The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
October 2013 – Vol. 16 Issue 8
Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature; in darkness and light, in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids and of sound.
The same dualism underlies the nature and condition of man. Every excess causes a defect; every defect an excess. Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good. Every faculty which is a receiver of pleasure has an equal penalty put on its abuse. It is to answer for its moderation with its life. For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly. For every thing you have missed, you have gained something else; and for every thing you gain, you lose something. . . .
The world globes itself in a drop of dew. The micro-scope cannot find the animalcule which is less perfect for being little. Eyes, ears, taste, smell, motion, resistance, appetite, and organs of reproduction that take hold on eternity – all find room to consist in the small creature. So do we put our life into every act. The true doctrine of omnipresence is that God reappears with all his parts in every moss and cobweb. The value of the universe contrives to throw itself into every point. If the good is there, so is the evil; if the affinity, so the repulsion; if the force, so the limitation. Thus is the universe alive. All things are moral.
Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.
A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of life, and know that it is always the part of prudence to face every claimant and pay every just demand on your time, your talents, or your heart. . . . Persons and events may stand for a time between you and justice, but it is only a postponement. You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more. Benefit is the end of nature. But for every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who confers the most benefits. He is base – and that is the one base thing in the universe – to receive favors and render none. In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. Beware of too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and worm worms.
The human soul is true to these facts in the painting of fable, of history, of law, of proverbs, of conversation.… Siegfried, in the Nibelungen, is not quite immortal, for a leaf fell on his back whilst he was bathing in the Dragon's blood, and that spot which it covered is mortal. And so it always is. There is a crack in every thing God has made.
The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man had ever a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him.… Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults. As no man thoroughly understands a truth until first he has contended against it, so no man has a thorough acquaintance with the hindrances or talents of men until he has suffered from the one and seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the same. Has he a defect of temper that unfits him to live in society? Thereby he is driven to entertain himself alone and acquire habits of self-help; and thus, like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with pearl.
Our strength grows out of our weakness.
Men suffer all their life long under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the same time. There is a third silent party to all our bargains. The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty of the fulfillment of every contract, so that honest service cannot come to loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid.… Thus do all things preach the indifferency of circumstances. The man is all. Every thing has two sides, a good and an evil. Every advantage has its tax. I learn to be content.
There is a deeper fact in the soul than compensation, to wit, its own nature. The soul is not a compensation, but a life. The soul is. Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Existence, or God, is not a relation or a part, but the whole. Being is the vast affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and swallowing up all relations, parts and times within itself. Nature, truth, virtue, are the influx from thence. Vice is the absence or departure of the same.
In the nature of the soul is the compensation for the inequalities of condition…. It seems a great injustice. But see the facts nearly and these mountainous inequalities vanish. Love reduces them as the sun melts the iceberg in the sea. The heart and soul of all men being one, this bitterness of His and Mine ceases. His is mine. I am my brother and my brother is me. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Compensation”
It is quite defensible to call the Tīrthankara Mahāvīra, the founder of Jainism, the Father of Ecology. His famous saying of some 2600 years ago, Parāsparopagraho jīvanam, can be interpreted in various ways. It can be translated as “all forms of life (or consciousness) are connected in mutual support and dependence” or “all creatures are there to help one another” or “all living beings are interdependent.”
Ecology and its practical application – the care for our environment and the globe on which we live – has become an important science in the last few decades. According to Webster’s Third International Dictionary, “Ecology is the science concerned with the interconnectedness of things, especially as manifested by natural cycles and rhythms.” Western ecology, however, studies an ecosystem or ecological unit as an association of individuals each striving for its own benefit, adapting to the changing biological, physical and chemical environment. At best, beings cooperate because they co-evolved into a condition of mutual benefit. The interdependence of certain creatures, such as figs and fig-wasps, insects and flowers, monkeys and fruit, has been established by accidental evolutionary steps. All these things have ultimately been led by chance to a situation which is beneficial to each. What is hidden beneath the surface of ecological and evolutionary theory is a metaphysical motivation of self-preservation, success for oneself, and selfishness in general.
There is in this pessimistic view no recognition of an inherent factor of service to a greater purpose in nature or the community of all beings on earth, nor of a harmonious overtone which all beings (unconsciously, semi-consciously, or consciously) obey. Science has lost the idea of a divine presence pervading all things. It has lost the feeling of a spiritual key-tone which, like the drone of the tampura, reflects the ever-presence of the divine, from which all comes and to which all returns. For me, however, life is like a spiritual musical score according to which each plays (or tries to play) its individual tune in the universal symphony. The predominant scientific opinion posits only blind matter – no intelligence, divine consciousness, beauty or harmony as inherent parts of an ecosystem. Yet who does not stand in awe when allowing themselves to be engulfed by the sounds of a tropical rainforest, the beauty of a newly opened flower or when abiding in places of primordial purity in nature?
Compare scientific thoughts with Mahāvīra’s simple saying that all forms of conscious life are connected in mutual support and dependence, or they are there to help each other. It means there is not only interconnectedness as a result of the automatic workings of nature, but also that there is a conscious purpose: to support and help, not only on an individual basis but including all. Just as humankind is composed of individuals, families, groups, and nations, which finally form humanity, so is ecology composed of individuals, family relations, ecosystems and finally the whole earth.
Jainism teaches some very fundamental values which I hope will, in time, be adopted by the world at large. First, every realm of nature is ensouled by numerous jīvas or souls, each of which has a consciousness, one or more senses, and a mind. So each entity is aware, has the ability to feel joy and suffering, acts in its own way and through karma builds its own future. Thus every jīva experiences and grows, is dependent on all others, and has an influence on all others. Second, every jīva exists for eternity, though it dresses itself subsequently in innumerable forms and goes through millions of stages of development. The soul-inspired tendency is naturally upwards, i.e. evolutionary. Its form and conditions of life are, however, determined by its karma, the law of cause and effect in consciousness. By conscious choice even the simplest being influences its own future and whether it will then feel good or bad. And at the same time every soul influences, and is influenced by, every other soul in the universe. Therefore every soul has the potential to cause suffering and relieve the suffering of others. So compassion flows forth from Mahāvīra’s famous pronouncement.
Importantly, in Jainism every single being continues to exist, rather than the Western idea that every consciousness is a new creation or the combination of chemical atoms and molecules that ceases to exist at physical death. If this last is so, why worry about the future, other than our immediate satisfaction and joy? Kill an animal and eat it – so what? But in Jainism, if damage is done, it is done to an eternal soul by an eternal soul. Events cannot be washed away by mere physical death. Effects may take place over periods of thousands or millions of years. And effects always come back to the one who caused them.