[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, April 1963.]
Try to realize that progress is made step by step, and each step gained by heroic effort. Withdrawal means despair or timidity....Conquered passions, like slain tigers, can no longer turn and rend you. Be hopeful then, not despairing. With each morning's awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher Self. "Try" is the battle-cry taught by the teacher to each pupil. Naught else is expected of you. One who does his best does all that can be asked. There is a moment when even a Buddha ceases to be a sinning mortal and takes his first step towards Buddhahood.
H.P.B. gives us in the above what we may well take as our motto for the coming days when students of her Philosophy will be preparing themselves inwardly for White Lotus Day—"Try." Our best is all that is expected of us, but what is our best? None can determine it until he has tried. Whatever the stage we are at, for each the taking of the step nearest to him is what matters most. We are like people at the foot of a hill; if we think we can make a leap to the summit, overlooking the steps immediately in front of us, we are soon bound to feel overwhelmed by the task we have undertaken and to pronounce it impossible of attainment for us; or, if we are expecting someone to carry us up one level and believe that we can climb on from there, we are waiting in vain. The starting point is where we are.
A stage comes in the life of each when it is easier to see one's own weaknesses and limitations rather than one's powers and faculties. To dwell on the former is to hinder our efforts to do our best, not only in the performance of those duties that are obligatory, but also in the doing of special works, such as deeds of Yajna-sacrifice, Dana-charity and Tapas-mortifications, which, the Gita says, "are not to be abandoned, for they are proper to be performed, and are the purifiers of the wise." None can do his best in Masters' Work unless he performs all his tasks the best he can, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
The words of the Master reassure us: "He who does what he can and all that he can, and all that he knows how to do, does enough for us." "This task," Mr. Judge explains in Letters That Have Helped Me,
includes that of divesting yourself of all personality through interior effort, because that work, if done in the right spirit, is even more important to the race than any outward work we can do. Living as you now are, on the outward plane chiefly, your work is due there and is to be done there until your growth shall fit you to pass away from it altogether.
"No man," wrote H.P.B., "is required to carry a burden heavier than he can bear; nor do more than it is possible for him to do." Desertion of one duty in order to fulfil another, howsoever much greater, is quite unjustifiable and will never result in spiritual progress. Again in the words of H.P.B.: "He who plays truant in one thing will be faithless in another. No real, genuine Master will accept a chela who sacrifices anyone except himself to go to that Master." This sacrifice of oneself to go to the Master may take a whole life; but we can get our "mental luggage" ready for the next.
The preparation involves the doing of every duty, however trivial, as a sacramental act. Every moment offers fresh opportunities to apply Theosophical verities in the performance of works. Persistent efforts at application build in time, by the energy of thought, spiritual stamina. Just as an army with guns cannot fight if it has no bullets, so students cannot make much headway with mere book study, without the spiritual stamina flowing from application.
The student has a chance to contact H.P.B.'s mind and heart and to drink at the fountainhead of her inspiration in a different way than through study. Of all the aspects of her marvellous message, the one which deals with the ethics of Theosophy is the most important because the effects produced by it are more lasting—almost permanent. The metaphysics of Theosophy reveal to the student universal principles, the laws of nature, the world process called evolution and his own place in the scheme of things. All these have to be applied to himself by himself. The value of study is great, but knowledge acquired by the brain, unless assimilated through practice and application by the Ego, parts company with the man on the threshold of Devachan. Without study, however, practice is not possible, for study yields the material to be applied.
H.P.B. herself greatly emphasized the importance of Theosophical ethics, as, for instance, in her Five Messages to the American Theosophists. She not only taught but also exemplified their power in her own life. If she had a mind which the Master K.H. described as one of nature's most complicated machines, if her psychic and psychological powers were rare indeed, as the same authority indicated, her ethical heart also was supreme in making Sacrifices, in radiatintg Compassion, in offering Devotion. She was a Channel through which poured that Light which dispels not only the darkness of ignorance but also the clouds of selfishness, pride and other hardnesses.
The ferment of her teachings is working in the world. The ideas she set in motion act as magnets and those whose minds and hearts are ready to receive them are drawn to them like bits of metal. The inquirer in time becomes a student and the student grows into a devotee. But her message has not yet penetrated a sufficient number of men and women; and that is why those who have the welfare of their brothers at heart, those who believe that the new world will not be soundly established until Theosophical ideas are accepted by a large majority, are exerting themselves to spread that message and those ideas. The Theosophical Movement that H.P.B. launched is ahead of the times. People express surprise that it has not made more of a success; the wonder is that it has succeeded as far as it has in the present state of men's minds and hearts. It is not surprising that there have been the failures that the history of the Theosophical Movement records. There have been successes too which history does not always record.
H.P.B.'s work was twofold. One aspect of it was diffused and expansive—her work for humanity as a whole. But there was also her work with individual souls, her appeal to individual minds and hearts. Her appeal to the mind is: Free your mind by study, by calm examination of the principles of life and conduct. Her appeal to the heart is: Develop the spirit of love and charity, not for your next of kin only, not for your own community and country only, but for all that is true and good and beautiful anywhere and everywhere. Her appeal to the individual is: Look within yourself; you are a Hindu, you are Brahma; you are not a Muslim, you carry within you the Light, the Noor of Allah; you are not a Parsi, you are the son of Ahura Mazda; you are not a Christian or a Jew, you are the Son, one with your Father in Heaven.
The Mission of H.P.B. is the Mission of Theosophy—to energize men and women to fight the Holy War against their own senses and passions; to inspire students to become victorious disciples. To obtain knowledge is to set the mind free; to practise Theosophy is to set the heart free. And it is the free mind and the free heart that can fully serve orphan humanity. That is the Mission and the Message of H.P.B.
The good is one thing, the pleasant another; these two, having different objects, chain a man. It is well with him who clings to the good: he who chooses the pleasant, misses his end.