[In his article, “The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,” in the Theosophist for January 1882, Subba Row made statements which drew comment from H.P.B., printed as the Notes of an editorial appendix following his article. Before each of these five Notes by H.P.B., we give in brackets the statement by Subba Row to which it applied.]
[Subba Row: Now it is extremely difficult to show whether the Tibetans derived their doctrine from the ancient Rishis of India, or the ancient Brahmans learned their occult science from the adepts of Tibet; or again whether the adepts of both countries professed originally the same doctrine and derived it from a common source.]
In this connection it will be well to draw the reader’s attention, to the fact that the country called “Si-dzang” by the Chinese, and Tibet by Western geographers, is mentioned in the oldest books preserved in the province of Fo-kien (the chief head-quarters of the aborigines of China) – as the great seat of occult learning in the archaic ages. According to these records, it was inhabited by the “Teachers of Light,” the “Sons of Wisdom,” and the “Brothers of the Sun.” The Emperor Yu the “Great” (2207 B.C.), a pious mystic, is credited with having obtained his occult wisdom and the system of theocracy established by him – for he was the first one to unite in China ecclesiastical power with temporal authority – from Si-dzang. That system was the same as with the old Egyptians and the Chaldees; that which we know to have existed in the Brahmanical period in India, and to exist now in Tibet: namely, all the learning, power, the temporal as well as the secret wisdom were concentrated within the hierarchy of the priests and limited to their caste. Who were the aborigines of Tibet is a question which no ethnographer is able to answer correctly at present. They practise the Bhon religion, their sect is a pre- and anti-Buddhistic one, and they are to be found mostly in the province of Kam – that is all that is known of them. But even that would justify the supposition that they are the greatly degenerated descendants of mighty and wise forefathers. Their ethnical type shows that they are not pure Turanians, and their rites – now those of sorcery, incantations, and nature-worship, remind one far more of the popular rites of the Babylonians, as found in the records preserved on the excavated cylinders, than of the religious practices of the Chinese sect of Tao-sse – (a religion based upon pure reason and spirituality) – as alleged by some. Generally, little or no difference is made even by the Kyelang missionaries who mix greatly with these people on the borders of British Lahoul – and ought to know better – between the Bhons and the two rival Buddhist sects, the Yellow Caps and the Red Caps. The latter of these have opposed the reform of Tzongka-pa from the first and have always adhered to old Buddhism so greatly mixed up now with the practices of the Bhons. Were our Orientalists to know more of them, and compare the ancient Babylonian Bel or Baal worship with the rites of the Bhons, they would find an undeniable connection between the two. To begin an argument here, proving the origin of the aborigines of Tibet as connected with one of the three great races which superseded each other in Babylonia, whether we call them the Akkadians (invented by F. Lenormant), or the primitive Turanians, Chaldees and Assyrians – is out of question. Be it as it may, there is reason to call the trans-Himalayan esoteric doctrine Chaldeo-Tibetan. And, when we remember that the Vedas came – agreeably to all traditions – from the Manssorowa Lake in Tibet, and the Brahmins themselves from the far North, we are justified in looking on the esoteric doctrines of every people who once had or still has it – as having proceeded from one and the same source; and, to thus call it the “Aryan-Chaldeo-Tibetan” doctrine, or Universal WISDOM Religion. “Seek for the LOST WORD among the hierophants of Tartary, China and Tibet,” was the advice of Swedenborg, the seer.
[SUBBA ROW: Your assertion in “Isis Unveiled” that Sanskrit was the language of the inhabitants of the said continent (Atlantis), may induce one to suppose that the Vedas had probably their origin there, – wherever else might be the birthplace of the Aryan esotericism.]
Not necessarily – we say. The Vedas, Brahmanism, and along with these, Sanskrit, were importations into what we now regard as India. They were never indigenous to its soil. There was a time when the ancient nations of the West included under the generic name of India many of the countries of Asia now classified under other names. There was an Upper, a Lower, and a Western India, even during the comparatively late period of Alexander; and Persia – Iran is called Western India in some ancient classics. The countries now named Tibet, Mongolia, and Great Tartary were considered by them as forming part of India. When we say, therefore, that India has civilized the world and was the Alma Mater of the civilizations, arts and sciences of all other nations (Babylonia, and perhaps even Egypt, included) we mean archaic, prehistoric India. India of the time when the great Gobi was a sea and the lost “Atlantis” formed part of an unbroken continent which began at the Himalayas and ran down over Southern India Ceylon, Java, to far-away Tasmania.
[SUBBA ROW: . . . the knowledge of the occult powers of nature possessed by the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis was, learned by the ancient adepts of India and was appended by them to the esoteric doctrine taught by the residents of the sacred Island.]
To ascertain such disputed questions, one has to look into and study well the Chinese sacred and historical records – a people whose era begins nearly 4,600 years back (2697 B.C.). A people so accurate and by whom some of the most important inventions of modern Europe and its so much boasted modern science, were anticipated – such as the compass, gun-powder, porcelain, paper, printing, &c. – known, and practised thousands of years before these were rediscovered by the Europeans – ought to receive some trust for their records. And from Lao-tze down to Hiouen-Thsang their literature is filled with allusions and references to that island and the wisdom of the Himalayan adepts. In the Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese by the Rev. Samuel Beal, there is a chapter “On the TIAN-TA’I School of Buddhism” (pp. 244-258) which our opponents ought to read. Translating the rules of that most celebrated and holy school and sect in China founded by Chin-che-Khae, called Che-chay (the wise one) in the year 575 of our era, when coming to the sentence which reads: “That which relates to the one garment (seamless) worn by the GREAT TEACHERS OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS, the school of the Haimavatas” (p. 256) the European translator places after the last sentence a sign of interrogation, as well he may. The statistics of the school of the “Haimavatas” or of our Himalayan Brotherhood, are not to be found in the General Census Records of India. Further, Mr. Beal translates a Rule relating to “the great professors of the higher order who live in mountain depths remote from men,” the Aranyakas, or hermits.
