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In its secular sense, a disciple is one who attends upon a teacher in order to learn, but as used in theosophical texts discipleship implies, in a certain manner, a commitment to the Ancient Wisdom and Self-Culture leading, possibly, to becoming a pupil of the MAHATMA. Exposure to the Ancient Wisdom with its consequent understanding of the Divine Plan may awaken in the student a desire to commit himself or herself wholly to activities that further the Plan on Earth.

During the early years of the Theosophical Society a number of members sought to become chelas (disciples) of a Mahatma, but few were accepted and of those who were, even fewer passed beyond the probationary stage.

According to Jinarajadasa (First Principles of Theosophy) the stages are:

Being a man or woman of ideals.

Accepted Pupil

“Son (daughter) of the Master"


Jinarajadasa lists the qualifications for initiation as:

1. Discrimination

2. Desirelessness

3. Six points of conduct

     (a) Self-control as to the mind

     (b) Self-control as to action

     (c) Tolerance

     (d) Cheerfulness

     (e) One-pointednes

     (f) Confidence

4. Love

Alice Bailey offers, in her Discipleship in the New Age (Vol. I), a more detailed account:

1. A disciple is contacted by the Master through another chela on the physical plane.

2. A stage wherein a higher disciple directs the chela from the egoic (“I” making) level.

3. The stage wherein the Master contacts the chela through:

     a. A vivid dream experience.

     b. A symbolic teaching.

     c. Using a thoughtform of the Master.

     d. Contact in meditation.

     e. A definite remembered interview in the Master’s Ashram.

4. The chela is taught how to contact the Master in an emergency.

5. The ability to arrange an interview with a Master.

6. Is in close touch always with the Master.

The probationary period normally lasts for seven years and the aspirant will need to measure up to the requirements mentioned above before being accepted as a full pupil. There have been rare occasions when the probationary period has been shortened, but this only occurs when the aspirant has accumulated “good” karma in a previous life.

Essentially, the requirements for acceptance as a chela are an appropriate lifestyle with particular emphasis on ahimsa (harmless living), mastery of the mind and the emotions, devotion to the progress and welfare of humanity.

The stringencies surrounding the aspirant on the Path are severe and are evidenced by the sad expression, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (See also INITIATION.)


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