Old truisms are often the wisest. The human mind can hardly remain entirely free from bias, and decisive opinions are often formed before a thorough examination of a subject from all its aspects has been made. 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 hardly be imagined. It has enabled our enemies to find an effective weapon against Theosophy, because, as an eminent Pâli scholar very pointedly expressed it, there was in the volume named “neither Esotericism nor Buddhism.” The esoteric truths, presented in Mr. Sinnett's work, ceased to be esoteric from the moment they were made public; nor did the book contain the religion of Buddha, but simply a few tenets from a hitherto hidden teaching, which are now explained and supplemented by many more in the present volumes. And even the latter, though giving out many fundamental tenets from the Secret Doctrine of the East, raise but a small corner of the dark veil. For no one, not even the greatest living Adept, would be permitted to, or could—even if he would—give out promiscuously to a mocking, unbelieving world that which has been so effectually concealed from it for long æons and ages.
Esoteric Buddhism was an excellent work with a very unfortunate title, though it meant no more than does the title of this work, The Secret Doctrine. It proved unfortunate, because people are always in the habit of judging things by their appearance rather than by their meaning, and because the error has now become so universal, that even most of the Fellows of the Theosophical Society have fallen victims to the same misconception. From the first, however, protests were raised by Brâhmans and others against the title; and, in justice to myself, I must add that Esoteric Buddhism was presented to me as a completed volume, and that I was entirely unaware of the manner in which the author intended to spell the word “Budh-ism.”
Seek the great Teachers, and attend! The road
Is narrow as a knife-edge! Hard to tread!"
"But whoso once perceiveth HIM that IS; —
Without a name, Unseen, Impalpable,
Bodiless, Undiminished, Unenlarged,
To senses undeclared, without an end,
Without beginning, Timeless, Higher than height,
Deeper than depth! Lo! Such an one is saved!
Death hath not power upon him!"
The Apsarases differ from the Gandharva Devas: the former are mere qualities and quantities. The latter, celestial singers, musicians, and instructors of mankind in the Secret Science. They are the Asuras or Daimons of the allegory. At the churning of the Ocean of Amrita, the Water of Immortality, the Suras and the Asuras twisted Shesha, the Great Serpent, rope-like round Mt. Mandara causing it to revolve. The Gods were at the one end of the serpent, the Daimons at the other.
It is well known that, in India, the methods of psychic development differ with the Gurus (teachers or masters), not only because of their belonging to different schools of philosophy, of which there are six, but because every Guru has his own system, which he generally keeps very secret. But beyond the Himalayas the method in the Esoteric Schools does not differ, unless the Guru is simply a Lama, but little more learned than those he teaches.
The work from which I here translate forms part of the same series as that from which the "Stanzas" of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which the Secret Doctrine is based. Together with the great mystic work called Paramartha, which, the legend of Nagarjuna tells us, was delivered to the great Arhat by the Nagas or "Serpents" (in truth a name given to the ancient Initiates), the Book of the Golden Precepts claims the same origin. Yet its maxims and ideas, however noble and original, are often found under different forms in Sanskrit works, such as the Dnyaneshvari, that superb mystic treatise in which Krishna describes to Arjuna in glowing colors the condition of a fully illumined Yogi; and again in certain Upanishads. This is but natural, since most, if not all, of the greatest Arhats, the first followers of Gautama Buddha were Hindus and Aryans, not Mongolians, especially those who emigrated into Tibet. The works left by Aryasanga alone are very numerous.
Virtue is the good of the mind: it follows, therefore, that a happy life depends on virtue. Pain is virtue’s sharpest adversary. Pain and pleasure are trifling and effeminate sentiments peculiar to the lower self. Fortitude is fearless obedience to reason. To her followers, prudence teaches a good life and secures a happy one.
The aim of life is neither applause nor profit, but to merely experience it on behalf of the silent observer within. By exercising authority over his lower self, the wise man opposes pain as he would an enemy. Armed with contention, encouragement, and discourse with himself, he remains indifferent to honour and dishonour.
“I am not at all surprised at that, for it is the effect of philosophy, which is the medicine of our souls.”
Frustration is the end point of all outwardly-looking desires, and every frustration nurtures vairagya. Preliminary vairagya is a mental U-turn, an infolding of consciousness. Final vairagya is the actualisation that all is One.
Veiling the eyes to external vision is the first initiation, the first step on the Renunciant Path. Happiness ever alternating with sadness soften us up, motivate us to conquer our internal enemies, and gives us the confidence to persevere, and a foretaste of true love.
“These evils seemed to have arisen from the fact that all happiness or unhappiness was placed in the quality of the object to which we cling with love.”
Esoteric Philosophy is the remedy of every disease of the mind.