THEOSOPHY, Vol. 58, No. 5, March, 1970
(Pages 146-152; Size: 22K)
(Number 29 of a 36-part series)
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(2)
HERESIES AND SECRET SOCIETIES: Buddhist Elements
FROM the very day when the first mystic found the means of communication between this world and the worlds of the invisible host, between the sphere of matter and that of pure spirit, he concluded that to abandon this mysterious science to the profanation of the rabble was to lose it. An abuse of it might lead mankind to speedy destruction; it was like surrounding a group of children with explosive batteries, and furnishing them with matches. The first self-made adept initiated but a select few, and kept silence with the multitudes. He recognized his God and felt the great Being within himself. The "Atman," the Self,(1) the mighty Lord and Protector, once that man knew him as the "I am," the "Ego Sum," the "Ahmi," showed his full power to him who could recognize the "still small voice." From the days of the primitive man described by the first Vedic poet, down to our modern age, there has not been a philosopher worthy of that name, who did not carry in the silent sanctuary of his heart the grand and mysterious truth. If initiated, he learnt it as a sacred science; if otherwise, then, like Socrates repeating to himself as well as to his fellow-men, the noble injunction, "O man, know thyself," he succeeded in recognizing his God within himself. "Ye are gods," the king-psalmist tells us, and we find Jesus reminding the scribes that the expression, "Ye are gods," was addressed to other mortal men, claiming for himself the same privilege without any blasphemy. And, as a faithful echo, Paul, while asserting that we are all "the temple of the living God," cautiously adds, that after all these things are only for the "wise," and it is "unlawful" to speak of them.
Therefore, we must accept the reminder, and simply remark that even in the tortured and barbarous phraseology of the Codex Nazarus, we detect throughout the same idea. Like an undercurrent, rapid and clear, it runs without mixing its crystalline purity with the muddy and heavy waves of dogmatism. We find it in the Codex, as well as in the Vedas, in the Avesta, as in the Abhidharma, and in Kapila's Sânkhya Sûtras not less than in the Fourth Gospel. We cannot attain the "Kingdom of Heaven," unless we unite ourselves indissolubly with our Rex Lucis, the Lord of Splendor and of Light, our Immortal God. We must first conquer immortality and "take the Kingdom of Heaven by violence," offered to our material selves. "The first man is of the earth earthy; the second man is from heaven.... Behold, I show you a mystery," says Paul (I Cor. 15:47). In the religion of Sakya-Muni, which learned commentators have delighted so much of late to set down as purely nihilistic, the doctrine of immortality is very clearly defined, notwithstanding the European or rather Christian ideas about Nirvana. In the sacred Jaïna books, of Patuna, the dying Gautama-Buddha is thus addressed: "Arise into Nirvi (Nirvana) from this decrepit body into which thou hast been sent. Ascend into thy former abode, O blessed Avatar!" This seems to us the very opposite of Nihilism. If Gautama is invited to reäscend into his "former abode," and this abode is Nirvana, then it is incontestable that Buddhistic philosophy does not teach final annihilation. As Jesus is alleged to have appeared to his disciples after death, so to the present day is Gautama believed to descend from Nirvana. And if he has an existence there, then this state cannotbe a synonym for annihilation.
