Mental Posture

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


MENTAL POSTURE


Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it Unto thee . . .

SRI KRISHNA

  Lord Krishna strings the sacred teachings of the Bhagavad Gita on the golden thread of mental posture, the relation between the spiritual seeker and the Divine Wisdom embodied as the Light of the Logos in lustrous beings. Mental posture refers primarily to an attitude of mind, and constitutes the sacred trust between chela and Guru. Those who wish to become sincere and true servants of all mankind with its immense suffering, and of the Great Masters of Wisdom with their inexhaustible light, must prepare themselves by a process of purgation whereby they negate the false conceptions of themselves derived from the world into which they are born, from their heredity, upbringing, environment and education. This is done by a method of intense self-questioning. Platonic thought is essentially a dialogue with oneself. When people really begin to ask questions of themselves, and also attempt to apply the principles involved in formulating questions in a multiplicity of contexts, then they gradually begin to glimpse the dynamic, albeit mysterious, relation between manifest and unmanifest.

  We could compare wisdom to light – the ineffable light of the Invisible Sun. Is this light obscured in a solar eclipse? Actually, it is then even more accessible to men of meditation. Is this light inaccessible during an eclipse of the moon? Not to men of meditation. But, alas, most human beings are not men of meditation. They have never really thought seriously, hungered sufficiently, wanted with enough intensity of one-pointed devotion, the great Teaching in relation to the immortality of the soul. Divine Wisdom can come alive through the Manas-Taijasi, the thinking principle irradiated by the Buddhic fire of the divine dialectic. Before Buddhi can become one with Manas, before Truth and Love can be brought together in a mystic marriage, there is a preliminary betrothal. The thinking principle sunders its false allegiance to the shadowy self or the astral body, and then draws towards the hidden light of the sun, the light of Buddhi which is fully lit in a Buddha.

  If wisdom may be compared to light, method may be compared to a lens. We have different lenses for a microscope and a telescope. We need one lens for looking at that which is so invisibly small as to become visible only through a powerful magnifier. When looking closer at the stars, we need a lens suitable to a telescope, with specific refractive powers and made of particular kinds of glass. In all searching instruments, through which we wish to focus light for the sake of understanding and making discoveries in relation to the mysteries of matter at all levels, we also need to know something about the angle at which the refraction of light may affect the intensity, clarity, purity and stability of the images formed.

  All human beings, every day of their lives, are involved unconsciously in the quest for wisdom. When they become postulants or neophytes, they are put on a preliminary probation and can be received as disciples only after they have completed preliminary qualifications. All of these involve a re-orientation of their life outlook in relation to who they are, why they were born, their attitude to the moment of death, where they are going, the nature of their every relationship, and above all whether they are ready to pledge themselves irreversibly towards that which they find irresistible – the great thrill that accompanies the light of daring lit up in the heart, the thrill of compassionate service to the whole of suffering humanity.

  At the very beginning of the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita there is an extraordinary statement. Having first established the inexhaustible nature of this yoga, Krishna states that the Secret Doctrine was first communicated to Vivasvat – the primordial manifestation of the divine Wisdom within the vast cosmic depths, understood in the Kabbalah as "the ancient of Days," and in the New Testament as "That which was in the beginning." It is eternal and yet a reflection of itself is the first light in every great period of manifestation. It was transmitted through Vaivasvata Manu, the essential root-type of the mankind in existence for at least a million years. Then it was communicated to Ikshvaku, the mighty Brotherhood of Mahatmas. Their compassion is boundless and their concern is profound for the primary needs of every epoch. They make allowances for the errors of thought that became magnified over the last two thousand years and more. They recognize the mathematical accuracy of the law of cycles under which there may be permitted from age to age – for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the demoniac and the establishment of righteousness – the timely promulgation of divine wisdom by the Avatars who come as the Great Teachers of Humanity.

