“At the Feet of the Master”
Dear and respected Sis. and Bro.,
Hearty greetings and good wishes to all of you from Adyar. It is a pleasure and honour to be among you all today from the land that gave HPB to the world and I am grateful to Sister Svitlana and all the office bearers of the Ukrainian-Russian Section to have given me this opportunity to share some thoughts about a very special book, which is small in size but great in content. A book that is often referred to as one of the three gems of the theosophical literature.
A book that has transformed and will keep transforming lives of millions of seekers, due to its simple yet profound presentation and vitality because these words come from a very high spiritual source, whom we know as the Masters of the Wisdom & Compassion. They are the ones who gave this book, that was published in 1910, for the generations to come, through a young boy of 14 years of age whom we know as J.Krishnamurti.
But for this book his pen name was Alcyone, which was the name given to his character in the book ‘The Lives of Alcyone’ by AB & CWL which is based on the clairvoyant research about the evolution of the soul of JK, in the past fifty births.
Due to this reason, these words are so magnetically charged and vibrant and yet so simple that anyone who desires to walk the path of discipleship or ready to take the inner journey is guided safely and securely to the sanctum sanctorum of the DIVINE SELF which is ever present in the sanctuary of our inner heart.
That is why the dedication and the title of this book, both of which were suggested by AB, indicate, that this book is not for everyone but only for those who knock the door i.e. those who are beginning to see, to some extent, that nothing material, nothing outside can bring the peace of mind or contentment or bliss and this is the beginning of the path of renunciation or the path of return to the source. Because the teachings in this book will seem not interesting or rather repelling to those who are still clinging to materialistic way of life.
Since it is a great challenge to share the content of such an occult text in just 45 min., therefore, instead of discussing the whole text step by step, I will try to share with you a bird’s eye view of the book, the obstacles that we have to overcome while walking the inner path and also, a few important aspects for daily life to smoothly overcome those obstacles and accelerate our spiritual journey.
For this purpose, I have merged some of the parts of the book where the same subject matter is discussed. Because, basically this book is like a Manual of Raj-Yoga or Manual of Management of Life explaining the DO’s & DON’T’s in very simple and straightforward words. I wish & hope that this study will strengthen the spark of enquiry and motivation in all of us, to study this book deeply, contemplate on it and try to implement it in daily life.
Because in the words of A.B., the teachings in this book are to be lived to have favorable results and J.K. himself says that, “It is not enough to say that the words are true and beautiful; a man who wishes to succeed must do exactly what is said.” Just like getting a medicinal prescription from the doctor is not enough, we have to take the medicine to be cured of the sickness.
Coming to the Book, although it talks about four qualifications, if we observe carefully, there is a fifth qualification that is mentioned, in a very subtle form, in the title itself. Many of you may be aware that the esoteric Hindu texts are called UPANISHADS. And you will be surprised to know that one of the meanings of the word UPANISHAD is ”for the student to sit down near the Master’s feet while receiving spiritual knowledge” – which is exactly what the title of the book “At the Feet of the Master” implies. This is very significant and symbolical, because, whether on the spiritual path or any other path of learning, HUMILITY – LACK OF EGOISM & PRIDE – STRONG SENSE OF REVERENCE & TRUST TOWARDS THE TEACHER is a necessary qualification for a disciple for successful reception of Wisdom.
So, let us begin this study with reverence to all the Masters who gave this book through JK, who was taken in his astral body by CWL every night to the Master. The Master gave him instructions and after waking up, JK used to write them in his notebook. Those notes were later typed and printed to share this treasure with the world.
The book talks about the FOUR QUALIFICATIONS & All of them basically aim for purification of our lower nature or personality and making it an obedient servant or vehicle of our Higher self or individuality by way of various disciplines which are discussed as follows:
- Good conduct
One important thing to remember is that these qualifications are not in an order of priority or to be practiced one at a time because they are all interconnected with each other. When we try to live in one, the other automatically strengthens.
