We will take up a short essay by Robert Crosbie called "The Cause of Sorrow".  This article weaves together many of the fundamental principles of Theosophy in regards to human suffering.  It touches on Karma, Cycles, Reincarnation, Human Nature and more in a very practical and straight forward way.

What is the cause of human sorrow and suffering?  This was the crucial question the Buddha asked along his journey to enlightenment.  If we are serious about the idea of Universal Brotherhood, so central to the Theosophical Movement, then this is a question we must address.

We will post paragraphs from the essay in hopes of soliciting your thoughts and questions.

Views: 659

Replies to This Discussion

First Paragraph:

We are never free from pain, sorrow, and suffering in the world. Pleasures come and go very lightly, but always the sorrow and suffering of life itself abides with us. If we could see and understand the cause of the sorrow existing in the world in every direction—not only the sorrows of the ordinary life but those brought about by collective action, as wars are—we should cease to make that cause. We have assumed that all these sorrows are due to external causes—to some higher being or beings, or to some outside laws of the universe; never to ourselves. And because we have never brought it home to ourselves that we are in any way connected with the causes of sorrow which come our way, we go on looking for something external to relieve us of those sorrows. Not all the religions that ever have existed on the face of the earth, not all that the sciences have so far achieved or may achieve will ever give us that knowledge, because the cause of sorrow does not lie outside; it lies within each one. Each one contains within himself the power to cause sorrow; he also has the power to cause its cessation.


I understand the core truth, that we are the cause of our own suffering, therefore, we have the power to end our suffering. Which reminds me of a Bill Cosby joke..."I brought you in this world, I can take you out!"

My question is this, can we really ever avoid suffering?  Buddhists believe that we should all be wary of attachment, that nothing is permanent.  However, we are human, we love our families, our jobs, our homes, our pets etc...I know and except that everything is impermanent, but I will still suffer when they go.  Unless we live as monks with vows of poverty and no family to look after, how does one attempt to avoid suffering?  


I think perhaps we can eventually not suffer, but for now, we're human and we suffer like you say.  No getting around it, avoiding it, or ignoring it.  We can say that suffering goes hand in hand with  attachment; I suffer when that which I'm attached to is gone. 

Getting to the root of why we're attached seems to be key here.  Your thought?  


Interesting Don.  I remembered something I read, not sure where but it eluded to this. If we had no fear we would not know courage, if we knew no war, we would not know peace, if we knew no sickness, we would not know health.  All of the great teachers suffered, Jesus, Siddhartha, etc, until they attained a higher existence. But as I thought about, "the great human condition", I realized that most of my spiritual growth came after suffering poor health, a crisis of faith, my fear of change, and people I loved.  I walked through the fire and came out on the other side. There are great lessons to be learned through suffering. Lessons which we might not otherwise have understood without suffering. I guess that's the point of it, after all we're in one big classroom. 

I love your big classroom analogy.  Right on.  Bravo.  The universe is for the education of the soul says Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

Thanks Shari.

Yes, the two opposites seem to go together.  And it sounds true that suffering has a way of moving internal changes along - like fire as you say.  We've all been there.  

I guess maybe suffering is what moves us forward and part of the process of being here.  

Don, great question:  What is the root of attachment?  Can we address this in simple language that anyone new to metaphysics could understand or gain from?

I think there is suffering and there is suffering.  When we suffer from past mistakes there is pain. When we suffer to accomplish something, or suffer overcoming limitations you might call that creative suffering.  So maybe that is the difference.  Creative suffering vs. destructive suffering.  If we want to lose weight or get better at tennis one has to engage in a discipline.  A discipline always involves some kind of suffering.  But if it is self-chosen and for something worthwhile the suffering is not something we are try to avoid but rather we embrace it as a necessary step in our growth.

So the bottom line is suffering does not always need to be seen as something bad necessarily. And when suffering is embraced as a important step in accomplishment then contentment is the result.   At least that is the theory.

So the old saying that every cloud has a silver lining rings true here.  We've discussed that tremendous inner growth can occur when going through tough times, and that through self induced suffering we are able to attain certain personal goals, then it wouldn't be unreasonable to feel gratitude when "bad stuff" happens because one will know that there will be an important lesson learned after the experience.  That's kind of a neat way to look at suffering.  It'd be tough to keep in a grateful mindset while going through life's challenges but not impossible.    


Hey Shari, 

I think the above paragraph alludes to the way we can release ourselves from suffering. Now I would think that suffering and pain are two different things. Where pain may be inevitable, suffering is a choice. 

"Each one contains within himself the power to cause sorrow; he also has the power to cause its cessation." 

What is this power? The power of our attention, our thought. Truly the only creative force in the Kosmos, thought is incessant in its activity. Through learning to control and direct our thoughts and subsequently its power, we may remove the "attachments" to physical experience. Attachment is purely mental. We decide, with our thoughts and beliefs, that something has so much meaning to us that without it, our lives suffer a loss of some kind. 

Many of the great masters have taught a bit of wisdom which I feel is very helpful to make a goal in our inner work. 

Look at everything the same. 

There is equal part and measure of God/Divinity/Light/Love in ALL things, inside and out. When we dissolve the false sense of separation and specialness (which is by no means an 'easy' task), we can relinquish the suffering of the inevitable 'disappearance' of those things of the flesh. 


