THE LODGE AND THE SANGHA
Every individual and every association, if they are to serve an enduring aim and purpose, must strive to secure a balance between uniqueness and universality, and to seek some abiding basis of union beyond the differences that pertain to finite and transient particulars. In the cosmos, every particle of matter is a manifestation of the spirit that is, by definition, unique in reference to the spatio-temporal context in which it finds itself. In an ever-changing universe, every particle changes continually in a ceaselessly changing spatio-temporal context, through the power of Eternal Motion or Universal Consciousness, the One Life. The continuity that underlies a series of shifting positions of uniqueness represents the universality of consciousness that ensouls every particle of matter. This truth about continuity and change is expressed in the maxim that duality characterizes all manifestation, the result of the coexistence and cooperation of ideation and image, force and form, spirit and matter, intention and result. Without a universal basis, uniqueness of expression would be impossible to attain; without the latter, the former would be abstract and unrealized.
In human society, which is at present a chaos rather than a cosmos, the affirmations of uniqueness and of universality are alike artificial. Cooperation and conscious interdependence can only be found by formulating a basis of union that can bind seemingly independent, imperfectly unique, entities in a manner that makes concrete the universality that ultimately underlies all of them, as a fact of nature rather than as a result of artifice. We clearly cannot dispense with associations in human society, whatever our aims and purposes. Most associations, however, are at best partial brotherhoods, fraternal in name rather than in fact, held together precariously by limited and temporary loyalties. Unique claims may be made for their members merely by virtue of their formal allegiance, but these exclusive and extravagant claims generate counteracting currents of opposition and even hostility from other associations and sects. This familiar phenomenon, competitive and conflict-creating, is elevated in sectarian religion to the status of righteous-seeming rivalry, and in partisan politics, to the level of legitimacy that is regarded as essential to the political dialogue of a liberal democracy, which in practice is no more than a demagogic oligarchy. The sun of Truth is thus obscured by the mists of so-called revelations or the clouds of nebulous ideologies.
The Declaration of the United Lodge of Theosophists points to a method of association which is based upon adherence to definite principles, which is genuinely universal in scope, which is capable of respecting and preserving the uniqueness of every one of its Associates, with their many differences of perspective and of personality. The basis of union is triple and is closely similar to the ancient submission, affirmed in early Buddhist monasticism, to the Dhamma, the Sangha and the Buddhas. The Buddhist contribution to India was not merely the shift of emphasis from Moksha to Dhamma and from God to Law, but also the stress on the Sangha and the monastic ideal in the midst of society. The Sangha was set up to teach mankind the discipline of self-culture through study and meditation, sacrifice and mutual aid, and the continuous service of all men. The very existence, and certainly the effectiveness, of the Sangha depended upon the observance of Vinaya and concentration on the Sutta. The Vinaya constituted the practical Dhamma or the code of discipline governing the conduct of the Sangha, while the Sutta constituted the theoretical side of the Dhamma, meant for regulating the inner life and thought of the Bhikkhus. Further, Vinaya had two aspects, Shila and Achara. The purity of the individual members of the Sangha depended on the practice of the Shila-Vinaya and the solidarity of the Sangha on the observance of the Achara-Vinaya. The former, embodying the Patimokkha rules, was laid down from the start of the Sangha and remained constant, while the latter was adapted to different climes and the varying modes of living of different peoples.
The United Lodge of Theosophists that emerged seven years after the Aquarian age began sought to do quietly what the Sangha afforded for both monks and laity in the early period after the passing away of the Buddha. The Sutta of the Lodge had been recorded in the writings of H.P.Blavatsky and W.Q.Judge. The Vinaya was transmitted by Robert Crosbie through the Declaration of the Lodge, which lays equal stress on both Shila and Achara as the means to purity and solidarity. Its policy is independent devotion to the Dhamma and it is loyal to the great founders of the original Sangha and the great Lodge of Buddhas that was behind them. The Shila-Vinaya of the United Lodge of Theosophists stresses the truer realization of the SELF and a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood. The Achara-Vinaya of the United Lodge of Theosophists is embodied in the phrase, "similarity of aim, purpose and teaching."
Similarity of teaching is clearly crucial to any association which is spiritual and not mundane, which seeks to become a Sangha of co-disciples and not merely a club or a coterie, a forum or a Tower of Babel. In the Lodge the teaching is both transcendental and embodied, both THEOSOPHIA or the Wisdom-Religion in its entirety and the Theosophy taught by H.P.Blavatsky. THEOSOPHIA cannot be wholly contained or properly preserved in any single text or scripture or in any particular form of words in any known language. Theosophy was, however, embodied in the recorded teachings of H.P.Blavatsky and W.Q.Judge for the centenary cycle and beyond; this embodiment is inevitably partial and need not be taken as wholly perfect, but it has been declared and may be shown to be the completest and the best available. A person cannot need the Sangha of the Lodge if he claims private and direct access to the pure Dhamma. Equally, those who are concerned to concentrate on the Sutta cannot find any basis for collaboration (as distinct from good-will) with those who wish to pick and choose among H.P.Blavatsky's writings and alter them, or to ignore the contribution of W.Q.Judge to the formulation, exemplification and preservation of the Sutta.
