Nilakanta Sri Ram
A person may be extremely learned, absolutely sure about certain things, yet unable to get on with his or her family. Would you call such a person wise, or might he or she be lacking in wisdom? Surely knowledge of the ordinary sort will not make a person wise. We may be versed in theology or science, but that will not enable us to think rightly on matters that pertain to our own life or our relationships with people. If we have a touch of true wisdom, we will know that wisdom has a different flavor from knowledge of facts, of which we make conceptual images. Images of things are like drawings or paintings on the walls of consciousness. They are there only to look at, but the person in their midst is making the same motions. Surely that is not the mark of wisdom.
Wisdom belongs to the soul and it has a different quality, a different fragrance, being something out of this world. It is heaven-born. All these words sound rather poetical but I feel they are strictly true. With regard to matters we may call spiritual, what sounds poetical can also be true. It can be the poetry of truth—not mere fancy. The whole test of wisdom lies in whether we are acting according to the truth of things or acting according to various fancies, imaginings, and illusions that we may be cherishing. If we act in conformity with the actual facts, whether at the physical level or the psychic, or any higher or deeper level, then we are acting wisely. But if we pursues a will-o”-the-wisp, a phantom, an illusory light, fancies which rise into the air like so much smoke and eventually get diffused and lost, then surely we are not wise. How a person acts, thinks and feels really answers the question whether he is wise or unwise.
Action should not be understood as referring merely to the overt acts, the transactions with other people, what we do in the external world in a visible manner. “Action” is a very large term. There is action of various sorts taking place in the The Theosophical Society in America human body: chemical action, electrical action and so forth. We are unconscious of it. There is also the action of thought, of emotion and feeling. There is action at every level of one’s being, the action of the total being of man, comprising all levels. Life means action.
When we say “the truth of things”, are not the scientists also engaged in discovering truth? Scientists may send rockets to the moon, but science has not succeeded in filling a human heart with what it needs in times of loneliness, pain and suffering. No doubt science is engaged in the quest for truth, but it is truth of a formal nature—concerned with the appearance of things. All that can be discovered by science, by the methods which it pursues, is merely knowledge with regard to the outer casing of Nature, not the inner kernel. It gives us the husk, the composition and properties of the husk; it does not supply us with the bread of life. The truth that is to be identified with life may have a nature that calls for deep penetration, if we are to understand it. It may be many-sided; it may have in it great depth; there may be extensions behind the appearance. There is life within the form, and wherever there is life there is consciousness in some manner. Consciousness is such a vast subject, opening avenues that include its various modes of action, the different qualities it displays, and the complications it develops in a condition of unawareness. The word consciousness—as well as the word life—denotes something that has extraordinary depths. We know their nature only in the shallows or on the surface. Therefore, we do not know much about them. I feel that the work of the Theosophical Society should consist primarily in an understanding of the nature of life—as it is in ourselves, as it is in others, in plants, animals, everywhere, the one Life of which the great Teachers have spoken— and in understanding the nature of consciousness which is interblended with life and is really an aspect of life.
There are various aspects to be explored but this exploration has to be undertaken by oneself, for it is the exploration of one’s inner being, which cannot be discovered through the words of another. Talking or communication has its place, but to really explore, one has to be in a condition of complete attention, a state of tranquility—if not stillness. The sea of one’s consciousness must remain quiet and still. It is only then, that we can plunge to its depths. Theosophy is a wisdom that is based on truth, but this truth is manifold—it has several layers, one within the other. One might call it “the totality of truth with regard to man, life and the universe.” If our actions, thoughts, feelings, responses are The Theosophical Society in America all in harmony with the nature of this totality, then we are wise. One might say this is a very large or tall order. How are we to come to such wisdom? We cannot be impatient about it. In fact, when we are impatient, it is probably because of an urge to magnify oneself, an urge which comes out of a process that negates the possibility of wisdom. It requires much arduous work to realize this possibility. We do not like it; we want to arrive at the goal immediately. If somebody can give us a transcendental mantra or something of that sort, which will be like a pill that acts quickly, then that is precisely what we want, and there will be innumerable people running after such a pill.
We have to realize what is needed for an understanding of the total truth. The Second Object of the Theosophical Society refers to religion, science and philosophy. Just as the word theosophy is left undefined, so that each individual may discover its meaning for him or herself, so there are these three words: religion, science and philosophy. The qualities that belong to their respective disciplines are all essential for the discovery of truth. A person has to have a mind which is scientific (by which I do not mean he should know much of science). One can be highly scientific in his thinking—that is, logical, precise, accurate—without knowing much of science. What we call science is a lot of information about various things, and when we have collected the information we think we have scientific knowledge, but that is just a collection kept in the brain-box, so to say.
What is needed is a mind which approaches all questions in a spirit of realism, using that word not in any technical sense, but in the spirit of being objective, confronting facts, seeing things as they are. The outstanding quality of the scientific mind is the confrontation of facts steadily without turning in other directions, so that the fact is reflected in the mind exactly as it is. This scientific quality gives rise to others. Presently we come to great precision in definition, in understanding; we see the sequence of facts and the order which comprises those facts. All these activities of the scientific mind arise from seeing the fact as fact, or to use the words of the Lord Buddha: “seeing the true as true and the false as false.”