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Annie Besant: Her Unique Work for Humanity

Oct 02, 2011 06:25 AM
by MKR

I am posting this since the author is yet to subscribe to theos-talk.



Annie Besant: Her Unique Work for Humanity

When we look at the life and work of Dr Annie Besant (1847-1933) today, even
after 78 years of her passing, we recollect the past in great admiration and
amazement, for the simple reason that it was dedicated for an onerous duty
to Humanity. There is not an area of human life and living she has not
touched to bring it to high acclaim. She lived in India for four decades
(1893-1933) though continued to be a world traveler for humanitarian causes.

Her main focus of service appears to be that of Education. Her work in India
to profess foreign education to men and women here was a part of her total
rendering for Indian Renaissance. She equally emphatically took up the cause
of the girl-child, advocating against the child-marriage, and sought to
provide them the much needed reawakening. Education for her is not mere
âschooling and collegingâ but it included the Right Citizenship, conduct and
a discipline âoriented living.  Her lecturing and literary output was to
âeducateâ the public, the members of the Theosophical Society in particular,
in the matters of Religion, the philosophy around the religion and the
Public Spirit needed for a true spiritual opening. She simplified the tenets
and abstruse ideas of the theosophical thought for the immediate benefit of
a commoner.

Not satisfied with singing the Past Glory of the Nation in various fields of
thought, she encouraged its further advancement by unifying the West and the
East in true Culture and refined cultivation. She helped the public
understand the nuances of Fine-arts such as Music and Dance. Calling for an
insightful look into them, she related how the universe can be rejuvenated
by polished behavior. She considered everything from a standpoint of an

In a lecture to the enlightened audience at Sri Parthasarathi Swami Sabha,
in Triplicane on 7th March 1908, she analyzes the role of Music in human
life, juxtaposing the Western and Eastern ways. She asks a series of
questions and places answers in an orderly manner.

Why does music exercise so great an influence over the passions and the
emotions of man? Why is it that religion has ever found in music one of its
strongest helpers, one of its most inspiring agencies? Why is it that in
some of its most intellectual functions, such as meditation, music
âaddressed specially to the emotions as it is â is found to be most useful,
at least as a preliminary exercise and seems to enable the mind to rise from
the physical plane and to soar upwards into the higher regions of
consciousness, more easily than that would be possible without its aid? In
every religion, this use of music is to be found. It matters not whether you
travel in the east or in the west, the same thing is found: everywhere,
music forms an essential part of religious ceremonies and services.

In the west, the greatest musicians have strained their powers to express in
sequences of sounds the highest emotions of man.--- Every gradation of music
is arranged to arouse the right feeling in the hearts of the worshippers.
The cultured and refined, the ignorant peasantry and the market women all
kneel in the same congregation, feeling similar feelings, thrilling with
similar emotions, each and all purified, strengthened, uplifted by the
swelling music, which lifts them out of the sordid worlds, lifts them into
the outer courts of the Temple.

Hindu music, she says, âpredisposes to the higher forms of meditation, by
which, as its own sound sinks into silence for the entranced mind and heart,
the consciousness slips away from the body, leaving it cradled in the
melody, and passes into the higher regions. She also deals with another
service âwhen we use the specialized form of music as a Mantra.â

A Mantra brings about mechanically, with little difficulty, a condition
which is hard to reach in any other way, thus shortening the time of
preparation and leaving more strength of mind and will for the proper work
of meditation. Only the Mantra must be accurately chanted or recited. ---

As we progress in the spiritual life, the vibrations of all our bodies
become more harmonious, more musical, and the notes we send out have fewer
discords and add less to the noises, more to the music.

She goes on to add that music helps if we choose well, will hinder if we use
it to stimulate the lower instead of the higher in us. She advocates
âknitting religion to music and music to religion; so that music will become
more inspired, and religion more beautiful, until the highest music and the
most spiritual religion will be the atmosphere in which we can most freely
breathe. She makes a clear distinction of the right and the wrong use. Music
is an illustration here; this pragmatic point can be applied to every human

In her first address to the annual convention of The Theosophical Society in
1893, she, among other things, says the following:

To be able to lay at the feet of India any service is to me full reward for
the many sufferings of a stormy life through which the power of service has
been won. The India to which I belong in faith and heart is âa civilization
in which spiritual knowledge was accounted highest title to honor, and in
which the whole people revered and sought after spiritual truth.âThe India I
would give up my life to help in building is an India learned in the ancient
philosophy, pulsing with the ancient religion, - an India to which all other
lands should look for spiritual light, - where in life of all should be
materially simple, but intellectually noble and spiritually sublime. --- I
honestly believe that the future of India and the happiness of her people
can never be secured by political methods, but only by revival of her
philosophy and religion. To this, therefore, I must give all my energies,
and I must refuse to spread them over other fields. --- I write this lengthy
explanation of my absolute refusal to have anything to do with politics. The
politician must ever be at war; my mission is one of peace. Therefore I
enter not the political field.

But her later entry into Indian politics was at the behest of her Spiritual
Teachers, which she did with candor and did not hesitate to withdraw at an
appropriate time. Her intellectual friends were not appreciative of the fact
of her entering into politics and moved away from her then, which she did
not take in spite. Some of the members and Sections of the Theosophical
Society too drew swords at her. In India, her âHome-Ruleâ had become a
house-hold slogan; and her drafted Common-Wealth Bill remains a
well-documented record in history.

Let us look at what she says in 1922 on this matter, in her book âThe Future
of Indian Politics: A contribution to understanding of present-day

The new departure in 1913 resembled in one marked way the new departure when
the National congress was planned in 1884. The seed of both was planted by
the Theosophical society. It was at the theosophical convention of that year
that a small group of earnest theosophists deeply concerned for the
political future of their country and aroused to a sense of her past powers
and her then present impotence by the awakening crusades of H P Blavatsky
and Henry Steel Olcott, stirring the educated to self-respect and respect
for their Nation a meeting in Adyar, decided to make an effort for political

She attempted to build an ethical base and âpublic spiritâ in the realm of
every day living.
The contemporary as well the later politicians and thinkers in India, have
gone on record â and sill repeat --to say that if only her methods of polity
were followed by the Nation, the present lawlessness, unbecoming behavior,
unruliness and chaotic situation, as we face today in the country, could not
have their presence.

Her independent and wholesome Spirit at work is what should be noted by us.
She stood more for what she considered the best for the Nation & Humanity;
and she did not capitulate for any personal ambition or glorification. She
preferred the loss of personal friends than her well founded beliefs.

Another such occasion where she stood firm in her conviction can be seen in
the way she nurtured Krishnamurti and endured the relationship to its
logical end.  She did not mind the parting ways of her loyal friends in
India and the world over, as also some Sections of the Society seceding. She
miraculously restored, in few years, the membership numbers far exceeding
the earlier figures. Whatever her detractors may wish to say, her
presentment of Krishnamurti to the world had enormous benefit to the
thinking world, is an unfathomable and inscrutable fact. All her other work
and this singular fact weigh equal on the scales.

âShe tried to follow the truthâ was what she wanted to be her epitaph. We
can, for certain, say that she lived the Truth, with all the Spirit at her

What we need today is such decisive aspiration and Life-in-Spirit. We
remember her to revitalize ourselves in perseverance to the Cause of

Dr N C Ramanujachary

A talk given at Headquartes Hall, T S, Adyar on October 1, 2011

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