In the Light of Theosophy

Recent studies hint at possible links between the ancient civilization of the Indus Valley and that of the Mayas of Mexico and Central America. B. G. Siddharth, director of the B. M. Birla science centre in Hyderabad, has pointed out striking similarities between the two ancient cultures, although Mexico and India are situated at opposite sides of the earth in longitude.

The experts took a deep interest in the calendars followed by the two cultures. While the Indus Valley people followed a calendar based on the movements of Jupiter, acknowledged to be the leader of the gods, the Mayas followed one based on the movements of Venus or Sukra, who, according to the Puranas, was the leader of the Asuras.

Siddharth also pointed out that some carvings in Mexico depicted an episode similar to that of the churning of the ocean by the gods and the demons in Hindu mythology. The Mexican representations of the tradition bore a striking resemblance to those found in different parts of India. Dr. Ganpati, a Chennai-based expert on ancient Hindu architecture, has also found similarities between the design and construction methods used by the Mayas and the ancient Hindus.

Students of H.P.B.'s Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine well know that the Mayas had links with the Old World. Their ceramics, fine arts and architecture, experts admit, compare favourably to the Hindu and South Asiatic. And herein lies the clue to understanding the "mystery" of the Mayas. In Chapter XIV in Volume I of Isis Unveiled, there is ample discussion of the origins of early American races. H.P.B. remarks in this work:

In order to institute a better comparison between the specimens of prehistoric architecture to be found at the most opposite points of the globe, we have but to point to the grandiose Hindu ruins of Ellora in the Dekkan, the Mexican Chechen-Itza, in Yucatan, and the still grander ruins of Copan in Guatemala. They present such features of resemblance that it seems impossible to escape the conviction that they were built by peoples moved by the same religious ideas, and that had reached an equal level of highest civilization in arts and sciences. (I, 561)

Without recognizing that there once existed a vast Atlantic continent on which flourished a civilization which was the mother of all the cultures of the ancient world, it is impossible for modern archaeologists to arrive at the true explanation for similarities in prehistoric architecture, and in customs and traditions. "America," H.P.B. writes in "A land of Mystery" (reprinted from The Theosophist in THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT for May, June, July and August 1943), "was once united with Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia." And in The Secret Doctrine she states that "although certainly coeval with Plato's Atlantis, the Mayas belonged to the Fifth Continent, which was preceded by Atlantis and Lemuria" (II, 35 fn.).

Over the years it has been generally accepted, even by physicians, that people who suffer from all sorts of illnesses generally improve when they get placebo treatment—inane pills or potions that the patient believes are effective medication. Recently, however, two researchers from the University of Copenhagen wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that "there is no justification for the use of placebos" in medical practice. Since then, a debate has been raging over the issue. No firm conclusion has yet been arrived at by researchers except that placebos do much more for some illnesses than for others. The placebo effect still remains a mystery.

Experts like Irving Kirsch of the University of Connecticut argue that the placebo effect is not unique in the psychology of expectation. It may be one more example of a wide variety of situations in which what we expect to happen is what actually happens.

The placebo response is described as "a non-verbal communication between patient and doctor, the affective response to this relationship being displaced on to the placebo. In other words, if the patient feels that the doctor is helping him, he will respond to the placebo." The substance prescribed is infused with a virtue not naturally its own. The wise doctor knows that most people, when they are ill, need reassurance and hope more than medicine.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said: "Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing that truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work."

An instance of what human will and determination can accomplish is provided by Ila Sachani, daughter of a farmer in Surat district of Gujarat. Diagnosed with an irreversible congenital deformity in her upper limbs, Ila, now 26 years old, learnt to cope with the disadvantage from an early age. Her hands are mere appendages on her body, but she seldom feels handicapped on their account. At a young age, she was taught how to go about her daily grind with the help of her legs. Things that people normally did with their hands, Ila learnt to do with her lower limbs. She was soon adept at using her feet for eating, combing her hair, dusting, folding clothes, even chopping vegetables. (India Today, May 13)

What is even more intriguing, IIa, while still a little girl, learnt to use her legs to paint and sew. The most intricate—and at times discouraging —lesson was on threading a needle. It took much perseverance, but her enthusiasm and determination to succeed made matters easier. The effort paid off and by the time she was 10 she had not only mastered the highly intricate Kathiavad embroidery typical of Saurashtra region but also styles from outside Gujarat like Kachha, Lucknowi and Kashmiri. Many awards, including the President's Medal in December last year, have come her way.

Ila, and others like her (there is a worldwide institution of foot-and-mouth-painting artists), are a living example to handicapped people wherever they may be. It has truly been said: "Exertion is greater than destiny."

