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

RE: theos-talk RE; politics and various Quests of the ION

Oct 23, 2011 12:52 PM
by Jeremy Condick

In A. L. Cleather's book "H. P. Blavatsky; A Great Betrayal" we find:
"Mrs. Besant's " Spiritual Viceroy " has certainly nothing to do with Those who were directing H. P. B. when she founded the Indian T. S. OR U. B. in 1879 ; for a special clause was included in the Constitution stating that " The Society repudiates all interference on its behalf with the Governmental relations of any nation or com-munity, confining its attention exclusively to the matters set forth in the present document. . ." H. P. B. also wrote in the Theosophist, for October, 1879 " Unconcerned about politics ; hostile to the insane dreams of Socialism and Communism, which if abhors -as both are but disguised conspirations of brutal force and sluggishness against honest labour: the Society cares but little about the outward human management of the material world. The whole of its aspira-tions are directed toward the occult truths of the visible and invisible worlds."
Interesting, here is some further info on the work of Olcott and Blavatsky working with the Ceylon government and native buddhist population from 1880. 

The reference on Wesak, HPB and Col. Olcott CW X 238 in Ceylon which is now Sri Lanka, speaks of the "substantial work done by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott in the cause of Buddhism" and of their "new impulse" given to Buddhism there at that time 1880. As Sri lanka [changed from Ceylon May 22 1972] celebrates Wesak on the time of the full moon and as given today as May 17 for that location also, we might think that HPB and Col. Olcott indeed gave fresh impulse to the Wesak festival still celebrated there to this day at the correct lunar time and month of May, as indicated below. 
Buddhism was indeed reformed in its purest sense in spite of colonial power and indeed HPB and Olcott were known as 'white buddhists" and were honoured as such. If initially, and I do not think this extended to long, wesak was subsequently recognised in April there, it was due to the British governor Sir Arthur Gordon for April 28, 1885, not HPB. However, the true time and recognition was practiced by the native Sinhalese Buddhists. 
They [HPB and Olcott] made possible the public holiday or celebration recognised by the colonial rule and formed the "Buddhist education fund" also the "buddhist defence committee" of which Olcott was an honorary member and representative for Great Britain. We can but imagine the influence often not seen that such figures as HPB and Olcott had on the Wesak festival and other things throughout the world and indeed inaugurating its resurgence to the time of writing of Alice Bailey with the greatly expanded information on the spiritual festivals including the Wesak festival. JPC. 
"The decision by the Theosophists to inaugurate the Buddhist Education Fund on the Wesak Poya (full moon day) of May 13, 1881 is one example of how useful the Wesak festival was as a tool for revitalizing Buddhism (Somaratna 6)." 
4.2.2 The Arrival of the Theosophists 
Although Colonel Olcott20 was neither the originator nor culminator of the Buddhist revivalist movement in Sri Lanka, his role as "organizer and articulator" (Prothero 174) was indispensable. He was instrumental in providing the foundations for what has come to be known as "Protestant Buddhism".21 In an attempt to consolidate Buddhist teachings into an easily accessible format for use in a Buddhist education system in Sri Lanka that would rival the one introduced by the Christian missionaries, Olcott compiled The Buddhist Catechism in 1881. This work presented a "serious challenge to traditional Theravàda Buddhism", and became a standard textbook in Buddhist schools all over the island (Prothero 10). 
The arrival of the Theosophists in 1880 also marked a significant period in the revitalization of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Under Olcott's leadership, institutions and practices such as the Buddhist Sunday schools, Buddhist schools, Buddhist Catechisms, collection tills, salpil in the Sinhalese language (taken from the Christian harvest festivals), and sammadam (fund raising in Sinhalese), which fell under the umbrella project called the Buddhist Education Fund were established (Somaratna 6). All of these western style traditional organizations were adopted and used by the Buddhists to bolster Buddhist support in response to Christian missionary activities. The Theosophists, being Westerners who were familiar with Christian methods of organization and evangelism, came to Sri Lanka at a fortunate time for the Sinhalese Buddhists. There was already anti-colonial sentiment among much of the population, and to have the support of the Theosophists, who appeared as anti-Christian colonialists to the local population, fueled the Buddhist revivalist movement.
