Theosophy ~ Dhayana Marga — III



One must be willing to become fearless in the spirit of virya, the dauntless energy and unwavering courage to enter into the realm of unconditional Truth – SAT. The root teaching of voidness has to do with the emptiness of the notion of self-sufficiency and independence, the falsity of the notion that there is anything that is disconnected from the entire chain. All of this has got to be negated. It is a delusion that arises from linguistic tricks and convention, lax mental habits, refusal to confront the fact of death, unwillingness to confront the life process as it works in Nature. Ultimately, it is a refusal to recognize that conscious immortality means entering the light beyond all forms and conditions. It is, as The Secret Doctrine shows, a fundamental abrogation of one’s destiny as an evolving human being:

   … as long as we enjoy our five senses and no more, and do not know how to divorce our all-perceiving Ego (the Higher Self) from the thraldom of these senses – so long will it be impossible for the personal Ego to break through the barrier which separates it from a knowledge of things in themselves (or Substance). That Ego, progressing in an arc of ascending subjectivity, must exhaust the experience of every plane. But not till the Unit is merged in the ALL, whether on this or any other plane, and Subject and Object alike vanish in the absolute negation of the Nirvanic State (negation, again, only from our plane), is scaled that peak of Omniscience – the Knowledge of things-in-themselves; and the solution of the yet more awful riddle approached, before which even the highest Dhyan Chohan must bow in silence and ignorance – the unspeakable mystery of that which is called by the Vedantins, the PARABRAHMAM.

The Secret Doctrine i 329-330

Only when one can prepare oneself through degrees of dhyana rooted in supreme detachment – vairagya – can one enter the light of unconditioned Truth or SAT and remain there in ceaseless contemplation. Wherever there is conditionality, there is the inevitability of discontinuity. Conditionality and discontinuity go together. Instead of becoming disturbed by them, however, one should rejoice in the lesson. The more one becomes unconditional, the more one can confront latent conditionality. Thus, one may begin to discern the persistent origins and causes of distortion, discontinuity and tension. The neophyte should understand at the outset that even when one attains to dhyana in its true sense, as a confirmed chela on the Path, there are still seven lives of the most vigorous self-training yet ahead. Once one understands this, one can let go of all the tension that comes from taking on false burdens. Instead of cluttering the mind with mere words and shadows, the undigested cuds of unchewed ideas, one should learn how to take a phrase, a sentence, an idea from the Teaching, and chew on it as thoroughly as possible. In every ancient tradition of dhyana, it is impossible to dispense with higher analysis. Skill lies in striking the right balance – neither too much nor too little. As one engages in the process of dhyana, various hard knots will emerge. It is necessary to stand back and subject them to analysis. One must see the components, the causes, the combinations that form the knot. Along Dhyana Marga there will be a periodic need for such analysis – a kind of self-administered open mind and open heart surgery. It can be done when the need arises if one has prepared adequately and honestly and if one is surcharged by a tremendous love of one’s fellow beings and an ardent desire to become a meditator.

In time, one will begin to generate a continuous rhythm of meditation, broken occasionally by passing thoughts, but fundamentally flowing as ceaselessly as a current in the heart. When it is interrupted in a more serious way, one will immediately strive to repair one’s foundations through some detailed analysis of the problem so that one may be purged and freed of a particular impediment. Once a momentum of meditation is established, these interruptions become a much rarer occurrence than expected. Depending upon one’s earnestness in meditation, which can only be understood in relation to love of the whole human race, one’s own so-called pain and difficulties will become trifling in relation to the world’s pain. Unless one gets these balances right early on, one will have a distorted importance of the preparatory phase of one’s own quest. That could stall the whole voyage. But once one is truly moved by that fire of universal feeling that exists in everyone, one will find the courage needed to maintain the quest. Taking advantage of the rhythms of the seasons, of Nature, of the Teachings and the Cycle, one will become more assured and so more able to stay, for longer periods, in an uninterrupted state of meditation.

