The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
May 2003 Vol. 6 Issue 3
The Northwest Branch is set to begin another type of public meeting. The current monthly meeting is an open discussion centering on a different topic each month, which is announced beforehand. Those interested in discussing a particular topic at these meetings are encouraged to send their suggestions to the Branch for consideration.
Due to recent requests we are also planning an additional meeting, perhaps twice a month, focused around reading a theosophical work -- either during the meeting or beforehand -- with discussion centered around theosophical concepts and teachings. The text we have selected is the Bhagavad-Gita, an ancient dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on topics of timeless spiritual import.
Those interested in attending such a book circle should email, write, or leave a phone message for the Branch regarding their interest and the times they would be free to attend. The members of the Northwest Branch will get back to those who express an interest. Thank you for your continuing support of the Northwest Branch and The Theosophical Society!
More than one great scholar has stated that there never was a religious founder who had invented a new religion or revealed a new truth. These founders were all transmitters, the authors of new forms and interpretations, while the truths upon which the latter were based were as old as mankind. Selecting one or more of those grand verities out of the many orally revealed to man in the beginning, preserved and perpetuated in the adyta of the temples, they revealed these truths to the masses. Thus every nation received in its turn some of the said truths, under the veil of its own local and special symbolism; which, as time went on, developed into a more or less philosophical cultus, a Pantheon in mythical disguise.
There remains enough even among the mutilated records to warrant us saying that there is in them every possible evidence of the actual existence of a parent doctrine. Fragments have survived geological and political cataclysms to tell the story; and every survival shows evidence that the now secret wisdom was once the one fountain head, the ever-flowing perennial source, at which were fed all its streamlets -- the later religions of all nations, from the first down to the last.
To be a theosophist, one need not necessarily recognize the existence of any special God or a deity. One need but worship the spirit of living nature, and try to identify oneself with it. Be what he may, once that a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought -- Godward -- he is a theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with "an inspiration of his own" to solve universal problems.
With every one that is earnestly searching in his own way after a knowledge of the divine principle, of man's relations to it, and nature's manifestations of it, theosophy is allied. It is likewise the ally of honest science, as distinguished from much that passes for exact, physical science, so long as the latter does not poach on the domains of psychology and metaphysics.
And it is also the ally of every honest religion, to wit: a religion willing to be judged by the same tests as it applies to the others. Those books, which contain the most self-evident truth, are to it inspired (not revealed). But all books it regards, on account of the human element contained in them, as inferior to the Book of Nature; to read which and comprehend it correctly, the innate powers of the soul must be highly developed. Ideal laws can be perceived by the intuitive faculty alone; they are beyond the domain of argument and dialectics, and no one can understand or rightly appreciate them through the explanations of another mind, though even this mind be claiming a direct revelation. -- H. P. Blavatsky
"Theosophy, Ancient and Modern" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What is theosophy? Where are its origins, and how has it been expressed through the centuries worldwide? What are some of the common ideas found in this perennial philosophy and how were they derived? Who is Helena Blavatsky, and what relationship does she have to theosophy? Does modern theosophy have dogmatic teachings? Is it an eclectic philosophy? A science? A religion? What are its aims? As human beings, what can theosophy do for us? 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:
June 12: Science and Mysticism
July: Who Am I?
August: Myths and Symbols: A Universal Language
September: What Is the Basis of Ethics?
October: Bringing Ourselves to Birth
November: What Is the Meaning of Life?
The Bhagavad-Gita or "song celestial" is a story in the sixth of eighteen books of the Mahabharata, one of ancient India's greatest epics. Like the parables Jesus used to teach his followers, it has an outer and an inner meaning. Outwardly we see Arjuna and Krishna arrayed for a battle over land and family rights. Its setting is the field of the Kurus, or Kurukshetra, with two opposing armies, the Pandavas and the Kurus. War exemplifies physically this constant struggle of dualities in life to reach harmony through conflict and resolution. Gandhi answered criticisms that the Gita validated war by saying: "Just base your life on the Gita sincerely and systematically and see if you find killing or even hurting others compatible with its teachings."
On inward lines the Bhagavad-Gita concerns the internal war each human being must eventually wage for self-mastery. The Delphic oracle proclaimed "Know thyself!" To know ourselves is not easy, for we are composite beings, made up of body, soul, and spirit, as the apostle Paul wrote. The spirit portion of us is our highest self or atma. Self-mastery is achieved when the personal, selfish portion of each of us is directed by our higher self.
As the Gita opens, Arjuna the warrior sits in his chariot conversing with his charioteer, Krishna. The Katha Upanishad throws light on the inner meaning of this imagery:
Know the Self (atma) as the master sitting within the chariot which is the body (sarira), know again the understanding (buddhi) as the charioteer and the mind (manas) as the reins.
The senses, they say, are the horses; the objects of sense, what they range over. . .
He who is ever of unrestrained mind, devoid of true understanding, his sense-desires then become uncontrollable like the wild horses of a charioteer.
But he who is ever of controlled mind, and has true understanding, his sense-desires then are control-lable like the good horses of a charioteer. . .
The desires are superior to the senses, the mind is superior to the desires, the intuition (understanding) is superior to the mind, the great Self is superior to the intuition. -- I.3.3-6, 10
Going further, the wheels of the chariot symbolize right effort; the destination is perfection; and the whole experience urges us to become an aspirant after truth by living life in the higher portions of ourselves.
How can we go about achieving self-mastery? The second chapter of the Gita speaks directly to this point:
A man is said to be confirmed in spiritual knowledge when he forsaketh every desire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and content in the Self through the Self. His mind is undisturbed in adversity; he is happy and contented in prosperity, and he is a stranger to anxiety, fear, and anger. Such a man is called a Muni [wise man]. When in every condition he receives each event, whether favorable or unfavorable, with an equal mind which neither likes nor dislikes, his wisdom is established, and, having met good or evil, neither rejoiceth at the one nor is cast down by the other. He is confirmed in spiritual knowledge, when, like the tortoise, he can draw in all his senses and restrain them from their wonted purposes. The hungry man loseth sight of every other object but the gratification of his appetite, and when he is become acquainted with the Supreme, he loseth all taste for objects of whatever kind. The tumultuous senses and organs hurry away by force the heart even of the wise man who striveth after perfection. Let a man, restraining all these, remain in devotion at rest in me, his true self; for he who hath his senses and organs in control possesses spiritual knowledge. -- 2:55-61
We generate karma, and eventually we reap those same causes as the effects ripple back to their origin. Thus, the causes of our unhappiness lie in our own mistaken ideas and acts, not in external conditions. To overcome these causes, we need a better grasp of who we are and what our purpose is in life. The Bhagavad-Gita can help teach us who we are and lead us through the maze of life. Ultimately, with much thought, reflection, and effort, we can realize those truths which, if lived, will make our futures ever brighter, even though they may not immediately transform our present circumstances.