"True brahmacharya releases virya, inward strength, the strength needed to persevere in one's pursuit of truth" — The Aquarian Almanac"

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September 5, 2015 Theme for the Week: The First Ashrama: Self-Discipline

“An unblemished life acquired from early youth is able to save a person from all dangers and difficulties in the world, and render him worthy of every trust and a repository of all wealth.”


What are the blemishes Valmiki's wants us to avoid?

September 6, 2015 Theme for the Week: The First Ashrama: Self-Discipline

” With self serene, devoid of fear, firm in the vow of continence (brahmacharivrata), controlling the mind, with thought fixed on Me, he should sit yoked in devotion to Me as the Supreme.”

— Shri Krishna

” When continence is complete, there is gain of strength, in body and mind .”

— Patanjali

B.P. Wadia;

"Of course the lower nature is insidious; machination is its second name. Mortification of the mental nature is the starting point. Mind is the base of the personal nature. Mental asceticism needs knowledge and study for “the gentle breezes of soul wisdom” to brush away the dust and the dirt. Physical exercises involving food, breathing, etc, are a snare and a delusion as causes; as natural effects they have their value."

By the same writer, "The Desertion and Discipline;" an extract reads;

"The newcomer to Theosophy begins in enthusiasm and with intuitive faith; he becomes a student, then an aspirant, with devotion endeavouring to learn and to serve; he blossoms into a neophyte. In due course he is overtaken by weaknesses and the fear of difficulties. Above all he is lured by the gaiety, the pomp and the power of the world, and he feels that his life is gliding by, untouched by all that wonder. And then come failures and frustrations, followed by doubts regarding the present mode of Theosophical living, a desire for escape or for change of venue. Boredom leads to laziness as well as discontent and the mischief is done.

'My life is marred; discipline is not for me; I must change all this. To gain the soul is fine; but to lose the world for it? No.'

We ought to clear our minds about the vital Esoteric teaching that the arising of doubts in the consciousness of a neophyte, if not conquered by quiet study and calm reflection, leads to desertion from the field of battle. Small slips or great sins may occur, but the temptation to commit them is overcame when the neophyte stands firm and gives battle. Even to speculate about desertion of Discipline is to strengthen our doubts about the Wisdom and the Wise Ones, about the Divinity within ourselves, about the true Altruism by which alone man feels the Peace of the Occult World, sees the Light of the Hidden Ones, hears the sound of the Spiritual Spheres. Therefore has doubt been mentioned in the same context as hypocrisy, which is called an unpardonable sin in Occultism. When one gives up the Fight he begins to forget the rules of the Discipline of the Righteous Soldier; and in a short while he becomes careless, scoffs at the Discipline, struggles anyhow and even fails to see himself as a deserter."

To cap off this important practice, a letter by Mr. W. Q. Judge reads;

". . . You can solidify your character by attending to small things. By attacking small faults, and on every small occasion, one by one. This will arouse the inner attitude of attention and caution. The small faults and small occasions being conquered, the character grows strong. Feelings and desires are not wholly of the body. If the mind is deliberately taken off such subjects and placed on other and better ones, then the whole body will follow the mind and grow tractable. This struggle must be kept up, and after a while it will be easier. Old age makes only this difference—the machine of body is less strong; in old age the thoughts are the same, if we let them grow without pruning."
[pg.125. Letters]

Kristan, I think you are wise to point out that there are elements of the lower mind that strongly resist discipline.  We need to know what we are up against when we begin the quest for self-mastery.  I think stories like the Mahabharata and Ramayana or many of the Greek and Scandinavian myths point to the great struggle.

"There are elements of the lower mind that strongly resist discipline"

I believe, this is what makes the first step so difficult.  One must literally redirect the cosmic forces dominating over the various grades of matter and corresponding upadhis that go to make up the mortal frame and equipment therein.  From planetary influences, to personal elementals, they all must be guided and directed.  It cannot be done without the discipline one must establish prior to the commencement of the Holy War, as described in the Mahabharata and the other epics you have mentioned. 

We are told that we must go it alone, as the war is only won by our own efforts. It is, I have found, quite inspirational to read the about the struggles of others along this Path.  Doesn't it lift the soul and fill the heart when we know there have been others to travel this Path before us, and to hear about Those which have succeeded in battle?

"We need to know what we are up against when we begin the quest for self-mastery"

It would be a fools paradise to think that one could reach the summit without the hike.  And even more foolish, to dive into it with "the best of intentions" and start the hike before one is ready.  If one cannot manage to master ones own personal human natures, then what makes one think they are fit to take up the larger work?

