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THEOSOPHY WORLD --------------------------------- September, 1997
An Internet Magazine Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy
And its Practical Application in the Modern World
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"Introducing Studies in 'The Voice of the Silence'" by Dara Eklund
"Studies in 'The Voice of the Silence'" by B.P. Wadia
"Straight-Forward Speaking on Reexpressing Theosophy" by
"Online Theosophical Quotation Service" by Gail Stevenson
"Past and Future Do Not *Exist*" by Eldon Tucker
"The Circle With the Center Dot" by Mark Kusek
"Katherine Tingley as I Knew Her" by Boris de Zirkoff
"The Edmonton T.S." by Ernest & Rogelle Pelletier
"The Doctrine of Svabhava or Svabhavata and the Questions of
Anatman and Shunyata", Part II, by David Reigle
"Open Letter to Associates and Friends" by the United Lodge
I am no indiscriminate superstitious worshiper of all that goes
under the name of ancient. I never hesitated to endeavour to
demolish all that is evil or immoral, no matter how ancient it may
be, but with that reservation I must confess to you that I am an
adorer of ancient institutions, and it hurts me to think that
people in their rush for everything modern despise all their
ancient traditions and ignore them in their lives.
-- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
INTRODUCING STUDIES IN "THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE"
by Dara Eklund
Our friend Jeanne Sims had long hoped to see reprinted a series
of STUDIES IN "THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE" by B.P. Wadia. These
had appeared over several months in the periodical THE
THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT during 1940. Jeanne had in fact typed them
out for this purpose, but was happy to learn recently that the
U.L.T. has had these articles in print since 1969 in pamphlet
form. When we wrote by E-mail to Sophia Tenbroeck in Bombay (now
known as Mumbai) she responded that while the pamphlet is still
available, she would be happy to see them also on the Internet.
We have added, in square brackets, citations of sources quoted by
I am dedicating this electronic reprint to Jeanne Sims, who so
faithfully held our ~Secret Doctrine~ study classes in her Los
Angeles home for nearly a decade.
STUDIES IN "THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE"
by B.P. Wadia
[From the 1989 ULT pamphlet containing a reprint from THE
THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, X, July 1940, pages 129-31.]
The downfall of every civilization is caused by the weak morals
of those who live in and by it. False knowledge or misuse of
knowledge generally accompanies weakened morals. An unbalanced
relation between knowledge and ethics brings about a critical
stage which, if not promptly attended to, results in death.
Historical examples -- the Roman Empire for one -- will occur to
any reader. War plays a part in the destruction and the
reconstruction of civilizations. From the days of the
~Mahabharata~ down to our own times we come upon the phenomenon
of unbalance between mental capacity and moral responsibility,
competition leading to war and wars, then destruction. The
destruction of the entire Kshatriya caste took place on
Kurukshetra -- an event which has a lesson for us all who are
witnessing the sinking of European civilization.
Only a few in every century perceive the necessity of maintaining
in their own lives the balance between knowledge and love,
between head and heart. The great majority show an unbalance --
feelings alone without the light of Wisdom predominate in one
portion of the majority, while in the other head-learning without
soul-wisdom, without compassion and philanthropy and sacrifice,
works havoc. Religious feeling without knowledge is a curse
which develops fanaticism, hatred and war; knowledge devoid of a
spiritual basis soon develops into false knowledge which begets
arrogance, enmity and war. Only a few, a small minority in any
century, are Esotericists -- not enquirers nominally interested
in the Occult but real students learning to practise and to
promulgate the grand doctrines of the Science of Life. Their
task is to produce that balance between knowledge and ethics in
their own constitution without which there can be neither the
gaining of enlightenment nor the practice of altruism for the
good of all.
For these few H.P.B. produced the book called ~The Voice of the
Silence~, dedicating it to them. In the Preface to that
priceless little volume she writes that she offers three
Fragments and that more could not be given "to a world too
selfish and too much attached to objects of sense to be in any
way prepared to receive such exalted ethics in the right spirit."
[iii ULT; ix-x TUP]
Those only who are serious and sincere about moulding their own
minds will make use of the book. As H.P.B. writes:
> Unless a man perseveres seriously in the pursuit of
> self-knowledge, he will never lend a willing ear to advice of
> this nature. [iii; x]
Esoteric Philosophy has always taught the art of all-round
development  -- a healthy mind in a healthy body; but also, it
has always taught that the course of unfoldment is from within
without, and that therefore mind and not body should be the
starting point, and that motive and not method should receive
primary consideration. Not that body and method were neglected,
but ever and always mind and motive were made the starting point.
This is the burden of the ~Gita~, of the doctrines of the Buddha,
of the teachings of Jesus.
Those who have made friends with ~The Voice of the Silence~ have
noted that it too gives primary importance to the training of the
mind, with the right motive. In these four articles we shall
consider the place of the motive and the activity of the mind as
taught in the three Fragments, each of which should be considered
as an independent unit. While there is, of course, an intimate
interdependence between them, we should not consider the third
Fragment to be in line of succession to the second, nor the
latter as a continuation of the teaching of the first. Each
emphasizes a particular aspect of the Truth, of the Way and the
Path; each has its own message. One is not superior to the other
any more that blue as a primary colour is superior to yellow or
inferior to red.
Like all Occult treatises ~The Voice of the Silence~ is written
in a cipher and yields more than one meaning, for there is more
than one key to be used in deciphering a profound cipher. The
neophyte at his stage, the adept at his, use the teachings, for
growth as for service -- for growth through service. H.P.B. has
made "a judicious selection" for "the few real mystics" of the
era to which she came, who recognized her and its worth. For
students of the modern generation the book has the same message
and offers the same benefits; for them too the formulation of the
motive and the training of the mind form the first step.
A phrase of H.P.B.'s might well be used as a touchstone to
determine the nature of our motive for assaying the task of
gaining self-knowledge and attempting self-improvement. In ~The
Key to Theosophy~ [261-62], commenting upon ascetic practices
H.P.B. speaks of "what a man *thinks* and *feels*, what desires
he encourages in his mind, and allows to take root and grow";
what we think greatly depends on what we feel, and we can
determine the character of our feelings by noticing the desires
which arise from roots so firmly embedded in the soil of the
personality. "What desires he encourages in his mind" -- what
desires he "allows to take root," what desires he allows "to
grow" -- this will reveal the motive he harbours. Very often our
motives are hidden from us and on the score of motive many fail
ere they begin. The Master K.H. once wrote:
> The first and chief consideration in determining us to accept or
> reject your offer lies in the inner motive which propels you to
> seek our instructions, and in a certain sense -- our guidance.
> -- MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 2, page 7
We have to learn to distinguish between inner or real and outer
or superficial motive. Again, the same Master points out that
"our Eastern ideas about `motives,' and `truthfulness,' and
`honesty' differ considerably from your ideas in the West." [~ML~
#30, 232] In India, most of the "educated"  have Western minds
-- to be more precise, Eurasian minds -- and they suffer from the
same limitations as Western-born men and women. The eastern idea
of motive is a profound one, and in ascertaining our motive we
must take time and have to be careful, judicious, alert and
While it is true that motive is everything, we must never
overlook the clear teaching of history that "good motive without
knowledge makes sorry work sometimes" Mr. Crosbie continues:
> All down the ages there is a record of good motive, but power and
> zeal misused, for want of knowledge. Theosophy is the path of
> knowledge. It was given out in order, among other things, that
> good motive and wisdom might go hand in hand.
> -- THE FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER, 4.
On the plane of motive the student's attention is drawn from the
beginning to the ideals of the higher life. Not entanglement in
the world of matter through ambition and the like, but a
withdrawal and a consequent complete emancipation from the
universe of Illusion -- *Maya* and its Play -- *Lila*. The
student has to choose between sense-life and soul-life, and when
he is sufficiently confirmed in his higher desire to live as a
soul, subduing the senses, he is presented with another, the
grandest ideal humanity has ever known -- Renunciation.
Soul-culture leads the practitioner to the idea of Liberation, a
state so much desired by the afflicted -- by hearts laden with
sorrow, by heads full of confusion. Having seen the cause of
disease, having drunk the potion of cure, who would want to
continue hospital life? Having perceived the degradation of a
prostitute's life, who would want to live in a house of
prostitution? Having recognized the world as a vast lunatic
asylum, who would want to dwell therein, and not run away from
it? Even a little knowledge of Theosophy shows to the thoughtful
and earnest student that this world is like unto a hospital, full
of the ailing and the scrofulous; that men and women in their
millions prostitute their minds and their hearts; that the world
is full of moonstruck neurotics who rush about hither and thither
fancying themselves sane and sound. The Theosophical student
registers that to be of this world is to seek disease, to
prostitute powers, to become mad; "Let me have none of these," he
says. Thus for more than one life the student fixes his mind on
Liberation and his motive in leading the higher life is to free
himself from "the world, the flesh, and the devil." ~The Voice of
the Silence~ recognizes the place of the Path of Liberation --
the conquest of Nirvana.
For many centuries the ideal of Liberation has inspired
generations of mystics, and here in India especially the desire
for Moksha and to reach Nirvana has become the supreme, nay, the
only goal of spiritual striving. The great Buddha taught the
Path of Renunciation and exemplified the teaching in his own
life. Says H.P.B.:
> Esoteric teachings claim that he renounced Nirvana and gave up
> the Dharmakaya vesture to remain a "Buddha of Compassion" within
> reach of the miseries of this world.
> -- THE THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY, 67
 With the passing away of His pure Teachings from the land of
His birth, the concept of Moksha prevailed in India as the sole
ideal, submerging that of Renunciation. Nowhere is the Teaching
of the Path of Renunciation so clearly formulated, nowhere are
its functions and objectives so profoundly contrasted with those
of the other Path, as in ~The Voice of the Silence.~ One of the
missions of H.P.B.'s incarnation was not only to point to this
forgotten truth, but, further, to arouse in as many hearts as
possible the aspiration to tread the Path of Renunciation.
