|It is a well-known fact that music affects moods
and plays a vital role in curing disease. Both Hegel
and Arthur Schopenhauer believed that in some respects
music is more effective and useful than any language
invented by man. Music helps to deal with and counteract
sorrows, disappointments, depressions and emotional
upheavals in life. It helps eliminate negative emotions
and enhance positive emotions. It seems to work
on the principle of "like cures like."
"Are you short-tempered and prone to bouts
of anger? Then try listening to any of these ragas:
Atana, Deepak, Gauri Manohari, Hamsadhwani, Sankarabharanam,
Simhendra Madhyama or Todi among others," urges
T. V. Sairam (Dignity Dialogue, December 2003).
He has shown that "a musical form representing
a certain emotion could help to destroy the very
same emotion." Thus, "listening to a fiery
composition of Vivaldi...representing the moods
of rage can actually melt away years of accumulated
anger and frustration in an individual." It
appears that curing the disease amounts to restoring
the disturbed harmony. All biological activities
follow definite cycles and involve certain rhythms.
Disease is caused by disturbance in these cycles
H.P.B. writes in Isis Unveiled about the power
of music over human beings and animals. She affirms
that the philosophers of antiquity knew about
the singular power of music over certain nervous
diseases. Music has helped to cure diseases like
epilepsy, impotence, insanity, lameness, dropsy,
etc., believed to be incurable. Thus:
The sound has an attractive property; it draws
out disease, which streams out to encounter
the musical wave, and the two blending together,
disappear in space. Asclepiades employed music
for the same purpose, some twenty centuries
ago; he blew a trumpet to cure Sciatica, and
its prolonged sound making the fibres of the
nerves to palpitate, the pain invariably subsided.
Democritus in like manner affirmed that many
diseases could be cured by the melodious sounds
of a flute. Mesmer used...harmonica described
by Kircher for his magnetic cures. (Isis Unveiled,
Certain kinds of music throw us into frenzy;
some exalt the soul to religious aspirations.
In fine, there is scarcely a human creation
which does not respond to certain vibrations
of the atmosphere. (Ibid., p. 275)
The spirit of giving, or charity
at all levels—physical, mental and emotional—has
always been held in high esteem by all religious
scriptures. "The best kind of giving involves
sacrifice," writes Suma Varughese (Life Positive,
December 2003). When charity is not out of the
surplus—but involves an element of sacrifice—it
leads to inner transformation in both the giver
and the receiver. Varughese writes:
It is spiritual giving at its highest. And
when we engage with it, it is a path that leads
to liberation. For sacrificial giving involves
going beyond the ego with its narrow focus on
our needs, desires, comforts and feelings....
Sacrificial giving is rigorous, and calls for
discipline and self-restraint. We can start
off small. Giving up a seat in a bus for someone
who needs it more, gracefully acknowledging
one's fault in an argument, allowing others
to stampede to the buffet table first, giving
up one's lunch to a hungry beggar....
The concept of sacrifice is endemic to most
religions and is central to Hindu philosophy.
The world is considered to owe its origin to
the great sacrifice of purusha. The Vedic concept..."the
world is one family" emphasizes both interconnection
and the need to focus on the larger good. So
strong is the current of altruistic thought
that the Bhagavad-Gita says: "He who cooks
for himself alone is a thief."...
Giving, then, is a two-edged sword that can
only be wielded safely when our motive is pure.
Through awareness, we must move away from using
giving as a means of bolstering the ego, of
gaining power and control over others, of gaining
social recognition or fame, of one-upmanship.
The Voice of the Silence describes Charity as
one of the transcendental virtues and asks us
to step out of sunlight into shade so as to make
more room for others. Altruism is the keynote
of Theosophy. In the article "Practical Occultism,"
H.P.B. defines a true Theosophist as he "who
finds more joy in helping his neighbour than in
receiving help himself; one who is ever ready
to sacrifice his own pleasure for the sake of
other people...." In The Key to Theosophy,
H.P.B. puts emphasis on personal exertion, mercy
and kindness, while exercising charity, as that
would call forth gratitude in the receiver and
"gratitude does more good to the man who
feels it, than to him for whom it is felt."
