The Singapore Lodge Theosophical Society
The following articles are reproduced from the July 2022 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
Unity in Action at the International Gathering of Young Theosophists
By Brandon Goh
The International Gathering of Young Theosophists was the most profound, life-changing and happy period of our lives. Cradled in a verdant forest with a symphony of chirping, the ITC is among the most beautiful and peaceful of places. Setting foot in the grounds feels like entering a field of dynamic, resonant stillness in which nature sings. Adding to its charm, the buildings nestled within the forest are beautifully wooden and let warm sunlight in, making us feel a part of nature even when indoors.
The days were packed with talks, volunteering activities and interactive workshops – a perfect blend of seriousness and fun. Nonetheless, this did not stop us from sacrificing some sleep to have more fun together! Bro Francis and Sis Clover were particularly high on music and games, whereas Bro Brandon stole some moments of solitude here and there. In the spirit of service, Bro Francis put his expertise to good use and became the photographer for the group, contributing up to 1500 photos and videos to our ITC memory lane! Privately, Bro Brandon feels that Bro Francis should have instead worn a helmet camera the whole time.
It is hard to fathom how we could forge such close bonds within a few days – a slice of time, but no less of eternity. For some of us, something deep down longed and still longs to know everyone intimately, to share their joys and sorrows, to be there for them through thick and thin. At some point during one of the youth workshops, a flash of realisation dawned upon us – that we share one overarching Vision, that everyone in the group is a selfless server dedicated to the Cause. It felt as though an unseen conductor drew compatible musicians together to orchestrate a symphony of oneness; each member had to possess the right instrument to play the right notes in harmony with all the others. Young servers who had long been working together in spirit for the same Vision were now gathered from all corners of the world. Perhaps in the inner planes, the spirit of youth, creation and divine activity aflame in our hearts blazed forth and merged, growing into a lotus fire to receive the descent of something even greater.
As we fueled a greater fire for service by sharing our inner flames, insights and ideas came forth through our Vision to nurture inner wisdom through practical means. This entails presenting Theosophy in a more relevant and accessible way for the youth of today. It’s amazing that even though the brainstormed initiatives and activities were diverse, the underlying principle was the same – our presentation of Theosophy needs to be practical and interactive to engage youths. We felt united in this mission, to understand what youths need and what they go through in order to help them find their own path to Theosophy. As youths ourselves who had overcome troubles in our younger past, there is a natural passion for guiding youths out of the darkness through Theosophy. Everyone really brought out their innermost yearning to give and to serve the Theosophical Cause, and it was so real and palpable during these sharing and discussion sessions.
One of many profound moments occurred during an informal evening with Tim Boyd when we sat in a circle. After essentially talking about being channels for something greater, whatever we may call it, and that each of us is charged to create a sacred space, our International President decided to end with a few moments of silence. A palpable Presence descended upon the circle. Some might call it a power, a force or a being, but it was what it was. After that silence, we felt that our lives have changed there and then, and it could never be the same again. A bubbling spring has arisen from deep within and shall renew us forevermore – if we let it.
Through this gathering, we realised what true unity is. Somehow everyone in our diverse group thought and acted seamlessly as though in a frictionless medium. We worked like bees of one hive and felt love and joy in simply being together. To be with the group and work together was enough – we had never felt so content. Somehow, something more was added to the experience itself that made it far more impactful, even timeless. Come to think of it, nearly every moment at the ITC was unifying as there was something indefinable infused into what would otherwise seem to be prosaic, everyday interactions. On the mere surface – which is all photos and videos could capture – the gathering seemed, after all, just a bunch of like-minded youths doing activities and having fun together without knowing one another enough to deal with their issues. However, deep down, many of us felt and still feel that there was something beyond. Almost every human connection made at the gathering seemed sanctified.
The ITC is also steeped in occultism. Great angels overshadow the centre as devas of various orders find a congenial atmosphere in which to work. Apart from all the teeming unseen life there, each tree must have some sort of unique life too. While most trees at the ITC feel friendly and open to human interaction, we only had time to connect with one of numerous giants, the grand old oak tree standing alone right beside the Garden of Remembrance; it’s a pity his leaves were half-eaten, but his greatness shone despite that. Communing with him was a marvellous, uplifting, fun and even funny experience, for where there are youths and the young at heart, there shall ever be fun and laughter. Most importantly, there is no doubt to some of us that the Star shines above St Michaels’ House; it is said that where the Star shines, ‘there shall ever be power, purity and peace’.
