Renunciation and Responsibility

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


RENUNCIATION AND RESPONSIBILITY


Renounce and then enjoy this world.

Isopanishad

Starting upon the long journey immaculate; descending more and more into sinful matter, and having connected himself with every atom in manifested Space – the Pilgrim, having struggled through and suffered in every form of life and being, is only at the bottom of the valley of matter, and half through his cycle, when he has identified himself with collective Humanity. This, he has made in his own image. In order to progress upwards and homewards, the "God" has now to ascend the weary uphill path of the Golgotha of Life. It is the martyrdom of self-conscious existence. Like Visvakarman he has to sacrifice himself to himself in order to redeem all creatures, to resurrect from the many into the One Life. Then he ascends into heaven indeed; where, plunged into the incomprehensible absolute Being and Bliss of Paranirvana, he reigns unconditionally, and whence he will re-descend again...

The Secret Doctrine, i 268

 The immortal individuality of every human being is overbrooded by a luminous Dhyani, and it persists as a distinct Monad during its entire Manvantaric pilgrimage of myriad incarnations in mortal vestures. As Atman, the Monad is one in fiery essence with Paramatman; as the Buddhic vahan it is the Dhyan Chohanic light-energy; and as self-conscious Manas, the individual Monad is an integral portion of the Great Sacrifice – the mysterious Adhiyajna, the ensouling Mind and Heart of all Humanity. Immovably fixed at the highest pole of the spectrum of consciousness, the Divine Prototype is both the noumenal cause and Silent Watcher of its successive projections into the shadowy region of phenomenal change. The partial incarnation of the immortal Monad in every personality is a sacrificial participation in the shadowy side of existence. It carries into every descent a luminous spark of the supernal light of compassionate awareness, thus endowing each of its lunar vestures with the personal prerogative of reflective consciousness, choice and discrimination, moral conscience and responsibility. All self-consciousness is inherently ethical in essence, and is made possible through the voluntary sacrifice of the Immortal Triad. And yet, much of what is sensed and mirrored by the human Ego in its incarnation into a mortal vesture cannot serve the moral purposes of its immemorial pilgrimage, owing to the recurrent subversion of Manasic ideation through the sway of unregulated kama and attendant rationalizations of weakness and servility. For the human being the grossest plane and enslaving principle are not the physical, with its molecular matter constructed out of countless elemental "lives", but the chaotic astral plane of frustrated cravings, fears and foolish imaginings. These form clouds of vapour which obscure mental perception and obstruct the noetic capacity to focus the Buddhic light of the Atman with alertness and awareness, deliberation and detachment, calmness and creativity.

 To render the priceless privilege of noetic insight relevant in daily life requires strength of concentration, serenity of feeling and skill in action. This creative state of being necessitates the withdrawal of the wandering mind from the hypnotic spell of nebulous sensations, compulsive reactions and repressed emotions. The analytical mind must be yoked to a still centre through the persistent negation of the false identity gleaned from the succession of humdrum events and the melodramatic moods of the shadowy self. The self-sacrifice of noetic consciousness enables the reflected rays within the lunar realm of heterogeneous matter and cloudy confusion to draw back to the parent sun and profit from its cosmic splendour. Everything turns upon true self-consciousness, which is the Manvantaric gift of the God in man as well as the grace of the Guru given to the selfless devotee in any auspicious cycle of growth.