Therefore among the only three Fragments she gave to the public
world is that of "The Two Paths" and among "the few" must arise
those who will undertake the culture of the heart necessary for
the treading of that path. The attractions inherent in the ideal
of renunciation are so powerful and potent as well as patent that
most among "the few" hastily say to themselves, "I will tread the
Path of Renunciation." They overlook that special preparation is
needed for that task and that between the great service of the
Renouncers and the desire, however ardent, of the aspirant to
love and to help his fellows there is a difference not only of
degree but of kind -- of quality. To acquire the wisdom
necessary for that Path takes time and especial effort; and this
is possible through Chelaship, not as it is understood in the
religious and mystical world, but as it is understood in
Occultism and Esoteric Philosophy. A special kind of training
and development is necessary to walk the Way of Renunciation: it
is the renouncing not only of the world of matter but also of the
world of spirit; not of life in form only but also of life
eternal. It is freedom from the bondage of passion which every
Emancipated Soul enjoys but further it is acceptance of the
Bondage of Compassion which the *mukta* does not accept.
The training of the Probationer includes the unfoldment of the
right motive which the ideal of the Path of Renunciation
presents. Chelaship implies the treading of that Path and the
displacement of other motives -- including that of Liberation --
by the One Motive, the real inner motive, of which all outer
motives should be but expressions and emanations. The choice
comes at the end, but that choice is the culmination of
innumerable choices made by the soul -- from the stage of the
Probationer to that of the Adept.
If we encourage in our mind the desire to renounce, if we nourish
it that it may take root and grow, we will be getting the
necessary training for acquiring the Right Motive. That training
is not in mere resolve and verbal repetition of the famous Pledge
of Kwan-Yin, but a remembrance of it during the performance of
daily duties. ["Never will I seek nor receive private,
individual salvation; never will I enter into final peace alone;
but forever, and everywhere, will I live and strive for the
redemption of every creature throughout the world."] The Great
Renouncer does not rush to help here, there and everywhere, but
"ever protects and watches over Humanity within Karmic limits."
[~TG~, 231] This implies knowledge, especially of the Law of
Cycles and "the ultimate divisions of time." [~The Ocean of
Theosophy~, 4 ULT; 5 TUP] That is why H.P.B. says that "It is
easy to become a Theosophist...But it is quite another matter to
put oneself upon the path which leads to the knowledge of what is
good to do, as to the right discrimination of good from evil."
(Students will do well to reflect upon the differentiation 
made by H.P.B. -- ~Raja Yoga,~ p. 17 [p. 19, 1973 ed.]; it is
not easy to become a Theosophist, only comparatively less
difficult; the path of the Esotericist "leads a man to that power
through which he can do the good he desires, often without even
apparently lifting a finger.") [~B.C.W.~ Vol. IX, p. 155.]
The cultivation of Right Motive takes more than one life: the
control of the wandering mind is a necessity universally
recognized but how many think of the wandering heart? When the
heart has been steadied concentration of mind becomes easy, for
an objective has been found. The mind gathers itself together
and makes the objective its centre; but without a goal or an
objective the mind can never gain one-pointedness. Many and
varied are men's objectives in life, and the student of Theosophy
is no exception to the rule. If he determines his objective to
be neither the bliss of Nirvana nor the developing of siddhis,
low or high, nor achieving success in this or that sphere, but
letting everything go, to tread the Path of Renunciation,
disciplining himself for the life of *spiritual* service of
Orphan Humanity, then he has found the correct objective, the
Right Motive essential for the life of Chelaship. Once an
aspirant resolves to follow the Right Motive, it, whether he
remembers it or not, will affect his life and force him to work
for humanity in one way or another. Directly he attempts to gain
spiritual benefit selfishly instead of trying to help his
brothers, he will feel the inner call to work, which cannot be
evaded. For the Great Choice, his time will come; but its coming
will be hastened as he remains faithful to the great Choice of
his present incarnation -- to endeavour to make Theosophy a
Living Power in his Life.
~Collected Writings 1888~, Vol. IX, by H.P. Blavatsky, compiled
by Boris de Zirkoff, Wheaton, Theosophical Publishing House,
~The Friendly Philosopher~ by Robert Crosbie, Los Angeles and New
York City, Theosophy Company, 1945.
~The Key to Theosophy~ by H.P. Blavatsky, Los Angeles, Theosophy
~The Key to Theosophy~ by H.P. Blavatsky, Pasadena, Theosophical
University Press, 1987.
~The Mahatma Letters~ transcribed and compiled by A.T. Barker,
Pasadena, Theosophical University Press, 1975.
~The Ocean of Theosophy~ by William Q. Judge, Los Angeles &
Bombay, Theosophy Company, 1947.
~The Ocean of Theosophy~ by William Q. Judge, Pasadena,
Theosophical University Press, 1973.
~Raja Yoga, or Occultism~ by H.P. Blavatsky, Bombay, Theosophy
Company (India), 1973.
~The Theosophical Glossary~ by H.P. Blavatsky, Los Angeles,
Theosophy Company, 1952.
~The Voice of the Silence~ by H.P. Blavatsky, Los Angeles,
Theosophy Company, 1987.
~The Voice of the Silence~ by H.P. Blavatsky, Pasadena,
Theosophical University Press, 1957.
STRAIGHT-FORWARD SPEAKING ON REEXPRESSING THEOSOPHY
by Dallas TenBroeck
I think that the expression of ideas in clear language is not
made unclear by the date when they were written. Nor does the
literary style have much to do with that either. To presume to
be able to modernize those expressions, implies that the
translator is so well versed that they can do this with ease. If
so, then instead of criticizing, why not set to work and produce
those revisions in "modern phraseology" such as to have a broader
After all, is it fine phrases we want, or basic ideas to think
over? Try reading HPB, see if she minces words, or beats around
the bush, then make up you mind.
To characterize HPB and the early writers on Theosophy in the
magazines THEOSOPHIST, LUCIFER, THE PATH, and the books ISIS
UNVEILED, and THE SECRET DOCTRINE, as "Victorian" is both unfair
and unjust. What is the basis -- a matter of personal
preference? Why not let the reader make up his own mind? I do not
see that HPB's writing is less clear to me.
I also know that if one truly desires to know what she says and
wrote, there is additional study for the reader, and a constant
use of the dictionary needed. In fact the erudite nature of her
writing is perhaps the best certificate one can offer to
readers as proof of the extraordinary and fundamental nature of
the doctrines advanced.
No, the study of THEOSOPHY is not "easy," if one desires to go
into details, but without rejection, on someone else's say-so,
going into THEOSOPHY as she wrote it, try it for your self.
Start the study with THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY; it's not all that
difficult. But if you get hooked, then prepare yourself for a
laborious but glorious pilgrimage that will lead you through more
areas and departments of learning than you ever realized existed.
The gauntlet has been thrown! Are we going to pick it up? "To
dare, to will, to achieve, and to remain silent" is the ancient
moto of the occultists of all ages, and they form a single, and
not many "brotherhoods."
If a Ph.D., in preparing his or her dissertation researches early
writings, they are not daunted by the style or the age of the
writing, they are seeking for information as to whether there is
some useful statement which will support or destroy their thesis.
No one ought to be prevented from doing such work.
It would seem that some writers try to daunt the curiosity and
initiative of readers by their characterizations and claims to
erudition. If a student or a seeker after information desires to
go to original writings then why set up unnecessary barriers?
How does one set about "clarifying the ideas of Theosophy?" Is
anyone now alive and currently writing of such erudition that
they can produce a SECRET DOCTRINE, or even an ISIS UNVEILED? I
seriously doubt it, and have seen no evidence in current
"theosophical periodicals" of such ability. The tradition among
the followers of the Buddha, the Bhikkhus is to say when
repeating what they had learned: "Thus have I heard . . ."
What are "the ideas of Theosophy?" Can they be extracted and
What is the interrelation of such ideas to each other? Do they
form a coherent whole?
Where does the average student begin? HPB made this somewhat easy
by writing THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY. If one reads, and follows up
one's first reading by study, then one will indeed find "the
ideas of Theosophy" presented and explained in elaborate detail.
The next step is to ask oneself: "Is this valid? How can I
set about proving that this presentation of doctrine is valuable
to me and accurate insofar as our world around us works?"
In other words, Is the Soul of each human an immoral entity? Is
the nature of consciousness and intelligence one that I can find
in myself and analyze with care and accuracy in myself?
If as HPB claims for Theosophy, every "atom" is an immortal
"life," a "perpetual motion machine," then its indestructibility
to which can be added intelligence and consciousness forms the
basis for all evolution, as it passes in time through every
experience that manifestation affords.
Yes, that would take in a large amount of time. But if we turn
to THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vol. 2, pp. 68-70, we find that HPB
accounts for vast periods which even today, the Science of
Astro-Physics is just beginning to encompass in its time
If at least, as a "working hypothesis," we grant to "atoms"
longevity, and the capacity to remember and to learn, then we
also say that potentially it is an independent center. It is a
center of intelligence, where it gradually builds its own
memories of experience. Hermes of ancient Egypt is reported to
state: "A stone becomes a plant, a plant becomes an animal, an
animal becomes a man, and a man becomes (by self-effort) a God."
When has any transformation debased or diminished the ongoing
progress of life?
From this we can move to consider reembodiment, or reincarnation
-- that the Mind-Soul, being an IMMORTAL, uses progressively many
successive bodies, and that the population of the entire Earth.
(Theosophy states that there is a fixed number of Soul-Minds
undergoing this kind of experience at any time).
Science, and in fact all of us, treats as an axiom the fact that
Nature rules herself and all components, of which we are one, by
immutable laws. Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Astrophysics,
Medicine, Biology . . . all the known sciences base themselves
on the immutability of LAW, and the fact that Data consists of
the records of facts and events in the past, for which analogies
will recur in similar states, conditions and circumstances in the
future. All our lives and futures are dependent on this one
fundamental fact. This is KARMA.
The Family of Man implies the recognition of the fact that
Mind-Souls are all of the same general quality and ability,
though varying widely in individual performance because of
free-will. Theosophy further asks us to consider that the whole
of the Universe, and our Earth in particular is made up of an
enormous mass of living being, all organized according to the
LEVEL OF EXPERIENCE which each has had. The basis "life-atom" is
that same immortal and eternal intelligence which progressively
advances through the whole process. WE need only use our own
minds, looking within our consciousness to realize that we are at
root, that basis inexhaustible and indestructible UNIT. Hence
every being in Nature is one of our "brothers," but it may be
either less progressed than we are or more progressed (as the
ELDER BROTHERS are).
