Wednesday, 9 May 2012

White Lotus Day – Remembering H. P. Blavatsky

HPB in 1879. Courtesy: Pedro Oliveira
The 8th of May is one of the four important days in the Theosophical Society. It is the day we remember one of our principal founders, H. P. Blavatsky (HPB) who passed away on 8 May 1891. It is known as White Lotus Day because on that day, white lotuses were in bloom at Adyar, the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society.

On this day members come together, and as requested by HPB in her will, verses are read from the Light of Asia by Sir Edwin Arnold and from the Bhagavad-gita – The Lord's Song. Col. Olcott thought it would be a fitting tribute to HPB if a few verses are read from one of her books called the Voice of the Silence.

We at the Wellington Branch too observed this day on 8 May 2012. After the verses from the three books were recited we learned a little about HPB's contribution to Theosophical literature through her books:
  • Isis Unveiled – Vol. I & Vol. II
  • The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy
  • The Key to Theosophy an excellent introduction to the inquirer.
  • The Voice of the Silence – being chosen fragments from the 'Book of the Golden Precepts'.
All these books were published during her lifetime and have been in print since then.

HPB has been reported as saying that the study of the great universal principles of Theosophy requires a special kind of mental effort that involves “the carving out of new brain paths”. The study of these books would certainly help in carving the new brain paths.

There were interesting comments made during the discussion and we closed with some inspiring words:
Every wish and thought I can utter are summed up in this one sentence, the never-dormant wish of my heart, 'Be Theosophists, work for Theosophy!' – HPB (15 April 1891)

“Self-watchfulness is never more necessary than when a personal wish to lead, and wounded vanity, dress themselves in the peacock's feathers of devotion and altruistic work. . . . If every Fellow in the Society were content to be an impersonal force for good, careless of praise or blame so long as he subserved the purposes of Brotherhood, the progress made would astonish the World and place the Ark of the T.S. out of danger.” – HPB

Bridging the Faith Divide – H. H. The Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama photo
H. H. The Dalai Lama
Recently during the months of February-April 2012, the DVD on 'Bridging the Faith Divide' – by H. H. The Dalai Lama was screened in three parts. These evenings were inspiring and well spent.

The DVD was a talk H. H. The Dalai Lama had given on his visit to Chicago which was hosted by the Theosophical Society in America in September 2011.

As most people are aware His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He is a man of peace. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

The Relationship between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and The Theosophical Society

In his talk he mentions his first visit to the Theosophical Society as a young man when he traveled to India in 1956 to celebrate the birth of Buddha. During his tour he visited the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai (formerly Madras). He mentioned the fact that there were shrines of various religions on the compound that it was a good way to gain experience of different faiths.
H. H. Dalai Lama on the Theosophical Society in Toward a True Kinship of Faiths, 2010 writes:
Looking back to this trip in 1956, I realize that my visit to the Theosophical Society in Chennai (then Madras) left a powerful impression. There I was first directly exposed to people, and to a movement, that attempted to bring together the wisdom of the world’s spiritual traditions as well as science. I felt among the members a sense of tremendous openness to the world’s great religions and a genuine embracing of pluralism.

When I returned to Tibet in 1957, after more than three months in what was a most amazing country for a young Tibetan monk, I was a changed man. I could no longer live in the comfort of an exclusivist standpoint that takes Buddhism to be the only true religion.
His Holiness in his talk said that all religions carry a similar message or practices such as:
  • love
  • compassionate
  • forgiveness
  • tolerace
  • self-discipline
  • moral principles
  • justice
  • truthfulness
However, there were differences in the philosophies of the various religions. After all, considering the different kinds of people, different philosophies were necessary.

He said he was committed to the promotion of religious harmony in his role of a Buddhist monk. The most important commitment as a human being was to help everyone realize they were human beings first and foremost and that everyone strived for happiness and had the right to happiness. He stressed the importance of a community based on moral principles for establishing a healthy society in the world.