That's really interesting Grimm, Your explanation reminded me somewhat of what my Father would often say to me, "You can't always control what will happen to you but you can control how you respond to it".  Later I found his sound advice was inspired by the quote by Charles R Swindoll which says;
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts.... We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.

Thanks Grimm, Dad might have known something after all!

Not only did your Father know something, he was very wise.  I think I would add that the attitude angle has many strings, not just one (although his analogy still holds up) and that how we respond to things either adds to the grand symphony of life or creates a disharmony.   We have all encountered people who seem to transform a challenging situation with a sense of humor or a clear view of things.  Bless their hearts.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 16, 2014 at 5:18am

I don't think we should try to avoid suffering, this causes suffering also.  I think we must come to grips with suffering, understand it, feel it, and then in time move past it.  Suffering is the result of either wanting to have something or wanting to avoid something.  As we are human we can't help but being pulled into wants.  We must learn to live with suffering, not avoid it.

Hope you are well Shari :)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 16, 2014 at 10:20am

Jeffrey you make a great point here. I believe it was the Buddha who said there are only two causes for suffering and two alone.   Wanting something you cannot have, or having something you do not want. You said the same thing in other words.  The common denominator is wanting.  It seems to me that when we get a grip on the wanting part we can make progress with the sway suffering has over us.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 3, 2014 at 3:30pm

Second Paragraph

The wisdom of the ages explains the cause of sorrow. It teaches that each being is spirit; that the power of spirit is illimitable, although we limit it because we assume that it is limited; that the changeless spirit in the heart of every being is behind every form, the cause and sustainer of all forms; that spirit is the force be hind evolution, and also the force that rules and relates all things of whatever grade; that every being is the result of an unfoldment from within outwards—of a desire for greater and greater expression. But we who have reached this stage of self-consciousness, unlike the lower kingdoms, now have the power of choice and can draw upon that illimitable source of our being and realize it while we live in a mortal and ever-changing body.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 4, 2014 at 10:30pm

  I think I get what the author is trying to convey but I'll need a bit of help. 

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 5, 2014 at 10:22am

Perhaps the bottom line here on this paragraph is that we are ultimately the pilots of our soul, masters of our own destiny. The power of choice affords us this power.   And that power comes from the Spirit within us.  But for this to make sense we have to have a long view, a many life view.  Nature moves very slowly and we are part of nature.

Permalink Reply by Ryan Hauck on April 5, 2014 at 12:28pm

Nature indeed does move slowly. However, would you not agree, that the presence of Man allows for a "quantum leap" in how Nature expresses itself? The power of choice, inherent in Spirit, is given expression through the Human vehicle alone. We can "collapse time" as it were, so the next leap in evolution does not need to take the 13 billion years it took to reach this point. 


Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 18, 2014 at 10:26am

I don't see any short cuts in nature, why would there be ones for mankind?  Is there a short cut to mastering the violin?  Why would there be short cuts in the most sacred of all endeavors?  Maybe that is not what you mean by Quantum leap.  It is probably true, what you say, in the respect that a great deal can be accomplished when the effort is focused sufficiently.   This is rarely the case, we are so often distracted.  But with enough concentration of effort a transformation can be undertaken.  This was the message of Gandhi.  He  considered himself a very ordinary person full of fears and shortcomings and he accomplished so much.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 6, 2014 at 9:09pm

3rd Paragraph

Desire, in a limited way, with regard to the personality, is the cause of all sin, sorrow, and suffering. Such desire is based on selfish thought; it is not what others desire; it heeds not any other urge than its own. The unfulfilled desires, it is, that hurt us; yet do the fulfilled desires give us happiness? Never, for so soon as they are achieved, there begins a further desire for something more, something greater. With many conflicting desires, then, we live upon each other, we prey upon each other, we devour each other, we injure each other—in every way. There is no necessity for all this. It never was the original plan—the original nature of the development of man. There is never any need to desire. All our woes are self-inflicted; the very inherent power of spirit has plunged us into them and maintains us in them.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 12, 2014 at 6:26pm

Found this the other day:

Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.  — Leonardo da Vinci

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 9, 2014 at 10:56pm

Fourth Paragraph

Yet misery, sorrow and suffering have a mission. It is usually only the misery we bring upon ourselves that makes us stop doing wrong, to look around and ask and see what is right. It is by our mistakes we learn to see the difference between right and wrong, and in seeing that difference is the whole story of progress. We have to be able to tell the difference. It is only through “opposites”—the perception of them and the employment of them—that any being can grow at all. There has always to be duality in nature. All human beings are One in spirit, dual in expression. Always there is the actor and something to act upon. Always there are the two—Purusha, the spirit, and Prakriti, matter—not two separate things, but two aspects of one and the same thing. No perception is possible unless we have that duality. We have to experience darkness first in order to see light, and so with the opposites of pleasure and pain. Without pain we could not understand pleasure; without pleasure we could not understand pain. What lies behind all advance in intelligence, from the lowest to the highest, is perception gained by that which acts, from that which is acted upon.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 12, 2014 at 6:31pm

What do you suppose Mr. Crosbie is trying to say with this line:

" What lies behind all advance in intelligence, from the lowest to the highest, is perception gained by that which acts, from that which is acted upon."

