[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

More on Avalokiteswara

Nov 10, 2002 10:47 AM
by Daniel H. Caldwell

Earlier this morning, I quoted KH on Avalokiteswara:

. . . And thus according to Mr. Massey's philosophical conclusion we 
have no God? He is right -- since he applies the name to an extra-
cosmic anomaly, and that we, knowing nothing of the latter, find -- 
each man his God -- within himself in his own personal, and at the 
same time, -- impersonal Avalokiteswara. . . . K.H." Mahatma Letter 
No. 82:

Below is more in another letter from KH on Avalokitesvara:

Mahatma Letter No. 59 from Master KH to A.P. Sinnett

. . . Now that you are at the centre of modern Buddhistic exegesis, 
in personal relations with some of the clever commentators (from whom 
the holy Devas deliver us!) I shall draw your attention to a few 
things which are really as discreditable to the perceptions of even 
non-initiates, as they are misleading to the general public. The more 
one reads such speculations as those of Messrs. Rhys Davids, Lillie, 
etc. -- the less can one bring himself to believe that the 
unregenerate Western mind can ever get at the core of our abstruse 
doctrines. Yet hopeless as their cases may be, it would appear well 
worth the trouble of testing the intuitions of your London members -- 
of some of them, at any rate -- by half expounding through you one or 
two mysteries and leaving them to complete the chain themselves. 
Shall we take Mr. Rhys Davids as our first subject, and show that 
indirectly as he has done it yet it is himself who strengthened the 
absurd ideas of Mr. Lillie, who fancies to have proved belief in a 
personal God in ancient Buddhism. Mr. Rhys Davids' "Buddhism" is full 
of the sparkle of our most important esotericism; but always, as it 
would seem, beyond not only his reach but apparently even his powers 
of intellectual perception. To avoid "absurd metaphysics" and its 
inventions, he creates unnecessary difficulties and falls headlong 
into inextricable confusion. He is like the Cape Settlers who lived 
over diamond mines without suspecting it. I shall only instance the 
definition of "Avalokitesvara" on p.p. 202 and 203. There, we find 
the author saying that which to any occultist seems a palpable 
absurdity: -- 

"The name Avalokitesvara, which means 'the Lord who looks down from 
on high,' is a purely metaphysical invention. The curious use of the 
past particle passive 'avalokita' in an active sense is clearly 
evident from the translations into Tibetan and Chinese." 

Now saying that it means: "the Lord who looks down from on high," or, 
as he kindly explains further -- "the Spirit of the Buddhas present 
in the church," is to completely reverse the sense. It is equivalent 
to saving "Mr. Sinnett looks down from on high (his Fragments of 
Occult Truth) on the British Theos. Society," whereas it is the 
latter that looks up to Mr. Sinnett, or rather to his Fragments as 
the (in their case only possible) expression and culmination of the 
knowledge sought for. This is no idle simile and defines the exact 
situation. In short, Avalokita Isvar literally interpreted means "the 
Lord that is seen." "Iswara" implying moreover, rather the adjective 
than the noun, lordly, self-existent lordliness, not Lord. It is, 
when correctly interpreted, in one sense "the divine Self perceived 
or seen by Self," the Atman or seventh principle ridded of its 
mayavic distinction from its Universal Source -- which becomes the 
object of perception for, and by the individuality centred in Buddhi, 
the sixth principle, -- something that happens only in the highest 
state of Samadhi. This is applying it to the microcosm. In the other 
sense Avalokitesvara implies the seventh Universal Principle, as the 
object perceived by the Universal Buddhi "Mind" or Intelligence which 
is the synthetic aggregation of all the Dhyan Chohans, as of all 
other intelligences whether great or small, that ever were, are, or 
will be. Nor is it the "Spirit of Buddhas present in the Church," but 
the Omnipresent Universal Spirit in the temple of nature -- in one 
case; and the seventh Principle -- the Atman in the temple -- man -- 
in the other. Mr. Rhys Davids might have, at least remembered, the 
(to him) familiar simile made by the Christian Adept, the Kabalistic 
Paul: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit 
of God dwelleth in you" -- and thus avoided to have made a mess of 
the name. Though as a grammarian he detected the use of the "past 
particle passive" yet he shows himself far from an inspired "Panini" 
in overlooking the true cause and saving his grammar by raising the 
hue and cry against metaphysics. And yet, he quotes Beale's [Beal] 
Catena as his authority, for the invention, when, in truth, this work 
is perhaps the only one in English that gives an approximately 
correct explanation of the word, at any rate, on page 374. "Self-
manifested" -- How? it is asked. "Speech or Vach was regarded as the 
Son or the manifestation of the Eternal Self, and was adored under 
the name of Avalokitesvara, the manifested God." This shows as 
clearly as can be -- that Avalokitesvara is both the unmanifested 
Father and the manifested Son, the latter proceeding from, and 
identical with, the other; -- namely, the Parabrahm and Jivatman, the 
Universal and the individualized seventh Principle, -- the Passive 
and the Active, the latter the Word, Logos, the Verb. Call it by 
whatever name, only let these unfortunate, deluded Christians know 
that the real Christ of every Christian is the Vach, the "mystical 
Voice," while the man Jeshu was but a mortal like any of us, an adept 
more by his inherent purity and ignorance of real Evil, than by what 
he had learned with his initiated Rabbis and the already (at that 
period) fast degenerating Egyptian Hierophants and priests. A great 
mistake is also made by Beale [Beal] who says: "this name 
(Avalokiteswara) in Chinese took the form of Kwan-Shai-yin, and the 
divinity worshipped under that name (was) generally regarded as a 
female." (374) Kwan-shai-yin -- or the universally manifested 
voice "is active -- male; and must not be confounded with Kwan-vin, 
or Buddhi the Spiritual Soul (the sixth Pr.) and the vehicle of 
its "Lord." It is Kwan-yin that is the female principle or the 
manifested passive, manifesting itself "to every creature in the 
universe, in order to deliver all men from the consequences of sin" --
as rendered by Beale, [Beal] this once quite correctly (383), while 
Kwan-shai-vin, the "Son identical with his Father" is the absolute 
activity, hence -- having no direct relation to objects of sense is --

