Dharma

One life. One love. One planet. One global wisdom tradition into which all the world's great spiritual traditions flow like rivers into the sea.

The SFTS Lodge's quarterly Dharma Message is draw from the rich, diverse treasure trove submerged in the depths of this luminous sea.

Dharma Message for 2017-2018: Pope Francis Calls for “A Revolution of Tenderness”

Just as in April 2017, TED conference attendees in Vancouver were graced with a surprise message from Pope Francis, who delivered a TED Talk via video link from his desk at the Vatican, in May 2017, SFTS Lodge members and guests attending our weekly Friday Night Conversation In Theosophy were graced with the same surprise message, courtesy of TED which makes all of its content publicly available. The profound insights Pope Francis shared in his talk are in deeply resonant with the motto and twin core principles of our Lodge: “No Religion Higher Than Truth, No Power Greater Than Love.” To further the reach of this important message, we have also chosen Pope Francis’ TED Talk as our Dharma Message for 2017-2018 and are embedding the video here at SFTSlodge.org (again courtesy of TED).

Here is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ remarks (we also have included a link to the full transcript):

The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness. And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love. Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.” You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. Thank you.

Full Transcript of Pope Francis’ Ted Talk

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Dharma Message for 2015-2016: “THE BEST YOU CAN SAY IS NOT-TWO”

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Our Dharma Message for 2015 is in honor of our beloved friend and SFTS Lodge comrade Chris Black, who transitioned from this plane of existence in 2014, after a three year struggle with cancer. In his many years of service and sharing at the SFTS Lodge, “Blackie” led numerous “Conversations in Theosophy” based on his favorite Dharma teaching, the Hsing Hsing Ming.

Here is the text of his preferred translation:

THE MIND OF ABSOLUTE TRUST…

THE GREAT WAY ISN’T DIFFICULT FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNATTACHED TO THEIR PREFERENCE LET GO OF LONGING AND AVERSION AND EVERYTHING WILL BE PERFECTLY CLEAR WHEN YOU CLING TO A HAIRSBREADTH OF DISTINCTION HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE SET APART IF YOU WANT TO REALIZE THE TRUTH DON’T BE FOR OR AGAINST THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL IS THE PRIMAL DISEASE OF THE MIND NOT GRASPING THE DEEPER MEANING YOU JUST TROUBLE YOUR MINDS SERENITY AS VAST AS INFINITE SPACE IT IS PERFECT AND LACKS NOTHING BUT BECAUSE YOU SELECT AND REJECT YOU CAN’T PERCEIVE ITS TRUE NATURE DON’T GET ENTANGLED IN THE WORLD DON’T LOSE YOURSELF IN EMPTINESS BE AT PEACE IN THE ONENESS OF THINGS AND ALL ERRORS WILL DISAPPEAR BY THEMSELVES IF YOU DON’T LIVE THE TAO YOU FALL INTO ASSERTION OR DENIAL ASSERTING THAT THE WORLD IS REAL YOU ARE BLIND TO ITS DEEPER REALITY DENYING THAT THE WORLD IS REAL YOU ARE BLIND TO THE SELFLESSNESS OF ALL THINGS THE MORE YOU THINK ABOUT THESE MATTERS THE FARTHER YOU ARE FROM THE TRUTH STEP ASIDE FROM ALL THINKING AND THERE IS NOWHERE YOU CAN’T GO RETURNING TO THE ROOT YOU FIND THE MEANING CHASING APPEARANCES YOU LOSE THEIR SOURCE AT THE MOMENT OF PROFOUND INSIGHT YOU TRANSCEND BOTH APPEARANCE AND EMPTINESS DON’T KEEP SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH JUST LET GO OF YOUR OPINIONS FOR THE MIND IN HARMONY WITH THE TAO ALL SELFISHNESS DISAPPEARS WITH NOT EVEN A TRACE OF SELF-DOUBT YOU CAN TRUST THE UNIVERSE COMPLETELY ALL AT ONCE YOU ARE FREE WITH NOTHING LEFT TO HOLD ON TO ALL IS EMPTY BRILLIANT PERFECT IN ITS OWN BEING IN THE WORLD OF THINGS AS THEY ARE THERE IS NO SELF NO NON SELF IF YOU WANT TO DESCRIBE ITS ESSENCE THE BEST YOU CAN SAY IS NOT-TWO

