The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
February 2002 Vol. 4 Issue 12
Sitting in my quiet study, looking out over my small garden, the turbulent world seems far away. Perhaps it is the peace of my study that makes me ask: Why only here? Why can't the world be at peace? What is wrong with us humans that we cannot live in harmony together?
Perhaps we have become so sophisticated and materialistic that the simplest message of all our religions has become too difficult for us to understand. It is expressed in a variety of languages using different words, but always with the same meaning: "Do unto your neighbor what you would like him to do unto you." Simple, yes, but to act upon at all times probably the most difficult of all commands to follow.
Sitting in my peaceful office, my thoughts take me out into the world, so full of hate and killing, not only in wars and revolutions but often for a few cents to buy drugs, or simply for the lust to kill. The commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is forgotten, and with my mind's eye I see waves of hate pulsing through the air. Certainly we are living in a dark age, but this is no excuse for all this violence. We alone are responsible for the actions we take and the decisions we make, be they good, evil, or all shades in between. Acknowledging this to myself, I also realized how difficult it is to make the right decision and not to be caught up in the thought-streams of this world. But how do we, to the best of our ability, see correctly and choose the right action?
Glancing at the shelves lining my study, my eyes came to rest on Mme. Blavatsky's books, and I remembered that one of the ancient truths she tried to bring back to our civilization was that humanity can only live in peace and harmony, and therefore survive, if it is strong enough to live as a brother-hood of men.
A brotherhood of men? Is it really such a farfetched idea? Is it the impossibility some try to make us believe?
In the quiet of my study, picture after picture arose in my mind, some evil, some good. The evil was strong, noisy, and clamoring for recognition, but the good – the love between people, the utter selfless helpfulness extended from one human being to another in need – did not need to clamor for recognition, it was just there, being the promise that all of mankind will turn towards it and help it grow, and by its growth defeat evil once again.
A brotherhood of men! Yes, it is not only a possibility, it is a certainty. Hope tells us: people can live, work, and strive together in peace and harmony. – Lo Guest
Peace it seems is not to be had for the asking. Perhaps if enough ask, we shall have it, but not without some modifications to our thinking.
This idea of thought and whether it can be modified is, I feel, the root of the matter. This question has absorbed me for a very long time; mainly, I think, because I have been keenly aware of the great discrepancy between the idea and the reality. There are moments of truth in the lives of all people, which differ from our habitual states of conscious-ness. Life provides these opportunities and, if we were wiser, such moments would constitute the rule and not the exception. I used to think that wisdom could be obtained from books; now I realize that such knowledge embraces all aspects of life, and that we can learn only to the extent that we are filled with awareness. Experience, as such, is essential if this faculty is to be used.
The confusion of the world mirrors the confusion of the mind at every level, national, international, and personal; but sometimes I suspect that like a child I delight in confusion, creating it as a web in which my gnat's-brain becomes entangled. There are rare moments of perception (all too rare) when the jabberings of the mind are silenced. The disunity is momentarily eclipsed, and that aggregate of parts we call a man becomes a component of something for which there is no name, but which in itself is the world and greater than the world. – John Llewellyn
"War – in Heaven, on Earth, in Man" is our subject. We will discuss such questions as: What are the fundamental causes of disharmony, conflict, and violence? Are they inevitable? What do stories about wars among the gods or angels signify? Why is war so heavily involved in religious imagery and scriptures? How is discord in nature and human affairs related to conflicts in the individual? How can we find peace and establish harmony in our own life as well as among mankind? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
Many people have concerns with the setting of the Bhagavad-Gita being a battlefield, with Krishna urging Arjuna to fight. But as we think about it, it seems that all around us we see conflict, and within ourselves we struggle with decisions and battle between differing desires. Sometimes we are even given to sleeping on some decisions, before resolution is reached, in our own minds!
On war, Sri Aurobindo in his Essays on the Gita writes:
"War typifies and embodies physically the aspect of battle and struggle which belongs to all life, both to our inner and our outer living, in a world whose method is a meeting and wrestling of forces which progress by mutual destruction towards a continually changing adjustment expressive of a progressive harmonising and hopeful of a perfect harmony based upon some yet ungrasped potentiality of oneness."
Eknath Easwaran, in the Introduction to his translation of the Gita expresses that the experiential struggle is one which appears in every age and civilization:
"The findings of the seers of ancient India, analysing their awareness of human experience to see if there was anything in it that was absolute . . . can be summarized in three statements which Aldous Huxley, following Spinoza, has called the Perennial Philosophy because they appear in every age and civilization: (1) there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change; (2) this same reality lies at the core of every human personality; (3) the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially: that is, to realize God while here on earth. These principles . . . were taught systematically in 'forest academies' or ashrams – a tradition which continues unbroken after some three thousand years."
Even in the face of civil war, Gandhi answered the criticism of war in the Gita and the charge that the Gita is a validation of war:
"Just base your life on the Gita sincerely and systematically and see if you find killing or even hurting others compatible with its teachings." (He makes the same point of the Sermon on the Mount.)
This epic battle between the great duality, the forces of light and dark in every human heart, speaks to each in the Bhagavad-Gita. From the sixth chapter we read:
"Reshape yourself through the power of your will; never let yourself be degraded by self-will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self."
The rub is that it is all individual. Individual study. Individual reflection. Individual thought. Individual action. Individual meeting of karma. Individual struggle. Individual triumph. Individual self-mastery. However, there are no specific dogmas we can rely upon to get us there as easy as 1, 2, 3. Individual will and right motive are all we have. James Long wrote:
"No one can answer for another [where one's own duty ends and another's begins], as the whole purpose of life is to develop spiritual self-reliance, and we will never acquire this by looking to others. The more sincere our aspiration and the greater our knowledge, the narrower does the way become. It is truly a razor's edge of decision that faces every aspirant to self-mastery. On the one hand, he finds the warning: 'There is danger in the duty of another; better to die doing one's own duty, however poor it may seem, than to perform another's with excellence.' And on the other hand, the equally challenging statement: 'Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin.'"
So the student comes to see that he is not to do either "Good" or "Evil," but to do any certain number of acts set before him, and meanwhile not ever to regard much his line of conduct, but rather his line of motive, for his conduct follows necessarily from his motive. Take the soldier. For him there is nothing better than lawful war. Query: Does he do wrong in warring or not, even if war be unlawful? He does not unless he mixes his motive. They who go into war for gain or revenge do wrong, but not he who goes at his superior's orders, because it is his present duty. . . .
Let us remember those famous words: "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Let us remember the teaching of the Sages that death in the performance of our duty is preferable to the doing by us of the duty of another, however well we may do the latter: the duty of another is full of danger. Let us be of and for peace, and not for war alone. – William Q. Judge