THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 8, June, 1931
(Pages 347-351; Size: 15K)
(Number 41 of a 59-part series)
THE TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE
WHAT has India been preserving through the ages?
That science which is called in some places, the "seven-storied," in others the "nine-storied" Temple. Every story answers allegorically to a degree of knowledge acquired. Says Isis Unveiled II, p. 392:Throughout the countries of the Orient, wherever magic and the wisdom-religion are studied, its practitioners and students are known among their craft as Builders -- for they build the temple of knowledge, of secret science.India's surviving rock-cut caves, her ancient shrines, her gopurams and mandapams are but concrete records of the Invisible Temple above referred to. The Temple Lore is therefore dual -- exoteric and esoteric, the former but the shadow and reflection of the latter. The visible and tangible record of the Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, is but the garment of the true Wisdom-Religion which antedates the Vedas themselves.
The extant writings from Vedas to Puranas are like the numerous shrines of India; they are symbols of the Invisible Temple of Secret Knowledge. It is an awe-inspiring vision to behold the concrete record in its incomplete completeness. The plan of knowledge imparted by Living Divine Men is still available though but in silhouette form. What wealth of detailed information must have been the valued possession of generations of Aryans? What depth of pure and reverent perception must have been theirs to be worthy of such mines of Wisdom?
While the striking fact about other ancient religious philosophies is their fragmentary nature (for example the Zoroastrian), the most remarkable feature of the Brahmanical Shastras is their breadth as well as their depth. Almost every conceivable subject of enquiry meets with some treatment, and compared to our modern knowledge the ancient Indian views are certainly more profound, even though puzzling, than those of any other philosophy.
The first point to note is that while with the approach of Kali-Yuga, the cycle of shadows which darkens everything and blinds man's moral perceptions, important information and practical instruction were withdrawn, we have still remaining with us most of the map of complete knowledge, which gives us some idea of how this complete knowledge was divided into schools of science and of philosophy, into myths and history, and into codes of laws. Thus, for example, the Upanishads give us an idea of the lofty concepts of Deity, Nature, the Human Soul, and their inter-relationship, which concepts still remain unrivalled; but they also show certain signs of careful withdrawal of important doctrines, which to the ordinary reader, however, appear but as gaps, as illogical sequences and uncalled for deductions. In every department of Aryan Knowledge these gaps are visible, and their true explanation is to be found in the introductory to the first volume of The Secret Doctrine.
Such gaps, due to withdrawal and other causes, notwithstanding, the Brahmanical religious-philosophy contains almost the whole doctrine which will ever become public on this globe in this round. Says Isis Unveiled, II, p. 535:This creed has not decayed, and its hidden philosophy, as understood now by the initiated Hindus, is just as it was 10,000 years ago. But can our scholars seriously hope to have it delivered unto them upon their first demand? Or do they still expect to fathom the mysteries of the World-Religion in its popular exoteric rites?One of the most important factors, often overlooked by Western students of Hinduism and more often by Hindus themselves, is that there are interpolations as well as gaps in the doctrine. Corruption of Hinduism is not so much due to what has been withdrawn as to what has been inserted and added. To buttress their own beliefs and attain ulterior purposes, men with vested interests have unscrupulously tampered with texts, while honest interpreters were writing commentaries on them, some of which are illuminating, yet most of which befog the vision. With this note of caution sounded let us draw pertinent attention to the following from Isis Unveiled, I, p. 583:No people in the world have ever attained to such a grandeur of thought in ideal conceptions of the Deity and its offspring, MAN, as the Sanskrit metaphysicians and theologians.All knowledge was divided into two divisions -- Para-Vidya, the esoteric knowledge and Apara-Vidya, the exoteric. It must not be supposed that the former is distinct and separate from the latter; like the Soul and mind in man, the esoteric and exoteric are closely interknit. Within the exoteric lies hidden the esoteric, though it is true that the esoteric extends beyond the exoteric, just as soul vision transcends mind perception. The exoteric record is objective -- in architecture, in amulets, in coins, in jewels, in Mss., in ritual, etc., it can be read. The esoteric record is subjective -- it is made and retained in the volume of the brain, hidden in certain of its organs, whose functions and powers are unknown to modern anatomy and physiology; words of silence communicate it from Hierophant to neophyte, from Guru to chela. This Para-Vidya is also named Guhya-Vidya: the secret Art only to be learnt and practiced in the cave (guha) of the heart. This Gupta-Vidya, says H.P.B. (Secret Doctrine II, p. 565), is "the primeval and original Occultism of Aryavarta, brought into India by the primeval Brahmins, who had been initiated in Central Asia. And this is the Occultism we study and try to explain, as much as is possible in these pages." And again (Ibid, p. 584), she speaks of "the one root, the root of wisdom, which grows and thrives on the Indian soil ... the sacred land of Aryavarta."
We must now survey Apara-Vidya, the exoteric knowledge -- not as a field but as a veritable continent.
Before we name the contents of the exoteric knowledge let us dispose of the classification of Karma-Kanda and Gnyan-Kanda so often referred to. There is some confusion of thought and only the true Theosophic light dispels the surrounding fog.
