THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 12, October, 1948
(Pages 553-555; Size: 9K)


[Article number (13) in this Q&A Department]

DEVACHAN is spoken of somewhere as a reward for unmerited suffering. How is it possible, under Karma, to suffer something unmerited?

"Somewhere" is in the Key to Theosophy (p. 161) where H. P. Blavatsky says that because the person does not recollect the cause of his suffering, and "thinks he suffers for no guilt of his own, this alone is sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation, rest, and bliss in his post-mortem existence."

Devachan is a personal and subjective state determined by the man's thinking during life. It represents the completion of the personality in its higher aspect. Further on in the Key it is said, "according to the after life a man has believed in and expected, such is the life he will have." Devachan, therefore, is a reward for the man who expects a reward; it is a rest for the man who wants -- thinks he "deserves" -- a rest.

"Objective" justice is meted out to the man by Karma in his earth-life, and he has the opportunity to recognize it as just, by seeking for the causes of all that affects him in himself and in his prior actions and thoughts. But he cannot be compelled to so view his circumstances. He is his own "judge, jury and executioner," holding private court to decide his own subjective "justice," and even though his findings are based on partial evidence, they are valid in Devachan because the latter is a personal state. Devachan affords compensation to the man who feels that injustice has been done him, just as, in dreams, he can compensate for unpleasant physical realities. But this seeking for compensations and rewards, even though apparently justified by circumstances, must eventually give way before a deeper sense of the responsibility of soul. This is the end result of recognizing the theosophical doctrine of the "re-incarnation of the same spiritual individuality in a long, almost interminable, series of personalities."

In the August "Youth-Companions," the point was made that we often do less, or different, than we know we should, and that we fail to put many of our good intentions into practice. But isn't it natural that our achievements will always be behind our aspirations? [Note: August is the 11th article in this department's grouping, while this one is number 13.--Compiler]

Of course it is -- and pity the man who thinks he has reached perfection! Our trouble is not that our achievements fall below our aspirations, but that often we do not set out to achieve what we see as good. We "get an inspiration," we say. That is something received; aspiration is the generating of our own energy. Merely being the recipient of wonderful ideas is of no positive value.

There is no harm in recognizing that we don't do things as perfectly as might be, provided that this perception doesn't tempt us not to do them at all. An archer aims his arrow higher than the goal because he knows that gravity -- the force of matter -- will pull it down in the course of its flight. The fact that gravity is going to affect the arrow does not discourage the archer; he simply makes allowance for its influence. "Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come?" said Lao Tze.

Is repetition really the mother of learning? Sometimes it seems as if the more a thing is repeated, the less impression it makes. And then something said just once will strike a deep response or make a lasting impression.

A person wishing to acquire a certain skill or facility will set himself to a definite discipline of regular practice. He learns first with the mind or understanding, then consolidates that learning in his instrument -- whether body or emotions, -- by repeated efforts. This is a cycle of repetition which is active and creative because it is purposeful and self-determined. Of course, repetition per se makes for memorizing rather than learning.

We know there is a difference between repeating a thing to ourselves -- for ourselves -- and having something repeated at us. Perhaps there is a mental "law of diminishing returns" which would apply to remarks too often repeated. All this, however, depends on the intent, the manner and the enthusiasm of the person. There is a natural recurrence of basic ideas all the time, but these are not repetitive if they are re-created by ever deeper perceptions and applications.

One form of unnatural repetition would be "pounding in an idea" -- in which case, the manner of delivery may cause the mind of the listener to resist the idea, or retreat from it. In this event, the idea itself receives much less consideration than the resentment at the way it is presented, and for this reason, the idea might make little permanent impression. Putting this in theosophical terms, we can say that coercive or uninspired repetition is directed at the lower, brain mind of the listener -- kama manas, whose qualities are significantly briefed by Mr. Judge in the Ocean (p. 56). The animal brain can be impressed independently of the real mind of the person, as experiments in hypnotism make very clear. But this is not the process of learning or of true education, which requires that the human mind be contacted, awakened and aroused, "reducing the purely mechanical work of the memory to an absolute minimum." The lighting up of Manas is not the result of a prolonged indoctrination. Spontaneity, enthusiasm, "fire" in some form, is the only bridge between two minds. If the attention of the Thinker is caught and focussed, there will be that deep response and lasting impression which the questioner mentions.

Should we refrain from doing what we consider right and proper, when with others who don't have the same standards? For instance, some people don't seem to give any attention to social amenities.

If we give attention to them simply as amenities, we'll probably be happy enough to find people who want none of them. If, on the other hand, they constitute for us a natural and spontaneous expression of our interest in other people, we will continue to practice them without regard as to whether or not they are reciprocated. The important factor lies behind the words -- a sincere interest in another person generally evokes a response in kind.

The words "right" and "proper" are not, as seems implied in the question, necessarily synonymous. A proper action may be one dictated solely by convention, but right and wrong are not determined by what other people -- or ourselves, for that matter -- like, appreciate or expect. A sure path to disappointment, by the way, is the one undertaken solely to win or keep another's appreciation. The disappointment may be twofold: the personal man is bound to be disappointed, because in seeking approbation he makes himself just the man least likely to win it; and the soul, the real man, cannot find true merit in any activity undertaken for reward.

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(November 1948)
[Article number (14) in this Q&A Department]

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