The quest for a more equitable treatment of Buddhist practitioners began following a riot on March 25, 1883, between Christians and Buddhists in Kotahena, a predominantly Christian area in Colombo (Prothero 110). The riot occurred after "a Roman Catholic mob attacked a Buddhist procession which passed their cathedral on its way to Deepaduttamaramaya, the temple of the militant Buddhist leader, Mohittiwatte Gunananda Thera" (Somaratna 8). The government investigation concluded that, although no charges were pressed on either side, the root cause of such a disturbance was undoubtedly the Buddhist Revival currently happening in Sri Lanka (Prothero 111). In order to preempt any more riots, the government declared that it would be in the best interests of religious harmony if the freedom to hold processions (and even beat tom-toms) in Buddhist temples be prohibited for at least two years (Somaratna 8). As a result of this restriction on Buddhist freedom of expression, lay leaders organized to fight for the fair treatment of Buddhists by the governing powers.
The decision by the Theosophists to inaugurate the Buddhist Education Fund on the Wesak Poya (full moon day) of May 13, 1881 is one example of how useful the Wesak festival was as a tool for revitalizing Buddhism (Somaratna 6). The next step in the organizational activities of the Sinhalese Buddhists was to make the Wesak full moon day a public holiday in order to further the connection between the government and the majority religion, Buddhism. One of the reasons for wanting a public holiday arose from the colonial restrictions on Buddhist expression, primarily in the form of banning processions. Making Wesak a public holiday would officially give legal rights to Buddhists. 
The Sinhalese Buddhists fully realized the advantages of having a "white Buddhist" on their side in the fight against the colonial authorities for equitable treatment concerning Buddhists in Ceylon. Olcott proposed creating a Buddhist Defence Committee, "which elected him an honorary member and charged him to travel to London as its representative" (Prothero 111). 
After arriving in London in May of 1884, Olcott presented the colonial authorities with a list of six demands. These were: 
(1) that Catholics accused of instigating the riot be brought to trial; (2) that Buddhists be guaranteed the right to exercise their religion freely; (3) that Wesak be declared a public holiday; (4) that all restrictions against the use of tom-toms and other musical instruments in religious processions be removed; (5) that Buddhist registrars be appointed; (6) that the question of Buddhist temporalities (the supposedly negligent control of Buddhist properties by monks) be resolved. (Olcott, 19-20, cited in Prothero 113) 
Of the six requests, only two were granted. The first was the loosening of the restrictions surrounding the use of musical instruments used in religious processions. The second request granted was the declaration of Wesak as an official holiday in Sri Lanka. The idea of a public holiday was foreign to the Sinhalese people. Wesak, the highlight of the Buddhist annual calendar, was not recognized as a public holiday even by the Sinhalese kings who ruled before the colonialists arrived in 1505 (Somaratna 7). However, Wesak was declared a public holiday on March 27, 1885 by the British governor, Sir Arthur Gordon (1883-1890). The first Wesak full moon day fell on April 28, 1885 (Somaratna 7). 
Another western innovation attributed to Olcott and the Theosophists, was the creation of a Buddhist flag (Somaratna 10). On the morning of the first Wesak, Buddhists simultaneously hoisted the flag at a number of politically important centers in Colombo. After the fashion of the procession on Wesak day, the hoisting of the first Buddhist flag was intended to show to Christians that Sri Lanka was indeed a Buddhist nation. The unveiling of the Buddhist flag also initiated Wesak Day as a national holiday. The description of the flag was provided in the Sinhalese newspaper, the Sarasavi Sandaresa: 
The colours neela (blue) peeta (yellow) lohita (red) avadata (white) manjusta (orange) and prabhasvara (a mixture of the above five) signify the rays that emanated from the body of the Buddha when he was alive, as reported in the ancient writings. Blue emanated from his hair, yellow from his robes, red from his lips, white from his teeth and orange from his skin, as the rays spread they combined to form one composite color. (Ceylon Historical Journal, vol. XIX, , 1969- 70, p. 78, cited in Somaratna 11) 
The Buddhist flag designed by Olcott can be found in many Theravàda Buddhist temples throughout Southeast Asia, as well as in North America. 

