Theosophy, as is generally understood, involves finding and studying wisdom that is eternal. However, many a times such study takes so much of effort and concentration that theosophers begin to place their own progress over the progress of their fellow human beings.

The great teacher Buddha understood this and in one of the foundational texts of Buddhism, Lankavatara Sutra, in chapter 11 titled Nirvana he teaches:

The teaching of Nirvana in which there is no substrate left behind, is revealed according to a hidden meaning for the sake of these disciples who still cling to thoughts of Nirvana for themselves, that they may be inspired to exert themselves in the Bodhisattva's mission of emancipation for all beings.
The Transformation-Buddhas teach a doctrine of Nirvana to meet conditions as they find them, and to give encouragement to the timid and selfish. In order to turn their thoughts away from themselves and to encourage them to a deeper compassion and more earnest zeal for others, they are given assurance as to the future by the sustaining power of the Buddhas of Transformation...

It is not difficult to find the parallels in other thought systems.

Several commentators have described this teaching as Buddha having forsaken his own Nirvana until all other beings achieved it.

What does it mean for us in the current context? Should we get involved more in the community, in the opinion making, environment, economics, helping others etc., or remain a passive student of ancient texts, symbols, wisdom?

What should be more important in our life? Bringing a smile on the face of a crying child or deciphering of an ancient symbol?

What is Active Theosophy?

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Beautiful post.

I may be projecting myself onto my environment, but it seems to me the entertainment industry is teeming with theosophists. They may not claim the title, but from watching movies ranging in difference from Mr. Nobody to the new Superman movie, it seems the message being conveyed is so often of spiritual growth and truth seeking. This is especially true, for reasons I can understand, in the science-fiction genre. I believe some of these writers, directors, and artists have already asked themselves these questions, and already have their answer. 

Dear Seth ,

     I hate to burst the bubble , , you may have just achieved a miracle of engineering within you by marrying these two beautiful concepts and must now be quite a proud father of a strange union  !! The entertainment Industry is indeed seemingly teeming with theosophists and vis versa - greater truths have never been spoken , when they were  unknown !!!

I and TSP believes that there are no other important requirement to be called a Theosophists, other done promoting universal brotherhood. On this light, I believe that an active Theosophist is one who promotes universal brotherhood. Firstly, we should be clean (meaning trustworthy, compassionate,honest; (all other ideal qualities espoused by many dominant beliefs or religion); so others will accept us. Now, this takes active role in learning to master oneself. If not, we may not realize our full potential. I'm sure there are people out there who will disagree or will not conform to this because of the imperfect world we live in, the diversity of cultures and uniqueness of a person. But common sense dictates that, people are drawn to good people. We have to be truly honest for people to believe us. Ergo, working on this desirable qualities is already active Theosophy.

Dear RDV,

     I do agree cleanliness in life leads to many great things , but I do have to dissent at one point , the espousal of universal brotherhood is a big myth , it does not necessarily lead to the good of mankind , there is a point at which it enters the mainstream thinking of the ordinary mans life , it is at that entry level only which it becomes useful ,to have a sect with the avowed aims of universal brother hood is stupid , a certain basic development in the common intellect of a nation or a culture has to be there before this view becomes deep rooted , it can be an ideal but there are so many things which are required as aprerequisite and attained before this can become an ideal , the ability to conceptualize correctly not just think of aliens and some spatial or cosmic brotherhood , which is crazy  and counterproductive . No country in the world is as yet at the stage of intellectual development that I have written about . Probably Faivre was meaning this when he put forward the other 4 conditions for a Theosophy to eveolve . Everything else I am in consonance with you

Thank You both Rolly & Seth.

Entertainment industry, though dealing mostly with creative expressions of the divine, songs, music, prose etc., is not always in  tune with active theosophy. particularly when it comes to the overdose of depiction of sex and violence. But who can deny that Beethoven or Beatles (now declared in sufi tradition by some in India) were active theosophers.

Rolly, what is a good deed and what makes a good man? Taking care of the humanity and the environment around us or debating endlessly over some dielectic?