All this may be laughed at, but as a theory or a hypothesis, I
would challenge anyone to find a more inclusive one.
Thus we have individual VIABILITY, and FREE-WILL posited as
axioms or "chief ideas of Theosophy."
So far we have: individual immortality, consciousness and
intelligence, cooperative living, universal and impartial LAW,
reincarnation, progression toward a SIMILAR GOAL as the thrust
for all evolution, AND, FINALLY: "Spirit," a mysterious pervasive
quality which may be seen as cause, source, and final Goal for
the experiences of all living, when finally brought to a
To this list, we could add the development of INTERDEPENDENCE, or
voluntary cooperation, and this alone will bring us to perceive
that the vast interaction of all life demands self-sacrifice. If
one desires to see an application of this principle in practice,
we can open THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vol. 1, pp 207-210, where one
can read of the sacrifice that the Wise make for the untutored,
of the "teacher," for the "pupil," of the "parent" for the
"child." This is a Law in continual operation in nature. All
evolution proceeds on the basis of the operation of this law in
some form or another.
As an alternative, let us consider the selfish and acquisitive
person who bends all his energies to gathering wealth, power or
control of others. Ask the simple question: For how long can any
of these be preserved? And when death comes, who profits? If one
advances the idea that one makes savings for one's children and
decedents, one need only examine the life conduct of most
"children and decedents" to see that any wealth or power
entrusted to them, for which they have not labored themselves, is
usually soon dissipated and wasted.
So why all the fuss and fury? We see the law of self-sacrifice
most intimately in the operations of our own physical bodies,
where there is a constant replacement of individual cells, and
substances, to the extent that medical science claims the
physical body is replaced each year to the extent of about 98%.
It is said to be wholly replaced each seven-year period. If this
is true, then what is it that maintains the memory of our early
lives? Where is the storehouse of Individuality, the sense of
being "ones' self?"
After the publication of THE SECRET DOCTRINE, a number of
students would meet with HPB each week, and from stenographic
reports of those meetings, HPB edited a series that was printed
in LUCIFER titled: TRANSACTIONS OF THE BLAVATSKY LODGE.
About a third of the way through this series the question of the
"Teachers" arises, and HPB makes it clear that they remain alive.
And, she states, some invisibly assist mankind as karma permits.
She goes further and states that innate to each human will be
found the Spiritual INDIVIDUAL (also called THE HIGHER SELF)
which is in effect one who is wise, and who sacrifices its
"status and position" to co-inhabit each human, to serve as the
Voice of Conscience, and the Noble and Altruistic "pole" of the
personality. [This doctrine will also be found in the KEY TO
Gradually, Science in the psychological and philosophical areas,
draws closer to the doctrine advanced and supported by Theosophy,
that there are several layers of living other than the physical,
which they interpenetrate. The Mind and the "emotions," are not
the product of "brain-action". But, rather, brain-action
indicates that the Mind is using the brain. The "emotions"
(Kama) remain to be accounted for as the highest quality of the
personal and physical evolution also called instinctual.
What are the desires, the passions, the urges, the moods that can
sweep over us? Why are there posited the ideal configuration of
the moral man which is the constant subject of analysis in the
legal world where accountability for choice and action is
constantly being examined and redefined?
Let us pass on to consider the question that our author raises:
Is the Theosophical Society to survive, to progress?
Let us make it plain that it would be a violation of the Great
Law if by some miracle the "T.S." were to "survive" simply because
it is so prophesied. There is a concomitant to any living form:
that is self-preservation. The T.S. will survive if it remains
morally "worthy" of Theosophy. If it guards and promulgates
But, the T.S. does not own Theosophy. HPB makes it plain in the
first issue of THE THEOSOPHIST (October 1879), from the very
outset, in two articles: "What is Theosophy? ," and "What are the
Theosophists?" that they are distinct from each other.
The T.S. was chosen as a VEHICLE for the practice and
promulgation of the principles of THEOSOPHY. Its life and future
depend entirely on whether its members will, as a group, continue
to employ and to promulgate Theosophy as it was originally
expounded by the Masters through HPB. They can promote and
pursue that purpose (as embodied in its THREE OBJECTS) and if
they do, then the T.S. will grow and prosper and fulfil its
hoped for function. If on the other hand the teachings of the
masters as passed through HPB are abandoned and not studied or
applied, the life of the T.S. will gradually fade and disappear.
There are strong indications that this is happening, and it is
The first Object is UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD. [The practice of
this -- Universal Brotherhood -- -it has repeatedly violated starting
with the exiling of HPB from Adyar by Col. Olcott and the
General Council in 1884. Later came the expelling of the
majority of the membership of the American Section in 1895.
Following that, is a long history of unnecessary expulsions when
"the rule of Adyar" was either ignored or refused.] That is
history, unpalatable, and irreversible though it may be.
[Students who desire to read the reasons for this should secure
and read a copy of HPB's "Why I Do Not Return to India" a letter
written in April 1890 and entrusted to Bertram Keightley to take
to India to Adyar. This letter did not get published in the
THEOSOPHIST until July 1929 -- some 39 years too late for THE
general membership to profit by.
Following this they ought to read: "She Being Dead Yet Speaketh,"
this was a talk given by Jasper Neimand and published originally
in THE PATH, for July 1892 -- in that JN quotes directly from
important, pivotal statements and letters of HPB.
In the 10th volume of THE THEOSOPHIST, then being edited on
behalf of Col. Olcott by Harte, appeared in June 1889 an article
titled: "Applied Theosophy." In a rejoinder to certain statements
made there, Mme. Blavatsky wrote in LUCIFER for August 1889 an
editorial article entitled: "A Puzzle From Adyar." In this she
reviews the differences between THEOSOPHY and the formal body
called the Theosophical Society. In particular she states that
no member owes any "loyalty" to "Adyar," unless the management of
the Society from Adyar is moral and impersonal and upholds
Theosophical principles in practice all the time. The
demarcation between the two is made absolutely plain.
I draw attention to these facts as many are unaware of them, and
they can be of course verified in the series COLLECTED WRITINGS,
BLAVATSKY, published by the T P H, Adyar, Wheaton, London, so
members of the T.S. ought to be able to get at them with
comparative ease. If anyone desires copies of these articles,
please let me know.
The final question is: Do we know what THEOSOPHY is? If the
answer is "no," then the sooner we acquaint ourselves with its
basics, the better. Then we will have something to talk about.
All else is opinion and baseless speculation. If we are all
acquainted with the same range of literature, we have a basis for
discussion, but so long as one tries to pit an opinion against
another's we will get nowhere.
You will have to excuse my trenchant and straight-forward
speaking, but I see no alternative, as fine phrases which may
smooth ruffled feathers produce only delay in time, and serve no
useful purpose in the long run. I write this entirely on my own
ONLINE THEOSOPHICAL QUOTATION SERVICE
by Gail Stevenson
A new theosophical quotation service is now online. Special thanks
are due Dallas Tenebroeck for the materials from his research,
without which this would not be possible.
Please visit our web page --
-- and scroll down to "A New Service", and let anyone know who
might be interested.
PAST AND FUTURE DO NOT *EXIST*
by Eldon Tucker
[based upon an April 11, 1994 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Animals, and to a certain extend primitive peoples, have a simple
view of time. Only the present exists. The past is gone and
non-existent. The future, to them, is also unreal.
In modern society we have learned to control things much better.
We've learned to become accountable for the past and to carefully
plan for the future. If we do something bad, it may now be in
the past, but we still know that we'll be punished for it, and
that thought affects our decision to take the action. And we
know that if we plan our actions carefully, our future rewards
Giving value to the lasting consequences of the past, and to the
rewards or suffering that the future may bring, depending upon
our attentiveness to it, we assume more responsibility for
ourselves as beings existing in time.
This added responsibility brings a greater sense of clarity to
our activities on this world, our physical-plane Globe D events
in life. We may sleep less, take on more responsibilities, and
concern ourselves more with what we do and what is happening
The past takes on more of a sense of reality as we keep records,
journals, diaries, and take pictures, and surround us with
materials that help us remember and picture in our imagination
what has happened.
The future also takes on more of a sense of reality as we make
detailed plans and schedules which we may subsequently try to
live by. We may be under great pressure to finish certain things
quickly, by some deadline, or burdened with a great number of
responsibilities that we have to tend to, with too little time to
do them justice. And we look forward, and try to arrange our
upcoming activities to keep our live in order.
Contrast this with a primitive lifestyle. Picture a life on a
little farm in Mexico, where one day is like the next, and there
are no schedules, no pressures, no burden of responsibilities.
We may have to keep ourselves fed, and to follow the regular
routine of life, but it seems timeless, eternal, because it is
always the same, without change, for as long as we can remember.
This secluded lifestyle allows one to disengage from life on this
world. We are not as heavily invested in life and activities,
but we rather just peacefully get by. We are not caught up in
the flux of the human lifewave, of the great evolutionary sweeps
of consciousness that drive the cultures and challenge us to our
In this isolated Mexican life, we are more free of existence on
this earth, more loosely engaged in life here, and able to bring
a bit of the rest of the devachanic consciousness.
It may be necessary for us to disengage from the intense
activities of life in the active subraces, the dominant cultures
of our age. We may need a time of quiet, of peace, of rest, to
reconnect to our spiritual roots within. And this may be a few
years, or even a lifetime away from the mainstream. But
eventually we come back, and resume our participation in the
drama of human life.
In this peaceful haven, we have less pressure to be aware of the
past and of the future. The sense of time is more simply just
that of the present. It needs nothing more. And it is fine, we
can exist and live good, noble lives.
But for evolution to take place, there needs to be growth,
change, and challenge in our lives. We need the pressure of many
things happening, the intensity of activities that makes us
intensely aware of both a sense of the past and the future. The
present is not sufficient to let us get by.
If we are not careful, though, we can even get so caught up in
what has happened, or in planning for the future, that we pay but
scant attention to the present. We may be reliving an event in
our past -- be it horrifying or wonderful -- or dreaming of
things to come, and impatiently waiting for them to hurry up and
happen! This would not be good, though, and we would be
neglecting the challenge for growth in our lives.