So many stars now illumine the firmament of our hearts that we are resonant with the harmony of a constellation of servers, filled with the ecstasy of union only to be fully experienced in silence. The words ‘we are one’ have a tremendous new meaning for us. This ‘band of servers’ was gathered at the ITC for a purpose: to reunite, kindle the spirit of youth and set our respective Lodges ablaze with the fire of creative activity that they may serve as channels for the divine light and life.
We shall cherish the eternal moments we have borne witness to, and if this sublime sun of unity becomes eclipsed or clouded by the strains and stresses of life, we shall at least have our Remembrance to light our way. Together, we stand. Together, we rise. Together, we love and serve.
The Asala Festival
Bishop C. W. Leadbeater wrote in The Masters And The Path, which was first published in 1925, the following account of the Asala Festival.
“Besides the great Wesak Festival there is one other occasion in each year when the members of the Brotherhood all meet together officially. The meeting in this case is usually held in the private house of the Lord Maitreya, situated also in the Himalayas, but on the southern instead of the northern slopes. On this occasion no pilgrims on the physical plane are present, but all astral visitors who know of the celebration are welcome to attend it. It is held on the full moon day of the month of Asala, (in Sanskrit Asâdha), usually corresponding to the English July.
This is the anniversary of the delivery by the Lord Buddha of His first announcement of the great discovery—the sermon which He preached to his five disciples, commonly known as the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta, which has been poetically translated by Rhys Davids as “The Setting in Motion of the Royal Chariot Wheels of the Kingdom of Righteousness”. It is often more briefly described in Buddhist books as “The Turning of the Wheel of the Law”. It explains for the first time the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, expounding the great middle way of the Buddha—the life of perfect righteousness in the world, which lies midway between the extravagances of asceticism on the one hand and the carelessness of mere worldly life on the other.
In His love for His great predecessor the Lord Maitreya has ordained that, whenever the anniversary of that first preaching comes round, the same sermon shall be recited once more in the presence of the assembled Brotherhood; and He usually adds to it a simple address of His own, expounding and applying it. The recitation of the sermon commences at the moment of full moon, and the reading and the address are usually over in about half an hour. The Lord Maitreya generally takes His place upon the marble seat which is set at the edge of a raised terrace in the lovely garden just in front of His house. The greatest of the Officials sit close about Him, while the rest of the Brotherhood is grouped in the garden a few feet below. On this occasion, as on the other, there is often an opportunity for pleasant converse, and kindly greetings and benedictions are distributed by the Masters among Their pupils and those who aspire to be Their pupils.
It may be useful to give some account of the ceremony, and of what is usually said at these Festivals, though it is, of course, utterly impossible to reproduce the wonder and the beauty and the eloquence of the words of the Lord Maitreya on such occasions. The account which follows does not attempt to report any single discourse; it is a combination of, I fear, very imperfectly remembered fragments, some of which have already appeared elsewhere; but it will give to those who have not previously heard of it some idea of the line generally taken.
That great sermon is wonderfully simple, and its points are repeated over and over again. There was no shorthand in those days, so that it might be taken down and read by every one afterwards; His disciples had to remember His words by the impression made on them at the time. So He made them simple, and He repeated them again and again like a refrain, so that the people might be sure of them. One may readily see in reading it that it is constructed for this special purpose—that it may be easily remembered. Its points are arranged categorically, so that when it has once been heard each point reminds one of the next, as though it were a kind of mnemonic, and to the Buddhist each of these separate and easily remembered words suggests a whole body of related ideas, so that the sermon, short and simple as it is, contains an explanation and a rule of life.
One might well think that all that can be said about the sermon has been said already many times over; yet the Lord, with His wonderful eloquence and the way in which He puts it, makes it every year seem something new, and each person feels its message as though it were specially addressed to himself. On that occasion, as in the original preaching, the Pentecostal miracle repeats itself. The Lord speaks in the original sonorous Pâli, but every one present hears Him “in his own tongue wherein he was born,” as is said in the Acts of the Apostles.”
In addition to the account by C. W. Leadbeater we also have the testimonial of Geoffrey Hodson (1886-1983), a renowned theosophist and clairvoyant and also a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church, regarding the Asala Festival. In his occult diary, his wife Sandra Hodson wrote on July 7, 1976, “Geoffrey recorded to me verbally that on one or more occasions he remembered, on awakening, an out-of-the-body experience following the Asala Festival, of attendance at the home and garden of the Lord Maitreya. Geoffrey stated, “As far as my memory goes, not only Adepts, but a considerable number of aspirants to Adeptship—devotees of the Lord Buddha, the Lord Maitreya, and the Masters of the Wisdom—were also present and listened to the discourse. Most of them, in physically influenced memory, were floating in their subtle bodies, as it were, in the air above the Lord’s garden on the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains.”