Unbrotherly Comparisons

The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes....

The Merchant of Venice

In her Key to Theosophy, Madame Blavatsky wrote:

If the action of one reacts on the lives of all, and this is the true scientific idea, then it is only by all men becoming brothers and all women sisters, and by all practising in their daily lives true brotherhood and true sisterhood, that the real human solidarity, which lies at the root of the elevation of the race, can ever be attained. It is this action and interaction, this true brotherhood and sisterhood, in which each shall live for all and all for each, which is one of the fundamental Theosophical principles that every Theosophist should be bound, not only to teach, but to carry out in his or her individual life.

Practical applications of this principle were indicated by one of the Masters of Wisdom when He wrote:

No Theosophist should blame a brother, whether within or outside of the association; neither may he throw a slur upon another's actions or denounce him, lest he himself lose the right to be considered a Theosophist. For, as such he has to turn away his gaze from the imperfections of his neighbour, and centre rather his attention upon his own shortcomings, in order to correct them and become wiser. Let him not show the disparity between claim and action in another, but, whether in the case of a brother, a neighbour, or simply a fellow man, let him rather ever help one weaker than himself on the arduous walk of life.

Yet, do not even earnest student-servers sometimes feel, even though they may not express their thought, that others, whose limitations and circumstances may not be known to the silent critics, are not doing all that they might for the Cause?

Such a thought should not, in the light of the principles above cited, occur to them. Each, by searching his own heart, can find out if he himself is giving all that he can in time, money and work to the study, application and promulgation of Theosophy. Whether or not another is doing all he might in the context of his other obligations the critic cannot know, nor is it his business.

In the Master's letter already cited, he wrote also:

Do not indulge personally in unbrotherly comparison between the task accomplished by yourself and the work left undone by your neighbours or brothers. In the fields of Theosophy none is held to weed out a larger plot of ground than his strength and capacity will permit him....Even the simple presence amidst you of a well-intentioned and sympathizing individual may help you magnetically....

The seventh of the "private rules" laid down for the study of Divine Wisdom, which are cited in the article on "Practical Occultism" in the collection of H.P.B.'s articles published under the title Raja Yoga or Occultism, reads thus:

None can feel the difference between himself and his fellow students, such as "I am the wisest," "I am more holy and pleasing to the teacher, or in my community, than my brother," etc.—and remain an upasaka. His thoughts must be predominantly fixed upon his heart, chasing therefrom every hostile thought to any living being. It (the heart) must be full of the feeling of its non-separateness from the rest of beings as from all in Nature; otherwise no success can follow.

The Great Master wrote in His letter on the aims of the Theosophical Movement (U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 33): "He who does not feel competent to grasp the noble idea sufficiently to work for it, need not undertake a task too heavy for him." And, in a letter to Mr. A. O. Hume, Mahatma K.H. used an expression that should be thought-provoking both for those regretful of not being in a position to serve the Cause more actively and for their possible critics. He wrote there: "...nor are we especially anxious to have anyone work for us except with entire spontaneity."

Among the chief of the "negative Theosophical duties," Madame Blavatsky named:

To be ever prepared to recognize and confess one's faults. To rather sin through exaggerated praise than through too little appreciation of one's neighbour's efforts. Never to backbite or slander another person. Always to say openly and direct to his face anything you have against him. Never to make yourself the echo of anything you may hear against another, nor harbour revenge against those who happen to injure you.

These are too specific to require comment, beyond, perhaps, reminding ourselves that it is not enough to abstain from speaking ill of others, whom the silent condemnation of the mind may also harm if harboured. In his article, "Friends or Enemies in the Future," Mr. Judge called for "charitable thought for every weakness, to every failure.

Would a true Theosophist ever laugh, far less rejoice, at the discomfiture even of an enemy?

Even when undeniable proof of evil was forthcoming, Madame Blavatsky maintained that "pity and forbearance, charity and long suffering, ought to be always there to prompt us to excuse our sinning brethren, and to pass the gentlest sentence possible upon those who err," never forgetting "what is due to the shortcomings and infirmities of human nature" and forgiving entirely in every case, "especially he who is sinned against."

Mr. Judge too has written: "If some offend then let us ask what is to be done, but only when the offence is against the whole. When an offence is against us, then let it go."

There is a telling phrase in the first verse of the first of the Psalms in the Old Testament, in which that man is called blessed who "sitteth not in the seat of the scornful." Do we not do so whenever we assume, although we may not express or even realize it, a "holier-than-thou" attitude, even towards those whose actions we may deem to deserve contempt?

Paul adjured his correspondents in his Epistle to the Romans: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another." This last phrase puts the kindliness of affection to an acid test. But does not the injunction provide a safeguard against the further rising of ambition when honest self-examination has revealed it in ourselves?

The corollary of brotherly co-operation is forgetfulness, as far as we can achieve it, of the small personal self; and the "entire charity, constant forgiveness" for which he called would surely diminish the sum of hate and sorrow in the world. And he set an example even more potent than his words by his own patient endurance under unjust attacks while standing bravely and confidently by his principles.

Neither he nor H.P.B. herself advocated acquiescence in or condoning of that which had a wider than a personal effect. Asked what should be done if forgiving the offender would risk injuring or allowing others to be injured, Madame Blavatsky said that the questioner should do his duty, that which his conscience and higher nature suggested to him, but only after mature deliberation. And she added:

Justice consists in doing no injury to any living being; but justice commands us also never to allow injury to be done to the many, or even to one innocent person, by allowing the guilty one to go unchecked.

But even though occasions may arise when expostulation or remonstrance becomes necessary for the good of the Cause, it should be approached in the proper spirit. The modulus for such an approach, as given by the Buddha to his humble and faithful follower, Upali, the barber, may be of service:

A brother, Upali, who is about to admonish another must realize within himself five qualities before doing so, (that he may be able to say) thus: "In due season will I speak, not out of season. In truth will I speak, not in falsehood. Gently will I speak, not harshly. To his profit will I speak, not to his loss. With kindly intent will I speak, not in anger." (Vinaya, ii, 9)

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