One will probably not attain the higher stages of dhyana in waking meditation for quite a while, perhaps a lifetime. Nonetheless, one is invited to think about these stages, to visualize and resonate to them. This is extremely important and has to do with the release of the powers of the soul. One should completely forget about whether one can or cannot do some particular thing right now. One should not be afraid to contemplate any of the glorious possibilities of the very greatest human beings and Masters of meditation. One should take every opportunity to adore perfected human beings; in adoring them one will give life to the seeds and germs of dhyana in oneself. This does not amount to some mechanical and harsh doctrine of pseudo-equality. Rather, it depends upon recognizing that every human being has an exact karmic degree in relation to dhyana and prajna. Paradoxically, it is only by recognizing this that one can truly understand what it means to say that all human beings stand in the same sacred unmanifest ground of the unmodified, impartite Divine Spirit. Thus, as one grows in understanding of these soul powers, one may enjoy reflecting upon higher states of meditation, as represented by the portraits of perfected beings in the sacred texts and scriptures of all traditions. It is irrelevant and counter-productive to be bothered by the inevitable fact that one will not immediately experience these high states of consciousness.

One may, for example, reflect upon that state of dhyana likened to the calm depths of the ocean, recognizing in the metaphor the freedom of the universal Self. To abide in that is like remaining in the Egg of Brahma. Though this high state of true self-government may seem very distant, one may nevertheless deeply reflect upon it. One may ask what it would be like to have a mind that is so oceanic and so cosmic, so profoundly expansive and inclusive of all things in all minds, that it is capable of reverberating to everything in the mind of Nature. Certainly one should include such lofty thoughts in one’s horizon. In this way, one will come to recognize that what at first seemed a burdensome and laborious task is in fact a joyous working out, stage by stage, of clusters of karma. It is also a lightening and a loosening, in each context, so that there may be a flow from the subtler ethereal vestures into the grosser vestures. How this will actually affect the visible vesture in this life will vary from one individual to the next. Many meditators become wizened, but they have no regrets because they have no attachment to the external skin and shell. Instead, they rejoice in the inner purification that has taken place. Even one’s perspective changes in regard to what is truly helpful to the immortal soul and what is harmful. Once one touches the current of this supreme detachment and begins to enter the light of the void through efforts atdhyana, one may begin to make one’s own honest and yet heroic, courageous and cheerful way towards gaining greater continuity, control and proficiency in meditation. Blending the mind and heart, one may enter the way that leads to the dhyana haven:


   The Dhyana gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Prajna that radiates from Atma.
Thou art that vase.

The Voice of the Silence
What is it the aspirant of Yoga Vidya strives after if not to gain Mukti by transferring himself gradually from the grosser to the next more ethereal body, until all the veils of Maya being successively removed, his Atma becomes one withParamatma? Does he suppose that this grand result can be achieved by a two or four hours” contemplation? For the remaining twenty or twenty-two hours that the devotee does not shut himself up in his room for meditation – is the process of the emission of atoms and their replacement by others stopped? If not, then how does he mean to attract all this time – only those suited to his end? From the above remarks it is evident that just as the physical body requires incessant attention to prevent the entrance of a disease, so also the inner man requires an unremitting watch, so that no conscious or unconscious thought may attract atoms unsuited to its progress. This is the real meaning of contemplation. The prime factor in the guidance of the thought is WILL.

D.K. Mavalankar


Hermes, April 1985
Raghavan Iyer

Theosophy ~ Light, Love and Hope (part 3)



In whatever one does and in whatever way one releases the higher will, one is merely drawing a certain portion from an inexhaustible and universal source. If one understands this, one will not ask to draw more from it than one in fact can use, or more than one can properly sustain. In other words, one will begin to see through the tricks played by the human mind, which is the great deceiver and the adversary in man, when it tries to escape from what can be done by demanding more. When the mind insists that it must know whether its share of love and light is adequate in relation to its aim or self-conception, it becomes the great deceiver and obscurer of the light and love that are latent in every human soul. Many supposedly philosophical questions and spiritual concerns are really nothing but what the Buddhists call attavada, the dire heresy of separateness. They reflect the philosophic error of assuming that all one’s tendencies, desires and thoughts make up some kind of entity which is cohesive and persistent and, above all, cut off from the rest of humanity. This is an illusion. There is no such entity. No true sense of selfhood can be located in this aggregate of ever-changing, and second-hand, chaotic tendencies.
Instead, this aggregate of the skandhas represents one’s karmic share in the collective accumulations of tendencies of all humanity. All human beings, one might say, have contributed to the growing of weeds, and every human being has got his or her share of the world’s weeds to take in hand and to cut down. At the same time, every human being has got to find and sow the seeds of wisdom and compassion. This can be done only through cultivating patience and the power of waiting, rooted in the willingness to work with the cycles of Nature. As the prophet teaches inEcclesiastes, there are different seasons, times for sowing and times for reaping, times for living and times for dying. That is true with regard to all the manifestations of love, and the wisest know that the deepest love is beyond manifestation. As Maeterlinck wrote, there are in love silences with so profound a depth that the unexpressed flows with uninterrupted continuity across the barriers of time and space. This deeper love is often forfeited because of a concern with what can be demonstrated, what can be increased, mitigated or compared. To recover the lost potential of the soul, one must rethink what is real. On the one side, there is that which is universal and includes all that is potential. On the other, there is the entire collection of particular, episodic, finite expressions and manifestations. Vast though they are, they are in the end limited in relation to the inexhaustible content of love and light within the immortal soul of every human being and at the heart of the whole cosmos.