Karma-Kanda is that part of Apara-Vidya or exoteric knowledge, which enables a man to act righteously, to practice Dharma-Religion. Every tome of the exoteric knowledge has this Karma-Kanda which tells the reader how to act, what to do, the way to avoid the sins of omission as well as those of commission. Much of ritualism, most of the laws and rules laid down, are accepted and believed in and practiced. The strong point and the virtuous aspect of this arrangement lies in the training which men and women get through methodic and regular religious exercises; repetitive acts of worship and sacrifice whereby people are made to remember (1) their own inner Divinity; (2) the grandeur of visible and invisible Nature which surrounds them; (3) the inter-relationship between them; and (4) the debt which men owe to the beings of the invisible worlds on whom they are dependent, as also their own dignity as beings on whom these invisible beings, in turn, rely for help and guidance of a particular kind. The weak point and vicious aspect of the arrangement is that people, not understanding the real meaning of these rituals, have come to perform them quite mechanically, and the energy of faith has evaporated leaving behind the scum of blind-belief. So to-day the religious actions and exercises are in greatest measure a farce, nay more, a blasphemy. This is one of the chief curses under which India of to-day is groaning. But for all that, the value of Karma-Kanda is very great and has served the people worthily for long centuries.
Gnyan-Kanda is supplementary to Karma-Kanda; it gives knowledge about why and how actions according to the Karma-Kanda should be performed. Study and practice went hand in hand and both, duly observed, led the students to the esoteric side of things. The glory of old Sanatana Dharma lay in the Gnyan-Kanda which explained Nature and Nature's Laws and made the living of the life a noble process.
Another way to look at these two is to regard Gnyan-Kanda as the hidden esoteric soul of Karma-Kanda, the exoteric ritual or form side of religion.
Next, we will consider still another classification of knowledge which is recognized by Hinduism. These various classifications are instructive inasmuch as each of them reveals a fundamental and true aspect of the subject under review.
All knowledge was divided into four classes -- (1) Science; (2) Philosophy; (3) Religion; (4) Esotericism. Science is the body, philosophy the mind, religion the soul, and esotericism the spirit of knowledge. Four great paths take the student to the end of the journey.
The Path of Practice, Abhayasa, is the path of the Scientist. By repeated experimentation, by observation checked and rechecked, by analysis and reiterated verification the scientist grows -- learning and teaching. Treading this path, he develops patience, accuracy, and detachment for the results of his labours. The Path of Science must be valued in the light of the virtues it brings out in the practitioner; many Theosophical students are wrong in evincing a sneering or superior attitude to Modern Science. It is not what is said by the scientist that should be made the means of measuring his achievements; no doubt his theories change; but in evolving theories, qualities are unfolded, which are assets for the future collected in the present.
The Path of Knowledge, Gnyan, is the path of the philosopher. By the method of synthesizing the many theories and even speculations, he builds the power of abstract meditation. Removing his thinking from the field of objects he enters that of subjects, from the world of forms he goes inwards to formless worlds. Unlike his brother scientist, he is unconcerned about details and confines his reflections to underlying principles. He finds out the trinity of Gnyata, Gnyan and Gneyam -- knower, knowledge and object known.
The Path of Devotion, Bhakti, is the path of the religious. Having seen with the mind's eye the source of all which is freedom absolute -- Sat, Chit, Ananda, the existence of bliss-full ideation; and also that the separated "I" or Ahamkara is the cause of bondage to Gnyan, Knowledge, and therefore to ignorance, Avidya; to Ichcha, the will to live, which implies the will to die; to kriya, action, which means also to fate, prarabdka Karma -- the religious unfolds true fiery devotion as a means to a grand end, a sublime attainment. What is his objective? To reach that state of Compassion Absolute, Paramartha Satya, which enables him to love all creatures, the little selves, bound by the power of the One Great Self. As pure and powerful manifestations of the Great Self, in the world of men, he uses the life-work of the Incarnations, Avataras. To understand the mystery, the hidden reality, the Occultism of Life Incarnate, he perforce seeks Teachers, Gurus of the great knowledge, Maha-Vidya, which is secret-knowledge, Guhya-Vidya.
The Path of Yagna, Sacrificial Action or real magic is the path of the esotericist. The esotericist labours in full knowledge; performance of certain actions is undertaken, in definite manner, by deliberately planned method, according to what is learnt from the lips of Divine Men perfected. He alone knows what the devotee feels, what the philosopher thinks, what the scientist sees, without their limitations.
Thus the four categories of knowledge are practically utilized and the thread of evolution of the human being runs through them.
We must leave here, for the time being, Para-Vidya, the esoteric soul of knowledge and confine our attention to exoteric or Apara-Vidya. And at the very start we will request the reader to keep in mind that in ancient India exoteric knowledge was not what learning is to-day -- materialistic, speculative, hesitant, changing, giving a dozen theories for one fact. Then, even exoteric knowledge was classified on principles; what was taught were provable facts, and theories were working hypotheses which the pupil was called upon to accept, not to abandon after a while for new ones, but to transform them one by one into proven facts.
All knowledge was divided into three main compartments: (1) Sruti -- revelation; (2) Smriti -- Laws and Tradition; (3) Itihasa-Purana -- History and Mythology. They are numbered in the order of their value and importance and to their examination we must now turn.
HISTORY AND MYTHS
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(Part 42 of a 59-part series)
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ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) Isis Unveiled, II, p. 30.
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