Madame Blavatsky once remarked that ‘to gain the divine knowledge by a system of coaching and cramming is the ideal of the average beginner in occult study’, but the originators of the Theosophical Society refused ‘to encourage such false hopes’. She further asserts, one-hundredth (of the members of the TS) only has the correct idea of adeptship and the path thereunto. ‘Of all thinkable undertakings that of trying for adeptship is the most difficult. Instead of being obtainable within a few years or one life time, it extracts the unremitting struggles of a series of lives.’ She also unhesitatingly admits that there should be some school of instruction for members of our Society.
‘Occult truth cannot be absorbed by a mind that is filled with preconception, prejudice, or suspicion. It is something to be perceived by the intuition rather than by the reason; being the nature spiritual, not material.’ ---- ‘Not a step in advance would be made by a group of students given over to an unimpressible state of mind, and without any guide from the occult side to open their eyes to the esoteric pitfalls. The whole difficulty springs from the common tendency to draw conclusions from insufficient premises, and play the oracle before ridding oneself of that most stupefying of all psychic anaesthetics – IGNORANCE.’
These words came from Madame Blavatsky in 1888 ( in her article to Lucifer, October ); and many today might be thinking that much water has flown under the bridge these many years, much literature on occultism has been unearthed and brought into currency and so things must have changed considerably. All this may be true but the Laws of Occult learning remain the same forever. One has to be very patient, prepare him/herself properly and wait for the Word of the Master. We must be conscious of the ‘Laws of Upasana’, extracted by her, for our understanding, from the Book IV of kiu-te that spells the qualifications expected in a Chela:
[In rare and exceptional case, rule 1 is excepted, but all the rest have been invariably insisted upon, says Madame Blavatsky]
We shall now look into what she said, in elucidation, as to what Lay Chelas, Chelas and Mahatmas should mean and constitute to us.
‘A Lay Chela is but a man of the world who affirms his desire to become wise in spiritual things. Virtually, every member of the Theosophical Society who subscribes to the second of our three “declared” objects is one such. Lay-Chelaship confers no privilege upon anyone except that of working for merit under the observation of a Master. To boast of Lay Chelaship or make a parade of it, is the surest way to reduce the relationship with the Guru to a mere empty name, for it would be prima facie evidence of vanity and unfitness for farther progress.’
‘A Chela is one who has offered himself or herself as a pupil to learn practically the “hidden mysteries of nature and the psychical powers latent in man.” The spiritual teacher to who he proposes his candidature is called in India a Guru; and the real Guru is always an adept in the Occult Science.’
‘A real Guru is a man of profound knowledge, exoteric and esoteric, especially the latter; and one who has brought his carnal nature under subjection of the WILL; who has developed in himself both the power (siddhi) to control the forces of nature, and the capacity to probe her secrets by the help of the formerly latent but now active powers of his being.’
Madame Blavatsky introduced the concept of ‘Master-Disciple relationship’ to the West which was totally ignorant of it; and revived the system in the East where it was conveniently forgotten. She did not conceal the fact that the Theosophical Society was established under their ‘advice and direction’, but did not claim any authority or infallibility in Their name. Her claim was only that she is their messenger. Lot of knowledge about an Occult Hierarchy, its working system, the guidance that can be taken by humanity was provided by her in her various and numerous writings. Her instructions are valid for all time.
Now let us look at her description of the Master. The Master is also expressed in terms of ‘Mahatma’, ‘Elder Brother’, ‘Adept’ and the like.
‘A Mahatma is a personage, who, by special training and education, has evolved those higher faculties and has attained that spiritual knowledge, which ordinary humanity will acquire after passing through numberless series of reincarnations during the process of cosmic evolution, provided, of course, that they do not go, in the meanwhile, against the purposes of Nature and thus bring to their own annihilation.’
This descriptive statement needs very careful study and analysis. It also needs an elaborate study of the processes of Life, cosmic evolution, matters of reincarnating ego, dangers of wrong doing, as also the inevitability of the entire humanity moving towards the higher scale, whether it likes it or not. This is elsewhere mentioned by her as the ‘obligatory journey’ of the individual soul in the scheme of things that are part of the destiny and choice.
Before going into the question of reincarnation, it is necessary to see what it that reincarnates is. According to the Occult Doctrine enunciated through the theosophical literature the human being has seven principles embodying him. They are: Dense Physical Body, Prana, Astral Body, Animal Soul, Human Soul, Spiritual Soul and Spirit.