Dear Captain,

      I would just like to point out one thing in regard to your post , practical Theosophy , or Practical Buddhism,Practical Vedanta and Practical Philosophy very strongly underlines the fact that what has been gained to or understood whether one calls it the Substratum or the eventual eschewing of the desire for Moksha , or Nirvana or samadhi or liberation etc, which in itself is NIrvana makes the person more concerned with human beings in toto - now the great question is there are various organizations and institutions in society which are there to look after social welfare and not just run by varioUS Philanthropies but also by governments in various countries and by persons and trusts etc , there is this vast segment in the world which concerns itself with every kind of affected,disenfranchised and trodden people throughout the strata of society at various levels . Now to come to a very telling point , just as Food,Clothing and Shelter are the primary requisites of all human beings and animals wherever they are , in any country the movement towards helping the less fortunate section of society also has certain economic rules and laws that are natural which accompany them , If you observe even in sports when does a country excel in sports ie. the development of the physique ? other than by adulterated means - it is when a country has sufficient well being economically and the population is weel and healthy that it turns towards recreation and excellence in sports , there this has been the natural progression in the west and in some countries in the east wherein excellence in sports is there notwithstanding the numerical superiority of the nation. Similarly the work that can be taken on part of the alleviation or giving of succor to the less fortunate among the people in any country also has certain pre requisites , it requires a minimum of knowledge of what an ethical life is wherein every person contributes as a citizen and this duty is the onust not of the state but of citizens, the state will have mechanisms depending on the funds that they can put out for these activities. Now it is well known that the richer countries do a lot of funding to the poorer countries , but this is not out of a compassion or love , it is more out of a guilty conscience at their own perceived wealth and the taxes for enjoying the privileges of conspicous or unholy consumption - this in the matter of government aids  by one country to another - but when the smallest amount is spent by one country within itself , whatever the amount you can be sure that the effects are much more and the concommittant benefits . Now to give money does not solve any problem , for you spoil a person by giving money - which is why begging is looked down upon , in my state we have no beggars, it is outlawed by legislation and , you will never find a malayalee beggar , if any beggars are there at all , they are people from neighbouring states , but this is also less now , nobody gives anything to a pure beggar these days here . Similarly in the state of Punjab you will not find a beggar who is a Punjabi . they like us are too proud to beg and would rather work for a living. Now i am reffering to my state as things were not so about 40 years back when i was a kid , but legislation, and public awareness , has solved this problem . Now coming to the organized way in which different segments are contributing to alleviating the "miserable'' people are - Every community and religion whatsoever have their organizations for running Poor homes, vagrants, old homes, rehabilitation of prostitutes, Empowering the lower strata , putting them into and organizing them into groups which are recognized by the givernment by lobbying for legislation and microfinance (not from banks ) but by rich individulas from across society irrespective of Caste or religion , Proper Adoption centres which do not allow foreigners to adopt but give to childless indian couples wjo are now from the middle class which is almost 600 million , and have a fantastic disposable income these days, even most Hindus who used to previously do rites for their departed ancestors - do on that particular day the rites in a modern way by taking up all the expenses of running a poor home or any suc thing for a day , or others give endowments so that the homes can run on them ,there are business houses which are home grown and they do donate and advertise also that for every piece of their product purchased a certain %age goes to charity , and the government itself has donated millions upon millions by running weekly lotteries and monthly lotteries which make people rich as well as the sales proceeds are given for medical aid , shcooling, food etc. Education till tenth standard is free , now why on earth when a s a collective force we are doing this as citizens (at least in the state I come from) and the results are there - I will admit everything is not hunky dory and 100% yet we have as a mass movement based on values that are common and out of social responsibility , done to the point where heakth and education and longevity of life and awareness of the people coupled with a healthy polictical responsibility , reached and in many cases surpassed the indicators for the western nations which have far less populations and no problems of demographic changes due to the poor floating into the state , now another thing is people come from the most backward of states in india to work here , they become law bifding, and do not wish to go back home , they bring in their parents and children and are admitted in schools here , buy land and build hoses and maintain the same levels of cleanliness and social awareness, why cant the rest of the states also do this , it can be done in a lifetime , and the resulting tolerance and peace can be seen - are we also not a part of india ? why are the rest lagging ? it is a matter of Ethics and Civic senses and Cleanliness at home and in society and awareness , corruption and polictics are here too but we do not sell out on the country or the people - the people have enough polictical awareness- bringing a smile on the face of crying children cannot dome out of a percieved values of the western world , it has to be realistic and determined and focused effort on part of every citizen , it cannot be done by a bunch of rich people only , the sheer weight of numbers would reduce the spread even thinner than butter over a slice of bread. Now if you will recall , we are also doing well in sports and athletics , consistently at national and school levels , and it is a spin off of the general prosperity that has arisen across the board in the state - where people have the time and resources and security to go in for these things as a profession , without fear of penury . The essence of what i have written is that one has to take a wholistic view and not a segmented view , what has happened here is not because of we are a western society , we have despite odds stuck tgether without bickering and seen what is the common good , you can recollect that within the state we have 100% literacy in certain districts and overall literacy rate is over 90 or 95% ( I am not sure )- but we do not go by anyone who can read, write or speak is literate , the standards and definition was revised a few years ago by the state government to make it that people who have not studied till a minimum standard would not be considered as literate , this was to identify the weaker still and devise means to improve the standards. Many of the non profit organizations have spread to other states and are doing yeoman work there also . You cannot compare reading of ancient text and symbols and with social service it brings out a strange Pathos and desperation in the connection of idea You have to recollect we have been the most insular state in India, and we still follow the vedic rites done 4,000 years ago in an unbroken tradition , We still have the only full village which speaks sanskrit alone , we are also the first place anywhere in the world to have had  a democratically elected  Communist Government - it was way back in 1950 , I am just reminding you that places of excellence do exist in India , now tell me is it not a practical application of spiritual values handed down , and passed on ewith responsibility to each generation ? We do not have thermAL OR Nuclear power stations it is all hydel , we are self sufficient in Energy , but since a drought last year we are going into renewable resources of power or alternate enegy  - the first initiative itself was by the state government which is electrifying a village of 10,000 homes , which led to many now seeking to elecrtrify their homes , as a result of which a lot of companies have tied up with american, german and spanish companies. We have one of the most stringent environment rules and it is enforced , Pespi was asked to close its bottling plant in the state a long time back , it is not an indictment of the american company but rather of the indians who were at the helm in india and their callous disregard for the environment of the state . 

