There are no national or man-made boundaries in religion.  Religion can and should be used by anyone who finds it beneficial.  One might, for example, employ some of the efficacious Buddhist meditative techniques without becoming a Buddhist.  What is important is for each seeker to choose the way most suitable for himself.

Religion is, at best, a tool to help us control our minds. The aim is to transform the self-destructive thoughts of anger, greed, pride, jealousy and hatred into their opposites.  When one recognizes the destructive nature of negative emotions, attempts to control and transform them are logical and natural steps.  In Mahayana Buddhism there is the additional stipulation that self-control is for the sake of all other beings….

The noblest human qualities of honesty, sincerity, and a good heart will never result from money or be produced by machines.  Only the mind itself can produce these attitudes.  The mental development is not easy, nor can compassion come quickly.  It requires brave and consistent adherence to truth even in the midst of dishonesty and competitive aggression.  But it is the only viable approach for our future survival.

Universal responsibility is based on an understanding of the desire, the right and the possibility of achieving happiness for all beings.  When we recognize the importance of this outlook, a true sense of compassion becomes possible, and eventually, a natural reality.

Tenzin Gyatso

The XIV Dalai Lama

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What is universal responsibility?   Why is responsibility so strongly emphasized in theosophy?  What is the role of responsibility in religion in general?

Maybe universal responsibility is the idea that the actions of one effect the lives of all.  Each one of us has an effect on the improvement or impediments for the whole.

"If the action of one reacts on the lives of all, and this is the true scientific idea, then it is only by all men becoming brothers and all women sisters, and by all practicing in their daily lives true brotherhood and true sisterhood, that the real human solidarity, which lies at the root of the elevation of the race, can ever be attained."

The Key to Theosophy page 233

You have expressed the idea very much the way HPB does in the Key.  We all know how hard it is to get along with each other.  We have to make an effort.

What is the relationship between responsibility and duty?  We respond to the needs of those around us.  We take what tools, resources and abilities we can marshal and respond to the challenges of evolution around us.  Is not duty the same thing or at least similar?  Is it not what is due from us to others, to evolution, to humanity's pilgrimage?

I agree duty and responsibility are cut from the same cloth.  Sacrifices are made for our existence.  We can all appreciate what our parents have done for us.  We in turn must hold up others.  There is great dignity and fulfillment in doings one's part for the betterment of others.  Is responsibility the fulfillment of duty perhaps?

What blocks responsibility?  Why do we have so much trouble with it? From the comments so far you would be led to believe that it is easy but it is anything but easy.  What makes it so hard to be responsible?

This is a wonderfully important question. The desire mind revolves around the attraction of pleasure and the avoidance of pain scenario.  Responsibility revolves around an ethical scenario which transcends pain and pleasure.  To put our lives on an ethical track we must remove ourselves from a self-interested one and this is very difficult.  "To live to benefit mankind is the first step."  Says the Voice of the Silence.

I agree Grace.  

Ethics, or at least the path of Ethical Responsibility, requires a great deal of devotion. What you had mentioned, "To put our lives on an ethical track we must remove ourselves from a self-interested one..." is a very important, perhaps the best key given in our quest for self realization and the practice of Brotherhood.  Ethics in full application, I believe to be perhaps one of the highest forms of Universal service.  Perhaps a mandatory path to tread if I may say...

Such a thought brings to mind a few lines in Light on the Path;

"When a man is able to regard his own life as part of a whole like this he will no longer struggle in order to obtain any thing for himself. This is the surrender of personal rights."

"...When the disciple has fully recognized that the very thought of individual rights is only the outcome of the venomous quality in himself, that it is the hiss of the snake of self which poisons with its sting his own life and the lives of those about him..." 

"...after parting with the sense of individual rights, the disciple must part also with the sense of self-respect and of virtue."

These are very helpful points and passages for me.  I  appreciate them very much. The overriding idea from all that Kristan gives us here leads me to this conclusion: We are here as personalities and more grandly individualities not for oneself but to play a role in furthering the grand march towards universal human enlightenment.  There is a tendency in spiritual circles to talk about "my path", "my journey" etc.  But isn't it really our path, our journey that we are on together?  If we work for the enlightenment of the human race rather than worry about our own improvement, I believe we find the right way, the path of the heart.

Very true Grace,

We are here as personalities and more grandly individualities not for oneself but to play a role in furthering the grand march towards universal human enlightenment."