 The profound challenge to human beings moving in the realm of the mortal and the conditioned is to awaken a therapeutic awareness of the potential and the unmanifest. Each and every human being is invariably helped in deep dreamless sleep when the Immortal Self is in its original state of timeless consciousness, analogous at its own level to Paranirvanic unconditionality. Thus it is possible for everyday life to go on even amidst the psychic confusion, the complicated enmeshing of events, and the karmic burden of all the misused and contaminated life-atoms that make matter seem sinful. The daily replenishment from the inner reserves of noetic consciousness is made possible through the magic of sushupti. To sustain this vibration in waking life and utilize the resources of deep meditation in the sphere of mundane dharma, one needs continually to let go of all mental habits of narrow self-reference. One must break up the inert assemblage of ingrained tendencies which consolidate into a shallow conception of isolated identity. Even when through moralistic discipline this conditioned self becomes increasingly righteous, bound up with ostentatious virtues, with self-protective habits, with worthy resolves and pious aspirations, it still acts as a fragile crystallization of fickle identity and an arbitrary limitation upon the attributeless Self. The Path of true spiritual self-consciousness commences at that crucial point where one is ready to live in and through diverse human beings. This is neither the natural stance of humanity in general nor the mental posture of many human beings who have a fleeting attraction to the Path of self-redemption. Nevertheless, every person has some implicit sense of human growth, some elementary empathy which enables language itself to be meaningful. The unspoken reciprocities that make everyday interaction and humane understanding possible even at the simplest level presuppose a primary receptivity and intuitive intersubjectivity in self-consciousness. This is the unmanifest Mahabuddhic potential behind collective evolution at every level, but to be able to get beyond its instinctual and outward modes, individuals must consciously and confidently identify with the Mind and Heart of all Humanity.

 The silent martyrdom of self-conscious existence becomes real enough with the cool recognition that everyone's limitation is also one's own. The harrowing pain at the inability of higher consciousness to avail itself fully of vestures provided under karma must be experienced by the awakened individual as a mere instance of universal pain. The intense realization of human suffering is not a once-and-for-all attainment, but a continuous Buddhimanasic expansion of awareness and a quickening of sensitivity together with an intense longing, on behalf of the entire human race, for Divine Wisdom. One must learn to keep awake and to sleep, to eat and bathe and work cheerfully on behalf of all living beings. One must enjoy traversing the daily round of familiar duties and sacrificial obligations, consecrating all these to Lokasangraha, the welfare of the world. Above all, one must discover the disarming simplicity of joyous devotion through selfless acts, sacred studies and deep meditations offered, like a leaf, a flower or a fruit, to Krishna, the Great Giver. This unconditional love and ceaseless sacrifice must be attempted by all those who would wish to come out and be separate, in the words of Paul, who would like to relinquish their illusory existence and begin to live anew, immersed in the potent current of spiritual evolution. The true martyrdom of self-conscious existence necessarily entails the total renunciation of any possible concept of personal identity and also of individual progress. Monadic individuation has validity and meaning solely in the sacred act of, and entirely for the sake of, intelligently focussing the universal light of the Atman. It has no other function. To be able to renounce this individuality completely, relinquishing at the core even the seed-idea of any conception of personal virtue, individual excellence or spiritual progress separate from the whole of humanity, is to blend the mind with the soul, and even more the light of the soul with the luminous Paramatmic essence of the Adhiyajna, the Great Sacrifice. Agniyoga burns out the root illusion of individuality in the fires of self-purgation.

 When many first encounter the vast perspective and true proportions of the Secret Path of Renunciation, they become bewildered because they hastily assume they are inherently incapable of following it. The origin of this instinctual response is actually the delusive notion, deeply embedded in the unrefined psyche, that man is a fortuitous concurrence of atoms fatigued by external stimuli, involuntary emotions, incoherent thoughts and the appalling waste of energy through pseudo-knowledge. The personality is reinforced by a defensive posture of false omniscience at the mundane level which is nothing but mulish obstinacy and a pathological refusal to see the light. This arises from the fear-ridden reluctance to learn from others, to risk the pain of growth in awareness, to give moral shocks to the lunar vesture so that it can be shaken out of its automatic and habitual responses, all of which are based upon intertwined illusions in relation to time, space, motion, causality, karma, and above all, selfhood. To let go of such mental trappings and emotional reactions, learning to recognize the subtler and specious forms in which they reappear and relinquishing them yet again, must produce a triple revolution in awareness – in the subject of one's creative contemplation (jnana), in the object of one's constant devotion (bhakti), and in one's intrinsic capacity to consecrate the simplest acts of life (karma). This fundamental revolution in thought and feeling, word and deed, will alchemically transmute the ways in which one looks at the world and employs the sense-organs of hearing, taste, smell and touch. The more one can calmly sit down and, in the light of the potent ideal of universal compassion, concede the absurdity of much that many people call living in the world, the more one can give a radical shake-up to the entire system. One can quietly begin, in the silence after the storm, to induce a necessary state of separation of all the elements which have coagulated into ossified structures, breaking up the clusters and refining life-atoms through meditation upon voidness, sunyata, and fullness, karuna or compassion. By blanking out and refusing to give energy or indulgence to these many false identities or masks of the soul, one can reawaken noetic insight within a stream of consciousness of the sacredness of life and the One Source of Light-Energy.