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 14, 2014 at 11:27pm

Fifth Paragraph

Law rules everywhere in nature in accord with the basis of duality. We call it the law of periodicity, but it is simply a statement of Karma, or action and reaction. What we call the laws of the elements are in reality but perceptions of the actions and reactions of various grades of intelligences. What we call our seasons, and all the cycles of time or of individuals, are covered by that law—reaction from action previously sent forth. The people who form a nation are people who were together in other times; their collective actions have brought them the same collective reactions. Every thought we have has its return of impression; every feeling we have has its return. All react upon us, coming back either impoverished or enriched. Thus, with the power to produce any kind of effect resident in us, we can understand the power of false, mistaken ideas. We can sustain these ideas interminably by the law of return of impression, and continually suffer reactions from them. The whole power of spirit used in a wrong direction, in ignorance of our own nature and the nature of beings in general, creates sorrow of every kind.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 15, 2014 at 1:28pm

What do you think Mr. Crosby means by "various grades of intelligence". I suppose he means the universe and everything in it all individually has it's own separate intelligence including each human being? 

I enjoy watching the show, "Through the Worm Hole", the one that Morgan Freeman narrates. There is a theory that the universe is a whole living organism itself. Which makes sense as there is a divine intelligence in everything and everything is one. Everything absolutely everything is connected. In that case is it individual intelligence or a whole encompassing intelligence?  Am I wrong to fuse quantum theory with Theosophical beliefs?

Is the definition of karma so simple as, "a statement of action and reaction?" Does this mean that mineral, rock, plants, animals, insects, matter and non matter such as the atmosphere... suffer or benefit from karma as well? Or do we use the term karma in regards to the human   soul/ spirit exclusively?

Does anyone have any thoughts regarding the point or final goal of our existence here in the Earth school? Is it to learn and attain enlightenment individually or is the ultimate goal to eventually elevate collectively. Will there always be pain as there is no avoiding the karma or actions made by others. As human beings we have the capability to think for ourselves.  Would it ever be possible for us to have the same perceptions to act collectively in the right direction as one or will Earth always be a school? We are taught History, regarding wars and such, in school as to not make the same mistakes.  However, History always seems to repeat itself. It will take many a millenium to act collectively if that is the goal.  

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 15, 2014 at 2:04pm

Hi Shari,

Interesting question you pose - "In that case is it individual intelligence or a whole encompassing intelligence?"

I ask this myself.  My immediate follow up to myself is - perhaps it's both and that they're one and the same.  In ancient commentaries - they mention the great mystery called the 'one and the many'.   What do you think of that? 




Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 15, 2014 at 2:06pm

You've asked another great question which is:  "Is it (our mission here as humans) to learn and attain enlightenment individually or is the ultimate goal to eventually elevate collectively(?)."

My reply would be - it appears we each have different missions regarding this.  I hope and trust that mine is to work for the whole.  Working for only my enlightenment seems awfully self-centered.  What do you suppose your mission is - your enlightenment or to assist in the enlightenment of all?  Are they mutually exclusive?  I ask this too.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 15, 2014 at 9:30pm

Well Shari when I urged members to ask questions I did not know what we were bargaining for!

You have given us more than a few.

One thing about the individual consciousness issue.  The word individual in theosophy is closer to its original meaning than its contemporary meaning.  In + Dividual = Not Divided   you can look it up.  An Individual is someone that has become whole. At one time is would be considered a term similar to the term Soul.  Using the Greek saying, "Man is the Microcosm of the Macrocosm" in other words we have the capacity to reflect the whole in our manifest nature.   What being fully "individual" means is to know the connectedness and wholeness of all of manifestation.  Not to feel or act separate from the whole.  Plato called the spiritual quest a process of Individuation.  Becoming whole again.

 The most common  experience for most human beings is that we are separate and disconnected from each other.  This sense of being disconnected leads to all sorts of troubles for us.  Overcoming this is the central problem of the human condition according to the Buddha.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 15, 2014 at 11:28pm

I think we are  here for each other.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 16, 2014 at 10:46am

I agree.  You know, even if we appy a hard logic to this - wherein, if we aren't in truth an independent being but rather part of a larger 'whole', then it would follow that our actions would ultimately be required to assist in the benefit of the whole.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 17, 2014 at 11:16am

I think it is Mr. Judge who says that we study, not so much for ourselves, but to prepare ourselves to better help and teach others.  Maybe it is like a doctor or nurse who studies medicine, not such much to maintain their own health, albeit that is important too, but to heal one's fellow man.   This is the altruistic approach of theosophy.  Here is something from the ULT theosophy school declaration.

Declaration of Theosophy Students

First: Devotion to the cause of Masters by studying and applying the Three Fundamental Principles  of Theosophy. This means revering the laws of Brotherhood; it means realizing the SELF by acting for and as the SELF of all creatures.

Second: To understand the universal basis of the Theosophical Movement, past and present.  This means learning from all the Great Teachers of humanity.

Third: To fit its members to become true citizens of a Republic of Brotherhood in one’s own land and throughout the world.  This means becoming true Theosophists.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 17, 2014 at 1:30pm

Good comments, thanks Gerry.

If all this learning, talking, thinking and living were for our personal selves, our salvation and enlightenment, what a tragic waste of good energy.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 16, 2014 at 7:52pm

That sounds and feels true for me as well Gerry and Don.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 17, 2014 at 10:57am

I love Gandhi's admonition: "The secret of life is selfless service."

I think all mothers know this intuitively.  Us guys need more schooling.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 18, 2014 at 3:48am

Does anyone have any thoughts regarding the point or final goal of our existence here in the Earth school? 

