Damodar K. Mavalankar

Great Teacher Series @ Theosophy Trust


DAMODAR K. MAVALANKAR


The vital core of Theosophy is the existence of the Fraternity of Mahatmas. This sacred fact gives meaning to the subtleties of cosmogenesis and the complexities of anthropogenesis. It shapes all practical Theosophical efforts. The Mahatmas stand ready to help and uplift all who seek the summits of wisdom. Theosophy shows the path of perfectibility by which a human being may pass beyond the sense of alienation from his fellows and plunge into the divine isolation at the centre of the conscious unity of all life. One who follows this path gradually learns to assume full responsibility for his nature and existence and to act upon the implications of such knowledge. When he gains the lucidity of universal self-consciousness and loses all separative self-concern, he becomes a Mahatma, a Great Soul. Damodar K. Mavalankar was a man who walked this path as far as mortal eyes can see.

Damodar was born in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in September 1857. As one born into the Karhada Maharashtra Brahmana caste, he received an excellent traditional Hindu upbringing. The wealth of his family afforded him equally sound English education. When very young, he became gravely ill and was expected to die. During the worst of this period, he had a vision in which a resplendent being ministered to him, and he soon recovered. He saw this being twice again in visions: once when seriously ill and once in a deep meditation.

Between the ages of ten and fourteen, Damodar studied Hindu Dharma devotedly, keeping all the religious practices appropriate to his station. As he began his academic studies ritual gave way to scholarship, though his basic ideas and aspirations remained unchanged. According to his own testimony, he had not found real peace of mind, and he lived for the day's routine, social position and personal gratification. But in 1879 – the year H.P.Blavatsky and H.S.Olcott arrived in Bombay to establish a centre for the Theosophical Society – Damodar read Isis Unveiled. He immediately rushed to Bombay to pay his respects to the remarkable author who displayed such wisdom, fearlessness and devotion. Caring nothing for the opinion of the world, she displayed the assurance of one who knew that Masters exist and are active in the midst of mankind.

When Damodar entered the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Bombay, he was stunned to see a portrait of the man who had appeared thrice in his visions and to learn that this Mahatma was one of those behind H.P.Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement. Convinced that he had found the gate that leads to the Path of Truth, Damodar applied for membership in the Theosophical Society on July 13, 1879. On August 3 he was initiated into the Society. Shortly thereafter he wrote:

It is no exaggeration to say that I have been a really living man only these few months; for between life as it appears to me now and life as I comprehended it before, there is an unfathomable abyss. I feel now for the first time I have a glimpse of what man and life are – the nature and powers of the one, the possibilities, duties, and joys of the other.

Damodar sought and received his father's permission to live at the Headquarters, and he soon took up the taxing duties of Joint Recording Secretary.

Damodar also sought his father's blessing on his resolve to live the life of a sannyasin. He had been betrothed to Laxmibai as a child and was expected to join her in the life of a householder. When it became clear that his desire to become a chela of the Masters was deep and irreversible, he was allowed to sign over his large portion of the ancestral inheritance to his own father on condition that the girl be cared for in the family home all her life. Though broken-hearted, she nobly abided by Damodar's decision and lived the life of a saubhagyavati – one whose husband is alive – long after Damodar's disappearance into Tibet and until her own death at about age sixty.

Damodar's father, uncle and elder brother joined the Theosophical Society, but all resigned when he renounced his caste. H.P.Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott counselled Damodar to reflect carefully upon this bold and weighty decision. Having done so, he declared that all worldly interests

. . . are but the vapours of a dream and that he only is worthy of being called man, who has made caprice his slave and the perfection of his spiritual self a grand object of his efforts. As I could not enjoy these convictions and my freedom of action within my caste, I am stepping outside it.

When in Ceylon in 1880 for a lecture tour, H.P.Blavatsky, Olcott and Damodar together took Pansil, the Southern Buddhist ceremony of Pancha Shila in which one vows to uphold the five precepts taught by the Buddha: compassion, truthfulness, purity, sincerity and temperance.

Neither vows publicly undertaken nor external personal details can ever reveal the most vital and critical activities of a chela, for these take place in the recesses of the mind and heart. Yet an intimation of the motive force behind Damodar's meteoric ascent on the path of discipleship can be found in his letters to William Q. Judge. On October 5, 1879, two months after entering the Theosophical Society, Damodar advised:

Your only desire should be to do everything for humanity and not for yourself, i.e. although you are in the world, your inner man should be out of it. When you do this much, you will know other means of accomplishing your aim from the Adepts.

This subtle balance between the strict performance of duty and complete freedom from attachment to the wheel of birth and death derived from Damodar's arrow-straight attitude toward his teacher. In a letter to W.Q.Judge, dated January 24, 1880, he wrote:

I know that Madam Blavatsky whom I revere as my Guru, esteem as my benefactor, and love more than a Mother, and others whose mere recollection gives my heart a thrill that makes me quiver with veneration, have done me favours I am not the least deserving of. . . . About a month after I joined the Society I felt as it were a voice within myself whispering to me that Madam Blavatsky is not what she represents herself to be. . . . I thought it must be some great Indian Adept that had assumed that illusionary form.

Damodar frequently returned to the subject of the Adepts, "because that is the only subject I am interested in," dwelling upon them without allowing enthusiasm to displace his natural reticence.

By 1880 the eye of the Master was upon Damodar. Towards the end of the year, he had seen Adepts in their astral forms and had been taken on an astral journey by one of them.

