The world in many respects has become one, owing to air travel and the rapid spread of news—the products of our modern civilization. When we probe deeper, however, we see that the divisions of class, caste, races, etc., still play a vital part in our society. This is true no matter where we look in the world; no one land, no one country can be held up as an example of unity or brotherhood, though it is implicit in the constitutions of many.
One of the earliest exponents in the Theosophical world advocating the elimination of these differences was Damodar K. Mavalankar. In the May 1880 issue of The Theosophist he published his article, or, as he termed it, his "statement of personal belief," entitled "Castes in India." It has since been reprinted in U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 4. While it is addressed to Indians, and deals with the caste system as it exists in India, the article lays down for everyone the correct principles and basis for not only universal brotherhood, but also intelligent patriotism.
Damodar K. Mavalankar was born in a Brahmin family and educated in the tenets of his religion. It is not until he read H.P.B.'s Isis Unveiled, "A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology," and joined the Theosophical Society, that he realized for the first time "what man and life are—the nature and powers of the one, the possibilities, duties, and joys of the other." At the same time, he wrote, "I have learnt and heard of the ancient splendour and glory of my country—the highly esteemed land of Aryavarta," and he saw how the observance of caste distinctions was leading to her degeneration. He saw, too that any country that wanted to rise needed not only patriots, but also those who felt it their duty to do what they could to make the world better and happier. As the world was made up of different countries, each must, as Damodar expressed it, conceive a love for humanity, and not only love the whole, but also its parts, meaning thereby his fellow countrymen.
Damodar laboured long and hard to achieve this end, and as a step in this direction gave up his own caste, thereby setting an example for all to follow. H.P.B. in her writings, and Mr. Judge in his, also laboured for the same end, namely, the elimination of all caste, class, and racial distinctions. In her Fourth Message to the American Theosophists H.P.B. said:
In the opening editorial of his magazine, The Path, Mr. Judge emphasized much the same idea:
These various statements, Damodar's in 1880, Mr. Judge's in 1886, and H.P.B.'s in 1891, all echo the same idea, an idea which is as difficult of achievement today as it was in those days.
Damodar mentions patriotism as being necessary for the achievement of brotherhood and the making of the world a better and happier place, and adds that single men have saved nations. What kind of patriotism is needed? If misunderstood, it can be one of the greatest stumbling-blocks to the achievement of universal brotherhood. Robert Crosbie defines "intelligent patriotism" thus:
He adds further that while every individual is born in a particular body belonging to some family, race or nation, each birth offer him an opportunity to eradicate in himself the defects of the family to which he comes, and through the family the defects of the nation, for national defects are the sum-total of all the individuals composing it. Therefore intelligent patriotism begins and ends with the individual, and consists in doing our whole duty where Karma has placed us. This includes our duty not only to our own family, but to humanity as a whole, composed of all individuals, families and nations, and we are to do it recognizing that all beings are the same in kind, differing only in degree of intelligence. "Family duties" and "national duties" do not mean false attachment to and pride in family or nation; they imply cultivating and elevating higher sentiments and emotions in the performance of our duties. Thus we shall not indulge in that narrow patriotism which is usually the result of an ignorance of the good in other countries, and a corresponding blindness to the faults we have become accustomed to in our own country.
It is true that there have been patriots who have saved their countries. If, however, we look into the writings and speeches of the truly great, for instance a Thomas Paine, or an Abraham Lincoln, or a Gandhi, we see that the principles for which they stood and fought were universal ones and were aimed at freedom and rights for all, not just for a particular group or section. These principles hold good for all nations and all times, though they may have special reference to the times in which those who enunciated them lived and died.
With all this as a background, we may consider why it is that brotherhood among races or nations is still difficult of achievement. Is it because we have tried to practise brotherhood without really knowing what it is? The Third Fundamental gives the spiritual basis for unity—"the fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul." We perhaps intuitively perceive this, but our intellectual understanding is coloured with our own opinions and preconceptions. We jump to the conclusion that everything and everyone must be equal, that by pulling down the true to the level of the false, the noble to the level of the ignoble, the pure to the level of the impure, wisdom to the level of folly, we have achieved "brotherliness" because then all are the same. Theosophy shows, as seen above, that while all beings are the same in kind, they differ in the degree of intelligence they have attained. Therefore, while there is Spiritual Identity, there is also intellectual diversity, and this should not be lost sight of.
If we remember Mr. Judge's words that the very first step in Occultism is to try to "understand the meaning of Universal Brotherhood," and that in Theosophy alone we find the true knowledge of the real constitution of man, his aim and purpose in life, then we shall realize that the knowledge we are seeking to learn and spread broadcast is meant for all, no matter what their caste, creed, race or sect.
We have to overcome the misconception that only those of a particular community or class will benefit by Theosophy. Inasmuch as the purpose of life is to learn, and the knowledge we are acquiring is meant for all, regardless of race or caste, it follows that we can learn from all without distinction, just as they can learn from us, provided there is the desire to learn. This enables us to take a first step towards apprehending the meaning of Universal Brotherhood. The U.L.T. Declaration emphasizes this in different words when it says that the "unassailable Basis for Union" is "similarity of aim, purpose and teaching," and therefore all, regardless of race, creed, caste or condition, are welcome to join, provided they are willing to "fit themselves, by study and otherwise, to be the better able to help and teach others."
Damodar K. Mavalankar left his caste because he felt that by remaining in it he could not regard all men as his brothers. He saw that a man should be judged by his qualities and attainments rather than by the caste or body of his present birth, as these outer circumstances are but temporary and change with each incarnation.
It means, therefore, that the first step in Occultism, in the attainment of Universal Brotherhood, is to recognize that life is made up of learning and that all beings have their place in the evolutionary march, some ahead, some behind. All are important, and we should not assume that our place is superior to another's. No race is superior, no race is inferior, any more than any one note in the musical scale is more important than another, or any colour in the rainbow more beautiful than another colour; all have their place in the whole.
Therefore it can be seen that:
Thus it will be seen that by doing our duty wherever we find ourselves, by keeping ever in mind that Krishna is seated in the hearts of all beings, by learning wherever we are, we shall be on the way to apprehending the meaning of Universal Brotherhood; we shall also make possible the practical realization of Theosophy, which alone can lead to the eradication of caste, class and racial discriminations.