Answer: Love...Compassion because it is only with love and compassion that one can truly grow and overcome his or her limitations.  Hatred, anger, clinging to things we think we want and trying to avoid those things we think we do not want, these limit who and what we are.  We must look deeply within ourselves and at the same time go out of ourselves to show love and compassion to others.  I've found that the more I endeavor to practice compassion and love towards others the more I feel complete and whole.  We are all ONE and so showing compassion to others is also showing compassion to ourselves.   A very long journey as we all know.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 18, 2014 at 9:10am


Agreed.  You know, I read a phrase the other day that went something like this..'the wise  focus only on love and compassion'.

Pretty simple idea.. 

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 18, 2014 at 9:24am

I love your post Jeffrey and Don!  Gerry encouraged me to clearly define my questions when I read various works that I can't quite wrap my brain around.  I can't tell you what fun my spiritual journey becomes when the universe rises up to meet me and poses answers to what I seek. I was tooling around on the Universal Theosophy website and came upon an article by William Quan Judge on Reincarnation from,"The Ocean of Theosophy".  

"What then is the universe for, and for what final purpose is man the immortal thinker here in evolution? It is all for the experience and emancipation of the soul, for the purpose of raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, nature, and dignity of conscious god-hood. The great aim is to reach self-consciousness; not through a race or a tribe or some favored nation, but by and through the perfecting, after transformation, of the whole mass of matter as well as what we now call soul. Nothing is or is to be left out. The aim for present man is his initiation into complete knowledge, and for the other kingdoms below him that they may be raised up gradually from stage to stage to be in time initiated also. This is evolution carried to its highest power; it is a magnificent prospect; it makes of man a god, and gives to every part of nature the possibility of being one day the same; there is strength and nobility in it, for by this no man is dwarfed and belittled, for no one is so originally sinful that he cannot rise above all sin. Treated from the materialistic position of Science, evolution takes in but half of life; while the religious conception of it is a mixture of nonsense and fear. Present religions keep the element of fear, and at the same time imagine that an Almighty being can think of no other earth but this and has to govern this one very imperfectly. But the old theosophical view makes the universe a vast, complete, and perfect whole." 

The whole article is amazing and what a blessing to just happen upon a perfect answer just by posing the question!  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 18, 2014 at 10:19am

Shari, thanks for sharing this very much.  William Quan Judge's Ocean of Theosophy is one of the most important books to come out of the modern Theosophical Movement.  Mr. Crosbie was a student of his and a great admirer.

I hope we can take up this work some time in the future on the Tnexus.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 18, 2014 at 7:26pm

Thanks Sheri, I love that quote!!  I seem to give one a grand and positive outlook on Life.  Thanks for sharing it.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 18, 2014 at 10:09am

To what extent can we know love and compassion while we are trapped in personal separative consciousness?   Sorry to play the devil's  advocate but is it possible that even love and compassion can be hijacked by kama-manas and be servants of the personal will to power or importance or pride?

When Mr. Crosbie talks about the cause of sorrow, is he not talking about the problems caused by human beings trapped in separative consciousness?

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 18, 2014 at 10:20am

Gerry, I suppose 'that depends'..

Even while in the so-called states of 'personality' or egoity, and because there aren't always hard lines between states of being, I think love and compassion are felt. 

I think we find that much of the time that there are competing pulls from the more personal, less compassionate states.  I think the level of love or compassion found depends upon the balance or level of those inner attractions.  I think that the less we're pulled by the kama-manas (the self serving), a greater level of compassion is felt - from buddhi-manas (the all serving).   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 18, 2014 at 10:32am

I guess what I was getting at is that love and compassion must be universalized and this is where the rub comes in.  I love my family but will prefer it and even protect it from yours, lets say.  I have compassion for my neighbor with the heart attack but I am angry with my alcoholic uncle who is harming my cousins.

When we draw circles around love and compassion this way are we not bumping up against separative consciousness?

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 21, 2014 at 10:12am

Yes, I'd say we are bumping up against the boundries of our separate way of thinking.   The rub is that we have the ideal of compassion for all, yet our actions betray our ideals.  

Can we 'think' our way towards this ideal of compassion?   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 21, 2014 at 11:04am

Well wouldn't thinking be a big part of the process?  Don't we need to uncover what it is that is blocking compassion?  There is no wishing the blockages away.  We have blockages, and have to face up to it.  If there were no blockages we would already be enlightened.  From this point of view, Philosophy (thinking) is the process of clearing up muddles in our conceptions.  Our conceptions are erroneous by and large, or lets say imperfect and they need to be universalized and spiritualized perhaps.  And no one can do this for you.  Each person must do this for themselves.

The church tried to skip over all this and just say to people, believe these things, follow these patterns and salvation (enlightenment) will be given to you.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 22, 2014 at 3:06pm

Yes, it would.  But I don't think that our thinking, manas, would be the entire 'process' of discovering the necessity of compassion.   

It would seem that thinking, while critical and a part of the process that provides a logical, conceptual and reasoned meaning for being compassionate, would fall short of supplying a strong, inner 'agreement' or understanding for the need to be compassionate.

It seems that one becomes compassionate because of something inside which requires one to be compassionate.  There is no choice in other words..   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 22, 2014 at 3:16pm

I see what  you mean Don, you are pointing to a heart quality right?

