THEOSOPHY, Vol. 38, No. 11, September, 1950
(Pages 510-514; Size: 14K)
(Number 3 of a 10-part series)
[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]
KERNELS OF WISDOMPROVERBS and maxims are the Western counterparts of that which, in the Orient, goes by the name of mantram. The difference between the two is that mantrams perhaps possess greater power, by virtue of the fact that they are expressed in a language more scientific and better adapted to philosophy than Western tongues, and also because they were formulated by Sages who knew the value and potency of words. The magical property of sound is a lost art to the world today. The power of words, in their various combinations, is an unknown science to modern materialism. Nevertheless, that words, phrases and formulas do possess enormous power cannot be denied. Individuals and even masses of people have been known to alter their courses by the mysterious force of a word. The secret of this power, say the ancients, is locked up in sound, in the fact that certain words, and even letters, by reason of the vibrations they produce, are in intimate correlation with occult forces on higher planes. But the greatest power behind any phrase comes from the idea it contains -- no matter in what language expressed."A bad workman quarrels with his tools."--Spanish
The bad workman quarrels with his tools, not because his tools are poor, but because he himself is off-balance inside, and has become quarrelsome by nature. It is seldom the case that shoddy workmanship is due to inadequate equipment or difficult working conditions. It results, for the most part, from the fact that the workman himself is shoddy and indifferent in his attitude. Have we not observed that complaints usually come from individuals who are accustomed to complaining, who have acquired the habit through the years of whining and remonstrating on every slight occasion? The constant complainer needs no particular tragedy about which to be upset. He creates his own tragedies out of the illusionary imaginings of lower mind. Why is it that so few individuals have the courage to look within themselves for the source of their complaints? Why is it that so few are willing to admit that perhaps the real demon of discontent is some secret ambition or personal desire rooted in their own hearts, and that the cause of their unhappiness, and even their lack of skill, is an unbalanced attitude of mind? Perhaps because it is easier to blame something outside. Perhaps because it is the custom nowadays to cast the onus of responsibility upon externals -- upon tools, circumstances, people -- anywhere except where it belongs -- that is, upon ourselves. Suppose conditions are bad and tools inadequate -- does constant complaining help the situation?
The human mind possesses a moral polarity that gives to each individual a calm, cheerful and forgiving disposition, or the opposite. The positively inclined mind does not quarrel with conditions nor blame other things and people for its own disabilities. It assumes full responsibility for all its imperfections, and busies itself with ways and means of correcting them. Higher Manas looks not for faults, but for the redeeming features in any situation. The tendency to expect the worst of men and events becomes a mania which, if sustained, runs toward madness and insanity. How often do we hear it said: "Oh, I am sure this experience will be terrible." "If we ever get through this, we'll never be the same." "There is no use trying, for it is sure to turn out bad." In his own mind, the discontent is always taken advantage of by others -- other people do not understand him, he is not appreciated for the work he does, he is not consulted about matters as he should be, he "feels awful" physically, the weather is terrible, people are inconsiderate, the food nowadays is inferior, restaurant service couldn't be worse, the "good old days" are gone forever. How is it possible to face life with courage and understanding with an attitude of mind like this, wherein the whole bearing of one's nature is downward? What effect does our gloom have upon the lives of those around us? How can there be happiness, even in the best of surroundings, if both the mind and heart of those who experience them are full of despair? There is much in life that is beautiful if one only looks for it. "The power of any and all circumstances," says William Q. Judge, "is a fixed, unvarying quality.... We are the variants." What one gets out of any circumstance depends entirely upon himself. Each sees in life just what he is looking for, and nothing else.
If one takes the word of the quarrelsome, the present age is the worst the world has ever known. Yet, a study of other periods will reveal the fact that fault-finders then were as busy as they are now. There was never a time when it was not thought by some that the world would never survive the awful things that were then happening. Today, it is the atom bomb or the hydrogen bomb. Yesterday, it was the bomber plane or the submarine. Tomorrow, it will be something else. In each age, the demon of fear finds new tragedies about which to worry and complain: Was not Lucifer himself, the compassionate giver of light, dragged down from his pure and lofty estate, and transformed into a mythical and unreal Satan? It is conceivable that even fire, if there was ever a time when it was first discovered, might have been denounced as being too dangerous and ominous for human use. "See what awful destruction can be wrought by this terrible substance called fire! The world will never be safe again. All evil-minded men must be destroyed before they burn our homes and our cities." Everyone knows it is not fire itself that is bad or destructive, but the wicked natures of the men who use it. Atomic energy is neither good nor bad, constructive or destructive, divine or satanic. In each and every case, the qualifying element is man. The only destructive agent in the universe is the demoniacal disposition of the human mind, just as the only constructive force is the same mind turned in the direction of brotherhood and love.
