According to the Dhammapada and the New Testament
The Theosophical Movement
First published in the February 1967
edition of “The Theosophical Movement”,
a monthly magazine published in
Mumbai, India, by U.L.T. Associates.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is made to say:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
People in the world are usually so glamoured by material possessions and objective things that money can buy, that they have no concept of the inner riches of the moral nature which are permanent and everlasting, and which have spiritual value. They can be acquired by persistent effort in the right direction, cannot be bought or sold with money, and in daily life they become the outer expressions of the inner grace. They need to be cultivated, but one must first have the perception that the moral nature of man belongs to the Immortal Self, and that the heart must yearn for it. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The will must be active to sustain those noble aspirations through the daily struggles of life. People want happiness but they seek it in the wrong direction, and so they are always unsatisfied. The fleeting pleasures are totally different from the happiness of the inner being.
In the “Dhammapada”, in the chapter on “Happiness”, verse 8 states:
“Health is the greatest of gifts; contentment is the greatest wealth; trust is the best of relationships; Nirvana is the highest happiness.”
How greatly this differs from the ordinary ideas of health and wealth, friendship and happiness! People are so accustomed to living superficially, without any understanding of the importance of the practice of ethics, that the cultivation of virtues and the disciplining and training of the lower self are entirely neglected. On one hand, poverty, starvation and misery, and, on the other, sense life and sensuous pleasures have played havoc to such an extent that chaos and confusion prevail throughout the world.
Health is the greatest of gifts
A sound mind in a sound body is an ancient adage, and together they are the most useful instruments for the work of the soul. In order to contact the objective universe, the physical body with its organs of sense and of action is necessary. It would be difficult for the self-conscious human soul to achieve its task in an ailing body, which is like a musical instrument that is broken and out of tune, and therefore useless for a musician. So, naturally, to be born healthy and to preserve that health throughout the soul's sojourn on earth is, indeed, the greatest of gifts. Health is not something conferred by someone, but is rather earned through careful efforts in previous incarnations. Good health, from the spiritual point of view, is not an athlete's strength; it is the activity and alertness of the physical instrument which is well-controlled to follow the behests of the soul within, and is sensitive to inner guidance. “Perfect physical health” is the first of the seven qualifications for chelaship, which, in some cases, may be modified for us of the present generation. Once the importance of the great work that lies ahead of each aspirant is understood, it will not be difficult to realize that a healthy body is, indeed, a great asset.
Man is a complex being of different constituents, each having its own part to play, and all must combine harmoniously to act through a living organism – the physical body. The body itself is made up of different parts which need to co-operate with each other, for then only will good health result. When one obeys the great laws of Nature and follows the path of moderation in his life, he is on the road to good health. The mind plays an important part in the life of an individual, for many ailments are but the result of wrong habits of thinking. Madame Blavatsky writes:
“Half, if not two-thirds of our ailings and diseases are the fruit of our imagination and fears. Destroy the latter and give another bent to the former, and nature will do the rest.”
The physician merely diagnoses the outward symptoms and prescribes treatment. Paracelsus states:
“Man is himself a cosmos. A physician who knows nothing about Cosmology will know little about diseases….If man were in possession of a perfect knowledge of self he would not need to be sick at all.”
Health is the natural condition of the body, and if body and mind are maintained in right relation, no man need fear disease. When the tendency of the lifetime is toward the ideal of usefulness to one's fellows, and the powers of mind are engaged in thoughts which develop the nobler, the truly human, side of man’s nature, the health of the body will very largely take care of itself. (“The Laws of Healing – Physical and Metaphysical”, p. 52)
Patanjali mentions sickness as the first of the obstacles in the way of the attainment of concentration. Instead of following wrong methods of cure, it is much better to form good habits of purity and cleanliness, so that one day the physical body becomes a living temple of a living god, a vehicle through which that god can help Nature and work on with her and serve his fellow beings from the true spiritual point of view.
