The Concentrated Life

When we look at the human kingdom, we find three classes of men and women: (a) those who live without a purpose; (b) those who live with a purpose which proves false; (c) those who live with a purpose which is true.

It is in our purpose of life that we find our motive for action. If no purpose is conceived, no motive exists. Our motive is the motorforce, and with it life's car is driven.

When we have a definite purpose, our life is a concentrated life. Concentration requires an object as centre. If we want to concentrate our mind, we must have a point to which all mental forces are gathered together. This point is provided by our conception of the purpose of life.

Let us study the three classes of people mentioned above.

  1. A vast majority have no purpose. Ordinary men and women have hardly thought why they are here on earth. Whence, whither, are not inquired into. Many so-called educated people shelter behind the pretext that "No one can know the meaning and purpose of life." They drift; from day to day and year to year they live according to the same pattern which other mortals have adopted. They are born, brought up and educated, pass through the routine of existence, and then they die—liked by some, disliked by others, loved by a few, remembered by less. Soon after their death, the world forgets that such men and women ever existed.
  2. The second class of people conceive a purpose in terms of their education and according to their temperament, which means according to their assemblage of desires. Many think the purpose of life is happiness. But what is happiness? There are many types: lasting and ephemeral; happiness of senses, or of mind, or of heart, or of soul; and so on. According to what we understand of the nature of man and of the universe, do we formulate our purpose of life. If our knowledge is false, the goal we try to reach as also the methods adopted to reach that goal ara bound to take us astray. False knowledge and false purpose lead to false concentration.
  3. The third class of people are those who have perceived with the mind the purpose of life and are trying to fulfil the mission of existence. The methods they adopt are not always and uniformly correct. One may have seen the purpose of life and yet in fulfilling that purpose may go wrong. It is one thing to determine that we desire to reach Mount Everest, the majestic peak of the Himalayas; it is another to find the right way to that lofty peak.

Thus concentration or its lack is intimately related to our perception of the meaning and purpose of existence.

Concentration does not mean only fixity of mind on any given subject. Culture which produces successful concentration has to be examined. The wandering mind will not come under our control till we examine the principles involved in concentration.

So how shall we determine what is the purpose of life for each one of us? There is a phrase which Mr. Judge uses and which is in the form of a question. If we answer that, we shall find for ourselves the purpose of our own present existence. The question is: "What is the secret desire of your heart? It is not the expressed desire: "I want to be happy, or I want to do this or that." There is at the back of expressed desires our secret desires. Now let us apply this question to the three classes of people mentioned above. These three divisions are not fanciful. We can examine and evaluate the entire human kingdom in the light of this central question. What are the answers that we get when we ask people: "What is the secret desire of your heart?" According to the "secret desire," knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously, we live our life. We may not like the pattern of our own life, but it is our own secret desire that has built that pattern.

It is often said, "As we think, so we become." This is true. But we think in a particular way because of our secret desire. The Rig-Vedic hymn says that "Desire first arose in It," the Brahman; and in response to that Primal Desire, Mahat or Divine Mind manifested its activity. So it is our own secret desire which impels our mind to activity.

If we ask everyone that question, there will be, broadly speaking, three answers:

  1. "We have no secret desire," is the first; "what is there to desire? We must live as our fathers did before us and then die like them." This mentality may be compared to the simple villager's attitude of life. Humble people, simple folk, give us such an answer. Wordsworth in his "Ode to Duty" refers to this simple-minded class of humble people "who do thy work, and know it not." The desire in them has not become active.
  2. Next, there are those who are cunning and crafty, who are apt to give false answers (call them diplomatic) to the question, "What is your secret desire?" The vague term "happiness" is used. Many people of this class say, "To be happy and to make others happy—that is the purpose." But if we watch them doing small things day by day and hour by hour, their expressed words prove false. This second class have secret desires in terms of ambitions—wealth, fame, power and influence, to love and especially to be loved—and they concentrate accordingly; their centre is outside of themselves. There is concentration, not its lack, on the part of the politician, the professional man; the clerk often secretly desires, whatever he might say, to rise to the position of the manager, and so on. Successful people possess what they desire; but though triumphant, they are not really happy. Final failure is sure for the worldly-minded whose secret desires are for worldly possessions and who are concentrated in obtaining them.
  3. Turn to the third class of people. These are those who feel that real purpose is not in possessing the world, but in recognizing that the realities of life are not in and of this earth, which is only a playground for sports or a school for learning. Recognizing that behind the senses and the mind is the soul, that behind the world of matter is the world of mind, and behind the world of mind is the world of Spirit, such people labour to separate the grain from the chaff. Their concentration is on the world of Spirit. But unless they possess correct and accurate knowledge, they go astray. All kinds of false and dangerous practices are followed by many aspirants to yoga. They conceive Spirit to be somewhere away from matter; they think of the body to be the enemy of soul, and so on; and thus they go astray. Those who aspire to practise yoga, to live the Higher Life, need to be warned; we know there are many today who so aspire; for them correct knowledge is available in Theosophy.