i would still insist with all my being it is still spiritual and it is not any different from the love of human beings - you cannot have a segmented I dea of some person going for his own good and neglecting the rest of humankind , never if only you knew what they think and do in the forests even alone , they are the people who never sleep and are awake when others sleep.if they do not work physically it means they are working more streneuously elsewhere . Maybe if you ponder on what Jesus said to his disciples - on that he would go up and build a home for them or something to that extent , - home is where the heart is and it is not building colonies in Mars or moon , it is just there all around us. We may see it we may not , it is our fault and not anybodies elses that we lack the sight for it. every aspiration has to be rooted in firm solid visions and not Idealism superimposed on Misery . america has been free for over 200 years , India just for 65 years or so , after the rape of the nation lasting 200 years by the British and 400 years prior to that by the Mughals and assorted people. As paul says you cannot compare oranges and apples . The philippines with just 400 or so years of spanish occupation and the American combined have no ethnic population anymore , and we after all this still do not have a foreign population as yet !!!. what is the substratum and what is active theosophy now ?.

Thanks Hari.

The island of prosperity that Kerala is today is not because of the local population but because of the people who have gone abroad to work, to seek greener pastures. Nearly three million of them, remitting about 30 million USD per week. How is it that it is OK for Keralites to seek greener pastures abroad but not for the people from the other lowly placed Indian states to come and work in Kerala. Few of those Keralites who work abroad have a clue what Vedic teachings or Vedic social systems are all about.

However you ask one interesting question: why cant the rest of the states also do this?

A few years back I had gone to counsel a couple where the wife was suffering from depression and the husband was reluctant to take her to a psychiatrist for treatment. After listening to the long diatribe of the husband how the wife, never listened or followed all the intelligent advices he gave her. I asked him, "We know that she is not capable of rational thinking, of knowing what is good for her. That is why she needs treatment. But what about you? I am wondering whether it is you who should be treated first, because even you cannot think rationally.' That settled the matter and today the couple are amongst my best friends.

Active theosophy would perhaps require not to blame the downtrodden for their own misfortune but to do what one can to improve their lot.