We live in the Kali Yuga, called the Iron Age, a period of
intense existence where things are hard, where they come quickly,
and where the most rapid evolution is possible. It comes as the
last ten percent of a great cycle of evolution called a Kalpa,
and we are but 5,000 years into its 432,000 year length. During
this period, we are reborn much more quickly.
The Kali Yuga is considered a desirable period to be born into,
because of the potential for our spiritual progress through the
challenges that it offers. The intensity of life that we
experience in the major cultures of our world come from it. The
cultures take on the nature of the Kali Yuga, and we can join
them and participate in it, or step away, and live in isolation.
Coming back to the sense of time, do we really, in our culture,
have a better understanding of time than primitive peoples? No,
not really. We are better able to plan things and to handle a
complex lifestyle, but we are not necessarily more clear about
what we are doing at any particular moment, more clear in our
experience of the present. And our philosophical understanding
of time may be farther from the truth that primitive ideas,
because of various popular misconceptions that we have been
brought up with.
We can observe objects or beings change over time. We can
describe that change mathematically. For instance, we can plot
the equation for a flying baseball, showing over time its
position in the school yard.
In our graph of the baseball, one coordinate represents time, but
does this mean that time is a dimension of space, because it can
be graphed like space can? Does every moment of time represented
on that graph exist, all at once, like every point of space
across the schoolyard? No.
When we talk about the flight of the baseball in the abstract, we
are referring to the space of the actual schoolyard, and
comparing it to abstract time, a time that could start at any
moment and would always follow the same course. We are comparing
actual or manifested space with abstract time, when we are
talking about the graph in a general sense.
When we talk about the actual fight of the baseball, the
particular one that we might consider, then it is different.
There is the actual space of the schoolyard, and an actual period
of time where a real baseball is in flight. But even then, the
entire graph is not true all at once.
During the time of the flight, the part of the flight that has
happened, that represents the past, is a description of where the
baseball has been. It is describing a sequence of state changes
that the specific baseball has undergone.
The baseball is a dynamic thing. It is in flight. It is subject
to the influence of the strike of the bat, and it will only
follow the trajectory unless there are other influences that
could change its path. It is not predestined to follow the graph
that we might use to predict where it will be.
Soon the baseball has completed its flight, and has fallen to the
ground. Its trajectory, its experience of the flight, the
experience of the players in watching it fly -- these are all
things of the past. They no longer exist. The graph has gone
from a prediction, to a dynamic document, describing the present,
to a historic document.
Even with this real flight of a particular baseball, there was no
point in time when the entire graph was real, when the entire
time coordinate existed at once. We have a dynamic succession of
changes of state, but no timeline extending into the past and
The fact that we can plot different states of an object over time
does not mean that the past and future are equally real, and that
all are a continuum. It does not mean that there is such a thing
as a dimension of time.
One difference, for instance, is that time is not reversible.
Individual beings cannot move freely backwards or forwards in
time. Two reasons why this cannot happen is that we are both the
sum total of all our past experiences, and that we are ultimately
composed of that karmic web of currently existing relationships
that we have created with the other beings in life.
If we went into the past, if we were able to undertake time
travel, we would have to have a personal time dimension, one that
existed apart from the collective one for everyone else. For
instance, day 14,601 in your life might be lived in June 10,
1995, and day 14,602 in your life lived in June 17, 1774, after
you had travelled back in time. But assuming everyone else
stayed in place as a movie that you could rewind and alter at
your discretion is not reasonable.
The other reason that this cannot happen is that you are
ultimately composed of all your karmic links with others. At any
point in historic time, there is a particular way which everyone
else is, and a particular state of those living links with you.
And those links uniquely define you for that moment. So if you
were able somehow to go back to 450 BC, the only you of that time
that could possible be would be the one that you already had been
at that moment.
There are mentions of the dimension of time, though, but the
references are likely veiled references to deeper teachings.
Consider the picture given by Blavatsky of a bar of metal being
dropped into the ocean. [*Secret Doctrine,* I, 37.] The you that
exists in time is described as the cross-section of the bar that
passes through the ocean's surface, as the bar drops. It appears
to change over time, but is really all one thing.
It would not be correct to say that this means that the past and
future are equally real with the present, but rather that there
is a deeper truth to this analogy. The analogy is more useful
when you take it as saying that you are greater than that part of
you that exists at the moment, that you are the three-dimensional
bar rather than the two-dimensional cross-section being
manifested (in space and time) at the moment.
You are your totality of the moment, your Auric Egg, the *bar*
above and beyond the manifested self or *cross-section* that you
have brought forth at this moment in time.
When the bar is not passing the ocean surface, you are out of
manifestation, but still whole and complete. And when the bar
crosses the ocean's surface, it can do so at any angle, it can
stop and reverse its direction many times, and it can go through
many cross-sections. There is not a specific sense of a single
flow of time to the experience.
The idea of time as a dimension like space is a false analogy.
Even if we could reverse the physical processes of one's outer
forms and make it appear to be moving backwards in time, because
everything in it is going in reverse, it is not going backwards.
For there is still you, the Monad, above and beyond existence,
moving forward in time with the rest of us.
Reversing your physical processes does not take you to an
external, objective, actual world of a day ago, of some time in
the past, for there is no such place.
It is not possible to totally reverse things, because you are
intimately interlinked with all of life, and you could not
reverse everything else, everywhere else, to go with you. And
even could you, there is no such place as the past as somewhere
to go, as somewhere different than the present as a place where
we are at this moment. At this moment in time, there is not also
our world as it were 100 years ago, equally existing now and as a
place we could time travel to.
The past has to die totally, at some point, to make room for the
present to be born. The past is really a condition or affect
that qualifies our existence in the eternal now. And it is not
separable from the present. You are what you've done and made
your self to this moment, and the past is not external to that
self that you are.
The future is not separate either. It qualifies the experience
of life by your awareness of upcoming changes and by your
participation in the changes through your planning and
preparations. You change what you do today to better optimize
what happens in your life. You make take delayed gratification,
withholding some pleasure in life until a later time, for the
better good of your life.
When you do this, you are not as much experiencing or creating
the future as you are working in the process of sequences the
events that appear in your life.
The past eventually fades, and is recycled and eventually
disappears. Nothing, though, is lost; it becomes a part of us.
And the future, as we look farther and farther ahead, eventually
appears to disappear as well. This is because it looses its
effect on the present as well, as it becomes more distant in
When we plot the change over time of something in life, like the
growth of a flower from a springtime bulb to its blossom and
eventual demise, we show there is an order or sequence to its
unfolding and we gage it by the cycles of day and year. There is
a natural progression to that growth, which is itself a certain
kind of cycle.
But every point of time along the way as the flower grows *does
not exist* at once. There is the pattern and an individual
attempt to follow and grow by it, but no guarantee of success.
As we unfold spiritually, we find an increasing sense of the past
and the future in our lives. We find that we are affected more
by things out of the distant past and are concerned and affected
more by things in our distant evolutionary future. The sense of
time of greater cycles than a day or lifetime begin to affect us.
We begin to appreciate and be moved by our spiritual roots in the
distant past, and to be drawn to participate in the grand work of
bringing humanity to liberation, to bringing everyone to the
other shore, to nirvana. We feel a real concern with things far
removed from our immediate needs of physical survival in the
world and personal interactions in the day-to-day life.
In doing so, we begin to participate in our consciousness in
greater cycles than before, cycles of far vaster time periods and
more far-reaching affects. We begin to grow and expand and
evolve, and become something greater than before.
Let us not try to escape time, to shy away from the Kali Yuga and
seek the Timeless in the wrong place, in the temporal world, but
rather emerse ourselves in the grand cycles of life, and
participate in life to the fullest. Let us embrace in our
consciousness as much of our heritage and our destiny and we can,
to our fullest extent and reach, and then bring this broader,
this grander perspective into our lives. There is only the
present, but we can make it as big or as small a present as we
choose. Let us make it a wonderful, grand, full present, as we
give expression to the loftiness that we can take into our lives!
THE CIRCLE WITH THE CENTER DOT
by Mark Kusek
[based upon an July 15, 1997 post to email@example.com.]
Consider the circle with the central dot. I am an artist and
somewhat a student of such glyphs. The image has a deep and
fascinating world history, a wonderful body of knowledge
associated with it, and an unceasingly active presence in our
lives. It's odd, almost, how such a simple image, which in it's
commonality, can easily be passed over, but with the proper
presence of mind, can reveal truth at significantly meaningful
In Jungian circles, this glyph would be said to be an "A Priori
symbol of the Self", which touches the mysteries of the innermost
core of individuals and also transmits the significance of the
transpersonal to ego consciousness.
There is plenty of literature well worth one's time to investigate
here. I recommend Jung's "Mandala Symbolism" (ISBN
0-691-01781-6), G. Adler's "The Living Symbol" (New York,
Pantheon, 1961), and E. Edinger's "Ego and Archetype" ( ISBN
0-87773-576-X) as good places to start in this area. They
provide a healthy western psychological context to the somewhat
obscure language of "The Book of Dzyan."
The persistence of this image in most world religions, especially
those with developed mystical traditions, makes it rather easy
(and fun) to find enriching references.
It won't take one long to find some. I know from personal
experience, that if this image is "speaking" to one, and one
follows its impulses, one's search will be rewarded.
I would even venture to suggest that it might not be so much an
impression of ink on paper that one is noticing, but an
activation within one of what it represents. As a symbol, it's
referent is quite autonomous and alive somewhere deep inside all
of us. A meditation on this image can prove very beneficial.
In theosophical terms, this image is typically made to refer to
Primordial Unmanifested Unity and in particular, that Unity as it
stirs (awakens), and begins to describe the field for it's
You could say that the circle itself marks the interface between
Pralaya and (Maha) Manvantara,(or in Jung's terms, the Unconscious
and the potentially Conscious) while the inclusion of the point
in the center denotes a referent to Immanence. (A "veiling" of
the Unmanifested in the "Waters" of Primordial Space.)
This "Immanence" is pre-existent to the vivification and
differentiation of the field in preparation for it's eventual
outpouring of formal manifestation (cyclic involution/evolution).
