The Theosophical Society (Adyar)

Institutional Issues

Who Shall Reside in Adyar
by N. Sri Ram

The American Theosophist, February 1954.

* * *

I have been approached by a number of persons with requests to accommodate them and their families on the Society’s estate, requests with which for the most part I cannot comply, even if I would like personally to do so.

It must be borne in mind that there is only a limited amount of accommodation, especially for families, and some of the available quarters must be kept in reserve for those who are to come or may come later in connection with the Society’s work or as students of the Wisdom, seeking to qualify themselves further to promote that work. The accommodation was specifically created for such students and workers, and not for the purpose of getting a good rental for the Society.

It has often been said that “Adyar,” as the Society’s grounds are termed especially abroad, is meant to be an Ashrama, a spiritual centre, devoted to the supreme purposes of the movement, finding expression in activities arising naturally from those purposes or in close consonance with them. It is not meant to be a place of refuge or a convenience, with amenities to be enjoyed by a privileged few, who in one way or another have acquired a vested interest.

Strictly considered, every worker here and every resident, including those who constitute the worker’s family, ought to be persons who are here to give to Adyar more than they seek to gain from it, who are eager to shape their lives so as to become natural channels for those influences which are intended to find here a proper focus.

I am aware that this is not the case at present, and cannot be for some time. There are members of the families of those permitted to reside here, who are not particularly interested in Theosophy or in the work for which this place is intended, nor do they know much about it. There are workers who have come into the organization for gainful employment, but cannot be said to be vitally interested in its mission. This is the case, even though some of these people may be better in certain ways than others who are regular members of the Society.

Yet, when all this has been recognized to the full, it is still the duty of the man or woman who is entrusted with the office of President to struggle to maintain certain standards and principles, to act according to a definite conception of who may be regarded as the right or appropriate persons in whose favor he can or ought to exercise his discretion. It is not enough if the person is a nominal member of the Society. For there would be, and there are, very many willing to join the Society, regarding Adyar much in the light of a pleasant residential colony, in order to have the same advantages therein, which other members seem to enjoy.

If any member wants to be here as a visitor, only temporarily, his case is quite different from that of persons who want to be accommodated for a longer period, say one year or even six months. It is in the case of these long-term residents that the President has the duty of being strict, remembering that when permission is given for six months or one year to start with, an extension of that permission becomes very often inevitable, on the ground that there is no other accommodation for the person to go to. The one over-riding consideration in the matter is how far the person, with regard to whom the choice has to be exercised, is likely to help to create the very definite and very special atmosphere which Adyar is intended to develop, how far he will serve its needs and purposes.

This is the reason why the President has been given by the Constitution of the Society absolute discretion to decide who shall reside at this Adyar Headquarters, in what places, and on what terms. His power is nominally absolute, but in reality far from being so. The fact that the power is vested in him imposes on him a corresponding responsibility to use his discretion and judgment to the full with scrupulous care in each and every case, however imperfect that judgment may be. His duty is to make Adyar what it should be, even though it can be made so only gradually and in process of time. That duty has to be paramount over every other consideration, which of course does not mean that he must be inconsiderate to those in need, or wanting in a sense of Brotherhood.

But what is true Brotherhood? Does it consist in saying “Yes” to every request, every proposal, compliance with everything that may be asked for at any time, thus making a glorious medley of everything, confusion worse confounded? The cause of human progress, the highest spiritual benefit to all, which is the true aim of Brotherhood, may be served sometimes as much
by refusal as by compliance, and that cause requires the clearest discrimination at every step, taking into account not only every relevant purpose, but also the limits within which each of them should be allowed to find expression.

Last update: January 2009
Copyright © 2005 Theosophy in Slovenia