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 22, 2014 at 4:08pm

Yes, that's what I'm trying to say.  Pretty hard to describe the heart quality. 

It seems we have a limited ability to describe in words the inner being - a place where these kinds of matters are more completely determined.   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 23, 2014 at 11:24am

Don, if someone forced you to define "Heart Quality" how would you do so?   A further question would be what role does the mind play in developing a heart quality?

I don't mean to put Don on the spot.  Do others have ideas about these questions?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 18, 2014 at 7:24pm

By going out of ourselves, letting ourselves be vulnerable, by sacrifice large and small.  Separateness is only an illusion, or so I've been told.  No one is perfect and self centeredness will be involved in actions that are altruistic.  But that is o.k., the first step is just that and we can never experience love and compassion until we take that first step.  Perhaps we have grown a bit when we can do good for another without seeking reward or anything in return.  Besides if we are truly One, anything we do to or for another we do unto ourselves. 

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 9:56pm

In regards to your last question Shari how about "living, loving and learning".

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 18, 2014 at 10:36am

Paragraph 6

No one can stop us in our mistaken course so long as we foolishly entertain false ideas. Our evolution has been brought about by us under the laws of our own operation—action and reaction within ourselves—and in no other way. It is a mistake to think that good comes to us from outside quarters. It never does. Whatever good or whatever evil comes is the reaping of what we have sown, in every way and in every circumstance. There are no exceptions. We look for “justice.” We are getting it, according to our own thought and action. For let us remember that the plane of action is thought itself, that is to say—ideas. Action is merely the sequence of the concretion of thought. So there is every necessity for us to clear out the rubbish which we hold as ideas. Our “minds,” as a rule, are found to be made of a bundle of ideas that somebody has handed on to us. We accept the ideas of the race, of the people about us, of this “ism” or that “ology,” and call it our mind, when, in reality, we have no mind of our own at all. The mind is the power to receive and to reject. What we receive and what we reject depends upon ourselves—on our ignorance or on our wisdom. There is nothing outside we have to learn, but every thing inside. The task we have at hand is to understand our own natures.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 24, 2014 at 11:51pm

The experiences we have in life may look "bad" at the time but most often later prove to be valuable. If nothing else we gain wisdom and strength (no pain, no gain).  I describe my life as a grand tapestry.  When I look back at my life I see a beautiful tapestry that has been woven by me and for me.  Every experience whether my perception was "good" or "bad" at the time was necessary. 

I don't know if we can avoid attachment in our human form.  Maslow's hierarchy of needs model suggests that the first need we have is for our basic survival and continues all the way up the pyramid to self actualization.  I wouldn't say that water, food and oxygen are desires.  I would call them necessities. Maslow further explains that, "One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs.   Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization".  

Maslow model describes the process of spiritual enlightenment beautifully.  As each lesson is learned we elevate to higher levels of growth and are that much closer to enlightenment.  

Practicing mindfulness could at the very least shorten the time we suffer.  When I learned how to meditate I found and still find that my mind would run in all sorts of crazy directions.  I was told that if I simply acknowledged the thought, released it and brought my attention back to my breath I would eventually train my brain to quite down. Like meditation, practicing mindfulness throughout the day could prove beneficial to help prevent suffering. When something "bad" happens we could acknowledge the experience for what it is, release the desire that it could be any different, and breathe while recognizing that every experience is part our education.  If we practice mindfulness everyday we may be able to shake ourselves awake periodically knowing that everything is as it should be.  Identifying the cause of our suffering could help guide us to the source of our attachment where we are more equipped to overcome it.  

To be able to look objectively at a situation, without distortion, is an important quality for achieving higher levels of wisdom. When we take responsibility for our emotions and recognise that we alone are the creators of our suffering, we'll be more likely to awaken and get back on the path to spiritual growth.  In doing so our true nature will eventually reveal itself.    

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 11:28pm

An extremely important part of spiritual meditation is to extract and put oneself aside temporarily.  If we can do this, even for a few moments, we can bask in a larger sense of Self beyond this temporal one.

Permalink Reply by Edijs Edy on April 22, 2014 at 8:48pm

Every single person in this world has a unique perception about happiness and sorrow. It might sound a bit weird, but sorrow is a consequence of love, or even better, attachement. It might be the way of nature trying to balance everything. So, the way I see it, simplicity is the solution. Simplicity!

Permalink Reply by Debashree Das on April 22, 2014 at 9:41pm

Yes..... sorrow is simply due to attachment.That is why it is taught to walk the path of desirelessness.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 23, 2014 at 11:20am

And as we all know that Path is very difficult.  Always easier to talk about than to do.