In meditation on this symbol, or in the physical act of
consciously drawing it, it is good to pause and consider the
blank substrate wherein the image will appear. This is ritual
art-making par excellence and has been practiced as such, by
diverse peoples in many cultures for centuries. In this context
it is a mystically potent Creation symbol and I believe it was
thus included in HPB's SD.I volume of Cosmogenesis.
I'd additionally refer the reader to the "Art of Tantra" and
"Yogic Art" by Akit Mookergee. These books are excellent and
informed sources from Hindu tradition that are only a short step
away from the Theosophical perspective.
KATHERINE TINGLEY AS I KNEW HER
by Boris de Zirkoff
[reprinted from THEOSOPHIA, Spring 1979, pages 3-5.]
July 11, 1979, will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Katherine
Tingley's "Passing into Light," after a long life dedicated to
the service of humanity.
As is often the case with unusual people, her stature grows as
her image recedes into the distant past. Misunderstood by some,
violently opposed by others, misjudged by those whose materialism
and ignorant conceit were challenged by her spiritual outlook on
life, Katherine Tingley is slowly being recognized as an inspired
leader of thought, and a witness to the undreamt of possibilities
of the hidden powers in man.
The Point Loma Theosophical Center which she founded on the eve
of the twentieth century, and of which she was the driving force
and the inspirer, was another "witness," in the age-old meaning
of this mystical expression, to the redeeming and the
spiritually-constructive power of human brotherhood. Apart from
being the Headquarters of a world wide organization, it was
intended to be a nucleus of a mystery-school built on the
traditional lines of ancient temple-schools, in which men and
women who were ready in this incarnation were taught how to
unlock from within themselves their inborn spiritual capacities,
and how to put them into practice on lines of devoted service and
unselfish endeavor within the structure of a cooperative effort
in the cause of the Ancient-Wisdom.
Such an effort can be successfully started and harmoniously
conducted only by an initiated disciple of esoteric knowledge, in
touch with the Custodians of that knowledge, and laboring under
their tutelage. Such an initiated disciple Katherine Tingley
undoubtedly was, and I take this occasion to declare this as my
own irrefutable conviction.
She was a powerful character, with an immense driving force, an
unquenchable inspiration, a total dedication to the highest
spiritual ideals, an inspiring outlook on life, on the potencies
of every human being, and a disregard of the negative aspects of
those whose positive qualities she incessantly fostered, and
whose dormant capabilities she constantly urged into action.
She was a person of kindly and sympathetic attitude wherever
these were required, and a person of great moral strength and
dynamic force when such were needed. Some of her actions and
plans showed rather plainly that she was able to use a power of
foreknowledge not ordinarily common among men, and to rely on a
thorough acquaintance with human nature gathered in previous
lives. These made it possible for her to blend into concerted
action the lives of a many-sided community made up of a large
number of men and women from the four quarters of the globe.
This, if nothing else, was a clear evidence of spiritual
leadership, as a genuine leader is a man or woman who can sense
the aspirations and higher desires of others and release them to
action in harmonious unity. It is relatively easy to try and
impose ones own will upon ignorant followers who happen to love
authority where they see it. It is far more difficult to guide
the potencies of other peoples' wills into constructive spiritual
and ethical channels, and to lead them into forceful and
sustained action in a great and impersonal Cause. Katherine
Tingley was able to do that throughout her career.
Some have attempted to convince others that she was a medium and
that she was occasionally engaged in mediumistic pursuits of a
kind. Only ignorant people can hold this view, those
unacquainted with Katherine Tingley's character and her opinion
upon such matters. In all my association with her, never once
have I seen the slightest tendency towards mediumism or anything
commonly associated with it. She was adamant on psychic matters,
warning against the development of any psychic powers, or
abnormal psychic tendencies unregulated by reason and a sound
intellectual understanding. However, it is understandable that
some of her spiritual qualities of foreknowledge, direct
perception of certain truths, and developed spiritual intuition,
would *appear* as akin to mediumism, to those whose knowledge
about such things is almost nil, and whose information is usually
distorted by other channels through which it had to pass before
Neither the personality of Katherine Tingley nor the nature and
objectives of her work can ever be adequately understood and
justly appraised without taking into consideration the fact that
she was an initiated disciple of one of the Teachers and was
often acting as a *direct agent* instructed to perform a certain
task in the world, to leave a specific message for future
generations of men, and to carry out a certain mandate better
known to those under whose directions she worked. Unless this is
taken into careful advisement, there will be misunderstandings
and misjudgments as a natural result of wrong premises and
As other direct agents of the Brotherhood of Teachers, Katherine
Tingley exhibited upon occasion somewhat conflicting tendencies
and characteristics which cannot be adequately explained without
at least some knowledge of occult matters. This is almost
invariably the case with such agents, and this fact alone, if
nothing else, makes it very difficult to appraise their work,
judge their actions, and assess their worth in proper relation to
their surrounding and their karmic circumstances.
Agents of the Brotherhood are not mediums in the usual meaning of
that term, which, as a rule, is connected in peoples' minds with
one or another condition of trance. Such agents are *mediators*,
in the sense of being channels -- selfconsciously aware --
through whom some specific teaching or work is to be conveyed,
and these are sometimes different from the personal
characteristics of the disciple and may be conveyed only
partially or with slight modifications. Any careful study of the
life of H.P.B. or of W.Q. Judge will show this with
considerable clarity. They were also *mediators* of their own
type and kind. As a matter of fact, the Theosophical Movement --
using this term in a worldwide meaning, and without relation to
any specific age or era of history -- has had a number of
*mediators* who worked, and work even today, under the general
guidance of the Brotherhood, to the extent to which they are able
to channel that guidance through their own personal natures.
One of the major achievements of Katherine Tingley, and a
crowning victory of her work and training, was the fact that she
was able to hand over her Torch of Light to another direct agent
of the Brotherhood -- Gottfried de Purucker -- who in his own
quality of *mediator* formulated and outlined further
installments of the Esoteric Philosophy from the same ageless
source of Wisdom.
Now, fifty years after Katherine Tingley's departure from our
scene of action, let this brief account stand as a declaration of
trust and deep appreciation from the present writer for the
inestimable privilege of having been led to knowing her
personally, and for the karmic opportunity of having been for
some years a pupil under her tutelage and guidance. The Center
which she founded and led will someday be recognized as an
integral part of the Mystery-Schools, which arise and disappear
temporarily, on the shifting scenes of history, as links in an
endless chain of similar efforts. They stand as Witnesses to the
never-dying Wisdom of Those who guide the faltering steps of the
human race through the stages of its immaturity and its search
for the Light that can illumine all life, the Present and the
Past, and throw its shining beam upon the Future.
THE EDMONTON T.S.
by Ernest & Rogelle Pelletier
Since early on in its history, Edmonton TS has been striving to
establish a Theosophical Research Library Centre. In 1984, a
determined effort to fill the gaps in the collections of
periodicals began in earnest. A photocopier was purchased
through the assistance of the Lizzie Arthur Russell Theosophical
Memorial Trust after it was determined that a number of
individuals and organizations were willing to allow us to borrow
materials to photocopy for this purpose. It soon became apparent
that they too had gaps in their collections so copies were made
in order to assist them to complete their collections.
Additional copies were made to provide libraries/researchers/
students with the opportunity to add these to their collections
Edmonton TS' republishing program has continued to this day,
although currently on a significantly reduced scale due to lack
of funds. Since the start of our reprinting endeavor, over 150
titles have been reproduced using photocopying technology and
innumerable volunteer hours. All work involved, except binding,
has been donated by members of ETS. The photocopier used for
these projects has had to be retired and no funding has been
found to replace it therefore different types of projects are
being undertaken. Among others, works in progress include
indexes to various periodicals. One such project is the recently
published Cumulative Index to Lucifer, Volumes I - XX.
The natural progression in our publishing efforts seemed to be a
theosophical magazine. Fohat magazine has been launched in order
to encourage debate among the different threads of theosophical
teachings. Debate has been limited in recent years through an
almost dogmatic insistence that people be free to study whatever
they choose. Fohat inquires of what value is study if the
insights that are discovered are not shared in an open forum;
study for self alone is selfish and not what the Theosophical
Movement and Theosophy are about. Through the process of debate
it is hoped that new insights and fresh energies will be captured
by the Societies and their members. [Please feel free to contact
us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Members of Edmonton T.S. meet every Wednesday evening from 8:00
to 9:30 p.m. during the regular school term; special events are
also scheduled during this time as well as over the summer
months. Nearly fifteen years were spent studying The Mahatma
Letters to A.P. Sinnett. When classes resume in early
September, it will mark the third year of our study of The Secret
Doctrine (and we are still just exploring the Proem!). Our study
involves reading a paragraph and discussing it thoroughly,
bringing in other resource materials where feasible.
For further information regarding Edmonton T.S. and its
activities, please address your correspondence to: Box 4587,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6E 5G4. The editors of Fohat may be
contacted via email as noted above. The president, Ernest
Pelletier, can be reached at email@example.com.
THE DOCTRINE OF SVABHAVA OR SVABHAVATA AND THE QUESTIONS OF
ANATMAN AND SHUNYATA
by David Reigle
[This is the final part of the BOOK OF DZYAN RESEARCH REPORT,
June 1997, published by Eastern School Press, 3185 Boyd Road,
Cotopaxi CO 81223. They have no email id. Accents have been
removed from the original edition because of technical
TRACING ABSOLUTE SHUNYATA AND ABSOLUTE SVABHAVA
There is a tradition known as "Great Madhyamaka," which was
introduced in Tibet by Dolpopa and the Jonangpas several
centuries ago. It fully agrees with the Prasabagika Madhyamaka
school that absolutist philosophies of eternalism and nihilism
are extremes to be avoided. Like all Madhyamaka traditions, it
accepts as authoritative the words of Nagarjuna:
> Emptiness (shunyata) is proclaimed by the Buddhas as the leaving
> behind of all philosophical views, but they have pronounced those
> who hold a philosophical view about emptiness (shunyata) to be
> shunyata sarva-dristinam prokta nihsaranam jinaih |
> yesam tu shunyata-dristis tan asadhyan babhasire ||]
Any conception, however subtle, that dharmas either absolutely
exist or absolutely do not exist, is considered incorrect; but
the Great Madhyamikas hold that there is something beyond what
can be postulated by the mind. This inconceivable something,
whatever it may be called, is described in the Tathagata-garbha
sutras as absolute and eternal. If it did not exist, Buddhahood
and all its qualities could not exist. Since it is beyond the
range and reach of thought, it transcends any philosophical view.
