The Himalayan Brothers—Do They Exist?
The Theosophist, December, 1883 (re-printed in Five Years of Theosophy)
“Ask and it shall be given unto you; knock and it shall be opened,” this is an accurate representation of the position of the earnest inquirer as to the existence of the Mahatmas. I know of none who took up this inquiry in right earnest and were not rewarded for their labours with knowledge, certainty. In spite of all this there are plenty of people who carp and cavil but will not take the trouble of proving the thing for themselves. Both by Europeans and a section of our own countrymen—the too Europeanized graduates of Universities—the existence of the Mahatmas is looked upon with incredulity and distrust, to give it no harder name. The position of the Europeans is easily intelligible, for these things are so far removed from their intellectual horizon, and their self-sufficiency is so great, that they are almost impervious to these new ideas. But it is much more difficult to conceive why the people of India, who are born and brought up in an atmosphere redolent with the traditions of these things, should affect such scepticism. It would have been more natural for them, on the other hand, to hail such proofs as those I am now laying before the public with the same satisfaction as an astronomer feels when a new star, whose elements he has calculated, swims within his ken. I myself was a thorough-going disbeliever only two years back. In the first place I had never witnessed any occult phenomena myself, nor did I find any one who had done so in that small ring of our countrymen for whom only I was taught to have any respect—the “educated classes.” It was only in the month of October, 1882, that I really devoted any time and attention to this matter, and the result is that I have as little doubt with respect to the existence of the Mahatmas as of mine own. I now know that they exist. But for a long time the proofs that I had received were not all of an objective character. Many things which are very satisfactory proofs to me would not be so to the reader. On the other hand, I have no right to speak of the unimpeachable evidence I now possess. Therefore I must do the best I can with the little I am permitted to give. In the present paper I have brought forward such evidence as would be perfectly satisfactory to all capable of measuring its probative force.
The evidence now laid before the public was collected by me during the months of October and November, 1882, and was at the time placed before some of the leading members of the Theosophical Society, Mr. Sinnett among others. The account of Bro. Ramaswamier’s interview with his Guru in Sikkhim being then ready for publication, there was no necessity, in their opinion, for the present paper being brought to light. But since an attempt has been made in some quarters to minimize the effect of Mr. Ramaswamier’s evidence by calling it most absurdly “the hallucinations of a half-frozen strolling Registrar,” I think something might be gained by the publication of perfectly independent testimony of, perhaps, equal, if not greater, value, though of quite a different character. With these words of explanation as to the delay in its publication, I resign this paper to the criticism of our sceptical friends. Let them calmly consider and pronounce upon the evidence of the Tibetan pedlar at Darjiling, supported and strengthened by the independent testimony of the young Brahmachari at Dehradun. Those who were present when the statements of these persons were taken, all occupy very respectable positions in life—some in fact belonging to the front ranks of Hindu Society, and several in no way connected with the Theosophical movement, but, on the contrary, quite unfriendly to it. In those days I again say I was rather sceptical myself. It is only since I collected the following evidence and received more than one proof of the actual existence of my venerated master, Mahatma Koothoomi, whose presence—quite independently of Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott or any “alleged” Chela—was made evident to me in a variety of ways, that I have given up the folly of doubting any longer. Now I believe no more—I KNOW; and knowing, I would help others to obtain the same knowledge.