IN THIS NOT-TWO NOTHING IS SEPARATE AND NOTHING IN THE WORLD IS EXCLUDED THE ENLIGHTENED OF ALL TIMES AND PLACES HAVE ENTERED INTO THIS TRUTH IN IT THERE IS NO GAIN OR LOSS ONE INSTANT IS TEN THOUSAND YEARS THERE IS NO HERE NO THERE INFINITY IS RIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES THE TINY IS AS LARGE AS THE VAST WHEN OBJECTIVE BOUNDARIES HAVE VANISHED THE VAST IS AS SMALL AS THE TINY WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE EXTERNAL LIMITS BEING IS AN ASPECT OF NON-BEING NON-BEING IS NO DIFFERENT FROM BEING UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND THIS TRUTH YOU WON’T SEE ANYTHING CLEARLY ONE IS ALL ALL ARE ONE WHEN YOU REALIZE THIS WHAT REASON FOR HOLINESS OR WISDOM THE MIND OF ABSOLUTE TRUST IS BEYOND ALL THOUGHT ALL STRIVING IS PERFECTLY AT PEACE FOR IN IT THERE IS NO YESTERDAY NO TODAY NO TOMORROW

“Thank You for Your Divine Presence!” – In Celebration of the Life and Work of Light Devoy Edwin Harris

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On 12/22/14 at 11:13 p.m., Light Devoy Edwin Harris passed on from the physical plane, at the age of 81.

Light was a great alchemist (in the technical sense of that term) as well as a great maestro and scholar of African-American spirituals. Over the decades of his friendship and support for the Theosophical Society San Francisco Lodge, Light delivered many erudite lectures on the occult sciences and led many amazing performances by his choir, the Jubilee Singers. Light was a dear friend and ally of Joe and Guin Miller, and after their passing he was a dear friend and ally of those of us who kept that circle of light alive.

His home on Gough Street became known as “the University of Light.” There, he taught alchemy on weeknights and African-American spirituals on weekends. In the course of casual conversation, Light would inevitably weave in some profound mystical teaching and then turn to you and say, with utter sincerity, “You taught me that.” In greeting you or bidding you goodbye, he would typically say, with deep conviction, “Thank you for your divine presence.”

For Light, all of creation was vibration. He taught it and he lived it. He would open his talks and performances with a signature song: “Everything I see is me. Everything I see is me. Everything I see is me. Everything I hear is me. Everything I hear is me. Everything I hear is me. L.I.G.H.T. Light! S.O.U.N.D. Sound! Light and sound! Sound and light! Light and sound! Sound and light! L.I.G.H.T. Light! S.O.U.N.D. Sound!”

Light’s presence was powerful and joyful, and one would invariably leave deeply touched.

This photo was taken during his participation in a San Francisco Opera production of Aida (circa 1980s).

A celebration of Light’s life and work will be held at the SFTS Lodge in early 2015.

Dharma Message 2014

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“My mind is co-extensive with space, My compassion is more radiant than the Sun, My blessings are more extensive than an immense cloud, and My siddhi falls faster than gentle rain, so you of the future with faith, pray! And reading the language of synchronicity, you possess the answer to your ultimate prayer.” — Secret Life and Teachings of the Lady Tsogyel, trans. Keith Dowman, Arkana, 1989

Dharma Message – 2013

Saint Hildegard of Bingen – Cultivating the Cosmic Tree, Plate 7, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen

In her hymn, O ignis Spiritus Paracliti, the great Saint Hildegard of Bingen exclaimed:

Oh fire of the Holy Spirit,

life of the life of every creature,

holy are you in giving life to forms…

Oh boldest path,

penetrating into all places,

in the heights, on earth,

and in every abyss,

you bring and bind all together

From you clouds flow, air flies,

Rocks have their humours,

Rivers spring forth from the waters

And earth wears her green vigour

NOTE: For more on Hildegard’s vision of Viriditis (“Greeness”), the “very expression of Divine power on Earth,” which she saw as “penetrating every aspect of life,” read Stephanie Roth’s Cosmic Vision of Hildegard of Bingen in The Ecologist, Vol. 30, No. 1, January-February 2000.