Contentment is the greatest wealth
Today, in the prevalent atmosphere of gloom and despair all over the world, when people have such a craving for wealth, what a refreshingly different viewpoint the great Master Buddha presents in naming contentment as the greatest wealth! However rich a person, and however large his bank balance, he has to leave everything behind when quitting the mortal body, but true inner contentment is a noble characteristic which becomes part and parcel of his being. Perfect reliance on the Law brings one true contentment. “The Voice of the Silence” instructs us to rest content with fate. This is not passive contentment in the sense of submission without effort, but is rather the acceptance of whatever comes without grumbling and murmuring and with a cheerful attitude, so as to turn the forces of evil into good. The Law brings us what we need, not what we want; it moves from within each one in terms of his own strength and capacity. True contentment is the result of being devoted to one's own duties and responsibilities, and not a craving for rights and privileges. The more one has of worldly wealth, the more one desires, till one of the gates of hell, greed, is opened, and dishonest means to amass wealth are resorted to. True inner contentment comes, not by going into seclusion – there would be no merit in that – but by living in the world, going through the joys and sorrows of life, yet being not of the world. This means rising above the ways of the world by having an attitude to life which brings equanimity of mind and contentment of the heart.
How beautifully Oliver Goldsmith in his “Deserted Village” depicts the inner contentment of the poor villager:
A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man:
For him light labour spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more;
His best companions, innocence and health,
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
Trust is the best relationship
Lord Buddha was a true psychologist and a spiritual healer, and therefore taught that all the relationships in the world can be sustained by real trust in one another. How many hasty divorces could be avoided by understanding the true relationship that marriage demands! Lack of mutual understanding has caused family feuds and communal strifes. If members of a family had full trust and confidence in one another, if different communities loved one another as children of one Divine Life and Light, if nations were not fearful of one another and races did not compete with other races, there would be no strifes or wars. Doubt is a cankerous germ that corrupts and destroys; trust is the seed that fructifies in unity and harmony and everlasting friendship. Doubt arises in the lower, personal nature; trust is a divine trait of the higher self. Humanity in its infancy trusted its divine instructors, as a new-born babe trusts its mother, because the personal self, or the sense of “I”, “me”, “mine”, had not yet developed. H.P.B. quotes a Master in “The Secret Doctrine” (I, 643):
“With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbours will no more work to hurt us than we would think of harming them, the two-thirds of the World’s evil would vanish into thin air….This state will last….until we begin acting from within, instead of ever following impulses from without….Until then the only palliative to the evils of life is union and harmony – a Brotherhood IN ACTU, and altruism not simply in name.”
This indicates that so much of the distrust men feel towards one another is impulsive and imaginary. It is the result of lack of knowledge of the unity of life, harmony of law, reincarnation and Karma. With a clear concept of these great principles one would naturally begin to act from within, and trust would be felt and expressed spontaneously. So, in both individual and collective problems of home and office, societies and legislatures, trust is a great asset, a real bond of peace and good-will.
Nirvana is the highest happiness
Nirvana is the highest state of consciousness, of full enlightenment, of supreme peace and bliss – Ananda. It is freedom from the bondage of earthly existence, of the rounds of births and deaths. It is the Word made flesh, man transformed into god, and god working through a living man. It is the state attained by all the Buddhas and Christs of the race. The Esoteric Philosophy admits no gifts and privileges save what man wins for himself through his steadfast and persevering efforts, through successive lives on earth. Perfection in all departments of life is the goal of human evolution. From the valley of mire to the summit of glorious light Nirvanic is a long climb, but it is not an untrodden path, and there is the assurance of those who have left their footprints behind to help and guide us. At the very end, the choice has to be made whether one wishes to enjoy one's well-earned rest, or to come back to earth as a Master of Wisdom and Compassion to help other pilgrim-souls to reach their goal. The former, the path of rest and peace and bliss, is known as the path of liberation, the path of the Buddhas of selfishness, whereas the latter is known as the path of renunciation – the path of woe, “woe for the living Dead and helpless pity for the men of karmic sorrow.” This is the goal that a student of Theosophy keeps before his mind's eye throughout his life, remembering it through all his choices in daily life so that at the end it may not be difficult to choose it spontaneously, without any hesitation.
Thus, this Verse 8 in the chapter on “Happiness” in the “Dhammapada” indicates how health, physical and mental, is a necessary requisite on the way to Nirvana, how inner contentment is an invaluable possession, and how complete trust in other human beings leads one to unity and harmony with all, enabling one to spread heavenly joy in earthly existence. These are the treasures of life which cannot be destroyed or corrupted, but they shine through small, plain duties. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.