Dear Captain ,

  I am unable to reply , we are missing the point by a mile . But rather stick to the central theme of yours

Active theosophy would perhaps require not to blame the downtrodden for their own misfortune but to do what one can to improve their lot.

      Humanities is what is to be engendered and social reformation , these are the lower rungs of theosophy , But theosophy proper is not for anyone and all , to equate it with these or uplift of the downtrodden woyld be very wrong .social measures are one thing , If you look at theosophy or Philosophy it cannot have any relevance without a minimum of intellectual development , just as there are paper people and there are hammer and screwdriver people - these disciplines have their entry point or level elsewhere within the human psyche , You cannot in any way equate your personal feelings and experiences (which again are personal and would not be applicable to another)  to the areas of Theosophy and Philosophy . It can only be applied after the General has been ascertained . Active theosophy is a potent weapon in the hands of a practitioner and not otherwise , it is just another damp squib, and again , it is not for the common man who has not evolved in his intellect , to learn to abstract knowledge and to apply it practically in ones own life is the very essence this . Where on earth has intervention and good advice made a person really change unless he was willing to change himself ?. The example that you have given from your life is quite commendable , but the significant fact is the man realized his errors and changed himself . one can blame the "downtrodden" within oneself and still have a clear conscience , it may seem quite callous on my part to another , but there is something you have to see in this regard - holding out hands is just plain beggary and resorting to the plea that one is downtrodden is more inimical in the long run, one has to be aware of ones duties to oneself as a human being and to others (by which i do not mean that he should run around trying to uplift the poor) he has to lift himself up first . In the meanwhile he can do what he can in whatever small way it is possible , he need not make it an overriding principle or "feeling" within him without having saved himself - by which I do not mean self realization . It can be a life long process which gives him contentment which is founded on realities not on metaphysical consolations.That I gave good advice would not make me good , It is presumptuous of me for when I think I am good it means the others are bad , and if I think I am bad or someone else is that would imply everyone else is good .

Downtrodden, and poor and poverty etc may be realities , the truth which will emerge only over time by the actions and effects of Government agencies and others in the long run. One can safely blame both the downtrodden who will not help themselves , and the agencies which do not turn in the right results , and in turn be called an "armchair" realist or a thinker without a heart . People will condemn what they do not understand it is a universal phenomenon attached to the average and commonplace intellect and one lives knowing this. There are a million small thinGS I could lay out as facts which would make life easier , it does not require education of any high level - all I can say is that one does not drag ones house into society and pollute it with trash. A man can be poor but he can be clean - this is my point , he can be social and have civic sense, he can be law abiding and decent . And I mean "clean" not in mind but atleast in body , and may wear tattered clothes but he could wear clean tattered clothes , Sadacharam is all what I am saying . One can be an intelligent and law abiding person quick to grasp the good in any social measures that may be put forward rather than abuse it . A person can know his rights and what are the things going on that may help him progress - I for one am not willing to accept that there is a paucity of such things in our country , but over all he cannot and must not take things for granted by abdicating his duties . In life in this world there are no free lunches , everything man does for man  is  based on self interest (not selfishness or appropriation in physical terms).To take life as granted is the stupidest a man can do . Gratitude is paramount and a looking back is necessary even as one looks ahead . To think that the world that one knows or lives in is the world is the greatest error a person can have . 

Everything takes time and time alone , patience like water dripping on stone which wears it into a well rounded pebble , or like water on iron which manifests as rust later , time alone is the main thing , we may not live to see many things that have been forecast in our life time . But we can always not by money or by sympathy look towards long term institutions and strengthen them in our own small way . In the short term adopt a child , or pay for its education and upkeep are just the small things which we can do , that is all .

The world changes and things fall off and new things join . A man or woman dies and  do not even carry any pride of even their gender which was so intrinsic to life on earth . a man gives what he does not want , not to satisfy others or to feel within himself , he gives first to his family and parents , Is it not sacrifice of a high order , to bring lives into the world and satisfy them so that they have fond memories ? so that they inculcate it in turn to their children ? it is so simple and natural . A man does not take what he does not want is is also simple . as the people so the nation , as the people so the leaders . A keen awareness  not just a "knowing" is enough for any individual , it is how man is made and the day the awareness is lost for the knowing then everything is lost . Theosophy , or Philosophy is commonsense , it makes a person strong beyond belief within himself and see in totality not in parts or in parcels and without the weakness of heart that comes with emotions or feelings. The heart and intellect are one and the same and not two in man . The physical brain and heart are two things and are in no way related to heart and intellect , they are the mind and knowledge and merge in Theosophy . There is within different peoples a culture that is acquired out of good sense and good thinking over and above the culture that is of a human being which everyone has . It permeates every part of society and over a time , the people acquire the character of the land and the laws that they are subject to . How much more universal those are , that much more easy it for such cultures to assimilate anywhere and extend the promise of assimilation to others . You and me we are neither Philosophers or Theosophists so I guess whatever we say or do , only time will prove what was what . 