> To:
> From:
> Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2011 00:47:12 -0500
> Subject: Re: theos-talk RE; politics and various Quests of the ION
> Looking at the reformation that Olcott did in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), bringing
> back Buddhism to the masses, he had to work with politicians. There was no
> doubt that he is one person who had more personal interaction with the
> "Brothers" and I am sure if there was a total prohibition regarding getting
> involved in "politics", he would be the last person to go against the edicts
> or advise of the "Brothers". So I would take anything from a black and white
> point of view and if any work is going to help our brothers and sisters, I
> would go ahead with it no matter who has written what, including HPB. Many
> may not agree with this approach. Each one of us have to decide for ourself
> what we think is the best, keeping the principle of Universal Brotherhood in
> focus and try to help our brothers and sisters.
> On Sun, Oct 23, 2011 at 12:06 AM, libertyson11 <>wrote:
> > **
> >
> >
> >
> > SUFI-LIGHT and all Altruistic Hearts
> >
> > My views on a lot of the words of HPB regarding politics are that she
> > writes from an enflamed pen. She is impassioned and a fire-brand, starting
> > fires wherever her mind gazes, empowered from Above.
> > I have seen several others of such an approach, and they can indeed move
> > people.
> > However, she rather departs sometimes from the middle way.
> > She gives a seemingly universal statement that "prayer causes less
> > self-initiative", and then refers to praying "Not my will but thine be done"
> > to the Highest as valuable.
> > She diatribes about politics casting a universal disgust upon them all, and
> > then comments about how M works with politicians and Olcott advocated
> > religious impulses be merged with politics. But then Christ ministered to
> > the tax collectors and prosititutes and supped with them.
> >
> > Basically we are dealing with taking things out of context, except the
> > context in this case requires a very great reading of the works of HPB and
> > all.
> >
> > One man says "politics" and refers to party-line power mongering, another
> > hears "statesmanship".
> >
> > To introduce altruism in political discourse is actually often done, it is
> > just that people have different views on how it is applied.
> >
> > In abortion, many think they are being compassionate toward a woman to
> > allow abortions. Others think that they are being altruistic toward the
> > unborn to forbid it.
> >
> > Same with drug legalization.
> >
> > Same with welfare support programs. Is it altruistic to make a man stand on
> > his own, or to give him money so he doesn't starve to death or go into
> > crime? Does that make him weak?
> >
> > Altruism could b fleshed out and made conscious as the central motivating
> > factor and guide for decisions, instead of being a hidden motive.
> >
> > "Mr. Minister of State, does it seem to the gentleman that the issue at
> > hand exemplifies altruistic principles, or is it rather the unbridled lust
> > of a faction among us that would drain the body politic of it resources in
> > selfish pursuit of its own small visioned goals?
> >
> > Those are some first thoughts.
> >
> > "*** There have many great political leaders in history whose actions
> > expressed
> > altruism at times. "
> >
> > M. Sufilight says:
> > Who?
> >
> > **** Ah, but let us beware of the discussions of who has been
> > altruisitically oriented, for the "facts" each of use bring to the table are
> > often different, and we might fight over nothing.
> >
> > But at my peril, let me list some.
> >
> > John Adams, and John Quincy Adams
> >
> > Andrew Jackson, for say what you will of various ruelties, he stood for the
> > brothers and sisters of humanity against the Bank and the Banksters, the
> > greatest enemy of Man.
> >
> > It is easy to list the founding fathers of America. George Wythe
> > unassailably. [Mentor of Jefferson and an exemplary spirit in law and
> > statesmanship.]
> >
> > I would include Lincoln, Sam Houston, Simone Bolivar.
> >
> > If they were assassinated they were a good candidate for this list.
> >
> > Read the Lives of Plutarch and a few stand out.
> >
> > The five good Roman Emperors, including Hadrian.
> >
> > The Duke of Chou of ancient China.
> >
> > M. Sufilight says:
> > Who?
> > And was that not all in all just superficial Altruism, when you consider
> > it? And
> > consider the murders, the man-made laws - seeking to by-pass the law of
> > Karma,
> > the prisons the police and all the sectarian manouvres and spin?
> >
> > *** It is quite easy to cast stones upon historical figures operating under
> > great burdens.
> >
> > I guess I would caution you to consider the value of not being quite so
> > strongly opinioned about history.
> > It is fashionable to cast all of history, all church history, all the
> > history of Western Civilization, in a disparaging light and view. I don't
> > think you will win as many to the cause of altruism by continually
> > emphasizing the negatives of history or what might seem so to present day
> > minds.
> >
> > People respond to the heroes of history, and great deeds and words. Casting
> > all that doesn't correspond to perfect altruism as being unworthy of our
> > veneration is not going to be very effective, methinks.
> >
> > In short, there have been countless heroic deeds in history.
> >
> > In looking at HPBs writings, it now seems to me that she was stating things
> > over strongly, likely under the burden of her attempted smashing thru of the
> > hypnotic veils of mediocrity upon the West, England, etc.
> >
> > One feels the power in her words and the great spirit at work. But it is
> > also easy to be swept away from a poised, altruistic heart centeredness from
> > such writing.
> >
> > I pray for great blessing upon us and our world. And especially the
> > blessing of increased self-initiative in Oneness, for all.
> >
> > 
> >
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> ------------------------------------
> Yahoo! Groups Links

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Back to Top]

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