RE: [bn-study] blavatsky and buddhism
Nov 08, 2000 10:27 AM
by Dallas Tenbroeck
November 8th 2000
I enjoyed reading what you wrote, but may I (hesitantly) offer a
few words arising from the thoughts you evoked?
In the SD (and elsewhere) when discussing religions, I have found
HPB discussing this dualism in religions: one for the populace
with rites, rituals and rote, and the other for the philosophers
and scholars which ask them to delve into the sources and reasons
for the existence of this popular aspect of "Religion." This
latter level seems on examination and in contrast with other
religions and philosophies, to have identical (or closely
analogous) principles, after giving due allowance for changes in
nomenclature and language.
There appears to be two "traditions," always in currency, which
run together (and touch each other) at various points and yet
have divergent aims. Whether they are called religions,
philosophies, systems of psychology, sciences, or any other
inclusive term their objectives, (motives) appear to set them
apart. May I give a rough example?
Consider our Science. Theoretically we find that certain
experiments have repeatedly yielded definite and trustworthy
results. We have given to them the designation: "Laws." They
relate to chemistry, physics, geology, biology, sociology,
astronomy, measurement, time-keeping, etc... On examination we
find that they interlock and serve as connecting bonds to
different applications, or the practical side of things. None of
these "Laws" is exclusively confined to one of the various
disciplines in which it might be studied and tested.
In a practical way, and as an example: One could not run a "car"
without chemistry, physics, and economics and psychology uniting
to bring about a fusion of application -- and a useful (or
dangerous) application is invented or created. Many people run
cars without the least concept of what makes them run, or how to
fix them if they stop. (How are air, water, fuel, mechanical
contrivances, electricity, magnetism, so compacted and interlaced
as to create as useful an object as a "car?"
Should the running of cars then, be limited to those who have
such detailed underlying knowledge? No one would agree to this,
they are too useful. As a result some totally unsuitable people
use and abuse cars.
Now enters another (and to me an important dimension) -- the
moral (ethical) aspect of things, or if one prefers, the
ecological. This might be in the form of a question: What is
the motive behind each person's use of a car? Is its usage
planned to be economical and restricted to that which is
NECESSARY? What about "fun?" Does that legitimately permit
abuses? How is a 'balance' of motive and usage struck? What are
the limits of individualism and of extremism at the expense of
This digression aims to point to the Names and Labels we
currently affix (without any deep study) to systems (religions,
philosophies, psychologies, etc...) and to people.
Saying that HPB "was a Buddhist" does not mean a thing until one
decides to find out what kind of a Buddhist, and in general, what
being a "Buddhist" means. Was it superficial, or does "Buddhism"
in general contain some variants which perhaps are depth
evaluation and practice of certain defined ethical, metaphysical,
educative, ecological, sociological, ways of acting, and so on.
For instance what does the "Buddhism for the common people" have
to do with "Mahayana Buddhism?"
If one studies religions, we find in the past and present, that
underlying popular forms of rites, rituals, beliefs, is the
actual study of the meaning of the RELIGION. How many of the
average adherents have any idea of the significance of their
scriptures, if they have even studied or read them more than 5
times? How many, again, have devoted any time to really inquire
into the religions or beliefs of other sects and creeds, so that
they may reliable and for themselves KNOW what the differences
are, if any.
A singular disinterest in such work will of course lead in the
case of those who feel they have to defend their own ignorance
into some fanatically blind concept of what other creeds,
philosophies, religions, etc... are. And so we develop those
clefts that are inherently expressions of ignorance and the
adoption of the vies of those who have claimed AUTHORITY: namely
the priests, gurus, reverends, etc...
It seems to me, if we put the matter in this way, that we
pin-point the main question into it being one of knowledge or
ignorance. The mere assigning of a name to some system does not
make it factual nor does it accurately state the nature of the
belief of a person to whom it is assigned. We would normally
expect to have much more said in support of such naming than
appears usually to be advanced. Yet, there is a danger here,
since readers are usually as in attentive to implied meanings,
and if at all interested adopt without scrutiny the opinions
advanced by those who seem to have some AUTHORITY.
To know if HPB was a Madhyamika, a Prasanga MADHYAMIKA, or
anything else, one would have to give evidence of the nature of
the tenets that one or other of those Schools advance. Perhaps
the confines of any one of them are in fact too narrow for a
personage of HPB's mental stature, and that a more universal one
could be adopted -- say: THEOSOPHER. One who investigates and
uses ALL SYSTEMS without being themselves limited to any one of
I hope this might be of some use.
D. T. B.
From: Dewald Bester [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, November 07, 2000 10:46 AM
Subject: [bn-study] blavatsky and buddhism
I think I disagree with much of what Steve Stubbs has
said in his last post, and the inferences he has drawn
from HPB's statements, but have decided not to pursue
this as I do not think there is an obvious answer and
a list not dedicated to find the solution to the
relationship between theosophy and buddism is unlikely
to find one.
I do have a last question on this buddhism issue. In
Isis vol II pg. 607 HPB seems to suggest what the
esoteric philosophy is. I quote " Both in Western and
Eastern Thibet, as in every other place where Buddhism
predominates, there are two distinct religions, the
same as is in Brahmanism - the secret philosophy and
the popular religion. The former is that of the
followers of the doctrine of the sect of the
In the light of HPB saying the esoteric philosophy is
neither Prasangika Madyamika or the teachings of the
Yogacara, is this suggestion of hers useful? I do not
know enough to say anything on Sautrantika teachings,
but perhaps someone can say if it resembles Theosophy.
Is this secret philosophy referred to in the quote,
the same as "esoteric buddhism" or "budhism"?
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