 Simpler peoples living in uncluttered cultures have often employed effective and graphic images to represent the corruption of consciousness through a false sense of personal identity. An angry person is sometimes portrayed as possessed by a malevolent red devil dancing upon his head. Children taught to think in terms of such powerful if intuitive images soon become aware that to fall into a state of temper is to give oneself over to some perverse manikin, to some demonic imp which may itself be a simulacrum or shadow of one's own unacknowledged fears. To think imaginatively of elementals in this way is to begin to see that a great portion of what one calls oneself and one's own is a costly delusion, for which the karmic negation is breakdown, despair and death. One's personal identity has no continuity whatsoever except through repetition of signs and sounds, and no intrinsic validity except through passive acquiescence or emotional reinforcement from the outside. Inevitably, Nature responds in the language of suffering, giving repeated shocks to the psyche, and in this way some progress is made in inward freedom from the inertia of delusion. If there were no suffering, which is the merciful teacher and stern awakener of consciousness, there would be no way for the cowardly individual to let go of obsessions. Thanks to therapeutic suffering there is at least some stimulus and hope for renunciation of outworn preoccupations. But as people relinquish illusions, they become so infatuated with a new sense of liberated selfhood that they resent any reminder of their past errors and persisting misconceptions of themselves and others. Thus they erect fresh barriers between their self-image and the rest of humanity, falling prey repeatedly to possession or obsession by elemental forces coloured by entrenched kamamanasic rationalizations.

 How many people in the presence of children with temper tantrums think back to their own temper tantrums? How many people recognize in the illusions of those ten or fifteen years younger the reminders of similar snares in their youth? How many, when they see people ten or twenty years older who are trapped in a pathetic refusal to learn afresh from life, can see analogies with their own resistance to learn and their own crippling fear of coming to terms with their costly errors? Anyone so blessed by karma as to have heard the inspiring teaching concerning the Path of Renunciation should show the courage to overcome smug self-centeredness and enslavement to pride and prejudice. In a strictly unmetaphorical sense, the disciple's sojourn on earth should be a compassionate mode of wise participation in the lives of other human beings through the empathetic recognition of every possible illusion and its alchemical transmutation. Many people prefer not to recollect what they were five or ten years ago in negative terms, but would rather live in the undisturbed oblivion of their current self-image and thoughtless drift. This is a sad waste of their present incarnation, unpardonable in a would-be disciple, without any real benefit to the Immortal Soul. The higher principles cannot effectively incarnate and the Divine Triad cannot be invoked as a guardian and guide unless the individual purges his consciousness of whatsoever obscures the thread of moral purpose. The true seeker finds a firm basis for spiritual resolve by focussing concentrated attention upon a universal perspective, while gaining skill in action in the arena of daily duties.

