, in the soul of either, shall be brought out in the service of all humanity; for this is the royal road, the great royal thoroughfare of self-conquest. It actually is far easier to follow than is the path of self, the road of shadows. And the path of light, of self-conquest and growth, leads to the very heart of being, to the very heart of the universe; because, as the inner faculties develop, as they grow and expand under the inspiriting rays of the inner spiritual sun, they receive and comprehend new knowledges, take wider and vaster insights into the secret chambers of Mother Nature. Each new insight, each intuition of great things, in its turn opens, as it were, new doors into chambers still more vast. The mind undertakes first to understand; and, finally, knows through immediate perception the realities of the universe, and this is Masterhood; and beyond those great Teachers, beyond the Masters themselves, are still greater ones who follow a path still more sublime!

But every footstep along that path is a footstep of self-sacrifice, sacrifice joyfully made of the lower self's egoisms; the noblest, the most joyful, the most beautiful thing in the world, because it is the giving up at each such step of the shackles of the lower or inferior self with its multitudinous limitations, in order to pass into a greater light. Cooperation with others in the great work in that noble sense -- and we mean by the use of that word no modern political shibboleth whatsoever -- the mental and spiritual cooperation not merely between teacher and disciple, but between the disciples themselves and all the hosts of the spiritual beings of the universe, can come only when the lower selfish self is utterly forgotten; and it comes in exact proportion as this inferior self, our personal ego, is so forgotten, and the higher self takes over the reins of our destiny.

What is our greatest limitation? What is it that prevents us from seeing not merely truth itself, but also into futurity and into the past? What prevents us from knowing the secrets of being? It is the veils enshrouding the personal self, the concentration of our thoughts and ideas around the individual, around the personal, egoic center. We clasp these veils to our breast and thereby weave around us a web of maya or illusion, because we wish for personal benefits, and will them, and want them, for the lower selfish self.

The real process of growth is the exact reverse of this. It is the casting down of these idols of the personality, the throwing away of these inner veils, so that the light may come in, that light and that peace, which latter, in the beautiful words of the Christian ritual, passeth all understanding of men.

What are some of the requisites of chelaship? First, perhaps, devotion, devotion to an ideal. Have first the ideal, then be devoted to it, follow it always. It will require your will fully in exercise, the spiritual will. Coincidently, perhaps, comes duty. Ask any man or woman who sincerely has tried to follow this path, whether duty be such an easy thing, and he will tell you truly that there is nothing like the right performance of duty, which brings into the soul such indescribable peace and rest. Think of what it means to have nothing behind you to undo, no mistakes of the personality which have to be remedied, rectified! And this can be done, and easily done. It can be accomplished by following that still old path, as the Upanishads put it, which leads into the haven of eternal joy, eternal peace, and to that enwrapping consciousness of universal presences and processes which to the nobler side of the intellect is supreme bliss.

Coincidently again with these two is the noble virtue of loyalty. Can any man succeed in anything unless he be true? Fancy a man undertaking a noble work and being told to trust neither himself nor his fellows! How is it possible to succeed with one's own nature running in diverse directions, his very heartstrings pulled here and there, hither and yon, by the conflict of selfish desires and by the petty egoisms of his personality? It cannot be done.

These principles of chelaship rest on no vague or uncertain foundation, but on the vast experiences of the human race, which any man or woman can prove by looking within, looking into those founts of spiritual life, crystal clear and pellucid as the water of the mountain tarn; where he may see, as in the beautiful old mythos of Narcissus, his own reflection, the reflection of his own divine self. That can never be done when and as long as the mind is covered with the dust of its enshrouding veils. It is the dust of selfish actions, the cravings of these petty egoisms, the disturbed and untranquil surface of the mind blown upon by the windy gusts of passion, which unfit it utterly to reflect the higher self -- the companion of stars. That which reflects the stars, itself must be in a sense starlike; and only that which is starlike in the soul can understand the lessons of the stars.

So far, then, as regards the teaching. But how about the teacher? What man would go upon a ship captained by another man in whom he had no confidence at all? What man would step into an automobile driven by another man whom he knew to be drunken? A trite simile, but a very true one, and directly applicable to the case in point. Where, then, shall we find these teachers, those in whom we can place such trust? We can, indeed, learn something from the books, the great scriptures of the old-time religions, written by great initiates. We can learn much even from their surface meanings; but there is a key which unlocks still deeper meanings in those scriptures, and that key can be imparted alone by one who knows, a teacher.

