The Bonfire In the Brain
[from the book LIVING THE LIFE ]
by B.P. Wadia
© 2009 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö
Those enjoyments which arise through the contact of
the senses with external objects are wombs of pain, since
they have a beginning and an end; O son of Kunti, the
wise man delighteth not in these, – Bhagavad-Gita, V. 22
Said the Lama to Kim: ”When I was a young man, a
very long time ago, I was plagued with these vapours,
and some others, and I went to an abbot – a very holy
man and a seeker after truth, though then I knew it not.
Sit up and listen, child of my soul ! My tale was told. Said
he to me, 'Chela, know this. There are many lies in the
world, and not a few liars, but there are no liars like our
bodies, except it be the sensations of our bodies.' Considering
this I was comforted.” – RUDYARD KIPLING
It was once said by a teacher to a pupil, ”Extinguish the bonfire in your brain or you will develop into a human fire-blight.” Wise words these. What is a bonfire and what is a fire-blight?
A bonfire ordinarily is a large fire in the open air lighted at festivities; time was when it was lighted for the burning of bones. So the teacher must have meant the extinguishment of the fire of sense-pleasures and also of the dead bones of old and crumbling thoughts and feelings. And if this is not done one acts as a fire-blight, a bacillus destroying twigs and leaves, blossoms and fruits-embodiments of beauty and of nourishment.
Sensations light bonfires in the brain now and again; sensations form the second group of the five skandhas (vedana) which constitute the lower man, but which affect the higher man or the Soul. Sensations are very closely related to the senses and the organs. H.P.B. says that the senses are” the ten organs of man” and that” in Occultism they are closely allied with various forces of nature, and with our inner organisms called cells in physiology.” (The Theosophical Glossary)
Sensations are agreeable or disagreable, pleasurable or painful. They are caused by the contact of the senses with outer objects; these stir the senses and affect the personal consciousness. They are also caused by the desire-mind (kama-manas ) – the emotional urges which stir the senses. Sometimes we have no sensation; we are indifferent, and indifference is reckoned as the fifth class of sensations.
Now, in living their lives ordinary men and women are affected by the numerous pairs of opposites rooted in impressions, sensations and emotions. As the senses and organs are living, they have a life of their own. This life engrosses ordinary men and women ignorant of the truths about the Soul or of the very existence of the Soul. They identify themselves with the life of the senses and strengthen the false ”I ” which comes into being in the antenatal life and which continues to grow after the birth of the body.
The inner life is of the Soul; the outer life is of the senses. The former is the real man – the individual; the latter is the mask of the former – the personality. The Inner Ego is the Immortal Thinker, one with the Supreme Spirit – he calls himself” I am 1.” The outer man is mortal, identifies himself with the bodily self and says, ”I am Mr. So-and-So” or ”I am Mrs. So-and-So.” The beginning, the middle and the end of the Higher Life consists, first, in overcoming the notion of ” I am So-and-So” ; secondly, in the recognition of and identification with the real ”I,” the Thinker, who controls sense-life; and, thirdly in reflecting upon the profound nature and powers of that Thinker and Soul. ”Knowest thou of Self the powers, O thou perceiver of external shadows? ”
We chase the external shadows of wealth and fame, of power over others, demanding love from others; the shadows of ambition, of comfort for the body, and of home-life; we eagerly and zestfully pursue the desire for sensation; we endeavour to fulfil emotional urges; we long for praise from others. All such involvement in worldly tendencies wins for us the title ”perceiver of external shadows.” It keeps us oblivious of the very existence of the Soul ; and perchance if under good Karma a man or woman hears about the Great Self and the Grand Hereafter, he does not cleave to the Self or reflect upon the Hereafter.
Let us quote the whole passage from The Voice of the Silence which advises the student-aspirant to master the mentaI changes in his Self and slay
the army of the thought sensations that, subtle and insidius,
creep unasked within the Soul's bright shrine,
If thou would'st not be slain by them, then must thou
harmless make thy own creations, the children of thy thoughts,
unseen, impalpable, that swarm round humankind, the progeny
and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils. Thou hast to study the
voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the seeming void.