This is only one perspective however.  

"Look on. What seest thou before thine eye, O aspirant to god-like Wisdom?

"The cloak of darkness is upon the deep of matter; within its folds I struggle. Beneath my gaze it deepens, Lord; it is dispelled beneath the waving of thy hand. A shadow moveth, creeping like the stretching serpent coils. . . . It grows, swells out and disappears in darkness."

It is the shadow of thyself outside the Path, cast on the darkness of thy sins."


The sevenfold nature of man gives a whole new meaning to the idea of self-discipline.  What self needs discipline and who or what is providing the discipline?  Buddhi-Manas needs to be ascendant over Kama-Manas.  The Immortal Soul should preside over the personal man.  The Higher Self (Atma, Buddhi, Manas) should provide the guidance, Lower Mind, Prana, Astral and Physical man receives the discipline. There is a richness of meaning that can come from looking at the idea from this theosophical point of view.

What self needs discipline and who or what is providing the discipline?

The Voice says;

Restrain by thy Divine thy lower Self.

Restrain by the Eternal the Divine.

Aye, great is he, who is the slayer of desire. Still greater he, in whom the Self Divine has slain the very knowledge of desire.

Guard thou the Lower lest it soil the Higher.

The way to final freedom is within thy SELF.

That way begins and ends outside of Self.

We can read a few lines from the 8th chapter of the Bhagavadgita wherein Sri Krsna states in slokas 3 and 4;

ब्रह्म परमं स्वभावोऽध्यात्ममुच्यते। भूतभावोद्भवकरो विसर्गः कर्मसंज्ञितः || अधिभूतं क्षरो भावः पुरुषश्चाधिदैवतम्‌ । अधियज्ञोऽहमेवात्र देहे देहभृतां वर ॥ (४)

3. Brahman is the Imperishable (Akshara), the Supreme.  The Ego is said to be the Individual Self (Adhyatma, He who dwells in the body).  The offering which causes the origin of physical beings is called action (karma).
4. The physical region (Adhibhuta) is the perishable existence, and Purusha or the Soul is the divine region (Adhidaivata). The Adhiyajña (Entity concerned with sacrifice) is Myslf, here in the body, O best of the embodied.

Concerning this, looking at the importance of the above, turn to the ending sloka of the 14th discourse;

ब्रह्मणो हि प्रतिष्ठाहममृतस्याव्ययस्य च । शाश्वतस्य च धर्मस्य सुखस्यैकान्तिकस्य च ॥ २७ ॥

27. For I am the abode of Brahmam, the Immortal and Immutable, the Eternal Dharma, and the unfailing Bliss.
Krsna distinctly speaks that within him resides the Immortal and Immutable, That which can be only recognized and known by the Wisdom-Sacrifice.  

Super correlation Kristan.  Right on the mark.

Grace and Kristan,

Beautiful thoughts. We may have a sense (intuitively or intellectually) that we are immortal souls presiding over mortal coils, or that we have to restrain our lower selves by the Divine Self within, but I suspect that the majority of people treading the spiritually path don't experience themselves as immortal souls or as a divine self.  Rather, most people's experience is that they are persons struggling with their own nature, their own thoughts, desires and aspirations.  

How do we make the transition from this to experiencing ourselves as an immortal soul or a divine self in command of a personality which it has to tame?

Is discipline something required by the immortal soul/divine self or something required by the person in the world?


Very good points you bring up.  I cannot speak for anyone but myself obviously, so my response to your questions will be based on my own understanding, observations, and personal practicality. Granted, it is very difficult to deny lifetimes of conditionings, few are able to do it, and even fewer are able to cross the void.  Though, I personally believe that amongst us, there are Those who are well on their way to that sacred Cremation Ground.

"How do we make the transition from this to experiencing ourselves as an immortal soul or a divine self in command of a personality which it has to tame?"

Personally, my opinion; the student must put an end to this desperate attempt to experience themselves as Immortal.  It cannot be done as far as I know.  No such experience, be it personal or spiritual, will allow one to recognize theIncomprehensible as an object of experience.  From what can one possibly "experience" the Absolute and Divine Self?  Likewise, from what is one able to detect and "experience" dreamless susputi? One may look to the great Sage Gaudapādacharya in his Māṇḍukya Kārikā for a deeper explanation.