Now where shall we find such a teacher? A momentous question, one, probably, that would be asked by anyone who might hear us. The insignia majestatis, the "signs of spiritual majesty," cannot be mistaken. Have them in your own heart, and you will know them when you see them. And you can have them in your own heart; and how? Simply follow the noble old rules of conduct. Live as ye should, and ye shall know the truth, because ye shall see it; and, as our Teachers add, it will come to you naturally; and you will know the teacher when you see him or her, and you will also know better than to judge a teacher by superficial appearances, by the words of the day, the day's mere exercises and duties; having that light in your own heart, at least in some degree, you will perceive the kindred rays in the heart of the teacher, and know him.

Therein lies the meaning of the beautiful saying, ascribed to Jesus: "I am the way, the truth, and the life," and it is truly so, because no disciple, no man (or woman) desirous of leading a better and a nobler life, can put his foot on that path until he himself becomes it, at least in some degree.

You know that in olden times there were seven (and ten) degrees of initiation. Let us speak only of the seven. Of these seven degrees, three consisted of teachings alone, which formed the preparation, the discipline, mental and spiritual and psychic and physical; what the Greeks called the katharsis or "cleansing"; and when the disciple was considered sufficiently cleansed, purified, disciplined, quiet mentally, tranquil spiritually, then he was taken into the fourth degree. And this fourth degree likewise consisted partly of teachings, but also, as we have pointed out before, in part of direct personal introduction, by the old mystical processes, into the processes of the universe, by which truth was gained by firsthand personal experience. In other words, to speak in plain terms, his spirit-soul, his individual consciousness, was assisted to pass into other planes and realms of being, and to know and to understand by the process of becoming them. Because a man, a mind, an understanding, can grasp and see and thereby know only those things which it itself is.

Think over those words, they are full of meaning and truth. You can understand nothing that is not in you, nothing. No man, for instance, who is deprived of the mathematical faculty can understand even the mere elements of mathematics. Having this mathematical faculty within himself he understands something of the meaning of the rules of mathematics. No man can understand what right action is, what devotion and duty and loyalty are, unless he has at least something in his own soul of devotion and duty and loyalty; and the more he knows of these beautiful qualities the more he loves them, the more he wishes to follow them; and in following them, following them always farther on, he loves them the more and the more. These truths living in you lead you finally to a complete understanding of the hearts of your fellow men; giving you an ability to read their characters, an ability to understand the woes and troubles that they carry; and the power as well as the ability, and the desire as well as the power and the ability, to replace those sorrows and egoisms in the hearts of men with joy and peace and love and goodwill.

That is the noble work that is before us; and that is the work of the Masters themselves. You may remember that when Mr. Sinnett was in correspondence, through H. P. Blavatsky and two or three more of the chelas, with the Masters, he was told plainly that the last truths, even of the limited sphere of esoteric knowledge that it was permissible to give to him, could not be imparted to him because, as he himself confesses, he had no right comprehension of the meaning of universal brotherhood, and no love for that noble truth. Apparently, his utmost understanding of that sublime truth was a form of sentimental unity, or merely a political cooperation. He had, apparently, no sense of the meaning inherent in the words, the spiritual brotherhood of all beings and, particularly, of the fact that all human beings are linked together, not merely by the bonds of emotional thought or feeling, but by the very fabric of the universe itself, all men, as well as all beings, springing forth from the inner and spiritual sun of the universe, as its hosts of rays. We all come from one source, that spiritual sun, and are all builded of the same life-atoms on all the various planes. It is this interior unity of being and of consciousness, as well as the exterior union of us all, which enables us to grasp intellectually and spiritually the mysteries of the universe; because not merely ourselves and our own fellow human beings, but also all other things that are, are children of the same parent, great Mother Nature, in all her seven and ten planes or worlds of being.

After the fourth degree, there followed the fifth and the sixth and the seventh initiations, each in turn, and these consisted of teachings also; but more and more, as the disciple progressed, were there developed in him the faculties -- and he was helped in this development more and more largely as he advanced farther -- there were developed in him the faculties, still farther and more deeply to penetrate beyond the veils of maya or illusion; until, having passed the seventh or last initiation of all of the "manifest" initiations, if we may call them that, he became one of those truly called supermen whom we call the Mahatmas, great soul-spirits, whose very nature is magnanimity -- used here in the old Latin sense of "great souledness" -- the word meaning exactly what mahatmaship does in the Sanskrit.