The first of these Qualifications is Discrimination;
Normally in the worldly sense the word discrimination has a negative image attached to it because one of the meanings given to it is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability. But basically it means discrimination or discernment implies, “a mind enlightened with Buddhi that is able to see the thing as they are and decide”.
In spiritual parlance, this is usually taken as the discrimination between the real and the unreal which leads (a person) to enter the Path. But it is much more than that as we shall see further.
Because discrimination is not something that is achieved suddenly, instead it is developed and strengthened gradually By the power of Observation of everything around us in a holistic way and connecting the causes with effects and the effects with the causes. By trying to understand the interconnection - interdependence - of seemingly isolated events. It is like a knife which we have to keep sharpening at every step of the journey to cut down the veil of illusion, every time it confronts us. That is why discrimination is something that is to be practiced, not only at the beginning of the Path, but at every step of it every day until the end.
But there are various aspects of discrimination in daily life. We will try to discuss them in brief.
When we begin to see the temporary nature of things around, based on our own life experiences or on the events that keep happening all around us every day, we come to realize that wealth - power – possessions, for which everyone is running after, does not last beyond this life form. No matter how hard we try to secure life by money-relationships-power-possessions there is always a sense of insecurity and discontentment and fear of losing them.
But on the path of Self-Knowing there are far greater things to realize. With this observation we stop running after the transient things and we begin to understand that there is a Divine Plan and that plan is Evolution which is guided by Cosmic Intelligence-Love- Compassion-Justice and all our complaints-anxieties-frustrations gradually replaced by PEACE – BLISS – HAPPINESS based on Discrimination.
The first obstacle in this path is offered by none other than the bodies or the vehicles that we, the Divine Self, are using. Due to a long period of identification with the bodies we think that we are the body and that is why it becomes very important to discriminate through Meditation- Careful Observation- Awareness of the body-desires-thoughts, that we are not the bodies….
a. PHYSICAL BODY – is basically lazy so we must discriminate to eat right, exercise right and treat it like a horse who is ever ready to cooperate in the Master’s work. But at the same time we must discriminate that it must be our own duty that we do – not another person’s, unless with his permission and by way of helping him. Also, just because we try to take up higher work, we must not forget our ordinary duties, for until they are done we are not free for other service & we should not undertake new worldly duties; but those which we have already taken upon us, we must perfectly fulfil.
b. DESIRE – Similarly, the astral body has its desires – dozens of them; it wants you to be angry, to say sharp words, to feel jealous, to be greedy for money, to envy other people their possessions, to yield yourself to depression. Not because it wants to harm us but because that is its way of evolution by violent vibrations. Therefore, we must discriminate between what the body wants and what we really want.
c. THOUGHTS – Similarly, the mind that gives us individuality also is responsible to think itself proudly separate, to think much of itself and little of others. Even when we stop running after the material possessions, it still keeps thinking about its own progress separate from others, instead of thinking of the Master’s work and of helping others.
The only saviour in this is Careful Observation as said, ”You must watch unceasingly, or you will fail” --- Spiritual Path is called a razor’s edge, carelessness may prove to be fatal.
Right & Wrong
Between right and wrong Occultism knows no compromise. But the definition of right-wrong here is not as per one’s nationality-culture-religion but universal right and wrong. And to understand this, we must deeply study the hidden laws of nature, which are universal, out of which Law of Karma, Reincarnation and ONE LIFE are the most important and based on this understanding we decide in our life what is right and wrong.
Important–Unimportant – Prioritization
Many of us complain about lack of time and therefore discrimination is needed for time management too. Also, often we come across people who engage in arguing over small, petty issues in the name of spirituality, thereby wasting a lot of time and energy. So, we must learn to discriminate in such issues and remain Firm as a rock, when it is a matter of principles but at the same time there is no need to be stubborn or hot headed in things which do not matter much. We must choose our battles intelligently. For example: Dress-Alcohol-Meat
Similarly, we keep ourselves engaged in a lot of useless things in our daily life due to social culture. But the only definition of something useless or useful, or more useful and less useful is that whatever we are doing, how much it is useful/helpful for others. That is the only benchmark. For example there is a lot to study but we must choose to study that with which we will be able to help others more. A small thing which is directly useful in the Master’s work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good.