Just as the Prasabagikas in denying the absolute existence of
anything, including shunyata, are careful to point out that this
does not imply nihilism, so the Great Madhyamikas in affirming
the absolute existence of Buddha qualities, as well as shunyata,
are careful to point out that this does not imply eternalism.
There are many precedents for the teaching of absolute shunyata
in the words of the Buddha. If there were not, no one would have
taken it seriously, any more than any one would take seriously
Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine without such precedents. Primary
among these sources is a sutra called the "Disclosure of the Knot
or Secret Doctrine" (Sandhi-nirmocana), in which the Buddha says
he has given three promulgations of the teachings, or turnings of
the wheel of the dharma, and will now disclose the true intention
or meaning of these apparently contradictory teachings. As
summarized from this sutra by Takasaki:
> The ultimate doctrine of the Mahayana is no doubt taught in the
> Prajnaparamita, but its way of exposition is 'with an esoteric
> meaning,' or 'with a hidden intention.' For example the
> Prajnaparamita teaches the nihsvabhavata [lack of svabhava] in
> regard to the sarvadharma [all dharmas], but what is meant by
> this nihsvabhavata is not so clear. The purpose of the
> Sandhinirmocana is to explain this meaning of nihsvabhava 'in a
> clear manner,' that is to say, to analyze and clarify the
> significance of the shunya-vada [doctrine of shunyata]. Just
> because of this standpoint, the Sutra is called '
> sandhi-nirmocana,' i.e. the Disclosure of the Knot or Secret
[A Study on the Ratnagotravibhaga (Uttaratantra), by Jikido
Takasaki, Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo
Oriente, 1966, Serie Orientale Roma 33, Introduction, p. 58]
In the first promulgation the Buddha taught that all dharmas
really exist. Though they are impermanent, they all have their
own svabhava. This is the teaching of the sutras accepted by
southern or Hinayana Buddhism. In the second promulgation the
Buddha taught that all dharmas are in reality non-existent. They
are empty (shunya) of svabhava. This is the teaching of the
sutras accepted by northern or Mahayana Buddhism, especially of
the Prajna-paramita sutras. In the third promulgation the Buddha
clarified in what way dharmas exist and in what way dharmas do
not exist. To do this he put forth the teaching of the three
svabhavas or natures. ---
[Sandhi-nirmocana-sutra, chapters 6 and 7. For English
translation see: Wisdom of Buddha: The Samdhinirmocana Sutra,
translated by John Powers, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1995.]
--- The nature of dharmas as they are conceptualized to have
their own svabhava is their imagined or illusory nature
(parikalpita-svabhava); in this way they do not really exist.
The nature of dharmas as they arise in dependence on causes and
conditions is their dependent nature (paratantra-svabhava); in
this way they exist conventionally. The nature of dharmas as
they are established in reality is their perfect nature
(parinispanna-svabhava); in this way they truly exist.
This teaching of the three svabhavas was elucidated in the
treatises of Maitreya, Asabaga, and Vasubandhu. Although these
writers are often classified as being Citta-matra, or
"mind-only," and hence denigrated by Prasabagika Madhyamikas,
Dolpopa considers them to be "Great Madhyamikas." As such, they
would be vitally interested in the understanding of shunyata.
Indeed, it is clear from their writings that they were; and as we
saw earlier, the terms shunyata and svabhava are normally found
together in Buddhist texts. Vasubandhu quotes in his commentary
at the beginning of Maitreya's Madhyanta-vibhaga a classic
definition of shunyata, as something that exists, and not just
the emptiness of everything including itself:
> Thus, 'where something does not exist, that [place] is empty
> (shunya) of that [thing];' [seeing] in this way, one sees in
> reality. Again, 'what remains here, that, being here, exists;'
> [knowing] in this way, one knows in reality. In this way, the
> unmistaken definition of shunyata arises.
[Madhyanta-vibhaga-bhasya, 1.1 in G. Nagao ed.; or 1.2 in R.
Pandeya ed.: evam yad yatra nasti tat tena shunyam iti
yatha-bhutam samanupashyati yat punar atravashistam bhavati tat
sad ihastiti yatha-bhutam prajanatity aviparitam
shunyata-laksanam udbhavitam bhavati. This is also quoted in
Asabaga's Ratna-gotra-vibhaga-vyakhya on 1.155; in Asabaga's
Abhidharma-samuccaya; and in Asabaga's Bodhisattva-bhumi.]
Later in the same chapter Maitreya and Vasubandhu discuss the
sixteen kinds of shunyata. The last two of these are called
abhava-shunyata, the emptiness which is non-existence (abhava),
and abhava-svabhava-shunyata, the emptiness which is the svabhava
or ultimate essence of that non-existence. Vasubandhu explains
that this kind of shunyata truly exists:
> [The former is] the emptiness of persons and dharmas. [The
> latter is] the true existence (sad-bhava) of that non-existence.
[Madhyanta-vibhaga-bhasya, 1.20 in Nagao ed.; or 1.21 in Pandeya
> pudgala-dharmabhavash ca shunyata |
> tad-abhavasya ca sad-bhavah.]
The source of this teaching in the words of the Buddha may be
found in the Tathagata-garbha sutras of his third promulgation.
One of these, the Maha-parinirvana-sutra, puts it this way, as
translated from Tibetan by S. K. Hookham:
> Thus, these are respectively, the emptiness that is the
> non-existence (abhava-sunyata) of the accidentally stained form
> etc., which is their each being empty of their own essence [
> svabhava ], and the Tathagatagarbha Form etc., which are the
> Emptiness which is the essence of [that] non-existence
> (abhava-svabhava-shunyata), the Absolute Other Emptiness.
[The Buddha Within: Tathagatagarbha Doctrine According to the
Shentong Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhaga, by S. K.
Hookham, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991, p.
Note the use of the phrase "Absolute Other Emptiness" (don dam
gzan ston) in this quotation to describe the sixteenth kind of
shunyata, abhava-svabhava-shunyata . This is one of many
quotations utilized by Dolpopa to establish the teaching of an
absolute (paramartha) shunyata. This shunyata is empty of
everything other than itself, hence it is "empty of other" (gzan
ston), but it is not empty of itself. In contradistinction to
this, the shunyata taught by the Prasabagika Madhyamaka school is
empty of everything, including itself. Theirs is a
svabhava-shunyata, or an emptiness of any ultimate svabhava in
anything. The Great Madhyamikas, too, accept the teaching that
all dharmas, or the manifest universe as we know it, are empty of
any svabhava of their own, so are ultimately non-existent. But
beyond the range and reach of thought there is a truly existent
absolute shunyata empty of anything other than itself, which is
the truly existent absolute svabhava of the non-existent manifest
This mind-boggling teaching of the Great Madhyamikas was quite
shocking to the orthodoxy when brought out in Tibet by Dolpopa
and the Jonangpas in the fourteenth century. The later Jonangpa
writer Taranatha tells us that at first some found this "empty of
other" doctrine hard to understand, while others were delighted
by it. But later when adherents of other schools heard it they
experienced "heart seizure" (snin gas) and "scrambled brains"
(klad pa 'gems pa). ---
["Dol-po-pa Shes-rab Rgyal-mtshan and the Genesis of the
Gzhan-stong Position in Tibet," by Cyrus Stearns, Asiatische
Studien, vol. 49, 1995, p. 836.]
--- This led finally to the banning of Dolpopa's works by the
Gelugpas in the seventeenth century. As one appreciative recent
> Dol po pa's work . . . has the glorious distinction of being
> one of the very few works in Tibet ever banned as heretical.
[Gareth Sparham, "On the Proper Interpretation of
Prajna-Paramita," Dreloma: Drepung Loseling Magazine, no.
XXXII-XXXIII, 1994-95, p. 20.]
Dolpopa was in many ways to fourteenth-century Tibet what
Blavatsky was to the nineteenth-century world. The London writer
W. T. Stead spoke in a similar vein about Blavatsky's work just
after her death:
> . . . it [the creed which Madame Blavatsky preached] has at
> least the advantage of being heretical. The truth always begins
> as heresy, in every heresy there may be the germ of a new
[W. T. Stead, "Madame Blavatsky," Review of Reviews, June, 1891
(pp. 548-550); reprinted in Adyar Library Bulletin, vol. XIV,
part 2, 8th May, 1950, p. 67.]
While the Gelugpas and the Sakyapas, two of the four main schools
of Tibetan Buddhism, found the Great Madhyamaka teachings to be
heretical, the Nyingmapas and the Kagyupas, the other two
schools, in general accepted these teachings. In fact, leading
teachers from these two schools used the Great Madhyamaka
teachings as a unifying doctrinal basis for their "non-sectarian"
(ris med) movement. This was begun in Tibet in the latter part
of the 1800s, the same time the Theosophical movement was being
launched in the rest of the world.
Just as Blavatsky devoted the bulk of The Secret Doctrine to
supportive quotations and parallels from the world's religions
and philosophies, so Dolpopa devoted the bulk of his writings to
supportive quotations from the Buddhist scriptures. Today many
scholars are finding that Dolpopa's understanding of his sources
makes better sense than that of his critics. One reason for this
is that he takes them to mean what they say, rather than to
require interpretation. It took the genius of Tsong-kha-pa to
bring about the "Copernican revolution" of making the second
promulgation or turning of the wheel of the dharma to be of final
or definitive meaning and the third promulgation to be of
provisional or interpretable meaning, and thereby reverse the
teaching of the Sandhi-nirmocana-sutra . Buddhist scholar Paul
> In portraying the tathagatagarbha theory found in the sutras and
> Ratnagotravibhaga I have assumed that these texts mean what they
> say. In terms of the categories of Buddhist hermeneutics I have
> spoken as though the Tathagatagarbha sutras were to be taken
> literally or as definitive works, and their meaning is quite
> explicit. The tathagatagarbha teaching, however, appears to be
> rather different from that of Prasabagika Madhyamaka, and were I
> a Tibetan scholar who took the Prasabagika Madhyamaka emptiness
> doctrine as the highest teaching of the Buddha I would have to
> interpret the tathagatagarbha teaching in order to dissolve any
> apparent disagreement.
[Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations,
London and New York: Routledge, 1989, pp. 105-106.]
Dolpopa is most known for the Shentong or "empty of other"
teaching of an absolute shunyata, said by him to be based on the
three Kalacakra commentaries from Shambhala, ---
[These three commentaries are: Pundarika's Vimala-prabha-tika on
the Kalacakra-tantra; Vajrapani's Laghu-tantra-tika on the
Cakra-samvara-tantra; and Vajragarbha's Hevajra-pindartha-tika on
the Hevajra-tantra . The latter two explain their respective
tantras from the standpoint of Kalacakra.]
--- and supported by him with quotations from the
Tathagata-garbha or Buddha-nature sutras whose teachings are
synthesized in Maitreya's Ratna-gotra-vibhaga and its commentary.
Despite this, the majority of Dolpopa's writings are on the
Prajna-paramita texts. Thus he, like Tsong-kha-pa, put most of
his attention on the primary texts of the second promulgation.
In doing so he drew heavily on a lengthy commentary which gives,
according to him, the Great Madhyamaka interpretation of these
texts. It is a combined commentary on the 100,000 line, 25,000
line, and 18,000 line Perfection of Wisdom sutras, called the
prajna-paramita-brihat-tika, attributed by some to Vasubandhu.
Unfortunately, it has not yet been translated into a western
language. The late Edward Conze, who was practically the sole
translator of Prajna-paramita texts throughout his lifetime,
> The most outstanding feature of contemporary Prajnaparamita
> studies is the disproportion between the few persons willing to
> work in this field and the colossal number of documents extant in
> Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan.
[Edward Conze, trans., The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom,
Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press,
1975, p. x.]
Dolpopa believed that shunyata is found in two different senses
in the Prajna-paramita texts, that must be distinguished through
context and through knowledge of absolute shunyata, as may be
found in the above-mentioned commentary. This text utilizes a
three svabhava type scheme in its explanations, as we have seen
from the Sandhi-nirmocana-sutra . Dolpopa refers frequently to
the "Questions Asked by Maitreya" chapter of the 18,000 and
25,000 line Prajna-paramita sutras for the source of the three
svabhava teaching in the Prajna-paramita texts. ---
[Sanskrit text printed in "'Maitreya's Questions' in the
Prajnaparamita," by Edward Conze and Iida Shotaro, Melanges
D'Indianisme a la Memoire de Louis Renou, Paris: Editions E. de
Boccard, 1968, pp. 229-242; English translation in The Large
Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, trans. Edward Conze, pp. 644-652.]
--- It is there given in related terms; e.g., dharmata-rupa,
translated by Conze as "dharmic nature of form," is there given
for parinispanna-svabhava, the "nature which is established in
reality." Dolpopa considers this chapter to be the Buddha's
auto-commentary, which should be used to interpret the
Prajna-paramita sutras. This chapter, like elsewhere in these
sutras, also speaks of the inexpressible dhatu, saying that it is
neither other than nor not other than the dharmas. While the
teaching that all dharmas are empty of any svabhava of their own
is repeated tirelessly in the Prajna-paramita sutras, Dolpopa
also finds in them the Great Madhyamaka doctrine of the truly
existent absolute shunyata empty of everything other than itself,
but not empty of its own svabhava, which is established in
All Madhyamaka traditions seek to avoid the two extremes of
eternalism and nihilism, which are the two cardinal doctrinal
errors: superimposition (samaropa) of real existence onto that
which has no real existence; and refutation (apavada) of real
existence in regard to that which has real existence. According
to Great Madhyamaka, the Prajna-paramita sutras and the texts on
philosophical reasoning by Nagarjuna address the error of
superimposition of real existence onto that which has no real
existence. They do this by teaching that all dharmas are empty
of any svabhava. This is the Prasabagika teaching. But one must
also address the error of refutation of real existence in regard
to that which has real existence. This, say the Great
Madhyamikas, is done primarily in the Tathagata-garbha sutras of
the third promulgation and their synthesis in the
Ratna-gotra-vibhaga of Maitreya, and also in the hymns of
Nagarjuna. They do this by teaching the real though
inconceivable existence of the dhatu or element, both when
obscured as the Tathagata-garbha, and when unobscured as the
dharma-kaya. They teach that the dhatu is not empty of svabhava,
that its svabhava is threefold, consisting of: ---
--- the dharma-kaya, "body of the law;" tathata, "suchness" or
"true nature;" and gotra, "germ" or "lineage." This is its truly
existent absolute svabhava established in reality.
Shunyata, as we saw above, is without doubt understood in the
Arhat secret doctrine to be an inconceivable absolute like
Shentong, the emptiness of everything but itself. So svabhava is
without doubt understood in the Arhat secret doctrine to be a
truly existent absolute, as seen in a phrase consisting of the
few "technical terms as employed in one of the Tibetan and Senzar
versions" of the Book of Dzyan given in The Secret Doctrine:
> Barnang and Ssa in Ngovonyidj.
[The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 23.]
This means: "space (bar-snang) and earth (sa) in svabhava or
svabhavata (ngo-bo-nyid)." The Tibetan word ngo-bo-nyid or
no-bo-nid is one of two standard translations of the Sanskrit
svabhava or svabhavata. Robert Thurman notes that:
> Where it is used in the ontological sense, meaning "own-being" or
> "intrinsic reality," the Tibetans prefer ngo bo nyid . Where it
> is used in the conventional sense, meaning simply "nature," they
> prefer rang bzhin, although when it is used as "self-nature,"
> that is, stressing the sva- (rang) prefix, they equate it with
> ngo bo nyid .
[Tsong Khapa's Speech of Gold in the Essence of True Eloquence,
p. 193, fn. 11.]
This phrase occurs in stanza I describing the state of the cosmos
in pralaya before its periodical manifestation. If space and
earth are dissolved in svabhava, it must be the svabhava of
something that truly exists, even when the universe doesn't.
The concept of svabhava or svabhavata found throughout known
Sanskrit writings is the concept of the "inherent nature" of
something. This something may be a common everyday thing or it
may be the absolute essence of the universe. In terms of
doctrines, then, there must first be the doctrine of an existing
essence before there can be the doctrine of its inherent nature
or svabhava. If a doctrinal system does not posit the existence
of an essence, whether of individual things or of the universe as
a whole, there can be no doctrine of svabhava. Rather there
would be the doctrine of nihsvabhava: that since nothing has an
essence, nothing has an inherent nature; such as is taught in
Prasabagika Madhyamaka Buddhism.
The concept of svabhava or svabhavata found in the Book of Dzyan
comes from the stanzas dealing with cosmogony, not from stanzas
laying out its doctrinal system, which we lack. But from the
writings of Blavatsky and her Mahatma teachers it is clear that
the doctrinal system of the Book of Dzyan and The Secret Doctrine
is based on the existence of the one element. This, then, is a
unitary essence, with a unitary inherent nature or svabhava, not
a plurality of essences with a plurality of svabhavas such as is
taught in early Abhidharma Buddhism.
From what we have seen above, there can be little doubt that the
svabhava spoken of in the Book of Dzyan is the svabhava of the
dhatu, the one element. This teaching in Buddhism is focused in
a single unique treatise, the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga . The
doctrinal standpoint of the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga as understood in
the Great Madhyamaka tradition is of all known texts far and away
the closest to that of The Secret Doctrine, just as the ethical
standpoint of the Bodhicaryavatara is of all known texts far and
away the closest to that of The Voice of the Silence . These
facts take us well beyond the realm of probability. Blavatsky
indeed had esoteric northern Buddhist sources.
We are here speaking of the doctrinal system, not of the
cosmogonic system, which the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga does not deal
with. The doctrinal standpoint of the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga has
been taken by most Buddhists down through the ages, other than
the Great Madhyamikas, to be quite different from the other four
treatises of Maitreya. One of the reasons for this is that it
uses a largely different set of technical terms. Its primary
concern is the dhatu, the element, while that of its commentary
is the Tathagata-garbha, the obscured element as the
Buddha-nature, or what we may call the one life. ---
[It should be noted, however, that Prasabagika Madhyamikas such
as the Gelugpas rather interpret the Tathagata-garbha as
emptiness, specifically the emptiness of the mind. E.
Obermiller more or less followed this interpretation in his 1931
pioneering translation of the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga or
Uttara-tantra, since he followed Gelugpa commentaries, even
though he considered that it taught monism. Similarly, David
Ruegg in his 1969 monumental study of the Tathagata-garbha, La
Theorie du Tathagatagarbha et du Gotra, also followed this
interpretation. A review article by Lambert Schmithausen, "Zu D.
Seyfort Ruegg's buch 'La theorie du tathagatagarbha et du
gotra'," in f304 Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde Sudasiens und
Archiv fur Indische Philosophie, 1973, criticizes this
interpretation. As summed up by Paul Williams: "Schmithausen has
argued that reference to the tathagatagarbha as emptiness must be
understood in terms of the particular meaning of emptiness for
this tradition--that emptiness is a particular aspect of the
tathagatagarbha, i.e., that the tathagatagarbha is empty of
defilements, not that it is identical with the [Prasabagika]
Madhyamaka emptiness. I agree." (Mahayana Buddhism: The
Doctrinal Foundations, 1989, p. 281, note 11.)]
--- Neither of these terms is the concern of the other four
treatises of Maitreya. In fact, the authorship of the
Ratna-gotra-vibhaga is not even attributed to Maitreya in the
older Chinese tradition, though it has always been attributed to
Maitreya in the Tibetan tradition. Blavatsky in a letter to A.
P. Sinnett specifically links The Secret Doctrine she was then
writing to a secret book of Maitreya:
> I have finished an enormous Introductory Chapter, or Preamble,
> Prologue, call it what you will; just to show the reader that the
> text as it goes, every Section beginning with a page of
> translation from the Book of Dzyan and the Secret Book of
> "Maytreya Buddha" Champai chhos Nga (in prose, not the five books
> in verse known, which are a blind) are no fiction.
