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2002-08-10 Theosophy and Buddhism (1:06:24)
THEOSOPHY AND BUDDHISM
By Richard Taylor
[This comes from a tape recording of the Long Beach Theosophical
Conference held August 10, 2002. It was transcribed, edited,
then send to Richard Taylor for further corrections and review.]
How many of you have a picture of enlightenment in your head? Do
you know what it looks like? I am not sure I do either! We spend
time intellectualizing it. Is it something that happens to you
in the distant future? Are you suddenly omniscient? Will you fly
through the air? Perhaps you are more down-to-earth in your
thinking about it. You see it as simple, as being kind to
people. You picture enlightened people as humble, compassionate,
I do not spend time thinking about enlightenment. Personally, I
feel caught up in the path. Feeling so far from enlightenment, I
find most of my energy is focused on getting there rather than
There is a big tradition in Buddhism that takes the opposite view
of enlightenment, seeing it as immanent in our being rather than
being vastly far away. Blavatsky takes that immanent view. What
is this school? I am not going to say yet. It is too dangerous!
We will get there. It sees enlightenment as where you are now.
This school of Buddhism holds that enlightenment is not something
that happens to you someday. It is what you have now but of
which you are not fully aware or actualized. It is not something
magical that will happen 30,000 lifetimes from now.
Some Buddhists are not even sure they believe in reincarnation.
They do not care about it. It is not important to them.
Enlightenment is important, not how far you are from it nor how
you get there. In the scheme of things, your problems of today
do not matter. What matters is enlightenment. Blavatsky will
help us get to this view.
Before going too far, I would like to hear what Blavatsky and her
teachers say about Buddhism. I am particularly interested in
Esoteric Buddhism. Consider what she says among the facts I
Some are unfamiliar with Buddhism. "Buddhism" comes from the
Sanskrit root "budh," meaning "to awaken." The teaching is that
we are actually asleep. We are asleep and dreaming. Our dreams
have good and bad in them. Over lifetime after lifetime, you may
dream, dream, and dream. As much as you do this, you are not
dealing with reality still. You are simply dreaming. The dreams
vary. One may be pleasant and another horrible. By earning all
the good karma you can, you merely accumulate the good karma of a
good dream. You are not awake. You are not enlightened.
Buddhism is about a path to Yoga. It is a system of effort. In
its kernel, it is not a religion. Many religions have grown out
of the Buddha’s teaching. Like many other teachers, he did not
come to found a religion. He came to awaken those that could be
awakened. He also came for those not ready to awaken yet, so
they might know there is such a thing. They may shoot for it at
some point. It is always available.
The word "Buddhism" comes from the Sanskrit root "budh," "to
awaken." The one who has awakened is a Buddha. That is a past
participle, meaning that he is one who has awakened.
We are talking about the system of effort promulgated by Gautama
Buddha in our current historical period. In the Buddhist
tradition, he is not the first Buddha. He will not be the last.
Like Blavatsky, he claims to have spoken from a long tradition of
awakening, one that has existed since humanity was
self-conscious. Who knows when that was?
Why do we care about Buddhism? Why talk about it today? I am
going to say to you that Blavatsky was a Buddhist herself. I
hope this is not too radical! If you do not believe me, consider
the facts that I shall present.
I do not want to get my facts wrong. If wrong, let me know. It
is a fact that on May 17, 1880, HPB and Colonel Olcott took
pansil, a form of Buddhist vows. They took refuge in the Triple
Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) before a large audience at the
Buddhist temple in Galle.
They took shelter under the Buddha. It is actually a formal
ritual where you repeat three times:
> BUDDHAM SARANAM GACCHAMI
> (I go to the Buddha for refuge),
> DHAMMAM SARANAM GACCHAMI
> (I go to the Dharma, the Dhamma, the Buddhist teaching), and
> SANGHAM SARANAM GACCHAMI
> (I go to the Buddhist community).
These are technical terms.
Blavatsky was not saying that she is going to take directions
from her friends and her loved ones. She is taking direction and
placing herself under the shelter or triple umbrella of the
Buddha, his teaching, and his Buddhist community. She did not
embrace the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or Spiritualists.
She gave herself to BUDDHISM.
Why embrace Buddhism? Theosophy is a non-sectarian movement. Why
would the two principal founders of the Theosophical Society take
public vows to be Buddhist, to go for refuge to the Buddha, his
teaching, and his community? They just set foot on the island a
few months ago. Now they are converting, very publicly, with
newspaper reporters, a bunch of Buddhist followers, and priests
from the local Buddhist temple.