It is this odd obsession which many clinging to... Everyone wants to experiencesomething of the Absolute, for what?  What validation will come of it even if such experience was possible?  

To me, by first understanding the recognition of any given experience- spiritual or mundane, it matters so very little- and the ability to observe said experience, one doesn't "experience" the Divine, but simply recognizes as a Ancient Impersonal stream of Continuity.

Let the student look in their daily lives for the Divine Self.  The method of analogy and correspondence is suggested to blend the physical and metaphysical.  Our texts from all traditions only suggest this practice.  To scoff at the "mundane" and look for the Divine is foolish.

B. P. Wadia states in a unpublished letter;

"Constant thinking of the Divine has to be by trying to see Divinity in the very jobs we are doing. In the paper we write on and in the ink we write with there is Divinity as our very words carry thoughts within them. The periodic remembrance of this several times a day makes the remembrance permanent. Sacramental deeds, a few every day, produce their effects and one of these is continuity in sacredness. Our work will not suffer if we feel calm – "with calmness ever present.

...If within us the heart throbs for the Guru in devotion and without we are concentrated in all we do, a sacred force, the sacramental power, flows. It is not something special but it is using space and time increasingly from the Spirit point of view. We meet the same people but we meet them differently. Conscious living in the Spirit, all the time, is living in the Eternal. Thus we begin to see the immortality aspect of conscious life. This is a profound subject and much can be said, but for today this should suffice. Service of the All, the One Self, in space and time reveals the Servant within the carapace of selfhood."

This is my opinion... Again, I cannot speak for anyone but myself.  Each student has their own particular methodology of recognition of Divine Truth/Self. 

Light on the Path;

"For when the solitude of silence is reached the soul hungers so fiercely and passionately for some sensation on which to rest, that a painful one would be as keenly welcomed as a pleasant one. When this consciousness is reached the courageous man by seizing and retaining it, may destroy the “sensitiveness” at once. When the ear no longer discriminates between that which is pleasant or that which is painful, it will no longer be affected by the voices of others. And then it is safe and possible to open the doors of the soul."

I think you could fairly characterize the spiritual life as a gradual transition from seeing things through the perspective of the personal, (likes and dislikes, me the center of things, pleasure/ pain dichotomy) point of view to the perspective of the immortal soul (universal principles, enduring values, wisdom first).  This entails, one would think, a radical reappraisal of who and what we think we are. This is where Theosophy becomes so important.  Many people sense something grander, something bigger than themselves, that pulls at their heart strings.  But do not understand this in the context of the Pilgrimage of the Human Race. 

The spiritual life is a gradual, step by step, shifting of this focus one would think. And like anything else it requires practice to train the mind to move along a different track.  This is why meditation and self-study are so crucial.  Meditation to take ourselves consciously out of the personal perspective periodically and self study to look at the life lived, as best we can, from an impersonal universal standpoint.  Beginners are bad at this, advanced students better at this. Practice makes perfect.

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Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 9, 2015 at 5:33pm

This entails, one would think, a radical reappraisal of who and what we think we are... Meditation to take ourselves consciously out of the personal perspective periodically and self study to look at the life lived, as best we can, from an impersonal universal standpoint. 

Nicely put, very important.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 10, 2015 at 6:56am

Kristan - just to say, in passing, I always appreciate the thoughtfulness in your replies and reflections. The many links you make between theosophical doctrines and advaita are often very thought provoking.

Yes, I’m sure you are right in that the search for personal immortality or the experience of it will always elude us.  The question I had in mind was really more to do with our topic of self discipline in relation to how a person - any person - might make practical use of such injunctions as ‘conquer the lower self through the higher’ or ‘restrain by the Divine thy lower self’.  

To recap:  we may sense intuitively or intellectually that there is an immortal or divine side of our nature and yes, we may even try to see it in the paper we write upon etc etc., but I suspect the daily experience of most people is simply one of being ‘a person in the world’ struggling with our own nature, our own desires and struggling with the demands of the world.  If a person could already act from their higher or divine nature and learn to curb their desires and personality from there, then the job would be that much easier - if not almost done.   But that isn’t the position of the majority of people start from.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 10, 2015 at 11:13am

Thanks Peter, much appreciated! I see what you are asking now...

"... how a person - any person - might make practical use of such injunctions as ‘conquer the lower self through the higher’ or ‘restrain by the Divine thy lower self’.  ...but I suspect the daily experience of most people is simply one of being ‘a person in the world’ struggling with our own nature, our own desires and struggling with the demands of the world."

