The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
May 2007 -- Vol. 10 Issue 3
We are living in interesting times of technological development in which brotherhood has really become a practical worldwide affair. In the past, distance and expense limited contact and the dissemination of information. Nowadays communication, friendships, as well as quarrels and wars, know no borders. Why do we need to communicate in this way? Isn't there anything in nature like this modern technology of the internet? Yes, there surely is: there has always been communication among all forms of life. Universal brotherhood has been mentioned as a fact of nature by great sages even in the far past. Then why were telecommunications and the internet invented only recently, rather than 10,000 or 100,000 years ago?
In fact it was invented much earlier than 100,000 years ago by nature itself, even before humanity was walking the earth. All beings are one in that which is beyond all forms, and at the same time they comprise an almost infinite number of varieties of individualities. From the moment individual living entities came into being there must have been communication. Every single being -- be it a human, an animal, a plant, a stone, or even an atom -- has the ability to communicate with others. We know that planets and stars have this ability: floating millions of kilometers from earth, they influence our behavior -- even that of animals and plants -- our character, moods, events on earth and elsewhere, our successes and failures.
As Hindus know, pranas or vital energies stream forth from the inner being of every living thing. These pranas enter beings with every breath, moving up and down and back and forth through our bodies. They are moving through and over our planet, through the mountains, rivers, trees, animals, humans, and gods, in and out of the poles of our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, connecting every individual creature in the universe. All these pranas are loaded with specific information. Sometimes we know that we are communicating with our loved ones without telephones or the internet even when they are on the other side of the world. If that is so, what do we need the internet for?
While a spiritual internet has always existed, now we are living in an age of matter known among Hindus as kali yuga. What was once common, when our hearts were open to the subtle forms of prana in more spiritual periods, has now become translated to the realm of matter. Our senses have become coarse and no longer susceptible to the subtle vibrations of spirit.
But even within eons of darkness like the present there are possibilities. We can use these accomplishments of modern science for good: to spread messages of high quality which people all over the world can consciously take in through their eyes and minds; messages which can inspire people to think finer thoughts and choose a purer path in life. Let us fill our minds, and our websites, with thoughts of purest unselfishness, and we will have added our stone to the building of a heavenly palace meant for all. -- Rudi Jansma
"Cultures of Our Community" is the theme of the up-coming Multicultural Festival on Saturday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bellevue Community College, 3000 Landerholm Circle SE, Bellevue. A free family event, it will include a colorful cultural parade, food, activities for children, workshops, a resource fair, concerts of world music and dance, and an international market featuring arts and crafts.
An Interfaith Fair is part of the festival. Information tables set up by local religious and spiritual groups will surround a central area set up to encourage discussions among people of different backgrounds and faiths. As Dr. Diana Eck of the Harvard Pluralism Project wrote: "How Americans of all faiths and beliefs can engage with one another to shape a positive pluralism is one of the essential questions -- perhaps the most important facing American society. While race has been the dominant American social issue in the past century, religious diversity in our civil and neighborly lives is emerging, mostly unseen, as the great challenge of the 21st century." More information is available at www.interfaithfair.com.
"Am I My Brother's Keeper?" is our next subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What is our responsibility to others? Do we have the right or duty to guide others' choices or control their actions? How can we best be of help to others? Who is our "brother" or "sister"? What is our relationship and responsibility to the other inhabitants of our globe, to the earth itself, and to life universal? Are we essentially separate entities or parts of an all-encompassing Oneness? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.
June 14: How Do We Find Joy in Life?
July: Ancient Knowledge, Ancient Truths
August: Inner Alchemy
September: Is Theosophy Relevant Today?
October: Music of the Spheres
November: The Uses of Adversity
"Be lamps unto yourselves, and work out your own salvation," instructed the Buddha. It's so tempting to follow someone's else's lamp or to try to get others to follow ours. Do we have a responsibility to others to be their keeper -- their shepherd, warden, supervisor, watchdog? Certainly we have a responsibility to control our own actions and attitudes, to do no harm, to be helpful and humane. We might think of bodhisattvas, compassionate renouncers of nirvana, who vow to remain in the world until even the least being achieves freedom from suffering. Some images show them with one hand reaching up to more advanced beings and the other reaching down to terrestrial beings like us who trail behind. But bodhisattvas don't aid us by compelling or herding us forward, by making rules or asserting authority. They aren't shepherds of us ordinary human sheep. Rather, they encourage, educate, and embody compassion, while bathing the world in unconditional love and goodwill.
Most of us have a strong urge to control others or to have them be controlled. Many people feel at sea without religiously imposed "norms," just as children feel insecure unless grownups make and enforce rules. But life teaches us that we can't control others, even those closest to us, if they really don't want us to. Anyone dealing with a family member's addiction is forced to learn this hard lesson. Like the bodhisattva, it isn't our responsibility to control others by infringing on their freedom of thought or action, except insofar as they are actively injuring others.
Of course, ideas of what's appropriate have changed over the last few centuries. In the West the male head of household is no longer the rightful "keeper" of his wife, children, servants, and slaves. "Inalienable" human rights have been extended more and more as we recognize people's humanity as a claim to self-determination, liberty of thought, and equality of opportunity. These ideals are not yet practical realities, but are widely acknowledged despite fierce attempts to return to earlier thinking or to restrict rights to "us" at the expense of "them," whether it be the mentally ill, prisoners, the poor, immigrants, foreigners, various religious and racial groups, etc. In time we may catch up with Jesus, whose fellowship with those considered socially unacceptable marked them as being among those we should love as ourselves.
Just as the apostles asked Jesus to define who was our neighbor, we may wonder who is our brother? St. Francis spoke of the sun, moon, rain, wind, birds, animals, and plants as our brothers and sisters. Native Americans do likewise. Respect, a feeling of kinship, a sense of equality that goes to the very root of each and all lies behind such language. The interconnection among all life is widely accepted today, often pictured as a webwork rather than an aristocracy or hierarchy organized by beings' ascending worth or excellence. Yet the equal beinghood of other life forms is still largely discounted. What is a fitting attitude toward those who share the earth with us? Are we natural or divinely-appointed rulers or stewards of our non-human sisters and brothers and of the lakes and rivers, mountains and prairies, oceans and deserts? Or are we children of the earth, siblings of all our co-inhabitants, living spiritual beings in a living spiritual cosmos?
Psalm 121 tells us that "The Lord is your keeper." To me this implies that we are directly connected to the divine forces behind the universe, including the divinity at the heart of our own being. This brings to mind a simple prayer:
I am the place where God shines through
For he and I are one, not two.
He wants me where, and as I am,
I need not fret, nor fear, nor plan.
If I will be relaxed and free
He'll carry out his work through me.
Every being is the expression of a divinity, and each is protected by its own deepest self, which we may picture as a guardian spirit or angel if we like to use a human image. The Quakers, so often at the forefront of humanitarian causes, hold that every person has a spark of God within. Therefore God communicates with all people directly, and each must be free to discover and travel his or her own spiritual path. The Jains also hold that every being is the manifestation of a divine life-spark. Hence their emphasis on ahimsa, "harmlessness" or "nonviolence," and their respect for all views, each of which contains some truth but none all the truth.
We are one humanity, one life. As reflections of our own inner divinity, we can find ways to be caring and supportive while respecting that all others are also self-directed facets of the inexpressible unity that underlies everything.