Similarity of aim is what distinguishes the Sangha from passive and ineffective sects which cling to a common teaching as to a crutch and are thus reduced to mere cults. If the Lodge is not to go the fanciful way of the various religious factions that rely blindly on a literal and final revelation, its Associates must concentrate their collective efforts on a single target and work steadily with a unity of wills in the direction of their constant aim. The word "aim" signifies a mark or a butt, the reaching of which requires that we calculate and direct our course and endeavour earnestly in the desired direction with continuous concentration and one-pointedness, without any wavering or deviation. The Lodge is a training-ground and a vehicle for the art of spiritual archery, about which Mr. Judge has written in his article, "Hit the Mark" (Hermes, January 1975). The aim is clearly the study, application and dissemination of the truths of the Eternal Religion or Sanatana Dharma – THEOSOPHIA. Every Associate is expected, but cannot be constrained, to contemplate the universal conceptions of Theosophy, to apply them with imagination and true originality to the problems of daily life, to develop impersonal and pure feelings, and to make the impact of Theosophy felt by the collective mind and heart of humanity, leaving the fruits entirely to Karmic Law. The Sangha derives its strength and inspiration from the Dhamma and it becomes and remains a living power in the world to the extent that its members embody in their lives and spread the light and life-giving quality of the Dhamma.
This great work requires continuous and silent preparation, active and sincere cooperation that is the result of a communion of minds and hearts, and the healing touch of true conviction and altruism in precept and by example. Each man is a potency in himself and could be a lever that moves others and brings about concrete, if unknown, results. No one is converted to Theosophy except in so far as he sees for himself that it is a logical extension of his own earlier beliefs, based upon his own experiences which are indeed unique for him. This is what Blake and Yeats meant when they said that Christ reveals himself uniquely to each human soul. If the United Lodge of Theosophists is to help in this process of soul-evolution, its Associates must take a firm position, concentrate their minds and hearts, eyes and hands, on the fixed target, improve the texture and the tension of their common bow, allow for the trajectory that is determined by their common limitations, and repeatedly release arrows of intention and effort in a smooth and steady manner at the moment of full draw, until they hit the mark and significantly affect the receptive souls that they are able to attract through the purity and strength of their devotion. This is a mighty undertaking, involving the operation of laws beyond our ken. Every Associate would do well to take seriously to heart Mr. Judge's advice: "Make up your mind to follow a certain line of theosophical work, for concentrated endeavour in one direction will sooner bring results than a miscellaneous, wandering and spasmodic effort."
Similarity of purpose is required if the Sangha, rooted in Dhamma, united in the study and the spread of the Dhamma, is to remain in accord with the profoundly potent resolve and constant ideation and sacrifice of the Buddhas who are the greatest masters of nature and servants of mankind that the world has ever known. Motive is more important than method; the art of sacrifice is even more difficult to grasp or to attain than the art of archery. The single purpose of the Lodge, in the pursuit of its single aim, is the spiritual elevation of the Manas and the Buddhi of our race and the constant alleviation of the sufferings of myriads of human souls, lost and storm-tossed in their frail barks on the sea of Samsara. The archetypal model and paradigm for the Lodge is the Great Sacrifice, the wondrous Being whom The Secret Doctrine depicts, the Teacher of Teachers who cannot rest until every human soul is saved. The Lodge is an imperfect but invaluable instrument for training those who are willing to become ready to participate, in however meagre a manner, in the constant sacrifices of the trans-Himalayan Brotherhood of Adepts, which assists in the cosmic undertaking of the Great Sacrifice. The power of resolve must be pondered upon by every Associate of the Lodge who wishes to study the art of sacrifice taught and exemplified by the Founders of the Theosophical Movement. The word "purpose" refers to the intention and the determination to act with conscious design. The power of a vow is tremendous, but it is derived not merely from an initial resolve, however lofty, but from the continual practice of devotion and of fidelity. We have been told: "Broaden instead of narrowing your sympathies, try to identify yourself with your fellows, rather than to contract your circle of affinity." Far from remaining an exclusive, self-sufficient, self-centred fraternity, the Lodge is a living force for good only to the extent that its members are drawn through its efforts to an increasingly wider circle of affinities with our suffering fellow men. Its Associates must become better and more effective philanthropists if the Lodge is to remain in touch with the spirit of the Original Programme of the Theosophical Movement, and serve as a suitable instrument for the 1975 cycle.
In conclusion, everyone would do well to reflect upon the following three extracts from H.P.Blavatsky's important article on "The Original Programme," written in 1886:
Hermes, June 1975