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To Bart - my brother's keeper

May 14, 2001 04:23 PM
by Marina Sisson

Dear Bart,

There is a short address made by Jinarajadasa in September, 1950, that I
think that is tune with HPB's quotation. It may interest you, so I
transcribed below. It is called "My Brother's Keeper". As far as I know, it
was never published in any magazine. In 1979 my husband Arnaldo copied it
from a pamphlet in Adyar and we reproduced it in a Newsletter of the WTYF
(World Theosophical Youth Federation) in January/1991.

Best regards,

> Thank you very, very much.
> Yes, that is it. I should have written that I suspected that it was in
> Volume X. I'm giving a members' talk at the New York Lodge on the place
> of religion in Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, and then, later
> that week, a public talk on bridging understanding between the liberals
> and conservatives in our society. The part you quoted will be useful in
> the former, and another part which talks about the role of the TS to
> create greater understanding between opposing groups as part of the
> introduction to the latter talk.

My Brother's Keeper
(Inaugural Address to the Radiant Youth Lodge, Madras, September 3, 1950)
By C. Jinarajadasa

In an ancient land like India, where there are today so many religions,
there is no need to add any teaching that can be termed new. All over the
City of Madras there are Hindu temples, Christian churches, Muhammadan
mosques. There is a Zoroastrian Fire Temple, and there is also a Buddhist
Shrine. So that in theory every possible kind of religious inspiration that
man requires can be found here. Yet if you examine all these teachings you
will note that in main they concentrate on the life of the individual, and
not particularly on his relations to those among whom he lives. Very
briefly, they will tell you that your chief duty is to love God and obey His
commandments. With regard to all that is evil in the social conditions of
the community, you are told in brief, "Leave all that to God". That has so
much been the case in India for thousands of years with its several millions
of Sannyasis that no attention has been paid by these who are supposed to be
aspiring to the highest spirituality to the conditions of poverty,
ignorance, degradation and exploitation that is on all sides of them. It is
true that every religion inculcates charity, that is, giving gifts to the
poor. But hardly ever is there any question why, in a so-called civilized
community, there should be any poor at all.

Seventy-five years ago the Theosophical Society was started, with the
fundamental teaching of Universal Brotherhood. In other words, until
something of the ideal of Brotherhood was really applied in social life
there could not be any real spiritual or even civilized community. But what
do we mean by Brotherhood? It is a word that conveys an ideal, which is
certainly very lofty. But what, after all, does Brotherhood mean, brought
down from the ideal level to the practical level of daily life?

Here I want to tell you about a man who lived in the United States. He was
Eugene Debs. He was a leader of Labor, and president of a Labor Union. Of
course all of the propertied classes, the classes of privilege, denounced
him as an "agitator", and a very bad man. He was sent to gaol three times
because he championed the cause of the under-privileged. Employers of labor
usually consider that so long as they give a minimum wage, what they think
is a "just wage", they have done their duty. They never inquire into what
are the principles of justice, and what are the requirements of a worker's
family for food, clothing, housing and other amenities. Debs, who lived with
the worker's class, knew exactly how they were being held down by the
employers, whose chief idea was profits and not particularly justice, or
just inter-relations. On one occasion, from the dock, Debs said the
following, which stands out as expressing very briefly what real Brotherhood
means: "While there is a poorer class, I am of it; while there is a criminal
class I belong to it; while there is a soul in gaol I am not free". These
wonderful words of a so-called agitator reveal what is the real basis of
true Brotherhood. I would like you youth of the Radiant Youth Lodge to think
over these words.

For the last three years, India is free to administer for her own affairs.
But what are the conditions in which we live? I need not describe them, for
all of you know them well. At the moment here in South India our masses have
not enough to eat. We hear stories of parents selling their babies for a few
rupees, as it is impossible to give them adequate nourishment. We hear
stories also of the poor eating the barks of trees and in last night's paper
(if it is true) some poor eating sawdust and children dying from it. I need
hardly allude to the corruption in administration throughout the land, and
black-marketing, which has been accepted as an integral part of our
commercial economy. You will say: "What can you youth do today?"

Certainly not very much at the moment. But it is these conditions that you
must study and try to understand their causes, for who knows, in twenty
years' time you may set the opportunity to be some kind of leader, and then
if you have in your mind an accurate realization of the conditions of the
masses you may be able to do something. Your aspiration for spiritual
realization today should be turned to understanding what is the true basis
of wealth, what is a living wage, what are the eternal principles of
justice. It is when these truths have been built into the structure of the
people that we shall have a real religious life, even if not a single
temple, church or mosque exists in the land.

I would recommend you to study profoundly, as I did when I was your age, a
certain work of the English writer John Ruskin called "Unto This Last".
Ruskin, who has written many books, said that he considered that the final
message, which he desired to leave to his fellowmen, was in this series of
addresses on Political Economy. Against an intense opposition of all the
professors of Political Economy and of the propertied and privileged
classes, Ruskin probed deeply into what are the true bases of economics in
the life of the people. What he wrote 75 years ago applies to the conditions
today also.

It is the understanding of these problems, which affect the life of the
masses that should be the main study of every Youth Lodge, and not
particularly to understand what the elders talk of as the "Plan of God". The
power to direct the affairs of the people will slowly pass form your elders
to you. If you make the same blunders as the elders have done, you will have
wasted you youth today. There is a very remarkable saying of Bernard Shaw,
which is: "Youth is a splendid thing, but it is wasted on the young." I hope
since now you belong to that section of the community that is termed "Youth"
, that you will not waste your opportunities, for very soon, when you grow
older, your minds will become hardened and you will be less sensitive to

"Am I my brother's keeper?" asked Cain. Almost the first application of
Brotherhood is, "I can never be my own keeper, unless I am first my brother'
s keeper."

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