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The Campbell Library Newsletter

The Campbell Theosophical Research Library

An Educational Resource of The Theosophical Society in Australia

No 17 — June 2007


Remembering Brother Raja

Picure of Curuppumullage JinarajadasaCuruppumullage Jinarajadasa was born in 1875 in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. He wrote in his Autobiographical Sketch, using the third person (The American Theosophist, March 1943):

At the age of thirteen, he met C. W. Leadbeater, who assumed responsibility for his education up to the time of entering St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in 1900. … He [CWL] organized in 1886 an English School for boys. This School grew, and is now the important College in Ceylon with over a thousand boys, called Ananda College. … I had joined the School in 1886.

In 1889 he went to England with CWL and resided in A. P. Sinnett’s home, who had invited the former to be the tutor of his son Denny. CWL recalled their arrival in London:

We reached London the day after Christmas — a glorious season of happiness and good will, no doubt, but hardly the best time of year to transfer a boy from the splendid sunshine of Ceylon to the chilly fogs of London. We were, however, received at once into the ever hospitable home of Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, who were then living in Ladbroke Gardens, and we soon settled down into this very different order of things. I was to act as tutor to Mr. Sinnett’s son, and of course Raja shared in the lessons, as, a little later, did he who is now Dr. Arundale; and I think we were all very happy in our work together.

At the first opportunity I presented Raja to Madame Blavatsky, who was then staying at 17 Lansdowne Road, and she received her future Vice-President very graciously. … In 1895 Mrs. Besant most kindly invited us to join the Headquarters Staff, which was then established in her house at 19 Avenue Road, St. John’s Wood, and we resided there until she sold the lease at the end of the century. It was during this period that Mr. Jinarajadasa went up to Cambridge. He joined St. John’s College, and took up the study of Sanskrit and Philology. It was his intention to qualify in Law as well, but unfortunately his health failed, and he was unable to appear for the Law Tripos examination, though he had done the requisite study and had gained a high place in the “Mays”, the trial examination conducted by the College. He also bore a prominent part in another side of the University life, for he joined the Lady Margaret Rowing Club, and steered his College boat one year in the Lent races to a four-fold victory, thereby winning for it the headship of the River. He took a very good degree in 1900, and almost immediately afterwards returned to Ceylon, as we had the idea that his lifework might lie among his own countrymen. He seems to have been well received, for he was shortly made Vice-Principal of the Ananda College, but I fancy he soon found that there was but very limited scope there for his talent, and felt that he could do more effective work in Western countries.

(The Theosophist, November 1933)

Brother Raja, as he was affectionately known, began his career as an international lecturer for the TS in 1904. He occupied various positions in the Society, including international Vice-President between 1921 and 1928. He was Director of the Adyar Library (1930-1932) and was awarded the T. Subba Row Medal in 1913 for his contribution to theosophical literature. He addressed audiences in many countries of the world in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. He is the author of many books, including First Principles of Theosophy, Practical Theosophy, The New Humanity of Intuition, What Shall We Teach and Art as Will and Idea, among many others.

In an article in The Theosophist (June 1946), entitled “Books That Have Influenced Me”, he commented upon a number of books that had impressed him:

I take with me on my travels one book beautifully bound and in a special case to protect it; it is a German book, the libretto or “book of words” of Richard Wagner’s great trilogy, “The Ring of the Niebelung.” When first I heard the four music-dramas long years ago, I marked at the side what musical motives and what orchestration stood out for beauty and grandeur. As I read the book now, the words count for little, for it is the music and dramatic setting which gave me the soul’s refreshment I am seeking. Similarly, whenever I read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while I revel in its poetic charm, I see the picture of the play as I saw it once, acted in the open air one afternoon in a college garden in Cambridge. Sometimes it is the ideas in books that mould one’s life; sometimes it is the author’s personality that makes the ideas living. It is not easy to say who influences us most, the idea or the man behind the idea. …

Let me first mention, so as to be done with the subject, one author whose novels still enthral me. It is Dickens. I went to England as a boy when it was quite common to hear Dickens’ characters and their sayings quoted. That hardly ever happens now, except, strange to say, in the leaders of the London Times. Of course Thackeray is the larger mind, and the more charitable. While Dickens goes for the villain, hammer and tongs, Tackeray, like Shakespeare, has a soft spot in his heart for the villain too. But for real rest and refreshment, Dickens for me, not Thackeray.