It is a difficult task, and the struggle is that of lifetimes we are told.   The idea of "conquering the lower self through the higher" might not be very practical for some people, even in its simplest application.  Might one consider that the majority aren't even ready to begin, nor are able to attempt the preliminary process of self-discipline?  May I ask, do you think this practice is for everyone?

Though, when the time comes, everyone may be entitled  to this knowledge- it being humanities inheritance- we mustn't always expect any given person to make it a practical application before hand.  Those who aren't willing to make an extraordinary sacrifice shouldn't attempt an extraordinary discipline.  

I don't have an answer to your question because I simply do not know how any person can be expected to make such a sacrifice practical, whatever practical should mean.

Gerry pointed out some very crucial tips- meditation, self-study, radical reappraisal, etc.  These seem practical for students, but I cannot imagine someone who wasn't given the opportunity to study some key concepts of Theosophy to understand the above practices in slightest, let alone make a practical application. 

I hope I don't sound like a monster, but who would expect a child to do the work and hold the responsibilities of an adult?  It is the same concept... Maturity is needed first and foremost, perhaps this is what is practical?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 11, 2015 at 6:40am

Thanks for your response, Kristan.  No you definitely don't sound like a monster!!

I believe that most people have the ability for self reflection and self discipline. I also believe that life presents us with opportunities on a daily basis to begin looking at what it all means and what we might need to do to improve ourselves and the lot of those around us.  However, I am sure you are right that the various stages of the path depend on our maturity and level of understanding.   Human beings also have different temperaments, which might mean some spiritual traditions and practices are better suited than others.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 10, 2015 at 12:38pm

When someone says "personal immortality" perhaps what is meant is "individual immortality" in theosophical thought because we know there is no immortality for the persona.  The personality is a costume the universe gives one to advance the evolution of the soul (Monad).  It is on loan, one would think, and we have to give it back eventually (name and form).

To gain a sense of immortality, while in a body, which is where Peter is going with this I believe, requires an effort of mind and a dramatic transition of identity. 

The Voice of the Silence talks about delusion of separative identity, which humanity is in the grip of "...when beholding her image on the waves of Space she whispers, "This is I" — declare, O Disciple, that thy Soul is caught in the webs of delusion."

All the training in Theosophy, metaphysical and abstract imagination of the SD,  stratospheric ethical standards, deep meditation,  thorough self-study etc. is aimed at eroding this delusion. Like a tree, one supposes, this takes time.   As we practice the more the sense grows over us that we are not name and form, we are not stuck in the circumstances of the world, and the SELF is neither within us or without us it is Everywhere.  This is what the Mystics say at least.  We can test it for ourselves.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on September 10, 2015 at 1:46pm

I suppose we make the transition by "living the life" (Right Livelihood connection here). The problem is not that the Higher Self is too far away.  The problem is the lower man is undisciplined (focus on the mind here maybe).  If the radio stations are constantly changing and jumping around you cannot hear the sublime classical music focused on a particular channel. Another way of looking at discipline is from the standpoint of the purification of elementals in the lower kingdoms ( the person in the world).  The lower man is an extension of the Higher Man (immortal soul I believe).  Therefore the lower man must conform (discipline... disciple etc.) to the Higher man. Usually we ignore (ignorance) what is higher in favor of likes and dislikes, seeking pleasure, what is in it for me etc.. When we turn this around Krishna tells us wisdom becomes ever more available.

The Gita says in Chapter 2:

"But he who, free from attachment or repulsion for objects, experienceth them through the senses and organs, with his heart obedient to his will, attains to tranquillity of thought. And this tranquil state attained, therefrom shall soon result a separation from all troubles; and his mind being thus at ease, fixed upon one object, it embraceth wisdom from all sides."

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 8, 2015 at 5:35pm

September 8, 2015 Theme for the Week: The First Ashrama: Self-Discipline

“Wherefore I cordially admonish thee to ascend from the world unto God, that is to penetrate quite through thyself: for to climb up unto God is to enter into thy Self, and not only inwardly to visit the dearst Soul, but also to pierce into the very centre thereof, to view and behold there thy Creator.”

— Robert Fludd

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 9, 2015 at 5:39am

What is the meaning of the term Ashrama?  If this is the first, how many are there and what do they signify?


Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 9, 2015 at 11:23am

Here are some Wiki things to help:

An Ashrama (āśrama) in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in ancient and medieval era Indian texts.[1] The four asramas are: Brahmacharya(student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa(renunciation).[2]

The Ashramas system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism.[3] It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy, where it is combined with four proper goals of human life (Purusartha), for fulfillment, happiness and spiritual liberation.[4]

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 9, 2015 at 11:31am

The four Ashramas will be themes for the week in the future on Universal Theosophy and Tnexus.

We are looking at them for their core meanings.

1.Student Life:  Self-Discipline

2. Householder Life: Self-Sacrifice

3. Retired Life: Service

4. Renounced Life: Renunciation

It idea is to look at these cultural traditions through the eyes of theosophical principles we have been given.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 9, 2015 at 11:49am

Thanks Gerry,

I wonder, how relevant the duties of the four Ashramas are for the western student, or those who don't adhere to the Hindu codex?

How might one look upon the four Ashramas regarding the nature of their inner meanings?  The list above is quite relevant; self-discipline etc...

Do we not see a moral, ethical, and spiritual trend within the four ashramas listed?  Self-Discipline must be first, else the other three stages crumble under the pressures of life.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 10, 2015 at 12:19pm

Like everything else theosophical, everything is related to everything else.  There is a relationship between all the parts and an invisible whole to discover.  Great pro athletes practice the fundamentals of their craft to stay tuned for tomorrow's performance.  The beginning is in the end so to speak.  Self-discipline is relevant the whole way through all the ashramas (stages), one would assume, and a certain degree of renunciation is necessary to discipline the self at the beginning.

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Permalink Reply by Peter on September 10, 2015 at 10:44am

Gerry, I only have a superficial knowledge of the hindu socio-religious culture with its ashramas (stages of life) so you will need to correct my understanding if I’ve misunderstood.

I’m not clear about the objects you’ve given for the first three stages i.e. Self Discipline, Sacrifice and Service.

I thought that the first stage (Brahmacarya) is related to being a student because the emphasis is on living and studying with a teacher from whom the student (a male, by tradition) would learn the Vedas.  Self discipline and celibacy and looking after the needs of the teacher are aspects of that stage, but learning the Vedas with all its rights, ritual’s and practices is the most important aspect.  The first stage lasts up until the age of around 24/25.

(Note:  The term Brahmacarya is also used to signify a mendicant who has dedicated his whole life to celibacy, purity of conduct and self control. This is not something required in the ashramas, as we can tell from the next stage, but in this case purity and 'self discipline' or 'self control' would be its hallmark.) 

Celibacy is not a requirement for the next stage (householder) obviously, for this includes marriage, having children, along with social responsibilities.  It includes the daily worship of gods with the accompanying rituals, such as the fire sacrifice. I’m not sure this whole stage is normally seen as that of Sacrifice as it also includes making a living, acquiring wealth, enjoying worldly pleasures & so on.  Age range here is from around 25 to 50yrs.

The next stage (around age late 40s - early 70s), traditionally involved withdrawal from family and social duties into the forest as a hermit where time is devoted to meditation and study of the scriptures.  This withdrawing from family and social responsibilities of the forest hermit stage doesn’t seem to fit with the idea of this stage being one of Service.

The final stage (70s or even earlier), Renunciation, appears to be just what it says - a complete renunciation of all material concerns, devoting oneself solely to the attainment of Moksha.  The wandering ascetic might fit this stage.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 10, 2015 at 12:14pm

I am not an expert on Hindu culture either. ( We have some in the group from India, it would be great to hear from them.)  I think the idea is to use what ideas, patterns, practices, make sense to one, are helpful and useful to one,  at whatever place they are at.

Be creative.  ("Self-induced, and self-devised efforts.")

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 11, 2015 at 7:07am

Creativity and self induced and self devised efforts are certainly important, Gerry.  I'll accept your advice on that one. However, I was really hoping you might say a little bit more as to where you derived the core meanings for each of the asramas:

1. Student Life: Self-Discipline
2. Householder Life: Self-Sacrifice
3. Retired Life: Service
4. Renounced Life: Renunciation

These don't appear to fit with the traditional hindu view.  But, as I said, I only have a superficial understanding of hindu culture.

If our aim in this study is, as you put it, "to look at the four ashramas through the eyes of theosophical principles we have been given", would it not be a good idea to take the time and ensure that we have a correct idea of what are the core meanings of each one?