 The sacred task of purifying and perfecting Manasic self-consciousness, through effortless renunciation and sacrificial self-transcendence, takes many lives. Humanity, in general, will become fully Manasic only in the distant future, in the Fifth Race of the Fifth Round. The further development of Manas that should take place in the present Fifth and in the coming Sixth Sub-race of the Fifth Root Race in the Fourth Round is proportionately small for myriads of human beings who are half asleep most of the time. This is readily confirmed by considering how much of the potency of thought is untapped, because so little thinking is truly universal, and how much the volatile energy of volitional desire is wasted, because extremely little is expended on behalf of the immortal individuality. Most of what people call feeling is mere emotion, which causes wear and tear in the astral vesture. This wastage has as its ideational basis an arbitrary one-life assumption, which is only rendered hypocritical by those who pay lip-service to a salvationist belief in reincarnation but are actually captive to bodily cycles and a physical conception of age and vitality. Yet, while many human beings are not able to be highly Manasic, if any have drawn under the karma of former lives into the proximity of Brahma Vach or Divine Wisdom, the spiritual ideation of the deathless race of Seers and Sages, then great indeed is their privilege and its attendant responsibility. Manas, which descends from and corresponds to Akasha, the fifth universal cosmic principle, can be existentially recognized in terms of the strong sense of individual responsibility: the more fully Manas is developed, the deeper is one's responsibility and the stronger one's capacity for choice. The full potential of Manas can only be intimated through an exacting conception of individual responsibility wherein one is accountable for every thought and feeling, and for every life-atom that at any given time is an integral part of one's vestures or merely passes in and through one's radius of influence. So immense is the Akashic potential of the fully awakened Manas that the perfected Manasa are literally responsible for the welfare of worlds.

 Such a Promethean conception is far removed from the feeble notions of most thinking men and women of the present Round. It is downright alien to that noisy minority which is terrified of taking responsibility for the simplest things, for elementary errors, for past mistakes and present failures, for endemic and tamasic tendencies which act as mental blocks or emotional obstructions in the lunar and physical vestures. The refusal to accept responsibility, which is a cowardly refusal to become Manasic, is a vain attempt to be mindless, to become a retarded soul unable to keep pace with the high purposes of evolution. All of this has got to be paid for, not only through the tragic condition of the ray that gradually weakens its connection with the Divine Triad, but also through the immeasurable agony of those lofty souls who suffer for the sake of the whole, who do not have any sense of "mine" and "thine" in relation to the collective illusions of egotistic pride and ignorant selfishness of the human race. Those who truly aspire to the Path of Renunciation, also called the Path of Woe – mental woe for all souls trapped in the abject wretchedness of living death or indefinitely mired in ignorance and irresponsibility – should ponder deeply the sacred image of the cosmic sacrifice of Visvakarman in the steep Golgotha of life. Then, at the revelatory moment of death, they may come to have a flash of understanding strong enough to evoke a mighty resolve to return as early as possible in the next life into the spiritual service of suffering humanity. Hence the need for spiritual knowledge, self-study and daily meditation.

 In a universe of justice the voluntary discipline of sacrifice presupposes the power of choice of every single human being. Manas spells moral responsibility, and it connotes freedom of choice as well as the fearless acceptance of the full consequences of past choices. A Manasic being welcomes everything that comes under merciful karma as a necessary consequence of choices in other lives, self-determination at the moment of birth, and the continuous stream of self-definition originating at the causal level of ideation. The truly Manasic being would never condescend to assign any portion of his character or circumstance entirely to an outside agency or source – whether heredity, environment, the collective Karma of society or humanity. All such alibis, excuses and evasions would be morally unworthy of a Manasic being. One might coolly consider these mitigating factors when one wishes to understand the unknown karma of other beings, especially as one cannot arrogate to oneself the vicarious burden of responsibility which other persons must assume voluntarily. It is with selfless humility and spontaneous reverence before the mystery of every Ego that the Bodhisattva seeks broader explanations for the sake of a compassionate understanding, a non-moralistic or constructive appraisal of the spiritual predicament of human souls. If one thinks seriously about the metaphysical basis of sacrifice, the ethics of responsibility would logically follow, including the moral codes of discipleship. Also, one would see with the clarity of compassion that what is customarily called living is largely a series of pathetic contortions based upon a sad legacy of fears inherited from past lives of irresponsibility and evasion. Persisting in such a course of self-destruction can only lead at some point to a total rupture of the connection with the Divine, unless there is a courageous if traumatic confrontation with these downward tendencies. For humanity as a whole, there eventually must come such a crucial moment of choice in the Fifth Round, but for individuals who have entered the Path, it can come much earlier than for the majority of mankind. When the twin gifts of Manas – moral responsibility and noetic choice – are strengthened through use by a burgeoning Buddhic awareness of cosmic sacrifice, then, as the Stanzas teach:

 The thread between the silent watcher and his shadow (man) becomes stronger – with every re-incarnation.

 This is what should happen in every human life, and if it does not, there is something seriously wrong. In every incarnation the sutratman should become stronger between the Silent Watcher – the overbrooding Dhyani or Divine Prototype at the upper rung of the ladder of being – and the lunar shadow at the lower rung. Gupta Vidya teaches that the two highest classes of Dhyanis – the Watchers connected with the seventh principle and the Architects connected with the sixth principle – furnished the various races of humanity with divine Kings and Instructors:

 It is the latter who taught humanity their arts and sciences, and the former who revealed to the incarnated Monads that had just shaken off their vehicles of the lower Kingdoms – and who had, therefore, lost every recollection of their divine origin – the great spiritual truths of the transcendental worlds.

The Secret Doctrine, i 267

If, despite this sacred lineage and divine descent which lends to man the sacrificial light of self-consciousness, he nonetheless desecrates the gift of creative imagination through moral turpitude, then there is a tragic loosening or sundering of the vital connection with the immortal Monad. Turpitude means taking pride in what is vile and base and pleasure in what is shameful; it is bravado in the service of Satan. Such terrible misuse of the will and the potency of thought imperils the life-giving connection between the higher Triad and the lower quaternary, and gravely increases the risk of running loose and "astray into the lunar path".

 There is enormous moral danger in any pseudo-scientific categories of thought or pseudo-religious forms of worship that encourage disguised irresponsibility in the name of pseudo-freedom or pseudo-determinism or pseudo-salvation. Once one goes astray into the lunar path, all manner of unholy alliances are made between the astral form and nefarious swarms of tortured elementals, soulless elementaries and evil sorcerers, as also massive legions of malignant, gangrenous and leprous thought-forms going back to Atlantean times. One becomes the helpless prey of whole classes of images intimately associated with the appalling abuse of spiritual knowledge, creative potency and mental energies. This inevitably attracts a host of soul-ailments and diseases, and those who succumb to them face formidable obstructions to finding a human form or congenial conditions in which one can foster spiritual intuitions. Even if, at one level, one wants to aspire heavenward, the entire system seems to conspire against the promise of progress owing to spinal blockages, mental deposits and astral deformities. To purge oneself of spiritual pollution and to heal the moral scars it leaves in the lunar vesture, one must meditate deeply and continuously, with an intensely devout wish to restore and strengthen the fragile connection with the immortal spirit of Atma-Buddhi. One must immerse oneself in the Buddhic current of the healing waters of wisdom, the elixir of Hermes, the indestructible spark of divine conscience, which is consubstantial with the fiery essence of the Dhyanis (the Angirasa descended from Agni). This is like bathing in the luminous stream of Divine Wisdom, the only Jordan whose waters can baptize in the name of the Father in Heaven, the Mahaguru on earth, the God in man.