They did this before a big audience including really angry
Christian missionaries. The missionaries felt these two were
undermining the white man’s burden just to bring up these poor,
ignorant, dark-skinned natives that had not had the Gospel! Here
were brazen, hubris-laden westerners, they thought, that probably
do not even speak Singhalese!
The point of taking refuge is that you keep going at it until you
are enlightened. You do not leave. It is a layperson’s vow.
They took refuge in the Triple Jewel. I think that is a fact.
It is on record.
I do not know how many of you are familiar with THE MAHATMA
LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT. Many share my opinion they were not
originally intended to be published. Nevertheless, they have
The next fact comes from something that the Master that we have
come to know as Morya wrote. (Putting the passage in context, at
the time that it was written, people were accusing Theosophy of
not being relevant and not pandering to their wishes.) The
> What have we, the disciples of the true Arhats [a technical
> Buddhist term], of esoteric Buddhism [with two d’s] and of
> Sang-gyas [which is the Tibetan word for Buddha] to do with the
> Shastras [which are a Hindu group] and Orthodox Brahmanism? There
> are 100 of thousands of Fakirs, Sannyasis, or Sadhus, leading the
> most pure lives, and yet being as they are, on the path of error
> never having had an opportunity to meet, see, or even hear of us.
> [Disciples of Arhats, Esoteric Buddhism, and Sang-gyas] … Which
> of them is ready to become a Buddhist, a Nastika [that is an
> atheist, a non-believer], as they call us? None. Those who have
> believed and have followed us have had their reward.
> -- THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, page 455
I do not know exactly who those are -- Damodar and others -- that
have left their caste and traditional Hindu upbringing, to go to
Note the spelling. We have "Buddhist," with two d’s. There is a
ULT version of this letter in THE COLLECTED ARTICLES OF JUDGE
where the two d’s have been changed to one d. I took the liberty
of going to the British Museum in London and looking at the
original Mahatma Letters. It has two d’s. The Mahatmas say they
are Buddhist, followers of Buddha, Gautama Buddha. I think it is
Also in THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, the Mahatmas
frequently refer to themselves and their brothers as Arhats,
meaning "those who have killed the enemy." The enemy is the
internal opponent to enlightenment. (As to the reference to
brothers, I think that they are celibate Tibetan monks, which is
where the word "brothers" is translated from the Tibetan.)
The technical Buddhist word "Chutuktu" is Mongolian for "Arhat."
You will not find these words outside of Buddhism. They are
unique to Buddhist terminology. It is great that nobody in the
West knew Mongolian during Blavatsky’s time. Here it is in
print. She was the only western woman that we know of who has
ever come in contact with people knowing technical Buddhist
Mongolian. I think it speaks to her credibility. She really was
there. She really talked to these people.
They called themselves "Bodhisattvas," a Sanskrit word meaning a
being (sattva) on a path to awakening (bodhi).
They called themselves "Khobligan," which is Mongolian for
"Bodhisattva," as if Mongolian for "Arhat" were not good enough.
They called themselves "Bjang-chub." Blavatsky sometimes used the
Russian spelling "Tchang-chub." It is a Tibetan term for
Bodhisattva. In Sanskrit, we have the term "Bodhisattva
Mahasattva," Enlightenment Being - Great Being, which is
"Bjang-chub sems-p'ai sems-pa chen-po." Again, in THE MAHATMA
LETTERS, we see they know that technical term. Apart from
Blavatsky, I do not think other westerners in her day knew it.
There was one dictionary by Soma de Koros, but Blavatsky's
spelling is phonetic, and THE MAHATMA LETTERS have phonetic
spellings of the Tibetan words.
They also use the word "Lha."
I give page numbers to the original edition. I think it is fact.
