To tread the Paramita Path, the Path of the Divine Virtues, a certain attitude of mind and of heart has to be cultivated, otherwise we start without planning, without the necessary preparation, and fail.
This is brought out in Fragment III of The Voice of the Silence, where we learn that the candidate must already have reached the condition when he can say to the Teacher, "I thirst for Wisdom"; and also, "Thy servant here is ready for thy guidance." This thirst, this readiness, is essential on the spiritual path. We also learn that the practice of the Paramitas, the glorious virtues, is not the first step. The foundation, the very purpose, of the hard struggle we have to make is—"To live to benefit mankind." Only with, or on, this foundation can we successfully practise the virtues.
The Voice of the Silence also mentions us: "Before thou wert made fit to meet thy Teacher face to face, thy Master light to light, what wert thou told?" So, we must get to a certain position before we can proceed. We are warned, also, that there are steps that we must pass before we can even begin to practise Dana, the first Paramita:
Before thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy body from thy mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things, all things in Self.
The latter part of this quotation is important. We often think that we are trying to live and breathe in tune with the whole of the unified universe, but do we also try to see the other half of this idea—"as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee"? That is true brotherhood; it implies the real understanding of unity. There is no one, no thing, that is really separate from ourselves. What hurts one, hurts all, whether it is the death of a friend, our own death, or the death of a mosquito or a beetle; the ill treatment given to a fellow human being, or to ourselves, or to the lowest creature that lives, reacts on all. The animal is a part of us, the criminal is a part of us. We are a part of the animal and of the criminal. That part of us which is in the animal and in the criminal suffers when the animal or the criminal is ill treated.
That which makes for the unity of all life is the Self. Coming down to the astral light, which affects us because of its photographic quality, its receptivity to the thoughts, feelings and actions of all creatures and its capacity to vitalize all these, we can perhaps see how this unity is a reality. It is worth while studying this and putting the teaching into practice. But this recognition of unity has to be seen from the basis of the Self which operates in and through even the tiniest forms and on all planes. Hence we are told that we must begin to put the idea of Unity into practice and must live in the Eternal.
Just what does it mean to "live in the Eternal"? Nothing is outside of the Eternal. Everything lives in Spirit, which is eternal; we have to learn to live in it consciously. We have to become one with the Eternal, not by jumping to It in imagination, but by seeing that we and It, and therefore we and all others, are one. If this is so, then it becomes obvious that just as we "like" ourselves and work for our own good, so we must apply the "liking" or love to all. First, we must begin to think of all as learners, as though they were our fellow pupils, "disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother." The real Teacher is the Master-Soul, the Universal Soul, a ray of which is in us and in all men. At present we think of the Universal Soul as apart from ourselves, a kind of misty background. But, before we can progress, we have to see these two as one. The practical aspect of this is to "sacrifice the personal to Self impersonal."
More practical advice is given to us, which calls to mind the letter of the Mahatma printed in The Secret Doctrine (I, 167): "Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and Wisdom will come to you naturally." This concept we also find in the Bhagavad-Gita (VI, 32): "He, O Arjuna, who by the similitude found in himself seeth but one essence in all things, whether they be evil or good, is considered to be the most excellent devotee." Elsewhere in the Gita (IV, 38) we are told: "...he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time."
So, through the recognition of the one Self and the devotion that leads to It, we have to practise the attuning of our heart and mind "to the great mind and heart of all mankind." This is to be done by being able to "thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and breathes."
The feeling of love that arises in the heart when we dwell on these concepts makes us sometimes forget, or transcend, the field of human life which is enveloped in pain. Therefore we are asked to cast our glance downward from the superlative heights we may reach, and see the pain that is humanity's: "Hast thou attuned thy being to Humanity's great pain?" we are asked. The word "attuned" need to be noted. What is needed is not a feeling-thought of sympathy, or a shrug of the shoulders with the feeling "What can I do?" It is an attunement with, a suffering with those in pain that has to be cultivated. Others' pain becomes our own pain. Indeed, we are further told that this attunement is not mere passive suffering but an active search for the cause of the pain, without resting until we have removed it. As The Secret Doctrine tells us, we have to get at the evil causes and remove them, for then and then only can we finally get rid of the evil effects. Even the suppression of one single bad cause (S.D., I, 644), not even its removal, will accomplish some good, though the probationer must in time remove the cause. Before removal is possible, let us at least suppress! We cannot remove anger from our nature by the mere wish; we have to go through many a year of suppression, while at the same time cultivating the opposite virtue, before anger is removed beyond resurrection.
Why is it so necessary to begin to alter our whole character before stepping on the Path? The Mahatma answers this question:
Beware then, of an uncharitable spirit, for it will rise up like a hungry wolf in your path, and devour the better qualities of your nature which have been springing into life.
He tells us how this is to be guarded against:
Broaden instead of narrowing your sympathies; try to identify yourself with your fellows, rather than to contract your circle of affinity.
Light on the Path gives us further aid. How can we become charitable or wipe away the tears of others if we do not see or hear the groan of mankind? Therefore we are told to "listen to the song of life," and to "learn from it the lesson of harmony." But equally we must learn to hear the cry of pain, of which Mr. Judge wrote:
O, what a groan Nature gives to see the heavy Karma which man has piled upon himself and all the creatures of the three worlds! That deep sigh pierces through my heart. How can the load be lifted? Am I to stand for myself, while the few strong hands of Blessed Masters and Their friends hold back the awful cloud? Such a vow I registered ages ago to help them, and I must. Would to great Karma I could do more! And you! Do what you can.
"Armed with the key of Charity, of love and tender mercy," we are secure before the gate of Dana, and we may enter. The harmony we have established between ourselves and others and the Whole makes the path "straight and smooth and green." All is well, and with the song of the "nightingales of hope" in our heart we pass on. Let us still remember that the Path is a path of woe; let us try to keep the vision of the goal before us as we struggle on and meet and conquer the obstacles on the way. Each obstacle conquered is a gate opened. There is no return. But the thought that we are doing it for the sake of all, not for our own sake, will inspire us. And at the end of the journey the very effort we have made to feel at one with all Nature makes it possible for the "chant of love" to arise "from the flaming Fire and flowing Water, and from sweet-smelling Earth and rushing Wind," heralding our return "from the other shore."
The Master wrote: "...the adept sees and feels and lives in the very source of all fundamental truths—the Universal Spiritual Essence of Nature, Shiva the Creator, the Destroyer, and the Regenerator.