What a common ruse it is of your Aristoteleans! with the sleuth 
hound's persistence they track an idea to the very verge of 
the "impassable chasm," and then brought to bay leave the 
metaphysicians to take up the trail if they can, or let it be lost. 
It is but natural that a Christian theologian, a missionary, should 
act upon this line, since -- as easily perceived even in the little I 
gave out just now -- a too correct rendering of our Avalokitesvara 
and Kwan-Shai-Yin might have very disastrous effects. It would simply 
amount to showing Christendom, the true and undeniable origin of 
the "awful and incomprehensible" mysteries of its Trinity, 
Transubstantiation, Immaculate conception, as also whence their ideas 
of the Father, Son, Spiritus and -- Mother. It is less easy to 
shuffle al piaccere the cards of Buddhistic chronology than those of 
Chrishna and Christ. They cannot place -- however much they would -- 
the birth of our Lord Sangyas Buddha A.D. as they have contrived to 
place that of Chrishna. But why should an atheist and a materialist 
like Mr. Rhys Davids so avoid the correct rendering of our dogmas -- 
even when he happens to understand them, -- which does not happen 
every day -- is something surpassingly curious! In this instance the 
blind and guilty Rhys Davids leads the blind and innocent Mr. Lillie 
into the ditch; where the latter catching at the proffered straw 
rejoices in the idea that Buddhism teaches in reality -- a personal 

Does your B.T.S. know the meaning of the white and black interlaced 
triangles, of the Parent Society's seal that it has also adopted? 
Shall I explain? -- the double triangle viewed by the Jewish 
Kabalists as Solomon's Seal, is, as many of you doubtless know the 
Sri-antara of the archaic Aryan Temple, the "mystery of Mysteries," a 
geometrical synthesis of the whole occult doctrine. The two 
interlaced triangles are the Buddhangums of Creation. They contain 
the "squaring of the circle," the "philosophical stone," the great 
problems of Life and Death, and -- the Mystery of Evil. The chela who 
can explain this sign from every one of its aspects -- is virtually 
an adept. How is it then that the only one among you, who has come so 
near to unravelling the mystery is also the only one who got none of 
her ideas from books? Unconsciously she gives out -- to him who has 
the key -- the first syllable of the Ineffable name! Of course you 
know that the double-triangle -- the Satkiri Chakram of Vishnu -- or 
the six-pointed star, is the perfect seven. In all the old Sanskrit 
works -- Vedic and Tantrik -- you find the number 6 mentioned more 
often than the 7 -- this last figure, the central point being 
implied, for it is the germ of the six and their matrix. It is then 
thus . . . [At this point in the original there is a rough drawing of 
the interlaced triangles inscribed in a circle. -- ED.] -- the 
central point standing for seventh, and the circle, the Mahakasha -- 
endless space -- for the seventh Universal Principle. In one sense, 
both are viewed as Avalokitesvara, for they are respectively the 
Macrocosm and the microcosm. The interlaced triangles -- the upper 
pointing one -- is Wisdom concealed, and the downward pointing one -- 
Wisdom revealed (in the phenomenal world). The circle indicates the 
bounding, circumscribing quality of the All, the Universal Principle 
which, from any given point expands so as to embrace all things, 
while embodying the potentiality of every action in the Cosmos. As 
the point then is the centre round which the circle is traced -- they 
are identical and one, and though from the standpoint of Maya and 
Avidya -- (illusion and ignorance) -- one is separated from the other 
by the manifested triangle, the 3 sides of which represent the three 
gunas -- finite attributes. In symbology the central point is Jivatma 
(the 7th principle), and hence Avalokitesvara, the Kwan-Shai-yin, the 
manifested "Voice" (or Logos), the germ point of manifested 
activity; -- hence -- in the phraseology of the Christian 
Kabalists "the Son of the Father and Mother," and agreeably to ours --
"the Self manifested in Self -- Yih-sin, the "one form of 
existence," the child of Dharmakaya (the universally diffused 
Essence), both male and female. Parabrahm or "Adi-Buddha" while 
acting through that germ point outwardly as an active force, reacts 
from the circumference inwardly as the Supreme but latent Potency. 
The double triangles symbolize the Great Passive and the Great 
Active; the male and female; Purusha and Prakriti. Each triangle is a 
Trinity because presenting a triple aspect. The white represents in 
its straight lines: Gnanam -- (Knowledge); Gnata -- (the Knower); and 
Gnayam -- (that which is known). The black-form, colour, and 
substance, also the creative, preservative, and destructive forces 
and are mutually correlating, etc., etc. 