Loyalty to the teacher, devotion to the teacher, the complete fulfilling of all duties to the teacher, is the other side of this subject. Devotion, duty, and loyalty to truth and its behests, on the one side, unfailing, unchanging, never varying; and the same virtues living in our souls towards the teacher whom we have chosen, is the other side, because that teacher has given us inner light, yea, more, has given us inner life, inner life in a very real and practical sense, and not merely in a mystical one; because, by the processes of the ancient schools, such a teacher is enabled to carry the disciple, if uninterrupted in his studies, even over the gulf of what men call physical death; is enabled so to awaken the dormant powers of the spirit-soul in him that they function as it were automatically. The giver of inner light and the giver of inner life: such is the teacher. How rarely is this recognized or even known in the Occident today. This explains in part why the egoistic and so-called individualistic Occidental, self-satisfied in his blind folly, hurls against the devotion of teacher and pupil of the ancient Eastern schools, the devotion of the disciples to their teacher and of the latter to them, such unkindly and insulting epithets, calling such devotion mental servitude, calling it mental subservience, speaking of it in terms of mockery, proving, as said before, that the critic understands it not, because that noble virtue is not in his own soul in the sense we mean. How great and far-reaching is his spiritual loss!

There is something so beautiful in devotion and loyalty and duty, faithfully carried out, that all nations of men, in all times and in all countries, have placed those three qualities of the soul in the very forefront of manly and womanly virtues. I venture to say that if we follow these three noble virtues faithfully, undismayed by the many mistakes that we may make, and our courage never dampened by the falls that we may have, but always rising again to the battle -- I venture to say that as time goes on, easier and easier, smoother and smoother, will become for us the path of wisdom and peace, and ever more joyful.

Fidelity is comprised in these things. Semper fidelis, runs the beautiful Latin motto, "always faithful"! What loveliness of thought there is in this! What man or woman can fail to despise the weakness in the weakling, the unfaithfulness in the unfaithful one! Indeed, such moral obliquity is a human characteristic; even the beasts have it not. Show me an unfaithful beast. It is only in us men that this petty vileness has its existence. And what can we learn from this little fact? Simply this, that we have, in addition to the innate love of the beast for its master, the divine gift of self-conscious intellection, which in too many of us is weakly allowed to remain uncultivated and undeveloped, so that we have but two or three feeble glimmerings or rays from the spiritual sun, so to say. And these two or three or more feeble glimmerings are just enough to put "sin," to use the old word, into our hearts. They are just enough to make us see and realize our self-importance, but not enough to make us see the truth and our inherent spiritual brotherhood; and here is where the human being fails and falls -- the so-called "secret of Satan."

What, then, is the remedy? More light. What is the remedy for folly? Wisdom. What is the remedy for ignorance? More knowledge. With more light, with the flooding of the inner nature by the rays of the spiritual sun within, these feeble glimmerings and rays grow and expand, until finally the whole inner nature is deluged with this wonderful inner light that the mystics of all ages have talked of; and then unfaithfulness becomes impossible, utterly impossible. No man will sit down, childlike, and spend his time casting up sums in simple addition -- two and two make four. He has passed that childish stage. He goes to higher things; and he looks upon the unfaithfulnesses and the failings of his less developed brothers with compassion, not with condemnation of the weakling himself. These weaklings are precisely like little children with their small sums in arithmetic. They are precisely like mentally undeveloped people. They have only a few poor glimmerings or rays in them of that glorious luminary within.

Now there is the actual psychologic fact. It is not a figure of speech or metaphor. That is what the criminal is in his inner nature: I mean the really criminal man or woman who chooses evildoing from love of it. That is what the poorly developed man has in him: just these poor feeble glimmerings of the inner sun, which are all that reach his undeveloped mind; just enough to make him see something, and to recognize, as he thinks, his own self-importance. But when the greater light, when the flooding, the deluging, of the inner nature with the larger illumination comes, then we see that all there is of us, in the sense of this petty self, is but a reflection of something nobler; and all our natures, our entire natures, are opened, when that realization comes, to an alliance with this inner and higher and nobler self, the spiritual sun of our inner being.
  • (Condensed from Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker)

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