Theos-World HPB, Masters - Buddhism & Wisdom Religion
Mar 09, 2000 05:00 AM
by Peter Merriott
Refering to the Wisdom Religion, Steve writes:
> In New York she told Judge it was
> “pre-Vedc Buddhism” but that no one would admit
> there was a pre-Vedic Buddhism so she proposed to call
> it esoteric Buddhism. This was before Sinnett wrote
> his book. Later, in catching some flack from the
> Brahmins, who consider Buddhism a heresy, she backed
> away from that name.
> KH would have thought entirely in terms of Mahayana Buddhism
> most likely, since HPB says he was a Buddhist.
Once again let us see what HPB and the Masters say for themselves.
What HPB did do was go to great pains in the begining of the Secret Doctrine
to explain that 'Esoteric Budhism' was not popular Buddhism, nor was it
limited to the esoteric teachings of Gautama Buddha's Occult Metaphysics
(this would include Mahayana Buddhism). As grand as the latter where, they
were only a part of a much larger and more ancient philosophy called the
Wisdom Religion which dates back through the "uninterrupted record covering
thousands of generations of Seers" to the Divine Instructors in the Third
" the records we mean to place before the reader embrace the esoteric tenets
of the whole world since the beginning of our humanity, and Buddhistic
occultism occupies therein only its legitimate place, and no more. Indeed,
the secret portions of the "Dan" or Jan-na"* ("Dhyan") of Gautama's
metaphysics -- grand as they appear to one unacquainted with the tenets of
the Wisdom Religion of antiquity -- are but a very small portion of the
(SD I xx)
Though some people choose to ignore this fact, HPB's views and the Masters'
views on what they meant by terms "Buddhist" and "Buddhism" (Budhi-ism) when
applied to themselves and the Wisdom Religion were consistent throughout all
their writings. Thus what we find in The Secret Doctrine, and the Key to
Theosophy is identical to what she wrote in her first great work - "ISIS
UNVEILED." It is also what the Mahatma states in his letters to Sinnett.
Writing in ISIS, HPB says:
"We can assert, with entire plausibility, that there is not one of all these
sects -- Kabalism, Judaism, and our present Christianity included -- but
sprung from the two main branches of that one mother-trunk, the once
universal religion, which antedated the Vedaic ages -- we speak of that
prehistoric Buddhism which merged later into Brahmanism.
(ISIS II 123)
Anyone who knows even a little history will know that Brahmanism is far
older than the Buddhist Religion of Gautama Buddha. HPB refers to some
Brahmans dating the Vedas at 2100BC. In the Secret Doctrine she states the
Rig Veda is tens of thousands of years earlier than the Greek Literature.
She states the 'unwritten Vedas are even earlier.
"the Veda of the earliest Aryans, before it was written, went forth into
every nation of the Atlanto-Lemurians, and sowed the first seeds of all the
now existing old religions."
(SD II 483)
So obviously it is not the Buddhist Religion founded around 500BC that she
is refering to in her passage above - that Buddhism "which merged later into
Brahmanism", "which antedated the Vedaic ages". She is refering once again
to the WISDOM RELIGION.
She writes in the Secret Doctrine:
"'Error runs down an inclined plane, while Truth has to laboriously climb
its way up hill.'...This is said with reference to the prevailing double
mistake (a) of limiting Theosophy to Buddhism: and (b) of confounding the
tenets of the religious philosophy preached by Gautama, the Buddha, with the
doctrines broadly outlined in "Esoteric Buddhism." Any thing more erroneous
than this could be hardly imagined."
(SD I xvii)
As for the term "Buddhist" which is often misunderstood and misused in
relation to HPB and the Masters, she wrote from the outset in ISIS that:
"When we use the term Buddhists, we do not mean to imply by it either the
exoteric Buddhism instituted by the followers of Gautama-Buddha, nor the
modern Buddhistic religion, but the secret philosophy of Sakyamuni, which in
its essence is certainly identical with the ancient wisdom-religion of the
sanctuary, the pre-Vedic Brahmanism."