Look it up. The Mahatmas knew these words. They are not Hindu
words. They are not Muslim words. They are Buddhist words. I
do not ever see the Mahatmas using anything but Buddhist terms to
describe themselves. I think that is a fact. If I am wrong,
Finally, we have a passage from the 1880 letter from the
Mahachohan. He was the Great Teacher of the Masters that
Blavatsky claims to have worked with. He says,
> Buddhism [with two d’s] is the surest path to lead men toward the
> one esoteric truth … No religion [it is pretty categorical] with
> the exception of Buddhism has hitherto taught a practical
> contempt for this earthly life, while each of them [other
> religions], always with that one solitary [Buddhist] exception,
> has through its hells and damnations inculcated the greatest
> dread of death … That we, the devoted followers of that spirit
> incarnate of absolute self-sacrifice, of philanthropy, and divine
> kindness, as of all of the highest virtues attainable on this
> earth of sorrow, the man of men, Gautama Buddha, should ever
> allow the Theosophical Society to represent the embodiment of
> selfishness, become the refuge of the few with no thought in them
> for the many, is a strange idea … And it is we, the humble
> disciples of the perfect Lamas [a technical Tibetan Buddhist word
> for "Guru"], who are expected to permit the Theosophical Society
> to drop its noblest title, that of the Brotherhood of Humanity,
> to become a simple school of psychology.
This was for the benefit of those westerners wanting a school of
magic tricks. "Teach us to levitate," they would say. "Teach us
to read minds. Teach us to do all the magical things that
Tibetan Buddhists were supposed to do at the enlightenment
stage." The Mahachohan explains that the Mahatmas do not care
about any of that. They care about basic Buddhist truths, the
program that produces as its graduate one such as Gautama Buddha.
That was their interest and not western occultist parlor tricks.
Try the math with this early date, 1880. The intent was to steer
the Theosophical Society away from western psychism into an
authentic traditional path. It does not say that other religions
are crap. It does not say that we do not care about Esoteric
Islam, Esoteric Christianity, or Esoteric Hinduism. What it says
is that we are followers of Buddha.
We have the Mahatmas, Blavatsky, and their collective teacher
(the Mahachohan) on record stating they are Buddhists. This was
an out-and-out public proclamation. It was "Buddhists" spelled
with two d’s. Deal with it! They are out of the closet!
Some may not be aware of how public Blavatsky was about being
Buddhist. That is why I bring up these important facts from
theosophical history. It is important to know this. It is great
to see that most of us are aware of this. It is old news. I can
save my breath.
Does this mean that Blavatsky is behind everything called
"Buddhism," including burning incense, sitting on cushions,
visualizing the chakras, and whatever else the Buddhists do?
Absolutely not! Blavatsky knows what is exoteric and what is
Her Teachers are not saying, "Join a club of Buddhism! Let us all
be Buddhists!" The Theosophical Society was built for a reason.
I think the path that the Masters were on was not publicly
available, certainly not in the West. There were no Buddhist
monasteries. There were no Buddhist monks in the West. The
Dalai Lama was unknown to the public.
For all practical purposes, Tibet was a closed society to the
West. This was on purpose. Yes, they had trade with Mongolia,
China, and Nepal. To some degree, they traded with India and
Central Asia. But by and large, Tibet was inaccessible to the
The West was rapidly falling away from its traditional religious
paths into base, scientific materialism. There were those who
care about the destiny of mankind. They cared that the West was
about to fall off into a precipice from which there may be no
recovery in this Yuga. That is a long time, folks!
What can we do to attract the western thinkers? How can we do
some good for East Asians as well? What can we do that will draw
the highest minds in every land to a spiritual renaissance? It
needs to be non-sectarian if we are to get to westerners of
Christian, Jewish, and Islamic belief.
Under cover of non-sectarianism, we are going to teach this one
ancient path, one which has enlightened so many before us. It
does not matter what you call it. Before Gautama Buddha,
Buddhism probably was not known as we know it today. It was
something else. It was called whatever. We do not know. We do
not have records of much in India before 500 B.C.
Today, we know of Theosophy. What we know of Theosophy is
exoterically a public movement to direct our minds towards
spiritual reality. Esoterically, it is Tibetan Buddhist to its
core. We can start with those facts.
Briefly consider the history of Buddhism. What we call exoteric
or public Buddhism Blavatsky often called Hinayana. This is a
slam. Hinayana is a technical term which means "Lesser Vehicle,"
"the Small Vehicle." The Hinayana Buddhists do not call themselves
this. They do not say, "We follow the "Lesser Vehicle," we are
There were 18 schools of early exoteric Buddhism. The school
that has survived is Sthaviravadins. In Pali and other
languages, it is called Theravada. It means the ones that follow
the elders (Sthaviras). They take the view, path, way, and
perspective of the Sthaviras, the early or eldest Buddhists. As
Blavatsky would say in her characteristic subtlety, the Hinayana
or "Lesser Vehicle" is a gradual path. It is a safe path. Life
after life, one can practice morality, meditation, and study.