By learning to think in this way, one can begin to discern immense beauty in the idea that every human being is, in the simple act of breathing, both living and loving. Most of this is unconscious or unrelated to any particular desires or demands. But in the case of the wisest beings, the most enlightened masters of compassion, this breathing is self-consciously benevolent and universal. Having become conscious of the enormous potential energy within the heart of the cosmos, they are able skilfully to direct and channel that energy to vast numbers of souls. They have learnt how to help particular persons at particular times only through lifetimes of trial and error. They have recognized the proliferating consequences of doing too much or not doing enough. Through practice, over millions of years and myriads of lives, Bodhisattvas become intelligent and skilful in the application of wisdom and compassion, light and love.

To be able even to understand such possibilities in such beings, much less to be able to move in that direction, one must shake off conventional divisions between the head and the heart. Often it is assumed that it is a great thing for the mind to become sharper, smarter and more intelligent. It is also conventional to think of the heart as sentimental. Both these notions are based upon misconceptions. In the subtle vestures of human beings, in what is called the spiritual heart, lies the basis of the highest intelligence, ideation and creativity. Therefore, from the spiritual point of view, one cannot activate any of the higher centres in the brain unless one has first aroused a spark of fire in the spiritual heart. Many human beings are able, sporadically, to release extraordinary powers, skills and flashes of genius. These intermittent abilities represent an unbalanced condition that is a reflection of excess and deficiency in previous lives. They are accompanied by a karmic frustration at not being able to tap and recover knowledge self-consciously, and such individuals have got hard lessons to learn before they can create new and better balances within themselves.

Hence the importance, especially with children, of withdrawing undue emphasis upon the mind and developing instead a sense of the heart. Instead of fostering an obsessive inclination to grade the mind, one should encourage an evolving conception of excellence in relation to the heart. This does not happen automatically; unless one becomes fearless and courageous, one cannot release the potency and spiritual strength in the heart. One must educate the heart in the best truth that one knows. This truth includes the mortality of one’s body, the immortality of the soul, and the means of making that immortal soul function within a mortal body. It is crucial to give children some of the fundamental truths of the Divine Wisdom, and in particular to teach them not merely to look at things in terms of today and tomorrow, but rather in terms of their finest impulses and most generous urges. Over a lifetime of learning, these can provide the basis of authentic fearlessness and true universality in compassion and love. One must include in one’s heart people whom one does not see. To do this requires an active imagination, ultimately a capacity to visualize the whole of humanity. This involves a dynamic balance between one’s contemplation of all the beings that exist on this earth and one’s relationships with those who are nearby.

In practice, this requires simplification and a development of precision, which is at the origin of all etiquette and manners. One must learn not to overdo with people who are immediately around oneself. To do less is to do more. Thus one will have a great opportunity to keep oneself intact, without getting into syndromes of excessive expectation and rapid disillusionment. While maintaining a greater steadiness in relationships to those around oneself, one will, at the same time, see beyond them. One will develop a concern to take one’s place in the family of man and to become what is called in the Buddhist tradition a son of the Buddha family. Like the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, one becomes willing to think in terms of serving all beings on earth. This is not something that one can contemplate or emulate in a short time. Instead, it will require a repeated renewal. It will have some impact at the moment of death and also a distinct effect upon the kind of birth one will have in the next life. Not immediately, but eventually, it will change the current and tropism, the tonality and colouring, of one’s varied relationships to the vestures and their use.