(ISIS II 142) ISIS UNVEILED
We should note the phrase "in its essence" and the reference nce again to
"pre-Vedic Brahamanism" with regards the use of the word "Buddhist". This
clarification of what it means to call HPB a "Buddhist" is repeated in the
Mahatma Letters to Sinnett:
"Many prefer to call themselves Buddhists not because the word attaches
itself to the ecclesiastical system built upon the basic ideas of our Lord
Gautama Buddha's philosophy, but because of the Sanskrit word "Buddhi" --
wisdom, enlightenment; and as a silent protest to the vain rituals and empty
ceremonials, which have in too many cases been productive of the greatest
(Mahatma Letter No 85)
This emphais on the sanskrit word "Buddhi" meaning "wisdom, enlightenment"
is the key to understanding what HPB and the Masters are refering to. This
is found in HPB's earlier writings in ISIS UNVEILED.
"By Buddhism, therefore, we mean that religion signifying literally THE
DOCTRINE OF WISDOM, and which by many ages antedates the metaphysical
philosophy of Siddhartha Sakyamuni."
(ISIS II 143, emphasis of capitals added by me)
...and it is indentical to what HPB re-stated some years later in the Secret
Doctrine, namely that we need to distinquish:
"...the difference between "Buddhism" -- the religious system of ethics
preached by the Lord Gautama, and named after his title of Buddha, "the
Enlightened" - and Budha, "Wisdom," or knowledge (Vidya), the faculty of
cognizing, from the Sanskrit root "Budh," to know."
(SD I xviii)
Unfortunately those people who state that HPB and the Masters were Buddhists
tend to conveniently IGNORE those qualifying statements by HPB and the
Master himself. Some say HPB must have been a follower of Buddha's
ecclesiastical system because she and Olcott took Pansil. But what Olcott
says to qualify this event is entirely in agreement with HPB's above views.
"Speaking for her, as well as myself, I can only say that if Buddhism
contained a single dogma that we were compelled to accept, we would not have
taken pansil nor remained Buddhists ten minutes. Our Buddhism was that of
the master-adept Gautama Buddha, which was identical with the Wisdom
Religion of the Aryan Upanishads, and the soul of the ancient world faiths.
Our Buddhism was, in a word, a philosophy, not a creed."
(Old Diary Leaves 169)
and HPB says..
"We repeat again, Buddhism is but the primitive source of Brahmanism. It is
not against the primitive Vedas that Gautama protests... Gautama-Buddha's
philosophy was that taught from the beginning of time in the impenetrable
secresy of the inner sanctuaries of the pagodas."
(ISIS II 169)
Finally, HPB shows that even in the world of orientalists she was not alone
in her views on the true nature of the Buddhism she was referring to.
Referring to Pococke's suggestive remarks in keeping with the esoteric
tradition, HPB states:
"Pococke belongs to that class of Orientalists who believe that Buddhism
preceded Brahmanism, and was the religion of the earliest Vedas, Gautama
having been but the restorer of it in its purest form, which after him
degenerated again into dogmatism." (ISIS II 436)
To conclude. HPB and the Masters were consistent in what they stated, they
do not seem to have backed away from anything. Further if we consider that
the 'esoteric Budh-ism', or pre-Vedic Brahamnism, that HPB and the Masters
refer to is non other than the Wisdom Religion, it would be very misleading
to say that KH would have "thought entirely in terms of Mahayana Buddhism".
We only have to remind ourselves of HPB's statement below to realise that
the Knowledge held by the Masters and the Occult Brotherhood far transcended
any 'specific' religion of this Fifth Root Race. HPB writes:
"... what I do believe in is: (1), the unbroken oral teachings revealed by
living *divine* men during the infancy of mankind to the elect among men;
(2), that it has reached us *un-altered*; and (3) that the MASTERS are
thoroughly versed in the science based on such uninterrupted teaching.."
(HPB's Collected Writings,vol.11, pages 466-467)
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