Of course, Self-discipline, Self Sacrifice, Service and Renunciation are valuable topics and could be studied in their own right, independent of any specific tradition.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 10, 2015 at 5:16pm

I had posted earlier the Âs'ramopanisad, showing the list of subdivisions belonging to the four Âs'rams- each divided four ways, a total of 16 stages of life.  I deleted the post because of its length and possible confusion.  However, the essence is below.  One may look into the samskrit names for a clearer understanding.  

"The Brahmacârins are fourfold; Gâyatra, Brâhmana, Prâjâpatya, and Brhan. ( गायत्र , ब्राह्मण, प्राजापत्य, बृहन् )

Also the Grhasthas (householders) are fourfold viz., Vârttâkavrttis, S'âlînavrttis, Yâyâvaras and Ghorasamnyâsikas. (वार्त्ताकवृत्ति, शालीनवृत्ति, यायावर, घोरसंन्यासिक )

The Vânaprasthas also are fourfold, viz., Vaikhânasas, Udumbaras, Vâlakhilyas and Phenapas.
(वैखानस, उदुम्बर perhaps even औदुम्बर, वालखिल्य, फेनप)

The Parivrâjakas are aslo fourfold; Kutîcaras, Bahûdakas, Hamsas, and Paramahamsas." (कुटीचर, बहूदक, हंस, परमहंस)

I cannot locate the Â'sramopanisad online, the translation I own is from PaulDeussen; Sixty Upanisads of the Veda, for those interested.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 10, 2015 at 10:05am

September 10, 2015 Theme for the Week: The First Ashrama: Self-Discipline

“The first and chief necessity of Chelaship is a spirit of absolute unselfishness and devotion to Truth; then follow self-knowledge and self-mastery.“

— H.P. Blavatsky

“When the disciple is ready to learn, then he is accepted, acknowledged, recognized.”

— Light on the Path

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 11, 2015 at 10:38am

September 11, 2015 Theme for the Week: The First Ashrama: Self-Discipline

“It is the Atman, the Spirit, by whose power the ear hears, the eye sees, the tongue speaks, the mind understands and life functions. The wise man separates the Atman from these faculties, rises out of sense-life and attains immortality.”

— Kena Upanishad

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 12, 2015 at 6:17am


With the Brahmins, who have never invested with an "original Sin" element the natural procreative functions of mankind, it is a religious duty to have a son. A Brahmin, in days of old, having accomplished his mission of human creator, retired to the jungle and passed the rest of his days in religious meditations. He had accomplished his duty to nature as mortal man and its co-worker, and henceforth gave all his thoughts to the spiritual immortal portion in himself, regarding the terrestrial as a mere illusion, an evanescent dream—which it is.

B.P. Wadia includes some passages from the Manu codex in his article on Home-Building, the Grhastha Âs'rama;

"The functions of the human kingdom, affecting us who have dual natures, divine and animal, is to enable us to subdue and transform the animal with the aid of the divine, so that the God is in all.  This alchemical process takes place, to a very considerable extent, in the crucible called Home.  Therefore, Theosophy considers Home-Building a very necessary and beneficent mode of growth and repeats with Manu;

"As all creatures live supported by the air, so the three orders exist supported by the Grhastha. (III.77)"

"The Vedas declare the Grhastha to be the highest Âs'rama.  As all streams and rivers flow to rest in the ocean, so all the Âs'rama flow to rest in the House-Holder (VI. 89-90)."


It becomes clear, that Brahmacari is a mode of living designed to develop the initial dispassion and knowledge of the deeper aspects of life.  To cultivate the unselfish devotion for Humanity and all kingdoms by way of and not limited to intellectually understanding the Esoteric Philosophy.  This practice, or perhaps practical application of this gained wisdom, rests on the duty and works performed by the Grhastha Âs'rama.  It seems that with knowledge gained in Brahmacari and duly applied to Grhastha, this most defiantly will have profound results.

"... The primary requirement is the awakening of the higher desire to establish on earth, in one's own state and domicile, a Home patterned after the Laws of Heaven. This high enterprise will be readily and cheerfully undertaken if we perceive that the Family is a great school which teaches unselfishness and temperance, which provides opportunities of walking the Path of Renunciation in an easy way...."


Permalink Reply by Peter on September 12, 2015 at 9:24am

"It seems that with knowledge gained in Brahmacari and duly applied to Grhastha, this most defiantly will have profound results."

Good point, Kristan.  Could we also say that in terms of Self-discipline, knowledge is an essential guide.  Would it be correct to say that discipline is invariably an attitude applied with some end or goal in mind? Or does that tie it down too much?