By gaining this precision, one will become more free, and at the same time the better able to help other human beings. One’s mind becomes more willing, vibrant and versatile by becoming an obedient servant of a heart that has found deep peace within itself. Once the heart has discovered within itself its own secret fire, it can, through various forms of daily meditation and oblation, activate that fire. Whether one calls this the fire of devotion, of tapas, of wisdom or truth, these are only different aspects of that which is ultimately the fire of the Mysteries. It is the fire that represents the immortal self-subsisting sovereignty of the individual human soul. It is capable in principle of becoming a self-conscious mirror of the whole cosmos. Therefore it is also capable of reaching out from within the inmost sanctuary and affecting, learning from, teaching and helping everything that exists. This requires deliberate and systematic training because of the diverse kinds, speeds and levels of communication between beings based upon the vibrations of the heart realm. The more skilful one becomes in using karmic opportunities to participate in the partial modes of love and learning of this world, the more one learns how to shed a little light for a few human beings upon a few things, while at the same time ceaselessly looking beyond one’s horizon towards the limitless potential within all.

Eventually, one can reach a point where one has the great privilege of seeing no more evil and limitation because they have lost their fascination. They are really nothing more than a grotesque representation of muddle, error and delusion, ultimately based upon captivity to illusion. They are futile and short-sighted, they are short-lived. But so long as there are elements in so many beings that are caught up in short-term considerations, evil and limitation are compounded. While at first they may look like an awesome all-potent monster, one later sees that this is not true. This is a form of protection for those who are on the Path and concerned with the real work of the human race. That work is continuous, though hidden by a stream of invisibility, because most people are simply caught up in the external sights and sounds of reality. They are captives to exaggerations of form, limitation and evil. Hence the importance, at the individual level, for each human being to say, like Jesus, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” One cannot say this for others; one must do it for oneself.

As long as there is light, there will be shadow. Yet every human being can at any moment turn his face away from the shadow and towards the light of the sun. Whenever one is with other souls, one can ask oneself, “Do I love others more than myself? Do I take less and give more to others? Do I actually reach out within myself, within my mind and heart, and also in my acts, towards other human beings? In the way I look at other human beings, can I salute the Divine within them? Can I shed light and also be grateful for the light that I daily receive from others?” By asking questions of this kind, one will find that all increments of change become significant. Life becomes not only worth living, but worth consecrating. The mind and the heart recapture the immanence of the ideal of boundless Love and Light.

Hermes, March 1985
Raghavan Iyer

Theosophy ~ The Pilgrimage of Humanity (part 1), by Sri Raghavan Iyer



    Paranirvana is that supreme state of unconditioned consciousness which connotes freedom from the entire process of becoming, the vast range of cosmic evolution, and the mathematical limits of the manvantara. The soul’s pilgrimage over eighteen million years of self-conscious existence, and for a much longer period in the future, is truly an alchemical journey through the great Circle of Necessity. Each immortal soul has been repeatedly embodied in the seven kingdoms of nature, and participated in every possible form through a collective monadic host. Each individual monad has at some remote time experienced the myriad modes of mineral, vegetable and animal life, as well as the variegated centres of consciousness of the three elemental kingdoms. In more recent manvantaric time every human being has traversed the tremendous gamut of contrasting states of mind that are induced by the polarities of self-conscious existence. All this is possible and necessary, according to arcane metaphysics, because “every atom in the Universe has the potentiality of self-consciousness in it, and is, like the Monads of Leibnitz, a Universe in itself, and for itself. It is an atom and an angel.” The Paranirvanic consummation of the soul’s pilgrimage presupposes the existential realization that the self-consciousness of human beings is the reflection of the universal self-consciousness of the Dhyanis. These are the Buddhas of Contemplation, such as Amitabha overbrooding Gautama Sakyamuni, “manifesting through him whenever this great Soul incarnates on earth, as He did in Tzon-kha-pa”.