Thanks Hari.

Indeed we have been comparing apples and oranges.

Elitism is the ideology that has misled many an analysis. It is precisely for this reason I had quoted the instance about an ill woman and her husband. It was not to analyze whether the husband was willing to chnage or not but to highlight the fact that though the husband was quite ignorant (having failed to figure out that the wife cannot think rationally) but thought himself to be intellectually superior.

You refer to a very curious Sanskrit word, Sad-acharam. Please refer to what one of your favorites yogis, Swami Sivananda had to say explaining the word, in paragraph 4 here:

Give with faith. Do not give without faith. Give with joy, with modesty, with fear, with kindness.

I would infer that the act of giving is limited not only to the material, but also to knowledge.

To take the elitist view that the poor and the downtrodden (I would also include the truly ignorant amongst them even though may be materially prosperous) owe their condition entirely to themselves is missing the point entirely. The point one is attempting to make is, what is the duty of the spiritual practitioner? To help them unconditionally or not?

Really all the advanced intellectuals need to figure out how much of their own advancement is being held back by the backwardness of others. As one looks around, one find that the nature is not elitist. It works on collaboration. As one seed falls into the ground, several products of nature collaborate, earth, nitrogen, ammonium, other nutrient, moisture, heat, oxygen etc., to enable the seed to grow. The plant is further nurtured by collaboration of wind, sunlight, water etc. Eventually when it grows into a tree, it gives food and shelter to not only the planter of the seed but also to many others. Another collaboration. Countless other examples can be found if one looks.

So, if theosophy unites mind and body as you say, for what purpose? If not to serve the humanity? Whenever it has been applied in the service of self, it has not worked. For that examples abound too.

A life of service, is truly an enlightened life and worth living.

Dear Captain ,

    Yes , knowledge is also included in it , a person has to be careful about giving knowledge at the wrong place at the wrong time to the wrong people .It may sometimes happen out of a naiivette on part of the person so doing due the fact that he may not be as keenly and worldly wise as the other people . It is a fault of course , it happens to every great man , since if you go to an asharam - they have morning or evening satsangs and one cannot just ask anyone to clear the premises on any ground . It does happen , It really does happen .

Thanks Hari.

The art of giving, particularly "giving with joy" is a bit complicated one and I wonder if Sivananda practiced what he preached. But in a different culture someone did come up with some suggestions of what constitutes this portion of Sad-acharam (ideal conduct).

All the hoarders and traffickers of knowledge in India have tried to hide behind the excuse of the qualification of the disciple to receive the knowledge, Invoking fear into people if the knowledge fell into wrong hands. Great sage Vyasa understood this and wove the story of Eklavya into his epic Mahabharat.

The great teacher of warfare, Dronacharya rejected the pupil on basis of his low caste birth. Yet the pupil went on the become more proficient in  warfare than the most accomplished of his other pupils. If the great teachers can err in their judgement in selecting the right recipient, how is it possible for much inferior teachers of today to be correct in selecting the right recipient?

But most importantly, the sages who composed vedic hymns, the sages who gave us insights into those hymns by exploring and giving us upanishads, Buddha, Kapila, Gautama, Shankara, Gaudapada, just to name a few, did they ever hide their knowledge? It was given freely, with joy, and it was up to the recipient to use it or abuse it.

What makes us blind to such great tradition and fall prey to the selfish concept of qualification of the disciple?

Sadly, I can speak from experience that sometimes the recipient cannot handle the message. When a person identifies themself with their illusions on a very intimate level, and your message destroys those said illusions, in a very real way that message can destroy that person. It creates a mental backlash, and it damages both individuals involved.

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