Gautama, no less than all other great reformers, had a doctrine for his "elect" and another for the outside masses, though the main object of his reform consisted in initiating all, so far as it was permissible and prudent to do, without distinction of castes or wealth, to the great truths hitherto kept so secret by the selfish Brahmanical class. Gautama-Buddha it was whom we see the first in the world's history, moved by that generous feeling which locks the whole humanity within one embrace, inviting the "poor," the "lame," and the "blind" to the King's festival table, from which he excluded those who had hitherto sat alone, in haughty seclusion. It was he, who, with a bold hand, first opened the door of the sanctuary to the pariah, the fallen one, and all those "afflicted by men" clothed in gold and purple, often far less worthy than the outcast to whom their finger was scornfully pointing. All this did Siddhârtha six centuries before another reformer, as noble and as loving, though less favored by opportunity, in another land. If both, aware of the great danger of furnishing an uncultivated populace with the double-edged weapon of knowledge which gives power, left the innermost corner of the sanctuary in the profoundest shade, who, that is acquainted with human nature, can blame them for it? But while one was actuated by prudence, the other was forced into such a course. Gautama left the esoteric and most dangerous portion of the "secret knowledge" untouched, and lived to the ripe old age of eighty, with the certainty of having taught the essential truths, and having converted to them one-third of the world; Jesus promised his disciples the knowledge which confers upon man the power of producing far greater miracles than he ever did himself, and he died, leaving but a few faithful men, only half way to knowledge, to struggle with the world to which they could impart but what they half-knew themselves. Later, their followers disfigured truth still more than they themselves had done.
It is not true that Gautama never taught anything concerning a future life, or that he denied the immortality of the soul. Ask any intelligentBuddhist his ideas on Nirvana, and he will unquestionably express himself, as the well-known Wong-Chin-Fu, the Chinese orator did: "This condition," he remarked, "we all understand to mean a final reünion with God, coincident with the perfection of the human spirit by its ultimate disembarrassment of matter. It is the very opposite of personal annihilation."
Nirvana means the certitude of personal immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, as a finite emanation, must certainly disintegrate its particles, a compound of human sensations, passions, and yearning for some objective kind of existence, before the immortal spirit of the Ego is quite freed, and henceforth secure against further transmigration in any form. And how can man ever reach this state so long as the Upadana, that state of longing for life, more life, does not disappear from the sentient being, from the Ahancara clothed, however, in a sublimated body? It is the "Upadana" or the intense desire which produces WILL, and it is will which develops force, and the latter generates matter, or an object having form. Thus the disembodied Ego, through this sole undying desire in him, unconsciously furnishes the conditions of his successive self-procreations in various forms, which depend on his mental state and Karma, the good or bad deeds of his preceding existence, commonly called "merit and demerit." This is why the "Master" recommended to his mendicants the cultivation of the four degrees of Dhyana, the noble "Path of the Four Truths," i.e., that gradual acquirement of stoical indifference for either life or death; that state of spiritual self-contemplation during which man utterly loses sight of his physical and dual individuality, composed of soul and body; and uniting himself with his third and higher immortal self the real and heavenly man merges, so to say, into the divine Essence, whence his own spirit proceeded like a spark from the common hearth. Thus the Arhat, the holy mendicant, can reach Nirvana while yet on earth; and his spirit, totally freed from the trammels of the "psychical, terrestrial, devilish wisdom," as James calls it, and being in its own nature omniscient and omnipotent, can on earth, through the sole power of his thought, produce the greatest of phenomena.
"It is the missionaries in China and India, who first started this falsehood about Niepang, or Nïepana (Nirvana)," says Wong-chin-Fu. Who can deny the truth of this accusation after reading the works of the Abbé Dubois, for instance? A missionary who passes forty years of his life in India, and then writes that the "Buddhists admit of no other God but the body of man, and have no other object but the satisfaction of their senses," utters an untruth which can be proved on the testimony of the laws of the Talapoins of Siam and Birmah; laws, which prevail unto this very day and which sentence a sahan, or punghi (a learned man; from the Sanscrit pundit), as well as a simple Talapoin, to death by decapitation, for the crime of unchastity. No foreigner can be admitted into their Kymns, or Viharas (monasteries); and yet there are French writers, otherwise impartial and fair, who, speaking of the great severity of the rules to which the Buddhist monks are subjected in these communities, and without possessing one single fact to corroborate their skepticism, bluntly say, that "notwithstanding the great laudations bestowed upon them (Talapoins) by certain travellers, merely on the strength of appearances, I do not believe at all in their chastity."