‘The first three principles die more or less with what is called the physical death. The fourth principle, together with the lower portions of the fifth, in which reside the animal propensities, has Kama Loka for its abode, where it suffers the throes of disintegration in proportion to the intensity of those lower desires; while it is the Higher Manas, the pure man, which is associated with the sixth and seventh principles, that goes to Devachan to enjoy there the efforts of its good Karma and then to be reincarnated as a higher individuality.’
The human being, as ‘an entity passes through the occult training in its successive births’, sheds the contents of the lower manas, and a time arrives when it becomes ‘an entirely elevated character’, the whole Manas is ‘now centered in the higher individuality’. Such a person ‘may be said to have become a Mahatma.’ ‘The real Mahatma is then not his physical body but that higher Manas which is inseparably linked to the Atma and its vehicle, the sixth principle, the Buddhi.'
The following statements appearing from Madame Blavatsky deserve our careful consideration:
The Mahatmas are the servants, not the arbiters of the Law of Karma.
No true Adept will on any consideration whatever reveal himself as one to the profane.
One who desires to apply for Chelaship is to ‘understand the operations of Cosmic evolution’ and to ‘work in harmonious accord with Nature, instead of going against its purposes’ through his own ignorance.
A Chela is no ‘medium’ in the sense he or she ‘is a person, through whom the action of another being is said to be manifested and transmitted, by the either consciously or unconsciously active will of that other person.’
‘A person may consciously and voluntarily submit his will to another being and become his slave. This “other being” may be a human being, and the medium will then be his obedient servant and may be used by him for good or bad purposes. This “other being” may be an idea, such as love, greediness, hate, jealousy, avarice or some other passion, and the effect on the medium will be proportionate to the strength of the idea and the amount of self control left in the medium. This “other being” may be an elementary or an elemental, and the poor medium become an epileptic, a maniac or a criminal. This “other being” may be the man’s higher principle, either alone or put into rapport with another ray of the collective universal spiritual principle, and the medium will then be a great genius, a writer, a poet, an artist, a musician, an inventor, and so on. This ‘other being’ may be one of those exalted beings, called Mahatmas, and the conscious and voluntary medium will then be called their ‘Chela’.
The word “Chela” simply means a “disciple”(= a learner). ‘There are Chelas and Chelas, just as there are Mahatmas and Mahatmas’ there are Mahatmas in fact who are themselves the Chelas of those who are higher yet. But no one, for an instant, would confound a Chela who has just begun his troubled journey with that greater Chela who is a Mahatma.
The Chela is an unfortunate person who has entered upon ‘a path not manifest’ and Blavatsky quotes here Bhagavad-Gita which states ‘that is the most difficult path.’ One can compare the statement of Mr. Krshnamurti (1895-1986) who said and reiterated that ‘Truth s a Pathless Land” to these pregnant ones.
‘The powers of the Chelas vary according with their progress: and everyone should know,” she asserts, “if a Chela has any powers, he is not permitted to use them except in rare and exceptional cases.” Acquisition of psychic powers is not the ‘goal’ set before a Chela. “His chief task is to divest himself of that overmastering sense of personality which is the thick veil that hides from sight of immortal part – the real man.” “His work is hard, his road stony, the end far away.” “The difficulties in Chelaship will never be less until human nature changes and a new sort is evolved.” She quotes Bharavi’s Kirataruneeyam to say:
The enemies which rise within the body,
Hard to be overcome – the evil passions –
Should manfully be fought; who conquers these
Is equal to the conqueror of worlds. (xi.32)
“The acquisition of the highest knowledge and power require not only many years of the severest study enlightened by a superior intelligence and an audacity bent by no peril; but also as many years of retreat in comparative solitude, and association with but students pursuing the same object, in a locality where nature itself preserves like the neophyte an absolute and unbroken stillness if not silence.” These words are true and relevant at all stages. It must be remembered that everyone is a student of Nature, which is the outer expression of Divinity. The knowledge about it is boundless and effort of the student should also be endless.
‘The Law of Cosmic evolution is ever operating to achieve its purpose of ultimate unity and carry the phenomenal into the noumenal plane, and the Mahatmas being en rapport with it, are assisting that purpose. They therefore know best what knowledge is best for mankind at a particular stage of its evolution, and none else is competent to judge of that matter, since they alone have got to the basic knowledge which can determine the right course and exercise proper discrimination. --- We have constantly to exercise to prevent our lower nature from coming up to the surface, which it does in our present undeveloped state; and thus extreme activity and not passivity is the essential condition with which the student has to commence. First his activity is directed to check the opposing influence of the “lower self”; and, when that is conquered, his untrammeled Will centered in Higher (Real) Self, continues to work most efficaciously and actively in unison with the cosmic ideation in the “Divine Mind.” ’