THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 5, March, 1963
(Pages 113-115; Size: 9K)


[Article number (5) in this Department]

Is it advised in the teachings of Theosophy that people in general do as the Great Teachers do and not defend themselves from untruths? Supposing that personal jealousy, implemented by false or slanderous statements, results in the discharge of an employee from a firm where a bright future seemed assured. A "victim" in such an instance will understandably be hurt and frustrated and confused. He might simply accept the circumstances, but later realize that in the interests of truth and justice a spirited defense of himself might have been in order. I am thinking of one case in particular where the employee was discredited by the false allegation that confidential information had been passed on to a competitor. Just how, then, would a Theosophist benefit others by applying to such a mundane matter the principle of restraint which Great Teachers have practiced?

In the first place, a wise teacher knows enough respecting the essential principles of psychological influence to know that general character allegations cannot be constructively disputed. All the ordinary methods of doing so, in the context of political thinking, constitute counter-allegations -- a process of chain reaction which is educational to no one. In this sense, every human being is in a position similar to that of a great teacher, since the value of a life or a life's work must eventually be demonstrated by that life and that life's work, arguments mattering little.

Fraudulent representations as to fact, however, are another matter, for the statement of an available truth, or a counter-assertion which may be investigated by anyone in an objective manner, may serve the causes of education for any of those whose lives have been touched by the disputants. H. P. Blavatsky defended herself against false claims as to fact -- and allowed William Q. Judge to defend her from a legal point of view. She did not bother, however, with generalized slander, with nebulous character defamations, and this sort of distinction seems to have general validity.

All of us encounter what may from one standpoint be called "injustice." But if one were to fiercely defend his "rights" against every "injustice," the whole of a lifetime would be spent in this single occupation. In terms of the evolution of the soul, what is required is not that every circumstance be in perfect harmony, but that the soul should grow through or behind or with every sort of experience. If one or another of many "injustices" tends to make a man bitter, the lesson he most needs to learn is how to eliminate the tendency towards bitterness in himself. The other person's commission of an "injustice" is not ultimately our concern, but his.

This point of view is certainly basic to an understanding of the Theosophical emphasis on karma. The whole of the Buddha's psychological teaching, when correctly understood, revolves around this point. Three of the opening verses of the Dhammapada, for example, are illustrative:

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: all that we are is founded on our thoughts and formed of our thoughts.

"He reviled me, he beat me and conquered and then plundered me," who express such thoughts tie their mind with the intention of retaliation. In them hatred will not cease.

In this world never is enmity appeased by hatred; enmity is ever appeased by Love. This is the Law Eternal.

In the second place, and considering the question, not from a broad philosophical perspective, but as a specific problem for a particular individual, it must be realized that every "moral" problem is psychological in nature. The same "objective" situation confronting three or four different individuals becomes three or four separate "problems." Each person sets up the problem as he sees it, as he feels it, as he reacts to it. Both the terms of the problem and the means of working it out are within his own nature, and a satisfactory solution depends on his understanding the terms and recognizing the "means" by ever-increasing psychological insight, by broadening his philosophical outlook. But this takes time. Psychological growth is no more instantaneous than physical growth. Only the master craftsman can handle life's problems with a sure sense of the "right" method and the subsequent "right" solution. The rest of us act with the tools we have, doing the best we can. And the most useless question in the world is, "What should he have done?" The fact is that he did what he did, and no amount of philosophical theorizing or psychological rationalizing can alter the fact.

Plato described the wise man as one who is, above all things, a just man. But it is possible for one who prides himself on his embodiment of justice to feel grievously injured if he is not treated according to his own standards. This reaction would indicate a certain rigidity of the nature, which, although different from that exhibited by most "unjust" men, is also psychologically inadequate. Any one who is too certain of "right" and "wrong" in his relationships with others is bound to work some injustices himself. And the path of learning can best be travelled when one seeks to embody the truth he sees, rather than gain converts to it.

Lao-tse had something to say on the subject of attempting to "exact" justice from another:

When terms are made after a great quarrel, a certain ill-feeling is bound to be left behind. How can this be made good? Therefore, having entered into an agreement, the Sage adheres to his obligations, but does not exact fulfilment from others. The man who has Virtue attends to the spirit of the compact; the man without Virtue attends only to his claims.
There are, of course, many ways to describe philosophical maturity. But whatever the description, it is clear that no man can fulfill himself -- in the sense of the higher self -- unless he can accept "injustice" without emotional disturbance. When Christ said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do," it was more than sentiment; for what is not "known" by a malefactor is the nature of the law of karma. We may be able to change another man's karma by providing him with an improved environment of ideas and alternatives, but we cannot directly change his understanding of karma.

When the Theosophical teachers enjoin their disciples to cultivate "acceptance" of whatever life brings, they are not saying that one should do nothing to try to alter the circumstances in which one finds himself. They are saying, however, that whenever a man wastes his essential energy in complaint he makes impossible the comprehension of "this mysterious doctrine," as Arjuna did at first.

Lao-tse had something to say on this point too, when he remarked that the greatest conqueror is one who accomplishes his ends without violence. In interpersonal relationships, this means a patience -- Lao-tse would say "softness" -- which wins over the "hardness" of fixed patterns of behavior in others which really need alteration. By accepting the possibility of change, we often begin the process of change by indirection. We cannot make anyone feel more concerned with his own shortcomings than he already is, but we can demonstrate an understanding of the fact that all human frailties are in a sense the same and will only pass away when the individual, not feeling overcome by guilt, frees his courage to take his karma in his own hands.

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(April 1963)
[Article number (6) in this Department]

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