Man's greatest enemy on earth is the seemingly innocent disposition of his own lower mind to quarrel and find fault. In the incipient stages, contention and complaint seem harmless enough, and their potentialities are therefore unsuspected. But in their ramifications and correlations with people and events, they are not so harmless. The least of their havoc is that they destroy sympathy and respect, and rupture the bonds of love between man and man. In their atomical nature, they are the creator of wars and cataclysms.
The only place the demon can be fought is within one's self, each in his own way. To blame other people, to quarrel with events or conditions, to accuse foreign nations of destroying the peace of the world, is to succumb to the wiles of the very demon we seek to capture and destroy. In all ages, men have attempted to place their enemies outside themselves, have battled with external shadows, slain their fellow men, conquered nations -- and to what avail? The only lawful warfare in this world is that depicted in the epic of The Bhagavad-Gita where Arjuna battles the forces of his own lower nature, and where Krishna instructs his disciple in philosophy and right ethics, so that he may be fit to fight and conquer.
Men quarrel not only with tools but also with their fellow men. When discussion passes from the realm of friendly conference into heated debate, nothing of value can be achieved. When kindliness gives way to ill-feeling and abuse, all discussion may well cease until such time that natures can be calmed. One who complains and argues at home has no assurance that he will not carry the same disposition into outer and even higher relationships. How can one who argues on small matters be equal-minded in the greater ones? How can one who disputes with a brother or a co-disciple restrain himself from the same habit when in the presence of his Master? One of the first rules of discipleship is that expressed by Krishna in the ninth chapter of the Gita, where He says to Arjuna: "Unto thee who findeth no fault, I will now make known this most mysterious knowledge." Fault-finding implies a disregard of Law. It severs the magnetic threads of love and respect between teacher and pupil and clogs the channels through which intuition from one's own Higher Self may flow.
The most inspiring characters in history have been those who met their destinies without complaint, whose moral polarity enabled them to see opportunity where others saw only obstruction. The life of Abraham Lincoln is an example of the higher attitude toward events. Lincoln never quarrelled with conditions, though by all worldly standards there was ample occasion for it. He did not complain that good books were difficult to obtain, nor that light from oil lamps made reading impossible. If necessary, Lincoln read by light from the fireplace, whenever he had a book to read, and valued his schooling the more for its hardships. The Light that shone from his own illumined soul more than compensated for the darkness arising from events.
In a universe of Law, there is never an excuse for complaints, no matter how difficult the conditions, nor how poor one's tools may be. This does not mean that people are perfect nor that circumstances are always what they should be, but simply that complaining itself is out of the true. Quarrels never solve problems. They only accentuate differences between people, besides being injurious to the souls of those who quarrel. With mind disposed toward brotherhood, the demons of complaint could find no port of harbor. All depends upon the position assumed -- whether one allows himself to be governed by fear and irresponsibility, or determines to live in the realms of Higher Manas. A new and beautiful world of mind awaits discovery by strong and uncomplaining souls. The golden age is now for those who know the secret of mental polarization -- who polarize their minds to reflect the good, the beautiful and the true, who seek for points of agreement with their brothers instead of always looking for differences.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
FROM A "FRIENDLY" LETTER
I deeply sense the drag all these things are upon you, and fully appreciate how they affect you outwardly. Also I see that the inner man knows that while the way is not clear, the outcome must be right if all is done that is right, and possible to do.
It is sometimes good to look at things apart from feelings, persons, or benefits. In this way I look at the heavy task you took upon yourself in so many directions, and have to confess an admiration for the unflinching carrying out of the self-imposed task, in faith and trust -- this, in the very face of a nature trained in another way, and prone to certain kinds of anxiety. That you have been, and are, able to do this, speaks volumes for the growth of another nature from within, which casts aside all avoidable temporal considerations for a greater end in view. Further, these minor considerations have less and less effect upon you. All this to me speaks well, and should to you be cause for encouragement. W.Q.J. wrote, "Cast aside all doubts and hold on grimly." This you have done, for that which caused you to undertake it all, was Theosophy. "The opportunities and trials that you will meet will come in the daily events of life, and your success or failure will be in accordance with the way these are met."
KERNELS OF WISDOM
"The corruption of the best produces the worst."
(Part 4 of a 10-part series)
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