I think one of the main things that Mr. Crosbie is trying to say about sorrow is that it is entirely self created and therefore the individual has the power to extricate him or herself from the sorrow given sufficient effort.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 23, 2014 at 4:54pm

How does one walk the path of desirelessness?  We all eventually desire something...sleep after a long day, food when hungry, water when thirsty.  Perhaps it would make more sense to modify one's desires?  I am not sure that one could no longer desire anything.  Thought I do believe we can learn to deal with our desires and learn to do without those things we really don't need.  What does everyone think?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 24, 2014 at 11:49am

Great question.  Perhaps we could start by  elevating our desires.  Desire that which is needed for humanity's upliftment and enlightenment.  Desire to have the strength to help  our fellow man.  Maybe this is a way of moving in the right direction too.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 23, 2014 at 11:21am

In an earlier discussion in the Art of Living Group we took up the question: What is happiness?  It brought out a lot of good points, questions and comments.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 23, 2014 at 5:00pm

Happiness, true happiness, is being content with what you have and being content when you no longer have it.  Regardless of one's situation someone with a positive attitude will almost always do well and overcome difficulties.  They can let go when need be and be content when they feel all is well....It is a hard thing to be content.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Debashree Das on April 24, 2014 at 1:15am

As you have mentioned........ "true happiness, is being content with what you have and being content when you no longer have it "....  this itself isdetachment ... when you are no longer dependent on something. When it is there enjoy it but in its absence don't long for it.This is the state of desirelessness.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 24, 2014 at 11:44am

It occurred to me that you can look at this from another point of view.  If you were grateful for whatever blessings life offered you and grateful for whatever afflictions in the world are not currently troubling you at the moment you would be moving in the right direction.  Full detachment is very difficult.  Easy to talk about very hard to do.  We have all lost loved ones; a parent, a spouse, a child, a career, a pet.  It still hurts.   But if we count our blessings we are moving in the right direction I think.  What do you think?

Permalink Reply by Debashree Das on April 25, 2014 at 10:02am

This is a  wonderful and wise way to approach life.  But I still maintain... detachment is the goal in the long term. The Sages and Adepts have done it ...  it is very difficult but not impossible.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on April 26, 2014 at 4:10pm

No, not impossible at all.  Spiritual traditions underscore the need of detachment and the adage – be in the world but not of the world – is a common idea among students.  However, detachment is more a result of living in our High Self than a quality to develop because the way students cultivate detachment often translate into repressed emotions, which is unhealthy and brings on psychological problems, or students unintentionally deepen the separate feeling towards others by isolating the ego. 

When we become attune to the emanation of our Higher Self, things of evanescent nature become unattractive, like a teenager who no longer is interested or attached to the toys that was once cherished at a younger age.  We begin to understand that it is the superficial personality which holds attachment.    Our relationship with others including those close to us changes as well, when our ego recedes further into the background, and the awareness of the One Life gains predominance.  The allurement to the forms fade and detachment to anything of this world becomes inevitable and natural.  


Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 30, 2014 at 11:00am

This idea of Barbaram provides a test:  Am I becoming more sensitive, more in tune, more receptive to other people or am I doing the opposite?

Which direction am I moving in?

The Voice of the Silence talks about atuning one's heart to the heart of all mankind.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 4:12pm

barbaram, brilliant!!! What a beautiful and practical explanation of growth.  

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on May 13, 2014 at 6:32pm

I agree that detachment- desirelessness- is probably the best way to go about negating sorrow.  Some say that this is the only way.  

However this comes with a price, which many people refuse to pay.  As I had briefly mentioned in the Gita discussion, there is, or rather appears to be a intimate and immediate connection between sorrow and love, joy and happiness, etc. and with investigation and with a careful experimental process, we can surly find this to be true.  Perhaps it isn't sorrow that is the issue, as sorrow seems to be the effect of some other action/attachment.  Resort to systematic investigation to find the cause! 

Sri Chandarashekarendra Saraswati ("sage of Kanchi") says;  

"Our love for others ends in sorrow.  However, if there is no love there is no meaning in life.  What is the solution to this problem?  We must create such love as will never change, love that will be enduring.  The object of our love must  never be separated from us, never desert us. [....] What is that object?  The Paramatman."

Again, we must first begin to question what "human nature" is.  Human nature is a condition, we must not forget this.  Even if detachment and desirelessness is difficult and hard to do, it is necessary.  Many great Sages and Adepts have displayed undying devotion and recommended that one must put 100% into this process.

Again, the Sage of Kanchi states;

"The question arises: If one is to love the Paramatman that never perishes, does it mean that we must not love anyone else, that we must not love others because they will perish one day? If our love for the Supreme Being keeps growing the truth will dawn on us that there is no one or nothing other than He. All those whom we loved, all those who caused us sorrow by being separated from us, they too will seem to us the imperishable Supreme Being. We must learn to look upon the entire universe as the Paramatman and love it as such. Our love then shall never be a cause of sorrow."

Permalink Reply by barbaram on May 16, 2014 at 4:06pm

Some very great points - there is always a price and few are ready to relinquish that which they cherish, but how could we pour water into a full vessel when it is not empty.   


Permalink Reply by Peter on April 25, 2014 at 12:45pm

Gerry, I suspect that even the thief, the criminal or just the very greedy individual may 'count his/her blessings' at times. So that may not necessarily be linked to moving in the right direction!

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 4:18pm

I think we are indeed moving in the right direction by counting our blessings.  It's the blessings we are grateful for that determines the right direction. If the point of existence is to eventually become enlightened, and each experience is imbedded with lessons (if we choose to learn them), then is anything in the wrong direction or just the path our souls have chosen? 

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 30, 2014 at 4:52pm

I think gratitude is a big part of a theosophical life.  Detachment is a mental condition devoid of excessive desire.  If we are profoundly grateful for what blessings we have it is usually in proportion to how little we are worrying about what we don't have.  I agree with Shari, it indicates moving in the right direction.  The next step would be to want to give back and make life better for others as a way to act on that gratitude.