The Gita considers the sacrifice of knowledge
(Jnana Yajna) as the best and the highest. So
does Theosophy. Mr. Judge describes the highest
kind of philanthropy thus:
Each Theosophist should therefore not only
continue his private and public acts of charity,
but also strive to so understand Theosophical
philosophy as to be able to expound it in a
practical and easily understood manner, so that
he may be a wider philanthropist by ministering
to the needs of the inner man. This inner man
is a thinking being who feeds upon a right or
wrong philosophy. If he is given that one which
is wrong, then, becoming warped and diseased,
he leads his instrument, the outer man, into
bewilderment and sorrow. (Vernal Blooms, p.
Demographers have observed gradually
increasing life spans over the last two centuries.
Worldwide, average life expectancy has gone up
from about 27 years to more than 65, and in the
United States it has shot up from 50 years in
the last century to an average of 78 at present.
Could we expect children born today to live to
be 150? Some researchers support this view, others
feel there is no upward limit on longevity. James
Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic
Research in Rostock, Germany, predicts that the
average life span in industrialized countries
will be 122.5 years, in the year 2150. "Most
researchers agree that the biggest boost in human
life expectancy will not come from curing diseases.
Instead, the rate of aging itself has to be slowed
down," writes Karen Wright (Discover, November
2003). However, there are many gray areas. Why
do our bodies begin to deteriorate when we reach
our thirties? It is difficult to explain longevity
in terms of genes. There are genes responsible
for growth, metabolism and reproduction. But there
is no life-extending gene found in the human genome
or any physiological determinants of mortality.
Steve Austad, a gerontologist at the University
of Idaho, ascribes longevity in human beings to
"the low-risk environment we have created
for ourselves." Geriatrician Tom Perls of
the Boston University School of Medicine, feels
that those who live to be hundred, lack genes
that predispose them to old-age diseases, but
"possess genes—as yet unidentified—that
protect them from the ravages of time."
But is it true? In her comments on ³A Treatise
on the Yoga Philosophy² (The Theosophist,
September 1880), H.P.B. mentions that "the
greater the number of respiratory movements per
minute the shorter is the life-period."
"The Elixir of Life," reprinted in
"Five Years of Theosophy" (The Theosophical
Movement, July and August 1966), deals at length
with the subject of "longevity." Thus,
in each species—including human—there
is a "well-known limit within which the Race-life
lies, and none are known to survive beyond it."
Even when disease, accidents and famine are avoided,
there comes a time "when the particles of
the body would feel the hereditary tendency to
do that which leads inevitably to dissolution."
However, it is possible to live beyond the limits
determined by heredity. Thus:
The whole rationale then, of the first condition
of continued existence in this world, is (a)
the development of a Will so powerful as to
overcome the hereditary (in a Darwinian sense)
tendencies of the atoms composing the "gross"
and palpable animal frame, to hurry on at a
particular period in a certain course of Kosmic
changes; and (b) to so weaken the concrete action
of that animal frame as to make it more amenable
to the power of the Will. To defeat an army,
you must demoralize and throw it into disorder....
The aspirant to longevity then...must beware
especially of impure and animal thoughts. For
Science shows that thought is dynamic, and thought-force
evolved by nervous action expanding outwardly,
must affect the molecular relations of the physical
To do this then, is the real object of all rites,
ceremonies, fasts, "prayers," meditations,
initiations and procedures of self-discipline
enjoined by various esoteric Eastern sects.
The wayward life of the teenagers
in India, is a cause of grave concern. Piali Banerjee
and Somit Sen give a graphic description of the
deplorable state of the younger generation (Sunday
Times of India, January 11). Thus:
Beginning with cheating, and going on to shoplifting,
stealing money, car theft, rash driving, vandalising,
kidnapping for ransom, and sometimes even indulging
in prostitution or the stray murder, teenagers
today seem to be driving down the fast lane
of crime without a glance in the review mirror.