Letting go of a grudge can have dramatic health benefits, studies show; but forgiveness requires fortitude. It is about finding a genuine way to respond with compassion to a person who has done you a wrong. How can you forgive someone? Stop rehashing hurtful events and harbouring ill feelings, suggest psychiatrists. (Health and Nutrition, May 2002)

The following steps are suggested as a help to drop a grudge:

See it from the other side. Understand the factors that may have shaped the other person's behaviour, and recognize that there are times when we hurt others too. Empathy is the gateway to forgiveness.

Acknowledge that no one can change the past. When you stop expecting that the offender can take back a hurtful act, you take responsibility for healing yourself. And don't expect an apology or changed behaviour either, because forgiving doesn't equal reconciling.

Wish him well. Find a small way to genuinely wish the other person well. For example, you might say to yourself, "I hope he gains control of his temper." This helps you replace bitterness with a positive emotion.

Confucius said: "To the good I would be good; to the not good I would also be good, in order to make them good." How many are there today ready to live up to this sage advice?

According to psychiatrists in Mumbai, mental health in the city is going from bad to worse. It is estimated that nearly 12 lakh people here suffer from mental health problems and more and more are seeking help. Statistics show that: one out of every three people who go to a medical practitioner suffers from mental problems; one out of every 10 children suffers from a mental disorder; two out of every 10 suffer from depression.

Psychiatrists say that the ever-increasing workload and stress levels in a fast-paced city like Mumbai are too much; or, maybe, Mumbai's overcrowded, overpolluted physical conditions encroach on a person's physical and emotional "space," leading to lower thresholds of tolerance.

There are deeper causes of mental disturbances. There needs to be a perception on the part of both doctors and patients of the relation between philosophy of life and mental health, and of the fact that man is something more than a thinking animal. The recognition by medical men of something within each of us higher than brain consciousness and transcending the narrow personality would be a long step in the right direction.

How does one work toward the attitudes and behaviours which characterize a mentally healthy person? Among the steps in the "working-towards" process may be mentioned the taking of one's share of responsibility in all spheres of life, and the saving of a little time for doing something for others, especially for those who are in need of help. The least one can do is to offer others his sincere interest. Each one needs to remind himself that he can be important to his fellow men, regardless of his position, title, wealth, or knowledge.

Life needs must be lived. One who has good mental health lives it well, and one who lives it well has good mental health. One who does not, hurts not only himself but also those around him.

One of the fundamental factors that shape the future citizens is education. But the lessons that children learn in the classrooms are far removed from the reality around them. What kind of education should we give our children to enable them become better member of society in later life? Purity (May 2002) offers these suggestions:

Education should be a process of developing the spirit of rational inquiry and self-discovery. Even where facts are taught, teachers should facilitate children to inquire, explore, think and express different viewpoints and discern the values of life....

Discipline is a value that is imbibed and maintained by the self. Fear of reprimand or punishment is not the means to teach discipline as it is enforced in schools. Children need to learn from the beginning the value of self-discipline so that we may not require so many law-enforcement systems to control the citizens.

Value education is a hot topic these days. Many schools teach values as subjects, but values cannot be taught, they have to be caught by the young minds from their environment and good role models. When teachers fail to embody these values in their behaviour it raises confusion about the ideal and the practical. Education should be a means for getting in touch with our innate values like love, happiness and truth so that we become strong, balanced and constructive citizens. When we start educating in this way, we can begin to hope for a better future.

Most Indians are familiar with the story of Tansen, who lit up the lamps in Emperor Akbar's court with an evocative rendering of Raag Deepak. Likewise, Raag Megh Malhar is reputed to invoke the rains.

The practice of using music as a healing influence is thousands of years old. Dr. Anil Patil, an allopath who is also a practitioner of alternative therapies, remarks, "Music therapy is a great leveller in self-growth and understanding." Commenting on the role of therapists, he says, "Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses." (The Times of India, May 31)

How does music therapy actually work? "My theory," says Dr. Patil, "is that the body is made up of vibrations, which get disturbed during illnesses. Eventually, only vibrations can balance vibrations. So, along with ragas, I also use different laya (beats) for each patient. A vilambit (slow) beat works for a hyperactive person, while a dhrut (fast) beat is more suitable for a dull person."

Music has the power to relax a person. As a result, it combats tension and depression. "Consequently, the chances of such a person suffering from acidity, diabetes or heart problems are also greatly reduced," says another music therapy practitioner.

Belief in the healthful and curative properties of music is not only ancient but almost universal. Theosophy abounds in references to the power of music, which is an aspect of the power of sound. H.P.B., who calls sound "the most potent and effectual magic agent," writes:

Harmonious rhythm, a melody vibrating softly in the atmosphere, creates a beneficent and sweet influence around, and acts most powerfully on the psychological as well as physical natures of every living thing on earth; it reacts even on inanimate objects, for matter is still spirit in its essence, invisible as it may seem to our grosser senses. (Isis Unveiled, II, 411)

LIFE would be dull and colourless but for the obstacles that we have to overcome and the fights that we have to win.

—Rabindranath Tagore

to return to the table of contents