One of the Master's is remembered for saying, in regards to appreciation for those who work for the upliftment of humanity, "Ingratitude is not one of our vices."

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 23, 2014 at 11:41am

Paragraph 7

If any great number of beings in this world should reach the understanding of their own natures, and so exercise their inherent spiritual powers for the benefit of their fellow-men, in no long time we should find the misery of the world most wonderfully abated. As was said of old, a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. And one of our Teachers said, “Give me five hundred good, earnest, sincere, devoted men and women and I will move the world.” Our success does not depend upon any form of physical evolution, nor upon any form of scientific advancement. These are but means and not ends in themselves, though did we but know our own real powers, they could be carried to a pitch not yet dreamed of. We must and eventually will carry the civilization of the world to a higher stage than has ever before existed, but that will never be until men realize their own natures and act from that basis. We can go on indefinitely repeating the present thinking and acting, but so long as we do, just so long will there be sin and sorrow and suffering. Never will they cease, nor wars, diseases, pestilences, tornadoes, cyclones, nor earthquakes—for all these come from man’s errors.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 23, 2014 at 12:13pm

Gerry asks (you're not putting me on the spot Gerry!) "if someone forced you to define "Heart Quality" how would you do so?   A further question would be what role does the mind play in developing a heart quality?"

Let me see.  Heart quality to me is a quality of knowing something without thought.  It holds a deep resonation or foundational 'yes' quality to it.  We all have this of course.  Interestingly, it actually resonates in the physical heart region.  It evokes compassion. 

The mind plays an important part of the 'process' - it paves the way so to speak.  It can open the door to the heart.   

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 26, 2014 at 5:44am

" A further question would be what role does the mind play in developing a heart quality?"   

The mind plays one of the main roles.  Our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs create the realities that we experience in our lives and draw to us conditions in which we learn, grow, and evolve.  There is more to it, I think than merely thinking something.  I believe emotion and desire are needed to energize those thoughts.  Hateful people create a hateful world, compassionate people create a world of compassion.  All real and lasting change in this world must first be established in the individual mind/soul and then be transmitted to those around before society and culture changes.  Ideas are like infections...they spread person to person and are either embraced or rejected depending upon the attitude and mindset of the receivers.  Nazi Germany is a prime example of this....one man used ideas and beliefs that brought an entire nation to war with the world and created a living hell for millions.  What is more dangerous, a nuclear bomb or an idea?

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 26, 2014 at 6:57am

Jeffrey, I love this quote from Mahatma Gandhi.  "Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words.  Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they will become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they will become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny".  I believe the mind is the only factor in the creation of our reality.  

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 26, 2014 at 2:02pm

I agree with you, but I think mind is one component, or do you think mind is itself the totality which composed of various things?  If this is true what is spirit or soul?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 30, 2014 at 10:52am

I am not sure this is the answer you were looking for but it is important to remember that all these terms (mind, soul, spirit etc.) refer to various gradations of the same thing and are used differently by different people.  There are not hard and fast distinctions between say Manas and Buddhi but one blends into the other and each contains seeds of each other.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 11:31am

I had to get clarity on the manas and buddhi so I looked them up and found the following;  

"There are Four Functions of Mind: 

The aspirant should: 

So am I correct that as an observer, the (Atman), we should observe which of the four functions of our minds help create our ideas or lead us to adopt ideas of others. Through the observer (Atman) we may attempt to gain clarity to help us make decisions that are good for our spiritual development. Does this make sense?  I haven't learned so much about the manas and the buddhi yet.  

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 30, 2014 at 4:00pm


You may want to read W.Q.Judge's description of Manas which may help:


and G.de Purucker on the Buddhic principle:


Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 4:22pm

I will do so Don.  Thanks!  I'm very new to theosophy and though I have read many different texts, I haven't tackled all the core material from Theosophy's founders.  

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 1, 2014 at 7:22am

Shari - yes, in the Indian spiritual traditions "mind" is often used as the collective term for manas, chitta, ahamkara and buddhi.  These four are also referred together as the antakaranah.  It is this antakaranah which is the reincarnating entity in those traditions, while Atman is the true Self. The exercise of observing these four functions at work in our day to day lives has the aim of helping the individual establish and realise themselves as the perceiving consciousness which has its source in the Atman.

In the above system of thought, manas is the mediator between buddhi and the external world.  It carries information from the world (gained through the senses) to buddhi; it also carries the results of buddhi's discrimination and judgement into the outer world where it may be turned into action.

While there is a similarity between the manas and buddhi of the Indian systems and of Theosophy, there are also some very important differences.  So, Don's link would be a great one to follow to get a better understanding of the Theosophical view.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 27, 2014 at 6:01pm

Who we think we are also plays a role in developing the heart quality.  If we are interconnected in our own self conception there is a chance we might develop sensitivity towards our fellow man.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 25, 2014 at 11:42pm

Paragraph 8

We shall never find a vicarious atonement. We must take the results of what we sow. Recognizing that we are responsible for our own conditions, we must do our best to adjust them. Readjustment can come only through assuming our own spiritual birth right, instead of assuming that we are these unfortunate bodies that are born, live for a while and die; through the fulfillment of our duties in every direction as the opportunities are offered us. For we cannot work out our salvation alone. We cannot live alone. We cannot progress alone. We cannot raise ourselves beyond the rest, but must help all the rest to whatever stage we occupy, going further and further ourselves that we may be the better able to help and teach the others. Jesus was what he was because he became so. Buddha was what he was because he became so. There was a time when they were sinning and erring mortals like ourselves. But they saw the true path and turned and followed it, as in all time to come must every being

