Sisu is a concept from Finland that can be roughly translated into English as guts, determination, perseverance; there is no exact translation, as English is an extremely limited language when it comes to anything that is unconnected to living a material life.

In Finland conditions can be harsh, with long periods of darkness and extreme cold at certain times of the year.  So it is integral to the Finnish nature to have this grit and determination to overcome these difficult conditions by an inner resolve.  Yet it is not something done consciously but just the way they have developed and has become the national character.

The “Voice of the Silence” by HP Blavatsky has these lines:

“Have perseverance as one who doth for evermore endure. Thy shadows live and vanish; that which in thee shall live for ever, that which in thee knows, for it is knowledge, is not of fleeting life: it is the man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike. “

The shadows that she mentions are our personal selves, that in the scale of things are like bubbles in a stream or a flash of lightning in a summer cloud.  Yet we give them so much attention.  Compared to the infinity of the Universe we are like mayflies or a galloping horse seen through a crack in a fence, to use some Taoist and Buddhist expressions.

Most of the world’s problems arise from the fact that people are totally unaware that they are immortal beings in reality.  Yet they live as if their personal selves will go on forever.  So, all their attention is focused on this very short life.  A matter of a few decades.  They give attention to themselves and to their families, oblivious of the fact that they have had many more families and friends in previous lives who they loved just as much, but have faded from physical memory.  It’s all part of the Never-Ending Story, to use the title of one of my favourite films.  HP Blavatsky once again writes in the “Key to Theosophy”:

“We Theosophists, therefore, distinguish between this bundle of “experiences”, which we call the false (because so finite and evanescent) personality, and that element in man to which the feeling of “I am I” is due. It is this “I am I” which we call the true individuality; and we say that this “Ego” or individuality plays, like an actor, many parts on the stage of life. Let us call every life on earth of the same Ego a night on the stage of a theatre. One night the actor, or Ego, appears as Macbeth, the next as Shylock, the third as Romeo, the fourth as Hamlet or King Lear, and so on, until he has run through the whole cycle of incarnation The Ego begins his life-pilgrimage as a sprite, an Ariel, or a Puck; 1 plays the part of a super, is a soldier, a servant, one of the chorus; rises then to speaking parts, plays leading roles interspersed with insignificant parts, till he finally retires from the stage as Prospero, the magician. “

Of course, it is likely that those people you form a strong Spiritual or emotional attraction to will follow you into the next life.  In that case it may take the form of an instant bond being formed or even ‘love at first sight’ in some cases.  Perhaps even hatred forms a link too. If physical memory falls short, soul memory records everything.  If we could tap into that we would remember all our past lives, which would be rather overwhelming and traumatic for us at this stage of our evolution.

Who or what we are in reality is much different than what we think we are and yet a golden thread runs through all our lives, which is known as the ‘sutratma’ in Sanskrit.  This word means ‘thread soul.’  When we awaken to our True Self and the realisation of our immortality, then everything changes.  We see what really matters and what matters not at all, often a complete reversal of what we thought was important before.  There is a calmness to all of this, because now we realise that nothing can touch our True Self and that we are something infinitely more than we ever dreamed. We become aware of our true potential as Spiritual Beings.

It is easier then to act like those Finnish people, motivated by Sisu.  We begin to see clearly and many of the glaring injustices and wrongs of society, that are accepted by most, are seen in their true light.

If we can also see that death is no obstacle to our onward march, then we can have such perseverance as the “Voice of the Silence” mentions.  What we are in essence knows because it is Knowledge.  True Knowledge of course.  In this state we just know what needs to be known.  Our mind is cleared of all those things we learned that are of no use to us on our Spiritual Journey.  We have been seeing “through a glass darkly”, tied down by intellectual concepts and ideas; which are merely feeding the lower aspects of our mind and perhaps creating the “mind formed manacles” of which William Blake writes in his poem “London”.  Bodhidharma, the great Buddhist Adept, states that the intellect will eventually poison the soul if allowed free rein.  Sri Shankaracharya tells us that the mind can be lost in a labyrinth of words, like a man in a thick forest.

We should be aiming always to be guided by our Higher Self and not by external rules created by those who are ignorant of their Spiritual nature.  Of course, we must use ‘common’ sense in all this, although the common sense of those on a Spiritual Path is much different than the usual idea of what common sense is.  It is the sense one has in common with others on the same pilgrimage to the Heart of the Universe.  The usual ideas of what it is are again based upon premises that have no inkling of anything Spiritual.

I will close with the words Sri Krishna, which rounds things off nicely:

“Learn from these facets of Nature: though trampled on by all, be firm in your adversity like the earth itself; from these mountains which hold their mineral and other resources for the welfare of the world, learn that you must live for others and not for yourself; like the wind, you must be able to pass through unhindered; all-pervasive, touching everything, yet itself untouched, the sky is verily the shining paradigm of the Yogin; you should be limpid, pure, purifying, pleasing and refreshing like water; effulgent with the lustre of wisdom like the fire that reduces to ashes all impurity; like the python, lie still and take only what comes to you, and when nothing comes, fast as the python does; like the sea, deep and unfathomable, neither be swollen by what flows into you nor be depleted by what is withdrawn from you; like the bee, take in little by little, and from good and bad alike, extract the essence even as the bee gathers honey. “


Written by

Wayne was born in Farnworth nr Bolton, Lancashire. He worked for 20 years as a gardener. In 1973 he joined the Theosophical Society in and has been President of the Bolton Lodge for about 25 years. Wayne is also the joint Vice President of the North-Western Federation and editor of the North-Western Federation Journal. He is a national speaker for the Theosophical Society and also contributes articles to the Theosophist and other Theosophical magazines. He also rites poems and stories and enjoys music, art, nature and literature.

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