 

Dharma Message for 4Q12

Pema Chodron (Omega Institute, 2007)

Pema Chodron (Omega Institute, 2007)

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers …”

[NOTE: This is a retelling of a classic Zen teaching tale, but it is a delightful one, and Pema Chodron powerfully articulates the story’s subtlest nuance and deepest meaning. She “owns” the story now. — R. Power, SFTS Lodge]

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

Dharma Message for 3Q12

meerabai  I take the path that ecstatic human beings have taken for centuries

Why Mira Can’t Come Back to Her Old House

The colors of the Dark One have penetrated Mira’s
      body; all the other colors washed out.
Making love with the Dark One and eating little,
      those are my pearls and my carnelians.
Meditation beads and the forehead streak,
      these are my scarves and my rings.
That’s enough feminine wiles for me.
      My teacher taught me this.
Approve me or disapprove me: I praise
      the Mountain Energy night and day.
I take the path that ecstatic human beings
      have taken for centuries.
I don’t steal money, I don’t hit anyone.
      What will you charge me with?
I have felt the swaying of the elephant’s shoulders;
      and now you want me to climb
      on a jackass? Try to be serious.

— Mirabai, Translated by Robert Bly in Kabir: Ecstatic Poems

Dharma Message for 2Q12

sfts_gallery_0304 “Ignorance, the shadow, is the only obstacle …”

“Ignorance, the shadow, is the only obstacle that stands in the way of everyone in this room being fully realized right at this moment. Now, the first awareness might come to you in a moment when you are terribly frightened … Did you ever notice how clear everything becomes? You see all the details, just like that, because you have stopped this peripheral thinking and you have referred to the higher mind and consciousness, to that super-subtle state known as Buddhi. Now, that is right next door to Atma. If you have touched the Buddhi, or universal aspect, you are right next to touching Atma.”

— Joe Miller, Great Song, p. 111

Dharma Message for 1Q12

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky H.P. Blavatsky, Founder of the Theosophical Society, Author of the Secret Doctrine and Voice of the Silence

Three Fundamental Propositions of the Secret Doctrine (H.P. Blavatsky)

The Secret Doctrine establishes three fundamental propositions:

  • An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought — in the words of Mandukya, “unthinkable and unspeakable.” …
  • The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically “the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,” called “the manifesting stars,” and the “sparks of Eternity.” “The Eternity of the Pilgrim”† is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) “The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux.” (See Part II., “Days and Nights of Brahma.”)
  • The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — a spark of the former — through the Cycle of Incarnation (or “Necessity”) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term.H.P. Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, Vol. I

Dharma Message for 4Q11

Statue of Adi Shankara I am the Lord of Lords. I am devoid of even a touch of jealousy or hatred. I am He that fulfills the desired object for those who are bent on realizing the goal …

I alone am the origin of the worlds. I am He that sports in the Upanishads. I am the flame of the submarine fire that will dry up the overflowing ocean of sorrow …

I am the seer. I am the host of seers. I am the act of creation and I myself am the created. I am prosperity, I am progress, I am satisfaction, I am the glow of the lamp of satisfaction …

I am the efficacy of herbs, I am the warp and woof of the world. I am the bee intoxicated with the fragrance of the bliss of Self emanating from the lotus of the sacred syllable Om.
I am Knowledge. I am the Known. I am the Knower. I am all the aids to Knowledge. I am the pure Soul-existence bereft of Knower, Knowledge and Known …

I am the oblation to the Gods and the oblation to the manes. I am devoid of the ideas of rejection or acceptance. I am Vishnu, I am Siva, I am Brahma, and I alone am their cause.– Thus Spake Sri Sankara