His list also includes Ruskin (Unto this last, Crown of Wild Olive; “Ruskin gave me new eyes so that I saw things not taught us in our schools and universities.”); Carlyle (Sartor Resartus; “if you have been ‘up against things’, and so some of the veils of illusion have slipped away from your eyes, you will find Sartor Resartus invigorates your enfeebled spiritual sense.”); Cervantes’ Don Quijote (“…that book is recognized in Latin-American countries as the book par excellence of idealism. For, crazy though Don Quixote is, yet his madness is the result of trying to put into practice what Jesus Christ asked His followers to do: to protect the oppressed, to defend the weak, to challenge in His Name all forms of injustice.”); Hardy (“he has a deep humanitarian feeling.”); the Svetasvatara Upanishad (“the sublimity of thought, the intensity of devotion to God, the sense of the Oneness of all Life in the Divine, are unequalled by any other Upanishad.”) and “Wordsworth’s intense feeling that Nature is the mirror of God draws from me an instant response. When he sings:

To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,

He is describing feelings I know intimately.” He also included in his list the Bible, Plato and Shakespeare. It was during his presidency that The School of the Wisdom was started at Adyar. At its inaugural session, on 17 November 1949, he said:

There is an important distinction between Wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom will embrace within her field of operations every form of knowledge; but all knowledge in its entirety does not constitute Wisdom. Wherein lies the difference? …

It is the purpose of a School of the Wisdom to bring each student to survey things “from the centre”. This means, first, that every possible event or experience in the universe, not merely in the mechanical evolutionary processes but specially concerning every revelation of mankind, has to be brought into the circumference. All these aspects have then to be surveyed as from the centre, so that each aspect is seen in relation to all other aspects. When so surveyed, the aim is to go beyond the mental survey to a realization of the meaning both of the centre and of the circumference. …

The aim of a true School of the Wisdom, then, is to enable the individual to cease from being one who gives his intellectual adherence to a particular school of philosophy, and become by himself one who little by little surveys the problem of life directly from his own standpoint. It is the School’s purpose to equip its students to become, each according to his own temperament and aptitude, philosophers, scientists, ethical teachers, artists, givers of economic law, statesmen, educators, town planners and every other possible type of server of humanity. …

This intense sense of Life must always accompany the true student. There can be no Wisdom which is unaccompanied by an ever-increasing sense of Wonder. It is this sense that has well been described by Newton regarding himself:

“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

His view of Theosophy was dynamic, non-dogmatic, passionate and full of hope for the future of humanity. He shared it with the readers of The Theosophist (“Ever New Theosophy”, March, 1941):

… Theosophy is not a system of thought that is concluded. There is no textbook of Theosophy which can say: “All Theosophy is here.”

We, who are old students, must not imagine, because we have read many books, attended many study classes, or even are Theosophical lecturers and authors, that we know everything about Theosophy. If we have studied well, we realize that there are innumerable new aspects of Theosophy awaiting discovery by us. It is just that fact of new discoveries in Theosophy which makes Theosophy so intensely fascinating. …

In addition to all these aspects of Theosophy, we have during the last few years discovered a new field for Theosophical research. It is the domain of Art. We are beginning to realize that, without an understanding of the inner meaning which underlies the creations of art, it is not possible for a student of Theosophy to survey accurately all the creations of the Divine Mind.

How many new and inspiring aspects of Theosophy, which succeeding generations of Theosophists will discover, who shall say? We are only at the beginning of the discovery of Theosophy.

In all these remarks of mine, I want to make clear my thought that Theosophy is not a philosophy which is static or fixed, but one that grows. And therefore we who are old Theosophists must recollect that Theosophy is for us ever new. Though we have read Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine a dozen times, we are only at the beginning of our Theosophical discoveries. For, there is another Secret Doctrine which many of us Theosophists have not so far learned or read. It is the book of Nature. The sea, the hill, the great mountain range, the cloud, the lake, the tree, the flower, the pebble, each one of these is one page of a new Secret Doctrine; we must learn to read those pages also one by one, by identifying ourselves with them by our imagination and sympathy.