Fortunately for the Buddhist talapoins, lamas, sahans, upasampadas, and even samenaïras, they have popular records and facts for themselves, which are weightier than the unsupported personal opinion of a Frenchman, born in Catholic lands, whom we can hardly blame for having lost all faith in clerical virtue.
Except a few impartial archæologists, who trace a direct Buddhistic element in Gnosticism, as in all those early short-lived sects, we know of very few authors, who, in writing upon primitive Christianity, have accorded to the question its due importance. Have we not facts enough to, at least, suggest some interest in that direction? Do we not learn that, as early as in the days of Plato, there were "Brachmans" -- read Buddhist, Samaneans, Saman, or Shaman missionaries -- in Greece, and that, at one time, they had overflowed the country? Does not Pliny show them established on the shores of the Dead Sea, for "thousands of ages?" After making every necessary allowance for the exaggeration, we still have several centuries B.C. left as a margin. And is it possible that their influence should not have left deeper traces in all these sects than is generally thought? We know that the Jaïna sect claims Buddhism as derived from its tenets -- that Buddhism existed before Siddhârtha, better known as Gautama-Buddha. The Hindu Brahmans who, by the European Orientalists, are denied the right of knowing anything about their own country, or understanding their own language and records better than those who have never been in India, on the same principle as the Jews are forbidden, by the Christian theologians, to interpret their own Scriptures -- the Brahmans, we say, have authentic records. And these show the incarnation from the Virgin Avany of the first Buddha -- divine light -- as having taken place more than some thousands of years B.C., on the island of Ceylon. The Brahmans reject the claim that it was an avatar of Vishnu, but admit the appearance of a reformer of Brahmanism at that time. The story of the Virgin Avany and her divine son, Sâkya-muni, is recorded in one of the sacred books of the Cinghalese Buddhists -- the Nirdhasa; and the Brahmanic chronology fixes the great Buddhistic revolution and religious war, and the subsequent spread of Sâkya-muni's doctrine in Thibet, China, Japan, and other places at 4,620 years B.C.
It is clear that Gautama-Buddha, the son of the King of Kapilavastu, and the descendant of the first Sakya, through his father, who was the Kshatriya, or warrior-caste, did not invent his philosophy. Philanthropist by nature, his ideas were developed and matured while under the tuition of Tir-thankara, the famous guru of the Jaïna sect. The latter claim the present Buddhism as a diverging branch of their own philosophy, and themselves, as the only followers of the first Buddha who were allowed to remain in India, after the expulsion of all other Buddhists, probably because they had made a compromise, and admitted some of the Brahmanic notions. It is, to say the least, curious, that three dissenting and inimical religions, like Brahmanism, Buddhism, and Jaïnism, should agree so perfectly in their traditions and chronology, as to Buddhism, and that our scientists should give a hearing but to their own unwarranted speculations and hypotheses. If the birth of Gautama may, with some show of reason, be placed at about 600 B.C., then the preceding Buddhas ought to have some place allowed them in chronology. The Buddhas are not gods, but simply individuals overshadowed by the spirit of Buddha -- the divine ray. Or is it because, unable to extricate themselves from the difficulty by the help of their own researches only, our Orientalists prefer to obliterate and deny the whole, rather than accord to the Hindus the right of knowing something of their own religion and history? Strange way of discovering truths!