Brother ----- ordered me to follow him. After going a short distance of about half a mile we came to a natural subterranean passage which is under the Himalayas. The path is very dangerous. There is a natural causeway on the River Indus which flows underneath in all its fury. Only one person can walk on it at a time and one false step seals the fate of the traveller. Besides this causeway there are several valleys to be crossed. After walking a considerable distance through this subterranean passage we came into an open plain in L-----k. There is a large massive building thousands of years old. In front of it is a huge Egyptian Tau. The building rests on 7 big pillars in the form of pyramids. The entrance gate has a large triangular arch. Inside are various apartments. The building is so large that I think it can easily contain twenty thousand people. I was shown some of these compartments. This is the Chief Central Place where all those of our Section who are found deserving of Initiation into Mysteries have to go for their final ceremony and stay there the requisite period. I went up with my Guru to the Great Hall. The grandeur and serenity of the place is enough to strike anyone with awe. The beauty of the Altar which is in the centre and at which every candidate has to take his vows at the time of his Initiation is sure to dazzle the most brilliant eyes. The splendour of the CHIEF'S Throne is incomparable. Everything is on a geometrical principle and containing various symbols which are explained only to the Initiate. But I cannot say more now as I come now under an obligation of Secrecy which ----- took from me.

A letter which he received from one of the Masters confirmed the reality of this astral journey.

Damodar earned the privilege of meeting his Master in Lahore in November 1883. Shortly thereafter, Damodar and H.S.Olcott spent a few days at Jammu in Kashmir as guests of the Maharaja. Damodar disappeared without warning, only to return in three days transformed. Olcott recorded that Damodar was "seemingly robust, tough, and wiry, bold and energetic in manner: we could scarcely realize that he was the same person." He returned to Adyar, now the permanent Headquarters, and with fresh zeal took up his secretarial duties, including management of the publication office of The Theosophist.

By now both H.P.Blavatsky and H.S.Olcott travelled frequently in the cause of Theosophy, and increasingly Damodar became the acting head of affairs at Adyar. While the Founders were in Europe in 1884, the tragic Coulomb affair exploded in Adyar. During the dark period when charges of false claims and trickery were hurled at his teacher's head and the names of his revered Masters were touted in public, Damodar remained cool, uncompromising and firm. "The powers of black magic," he wrote, "are due to the will power engendered by a concentrated form of selfishness." Without seeking to protect himself, he refused to compromise his teachers, speak of private matters, or waver from a deep spiritual loyalty to the Theosophical Movement and those furthering it. He stood the trial along with a few others while many fell away or took ambiguous positions. He achieved the honour of being allowed to travel to his Master's ashram in Tibet.

H.P.Blavatsky returned briefly to India and blessed his privileged journey. On February 23, 1885, thirty-six days before H.P.Blavatsky left India for the last time, Damodar set out aboard the SS. Clan Grant. Reaching Calcutta on the 27th, Damodar spent early March in Benares and returned to Calcutta on the 14th. On March 30th he received a telegram which ordered him to Darjeeling. His travel plans were arranged and he left for the north on April 13, passing through Runjeet, Vecha, Renanga, Sanangthay, Bhashithang, and stopping in Dumrah on the 18th. There he waited for instructions from Longbu, three miles distant. On the 19th he entered Sikkim and on the 23rd was allowed to go to Kali. There he sent his coolies, personal possessions and diary back to Darjeeling.

Nothing more is known of Damodar's life. According to those who saw him last, he joined the company of a mysterious person and passed into Tibet. H.P.Blavatsky and others received occasional letters from him until her passing, but their contents are unknown.

Damodar embodied the highest virtues of the Bodhisattvic path and the pristine principles of Sanatana Dharma. While undergoing the severest trials of the soul and great external strains, he corresponded with Theosophists, with friendly and hostile newspapers, and with interested parties across the globe. He wrote articles of penetrating understanding and remarkable noetic insight.

In outlining the Three Objects of the Theosophical Society, he emphasized the first – to form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood without distinctions of any kind – and noted that few can consciously enter the Brotherhood because most do not aspire "to conquer the immense difficulties encountered between Intellectual Solitude and Intellectual Companionship." This gulf is permanently bridged by "mutual Intellectual Sympathy" without bigotry, dogmatism or preconceptions of any sort. It can be built only in a life of meditation.

Science teaches us that man changes his physical body continually, and this change is so gradual that it is almost imperceptible. why then should the case be otherwise with the inner man? The latter too is constantly developing and changing atoms at every moment. And the attraction of these new sets of atoms depends upon the Law of Affinity – the desires of the man drawing to their bodily tenement only such particles as are en rapport with them or rather giving them their own tendency and colouring. . .

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 with Paramatma? 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.

When the will is directed with unremitting devotion to knowledge of Self and harmony in action, the aspirant has taken up the practice of Raja Yoga.

Raja Yoga encourages no sham, requires no physical postures. It has to deal with the inner man whose sphere lies in the world of thought. To have the highest ideal placed before oneself and strive incessantly to rise up to it, is the only true concentration recognized by Esoteric Philosophy which deals with the inner world of noumena, not the outer shell of phenomena.

Damodar K. Mavalankar won a paramount place in the constellation of illustrious Theosophists of the nineteenth century and earned the greatest privilege that can come to any human being – acceptance as a chela by the Mahatmas. H.P.Blavatsky thus paid homage to D.K.Mavalankar:

. . . if the Society had never given to India but that one future Adept (Damodar) who has now the prospect of becoming one day a Mahatma, Kali Yuga notwithstanding, that alone would be proof that it was not founded at New York and transplanted to India in vain.