Those of us who are old in Theosophy have realized that true and lasting knowledge comes not solely by study, but also by action. It is only when knowledge is applied to human service, that our intellectual knowledge becomes an inseparable part of our inmost self. …

Of course, knowledge finally becomes our own only when we ponder over it in seclusion, and apply it to explain our joys and griefs, and try to understand the Law of Justice which we call Karma. Knowledge finally must be transmuted into Wisdom by each, and for himself. But study in company with others is a preliminary step. That is why each of us must treasure the privilege of membership in his Lodge, and try to make the Lodge a part of that inner structure of his mind, where he dwells as a seeker and as a server. …

No, Theosophy can never grow old. On the other hand, life offers each day to the wise Theosophist new and fascinating mysteries. Each day the Theosophist renews his youth; and, though his body grows old, he remains young in heart and mind. …

Though we live in mortal bodies, yet to feel as the eternal, undying Gods; to know that though our bodies grow weak and our brains less active with age, yet we are eternally young; to look at all men’s faces, even those of evil men, and yet to get a glimpse of a Divine Face behind each human face — it is these joys and wonders which Theosophy gives. What greater gift could life ever give to us? So, because we have received that gift from life, we are Theosophists now, and shall so remain in all our lives to come.

Brother Raja passed away at 5:54 p.m. on Thursday, 18 June 1953, at “Olcott”, the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America. N. Sri Ram, who had succeeded him as President of the TS, in his speech at the memorial meeting held in the Headquarters Hall at Adyar on the following day, said:

We may be sure the impression which he has left on the Society will not fade for a long time to come. His books still remain to help us to spread the message. He has written on a variety of subjects. … Last year he completed the work on Occult Chemistry, a subject which only he could have handled after the passing of Dr. Besant and Bishop Leadbeater. In spite of his ill health, he wanted to complete that work before he passed on, and he has realized that particular ambition. There is the Golden Book of the Theosophical Society, which he brought out for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Society, in 1925, dealing with the growth of the Society from its earliest days. There are, too, the Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, edited by him. There is no aspect of the Theosophical work with which he has not been intimately associated during the long period of his labours for the Society. …

I well remember how delighted the members in Italy were last October when they met him at Montecatini at the European Federation Congress and heard him address them in their own language, Italian. He had taken considerable pains to have his addresses translated into good Italian, and then read them to his audiences. On many occasions he made short speeches impromptu in Italian. He always prepared his addresses very carefully, as he wanted to be absolutely clear in thought and expression. When he visited the Spanish-speaking countries of South and Central America, the brethren there must have been equally delighted to hear him speak in their language. He was their link with Adyar, and when they wanted to put their ideas to officials here, they used him often as their channel. …

He longed to pass away because of his many ailments, which he found exceedingly troublesome. Perhaps none of us, even those who were quite close to him, fully realized how much he suffered. Yet it is remarkable how he always overcame the handicaps and went on with his varied work, literally both day and night. I have greatly admired his courage in being able to go on with what he wanted to do, in spite of every difficulty. He had the capacity, I know, to stand alone — perhaps feeling lonely sometimes — and do what was required. He had his own vision of Truth in his presentation of Theosophy, which had the characteristics both of a mystic and an occultist. He was both practical and idealistic. …

I feel that with his passing one particular epoch of the Society’s growth and activity has ended, and presumably another begins. The work has to go on, though leaders may come and go, because it is a continuing work for humanity, and the Society exists for its service. We honour any leader best when we continue and complete his work. The Theosophical Society is intended to go on long into the future. As each one of us makes up his mind to do his best for the Work, the gap left by the passing of these great leaders will to some extent be filled, and they will no doubt return in due course to carry on the work which in the meantime we have upheld with all our strength, our earnestness and devotion.

Picure by Jinarajadasa: Plan for the afterlife

Above: Brother Raja’s plan for the afterlife, from his book The Seven Veils Over Consciousness.

This Newsletter is published quarterly.
Editor: Pedro Oliveira, Education Coordinator of the Theosophical Society in Australia.
The Theosophical Society in Australia is not responsible for opinions expressed herein.


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