One can gradually purify the five skandhas.
In Theosophy, Blavatsky has seven principles exoterically.
Buddhism teaches five. I might go into detail about this, but
suffice it to say for now that all seven of Blavatsky’s
principles are in the skandhas with the exception of Atman.
The exoteric Buddhists do not teach an imperishable principle
surviving from life to life. They teach a life stream, which is
how karma works. Every life you have produces another. The
deeds of this life affect the next. Even so, you are not really
"you." Life after life, you are your own spiritual child. I,
Richard Taylor, give birth to Jane Whoever in Africa in my next
life. She inherits my energy and characteristics.
In this school of Buddhism, nothing essential is passed on.
Blavatsky had very little use for these people, except that they
were the closest exoteric religion to the esoteric doctrine she
was interested in.
HPB characterizes these people as being opposed to the Mahayana
or Great Vehicle. ("Maha" means "great" in Sanskrit.) Why do we
call it great? Well, it is just GREAT, that is why! [At this
point in the talk, everyone laughs.] It is not for an exclusive
few wanting to practice spirituality life after life after life.
It aims at the great mass of humanity. It teaches the same
doctrines as the Sthaviravadins, but also adds an inner doctrine
not always accepted by the Hinayana.
The technical term for the words of the Buddha is "Sutra." With
the Mahayana, we have extra Sutras. What does the word mean?
Scholars are divided over its origination. It might refer to the
Hindu Sanskrit word "Sutra," which means "thread," the thread
that is teaching. More likely, I think, is that it comes from
"su-ukta," meaning well-uttered. The Sutras were the well-spoken
teachings of the Buddha.
The Mahayana School has massive scriptures teaching a more
elevated view of Buddhism. What does it say? You can be
enlightened in one lifetime. You can be enlightened even if you
are not a celibate monk. You can be enlightened even if you have
a day job. You can be enlightened even if you are a woman. (I
know we think that is obvious -- "Even if you are a woman!" -- but
back then it was pretty radical.) In all the ways that you can be
different as a human, you can be enlightened.
In the Sthaviravada tradition, you only can be enlightened if you
are a celibate monk. They are only allowed to be men. In the
early days, there were nuns, but that order died out eventually.
Mahayana! Blavatsky is really big on Mahayana. Read her THE
VOICE OF THE SILENCE. Published near the end of her life in
1889, it is chock-full of Buddhist terms. Get a nice
English-Sanskrit dictionary. Look up the terms in it. You will
find word-for-word translations from Mahayana Buddhist texts.
There are two primary means of progress on the path in Mahayana.
First is compassion (Karuna). It is compassion for all beings.
It is base or fundamental, without exception, absolutely
foundational. It is not merely caring for your family and
friends. It openly embraces the universe and its suffering and
it contains the will to end that suffering.
Second is wisdom (Prajna). Believe it or not, but in Buddhism
Karuna is masculine and Prajna feminine. Joined together in
symbolic sexual union, they produce the mind of enlightenment
(Bodhichitta), which is the preparation to fully actualize your
You cannot do without either wisdom or compassion. They are the
two foundational pillars of Mahayana Buddhism. Without wisdom,
you are doing good deeds that may actually harm. Your compassion
may lead you into error without wisdom. Wisdom without
compassion is sterile, bland, the intellectual arrogance we see
too much of in the world. Modern scholasticism can be the
pinnacle of Prajna without Karuna.
The Mahayana is still exoteric. It is more elevated than the
slow, gradual, purifying teachings. With it, you have whole
Buddha Universes (enlightened universes) in your head. There are
worlds connected to worlds and Buddhas of other worlds in
communication. We have all this cosmological and metaphysical
stuff going on. Even so, they just want you to sit and
contemplate your navel. They only talk about metaphysics. I am
being unfair, but you will see where I am going in a second.
It is not the highest school of Buddhism. At one time, the
exoteric, public Mahayana was being formulated and offered by
Asanga. Blavatsky mentions him frequently in her writings,
especially in THE SECRET DOCTRINE. (The name Asanga, or
Aryasanga, is a root of Sanga, meaning the Noble.)
