Service

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Motivation for service

The Theosophical motivation for service is not in following a moral code, pleasing a deity, or accumulating merits. It is based on the recognition of the fundamental Unity that is behind all diversity. As Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

It is a fundamental doctrine of Theosophy that the “separateness” which we feel between ourselves and the world of living beings around us is an illusion, not a reality. In very deed and truth, all men are one, not in a feeling of sentimental gush and hysterical enthusiasm, but in sober earnest. As all Eastern philosophy teaches, there is but ONE SELF in all the infinite Universe, and what we men call “self” is but the illusionary reflection of the ONE SELF in the heaving waters of earth. True Occultism is the destruction of the false idea of Self, and therefore true spiritual perfection and knowledge are nothing else but the complete identification of our finite “selves” with the Great All. It follows, therefore, that no spiritual progress at all is possible except by and through the bulk of Humanity. It is only when the whole of Humanity has attained happiness that the individual can hope to become permanently happy—for the individual is an inseparable part of the Whole.[1]

Similarly, Damodar K. Mavalankar wrote:

We must consider the whole mankind as one brotherhood for the whole creation has emanated from that eternally Divine Principle which is everywhere, is in everything and in which is everything and is therefore the source of all. We should therefore do all we can to do good to humanity.[2]

For this reason, true service is impersonal. In H. P. Blavatsky words:

Our philosophy teaches us that the object of doing our duties to all men and to ourselves the last, is not the attainment of personal happiness, but of the happiness of others; the fulfilment of right for the sake of right, not for what it may bring us. Happiness, or rather contentment, may indeed follow the performance of duty, but is not and must not be the motive for it.[3]

Need of Wisdom

Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

As soon as he begins to understand what a friend and teacher pain can be, the Theosophist stands appalled before the mysterious problem of human life, and though he may long to do good works, equally dreads to do them wrongly until he has himself acquired greater power and knowledge. The ignorant doing of good works may be vitally injurious, as all but those who are blind in their love of benevolence are compelled to acknowledge. In this sense the answer made as to lack of Christ-like lives among Theosophists, that there are probably none strong enough to live such, is perfectly correct and covers the whole question. For it is not the spirit of self-sacrifice, or of devotion, or of desire to help that is lacking, but the strength to acquire knowledge and power and intuition, so that the deeds done shall really be worthy of the “Buddha-Christ” spirit.[4]
Each individual must learn for himself, through trial and suffering, to discriminate what is beneficial to Humanity; and in proportion as he develops spiritually, i.e., conquers all selfishness, his mind will open to receive the guidance of the Divine Monad within him, his Higher Self, for which there is neither Past nor Future, but only an eternal Now.[5]

Collective service

Mme. Blavatsky thought that, although Theosophists as individuals should help by means of philanthropic work, their collective contribution is more on an educational level, searching for Truth and sharing this search with others:

Theosophists cannot pose as a body of philanthropists, though secretly they may adventure on the path of good works. They profess to be a body of learners merely, pledged to help each other and all the rest of humanity, so far as in them lies, to a better understanding of the mystery of life, and to a better knowledge of the peace which lies beyond it.[6]

We find a similar idea in the book At the Feet of the Master:

Try to see what is worth doing: and remember that you must not judge by the size of the thing. A small thing which is directly useful in the Master's work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good. You must distinguish not only the useful from the useless, but the more useful from the less useful. To feed the poor is a good and noble and useful work; yet to feed their souls is nobler and more useful than to feed their bodies. Any rich man can feed the body, but only those who know can feed the soul. If you know, it is your duty to help others to know.[7]

This, however, does not mean that Theosophical groups should remain aloof to the needs of the world. On the contrary, they should earnestly consider how to put the Theosophical ideals in action. Blavatsky wrote:

It would be a good thing if the members of each branch would put their heads together and seriously consult as to what tangible steps they can take to further the declared objects of the Society. In too many cases the members of the Theosophical Society content themselves with a somewhat superficial study of its books, without making any real contribution to its active work. If the Society is to be a power for good in this and other lands, it can only bring about this result by the active cooperation of every one of its members, and we would earnestly appeal to each of them to consider carefully what possibilities of work are within his power, and then to earnestly set about carrying them into effect. Right thought is a good thing, but thought alone does not count for much unless it is translated into action. There is not a single member in the Society who is not able to do something to aid the cause of truth and universal brotherhood; it only depends on his own will, to make that something an accomplished fact.[8]

Similarly, an article published by Blavatsky written by "A Master of Wisdom" says:

Theosophy should not represent merely a collection of moral verities, a bundle of metaphysical ethics, epitomized in theoretical dissertations. Theosophy must be made practical; and it has, therefore, to be disencumbered of useless digressions, in the sense of de-sultry orations and fine talk. Let every Theosophist only do his duty, that which he can and ought to do, and very soon the sum of human misery, within and around the areas of every Branch of your Society, will be found visibly diminished.[9]

See also

Online resources

Articles and pamphlets

Audio

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 104-105.
  2. Sven Eek, Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1965), ???.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), ???.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 169-170.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 105.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 169-170.
  7. Alcyone (J. Krishnamurti), At the Feet of the Master, Chapter 1.
  8. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1989), 336.
  9. A Master of Wisdom, "Some Words on Daily Life," Lucifer 1:5 (January 15, 1888), 344.