It is a fact in Nature that even the smallest amount of individual effort to identify with the One Life, the push towards higher spiritual evolution occurs, not only through out a specific kingdom, but all kingdoms;

"... all Nature thrills with joyous awe and feels subdued.  The silver star now twinkles out the news to the night-blossoms, the streamlet to the pebbles ripples out the tale; dark ocean-waves will roar it to the rocks surf-bound, scent-laden breezes sing it to the vales, and stately pines mysteriously whisper: "A Master has arisen, a MASTER OF THE DAY". "
[HPB; Voice]

The saint, the selfless volunteer, and the isolated sage absorbed in meditation, all tread the same path- the Universal Path- because they have successfully severed themselves from the isolating conditions, which most of us thrive in, and unfortunately strive to perfect.  Understanding one to be in possession of the Laws of Nature, our responsibility becomes great, our service and contribution, Universal.  

"Even in the earlier stages of his spiritual life, an aspirant for the higher life becomes a participator of the grand silent work in the spiritual enlightenment of his race---the current of the living moral and spiritual energy flowing from his heart being his humble contribution. "
[B.Shankar- Doctrine of Gita]

So, in the ease of a human being who has developed an unselfish love for humanity in himself.  He unites his highest qualities with the Logos, and, when the time of the final union comes, generates in it an impulse to incarnate for the good of humanity.  Even when it does not actually incarnate, it sends down its influence for the good of mankind.  This influence may be conceived as invisible spiritual grace that descends from heaven, and it is showered down upon humanity, as it were, whenever any great Mahatma unites his soul with the Logos."
[TSR Lectures...Gita]

As a parent or as a brother or sister we take on the responsibilities of being in a family.  We have pull our weight, we have to help out.  I suppose this is true at the spiritual level too.  We have to assume responsibility for all our emanations, all out thoughts, all our feelings because they effect others.  They either heal or hinder the growth of our fellow man.  To become responsible for all of this requires a very  high level of mindfulness, self-control, self-awareness, self-discipline and self-restraint.  If we truly fall in love with humanity, if we truly become altruistic we would take on this awesome task joyfully.  But alas we become forgetful and unmindful and fall away from the task.  I suppose that is natural enough, this cannot be accomplished overnight.  But we have to pick ourselves up and put ourselves back on the discipline of being fully responsible for all our creations and emanations. I think this is a big part of what the Religion of Responsibility means.

Religion of Responsibility

Divinity underlies all of life, but each man is responsible for his or her actions. The actions of one have a ripple effect upon all. Man grows through self-devised and self-induced efforts. Men largely reap the consequences of their choices and actions, good or bad, in this and future life times.

from the Universal Theosophy Web site

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Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on June 21, 2015 at 10:21am

If you consider Karma to be the Universal Law of the One Life, then what role does Karma, as a universal principle, play in responsibility?

Permalink Reply by Peter on June 23, 2015 at 11:17am

That's an interesting question, Alex.  It leads me to wonder can any law, whether or not universal, play any part in responsibility or duty?  Or is it that 'a law' or 'the Law' simply is what it is and can't be any different?

Are 'responsibility and duty' characteristics of sentient beings who have some sense of self awareness and appreciation of the laws of Nature and Life?.... in other words, beings who are morally responsible because they are capable of 'consciously' understanding the difference between 'right' and 'wrong' etc.

We could also ask to what extent are responsibility and duty characteristics we can apply to other kingdoms of nature, whether 'below' or 'above' humanity on the evolutionary scale?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on June 23, 2015 at 12:41pm

<Are 'responsibility and duty' characteristics of sentient beings who have some sense of self awareness and appreciation of the laws of Nature and Life?>

I think this is a very important key Peter.

I believe once a being whom is able to consciously understand some sense of moral codex, i.e., right from wrong, etc., responsibility becomes duty.  It is one thing acting impulsively or rather instinctually, like animals, as they haven't yet the full capacity to override and freely rationalize an action or response. However, being able to consciously reflect on something then square it to a moral and ethical code choose and rationalize the appropriate action is what I believe to be a very grand duty.  

I believe in the S.D. there is a well known quote, "Nature unaided fails..." Thinking of this line and considering all the many natures present in the human constitution, one must consider that every effort to devotedly walk the path of high moral and ethical code, one trains, or rather aids all of nature that is present in our constitution.

I personally believe this is the responsibility of every thinking human being on this planet.  It is difficult as we have private lives and public lives.  Some may make this differentiation, though  even in the privacy of our own homes or our own thoughts, we are watched and felt by almost an endless number of beings... something to consider, every moment goes felt, not a single one unfelt.  

To me this is our karmic responsibility/duty as rational, thinking, and responsible beings.


Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on June 26, 2015 at 8:27am

Maybe, like most words, the term Law, or Responsibility is in adequate to the task of explaining the reality.  If we turn to ancient terms like Dharma in Sanskrit or Sophrosyne in Greek I wonder if we come closer to what responsibility really means. (Rightness, Harmony, Excellence) Law in the modern mind is often a mechanical concept, whereas we know everything is alive and suffused with Intelligence.  The basic idea is perhaps that the unit is responsible to the whole and maybe not the other way around.  Units are finite and temporary, the Whole infinite and permanent.  Something like that perhaps.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on June 9, 2015 at 10:15pm

What exactly does it mean to make a religion of responsibility?  What would it mean if religion were that thing that ties us back, binds us back, to the whole?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on June 10, 2015 at 6:43pm

Hello Tamiko,

"Divinity underlies all of life, but each man is responsible for his or her actions. The actions of one have a ripple effect upon all."

The responsibility that is carried along with the understanding of the above portion, I find to be the Religion of Responsibility.  I truly believe that if one were to consider all of the number of lives, of which are practically infinite, being directly influenced as well as impacted on some level whether great or minutely subtle due to a thought or action, one must feel that strong sense of moral responsibility regarding the impressions cast upon those living beings. 

I've always considered the acts and thoughts of individuals as some sort of vapor.  When this vapor condenses it becomes a cloud, a body or rather representative of this totality of acts, thoughts, etc.  This cloud, further precipitates the results which showers down upon the kingdom to which it belongs.  What that particular kingdom, say the Human Kingdom, does with these results will continue to depend upon moral responsibility.  Thinking of the aspirant on the path of purification, though working on their own self, is indeed working for all others and the endless lives which make the fabric of the universe.  

Could we consider responsibility to be synonymous with Dharma?

I dont know if religion can hold someone back, bind them or isolate them.  However, we see quite a bit of "religious sects, cults, orders, persuasions" and so forth.  These are, in my opinion, nothing more then makings and weavings of the separative mind.  There are many schools, however, they essentially teach the same thing; Responsibility, Dharma.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on June 19, 2015 at 7:42am

Maybe responsibility is what we owe to the human race.  We have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends, co-workers etc. who make our own lives possible.  They support us so that we are in a position to support others.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on June 12, 2015 at 8:25am

The religion of responsibility is just another way of promoting the idea of a life of altruism.  Most human life revolves around the attitude of "what is in it for me?" it seems. The religion of responsibility says that a human life is about responding to the needs of others.  It has to do with taking one's place in the family of man and holding up what assistance one can offer to the great pilgrimage of humanity.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 14, 2015 at 3:30pm

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.”


― Anne Frank

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 14, 2015 at 3:31pm

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

― Eleanor Roosevelt

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on June 19, 2015 at 7:45am

Theosophy never seems to be advocating the assignment of blame.  The only enemy is the selfishness of the lower mind, our best friend the Self within.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on June 20, 2015 at 9:27am

What is the relationship between the idea of duty and the idea of responsibility?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on June 21, 2015 at 11:25am

"Men recognize obligations for kindness done and service rendered by fellow men; we have not yet begun to realize our responsibility and our duty to all the kingdoms of Nature. It is necessary for us to contemplate how invisible and visible aspects of all Nature flow into us and how from us radiate beneficent or baneful influences to every kingdom and literally to the four quarters of space itself. “He who enjoyeth what hath been given unto him by the gods, and offereth not a portion unto them, is even as a thief,” says the Gita."

B.P. Wadia  Studies in the Secret Doctrine   The Law of Sacrifice

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on June 23, 2015 at 11:45am

Is this not the concept of universal causality?  The three musketeers said "All for One and One for All."  You might also say, each one creates causes that effect all.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on June 29, 2015 at 1:02pm

I'm not too sure if this selection has been quoted, perhaps it may have, essentially.  I feel like it is a very valuable contribution to this discussion on Religion of Responsibility.

The following is from B.P. Wadia found in "Little Things and Little Lives;"

"The yoga os self-respect, which really means respecting other selves, must have a true spiritual foundation within one's self.  We will not be able to pour out love-respect towards other till we discern the duality of our own nature- the personal and the individual.  We cannot respect our own foibles and follies, but we have to tolerate them, while we are eradicating them.  Tolerance without the effort at eradication will develop psychic blindness within us; mere efforts at harsh eradication without due regard for the tanhaic elemental will fail; for we are dealing with living organisms which possess their own intelligence, and which we have brought within the sphere of our thought-feeling, and to which we have given a home.  When we have, with justice and humility, seen the good and the strong powers of our own Individuality, we also have developed the mercy aspect of justice, and the courage aspect of humility, and then we are truly capable of becoming like the "ripe mango fruit. as soft and sweet as its bright golden pulp for other's woes, as hard as that fruit's stone for thine own throes and sorrows."