THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 8, June, 1948
(Pages 358-360; Size: 9K)

YOUTH-COMPANIONS ASK--

[Article number (9) in this Q&A Department]

KRISHNA says that he "incarnates from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked and the establishment of righteousness." How could there be evolution if evil were destroyed? Isn't contrast necessary?

Evil, as one of a pair of opposites, cannot be eliminated until all duality disappears with the end of manifestation. But evil actions, wickedness in man's nature, can be put "out of existence" -- and this, far from hindering evolution, is the course of moral progress. To conquer a thing means to make it powerless to act against its victor's will. The purpose of every great teacher is that of Krishna -- creation, preservation, and destruction in order to have regeneration. Can we not take Mr. Judge's lead, given in the opening pages of his Notes on the Gita, and regard Krishna as the Higher Self in each one of us? Every man shares the mission of Krishna -- a mission he has largely forgotten, but which he is nevertheless constantly incarnating to pursue. Indeed, Mr. Judge explains the purpose of every man's life almost in Krishna's very words when he says, "We come back to earth ... to continue the struggle toward perfection, toward the development of the faculties we have and the destruction of the wickedness in us."

The wickedness in ourselves is the only wickedness we can "destroy" and regenerate, and the nature of that destruction is indicated by W.Q.J.'s phrase, "throwing Kama into its own sphere." Like weeds which are only flowers out of place and out of control, "wickedness" is the tendency to spend energy in the wrong direction. There is no need -- nor possibility -- of destroying the energy; it must be re-directed. The "destruction" of the physical body brings with it no knowledge. It is understanding -- the perfection through transmutation -- which accomplishes the aim of the spiritual man.

Am I wrong in thinking that examinations are a menace to education?

If we say that examinations are a "menace," we condemn alike the good and the bad types. A constructive view would be to diagnose the different kinds of examinations. Theosophically considered, can we not say that self-examination, "self-induced and self-devised," is an essential of all progress and of true education? That would seem to be the prototype of all lesser examinations, which become progressive externalizations of self-conscious and self-critical thought.

At the bottom of the list must come those examinations which are nothing more than competitive exercises in the faculty of memorizing, and for which the most fitting preparation is the well-known process of "cramming." Somewhere between these two lies the examination which is graded, not from the absolute basis of achievement, but from the valid relativity of effort. What better basis is there for examinations -- if we must have them -- than that given in the words, "He who does all that he can, and the best that he can, does enough for us"? Examinations should be the source of growing self-confidence, not of strain and confusion. For education to be effective, there must be present in the student "an unlimited confidence in his own ability to learn, and in the teacher's ability to teach."

How can you explain that it is foolish to fear death? People don't believe in being "heroic," these days.

It cannot be explained if somewhere in the back of our minds lurks the idea that, all things considered, it is rather heroic not to fear death. Actually, "fearful" and "fearless" aren't the right words to describe men's attitudes toward death. Many men who fear death greatly will lay down their lives in some act of heroism. Defiance of their fear -- not simply absence of it -- is what makes them heroes.

Normally all men fear death if they do not have some concept of immortality; and no man will fear death if he has a realizing sense of the continuity of soul. There are, basically, only two attitudes toward death, and they spring from ignorance, or knowledge, of the existence of soul. There is nothing "foolish" -- and everything logical -- about a man's fearing death if he believes he has only one life to live and lose. Conversely, there is nothing heroic in a man's not fearing death if he knows that he doesn't die. The doctrines of Theosophy lay a philosophical basis for fearlessness, both physical and moral. The only death to be "feared" -- guarded against -- is the death of ideals or of integrity.

What about discipline? Some people seem to think of it as an end in itself, instead of being only the means to a given end.

Discipline is almost invariably associated nowadays with the idea punishment, but this "discipline" is administered by someone else, while in its true sense discipline means the things we do in order to be able to learn. It is a process of self-determined control -- but is, then, control an end in itself, or only a preface to achievement?

H.P.B. called it a "mistaken idea" that an adept is a man who goes through a course of training, consisting of minute attention to a set of arbitrary rules, acquiring first one power and then another. "Adepts," she says, "are generally classed by the number of 'principles' they have under their perfect control." In our terms, this means that progress does not consist in the possessions or experiences we accumulate, but in the values we abstract from them. The fact that nothing worthwhile is achieved without difficulty may expand itself to a perception that the surmounting of difficulties is itself the essence of all achievement.

It is clear, then, that a discipline which is only a "set of arbitrary rules," and a self-control which is maintained simply to acquire a certain "power" are equally inadequate. Self-discipline can be motivated by pride and self-righteousness. At the same time, if we practice self-control in order to attain a personal end, the benefits of that self-control are largely lost when the end is attained, and then we must start off once more. Mr. Crosbie indicated that control of specific things should follow after the attitude and resolution of General Control -- real self-discipline -- was taken.

To set ourselves to conquer only specifics is, actually, an unsatisfying procedure, because in the nature of things we are constantly outgrowing all relative goals. The achievement we can never pass beyond is an always expanding knowledge and power, and both of these are functions of control. Krishna demands one-pointedness. This he calls the "Divine Discipline," which is "wisdom itself, the object of wisdom, and that which is to be obtained by wisdom."


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