  Any human being in any part of the world who retires at night with a true feeling of responsiveness to the travails of suffering humanity, receives help in deep sleep, if his inmost self turns towards Ishwara. The intensity of desire, the propriety of motive, and the devotion of the heart will necessarily determine the infallible beneficent response that comes from within deep sleep, and also enables one to tap the pristine vibrations brought down by earnest sacrificial meditations from the peaks of universal ideation into the surrounding magnetosphere of the globe. Therefore, after Krishna says that the sacred teaching was communicated to Vivasvat and to Manu and also to Ikshvaku, and then to the Raja Rishis, the royal sages behind the chief dynasties of all the ancient kingdoms which witnessed the forgotten renaissances of antiquity, he says to Arjuna, "All of this I now make known to you." Why? Because "Thou art my devotee and my friend."

  Mental posture is critical and crucial, and everyone can at any time alter his or her standpoint. One way to do it at all levels is to emulate the wise Rishis of the Rig Veda. Having given the great Hymn of Creation, raising questions about why, when, how it all began, they said, "Who knows?" The gods, the sages? Perhaps not even they. When people gain the thrill of true agnosticism, then they liberate themselves from the thraldom of strain and from self-concern in its negative, destructive, wasteful sense. They begin to release the living power of the continuity of the divine spirit within the temple and the tenement of the reflected ray, so that the solar light activates all latent centres and cells within the body. Therefore, they know at each step the preparation needed for the next. Each step shows the way, as in mountain climbing. A point is eventually reached where, out of enormous compassion for the multitudes in the plains, a stout fearlessness amidst the raging storms, with a steady, sure-footed stance, carrying a lantern that sheds the light hidden in the divine darkness, a person suffuses his pilgrimage with purity, strength, and immense joy. He recognizes that the universe is vast, boundless and beautiful, and is constantly willing to release beneficent thought-streams for the good of all, thereby deserving the grace of the Guru.

  Recognition of the light and rectification of mental posture begin in the ability to ask real questions. A real question must itself be rooted in one's life. We have magnificent examples of this among little children, who initially find the universe so wonderful that they are constantly raising real questions. Why is it human beings lose child-like trust and cease to show the pure joy of questioning? The twentieth century will one day come to be known not only for concentration camps, not only for the horrors of all the killings in the world, but also for the massacre of minds under an educational system where children are treated as objects. Children are labelled and graded, and encouraged to pretend they know instead of honestly saying, "I don"t know." The strain is too much. If one receives such instruction, one tends to be instantly threatened wherever there is real knowledge. After a point it starts to have its effect on the face, on lacklustre eyes which become either self-destructive or replete with the "jealous Lhamayin of endless space."

  Could all these people start all over again? They can – because the Gita teaches that unknown to themselves, they are making sacrifices. Some make sacrifices to the god of work; others make sacrifices to the god of self-worship; still others make sacrifices to what they think to be knowledge. Consider the whole of humanity and those souls that did not like making sacrifices in previous lives. Where will they be reborn? Those who wanted opportunities life after life – complaining in villages, "If only I had education"; rebelling against arranged marriages, "If only I could choose freely"; restlessly looking for excitement, "The countryside is boring. I want to go to the big town" – such people generated a line of life's meditation. All of these are the world's discontented from all classes.

  To sense this is to ask questions about meaning, rooted in experience. But questions about meaning become real only when they are rooted in experience of pain. Where one's experience of pain is inserted into the pain of humanity, there is universality in the quality of the suffering, in the myriad dimensions of experience, and in the hunger for meaning. Thus it is that Krishna endorses indifference to the multitude of differences abounding in the world. The offerings are the Supreme Spirit. The sacrificial butter is the Supreme Spirit. All is the Supreme Spirit. All comes back into the One, but in coming back into the One, the great choice for man is in relation to the whole or the part, the living or the dying, the future or the past; That which is unchanging or that which is ever changing; That which is indestructible, though invisible, or that which is both perishable and visible. One may choose That which is the eternal witness, the inmost sanctuary, the protective power within the immortal soul of every man. This soul-power can be released by any human being, despite all the confusions, muddles, mistakes, self-deceptions, rationalizations and wanderings in the dark. Somewhere the wonderings in relation to the light persist and all else drifts away as autumnal leaves.