Well may you admire and more should you wonder at the marvellous 
lucidity of that remarkable seeress, who ignorant of Sanskrit or 
Pali, and thus shut out from their metaphysical treasures, has yet 
seen a great light shining from behind the dark bills of exoteric 
religions. How, think you, did the "Writers of the Perfect Way" come 
to know that Adonai was the Son and not the Father; or that the third 
Person of the Christian Trinity is -- female? Verily, they lay in 
that work several times their hands upon the keystone of Occultism. 
Only does the lady -- who persists using without an explanation the 
misleading term "God" in her writings -- know how nearly she comes up 
to our doctrine when saying: -- "Having for Father, Spirit which is 
Life (the endless Circle or Parabrahm) and for Mother the Great Deep, 
which is Substance (Prakriti in its undifferentiated condition) -- 
Adonai possesses the potency of both and wields the dual powers of 
all things." We would say triple, but in the sense as given this will 
do. Pythagoras had a reason for never using the finite, useless 
figure -- 2, and for altogether discarding it. The ONE, can, when 
manifesting, become only 3. The unmanifested when a simple duality 
remains passive and concealed. The dual monad (the 7th and 6th 
principles) has, in order to manifest itself as a Logos, the "Kwan-
shai-yin" to first become a triad (7th, 6th and half of the 5th); 
then, on the bosom of the "Great Deep" attracting within itself the 
One Circle -- form out of it the perfect Square, thus "squaring the 
circle" -- the greatest of all the mysteries, friend -- and 
inscribing within the latter the -- WORD (the Ineffable name) -- 
otherwise the duality could never tarry as such, and would have to be 
reabsorbed into the ONE. The "Deep" is Space -- both male and 
female. "Purush (as Brahma) breathes in the Eternity: when 'he' in-
breathes -- Prakriti (as manifested Substance) disappears in his 
bosom; when 'he' out-breathes she reappears as Maya," says the Sloka. 
The One reality is Mulaprakriti (undifferentiated Substance) -- 
the "Rootless root," the. . . But we have to stop, lest there should 
remain but little to tell for your own intuitions. 

Well may the Geometer of the R.S. not know that the apparent 
absurdity of attempting to square the circle covers a mystery 
ineffable. It would hardly be found among the foundation stones of 
Mr. Roden Noel's speculations upon the "pneumatical body . . . of our 
Lord," nor among the debris of Mr. Farmer's "A New Basis of Belief in 
Immortality"; and to many such metaphysical minds it would be worse 
than useless to divulge the fact, that the Unmanifested Circle -- the 
Father, or Absolute Life -- is non-existent outside the Triangle and 
Perfect Square, and -- is only manifested in the Son; and that it is 
when, reversing the action and returning to its absolute state of 
Unity, and the square expands once more into the Circle -- that "the 
Son returns to the bosom of the Father." There it remains until 
called back by his Mother -- the "Great Deep," to remanifest as a 
triad -- the Son partaking at once, of the Essence of the Father, and 
of that of the Mother -- the active Substance, Prakriti in its 
differentiated condition. "My Mother -- (Sophia -- the manifested 
Wisdom) took me" -- says Jesus in a Gnostic treatise; and he asks his 
disciples to tarry till he comes. . . . The true "Word" may only be 
found by tracing the mystery of the passage inward and outward of the 
Eternal Life, through the states typified in these three geometric 
figures. . . . 

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application