The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
June 2005 -- Vol. 8 Issue 4
Buddhism is known as a religion of enlightenment and emancipation or freedom. Buddha is a generic name given to one who has realized enlightenment or bodhi, and is derived from the root budh, "to awaken, to perceive, to understand."
Buddha spoke the first words of the Teaching of the Law (Dharma) in the Deer Park of Isipatana near Benares, where he set forth the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. These Noble Truths, briefly, are:
existence is full of misery;
the cause of this misery is desire;
this desire can be destroyed;
the means of destroying this desire is the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path comprises:
right belief or insight;
right thought or aspiration;
right means of livelihood;
right meditation or concentration.
The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path are the centerpiece of the Buddha's presentation of the Dharma, a presentation that is concerned mainly with ethics, with living, with ideas that can be applied to end the suffering people experience in the world. The term dharma is used in many ways and with different meanings. It may be translated as law, justice, doctrine, nature, truth, morality, and good conduct -- the foundation and spiritual support of all things.
The path of enlightenment is the heart of every savior's message, though few religious faiths stress spiritual attainment for all living beings. Where does the path begin? All lives follow it as the natural course of universal evolution. For man, because of his consciousness of self, there comes a particular moment when he realizes that he can self-direct his evolution. The discipline is not out of reach of the least of us. All can learn to love and forgive; indeed, ignorance of this truth is the tragedy of our present age. The sorrows arising from selfishness and greed, which lead to separateness, have become almost overwhelming. But breaking these chains we have forged -- narrow and limited phases of ourselves -- brings joy and understanding as effects of the awakening Buddha-nature within us. To govern our lives in concert with the growth and becoming of all creatures is the compassionate path lighted by successive Buddhas from dawn till twilight of universal existence. -- Kirby Van Mater
by Tanya South
Let your compassion deeply flow.
Give readily. And let the glow
Of sympathetic understanding
Be never ending.
A day, a year, a life-time passed
In serving eagerly, and giving--
And oh, what strength is not amassed
Through this right living! -- Reprinted from Desert Magazine, October 1950
This month our reading and discussion of the Tao Teh Ching by Lao-tzu starts with verse 58. Extra copies of the book are available for use at the library. Feel free to drop in at any meeting!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Following meetings (at Newport Way Library):
Thursdays, July 7, August 4, September 1, 2005
"Right Livelihood" is our topic this month. We will be discussing such questions as: How can we combine economic life, usually presented as built on self-interest and ambition, with spiritual values? Is the type of work we do important in itself? What does "right livelihood" mean in context of Buddha’s eightfold path to enlightenment? What might constitute "wrong" livelihood? How can our job help us in our inner development? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
July 21: Death: A Change of Consciousness
August: The Mysteries of Time
September: Overcoming Fear
October: Mind --Trickster, Transformer
November: The Seven Jewels of Wisdom
December: The Inner Nativity
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
Duty is a concept abhorred by many today, yet we find ourselves curiously touched by the life of William Q. Judge, which exemplified its true meaning. Judge sacrificed both his personal life and health for the cause of theosophy. To run his small office in the early days, he not only worked long hours as a lawyer, but labored into the night on his theosophic writings.
For Judge, duty was the "royal talisman . . . Selflessness. Duty persistently followed is the highest yoga." The term "talisman" stems from the Greek word telein, which means to be initiated into the Mysteries -- a kind of consecration (telesma), not just an object or magical omen. In theosophical terms raja yoga is the "royal or kingly yoga," which has little to do with the postures or breathing exercises of hatha yoga. The science of raja yoga recognizes that vibration is the key to all. We become chelas or disciples. We raise our vibratory state to that of the teacher, the greatest teacher being our higher self, which is the true self shining in all. The guru is only the guide or readjuster. The student prepares for chelaship by facing his own day-by-day life, not by avoiding it. Hindu aspirants to chelaship at times have been ordered to go home and attend to the household life. The yoga or skill in action comes through deciding which of many duties to fulfill -- to mankind, to family, or to nature? Clearly the web of life affects all planes of action and great discernment is needed.
Even if we do not know our duty, that in itself is a karmic disability to be overcome. All efforts to improve our-selves and others cultivate merit in the sense of future opportunities to serve, and involve simply doing that which lies in front of us. Firstly, we work in and on ourselves, with the aim of self-enlightenment for the good of others. In the Bhagavad-Gita Krishna advises Arjuna: "Even if the good of mankind only is considered by thee, the performance of thy duty will be plain." (ch. 3).
One can find the hidden way to true knowledge only through the door of life. All nature exemplifies life evolving through effort and, we might add, by sacrifice. In man, one form of sacrifice is self-restraint. For example, on the plane of mind we should refrain from negative thoughts which, when released, will affect others more inclined to vice. Our duty is to plant wholesome seeds in the thought worlds.
Such restraint, as we revamp our thought life, leads to a focus on liberation for others, not for oneself alone. H. P. Blavatsky defined duty as that which is owed humanity:
Duty is that which is due to Humanity, to our fellow-men, neighbors, family, and especially that which we owe to all those who are poorer and more helpless than we are ourselves. This is a debt which, if left unpaid during life, leaves us spiritually insolvent and moral bankrupts in our next incarnation. Theosophy is the quintessence of duty. -- The Key to Theosophy, p. 229
If duty is what "is due to Humanity," we have to orient our lives along new lines. And while it is our duty to help all, that doesn't mean running around aimlessly, but helping those nearest us.
What are the signs of duty in a practical sense? Duty is a performance of that which presents itself, not just what we would like to do. It remains the highest union spoken of in the Bhagavad-Gita: that equanimity in facing all which comes our way. We need not go around long-faced with solemn countenance, or condemn the pleasures of those who cling to them. A constant account of all we must do can only bore our family and friends. Rather we may be active, yet at peace within.
In this regard duty is opportunity to work off old karma. Each event confronting us can be seen as an occult blessing in disguise, preparing us for loftier duties and a higher work, a consecration preceding the Mysteries. Duty then becomes that devotion which places all our deeds on the altar of the heart.
Would that on a higher level the practice of our duty might become as natural as breathing, as we learn to live in harmony with the larger duty or yoga which allows the mind to embrace the universe, beyond the illusions of time or space. It is that dharma which hastens the heart to
Follow the wheel of life; follow the wheel of duty to race and kin, to friend and foe, and close thy mind to pleasures as to pain. Exhaust the law of Karmic retribution. -- H. P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence.