The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
June 2007 -- Vol. 10 Issue 4
You know the old Greek story about a certain very curious person who opened a box and all the evils in the world fled out, and there remained only hope. I think this contains a great deal of truth which has a practical bearing on life's problems. As long as a person has hope he does not give up. Weak or strong, if he has something to look forward to, he not only will never despair but will become a builder, a worker with the universe, because he will move forwards. And this is altruism. Human nature is prone to imagine that altruism is something foreign, lugged into life as a most desirable thing but highly impractical. But whatever we study, we find that the individual working alone for itself is helpless; wherever we look it is union of effort, cooperation, that nature herself is working to bring about.
We are all children of the universe, of its physical side and of its spiritual and divine side. This being so, there is in every human breast an undying font not only of inspiration, but likewise of growth, of hope, of wisdom, and of love. So that the world today, although apparently in a desperate state, still contains in it men and women enough to carry the evolutionary wave of progress over its present turmoil and strife; for the majority of mankind are essentially right in their instincts, especially the higher instincts.
Therefore, I do not see anything horribly hopeless about the world's condition today. I believe not only that there is ground for hope, but that the undying spark of spirituality, of wisdom and love of altruism, always living in the human heart will carry the human race not only out of its present series of impasses and difficulties, but into brighter days, which will be brighter because wiser and gentler. It is not the crises when things seem to crash which govern the great functions of life, human and cosmic; but those slow, to us, always quiet, unending silent processes which build: build when we wake, build when we sleep, build all the time; and even in the human race carry it through folly after folly into the future.
There is the ground of our hope; and it seems to me that all good men and women should rally to the defense of these primal, simple verities which every heart, adult or child, can understand. I believe it is about time that we began to look on the bright side of things, to see hope around us, to forget ourselves and our petty worries, and to live in the Infinite and in the Eternal. It is infinitely easier than making ourselves continuously sick with frets and worries. Within each one of us there is something divine to which we can cling and which will carry us through. -- G. de Purucker
The Interfaith Fair held on May 5 at Bellevue Community College brought together people of all ages from many cultures and spiritual paths for discussion and fellowship.
A friend startled me the other day with an unusual greeting, "I salute the best that's in you! May your day be bright!" I had just stubbed my toe on the curb, and felt more like . . . you-know-what! But her exuberance made me laugh at myself. It didn't eliminate the pain in my foot, but it did change the way I felt about it. -- Alysann Bendroth
"How Do We Find Joy in Life?" is our next subject. We will be discussing such questions as: How best can we "follow our bliss"? Is personal happiness a worthy aim? Why do some scriptures advise avoiding both pleasure and pain? Is joy a spiritual quality? Is the bliss of freedom from existence, nirvana, or mystical at-one-ment the supreme goal of life? What is the difference between seeking joy or bliss for ourselves and seeking it for all beings? 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.
July 12: Ancient Wisdom, Timeless Truths
August: Inner Alchemy
September: Is Theosophy Relevant Today?
October: Music of the Spheres
November: The Uses of Adversity
Many inspirational texts tell us that joy -- true spiritual joy, not that temporary emotion brought about by self-indulgence -- is found by becoming at one with our divine selves. This allows the loving, spiritual part of us to shine through and direct our lives and actions. It also helps us to live in complete harmony with the laws of nature, giving us peace, serenity, and joy. But how can we, as imperfect human beings, find our way through the pitfalls of material life to discover this true joy?
The first step is to decide you want to be happy. This may sound odd, but as G. de Purucker says, "Many, many people -- most human beings, perhaps -- like to suffer! There are men and women who deliberately, for the pleasure of the thing, make themselves miserable and other people around them, too." I think that choosing to be miserable and depressed is a form of self-involvement, a form of selfishness. It allows us to feel sorry for ourselves and focus on our own well-being rather than on others. It also, in the case of depression, is a way to disable or numb ourselves, making us incapable of action. This is a very negative state that benefits no one. So to decide to be happy means giving up the self-indulgence of being miserable! As ironic as it seems, it is a step towards unselfishness, since it is a decision to shift our focus from our own problems out-wards toward the world.
Once we decide we want to be happy, then the next step is to realize that our path to happiness -- and unhappiness -- lies entirely in our own hands, and no one else's. This is because of karma, or cause and effect, which teaches that "man's actions set in motion causes which in due time react upon their producer." Thus, we have made ourselves who we are, and our trials are brought on by our own actions and choices, and are not the punishments of a vain and avenging God. This means that it is in our power to improve our lives and to make ourselves what we want to be.
Once we accept responsibility for our own problems, we should then try to accept our trials with good grace, and strive to learn from them. There is a saying, "Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional." This means that we should face the results of our actions with courage and optimism, and not give in to misery or despair. It also helps to remember that karma is infinitely kind, and that the trials we undergo are designed to teach us exactly what we need to learn to become better human beings.
Some other ways to bring joy into our lives can be stated simply thus: bring inspiring things into your heart and mind, and remove those that make you unhappy or bring you down:
Let the first thought of the day be one of love, gratitude, inspiration, and beauty. We often wake to fears for what the day will bring. Replace those fearful thoughts with positive ones.
Curb the insidious habits of fault-finding, criticism, complaining and pessimism. These seem like such small vices, yet these unproductive thoughts creep into our minds dozens of times each day, dimming the joy that we could be feeling. Oftentimes these thoughts are habitual, and we don't even realize that they have pervaded our minds. So, to overcome them, start by becoming aware of a negative thought when it first pops into your head. Then, stop thinking it. Don't wrestle with it or rationalize it or analyze it. Just stop thinking it. Then replace it with a positive thought. It might help to remember that though we all have faults and flaws, we our at our core divine beings and thus deserving of love, respect, and the benefit of the doubt.
Practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is "one of the steps to divine love. True forgiveness is the refusing to bear resentment, nourish a grudge, cultivate hatred; and forgiveness means also to cleanse your heart of these degrading impulses" (G. de Purucker, Golden Precepts, pp. 121-2). It might be easier to forgive if, when wronged, we pause a moment, take one step back from our own anger and hurt, and ask, how does the other person feel? What is going on in their lives and past experiences that could have made them act that way? This brief pause in our initial reaction may stem a rush of hate and let a spark of love and compassion enter our hearts in its place.
True joy based on achieving spiritual perfection on this earth may seem very difficult to attain. But perhaps the key is to start with a few steps that, though small, are headed in the right direction. And that is all that matters.