At the same time, he gave out an esoteric tradition, today called
the Vajrayana. "Vajra" means "diamond." If you think of a
diamond, it is multi-faceted, catches the light, and is damned
near indestructible. If you turn yourself into a Vajrasattva, a
diamond-being, you are imperishable. You are immortal. You are
What is a Vajrasattva? How do we get there? Why should we care? A
Vajrasattva is the product is of the Vajrayana. That is a
Sanskrit word. There is a synonym for Vajrayana. Do you know
what it is? It is "Tantra."
Tantra! Uh-oh! He is going to talk about sex now! No, I am not.
This is the great sadness in the West. This is what happens to
every esoteric tradition once it becomes public. And Tantras
have been published. Tibet is the last vestige of where the
Vajrayana was practiced regularly by CELIBATE monks and nuns.
Tibet was invaded brutally in the 1950's. Tibetans had to
scatter to survive to keep their culture.
I have asked some Lamas, "Why on earth would you publish these
esoteric Tantras? You know the western world will devour,
distort, and turn them into perverted sex magic!"
They would reply, "It is either we publish them, or they die with
us. We do not have the monasteries anymore. We cannot train
young monks and nuns to follow in our footsteps."
The Dalai Lama was one of the last traditionally trained (and
celibate) Tibetan Lamas. He may be the last of his succession.
In the early 1990’s, he went on record as saying, "I may be the
fourteenth and last Dalai Lama." The culture that produced him no
longer exists. Maybe we will absorb Tibetan Buddhism in the
West. Maybe we will not. Blavatsky did not have much luck in
that direction, but I will get to that in a second.
The Vajrayana is now public, but it did not used to be. The
technical word Tantra is hard to define or even describe. Think
of a loom with threads. In this tapestry, the Sutras are threads
going vertically and the Tantra is the horizontal weave. Tantra
completes the picture. The two interweave.
Following the spoken words of the Buddha, you will approach
enlightenment gradually. Vajrayana says that if you are truly a
being of compassion, you will not wait 16,000 lifetimes to help
your fellowman. The sooner you can be enlightened, the sooner
you are a Buddha in the world, and therefore the sooner you can
do good deeds.
What is this speedy and admittedly DANGEROUS path? What is the
Tantra? We can ask Blavatsky. She knows all about it. In fact,
you may have first heard of it from her as being evil. Like
everything, there is a light and a dark side to it. In THE VOICE
OF THE SILENCE, she mentions its dark side. She called those on
the left-hand path (practicing the Hindu Tantra as we now known
it) the Tantrikas.
What does she say is a Tantrika? They are those who are
non-celibate (meaning married) and sexually active yogis. Free
from the bounds of a moral life, they believe they can do
whatever they damn well please, calling it magic and
"We are free from any kind of restrictions," they say. "We can
sleep with whoever we want, have crazy wisdom, and be
enlightened. Everyone will think that we are magical beings."
I do not know. Maybe that works for some people. I have not
tried that path, so I would not know. Blavatsky is strongly
opposed to it.
There is more than one kind of Tantra. What does Blavatsky say
about the light side? Some of you may have Volume III of THE
SECRET DOCTRINE. It may not have been intended for publication.
I do not know if it is really part of the book. That is beside
the point. It is a fact that Blavatsky wrote the essays in that
volume that Annie Besant and friends published. The volume
consists of a largely-unedited bunch of essays. Even so,
Blavatsky wrote them. On page 405, she says:
> The Book of Dzyan -- from the Sanskrit word "Dhyan" (mystic
> meditation) -- is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the
> seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of public works of
> the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric
> purposes and the use of the layman [not the celibate monks], may
> be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa [Yellow Hat]
> Lamas, in the library of any [Gelugpa] monastery; and also the
> fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by
> initiated Teachers.
> Strictly speaking, those 35 books [of Kiu-te] ought to be termed
> "The Popularized Version" of the Secret Doctrine [that is a
> unique thing to say, the popular "Secret Doctrine!"], full of
> myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of Commentaries,
> on the other hand -- with their translations, annotations, and
> ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic
> folio [darn, I wish we had this!] THE BOOK OF THE SECRET WISDOM
> OF THE WORLD -- contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences.
I cannot give you THE BOOK OF THE SECRET WISDOM OF THE WORLD. I
wish I could. I can give you the books of Kiu-te. I may be able
to give you the esoteric commentaries on the books of Kiu-te, the
occult science that Blavatsky talks about.
