The Theosophical Society in America

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

by Betty Bland

Originally printed in the Fall 2010 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Band, Betty. "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize." Quest 98. 4 (Fall 2010): 126.

BettyBlandCan you remember learning how to ride a bike? After one has learned, it seems so natural that the actual learning is quickly forgotten—except by the traumatized parents who were trying to help the process. "It is all about balance," they would say encouragingly. So it proceeded through trial and error, until pretty soon the catastrophic wobble transformed into a tentatively directed ride before bursting into an exhilarating junket at full speed ahead. The balance was not something to be told about, but to do. Once mastered, the skill is always accessible; it may become rusty with disuse, but can quickly be recaptured.

Yet, balance has other, more subtle components. Focused attention is required to avoid the ordinary small obstacles such as a stone or bump in the road or a change in pavement, but attention must also be directed toward a wider outlook. If one kept eyes down on each little obstacle a tumble would surely result, or one might suddenly find oneself wrapped around a telephone pole.

Quite obviously this applies to our lives in general and particularly to the life of an aspirant. There are many levels of balanced functioning to be achieved, each building on the former and each requiring practice and attention. At every point in our growth, what we have already learned seems simple and what still lies ahead seems daunting.  However the three principles of balance, focus, and a constant eye to the horizon are essential elements of our practice. I recently ran across several little aphorisms by George S. Arundale (GSA), president of the international TS from 1934 to 1945, written in 1919 in a little book titled The Way of Service. I will use them to highlight the three principles mentioned above.

Balance: "Do not allow the force of your affection for another to disturb either your balance or his" GSA writes. "Your service must strengthen and not weaken." Isn’t it interesting that at the very outset we have to learn to balance what we generally call love? A multitude of sins can parade under the guise of love, such as an attachment to our way of defining a person and how they must act. In our desire to be helpful we need to keep balanced within boundaries so that each has the space to unfurl his or her own unique potential.

Balance in human relationships requires a great deal of self-awareness. We see through the filters of self-interest and protection of the group we belong to—whatever that may be. Each layer of learning about ourselves reveals one more way in which we might fool ourselves into thinking that our motives are purely altruistic when they actually may be quite self serving. And moving beyond self-interest to protecting our cultural bias with which we identify, we can become quite irrational in the way we react to and value our brothers and sisters. This has manifested in many ways including women’s issues, homophobia, race relations, and religious intolerance. All these throw us totally off balance in our view of reality.

Focus: "Do not be jealous of another's greater power of service," urges GSA, "rather be glad that a greater power exists to help those whom your own weaker force may be unable to reach." In other words, recognize the ideal of benefiting humankind as the goal rather than wondering whether you might shine or be recognized for any great talent. There are very few truly great people in the world and it is a certain bet that a part of their repertoire is humility. Even so, humanity has such a wide array of talents that excelling in one area is usually balanced by some other weakness. Comparing ourselves to others is like concentrating on the little pebbles in the road, assuring a certain crash.

We have been told by many religious teachings not to worry about the glamour of admiration or praise. Jesus told his disciples to pray in private rather than in public where everyone would recognize one for their righteousness. Jiddu Krishnamurti penned in the little book At the Feet of the Master that your mind "wishes itself to feel proudly separate" and calculates on behalf of self instead of helping others. Beware: anything that feeds the ravenous wolf of self is sure to result in the inevitable crash. As the saying goes, "Pride goes before the fall and mighty pride goes before a mighty fall."

A constant eye: "The less a person thinks about himself, says GSA, "the more he is really paying attention to his growth. Each little act of service returns to the doer in the shape of an added power to serve." To keep "a constant eye toward the ideal of human progression and perfection which the secret science depicts" as HPB stated in the Golden Stairs, our goal is to lift our eyes beyond our personal self to the good of the whole. This kind of habitual view is developed only through the practice of returning our gaze to the horizon again and again, whenever we begin feeling a bit off-balance. With the eyes of our soul uplifted toward this wide view, we gain a powerful tool for holding steady in our travels through life. Our great prize, if we keep our balance, focus, and vision, is the "reward past all telling—the power to bless and save humanity."

There is a road, steep and thorny, beset with perils of every kind, but yet a road, and it leads to the very heart of the Universe: I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte for evermore. There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer; there is no trial that spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty that strong intellect cannot surmount. For those who win onwards there is reward past all telling—the power to bless and save humanity; for those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come. (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Works, 13:219)