During my visit to Darjiling I lived in the same house with several Theosophists, all as ardent aspirants for the higher life, and most of them as doubtful with regard to the Himalayan Mahatmas as I was myself at that time. I met at Barjiling persons who claimed to be Chelas of the Himalayan Brothers and to have seen and lived with them for years. They laughed at our perplexity. One of them showed us an admirably executed portrait of a man who appeared to be an eminently holy person, and who, I was told, was the Mahatma Koothoomi (now my revered master), to whom Mr. Sinnett’s “Occult World” is dedicated. A few days after my arrival, a Tibetan pedlar of the name of Sundook accidentally came to our house to sell his things. Sundook was for years well-known in Darjiling and the neighbourhood as an itinerant trader in Tibetan knick-knacks, who visited the country every year in the exercise of his profession. He came to the house several times during our stay there, and seemed to us, from his simplicity, dignity of bearing and pleasant manners, to be one of Nature’s own gentlemen. No man could discover in him any trait of character even remotely allied to the uncivilized savages, as the Tibetans are held in the estimation of Europeans. He might very well have passed for a trained courtier, only that he was too good to be one. He came to the house while I was there. On the first occasion he was accompanied by a Goorkha youth, named Sundar Lall, an employé in the Darjiling News office, who acted as interpreter. But we soon found out that the peculiar dialect of Hindi which he spoke was intelligible to some of us without any interpreter, and so there was none needed on subsequent occasions. On the first day we put him some general questions about Tibet and the Gelugpa sect, to which he said he belonged, and his answers corroborated the statements of Bogle, Turnour and other travellers. On the second day we asked him if he had heard of any persons in Tibet who possessed extraordinary powers besides the great lamas. He said there were such men; that they were not regular lamas, but far higher than they, and generally lived in the mountains beyond Tchigatze and also near the city of Lhassa. These men, he said, produce many and very wonderful phenomena or “miracles,” and some of their Chelas, or Lotoos, as they are called in Tibet, cure the sick by giving them to eat the rice which they crush out of the paddy with their hands, etc. Then one of us had a glorious idea. Without saying one word, the above-mentioned portrait of the Mahatma Koothoomi was shown to him. He looked at it for a few seconds, and then, as though suddenly recognizing it, he made a profound reverence to the portrait, and said it was the likeness of a Chohan (Mahatma) whom he had seen. Then he began rapidly to describe the Mahatma’s dress and naked arms; then suiting the action to the word, he took off his outer cloak, and baring his arms to the shoulder, made the nearest approach to the figure in the portrait, in the adjustment of his dress.
He said he had seen the Mahatma in question accompanied by a numerous body of Gylungs, about that time of the previous year (beginning of October 1881) at a place called Giansi, two days’ journey southward of Tchigatze, whither the narrator bad gone to make purchases for his trade. On being asked the name of the Mahatma, he said to our unbounded surprise, “They are called Koothum-pa.” Being cross-examined and asked what he meant by “they,” and whether he was naming one man or many, he replied that the Koothum-pas were many, but there was only one man or chief over them of that name; the disciples being always called after the names of their guru. Hence the name of the latter being Koot-hum, that of his disciples was “Koot-hum-pa.” Light was shed upon this explanation by a Tibetan dictionary, where we found that the word “pa” means “man;” “Bod-pá” is a “man of Bod or Thibet,” etc. Similarly Koothum-pa means man or disciple of Koothoom or Koothoomi. At Giansi, the pedlar said, the richest merchant of the place went to the Mahatma, who had stopped to rest in the midst of an extensive field, and asked him to bless him by coming to his house. The Mahatma replied, he was better where he was, as he had to bless the whole world, and not any particular man. The people, and among them our friend Sundook, took their offerings to the Mahatma, but he ordered them to be distributed among the poor. Sundook was exhorted by the Mahatma to pursue his trade in such a way as to injure no one, and warned that such was the only right way to prosperity. On being told that people in India refused to believe that there were such men as the Brothers in Tibet, Sundook offered to take any voluntary witness to that country, and convince us, through him, as to the genuineness of their existence, and remarked that if there were no such men in Tibet, he would like to know where they were to be found. It being suggested to him that some people refused to believe that such men existed at all, he got very angry. Tucking up the sleeve of his coat and shirt, and disclosing a strong muscular arm, he declared that he would fight any man who would suggest that he had said anything but the truth.
On being shown a peculiar rosary of beads belonging to Madame Blavatsky, the pedlar said that such things could only be got by those to whom the Tesshu Lama presented them, as they could be got for no amount of money elsewhere. When the Chela who was with us put on his sleeveless coat and asked him whether he recognized the latter’s profession by his dress, the pedlar answered that he was a Gylung and then bowing down to him took the whole thing as a matter of course. The witnesses in this case were Babu Nobin Krishna Bannerji, deputy magistrate, Berhampore, M. R. Ry. Ramaswamiyer Avergal, district registrar, Madura (Madras), the Goorkha gentleman spoken of before, all the family of the first-named gentleman, and the writer.
Now for the other piece of corroborative evidence. This time it came most accidentally into my possession. A young Bengali Brahmachari, who had only a short time previous to our meeting returned from Tibet and who was residing then at Dehradun, in the North-Western Provinces of India, at the house of my grandfather-in-law, the venerable Babu Devendra Nath Tagore of the Brahmo Samaj, gave most unexpectedly, in the presence of a number of respectable witnesses, the following account:
On the 15th of the Bengali month of Asar last (1882). being the 12th day of the waxing moon, he met some Tibetans, called the Koothoompas, and their guru in a field near Taklakhar, a place about a day’s journey from the Lake of Manasarawara. The guru and most of his disciples, who were called gylungs, wore sleeveless coats over under-garments of red. The complexion of the guru was very fair, and his hair, which was not parted but combed back, streamed down his shoulders. When the Brahmachani first saw the Mahatma he was reading in a book, which the Brahmachari was informed by one of the gylungs was the Rig Veda.