Photo courtesy: I copied it from Facebook. Thank you to whoever shared it.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Nonviolent Communication

Communication is the basis for all our interactions with other human beings. When we are able to communicate with compassion we can avoid the consequences of disagreements that get out of hand. Wherever people work together with a common purpose whether in a family, at work, or organizations, there will always be disagreements and conflict. The question is how to resolve these conflicts without letting it get out of hand with all those involved coming out of it feeling empowered rather than damaged.

Dr Marshall B. Rosenburg established the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) in 1984 to share the skills and techniques to train people to focus on the awareness of others' needs as well as their own needs. What motivated Marshall Rosenburg to start such an organization?

Marshall Rosenburg:
  • Grew up in an inner-city Detroit neighbourhood and witnessed violence on a daily basis.
  • He questioned the reasons for violence and chose to study clinical psychology and received his PhD in 1961.
  • Nonviolent Communication training evolved from Rosenburg's quest to find a way to easily and rapidly disseminate peacemaking skills.
  • This training is seen as a powerful tool for peacefully resolving differences at personal, professional, and political levels.
  • Rosenburg works with educators, managers, mental health care providers, lawyers, military officers, prisoners, police officers, clergy, government officials, and individual families.
'Marshall Rosenberg chose the name Nonviolent Communication to refer to Gandhi's philosophy of “ahimsa” or “nonviolence”. Marshall shares Gandhi's belief that true peace between people is achieved only when violence has subsided from the heart, to be replaced by compassion.'
What Makes Us Act Violently in Speech and Action?
Most of us are conditioned to focus on the following when we say something to others:
  • Judgement
  • Blame
  • Diagnosis of self and others
  • Deserve-oriented
We find ourselves saying 'You are always …', 'It is because of you...' or 'You are no good so you deserve …'.

On the other hand, if we shift the focus on the powerful human needs, such as:
  • respect
  • understanding
  • safety
  • our needs
  • other's needs
When using NVC we focus our attention on four ingredients of communication:
  • Observations
  • Feelings
  • Needs
  • Requests
Keeping the above points in mind we would say, 'When you do that.... I feel my need for … is not met. Would you please …?

This would work 80% of the time. However, there might be situations when aggressive behaviour is  necessary to ward off immediate danger or to protect others.

The value of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC) cannot be underestimated. In today's world where people are facing many stressful situations it is easy to give in to violent behavior.

The first Object of the Theosophical Society emphasizes such a compassionate outlook:
  • to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distiction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
Hence Nonviolent Communication would give us the tools to put into practice what we recognize in the First Object.

The above is a short summary of the Thursday members' meeting we recently had at the Wellington Branch of the Theosophical Society. Murray Stentiford was the visiting speaker from Auckland who gave a presentation on the topic of Nonviolent Communication.

Many interesting points were raised during the discussion.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Theosophic Life - Annie Besant

This blog, 'The Theosophic Life', has been inspired by the little book by the same name by Annie Besant. It was originally published as an article in The Theosophist in March 1909.
Annie Besant
The book The Theosophic Life has two chapters, 'Reincarnation' and 'Karma: A Continuing Creation'. From the chapter on 'Karma' Annie Besant describes what is the Theosophic Life:

The Theosophic Life must be a life of service. Unless we are serving, we have no right to live. We live by the constant sacrifice of other lives on every side, and we must pay it back; otherwise, to use an ancient phrase, we are but thieves and do not repay the gift. Service is the great illuminator. The more we serve the wiser we become, for we learn wisdom not by studying but by living.
Such a simple message and so profound in effect.
Another point that struck me years ago when I read it and put into practice was about the fact that where we find ourselves in this moment is the best place for us to be: wise is the Good Law, the circumstances round you are the very best that the wisdom of an archangel could plan for your growth and unfolding. The peace that that knowledge brings to life it is impossible to describe. All fretting vanishes, all worrying ceases to be, anxiety for something different no longer gnaws at the heart. A complete, absolute, perfect content comes down upon the soul, and in that content the lesson of the trying environment has been learned, and it will gradually modify itself.
It is my intention through this blog to share the insights and inspirations of Theosophical principles and how we can apply it in daily life.
 Watch this space!! Comments and suggestions are most welcome!