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 26, 2014 at 8:52am

Has anyone heard the saying, "You can't raise a man up by knocking him down".  I guess it should read, "You cannot rise up yourself without taking everyone with you".  Each of us are small little creatures, victims of our conditions.  Just as each of us are big strong creators, creators of our conditions. It Just depends on what we each believe to be true of ourselves.  It seems easier to take the path of the victim and blame everyone around us for our conditions even though it creates lasting suffering.  Through constant suffering, we can assume we're on the wrong path but joy will let us know we're back on course.  We discussed the differences between self induced suffering to attain a goal, as opposed to suffering as a result of losing something we are attached to. The comparison made me think of a wound. When we receive a wound it is very painful.  If left untreated it becomes even more painful through infection.  The opposite is also true.  If we tend to our wound by cleaning and disinfecting it the pain can be as equal or worse to when the wound was created in the first place. The difference is the outcome or the length of suffering due to our decisions which in turn affect our actions.   The wound may represent the people and things around us.  If we tend to them what we may gain is immense.  If we knock them down we will surely follow.  

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 26, 2014 at 2:06pm

"If we tend to our wound by cleaning and disinfecting it the pain can be as equal or worse to when the wound was created in the first place. The difference is the outcome or the length of suffering due to our decisions which in turn affect our actions.   The wound may represent the people and things around us.  If we tend to them what we may gain is immense.  If we knock them down we will surely follow".

-Your quote above perfectly describes the process of psychotherapy.  Pain is always part of the process, but without going through the pain and facing it we cannot heal and grow.  Very good insight Shari.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 27, 2014 at 6:03pm

I remember the expression that the difference between a Buddha and regular person is a difference of degree and not one of kind.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 27, 2014 at 5:13pm

Paragraph 9

Just so long as we think that we are physical beings and follow after this or that desire, just so long do we put off the day of readjustment and suffer from the causes we have set in motion. But when in place of false ideas we commence to base our thought and action on correct ideas, the brain begins to be clarified and to be permeable to the immense knowledge of the inner man—a knowledge which is not now recorded because of the wrong way in which we have trained it. The brain has to be made a good conductor for spiritual knowledge.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on April 28, 2014 at 12:25pm

Taken together with what Tamkio wrote above we can see the path of human spiritual evolution.  As Tamiko points out the Buddha was just as we are now but over many lifetimes and through hard work he overcame his lower self and evolved into the Enlightened One, as we hopefully all will and must. 

Hopefully we all get there sooner rather than later.......

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 11:24am

meant to reply to another post.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 4:24pm

Here, here Jeffrey!

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 28, 2014 at 5:34pm

Paragraph 10

If true knowledge were ours, would we have desires? Would we seek after this or that thing in physical life and expend our best energies upon them? No. Further, we would know that no matter what there is in the universe anywhere, nothing can stop the progress laid down for ourselves in a spiritual direction. We would also know that nothing can harm us; nothing can be wilder us. We would trust the law of our own spiritual nature, seeking only to do what good we can; seeking nothing for our selves, but to do service in every possible way for every other being. Then we should be in accord with the nature of the whole, and the natures and forces of all beings would carry us along on the stream that brooks no obstacle whatever. Would we be sorrowful? Never; because we would be fulfilling the real purpose of spirit and soul in helping all other souls on the path, so far as the opportunity lay before us. In this course there is no need to strain and struggle; we have only to take those opportunities which our reactions bring us. The evil that comes to us—well, it is something for us to adjust, to balance. The good that comes to us—that too is the result of our own actions. So we may take the good and enjoy it, and meet the evil without fear or trembling or resistance of any kind in an attempt to avoid it.


Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on April 30, 2014 at 12:57pm

This phrase from the above passage demonstrates the key of altruism in theosophical philosophy.

"We would trust the law of our own spiritual nature, seeking only to do what good we can; seeking nothing for our selves, but to do service in every possible way for every other being. Then we should be in accord with the nature of the whole, and the natures and forces of all beings"

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 30, 2014 at 1:13pm

Last Paragraph

The only sorrow of the great Teachers, or Masters of Wisdom, is to see men perpetually engulfing themselves in sin and sorrow and suffering which They cannot prevent. One of Them was asked at one time, “Why is it with your great knowledge and power that you do not make men think as they should?” He said, “The human soul is not so constituted. It has to see and act for itself.” For the action is from within outward, and the power goes with the action. No one can save us but ourselves.

Permalink Reply by Shari Frieders on April 30, 2014 at 6:40pm

I don't think that we should worry about losing our way or taking the wrong path.  It seems that if we do wander off, sorrow and pain will remind us to find our path again, and joy will let us know when we're back on.   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 30, 2014 at 9:57pm

This is our quote for the day from last Saturday on the subject of Vigilance and Sloth.

"If the soul is immortal, it demands our care not only for that part of time which we call life, but for all time."    — Plato

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on May 1, 2014 at 5:54am

Perhaps there is no "wrong path" but simply wrong attitude.  It isn't about the destination but about the journey.  Sometimes we are in such a hurry to get somewhere that we fail to learn what we are meant to learn from any given situation or environment.  Sometime we need to "stop and smell the roses".