True & False
This is very important. You must distinguish between truth and falsehood; you must learn to be true all through, in thought and word and deed.
Thought - and that is not easy, because there are in the world many untrue thoughts, many foolish superstitions, and if we are conditioned by them, we cannot progress. We have to free ourselves from the various conditionings and not be blinded by what the people around us make us think. We must always try to think from a universal approach and not from a local approach. Think Universal-Act local. Implying that is useful for many and not just for one person or few persons. And also, do not attribute motives to others.
Word/Speech – (1) true-beautiful-beneficent; (2) accurate and without exaggeration.
Deed/Action – No pretense – Hypocrisy – for all pretense is a hindrance to the pure light of truth, which should shine through you as sunlight shines through clear glass.
There are many for whom the Qualification of Desirelessness is a difficult one, for they feel that they are their desires – that if their distinctive desires, their likings and dislikings, are taken away from them, there will be no self left.
Because if someone asks us who we are, we normally tell our name, family name, degrees, work, successes-likings-dislikings- possessions etc. and other things that we desire to have. And if there is no desire, what will motivate us for work? And therefore we have to understand that more than desire there is a higher motive for work and that is the “SENSE OF DUTY WITH LOVE” which Masters talk about in Mahatma Letters. Because with every selfish desire we lose a lot of vital energy and then we have very little energy left to walk this path of inner journey. Therefore, we must get rid off small hidden desires within us which are draining a lot of our energy in daily life like:
1. Desire to see the result of your work: Have trust in the law of karma. No effort is ever lost.
2. Desire for Psychic powers: Do not crave for them. They will come when we really need them. Asking for them before time is only asking for trouble. They may turn an immature disciple into a criminal, a mad person or even enhance suicidal tendencies or push towards the left hand path.
3. Desire to shine or appear clever: To feel superior to others
4. Desire to speak: So that people may think me intelligent.
5. Desire to offer opinions: This is the most practical advice.
6. Desire to interfere in other's business: Mind our own business, unless of course if someone requires our help. We must help wholeheartedly keeping in mind that we are not making them dependent upon us.
But, there are exceptions, when it becomes our duty to interfere:
a. Cruelty to a child or an animal: If you see a case of cruelty to a child or an animal, it is your duty to interfere.
b. Anyone breaking the law of the country: If you see any one breaking the law of the country, you should inform the authorities.
c. In charge of another person in order to teach: If you are placed in charge of another person in order to teach him, it may become your duty gently to tell him of his faults. Except in such cases, mind your own business, and learn the virtue of silence.
Self-control as to the Mind: Theosophy is the Path of Raj Yoga which means ending the modifications of the mind by following a discipline which has two aspects. Purification & Calmness of the Mind. Because the mind is like a water pond on which the reflection of Buddhi or Intuition or the Moon falls to enlighten us. Therefore, we need to keep the mind calm and clean. To do this we must
Control our temper & irritation: so that the thought may always be calm and unruffled; and when the thought is calm, the nerves in the body also will be as little irritable as possible. This last is difficult, because when you try to prepare yourself for the Path, you cannot help making your body more sensitive, so that its nerves are easily disturbed by a sound or a shock, and feel any pressure acutely; but you must do your best. Practice SOS - Stop - Observe - Start Anew
RESPOND rather than REACT: Most of the time we react to the situations under impulse instead of responding with a Calm mind because a calm and peaceful state of mind is necessary to see the situation as it is without any prejudice. And the calm mind means also courage, so that you may face without fear the trials and difficulties of the Path. It also means steadiness, so that we face the troubles of life lightly which come into every one’s life, and avoid the incessant worry over little things in which many people spend most of their time. The Master teaches that it does not matter in the least what happens to a person from the outside: sorrows, troubles, sicknesses, losses – all these must be as nothing to him, and must not be allowed to affect the calmness of his mind. They are the result of past actions, and when they come you must bear them cheerfully, remembering that all evil is transitory, and that your duty is to always remain joyous and serene. They belong to your previous lives, not to this; you cannot alter them, so it is useless to worry about them. Think rather of what you are doing now, which will make the events of your next life, for that you can alter.