[The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 195.]
Given their doctrinal similarity, it is likely that the
Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, or more specifically its secret original, is
the book of Maitreya that Blavatsky refers to here. The known
Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, though it may be a "blind," still apparently
represents the same doctrinal standpoint as that of The Secret
Doctrine . The other four books of the "i Champai chhos Nga "
(byams-pa'i chos lnga), the five (lnga) religious books (chos,
Sanskrit dharma) of Maitreya (byams-pa, pronounced Champa or
[The other four books are: Mahayana-sutralabakara;
Madhyanta-vibhaga; Dharma-dharmata-vibhaga; Abhisamayalabakara .
Note the unfortunate blunder of Geoffrey Barborka in translating
Champai chhos Nga as "the whole doctrine in its essentiality,"
copied in Boris de Zirkoff's "Historical Introduction" to the
definitive 1978 edition of The Secret Doctrine, p. , n.
130. I have more than once contacted the publishers concerning
this, but it could not be corrected.]
--- however, according to the Great Madhyamikas also represent
the same doctrinal standpoint as that of the Ratna-gotra-vibhaga
. The Ratna-gotra-vibhaga forms the heart of the Great
Madhyamaka tradition, which significantly was represented by
Dolpopa to be the "Golden Age Tradition." Although this tradition
teaches an inconceivable absolute shunyata or Shentong (gzan
ston) which is not empty of svabhava, its teachings are not
presented in terms of svabhava, so it is not a Svabhavika
The only references I am aware of to a Svabhavika school in any
Buddhist text are those found in the Buddha-carita, and these do
not refer to a Buddhist school of this name, but rather to a
non-Buddhist school. ---
[Ashvaghosa's Buddha-carita 9.58-62. See also 18.29-40 for a
refutation of the svabhava doctrine.]
--- The Samaya-bhedoparacana-cakra by Vasumitra, said to have
been written only four centuries after the time of the Buddha,
gives an account of the eighteen schools of early Buddhism, none
of which is the Svabhavika. Thus, leaving aside the now largely
discredited account of the Svabhavika school of Buddhism given by
a Nepalese Buddhist pandit to Brian Hodgson, I am aware of no
traditional sources for any Buddhist school either calling
themselves Svabhavikas or being called Svabhavikas by other
The southern or Hinayana schools in general accepted a svabhava
in their impermanent but real dharmas. In this sense they could
be called Svabhavikas, but apparently they were not. Since this
svabhava is impermanent, it cannot be the eternal svabhava
referred to in Theosophical writings. We have noted above an
exception to this in the Sarvastivada school, which taught an
eternal svabhava. But its doctrinal standpoint on this is not
clearly known; and this svabhava was apparently still the
svabhava of the individual dharmas rather than the svabhava of
the one dhatu. Thus it cannot be the unitary svabhava referred
to in Theosophical writings. Again, the Sarvastivadins were not
considered either by themselves or by others to be Svabhavikas.
The northern or Mahayana schools in general would be the opposite
of Svabhavikas, teaching that all dharmas are empty of svabhava
(nihsvabhava). Just as dharmas are ultimately non-existent, so
their svabhava is ultimately non-existent. As put by
Chandrakirti, svabhava is not something (akimcit), it is merely
non-existence (abhava-matra). ---
[Prasanna-pada commentary on Mula-madhyamaka-karika 15.2.]
--- The inherent nature or svabhava of fire, for example, is here
not its common everyday nature of burning, but rather is that its
essence is non-existent. In other words, the inherent nature
(svabhava) of dharmas is that they have no inherent nature
(nihsvabhava). This position is most fully developed in the
Prasabagika Madhyamaka school, the dominant school in Tibet,
generally considered to be the culmination of the Mahayana
The Yogacara school of Mahayana is known for its teaching of the
three svabhavas, derived from the Sandhi-nirmocana-sutra . These
svabhavas or natures, which are also called laksanas or defining
characteristics, are applied to the dharmas: a dharma has an
illusory nature, a dependent nature, and a perfect nature
established in reality. However, these are balanced in the same
texts with the teaching of the three nihsvabhavas, culminating
with the absolute lack of svabhava (paramartha-nihsvabhavata).
So this certainly would not be considered a Svabhavika position.
The Great Madhyamaka tradition accepts a truly existent though
inconceivable absolute shunyata which is not empty of svabhava.
Since this tradition presents its teachings in terms of shunyata
and not in terms of svabhava, as noted above, they are not
Svabhavikas. Yet it is only here that we find a match with the
doctrine of svabhava or svabhavata found in Theosophy. The match
is to their teaching of the dhatu, the element, which is
described in terms of absolute shunyata or Shentong empty of
anything other than itself, and whose svabhava is also absolute
and truly existent. This, however, is the very teaching most
pointedly refuted by the Gelugpas, who in other regards are
considered closest to Theosophy. But Theosophists and others
often remain unaware that the Gelugpas refute this teaching,
because as stated by Hookham:
> Unfortunately for those who intuit a Shentong meaning somewhere
> behind the Buddha's words, it is possible to listen to Gelugpa
> teachings for a long time before realizing that it is precisely
> this intuition that is being denied. The definitions and the
> "difficult points" of the Gelugpa school are designed
> specifically to exclude a Shentong view; they take a long time to
[The Buddha Within, p. 17.]
Research in Buddhist texts is in its early stages in the West.
The Great Madhyamaka tradition remained largely unknown here
until quite recently, and only now are its texts starting to come
out. Much remains to be done in preparation for the coming out
of an original language text of the Book of Dzyan.
OPEN LETTER TO ASSOCIATES AND FRIENDS
by the United Lodge of Theosophicts
[From a June 21-25, 1997 mailing from the LA Lodge.]
> It is time Theosophy should enter the arena.
> -- THE GREAT MASTER'S LETTER
If these words were true in 1883, they are even more true today.
With technological splendor gaining momentum on one hand, and
great suffering and privation on the other, Theosophists need to
focus their efforts so as to affect as widely as possible the
mind of the race in general. This was the central theme of the
Great Master's message. Mr. Judge clearly points out the way:
> High scholarship and a knowledge of metaphysics are good things
> to have, but the mass of the people are neither scholars nor
> metaphysicians. If our doctrines are of any such use as to
> command the efforts of sages in helping on to their promulgation,
> then it must be that those sages -- our Masters -- desire the
> doctrines to be placed before as many of the mass as we can
There is no substitute for enthusiasm in this effort. Mr. Judge
exemplified this in everything he did. Once one recognizes the
value of theosophical IDEAS as they affect every level of human
life -- physical, mental, moral and spiritual -- enthusiasm to
share with others is spontaneous, as shown by the ongoing efforts
of students to publish and study the original writings of H. P.
Blavatsky and William Q. Judge. From India, for instance, come
reprints of LETTERS THAT HAVE HELPED ME, by WQJ, as well as
SELECTIONS FROM THE UPANISHADS AND THE TAO TE KING.
Several students are engaged in the translation of these writings
into other languages. A translation into French, NOTES SUR LA
BHAGAVAD GITA, was published in Paris last year. Articles by Mr.
Judge from the first volume of his THEOSOPHICAL ARTICLES have
recently been translated into Spanish and published in booklet
form. Other translation projects continue, reflecting the need
for accessible theosophical literature in many languages. Also
reflecting the diversity of interest in Theosophy, the three
special meetings at the Los Angeles Lodge were conducted jointly
in both English and Spanish.
Magazines bind students together in all parts of the world.
THEOSOPHY, VIDYA, and THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT continue to
provide links for students with Theosophy, the Teachers and one
Public lectures and study classes work on the premise that
students and inquirers can and should know Theosophy for
themselves, and in fact, learn better by sharing their insights
in discussion and study. During the past two years talks have
been given at some Lodges focusing on the lives and work of those
who exemplified the continuing current of intellectual and
spiritual ideas representing the Theosophical Movement and its
influence throughout history. Local study classes and workshops
continue in outlying areas from the larger cities that meet the
needs of those unable to attend regular Lodge meetings. A new
study class began last year in Upland, California (east of Los
Angeles) and students of the New York Lodge participated in New
York City's Street Fair with a table and free literature. It
should also be noted here, that the correspondence course
undertaken by students at the New York Lodge continues to
ULT Associates in Southern California, Brookings, Oregon, and The
Hague in the Netherlands, participated in cooperative meetings
with students from other Theosophical groups held during 1996 in
recognition of the life and work of William Q. Judge. The
active participation by students and inquirers alike was
enthusiastic and supportive, showing the broad interest in and
appeal of Theosophy to the world.
Students started three web sites on the Internet last year, two
of which are
Basic information can be found about Theosophy and ULT in English
and Spanish, and THEOSOPHY Magazine is available from the
December, 1996 issue onward. A third student site is
Texts of 119 of HPB's articles, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY and THE
VOICE OF THE SILENCE are available.
This is the work of today as opportunities present themselves.
In spite of the clangor and din of our present civilization, we
live in a time when it is possible to openly proclaim the
existence of Theosophy -- the Wisdom-Religion. This has not
always been the case, as history shows. We need not be reticent
in publicly stating theosophical ideas as they throw light on the
problems and issues facing the human family -- birth, death and
dying, education, famine, human rights, justice, religious
freedom, social conflict and war. HPB provided the key to
transforming the "mind of the race" in our era when she said
"Learn well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation..." In her
Fourth Message to the American Theosophists in 1891 -- the last
year of her life -- she called upon Theosophists to:
> Be Theosophists, work for Theosophy! Theosophy first, and
> Theosophy last; for its PRACTICAL realization alone can save the
> Western world from that selfish and unbrotherly feeling that now
> divides race from race, one nation from the other ...
The ULT platform of non-partisan dissemination can become a
vehicle for a broader and more meaningful dialog on the issues of
the day, which can be discussed at all times in the light of
Theosophy. This will continue the work of students to
demonstrate the reality of the inner life of the mind, which is
nourished on ideas and feeds the yearnings of the heart. Again,
HPB said, "In your hands, brothers, is placed in trust the
welfare of the coming century." In whatever we do, we but hand on
the trust to the coming centuries.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application