THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 6, April, 1949
(Pages 263-265; Size: 14K)

YOUTH-COMPANIONS ASK--

[Article number (19) in this Q&A Department]

THE idea that the sage does not engage in self-defense is a little puzzling. Surely he would not submit to unjust compulsion, especially when his acquiescence would only help to make the forces of injustice more powerful to overwhelm others weaker than himself, perhaps?

That is a good point, and should be stressed. The statement that a sage is not concerned with self-defense refers to his motivation: he would not be drawn to defend his body for his body's sake. He might, however, resist (in ways which only a sage could enumerate) injustice to himself for the sake of resisting the principle of injustice. On this question, a clear treatment may be found in the "Dialogue on Freedom" between the servant and the sage (at the close of the Book of Images, and in THEOSOPHY, XIV). (Note: Before going on to the next question and answer, here's a copy of it.--Compiler):

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 6, April, 1926
(Pages 249-250)

A DIALOGUE ON FREEDOM

THE Servant: Humbly I do crave audience of thee, O Sage, who hast declared in the assembly-place that all men -- caste or color as it may be -- are thy brothers.

The Sage: Humbly do I grant this hearing to thee. May my wisdom be sufficient to thy needs.

The Servant: O Wise One, it is strange, and I know not of how great sin, that I feel I am more rich, more free than those I serve. But so, I am not angered at a harsh command, nor at the blame for blameless deeds, nor at the scorn for my humility, nor for poor food and airless shelter such as is my lot.

The Sage: Who came a Prince may wander earth in rags, one more turning of the wheel. But he may yet regain his kingdom, having found the free spaces of the Soul. Dost think the Soul may e'er be fettered, which is bright, bodiless, and free? Soul's knowledge o'er-spans all circumstance, and it is that hidden lore which stays thine anger at contumely and injustice.

The Servant: O Sage, still deeper goes my hardihood: in my heart a pity reigns that they, so rich in worldly things should be so small; that they so schooled in every art should be so ignorant of gentle usance; that they -- with all to bless and benefit, are yet unhappy, restless, flitting from one pleasure to another that never satisfies.

The Sage: I see thee seldom now at the assembly-place, while once thou camest always, sure as the sun in its rising on a clear atmosphere.

The Servant: The dwelling where I serve is far away. There is not time when I am through my duties to compass the hour on foot. And -- my fault it is, I can not ask for the recompense of my service when it is forgot. In four moon's time it is my wage has not come to me.

The Sage: But, how then will it be when thou goest hence, and some other follows thee at the post whose needs are greater? His suffering thou wilt have prepared for him by such uncertain course. See'st thou not thy freedom is far from full, so long as thou dost hesitate to ask for justice e'en to thyself. In asking that, thou askest for all -- for those as well whose duty is in the payment to thee. Full well I know before thou served a master to the end, unrecompensed. And that was well. He had in time of plenty been fair and just to thee, and then he came to need. Dost think ever to be a servant-man?

The Servant: Such is my Karma, and I rest content with Fate.

The Sage: Never dost thou complain at thy lot, nor wish a wider circle of thine energies?

The Servant: Never, O Sage.

The Sage: Thou knowest fully the duties of thy calling, and none may teach thee more in this?

The Servant: So has it been said by thee, O Sage.

The Sage: Alas, thou art content with thy perfections, while yet is imperfect service in the world; while yet masters do impose on those of weaker fibre. Thou art content to be at peace with those who scorn thee and thy caste, while thou mightst help the little band at the assembly-place only with thy presence -- the sign of promise unto brotherhood of all mankind. The loveliest plant in all this verdant vegetation is lesser in its knowledge than yon ugly crawling worm that with effort gains its aim. The Lords of Light are Will-Born Lords. For Them it never were enough to gain Their own Soul's peace: They would bring all men to strive unto perfection. Not acting for Themselves, They yet do act for weaker, helpless, ignorant brothers. Perfect in Their service, They would help all men to better serve -- both served and servers; perfect in Their duty, They would bring all mankind to see clear-eyed their duty, and arouse their Will, the better to fulfil it.

The Servant: O Sage, I see I am a son of passive Yoga. Where may I begin to better serve the world?

The Sage: The duties unfulfilled by thee to mankind and thyself must first be met in thy present station. Then, thy chains will break asunder. The Good Law will out-fling its gates to the road ahead, whereon thou wilt meet thy destiny -- new duties, new relations, which will demand thy Will and Effort. One lesson learned means but higher striving; one fault surmounted shows undreamed virtues yet to be. He only is a slave who serves not all the rest; he alone is bound who stagnates in his own content and satisfaction. The Ever-Striving are the Ever-Free!

The Servant: O Sage, thou hast shown to me a higher world while yet in this. No less shall I be uncomplaining of my lot, for that I shall see in whatever injustice may be dwelling there, injustice to my kind which I may mitigate. Not less well shall I perform the tasks allotted to me, for that I do them unto all. Each one may be a fair exemplar of right service. So may I serve the world!