Stop the leakage of energy-Must not let it wander: Concentration/One Pointedness. One way of doing that is Whatever we do, do it with complete attention and concentration.
Never allow yourself to feel sad or depressed/Cheerfulness: Never allow yourself to feel sad or depressed. Depression is wrong, because it infects others and makes their lives harder, which you have no right to do. Therefore, if ever it comes to you, throw it off at once. Often the Master needs to pour out His strength upon others through His servant; He cannot do that if the servant yields to depression. So, cheerfulness must become our nature.
USE THOUGHT POWER EVERY DAY FOR GOOD PURPOSES:
a. Do not let your mind be idle, but keep good thoughts always in the background of it, ready to come forward the moment it is free. Use your thought-power every day for good purposes; be a force in the direction of evolution. Think each day of someone whom you know to be in sorrow, or suffering, or in need of help, and pour out loving thoughts upon him.
b. OPEN MINDED-Tolerant: We must always aim to have an open mind. Because to be tolerant, we must understand the beliefs of those of another religion, just as much as our own. For their religion is a path to the highest, just as yours is. And to help all, you must understand all. But this can only happen if we realize that no ceremonies are necessary because there are two aspects of any religion: esoteric and exoteric. Exoteric depends upon the place-time-civilization which will inevitably be different from one another but the esoteric teachings are the same. And also the ceremonies may have lost their meaning for the one who is walking the path but they still carry the meaning for those who are still in that state of evolution, so be tolerant and never make fun or criticize the beliefs of another unless it is a matter of principles.
CONFIDENCE: Unless there is perfect trust, there cannot be the perfect flow of love and power. Although it is said to trust the Master and trust yourself, it means the same. Because gradually when we begin to know our real self we come to know that there is no difference between our higher self and the Masters. They are not the body that we have to trust but the principles of LOVE-COMPASSION-ONENESS OF LIFE-DIVINE PLAN.
Of all the Qualifications, Love is the most important, for if it is strong enough in a man, it forces him to acquire all the rest, and all the rest without it would never be sufficient. But this does not mean that we stop practising the other qualifications to wait for LOVE to develop.
Love is a very loaded word with millions of ideas or images attached to it. Maybe it has as many meanings as many individuals are there in the world. But since we are studying this book we must limit ourselves to the reference and the context. One thing is quite certain that love is not an emotion. Because emotions come and go, they are like the rise and fall of waves in the ocean but LOVE, in spirituality, is not a temporary emotion, instead it is an aspect of the Logos-God, and hence eternal. Love is not the opposite of Hate/disliking/repulsion. Opposite of Hate/disliking is liking/attachment/attraction. Love is beyond the duality of liking-disliking, attraction-repulsion and that state is called LIBERATION (implying liberation from the world of dualities) from birth-death and that is the meaning taken in this book, THE RESOLVE/WILL TO BE ONE WITH THE GOD which means to become one with the source and realizing the true brotherhood and once that love is realized the outcome can only be:
Loving Acts in Daily Life – which means two things; first, that you shall be careful to do no hurt to any living thing; second, that you shall always be watching for an opportunity to help.