I do not believe that Blavatsky was fully literate in Tibetan. I
do not mean to insult her. She studied her teachings at the feet
of Masters orally. She wrote down exactly what she heard, which
was "Kiu-te." I am sorry to inform you that Tibetan is miserable
to spell. It is really miserable.
The word is spelled "rGyud-sDe." There are no capital letters in
Tibetan, but I put some in them to help you find the phonetics.
How do you pronounce the Tibetan? You say, "Kiu-te." Great, now
we know the Tibetan. What is it? What is Kiu-te? Some background
is needed to explain.
There are two primary divisions in Tibetan Buddhism. One is
based on the Mahayana, consisting of Sutras of the Buddha that we
believe he actually spoke. It is sensible to accept these
Sutras. The Tibetans accept them. They are called "Do-te."
Do you see where I am going with this? "Do-te" is Tibetan for
"Sutras." "rGyud-sDe" is Tibetan for "Tantras." Blavatsky is
excited about the Tantras. There are two major divisions in the
Tibetan Buddhist canon: (1) Mahayana Sutras (Do-te) and (2)
Vajrayana Tantras (rGyud-sDe). Blavatsky wrote exactly what she
She did not write this, but in the "Tibetan Teachings" of THE
COLLECTED WORKS OF BLAVATSKY, VI, 98, we read:
> In the first place [our Tibetan correspondent, who I assume is a
> Mahatma, right?], the sacred canon of the Tibetans, the
> Bkah-hgyur [Kanjur, the Sutras, the spoken word] and the
> Bstan-hgyur [Tanjur], comprises 1707 distinct works -- 1083
> public and 624 secret volumes -- the former being composed of 350
> and the latter 77 volumes.
> Could they [scholars and missionaries] even by chance have seen
> them, I can assure the Theosophists that the contents of these
> volumes could never be understood by anyone who had not been
> given the key to their peculiar character, and to their hidden
> meaning. [It is THE SECRET DOCTRINE.]
> Every description of localities is figurative in our system;
> every name and word is purposely veiled; and a student, before he
> is given any further instruction, has to study the mode of
> deciphering, and then of comprehending and learning the
> equivalent secret system or synonym for nearly every word of our
> religious language [our Tibetan Buddhist religious language].
> The Egyptian enchorial or hieratic system is child’s play to the
> deciphering of our sacred puzzles. Even in those volumes to
> which the masses have access, every sentence has a dual meaning,
> one intended for the unlearned, and the other for those who have
> received the key to the records.
I propose that "unlearned" does not mean ignorant, stupid, or
uneducated. It means uninitiated, not initiated into Tantra,
which I will soon address.
In the same volume, pages 100-1:
> But the records from which our scholastic author, the
> [obnoxious!] monk Della Penna quotes -- or I should rather say,
> misquotes -- contain no fiction, but simply information for
> future generations, who may, by that time, have obtained the key
> to the right reading of them [which we have today]. The "Lha"
> [or Buddhist deity or Brother] of whom Della Penna speaks but to
> deride the fable, they who "have attained the position of saints
> in this world" [Bodhisattvas], were simply the initiated Arhats,
> the adepts of many and various grades, generally known under the
> name of Bhante [father in Sanskrit] or Brothers. In the book
> known as the Avatamsaka Sutra [a Mahayana Buddhist scripture], in
> the section on "the Supreme Atman" --
Wait! Do we have BUDDHISTS teaching ATMAN? This is the MAJOR
Mahayana text, the Avatamsaka Sutra!
> -- Self -- as manifested in the character of the Arhats and
> Pratyeka [or self-enlightened] Buddhas," it is stated that
> "Because from the beginning, all sentient creatures have confused
> the truth, and embraced the false; therefore has there come into
> existence a hidden knowledge called Alaya Vijnana." "Who is in
> the possession of the true hidden knowledge?" "The great teachers
> of the Snowy Mountain," is the response in THE BOOK OF LAW.
Who are "the great teachers of the Snowy Mountain?" This is
another technical Buddhist term. "Himalayas" is not a technical
term. It is "The Place of Snows." Everyone knows that when the
Muslims invaded India, the Buddhists fled to Tibet. There they
remained until China kicked their butts.
So far, we know that Blavatsky is talking about a popularized
version of the Secret Doctrine known as the Buddhist Tantras,
Kiu-te. They quote some Mahayana scriptures, Avatamsaka, and
talk about an Atman, which we thought Buddhism did not teach.