  What is hidden in the root systems of the trees that are so many human beings? It is the Real. As long as the waters of life below are mingled with the waters of wisdom above, then everyone is able, out of the moisture of the suffering of the heart and the sincerity of persistent attempts, to become rooted within the great hidden underground. It is possible to take a proper mental posture in relation to That which is spaceless and timeless, dateless and deathless, That which existed before birth and That which will exist after the moment of death. To do this within oneself is to find that the whole universe is a magnificent unbound encyclopedia of answers, and that the whole of life is a series of questions. One starts to walk in the world with the light of questioning in one's eyes. When one starts to move in the world with questioning in the heart; when one starts to see all others in terms of those fundamental and enduring questions that concern all human beings; and where the questioning becomes a quest, then life is a single question that cannot be answered without meditation upon birth, death, decay, sickness, but above all, upon error. When one meditates on all of these, in time one's life is not only a quest, but a beatific, ceaseless contemplation. Then a person comes closer to the great mystery of the fourth chapter of the Gita, which teaches: "That man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men." There is action during deep sleep. There is inaction amidst the daily round and the common task, the milling crowds, lost and confined, cribbed and cabined, within the cast-iron cage of their shadowy selves and vociferating on behalf, not of the universal good, but of their own little selves.

  Behind this masquerade there is the Soundless Sound. The Mandukya Upanishad says that eventually we truly come to recognize, to revere, and to renounce everything for the sake of the One – OM TAT SAT – That which is beyond all colours and forms, all limitations, all labels, all distinctions, all beginnings, changes and endings. We see beyond all conditions and conditionality itself when we feel that the unconditional is not distant but closer to us than our own heart. We become that which all beings are, at different degrees of knowledge and forgetfulness, but which we can self-consciously embody. Though there are many things we remember and also many that we forget, we are that which could never be remembered and could never be forgotten because it is beyond and behind memory. It is beyond and behind the limbos and the Lethe of delusive forgetfulness. It is that primordial pulse that precedes all manifestation and what we call recorded history. It is older than billions of years and is vaster than outer space. Behind and beyond all the labels which humanity hugs there is a boundless ocean and an eternal river. Like Hesse's Siddhartha, we may learn from the ferryman the great secret. All those who come to the river ask all kinds of questions, but most are questions about money or time, questions about all the other people who come, questions on behalf of themselves. But he who has watched it all, this Vasudeva, knows that there are great sounds of every kind in the river. Because he has seen behind and beyond all the ripples on the surface of the river, he has seen a tremendous compassion in the very depths of the waters.

  When a man senses the living reality of the energy of the compassion of wisdom, then he begins to become a free man. For him the answer of the ancients is the start of his life. The Many come from the One because compassion first arose in It. That same compassion ensures the return of each and every one of the Many back into the One. When this teaching has been learnt, has been burnt into the brain and into the very heart and soul, then, as the Mandukya urges, we abandon all other questions. We cleave unto the truth of the Soundless Sound. When one comes to that point, then life is a question mark and each of us is the answer.

  All questions are rafts that can transport a person part of the way and no further. In the end, the passenger plunges off the raft; this must be done again and again. No one can swim in mid-ocean without taking a small canoe or a small raft to the waters. When watching ships on the ocean, we may see that all of these are like human beings on a boundless voyage. We experience that transcendental feeling common to all. It could be lit and re-lit, purifying our motives, redeeming us from our own small-minded thoughts and self-defeating patterns, freeing us from our bondage to our limited conception of this world. We could move with the glory and the dignity of those who know that within every human heart is the possibility of sensing the immortal spirit.

  The beginnings of all are protected by the Law. Wisdom, method and practice are fused in a dialectical inter-relationship. At the start, wisdom could be put at the apex of a triangle, and method at the midpoint of the base. At a later stage, the points could be varied. Then a time comes when one sees that the very separation between the knower, the known and the knowing is only a conventional one, and that the three are a union within the universe and a union within every man. In the end we always return to the same point. Man can gain self-knowledge only if he makes his soul-gaze centre on "the One Pure Light, the Light that is free from affection." Then and only then can he use the Golden Key of method to unlock and throw open the radiant portals of Wisdom.

Hermes, May 1977
by Raghavan Iyer