Buddhism Before Buddha
Theosophist, December, 1883
Letter from “An Outsider” | Notes by H.P.B.
Will you kindly tell me what it was that drove Buddhism out of India and led to the persecution of the adepts which forced them to fly beyond the mountains?1 Were these two events simultaneous?
You say Buddhism existed in India even before the advent of Gautama Buddha. I have met with words and allusions in our books which tend to confirm the fact you assert, unless we subscribe implicitly to the chronology set up by the European Orientalist.2 But if Buddhism existed in India anterior to Gautama and was in all likelihood tolerated, if not practised, by the Rishis of old, what was it that made it intolerable to the people of the country after the coming of Gautama and, as you say, of Sankaracharya?3
I know of no books where I can find the information I require. The persecution of the adepts is a subject which no human being ever thought of before, much less wrote upon,—of course by such a human being I mean one not inside the “adept circle,” for those who are within that circle may know much about it, without any profit to us outsiders. This, I believe, accounts for the non-existence (so far as I know) of any books on the subject.4
Satkhira, Bengal, 22nd September, 1883.
1. The divulging to the lower non-Brahmanical castes and to the world in general, by the Lord Buddha, of secrets known unto his day only to the initiated Brahmans.
2. Certainly no Hindu—least of all an Initiate or even a Chela—would ever accept their arbitrary and fanciful chronology.
3. Simple truth—which can never hope to win the day when in conflict with theology—the selfish concoction of priests interested in the preservation of superstition and ignorance among the masses. Sankaracharya was more prudent than Gautama Buddha, but preached in substance, the same truths, as did all the other Rishis and Mahatmas.
4. Quite so. But he who joins the “adept circle” and will shrink before no sacrifice, may learn all this and ascertain the truth easily enough with regard to Asia. During the middle ages down to hardly 100 years ago the persecution and even the burning of Adepts in Europe, is a fact in History.