Apparently it does in the Tantras in the Mahayana. Are you with
me so far?
Before going on to Tsong-Kha-Pa, whom Blavatsky is very happy
about for many reasons, I want to consider the structure of
Tantra and what it means to be Tantra. I would like to disabuse
you of any misunderstanding that it might be about sex, dark
magic, or strange alchemical things that we should not meddle in.
What is Tantra about? It is the same Buddhist teachings as
Mahayana, with added technology. Consider the Sanskrit character
"OM." Blavatsky talks about OM quite a bit. It is the sound of
the universe, of enlightenment, of our true nature. In Buddhism,
chanting OM and mantras that begin with it get you to your
Buddhist nature (Buddhakaya), your enlightened state, and your
absolute essence. It is that Atman, spark, true reality, or the
true Being who you are.
OM is the esoteric symbol of your true nature. When you call on
it, you call on the essence of the universe and the essence of
yourself, which are the same. The Buddhist chant "OM MANI PADME
HUM," an elongated, seven-syllable version. They chant to the
jewel or essence (mani) in the lotus of your essential being
(padme). It is drawn out with the reverberation of "hum."
You are calling it to attention. "OM, wake up! Jewel in the
Lotus, wake up, and come out. Become active. Become aware."
This is not a gradual path. You do not have to develop your
essence. It is right there! You do not MAKE the OM, you
PRONOUNCE the OM! It exists. It is eternal. It is preexistent.
You are all Buddhas! You ARE the OM. You are not with me yet?
You are not all enlightened? Damn!
The Mahayana path of wisdom and compassion is noble, but still
graudal. The Vajrayana is a "sudden path," meaning it teaches
that you are already enlightened. It does not do away with
wisdom and compassion. You need both.
I will tell you why. If you will bear with me, I
want to do a little Tantric ritual. It is not too magical. I
promise it is nothing to do with sex. Oh! I know I have
disappointed some of you!
The union of masculine and feminine energies in our root nature
produces our essential being, our Buddhakaya. In THE VOICE OF
THE SILENCE, Blavatsky talks about the three aspects of the
Buddhakaya: (1) the Nirmanakaya, which is not the physical, but
an astral realization of enlightenment, on the astral plane,
which impinges on ours; (2) the Sambhogakaya, the enlightened
mental body of the Buddha, the absolute enlightened state; and
(3) the Dharmakaya, the absolute metaphysical reality of what it
is to be enlightened, without any connection related to the human
world. These three are almost the Atmic, Manasic, and Astral
layers of Blavatsky’s world. That is Mahayana Buddhism. Tantra
is simply a speeded-up version of Mahayana.
Let us do a little ritual. First, focus on Karuna. This is from
a Bodhisattva vow. You have all seen a version of the vow called
the Kwan-Yin Pledge. Here I chant the original:
> May all sentient beings be endowed with happiness.
> May they all be released from suffering.
> May they all realize their inherent non-suffering nature.
> May they all arrive at the unconditioned, impartial state which
> is free from aversion and attachment.
The enlightenment part would follow next.
These four levels of Karuna (Immeasurables) require ascending
levels of effort. First: (1) "May all sentient beings be happy."
More difficult: (2) "May they be free from suffering." Still more
difficult: "May they realize their innate, non-suffering nature."
And most difficult: "May they all arrive at the unconditioned,
impartial state which is free from aversion and attachment."
What is so magical about this Tantra? It is magic because you
chant it over and over again until it sinks to the root of your
being. You BECOME the Four Immeasurables, you EMBODY Karuna as
quickly as you can. Why dilly-dally? What are you waiting for?
You can be compassionate tomorrow!
How do we get to Prajna, leading to Bodhichitta? The chant
> Just as the Lords of the Three Times (past, present, and future)
> and their sons and daughters (the Buddha families) generated the
> heart of supreme enlightenment, so may I, for the liberation of
> all beings throughout space, generate the unexcelled mind of
> supreme enlightenment.
You first took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (the
Buddha’s teaching community). You now call up the wisdom nature
in you. As you drill compassion into yourself, over, over, and
over again, you call up that wisdom nature. It is called the
mind of enlightenment (the Aspirational Bodhichitta).
The result is already there. You chant about as well.