So, with respect to the traditions concerning this island, and apart from the (to them) historical records of this preserved in the Chinese and Tibetan Sacred Books: the legend is alive to this day among the people of Tibet. The fair Island is no more, but the country where it once bloomed remains there still, and the spot is well known to some of the “great teachers of the snowy mountains,” however much convulsed and changed its topography by the awful cataclysm. Every seventh year, these teachers are believed to assemble in SCHAM-CHA-LO, the “happy land.” According to the general belief it is situated in the north-west of Tibet. Some place it within the unexplored central regions, inaccessible even to the fearless nomadic tribes; others hem it in between the range of the Gangdisri Mountains and the northern edge of the Gobi Desert, South and North, and the more populated regions of Khoondooz and Kashmir, of the Gya-Pheling (British-lndia), and China, West and East, which affords to the curious mind a pretty large latitude to locate it in. Others still place it between Namur Nur and the Kuen-Lun Mountains – but one and all firmly believe in Scham-bha-la, and speak of it as a fertile, fairy-like land, once an island, now an oasis of incomparable beauty, the place of meeting of the inheritors of the esoteric wisdom of the god-like inhabitants of the legendary Island.
In connection with the archaic legend of the Asian Sea and the Atlantic Continent, is it not profitable to note a fact known to all modern geologists – that the Himalayan slopes afford geological proof, that the substance of those lofty peaks was once a part of an ocean floor?
[SUBBA ROW: You said that in cases where tendencies of a man’s mind are entirely material, and all spiritual aspirations and thoughts were altogether absent from his mind, the seventh principle leaves him either before or at the time of death, and the sixth principle disappears with it. Here, the very proposition that the tendencies of the particular individual’s mind are entirely material, involves the assertion that there is no spiritual intelligence or spiritual Ego in him. You should then have said that, whenever spiritual intelligence should cease to exist in any particular individual the seventh principle ceases to exist for that particular individual for all purposes. Of course, it does not fly off anywhere. There can never be anything like a change of position in the case of Brahmam.]
True – from the standpoint of Aryan Esotericism, and the Upanishads; not quite so in the case of the Arahat or Tibetan esoteric doctrine; and it is only on this one solitary point that the two teachings disagree, as far as we know. The difference is very trifling though, resting, as it does, solely upon the two various methods of viewing the one and the same thing from two different aspects.
We have already pointed out that, in our opinion, the whole difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic philosophies was that the former was a kind of Rationalistic Vedantism, while the latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism. If the Aryan esotericism applies the term jívátma to the seventh principle, the pure and per se unconscious spirit – it is because the Vedanta postulating three kinds of existence – (1) the pâramârthika – (the true, the only real one), (2) the vyavahârika (the practical), and (3) the pratibhâsika (the apparent or illusory life) – makes the first life or jiva, the only truly existent one. Brahma or the ONE’S SELF is its only representative in the universe, as it is the universal Life in toto while the other two are but its “phenomenal appearances,” imagined and created by ignorance, and complete illusions suggested to us by our blind senses. The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either subjective or objective reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha declares that there is neither Creator nor an ABSOLUTE Being. Buddhist rationalism was ever too alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness, as in the words of Flint – “wherever there is consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism.” The ONE LIFE is either “MUKTA” (absolute and unconditioned) and can have no relation to anything nor to any one; or it is “BADDHA” (bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called the ABSOLUTE; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as the first to account for all the evil in this world. Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony, admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods, or none; whether there is a universe, or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugs, during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this is SPACE, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akása-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular pulsations of Sakti – the breath or power of a conscious deity, the theists would say – the eternal energy of an eternal, unconscious Law, say the Buddhists. Space then, or “Fan, Bar-nang” (Mâha Sûnyatâ) or, as it is called by Lao-tze, the “Emptiness” is the nature of the Buddhist Absolute. (See Confucius’ “Praise of the Abyss.”) The word jiva then, could never be applied by the Arahats to the Seventh Principle, since it is only through its correlation or contact with matter that Fo-hat (the Buddhist active energy) can develop active conscious life; and that to the question “how can Unconsciousness generate consciousness?” the answer would be: “Was the seed which generated a Bacon or a Newton self-conscious?”
[SUBBA ROW: The term Jivatma is generally applied by our philosophers to the seventh principle when it is distinguished from Paramatma or Parabrahmam.]
The impersonal Parabrahmam thus being made to merge or separate itself into a personal “jivatma,” or the personal god of every human creature. This is, again, a difference necessitated by the Brahmanical belief in a God whether personal or impersonal, while the Buddhist Arahats, rejecting this idea entirely, recognise no deity apart from man.
To our European readers: Deceived by the phonetic similarity, it must not be thought that the name “Brahman” is identical in this connection with Brahma or Iswara – the personal God. The Upanishads – the Vedanta Scriptures – mention no such God and, one would vainly seek in them any allusions to a conscious deity. The Brahmam, or Parabrahm, the ABSOLUTE of the Vedantins, is neuter and unconscious, and has no connection with the masculine Brahmâ of the Hindu Triad, or Trimûriti. Some Orientalists rightly believe the name derived from the verb “Brih,” to grow or increase, and to be, in this sense, the universal expansive force of nature, the vivifying and spiritual principle, or power, spread throughout the universe and which in its collectivity is the one Absoluteness, the one Life and the only Reality.
Theosophist January, 1882
H. P. Blavatsky