As a by-the-way thought, the study of the Vedas in those first years up to around 25yrs may also have been connected with the Vedas being passed down orally from generation to generation.  

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 12, 2015 at 3:24pm

"Would it be correct to say that discipline is invariably an attitude applied with some end or goal in mind? Or does that tie it down too much?"

This is a good question.  I think the attitude of self-discipline is somewhat omnipresent, or at least ought to become omnipresent whether a goal is established or not.

I mention this because it is quite connected to the desire for experience as earlier mentioned.  If there is a conceptual goal, i.e., an object/state to be had/attained to, then the idea of personal agency still is woven quite tightly, even in higher spiritual practices.  A medieval Poet and Sanskrit Grammarian Philosopher, Bhartṛhari, states;

न् संसारोत्पन्नं चरितमनुपश्यामि कुशलं विपाकः पुण्यानां जनयति भयं मे विमृशतः । महद्भिः पुण्यौधैश्चिरपरिगृईताश्च विषया महान्तो जायन्ते ओयसनमिव दातुं विषयिणाम्
I do not find the virtuous distinction produced (by ceremonial observances) through life after life to be conducive to well-being, for the sum of such virtuous merits when weighed in mind inspires fear in me.  Enjoyments earned by great accession of merit, multiply so greatly in the case of people attached to them, only to bring them misery and peril !

I believe like self-discipline, Knowledge is of an omnipresent characteristic- truly the essential guide as you said.

[Regarding the study of Vedas]  I have heard that it was 25 years of general study via teacher, orally, etc. etc. However, I have also read that the renunciate Brahmacari will study the Vedas until death, ie., remaining a celibate student for their entire lives.  This is in regards to the "Bṛhan" stage of Brahmacari.  But I think this is a subdivision... Perhaps regarding life long humble monks studying texts and living in temples.  We do see this often.  

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 13, 2015 at 3:35am

Thanks for your thoughts, Kristan.  I'm not sure what you mean by "omnipresent" in relation to self-discipline.  Can you say a bit more?

I was wondering - if a way of being, or an attribute, or virtue is our natural state would we need self-discipline in order to achieve it or maintain it?  Isn't self-disciple a form of control without which we fear the state we are trying to achieve or maintain would either not mature or might lapse if already present  Hence my wondering whether discipline always has a goal or aim in mind.

Yes, I think all the ashrama (stages of life) include a study of the vedas.  I suspect that in those times before they were written down but passed on orally from generation to generation there would have been a a very strong emphasis in the first ashrama of learning them by heart, even if one did not fully understand the meanings.  There is also a great deal of ritual practice combined with mantras and offerings to the various gods which had to be correctly learned as an intrinsic aspect of the vedas.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on September 13, 2015 at 6:21am

" I'm not sure what you mean by "omnipresent" in relation to self-discipline.  Can you say a bit more?"

Sure.  I'm not too sure if you were ever a smoker, or have ever tried to quit a bad habit. In the case that you were, or have successfully quit something, you must have noticed it takes a great deal of discipline and strength to redirect the familiar current.  

There might have been a period of time consisting of constant success and failures while this discipline was underway. However, with constant practice this self-discipline becomes established as the very attitude one must have in regards to daily life- in other words, it becomes an overshadowing and constant presence of abstention, and in time it isn't even consciously noticed but has become the "space in which one lives." 

I do not believe it ever "goes away" once the habit is conquered.  I believe this discipline is absolutely woven into the inner man as it were. 

I imagine self-discipline to be omnipresent in this respect.  Discipline is all pervasive for the warrior, and for the Great Ones. It is so much so that They are often described as being "constitutionally incapable" of deviation.  It is in this light I understand what self-discipline and its practice means. 

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 14, 2015 at 4:48am

I see what you are getting at, Kristan. If I've understood you correctly, you are saying that once we have had the opportunity to use and develop self-discipline successfully it is something that will always stay with us.  I would probably use the term 'ever-present' for that, rather than 'omnipresent'.

Is self-discipline needed for one who is 'constitutionally incapable of deviation', or is it only required during a stage of transition from one state to another and kept up until that state becomes 'second nature', so to speak?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on November 8, 2015 at 5:55pm

Just came across the following. I hope this theme of Brahmacari isn't totally abandoned.  There is some very beautiful teachings found here.  R. Iyer has a great translation of this suktam, but I cannot access it online.  Many sacred texts speak of Rsis as Brahmacaris, i.e.,manasaputras etc. 

