By N. Sri Ram , president of the Theosophical Society , published as a booklet, by The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras, India, 1960, reprinted from the Theosophist, march 1960)
Delivered on Re-election
february 17, 1960
N. Sri Ram
[whenever Sri Ram says Society, he means the Theosophical Society (Adyar)]
Having been just re-elected President of the Society, it would perhaps be not inappropriate for me to make some remarks relevant to the whole business of an election, to the work of the Society as it stands at present, and the responsibilities of whoever happens to be the President. I want first to say how deeply I appreciate the trust placed in me by members in so many different parts of the world. I thank them all for the expression of their affection and good wishes.
The office to which I am called again is an office the responsibilities of which I ought to realize perhaps more than I did seven years ago. The President of the Theosophical Society is concerned not only with administration; in fact, that is only a small part of his responsibilities. He has also to edit The Theosophist, which is described as "the organ of The Theosophical Society," and inevitably members throughout the world look to him for some sort of guidance and direction. I always stress the fact that every single member should feel free to use his own judgment on all matters concerning the work, and in such a Society as ours, organized for Brotherhood, the activities of which must be based on mutual respect and freedom of the individual member, there can be no imposition from above, even with the best will in the world. Even so, the members do expect the President to disclose his mind and give a central lead with regard to matters which are important to all and concern the effective propagation of the Wisdom. It is not for him merely to go with the current, to echo the thoughts of others by finding out what everybody would like him to say, and then saying it. That would not be helping the work in reality. He has to strike that note which is needed and to which members in all parts of the world can respond in their freedom, out of their free understanding. Only in that way can there be created the necessary solidarity in a Society where every Section, Lodge and member is free to follow its or his own line, and yet there has to be unity. There has to be the spirit that will hold the body together in all its parts, and unity of action in the midst of the diversity of individual temperaments and capacities, without which the movement will stultify itself.
The note which the President strikes has to be just that note which is needed at the moment, both by the Society and for conditions in the world in general. For what we call Theosophical work is work for the benefit of humanity, its advance in a real sense, and its welfare. It is very difficult for anyone of us to know precisely what is the truth that is most needed at a particular time, and in what form it should be expressed, considering the circumstances and tendencies which obtain.
The character which the Society assumes and its effectiveness depend not only upon the President, but upon every single member who calls himself a Theosophist. The Society has to be a united spiritual republic in which there is harmony and co-operation but each one finds that law within himself, really the law of his uniqueness, by which his action and thought should be governed. Each one should discover the light that is in himself, and when he does so, he will shine with that light.
When I use the word "spiritual," it has of course a fullness of meaning which can never be completely expressed; but at least it has the meaning of unity and wisdom. Brotherhood means unity, and the first and most definite Object of the Society is the realization of the Universal Brotherhood, which is easy to speak of but much more difficult to accomplish in every aspect of one's living, in every context in life. It is not enough merely to realize our unity in the abstract; it must inspire us to action with a wisdom which applies to existing situations and problems. Wisdom is to judge and to act in every matter, whether great or small, but it has to take the form of knowing how to adapt one's own actions, which should spring from such truth as one realizes, to the views, actions, and points of view of others.
As regards the President of the Theosophical Society, his judgment as to his policy has necessarily to be based upon some knowledge of the minds of the members, their difficulties and problems, as well as the trends of thought in the world at large, without which it would be impossible for him to afford any guidance that will really help or tell.
In the Society as it has grown and developed, there is room for helpful activities of whatever type. There are members who may say of something in which they are specially interested: This is most important. Perhaps, it is, in its own way and for them, but then there are other groups to which something else seems more urgent and real. But all these different points of view have in some way to be brought into harmony and synthesized by those who are responsible for the movement. In order to achieve such a synthesis one has not merely to have an attitude of inclusiveness, willingness to consider everything worthwhile, but also a discrimination which draws the line clearly between what is good and what not. We must know our dharma and not fall for things that do not come within our province, that might, gathering momentum, even take the movement off its proper rails.
The spirit of the Wisdom, which is always more important than any letter, than any doctrine, should be manifested not merely in talks from the platform, in what we say to others, but also in the way we conduct our work. As I have said at other times, in such a movement as The Theosophical Society, it is inconceivable to me that any individual who is a true Theosophist can push himself forward, to the detriment of another. Therefore, all electioneering, overt or covert, which has in it the element of self-advancement seems to me to be completely ruled out. If I may take the liberty of intruding a personal reference into this context, neither this time nor in the previous election in 1952-53 have I ever suggested to anybody, either directly or indirectly, that he or she should vote for me. Standing as a candidate means to me only placing oneself at the disposal of one's fellow-members. If they ask one to act in a certain capacity and he finds he can do so, accedes; otherwise he fulfils his dharma by doing something else. Above all, there should be a feeling of brotherhood, which means no rivalry, no competition, no attempt to outshine another, no seeking of any success except the success of Truth. I am saying this because such a spirit will greatly help the Society, giving it dignity and strength, whether in a Section, Lodge, or the Society as a whole.
It has been said by a Master of the Wisdom that the movement was brought into existence in order that the crest-wave of intellectual advance may be guided into channels of spirituality. One has only to look at the world, with its bombs, missiles, experimentation on animals, and other brutalities to see that the advance of modern civilization is surely not running in that direction. Yet there are aspects of modern thought and knowledge which are of value.
Theosophy being the old-young Wisdom, the form it takes must incorporate into itself the best elements of the world's thought, and carry it further. Obviously, this is a task which is imposed not upon some one person, but upon all. There must be all the time on the part of each one a sense of not only looking back to our sources, but also moving forward. This means moving forward not to any new position for oneself but out of one's present ruts and limitations. It is not seeking something new, discarding the old; for Truth is ageless. New meanings lie latent even in the old truth as it has been stated. Our task is to make the relation between the old and the new, the ancient wisdom and modern thought, a relationship of beauty, of value and significance.
The world is moving inexorably, though almost invisibly, towards that unity in which alone lies the solution of its present troubles. And every Theosophist must help that movement, and also to establish in the world by degrees a purer, nobler culture than what obtains today, a less materialistic outlook with a greater regard for one's fellow-beings, more humanity, including humaneness to those creatures which belong to what we call the lesser kingdoms. Each and everyone of us has this duty, and he should not merely talk of the new era, but exemplify it in his life, in his actions, thinking, behavior and relationships. We have all read about the new age in different terms, as the new humanity of intuition, the Race which is yet to come, the civilization of the future, and so forth but the spirit of that future should be manifested by us here and now. Humanity stands at the end of an old and at the very beginning of a new, somewhat more spiritual cycle. The spiritual is that nature in ourselves which is truly beautiful, which is kind, in which are the truest values and which in action is always an exemplification of the fundamental unity of all beings.
It is only as we thus think, act and live, that we lay ourselves open to the help and guidance of Those at whose instance the Society was launched. Let me conclude my remarks by using those words of Dr. Annie Besant, so hallowed, which have rung out so many times from the platform of the Great Hall at Adyar:
May those who are the embodiments of Love Immortal bless with Their continued help and guidance the Society founded to further Their plans and work.
May They inspire it with Their Wisdom, sustain it by Their power and energize it with Their activity.
May we deserve that blessing and go forward under its aegis to new heights where there is a larger vision, and with that vision and its inspiration help, each in his way, to make life more beautiful, gentler, and better than it is at present.