We often say, "Theosophy is for all," and we include even the illiterate who may not be able to read and write but who have a culture of their own. Theosophy is also for those who have ambitions. And it is for the spiritual aspirant who feels the urge of divinity within himself. Theosophy is for all who want it. Whatever our station in life, whatever the state of our mind, there is help for us in Theosophy; but we must want it—want to study it, want to use it for ourselves.

Let us see how Theosophy helps in a practical way. First, Theosophy reveals the true purpose of life and thus provides the true motive for concentration—to raise the self by the Self. For the simple folk and for the highly educated, for all and not only for the aspirant, that is the purpose of life. To the simple-minded who have not erected false purposes, this comes easy; to the complex-minded it proves difficult; to the aspirant, because of Karma, it comes as an overwhelming conviction. The "secret desire" of the human heart is—altruism and philanthropy; everyone, even the most selfish, has this innate idea burnt imperishably in his consciousness. But, while the simple-minded have forgotten and are easily reminded, the sophisticated have become cumbersome and in devious ways contrive to practise altruism and philanthropy along with selfishness, ambition, greed and so forth. Real altruism and philanthropy cannot possibly be practised without a grasp of the teaching—"Raise the self by the Self." Knowledge of psychology is required, which Theosophy provides.

Secondly, knowledge of what is to be raised and who raises it is necessary. Theosophy explains what the higher and lower selves are—Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the Triad, versus body-energy-desires-lower mind, or the Quaternary. No one can adequately help another who has not in some measure raised his lower self by his Higher Self. Culture of concentration means this—the process of raising.

Thirdly, Theosophy teaches the right technique of praying. Prayer is dual: personal prayer, that used by us for our own improvement; and impersonal prayer used for the good of others. Prayer is not mere muttering of words; prayer is the formation of thoughts. Whether we desire self-improvement or the helping of others, for both "formation of thoughts" is necessary. As far as our minds are concerned, we are like babes—we howl and cry and try to articulate, but can only make futile noises. Unless the mind is trained by correct technique in concentration we cannot formulate thoughts. The baby tries to learn to speak; we have to do that with our minds.

Concentration is the first step for both kinds of prayer.

How shall we use concentration for the first kind of prayer—prayer for self-improvement? It is a twofold process: purificatory prayer which cleanses the lower nature, and invocatory prayer which brings the Inner God (Higher Self) down into the temple of the body. The body or temple must be clean and pure and the God established there must radiate beneficence. In other words, what is required is (i) self-examination, and (ii) Ideation-Imagination which uses knowledge about the nature of the Higher Self. The body will not become pure nor will the Divinity in us enter the brain and the heart just by our wishing it. Thought has to be purified, and by thought the road is built for the Higher to infuse itself into the temple of the body.

The second kind of prayer, which is for the good of others and for which deeds and actions are necessary, does not become possible without the first kind of prayer. People do not get response to their prayers for others, even when unselfishly uttered, because they are uttered by those who lack inner purity. Even doling out alms, without inner purity, will avail us nothing.

What practice shall we adopt? (a) Study; without it no good and much harm will accrue. (b) Self-examination—of the lower self by the aid of the Higher and also by searching the scriptures. This is real vesper, the evening prayer. (c) Invocation of the Higher by the mind which has subdued lower desires and passions, with the aid of Imagination and Ideation—the company of Ideas and Idea-Builders. This is real matin, the morning exercise.

But these three are of little avail unless the secret desire of the heart is for nothing else but raising the self by the Self. Theosophy reiterates true Ideas given out by great Idea-Builders—the real Gurus, not of this caste or that class, but of the whole human race. The Ideas which They always and ever project on the Screen of Space and Time become the real food of our souls in waking days as in nights when the body sleeps. "Dreams" are futile as prayers are futile; but true dreams can be made aids and inspiration, as true prayers are. False dreams confuse, true ones help. Concentration is required for both prayers and dreams. The Gurus pray for us, dream for us; let us make ourselves worthy of Them.

The constant verification of geological and meteorological predictions besides its scientific value is of the utmost philosophical importance to the student of Theosophy. For it shows: (a) that there are few secrets in nature absolutely inaccessible to man's endeavours to snatch them from her bosom; and (b) that Nature's workshop is one vast clockwork guided by immutable laws in which there is no room for the caprices of special providence. Yet he, who has fathomed the ultimate secrets of the Proteus-nature—which changes but is ever the same—can, without disturbing the LAW, avail himself of the yet unknown correlations of natural FORCE to produce effects which would seem miraculous and impossible but to those who are unacquainted with their causes. "The law which moulds the tear also rounds the planet." There exists a wealth of chemic force—in heat, light, electricity and magnetism—the possibilities of whose mechanical motions are far from being all understood. Why then should the theosophist who believes in natural (though occult) law be regarded as either a charlatan or a credulous fool in his endeavours to fathom its secrets? Is it only because following the traditions of ancient men of science the methods he has chosen differ from those of modern learning?

—H. P. Blavatsky

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