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[This comes from a tape recording of the Long Beach Theosophical Conference held August 10, 2002. It was transcribed, edited, then sent 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, and wise.
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 being there.
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 present.
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 been published.
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 Mahatma said:
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 Buddhism.
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 a fact.
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, correct me.
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 esoteric.
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 West.
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 pathetic."
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 Buddha nature.
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 perfect.
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 enlightenment.
"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 heard.
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 continues:
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 enlightenment.
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 commentary.
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.