The Sage: Blessings on thee. Go forth in happiness of heart, for thou hast seen a vision of the Law.

What's the point -- if any -- in having to sit up straight and maintain "good posture"? The important thing is maintaining that position which is most conducive to mental attention, is it not? Some people seem to think best when they're perched on the bottom of their spine, and many who sit erect don't seem any the more attentive.

The problem of posture should be examined, if possible, apart from the overlay of traditional disciplining which has made it an unpleasant dogma to many young people. For purposes of paying attention, the importance of "good" posture is that it is one way of settling the body so that it requires none of our attention to be directed to its comforts or discomforts. By the time we're grown up, the habits we've developed through our youth make it most uncomfortable, often, to sit erect in the approved manner.

With young children, it is true, the problem has more facets. There is a distinct correlation between good posture -- that is, self-control of the body -- and attention to the work at hand. The policy of allowing children to assume whatever position they like -- and of course, change it every instant with pokes and fidgets -- does not encourage mental effort. And, conversely, the control of the body need not detract from the focus of concentration.

There is also the point that if the body is kept in a more or less alert condition, this "feeds" the alertness of the mind. Bronson Alcott, teacher in the Temple School a hundred years ago, insisted, we are told, not only on attention from his pupils but on the appearance of attention, also. There must be a kind of reciprocal relation between body and mind, and control of both is the real foundation for "good behavior."

How is it possible to make children aware of the sacrifices which others make for them without at the same time slipping into some kind of self-righteousness? It doesn't seem right that even very young children should fall into the habit of accepting services and gifts, or even toys, with no thought of the price which someone paid in terms of time, thought and money.

True enough, although perhaps the word "service" is a better one for the purpose than "sacrifice," since the latter so often connotes a martyred countenance. Older children, of course, can come to a realization of what is being done for them by a good, honest discussion on the needs of the various members of the family and the ways in which the children themselves can cooperate in meeting some of them. With very young children, this is obviously ruled out, since they require a more concrete form of instruction.

On the matter of toys, for instance, to take one tangible problem. In a rich family, a child can be surrounded by a nursery full of elaborate gewgaws at no appreciable sacrifice to the parents. And there are some who consider this a "fortunate birth." But it has unfortunate aspects, also, for gifts given without considerable thought (or some kind of "sacrifice") on the part of the giver are naturally accepted with as little thought, and so the child grows up expecting to be the recipient of continued donations.

In point of enjoyment, a kitchen spoon or empty spool has as much fascination for a little one as does the most elaborate mechanism or exquisite doll. And when he graduates to higher and more exacting perceptions, when a spoon is no longer capable of holding his interest, there is some value in considering the possibility of his fashioning his own toys. The advantages of this practice are obvious in terms both of the child's development and the family pocketbook. The old Song of Life speaks of the powers of the man in dreams -- "There are no chariots there, nor steeds for chariots nor roadways; the spirit of man makes for himself chariots, steeds for chariots and roadways; for the spirit of man is Creator." Why should not the power of imagination -- as well as actual manual skills -- be encouraged as early as possible in the child for his own amusement?

How can we determine how much of the truth need be told in any given circumstance? Often it seems that "the whole truth" is too painful, and should be left for the person to find out for himself. How do you reconcile kindness with honesty?

That's a hard question. Truth has been compared to a surgeon's knife, and that analogy might hold for the purpose of the question. There are many kinds of pain, and the sharpest is not always the most cruel. Furthermore, how are we to tell how much another can bear? If the telling is painful, but necessary, how are we justified in avoiding the obligation? This is all on the assumption that we are not prone to enjoy being the bearer of bad, but "dramatic," tidings, and that our concern is genuinely for the other person, and not simply a shield for selfish weakness on our own part, akin to that of the person who abstains from helping an injured person because he can't stand the sight of pain and blood.

Is it not possible to "sketch" the truth in outline, without dwelling unduly on the most unpleasant features of it? But this would be an ornament to honesty, and not a substitute for it. And might there not be a kind of conceit in thinking that other people are not strong enough to bear this or that disclosure? We often find ourselves surprised at the unsuspected power called out in another by a challenging emergency.

A related problem is that met by every reformer the world has ever known. He has the choice to make of how he will treat his fellow-men: whether as children to be led by vague generalities to a ready-made condition in which they will "live happily ever afterward"; or as his moral and spiritual equals, who will appreciate the truth and will respond to its direction. Most reformers have chosen the first assumption, and have wrought little of lasting value. The few -- the Great Teachers -- who refused to dilute or mix the truth with pleasing falsehoods may not have seemed to accomplish wonders in material terms, but what they did accomplish was an arousing of the real nature of man, and that is the only significant reform.


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