Daily Living … ‘Practices for The Quest’
Noel Duzevich, Safety Bay, Western Australia
Magazine Article: Theosophy in Australia, September 1999.
Volume Three of Dr Paul Brunton’s Notebooks contains a section entitled ‘Practices for the Quest’. Some of the hints and comments he gives concerning the spiritual life follow here and bear pondering upon as we approach our day to day living:
Aspirants should emulate the philosopher’s patience and not sit down every day to feel their spiritual pulse, as it were, constantly worrying as to whether they are making progress, remaining stagnant, or going backwards. We need to remember that enlightenment cannot be attained by a single act but only by slow degrees and constant toil. Yet unexpected cycles of quickened progress may come upon us unaware. There may be times when our inner being will seem to burst open in sudden bloom. But generally there will be no smooth onward progress all the way. Our spiritual situation will vary strikingly from time to time. The final accomplishment can be brought about only in stages.
At a certain stage of development, it is more important to work hard at self-improvement and to detect hidden weaknesses and remedy them than to attempt anything else.
It is true that many may find the quest more difficult without personal freedom to meditate undisturbed and without privacy to study the inspired texts. This will be more pronounced in the beginning perhaps. But a time will come when the circumstances may change outwardly or inwardly by the benignant work of grace.
At a certain stage, following a period of concentrated study or activity, it may become necessary to slow down for a while in order to achieve some measure of clarity and harmony – both in one’s inward and in one’s outward life. Further progress is not possible until this has been satisfactorily accomplished.
It is not enough to renounce something by excluding it from your physical life. You ought also to exclude it from memory and imagination.
An occasional and limited austerity, intended to help and strengthen the growing will, is valuable to everyone. It is even more valuable to the spiritual aspirant because it teaches one to dissociate the self from the body.
The simple life is rightly advocated as an accompaniment to the spiritual life. But the purpose of this advocacy should not be forgotten — to save time and thought from becoming too preoccupied with physical things. Yet those who draw help from beauty in art or nature, who are affected by colour and form, should not throw aside this cultural heritage in favour of bare, dull, dreary, and sometimes squalid surroundings in the name of simplicity.
Hindu religion and philosophy postulate four stages in a personal life on earth: that of the student; the householder; the forest dweller; and the final stage, the recluse or ascetic, in that order. At the completion of the householder stage, when all the family duties, work in the community, et cetera, have been fulfilled, the aspirant is then relatively free to pursue spiritual matters and peaceful contemplation if so desired, or the stage of the ‘forest dweller’. I like to think that I am entering that stage now and so these ‘’thoughts on daily life’ are offered from that perspective.
Daily life can be on the one hand, participating in and endeavouring to contribute to the community in which one resides, while at the same time aspiring to be a participant in the consciousness of higher realms. The Theosophia has been and is a continuing inspiration whilst attempting to balance these two aspects of daily life.
My day begins with an early morning period of sitting in the silence; watching the sun rise; breathing exercises to control the thoughts; turning the thoughts then to the Master. One favourite meditation begins: ‘O Gracious Lord, I enter Thy Radiance, and approach Thy Presence … ’ (to be found in Meditation by Clara Codd).
HPB wrote in Practical Occultism: ‘The “Master” in the Sanctuary of our souls is “the Higher Self” — the divine spirit whose conciousness is based upon and derived solely … from the Mind, which we have agreed to call the Human Soul (the “Spiritual Soul” being the vehicle of the Spirit.) One then waits patiently, humbly for the response from the “Overself”.’ The early morning practice creates a current of spiritual strength which will flow beneath the whole of the day’s activities and thoughts.
In the words of Geoffrey Hodson’s ‘Yoga of Light’ meditation: ‘inwardly vitalised, Self-recollected throughout the day’. Or, ‘The light found during our practice of mental quiet will then shine through our actions when we go out to mingle freely with the crowd.’ (The Secret Path by Paul Brunton) When one spends the day working in the garden, maintaining that essential contact with the earth, one becomes intensely aware of working in harmony with the elemental lives or nature spirits, and of the vibrant life flowing and present in all forms. There is such quiet joy felt when watching tiny honeyeaters splashing happily in the birdbath suspended from my backyard tree even on icy Winter mornings; the love and care of family and friends and animal companions. One is never alone in this world, all around us is evidence of the One Life. … ‘Life itself has speech and is never silent. And its utterance is not, as you that are deaf may suppose a cry, it is a song.’ (Light on The Path, Mabel Collins)
In my heart I celebrate the gift of Life which has led to so many learning experiences, both pleasurable and painful. And then there are books! These also are my companions and I am grateful for the theosophical and allied works which have enriched my life.
Some days may include a stroll to the sea, where one can bask in the aura of the Great Deva who presides over the bay. A great stream of energy surges through the body, lending it incredible lightness and a feeling as if one is about to levitate. Before sleep at night thoughts turn to a review of the day and the Golden Verses of Pythagoras (transl. Fabre D’Olivet). The Master is reported to have said (verse 22): ‘Let not sleep e’er close thy tired eyes without thou ask thyself; what have I omitted and what done.’ D’Olivet explains:
The first precept that Pythagoras gave to his disciples on entering the course of perfection tended to turn their thoughts upon themselves, to bring them to interrogate their actions, their thoughts, their discourses, to question the motives, to reflect in short upon their exterior movements and seek thus to know themselves.
Are the last five words the key?
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This version is slightly expanded from the orginal article.