Greed is God on the college campus, while the
world outside is a big object of youthful desire,
whether it's the Big Apple, big bucks or the
big kicks of life....
Psychologists point out that teens today are
more like adults. They know their rights and
have wrested liberties for themselves that were
till recently associated with older generations.
College girls shrug that no one at home minds
if they walk in at 4 a.m.—something for
which the previous generation would probably
have had hell to pay....
The solution, say counsellors, lies in communication,
and more communication. Since the consumerist
clock can't be turned back now, the best way
forward for parents is through "talking,
talking, talking, to their kids."
Society must play its role too—in leading
by experience. "When children see adults
achieving success through crooked means, and these
same adults being feted by society, naturally,
their belief in values goes down one more notch,"
says counsellor Anjali Chhabria.
In a way, the life of teenagers is a mirror of
our civilization, with its consumerism, free play
to sexual passions, self-centredness, etc. Ever-increasing
consumerism, materialism, sexual perversion are
all indications of "desire principle"
going out of control. The solution lies partly
in the adults setting an example. H.P.B. describes
our present race thus:
As we are in the mid-point of our sub-race
of the Fifth Root Race—the acme of materiality
in each—therefore the animal propensities,
though more refined, are not the less developed
for that: and they are so chiefly in civilized
countries. (S.D., I, 611)
She describes graphically the state of civilization
in the 19th century, and the same is applicable
to our present civilization. Thus:
As civilization progresses, moral darkness
pervades....The chosen symbol of our boasted
civilization ought to be a huge boa constrictor.
Like that monstrous ophidian, with its velvety
black and brilliant golden-hued spots, and its
graceful motions, civilization proceeds insidiously,
but as surely, to crush in its deadly coils
every high aspiration, every noble feeling,
aye, even to the very discrimination of right
Conscience, "God's vicegerent in the soul,"
speaks no longer in man; for the whispers of
the still small voice within are stifled by
the ever-increasing din and roar of Selfishness.
(Lucifer, August 1888)
What is the best method for
reforming the criminals? The World and I (December
2003) carries a Special Report discussing the
efficacy of rehabilitation, incarceration (imprisonment)
and religious rehabilitation programmes—regarded
as the three alternatives. The United States locks
up its citizens at a rate of 700 per 10,000, and
leads the world in incarceration. It has been
found that it is not the most effective way to
deter crime. Increase in incarceration is not
matched by a corresponding drop in crime. In fact
some critics suggest that high incarceration of
adults may produce socially destabilizing results—affecting
family stability and child supervision—in
turn sustaining high rates of crime. Unfortunately,
prisons, which seek to improve the character of
prisoners, tend to degrade it instead, as they
lack empathy and self-control. "How can inmates
learn to empathize with the rights, needs, and
feelings of others and not view their fellow citizens
as mere objects to be exploited or harmed when
so many of the guards regard them as objects of
gratification, derision and contempt?" Prisons
are taking refuge in the conclusion of the research
finding—30 years ago—that "nothing
works." Recent scholarly literature has challenged
the "nothing works" conclusions, claiming
that rehabilitative programmes can have a positive
impact. Religious rehabilitation programmes have
met only with partial success. It is felt that
there is no simple solution to the problem.
H.P.B. warns against the "nothing works"
attitude, as she writes: "Selfishness, indifference,
and brutality can never be the normal state of
the race—to believe so would be to despair
of humanity—and that no Theosophist can
do" (The Key to Theosophy, p. 233). Moreover,
measures taken should be restrictive and not punitive.
No lasting reform can be achieved unless human
nature is changed. She writes:
Make men feel and recognize in their innermost
hearts what is their real, true duty to all
men, and every old abuse of power, every iniquitous
law in the national policy, based on human,
social or political selfishness, will disappear
of itself. Foolish is the gardener who seeks
to weed his flower-bed of poisonous plants by
cutting them off from the surface of the soil,
instead of tearing them out by the roots. (The
Key to Theosophy p. 229)