The common argument adduced against the Jaïna claim, of having been the source of the restoration of ancient Buddhism, that the principal tenet of the latter religion is opposed to the belief of the Jaïnas, is not a sound one. Buddhists, say our Orientalists, deny the existence of a Supreme Being; the Jaïnas admit one, but protest against the assumption that the "He" can ever interfere in the regulation of the universe. We have shown in the preceding chapter that the Buddhists do not deny any such thing. But if any disinterested scholar could study carefully the Jaïna literature, in their thousands of books preserved -- or shall we say hidden -- in Rajpootana, Jusselmere, at Patun, and other places; and especially if he could but gain access to the oldest of their sacred volumes, he would find a perfect identity of philosophical thought, if not of popular rites, between the Jaïnas and the Buddhists. The Adi-Buddha and Adinâtha (or Adiswara) are identical in essence and purpose. And now, if we trace the Jaïnas back, with their claims to the ownership of the oldest cave-temples (those superb specimens of Indian architecture and sculpture), and their records of an almost incredible antiquity, we can hardly refuse to view them in the light which they claim for themselves. We must admit, that in all probability they are the only true descendants of the primitive owners of old India, dispossessed by those conquering and mysterious hordes of white-skinned Brahmans whom, in the twilight of history, we see appearing at the first as wanderers in the valleys of Jumna and Ganges. The books of the Srawacs -- the only descendants of the Arhâtas or earliest Jaïnas, the naked forest-hermits of the days of old, might throw some light, perhaps, on many a puzzling question. But will our European scholars, so long as they pursue their own policy, ever have access to the right volumes? We have our doubts about this. Ask any trustworthy Hindu how the missionaries have dealt with those manuscripts which unluckily fell into their hands, and then see if we can blame the natives for trying to save from desecration the "gods of their fathers."
The true spirit of Christianity can alone be fully found in Buddhism: partially, it shows itself in other "heathen" religions. Buddha never made of himself a god, nor was he deified by his followers. The Buddhists are now known to far outnumber Christians; they are enumerated at nearly 500,000,000. While cases of conversion among Buddhists, Brahmanists, Mahometans, and Jews become so rare as to show how sterile are the attempts of our missionaries, atheism and materialism spread their gangrenous ulcers and gnaw every day deeper at the very heart of Christianity. There are no atheists among heathen populations, and those few among the Buddhists and Brahmans who have become infected with materialism may always be found to belong to large cities densely thronged with Europeans, and only among educated classes. Truly says Bishop Kidder: "Were a wise man to choose his religion from those who profess it, perhaps Christianity would be the last religion he would choose!"
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME
HERESIES AND SECRET SOCIETIES: Gnostics and Church Fathers
(Part 30 of a 36-part series)
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TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(2) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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(1) This "Self," which the Greek philosophers called Augides, the "Shining One," is impressively and beautifully described in Max Müller's "Veda." Showing the "Veda" to be the first book of the Aryan nations, the professor adds that "we have in it a period of the intellectual life of man to which there is no parallel in any other part of the world. In the hymns of the 'Veda' we see man left to himself to solve the riddle of this world.... He invokes the gods around him, he praises, he worships them. But still with these gods ... beneath him, and above him, the early poet seems ill at rest within himself. There, too, in his own breast, he has discovered a power that is never mute when he prays, never absent when he fears and trembles. It seems to inspire his prayers, and yet to listen to them; it seems to live in him, and yet to support him and all around him. The only name he can find for this mysterious power is 'Brahman;' for brahman meant originally force, will, wish, and the propulsive power of creation. But this impersonal brahman, too, as soon as it is named, grows into something strange and divine. It ends by being one of many gods, one of the great triad, worshipped to the present day. And still the thought within him has no real name; that power which is nothing but itself, which supports the gods, the heavens, and every living being, floats before his mind, conceived but not expressed. At last he calls it 'Atman,' for Atman, originally breath or Spirit, comes to mean Self, and Self alone; Self, whether Divine or human; Self, whether creating or suffering; Self, whether one or all; but always Self, independent and free. 'Who has seen the first-born,' says the poet, 'when he who had no bones (i.e., form) bore him that had bones? Where was the life, the blood, the Self of the world? Who went to ask this from any one who knew it?'" ("Rig-Veda," i, 164, 4). This idea of a divine Self, once expressed, everything else must acknowledge its supremacy; "Self is the Lord of all things, Self is the King of all things. As all the spokes of a wheel are contained in the nave and the circumference, all things are contained in this Self; all Selves are contained in this Self. Brahman itself is but Self" (Ibid., p. 478; "Khândogya-upanishad," viii, 3, 3, 4); "Chips from a German Workshop," vol. i, p. 69.
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