O fearless Aspirant, look deep within the well of thine own heart,
and answer. Knowest thou of Self the powers, O thou perceiver of external shadows?
If thou dost not – then art thou lost.
Originating from the ocean of Jiva, Living Wisdom, these precepts vitalize, like Prana, those ”Few” to whom the Book of the Golden Precepts is dedicated. They possess the durability, constancy, utility and shining power of the royal metal – gold. They form most suitable frames for the priceless wisdom, the diamonds of truth, the rubies of love and the sapphires of beauty – the jewels for the Higher Life.
Let us study the precepts enshrined in the passage quoted above.
We have a shrine in the Astral Body, the shrine of our sensations, built on the pattern of the Akashic Temple of the Inner King, the Lord and Master, whose ambassador we are. Instead of taking our residence in the embassy provided by our royal master, we forget ”the kindred points of Heaven and Home” and hire a house where the sensations of pleasure and the dead and dying skeletons of old beliefs and customs tempt us, and we fall prey to them. Thus, thoughts alien to the Soul creep in insidiously, and a whole army of lower sensations is created.
The great Shankara has taught :–
Things of sense are more penetrating in the hurt they
cause than the venom of the black serpent. The poison
slays only him into whom it enters, but things of sense
destroy through mere beholding.
Our thoughts are often cruel and hateful, retaliatory and violent, and, though invisible to the naked eyes, they swarm round our fellow men, including those we love and respect. When we are cruel to someone we dislike, not only is he affected by our wrong emotion but all who come within the sphere of our influence, and among them are our friends and kin and innocent children, our own and our neighbours'. Our hate poisons us primarily and not only those we dislike, and more vitiates the very air we and they inhale. Retaliation and vengeance, like a boomerang, return to their originator. Violence may strike fear in another who is weak or ignorant and even innocent, but that vice causes psychic apoplexy in him who resorts to violence.
What is the remedy?
Says, once again, the great Shankara:–
When a sick man rightly uses medicine he is restored to health, but not through the right actions of another.
What medicine shall we use? Our Golden precept says: learn what is implict in a profound metaphysical truth – the interrelation between the vacuum and the plenum. What seems empty is full: standing on firm earth and gazing heavenwards at the sidereal orbs, man fancies that he is able to see the shining bodies because there is no obstruction between earth and heaven; he overlooks the fact that the ocean of air is there and rays of light are there: that the seeming void is full. On the other hand, a solid rock has nothing about it to suggest voidness; and yet the rock as a solid body is maya, says the ancient Sage, and the modern physicist recognizes that illusionary character of the rock in his own way: the rock is composed of atoms, electrons, protons, etc.; that rock is a seething body of motions, and the rock qua rock has a vacuous aspect.
The Majjhima Nikaya has this to say on the subject of the plenum and the vacuum :–
”By abiding in what (concept) are you now abiding in its fulness, Sariputta ? ”
”By abiding in (the concept of) emptiness am I now abiding in its fulness, Lord,”
”This is the abiding of 'great men: Sariputta, that is to say (the concept of) emptiness.”
In one way or another, by continuous study and meditation, the student-aspirant should acquire that habit of mind which discerns ”the voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the seeming void.” But neither study nor meditation will suffice. It is application leading to experience and realization which must be valued and used. Therefore we have to ”look deep within the well of [our] own heart,” and by self-examination, through purity and the exercise of virtue, we come to examine the Self, Its powers, Its character, Its nature. If it is true that we proceed from the Teachings to the Teachers, it is equally true that in abandoning as worthless the” external shadows” we come to know ” of Self the powers.”
The Self IS; it cannot be said of It that It was, is, or will be. All else come into existence, live and die to become different.
It is in the Well of the Heart that the Waters of Wisdom are to be found; drinking them, we become wise.
It is in the Well of the Heart that the Waters of Immortality are to be found; drinking them, we become immortal.
It is in the Well of the Heart that the Waters of Unity are to be found; drinking them, we shall become brothers to all men, brothers to all women, brothers to all children.
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