[In this section we seek to answer frequently asked questions, at U.L.T. meetings or during private conversations and discussions with people who seek the answers in the light of Theosophy. Answers given in this section are by no means final. Only a line of thought is being offered by applying general principles of Theosophy.]
Question: How are we to distinguish what action is in line with Nature and what is not? In other words, how to know what is right and proper, so as not to disturb nature's harmony?
Answer: This is a large and central question of "Ethics." Surely, what is right and proper is that which is always in line with "Nature and Nature's laws." Mr. Judge gives another criterion: "Good" is that which is pleasing to Ishwara (God) within. It is always in harmony with our deepest feelings or intuitive knowledge.
Besides these, we need to know, at least theoretically, the laws of nature—visible and invisible, pertaining to the choices to be made. Ethics and ethical principles are mainly based, not on traditional belief system, but on the right knowledge of nature, of man, and of cosmos. This knowledge can be applied, as the case may be, either in the matter of hygiene, or in the matter of mental and moral health, or a child's upbringing and education, as also in all departments of life. Knowledge—intellectual and intuitive—alone is the key to right discrimination and action.
Before we consider the role of intuition as a "guiding angel" for the purpose of discrimination, the fundamental principles of Theosophy should be consulted and applied in every case under consideration. For instance, in the nature of things, most animals and vegetation sleep during the night, which is nature's provision to preserve health and life of the creatures. But man can break nature's cycle, and act not "in line with nature." He may remain active all night and sleep during the day. Expert opinion states that even when he may have adjusted well with this new cycle he may have to pay the price in some form or other. No one can survive long after taking a dose of a deadly potion. These are just physical examples of the ways of nature and how they affect us.
We may apparently escape the immediate consequences of disobeying certain known laws of nature. But the price will have to be paid. For, nature always tries to readjust disturbed inter-relationship. The effects must follow sooner or later. Artificial measures such as in prolonging the lifespan or delaying the effects of aging, reducing human population, and all applications of technology to escape uncomfortable realities of life and many such "escape routes" have been tried by clever men, ever since man became a thinker. Under the law of causation the appropriate effect must follow the cause.
Still the question remains: How are we to know what is proper in our dealings with man and nature? The answer lies in sincere search for knowledge relevant to our choices. Just as the knowledge of physiology and hygiene helps to keep optimum physical health and well being, in all departments of life we must seek appropriate knowledge for proper application. And it is always available to a sincere seeker, although it may not be in the form of instant formula or as dictation of right and wrong line of action, or a list of do's and don'ts. The Greater and more accurate our knowledge of the fundamental principles and of the occult side of nature, greater is the facility to apply them if we so choose, and greater still is our responsibility. For, it is possible that in spite of consciously knowing the consequences, people yield to other influences and choose wrongly.
We are influenced, on the other hand, by our individual character-traits (temperament) and on the other, by the belief-system and tendencies based on our upbringing, environment and self-education. Their combined effects help or hinder in our understanding of the laws of natured and choosing to be in alignment with them. Sometimes, our "inner voice" helps. For, if we are used to consulting our conscience that warns and our intuition that promotes right discrimination, we are most likely to be acting "in line with nature."
Nature's laws ever strive to bring about "order," and its ways are cyclic or rhythmic, trying to bring about final harmony, progress and felicity. Hence, those of our actions that are not in consonance with the ways of nature are likely to be self-defeating in the long run. For instance, the well-known "seven deadly sins" are called such because they create disturbances in and befoul one's own physical and inner constitution.
Some may think that Nature is our servant and we can bend her to our purpose. This has called for valid movements towards preservation of nature and its eco-system as against exploitation of its resources for selfish purposes, thus creating imbalance in life-support systems. A backlash is sure to come sooner or later since nature's "Law of Retribution" prevails. Here, profound knowledge is necessary to foresee the consequences of our direct dealings with visible and invisible (occult) Nature. Simple people, who live their whole life in proximity to nature, are quite familiar with and receptive to the hints thrown by their environment. They have learnt to respond appropriately for mutual benefit. To them, what they call "Mother-Nature" is neither a rival, nor a servant, nor a master, but a beneficiary and friend.
Intuitive poets and mystics have always perceived, in their own way, "the natural order of things." Hence they have responded with fellow feeling and with a certain belief that all are "living" entities. We too can strive toward this ideal, and Nature herself will guide us to make proper choices.
Question: What are the ways by which students receive help from the Masters of Wisdom or Holy Adepts? Should we expect help when we are desperately in need?
Answer: The questioner seems to be familiar that the Holy Ones or the Masters of Wisdom are living Adepts and are concerned with the welfare of humanity. But the question remains: Do those highly advanced Souls (Mahatmas) help individuals like us when "we expect help"?
From childhood we are made to believe in special "intercession" of some known saints, angels, gods, devas, family devatas, etc., who are supposed to intercede on our behalf if we seek favour by means of some special rites or prayers. We are persuaded to believe that by invoking the name and form of one's favourite idol as ideal, we may expect favours. This attitude, according to "ancient wisdom," is purely personal and selfish and leads to dependence and passivity. We must understand the true nature, stature and mission of the Masters whose help we seek and about whom Theosophy and the ancient traditions speak with greatest reverence.
Many of us want the Masters to use their powers and lift us out of the difficult situations—which have been created by us. We also do not take into account the consequences of using occult force. Mr. Judge writes:
Considering the astonishing height of spirituality they have reached, we can see that their main task is to embrace the welfare of all living beings and, especially, mankind as a whole, at all times, taking into consideration the limitations and possibilities of time and place, under Karma. They "people their currents in space" with entities powerful for good alone. If we admit such a vast perspective and extensive scope of the work they are engaged in, then those individuals who deserve some special help must be few and exceptional "students" or the true seekers after wisdom.
We must correct our views if we think that the Mahatmas are just like the gods or devas—nature's intelligent powers—who can be propitiated and cajoled into melting before our pleading when we "desperately need them." We are being helped, at all planes—physical, psychic, moral or spiritual—and each time such help is proffered, it comes from and through our own inner nature, if we can but recognize it.
The law governing higher help and inner progress through spiritual discipline is that each one must first deserve before he desires a "star of recognition" from such mighty Beings. We do not expect a professor of mathematics in a college to tutor and help school children. But no one is out of the heart-concern of the "Compassionate Ones," even though theirs is a "bird's-eye view" from heights far above our work-a-day-world, and their method of help is unknown to us. They exist for the service and protection of the whole of humanity, out of which an individual student-seeker may draw their attention if proved to be worthy.
Are we frequently aware of and acknowledge the Presence within? Do we constantly remember with gratitude the great Gurus who are hourly concerned with human welfare and progress?
If we sincerely strive to be channels for their "grace" to flow through for the benefit of others, we too may profit to the extent we deserve. And the best help a seeker may expect is of the nature of inner adjustments within his imperfect nature under their benevolent influence, as also through appropriate inspirations and occasional intimations "from above"! But for them—the White Lodge of Adepts—the inexorable rule is of privacy and isolation. They keep themselves out of public view so that they can be more effective in their benevolent work of human upliftment and happiness.