Nilakantan Sri Ram
Extracts from the Presidential address 1967
Success in the real sense, so far as the cause of Theosophy is concerned, will depend on the spirit in which we meet, the friendliness towards one another, and the extent to which the quality of the Divine Wisdom is reflected in our thoughts, speech and acts.
... What we need to realize for our present purposes is the fact that the outlook, ways of thinking and the quality present in us can change along with our understanding. It is the individuals who constitute a Society, not the memorandum of association which may hang upon a wall. As regards the influence they exert on the Society, it is not only what the member formally accepts as truth which is important, but also the whole basis of his acceptance, what or how he thinks in relation to it, how it influences his practical conduct and life and his whole attitude to life in general and towards his fellow-beings. It is pertinent in this connection to recall what the Buddha said in reply to a question with regard to the basis of belief. I am not quoting His exact words, but He excluded every form of mechanical acceptance, out of whatever motives might induce one to conform, but said: Accept if the belief or idea commends itself to you by its intrinsic truth, [See the Kalama Suttra, from the Pali Canon - KH] and as conducive to the welfare of all, or in the language used by Him on another occasion, "the good of the many, the welfare of the multitude, the happiness of humanity."
These words indicate the only right motive for the propagation of what we may regard as truth and also the only state of mind and heart which will not distort one's mental process or the possibility of a pure intuition with regard to truth. The right kind of philosophy, I would prefer to call it right understanding, must be expressed in or conduce to right conduct and blossom into virtue. But virtue in mind, heart and every aspect of oneself is a state of being which is like an open flower that discloses its entire beauty. It is this beauty in the inner shape of one's being which is identical with Truth, though he may not realize it, it being a quality of that aspect of truth which belongs to the soul and spirit of man. We may discuss all things under the sun or beyond it, but in a Society concerned with the Divine Wisdom, the main interest must be centred in those truths which it is most important to understand, which may be described as life-giving, which will enable men here and now to make their lives beautiful and simple in a way that realizes their highest possibilities, and meet effectively all problems and every circumstance with good judgement and serenity.
These must necessarily be truths pertaining to the nature of oneself, to life and its possibilities, and to one's relations with all things and people, as determined by his thoughts, his understanding of them, and his reactions. I feel it is the understanding of these things pertaining to our lives - in which is included universal brotherhood - that alone can constitute a true basis for progress, whether for us as individuals or for the Society. H.P.B. warned us in 1888 against the danger of all such societies as ours degenerating into a sect with hard and fast dogmas, thus losing the vitality which "the living truth" alone can impart. The Society will equally fail of its purpose if it becomes a mere debating forum or a body of intellectuals comfortably dissecting doctrines. If the Society is to go forward or even serve its purpose there must be a quality of earnestness in all that we do on its behalf, a concern for human welfare and a spirit that regards no sacrifice as too great for the cause.
... It is asked sometimes: Has such a philosophy as that which the Society as a whole exists to foster and promote any value in the moder world whose trends of thought and values seem so very different? Perhaps the best way in which this question might be discussed is by raising a number of relevant and counter-questions: Has human nature or the phenomena pertaining to man's life or the nature of his personal problems changed fundamentally along with the revolution in outer conditions? Is Wisdom the same as the knowledge which marks our present progress? Is what a man needs to understand for his well-being and progress, in a sense in which it applies to his own being, identical with what pleases him and he believes in for the time? Also, may not Theosophy in essentials be a truth which we may think we understand but do not, and if so, is it not as much a matter for deep personal consideration and discovery now as it ever was to any speculative philosopher? Has not this philosophy primarily to do with life, rather than with various ideas which one may evolve out of his predilections and with which he occupies himself?
It seems to me that these and related questions are pertinent when considering what place Theosophy has in modern life, and well worth individual enquiry by every one of us. The Society will undergo a revolution when its thought, not set ideas but the process of thought in its members and in all whom it influences, begins to expose those aspects of truth pertaining to their lives, which they pass by because of the glitter and seduction of so much that is merely pretentious and tempting, but utterly superficial and hollow, in the way of life man is pursuing at present.
N. Sri Ram, president of the Theosophical Society Adyar, at the 92nd convention of the TS, Adyar, December 26th 1967 (The Theosophist, January 1968, p. 211, 214-215, 224)