And how do we hurt others? Three sins which work more harm than all else in the world are – GOSSIP, CRUELTY, AND SUPERSTITION –Against these three the seeker of truth must watch ceaselessly:
i. Why is Gossip so Harmful – We all are familiar with the power of thought. We can strengthen anything by thinking of it, and in this way we can help or hinder evolution; The moment we think of an evil thought about someone, we commit three harmful things at the same time:
1. First of all, we fill your own mind with evil thoughts instead of good; and so, you hinder your own growth,
2. Secondly, If there is in that man the evil which you think, you are strengthening it and feeding it; and so, you are making your brother worse instead of better. But generally, the evil is not there, and you have only fancied it; and then your wicked thought tempts your brother to do wrong, for if he is not yet perfect you may make him that which you have thought him. We partake in his karma.
3. Lastly, You are filling your neighborhood with evil thought instead of with good thought, and so you are adding to the sorrow of the world. Which includes first of all our family members and friends.
Not just that, a gossiper tries to involve as many people in this act as possible by eagerly telling his wicked story to them, in the hope that they will believe it; and then they join with him in pouring evil thought upon the poor sufferer. And this goes on day after day, and is done not by one man but by thousands. Do you begin to see how terrible a sin this is? You must avoid it altogether. Never speak ill of any one; refuse to listen when anyone else speaks ill of another, but gently say: “Perhaps this is not true, and even if it is, it is kinder not to speak of it.”
ii) Cruelty: is of two kinds, intentional and unintentional. Intentional cruelty is purposely to give pain to another living being; and that is the greatest of all sins. Normally we may think that we are civilized people and that no one could do such a thing; but it has been done often due to ignorance.
The inquisitors did it; many religious people did it in the name of their religion. Vivisectors do it in the name of research. Many schoolmasters do it habitually in the name of disciplining the child. All these people try to excuse their cruelty by saying that it is the custom or they are doing it for the welfare of humanity; but a crime does not cease to be a crime because many commit it. Karma takes no account of custom; and the karma of cruelty is the most terrible of all. To add to this list are those who commit cruelty to the animal kingdom in the name of sport or fashion.
Not only we must not do such things but also raise our voice clearly against them, whenever there is an appropriate opportunity.
SENSITIVITY: We must become more and more sensitive to others’ needs as we walk this path of discipleship. Due to lack of sensitivity a person filled with greed and avarice, never even thinks of the suffering which he causes to Others by paying too little. Just to save himself a few minutes of trouble, a man does not pay his workmen on the proper day, thinking nothing of the difficulties he brings upon them. So much suffering is caused just by carelessness – by forgetting to think how an action will affect others. But Karma never forgets, and it takes no account of the fact that men forget. If you wish to enter the Path, you must think of the consequences of what you do, otherwise you should be guilty of thoughtless cruelty.
iii. Superstition: Think of the awful slaughter produced by the superstition that animals should be sacrificed on religious festivals. And by the still more cruel superstition that man needs flesh for food. Also, imagine the treatment which superstition or discrimination based on the color of the skin has brought on to the depressed classes, and see in that how this evil quality can breed heartless cruelty even among those who know the duty of brotherhood. Be very careful, therefore, that no slightest trace of it remains in you. These three great crimes you must avoid, for they are fatal to all progress, because they sin against love.
Active in doing good: But not only must you thus refrain from evil; you must be ever on the watch for the opportunities to help all around you – not to man alone, but even to animals and plants. Not waiting for a big project, instead, You must render service in small things every day, so that the habit of service may be formed, so that you may not miss the rare opportunity when the great thing offers itself to be done.
In the summary of the religion in one sutta or verse, given by the Buddha Himself, we see its positive aspect:
“(1) Cease to do evil;
(2) Learn to do well;
(3) Cleanse your own heart:
(4) That is the religion of the Buddha.”
The purpose of walking this path is overcoming the illusion of a sense of separateness and a channel through which the Divine Will may manifest itself on the physical plane. And in the process the channel itself becomes a living part of that divine flame, sharing the LOVE in its heart with the whole world.
The WISDOM which enables you to help, the WILL which directs the wisdom, the LOVE which inspires the will - these are your qualifications. Will, Wisdom & Love are the three aspects of the LOGOS; and you, who wish to enroll yourselves to serve him, must show forth these aspects in the world.