From the Atharvaveda Saṃhitā: 11th kāṇḍa; 5th sūktam;

   Stirring both worlds the Brahmachāri moveth: in him the
   deities are all one-minded.
  He hath established firmly earth and heaven: he satisfies his
  Master with his Fervour.

2After the Brahmachārī go the Fathers, the heavenly hosts, all
  Gods in separate order.
  After him too have the Gandharvas followed, thirty and three,
   three hundred, and six thousand. He satisfies all Gods with
   his devotion.

3The Master, welcoming his new disciple, into his bowels takes
   the Brahmachāri.
  Three nights he holds and bears him in this belly. When he is
   born, the Gods convene to see him.

4This log is earth, the second log is heaven: he fills the air's mid
   region with the fuel.
  With fuel, with his zone the Brahmachāri contents the worlds,
   with labour and with Fervour.

5The Brahmachāri, earlier born than Brahma, sprang up through
  Fervour, robed in hot libation.
  From him sprang heavenly lore, the highest Brahma, and all the
  Gods, with life that lasts for ever. 

6Lighted by fuel goes the Brahmachāri, clad in black-buck skin,
   consecrate, long-bearded.
  Swiftly he goes from east to northern ocean, grasping the worlds,
   oft bringing them anear him.

7The Brahmachāri, fathering Prayer, world, Waters, Virāj, Prajā-
   pati, and Parameshthin,
  Lay as a germ within the Immortal's bosom, then became Indra
   and destroyed the demons.

8The Master fashioned both these cloudy regions, profound and
   spacious pair, the earth and heaven.
  The Brahmachāri guards them with his Fervour. In him the
   deities are all one-minded.

9The Brahmachāri first of all brought hither this ample earth as
   alms, and heaven above it.
  He makes these twain two fuel-logs, and worships, On these sup-
   ported rest all living creatures.

10Both treasuries of sacred lore lie hidden, one hitherward, beyond
   heaven's ridge the other.
  The Brahmachārī with his Fervour guards them. He makes this
   all his own as knowing Brahma.

11Hitherward one, hence from the earth the other, two Agnis meet
   between these cloudy regions.
  Close to these two firm rays of light are clinging. The Brahma-
   chāri enters them through Fervour.

12Thundering, shouting, ruddy-hued, and pallid, he bears along the
   earth great manly vigour.
  Down on the ridge of earth the Brahmachāri pours seed, and
   this gives life to heaven's four regions.

13The Brahmachāri stores with fuel Waters, and Fire, and Sun, and
  Moon, and Mātarisvan.
  The Water's lights move separate in the rain-cloud, Man, rain,
   and water are their molten butter.

14The Master is Death, Varuna, Soma, the plants of earth, and
  The thunder-clouds were men of war. By these this heavenly
   light was brought.

15Varuna, made a Master, takes at home the butter to himself.
  Whatever with Prajāpati he sought, the Brahmachāri gave like
  Mitra from his loftiest soul. 

16The pupil is the Master, yea, the pupil is Prajāpati.
  Prajāpati shines bright; the bright Virāj grew potent Indra's self.

17By Fervour and by self-restraint the King protects the realm he
   rules.  By self-restraint the Master seeks a Brahmachari to instruct.

18By self-restraint a maiden finds a youth to be her wedded lord.
  By self-restraint the ox and horse seek to win fodder for them-

19By Fervour and by self-restraint the Gods draye Death away
   from them,
   And Indra brought by self-restraint heaven's lustre to the deities.

20The plants, what is and what shall be, day, night, the tall tree of
   the wood,
  The year with seasons of the year, all from the Brahmachāri

21All creatures of the earth and heaven, tame animals and sylvan
  Winged and wingless creatures, from the Brahmachāri sprang
   to life,

22All children of Prajāpati have breath distinctly in themselves.
  The Brahma that is stored within the Brahmachāri guards them

23Piled up on high, but never yet ascended, that power of deities
   is brightly shining.
  From that sprang heavenly lore, the loftiest Brahma, and all the
  Gods with, life that lasts for ever.

24The Brahmachāri wields the radiant Brahma wherein all Gods
   are woven close together;
  Creating breath, inhaling and exhaling, voice, mind, and heart,
  Brahma and holy wisdom.

25Bestow on us the power of sight and hearing, glory and food and
   seed and blood and belly.

26These, standing on the flood, the Brahmachāri formed practising
   in sea his hot devotion.
  When he hath bathed, brown, yellow-hued, he shines exceedingly
   on earth.