 The therapeutic restoration of the right relationship between the reflected ray and its divine parent cannot come by ritual chanting and monotonous mutterings, by what is mistaken for prayer, worship or meditation. Rectification must proceed from intense thought, conscious strengthening of the strongest altruistic feelings in oneself, and by an unconditional vow and irreversible determination. This would be enormously helped by invoking and activating the higher faculties which have their analogues with lower manas and with prana. The manifest energy of prana must reflect something of the continuity and self-luminous, self-created spiritual energy of the invisible Atman. The polarity of kama must be purified through devotion and directed by that inward tropism and vertical movement towards the Divine Triad which could confer the benediction of gratitude and reverence towards the Ishtaguru and the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas. Lower manas must be brought into firm alignment with higher Manas, especially through the use of silence and conscious control of speech. If there are daily duties to perform, one should take a universal ideal, a potent mantram, dwell upon these and then look upon obligations as sacred, with a joyous recognition of responsibility and choice. It is unwise to spend too much time on only one thing and to evade other duties. It is wiser to keep moving with cheerfulness while blending the elements of refined thinking, feeling and breathing into a single stream of sacrificial ideation. One must even be delighted to discover obstacles, understanding that so-called bad karma is what one unconsciously or unknowingly desired for one's discipline. Karma is not only what one deserves, but also what one really wants, because it offers a golden opportunity for transmuting past errors and persisting obstacles. Even tainted life-atoms must be welcomed and cleansed, or they will take their revenge if their demand for attention is spurned. They must indeed be discouraged from performing their ludicrous devil dances, and can be gently coaxed into the presence of potent thoughts and feelings of pure benevolence.

 Wise devotees who make this regenerative programme the basis of spiritual alchemy will combine continuity of daily practice in modest and moderate doses with the Himalayan strength of unconditional and irrevocable, irreversible commitment. The secret doctrine of Buddhi Yoga teaches that though it take a long time to perfect this practice, it needs only moral courage, not the mere passage of time, to give it a firm basis. The spiritual will is released through meditation upon Vach, nourished through devotion to Krishna, and intensified through the yoga of tapas, consecrated to Shiva. Thus, throughout human evolution, wise individuals in all the ancient centres of Initiation took irrevocable vows and made irreversible commitments. In each life they reaffirmed the irreversibility of their striving on the Path because this alone releases the spiritual will that invites the Atman to descend into the vestures and assume divine kingship. Mental and moral courage, constancy of zeal and concentration of purpose are the three talismans of self regeneration. Herein lies the clue to the strength of unconditional affirmations. A part of the shadowy self always attempts to be conditional and crafty; one has to renounce allegiance to this pretentious enemy through the sovereign act of unconditional affirmation. There is no other way. When a seeker recognizes this psychological truth through life upon life, the length of the process matters little if the philosophical basis is sound and the spiritual resolve is firm and unconditional. It is a high tragedy that many people for whom access to the sacred teachings was made easy never truly chose the Path because they never really initiated the heroic and sacrificial resolve of Manas.

 Every seeker must freely choose the Path sometime, choose it wholly, unequivocally and completely. Each must choose it whole-heartedly and single-mindedly, without introducing those seemingly small qualifications which are tiny apertures through which the vermin rush in from the region of spiritual vampires and intellectual vultures. And when the vermin come, they breed fast and make short work of the contaminated structure. To seal off every mental reservation, egotistic escape-route and moral evasion, one must make a supreme, unconditional and absolute affirmation on the Bodhisattva Path, renouncing all possible concessions to conditionality and cowardice. Herein lies the dignity of the sacred and the divinity of a Vow or Vrata, sanctified by Rta or cosmic rightness and its ceaseless rhythm in the anahata, the immortal centre of incarnated Manas. A person who invokes Vach takes a mighty step towards Enlightenment because his or her spiritual energy-field is enormously intensified by the immaculate light of Atma-Buddhi. The Lanoo must be calm and patient, moving step by step along the Path, day by day, week by week, month by month. After a point it becomes wholly natural to stay firmly within the noetic current of life-giving wisdom and compassion which streams forth from Krishna and the Lodge of Mahatmas.

Hermes, February 1981
by Raghavan Iyer