Since the enormous potentiality for divine regeneration is present in every atom, the conventional distinction between animate and inanimate matter is extremely misleading. Everything is alive through awareness; all is consciousness. A few people know intuitively, and many sense psychically, what the ancient Schools of Wisdom openly taught – that spiritual growth involves the interaction of incipiently self-conscious invisible centres of energy with already perfected human monads. The Hindu teachings about the thirty-three crores of devas and devatas, echoed in alchemical allusions to sylphs, salamanders, undines and gnomes, are all references to elementals. In every single elemental life and in every point of invisible space there is potential self-consciousness and some degree of active intelligence. Owing to this ubiquitous presence throughout the panorama of evolution, the deeper the self-consciousness of human beings, the more effectively they can quicken the intellectual unfoldment of what is potential in the whole of life. In occultism there are strict rules about magnetic specialization, an essential prerequisite to the creation through meditation of beneficent channels for consciousness. Nourished by meditation and protected by magnetic purity, consciousness becomes so charged with universal light that it can exercise complete control over the entire sphere of perception and activity.

There is a sum-total of potentials in consciousness, perception and energy that pertains to each self-conscious human monad over eighteen million years. This sum-total has a necessary connection with the spectrum of possibilities in any given lifetime for any human being. Because of the immersion of consciousness in illusory time, the real person does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is constituted by the sum of all the varied and changing conditions from the initial appearance in material form to eventual disappearance from the earth. From birth till death each human incarnation is a series of transformations that is seemingly endless, but which may be approximated in understanding by considering the permutations and combinations of the seven sacred planets and twelve zodiacal signs acting through a variety of aspects and angles. Yet the myriads of transformations a human being undergoes on earth from birth to death are all encompassed by the small circle of time within which a single life is lived. Therefore there is a sum-total, which in turn is included within a much vaster sum-total, unknown to human beings in general, but which exists from eternity in the future and passes by degrees through matter to exist for eternity in the past. To intuit this existence is to awaken to the immense potential of self-consciousness as the guiding force of evolution; to sense its presence in each event is to embark on the path of Paranirvana. To witness its universal dimensions, so that the past and future lie before one like an open book, is to become a Mahatma for whom the grand sum-total is archetypally reflected in the earthly existence of every human soul.

It is possible in principle for the immortal soul to draw into the realm of self-conscious awareness any portion of the experience and knowledge that is already summed up in its immemorial pilgrimage. This would have been very difficult to conceive in the nineteenth century, but is more comprehensible in the age of DNA and the microprocessor. One needs little familiarity with electronics to recognize that millions of items of information can be registered in minute devices, and little awareness of contemporary biology to apprehend that every possible transformation of a human body over a lifetime is potentially present in the embryonic germ cell. Ancient wisdom teaches that by the end of the seventh month of development much more than can be grasped by modern biology is already inscribed in the foetal vesture as a set of possibilities. Crucial among these is the noetic capacity to make a decisive difference in the extent to which one draws upon and experiences the sum-total of possible configurations. By deep thought and study, by the daily use of true knowledge, by meditation and calm contemplation, by creative interaction with nature and with other minds, human beings can affect the degree to which they self-consciously experience what is actually going on in all the vestures from the moment of birth to the moment of death.

Maya or illusion is inextricably involved in the idea of separate existence as a monad. From the philosophical perspective of universal self-consciousness, the immense pilgrimage of the human soul is somewhat unreal. Even from the standpoint of the monad enduring over eighteen million years, a hundred lives in succession is mayavic, rather like glancing through a few slides. A single life on earth is barely an instant, if entire solar systems which emerge and disappear over millions upon millions of years are mere winks in the Eye of Self-existence. What then is the meaning and value of a single human life? While there is an extraordinary range in potential human awareness, most beings are “living and partly living”, in the phrase of T.S. Eliot. They are hardly aware of the dynamic processes behind incarnate existence, and from the perspective of the immortal soul they are not awake and scarcely alive. One has to come out of the psychic sleep of a lifetime for there to be a moment of true spiritual awakening to universal causation, human solidarity and the reality of a law-governed universe working ceaselessly through thought, will and feeling, on a cosmic plane but also in and through every single human being on earth. Spiritual awakening is not merely a shift in one’s plane of consciousness, but a fundamental alteration of perspective regarding consciousness itself beyond all its planes of embodiment and manifestation.

Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of streaks and daubs of colour, while an educated eye sees instantly a face or a landscape. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest Dhyan-Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised are therefore as real to him as himself.

The Secret Doctrine, i 39

Hermes, July 1980
Raghavan Iyer