> I and the infinite multitude of sentient beings are the absolute,
> the Buddha, from the beginning. Realizing that this is our
> essential identity, let us generate the mind of supreme
You call it up and realize it is already there. The two meet.
The Atman reaches down to the embodied being. The embodied being
reaches up to the Atman. This union is Tantra. This is the
union of male and female that the West sees as so damn sexual!
What is WRONG with us westerners? This is metaphysical. This is
spiritual. It is not about our physical bodies at all. Male and
female imagery are purely metaphorical, used to understand the
different energies of our nature.
As you may know, Tsong-Kha-Pa was the founder of a reformed sect
of Buddhism in Tibet. Blavatsky calls him a fully realized
Buddha, the second Buddha, the only Buddha since Gautama Buddha.
At the end of the 14th century, he appeared in Tibet and saw a
degraded Tantric Buddhist system. It is been a couple of
thousand years since the Buddha had taught. Buddhism had been in
Tibet for a thousand years. There had been accretions. The root
teachings I have shared with you do not include all the
visualizations, the beautiful colors the syllables. The root is
compassion, wisdom, and the mind of enlightenment. That is the
root. It had degraded. Accoutrements had built up. All these
rituals were not really essential.
Tsong-Kha-Pa was the guy who originated the Dalai Lamas. His
successor is the First Dalai Lama. It is too complicated for me
to get into now. Blavatsky shares the historical fact that he
founded the Yellow Hat School, which produces the Dalai Lamas
that we have today. She tells you that he reformed exoteric
Buddhism. She may tell you he reformed Esoteric Buddhism. What
she does not tell you is that of the many volumes he wrote, most
were Tantric. He is reforming the Tantric system to get back to
fundamentals. The reform is to purify the channels -- lunar,
solar, and central -- to allow the energy of wisdom and
compassion to meet.
What does this founder of the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) school of
exoteric and esoteric Tibetan Buddhism have to say in his
personal journal? How did he become enlightened? Yes, he is
enlightened. This is from Alex Wayman, an article in the
INDO-IRANIAN JOURNAL. Tsong-Kha-Pa writes:
> Now, for guidance to Complete Buddhahood, there are both the
> profound Diamond Vehicle [Vajrayana or Kiu-te (rGyud-sDe)] and
> Paramita [the Perfections, the Sutrayama, or Do-Te (mDo-sDe)].
> It is well known that the Mantra [or Tantra] path far surpasses
> the Paramita [Sutra] path, like the sun [surpasses] the moon.
> Some respect this [Tantra path] as a true [Buddha-] word [a
> Buddha teaching, a Kanjur], but do not try to find out what the
> Diamond Vehicle is. [I do not suppose any of you are in that
> camp, but if you revere the Tantra, and you think it is a true
> Buddha teaching, maybe we should check it out], while posing as
> wise men. If in such manner they are wise men, who then are the
> more stupid ones? It is most surprising that one should cast
> aside this sort of highest path so difficult to encounter. [To
> be initiated in Esoteric Buddhism is not easy. Before China
> invaded Tibet, only Blavatsky, I think, really had access to
> these teachers outside the Tibetan monastic system.] Therefore, I
> entered and exercised myself with many endeavors in that Deep
> which is the highest vehicle of the Jina [the Conqueror, Buddha]
> and even rarer than a Buddha and which is the treasure of the two
> occult successes. [We will get into the "two occult successes"
> in a second.]
> The glorious Anuttara [Supreme] Tantras [There are four
> categories of Tantras -- the Anuttara, the supreme, unsurpassed
> Tantras] are the ultimate of all the well-expressed Teaching of
> the Muni [the Sage, or the Buddha]; and among them the most
> profound of the SHRI-GUHYASAMAJA-TANTRA [I translate this to mean
> "the Great Tantra of Secret Wisdom." It reminds me of Blavatsky’s
> secret book, "The Secret Wisdom of the World" -- huh!]. That is
> stated by the illustrious speaker Nagarjuna … Taking recourse to
> it, I exercised with great endeavor of the five great Explanatory
> Tantras [I will give them to you in a second] and on good
> [commentarial] compositions.
This is just like Blavatsky, the initiated commentaries on the
popularized Secret Doctrine. I wonder where Tsong-Kha-Pa got his
> Having exercised, I obtained all the essentials constituting
> generalities of the two stages [of Generation and Completion, the
> seal; Tantric visualization and attainment], and in particular,
> the essential of the State of Completion.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application