The guru saluted him, and asked him where he was coming from. On finding the latter had not had anything to eat, the guru commanded that he should be given some ground gram (Sattoo) and tea. As the Brahmachari could not get any fire to cook food with, the guru asked for, and kindled a cake of dry cow-dung—the fuel used in that country as well as in this—by simply blowing upon it, and gave it to our Brahmachari. The latter assured us that he had often witnessed the same phenomenon, produced by another guru or chohan, as they are called in Tibet, at Gauri, a place about a day’s journey from the cave of Tarchin, on the northern side of Mount Kailas. The keeper of a flock, who was suffering from rheumatic fever came to the guru, who gave him a few grains of rice, crushed out of paddy, which the guru had in his hand, and the sick man was cured then and there.
Before he parted company with the Koothumpas and their guru, the Brahmachari found that they were going to attend a festival held on the banks of the Lake of Manasarawara, and that thence they intended to proceed to the Kailas mountains.
The above statement was on several occasions repeated by the Brahmachari in the presence (among others) of Babu Dwijender Nath Tagore of Jorasanko, Calcutta; Babu Cally Mohan Ghose of the Trigonometrical Surcey of India, Dehradun; Babu Cally Cumar Chatterij of the same place; Babu Gopi Mohan Ghosh of Dacca; Babu Priya Nath Sastri, clerk to Babu Devender Nath Tagore, and the writer. Comments would here seem almost superfluous, and the facts might very well have been left to speak for themselves to a fair and intelligent jury. But the averseness of people to enlarge their field of experience and the wilful misrepresentation of designing persons know no bounds. The nature of the evidence here adduced is of an unexceptional character. Both witnesses were met quite accidentally. Even if it be granted, which we certainly do not for a moment grant, that the Tibetan pedlar, Sundook, had been interviewed by some interested person, and induced to tell an untruth, what can be conceived to have been the motive of the Brahmachari, one belonging to a religious body noted for their truthfulness, and having no idea as to the interest the writer took in such things, in inventing a romance, and how could he make it fit exactly with the statements of the Tibetan pedlar at the other end of the country? Uneducated persons are no doubt liable to deceive themselves in many matters, but these statements dealt only with such disunited facts as fell within the range of the narrator’s eyes and ears, and had nothing to do with his judgment or opinion. Thus, when the pedlar’s statement is coupled with that of the Dehradun Brahmachari, there is, indeed, no room left for any doubt as to the truthfulness of either. It may here be mentioned that the statement of the Brahmachari was not the result of a series of leading questions, but formed part of the account he voluntarily gave of his travels during the year, and that he is almost entirely ignorant of the English language, and had, to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, never even so much as heard of the name of Theosophy. Now, if any one refuses to accept the mutually corroborative but independent testimonies of the Tibetan pedlar of Darjiling and the Brahmachari of Dehradun on the ground that they support the genuineness of facts not ordinarily falling within the domain of one’s experience, all I can say is that it is the very miracle of folly. It is, on the other hand, most unshakably established upon the evidence of several of his Chelas, that the Mahatma Koothoomi is a living person like any of us, and that moreover he was seen by two persons on two different occasions. This will, it is to be hoped, settle for ever the doubts of those who believe in the genuineness of occult phenomena, but put them down to the agency of “spirits.” Mark one circumstance. It may be argued that during the pedlar’s stay at Darjiling, Madame Blavatsky was also there, and, who knows, she might have bribed him (! !) into saying what he said. But no such thing can be urged in the case of the Dehradun Brahmachari. He knew neither the pedlar nor Madame Blavatsky, had never heard of Colonel Olcott, having just returned from his prolonged journey, and had no idea that I was a Fellow of the Society. His testimony was entirely voluntary. Some others, who admit that Mahatmas exist, but that there is no proof of their connection with the Theosophical Society, will be pleased to see that there is no à priori impossibility in those great souls taking an interest in such a benevolent Society as ours. Consequently it is a gratuitous insult to a number of self-sacrificing men and women to reject their testimony without a fair hearing.
I purposely leave aside all proofs which are already before the public. Each set of proofs is conclusive in itself, and the cumulative effect of all is simply irresistible.