Existence of the Himalayan Mahatmas
Theosophist, December, 1883
Note and Editor’s Note by H.P.B. on an account by Preo Nath Banerjee
In May or June last, a young Bengali Brahmachari happened to pass through this station on his way to Almora. During his stay here he put up in the house of an up-country gentleman where I met him to hear his discourses on Vedantic Philosophy and Hinduism in general. He kindly called on me and then at our request narrated certain incidents of his travels to Mānasarovara and back. One of them was very remarkable. He said that on his way back from Kailāś he met a party of Sadhus. They were resting in a small tent which they had pitched for their accommodation. He went amongst them to beg for some food, as he had taken none since two or three days excepting leaves of trees and grass. He saw an elderly Sadhu engaged in reading the Vedas whom he took to be the chief. On enquiring the name of this Sadhu he was told by some that his name was Kauthumpa, and by others as Kauthumi.1 He waited till this gentleman had finished his reading and after the exchange of the customary greetings the sadhu ordered his chelas to give some foot to our Brahmachari. A chela brought a piece of dried cow-dung and placed it before his guru who breathed on it and it was lighted. The Brahmachari waited there for an hour or two and during this interval he saw one or two persons suffering from some disease or other coming there for treatment. The chief gave them some rice after breathing upon it; they ate of it and walked away cured. I forgot to tell you that the Brahmachari had been to Mānasarovara in 1882. Are we to understand that the Kauthumi or Kauthumpa whom this Brahmachari saw somewhere near Kailāś is the same personage who is now known as Koothumi, one of the Himalayan Brothers? If this be so, then we have the testimony of an uninterested person who saw him in his living body. I may mention to you that this Brahmachari told us he never heard of Theosophy or of the Himalayan Brothers till he returned to the plains. He is a young man about 24 years old and knows English but imperfectly. He is a Chela of the Almora Swami with whom he is now studying Sanskrit and we saw him again at Almora at the end of October last. He is not a Theosophist and in fact his views and those of his guru who are pronounced Vedantists do not agree with those of the Theosophists. So, in all respects, he is an uninterested witness. He is publishing an account of his travels in a Bengali Magazine called the “Bharati” published at Calcutta and edited by Babu Dijendra Nath Tagore. I believe he will give details of his interview with this Sadhu, whom he heard called as Kauthumpa, in that Magazine.
He told us that he saw several persons at, and near Mānasarovara (there being a great gathering there that year on account of the Kumbhuk Mela) who could light fuel by breathing upon it. At Mānasarovara he met a Chohan Lama but there were several of this name. Your Note on the above is kindly solicited.
Preo Nath Banerjee, F. T. S., Vakil, High Court.
Bareily, 15th November, 1883.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—This new and unexpected testimony comes this moment, as we are correcting the proofs of Brother Mohini M. Chatterji’s evidence about the same Brahmachari. We had it from him 14 months ago, but, at the advice of Mr. Sinnett, withheld it from publication at the time. Evidently our Bareilly Brothers have not heard, as we have, of this first account now published by us on pages 83 et seq. If this is not an independent and strong testimony in our favour, then we do not know that any more proofs can be given. Whether the “elderly” looking “Kauthumpa” as the Brahmachari calls the Sadhu seen by him is our Mahatma Koothumi or not (we doubt this, for he is not “elderly” looking) it is shown at any rate that there are men known by the name of Kauthumpa (or the disciples, lit. men, of Koothumi) in Tibet, whose master’s name must, therefore, be Koothumi, and that we have not invented the name. Most probably the person seen by the Brahmachari was Ten-dub Ughien, the lama next to our Mahatma—and the chief and guide of his chelas on their travels. He is an elderly man and a great book-worm. The polemics that have taken place on these pages some months back between the venerable Almora Swami and our Brother T. Subba Row during which the Swami came down in his wrath upon the innocent editor—are a good warrant that neither the respected Sadhu of the Almora Hills nor his pupil would be likely to corroborate us, unless they could not help it. Still, the Brahmachari may have seen quite a different person. There are in Tibet many sects—and one of these is the sect of the Kah-dâm-pa—a name bearing a close resemblance to that of Kauthumpa. There are among the former many learned lamas and adepts, but they are not our Mahatmas, who belong to no sect.
1. Our Mahatma does not look “elderly” whatever his age may be.
[Note: for further details on this account, see “A Great Riddle Solved,” by Damodar K Mavalankar, where he relates the following:
“. . . on the second day of my arrival [at his Master’s (K.H.’s) Ashram], after the meal hour I was permitted to hold an intercourse for over an hour with my Master. Asked by him smilingly, what it was that made me look at Him so perplexed, I asked in my turn:—‘How is it Master that some of the members of our Society have taken into their heads a notion that you were ‘an elderly man,’ and that they have even seen you clairvoyantly looking an old man passed sixty?’ To which he pleasantly smiled and said, that this latest misconception was due to the reports of a certain Brahmachari, a pupil of a Vedantic Swami in the N. W. P.—who had met last year in Tibet the chief of a sect, an elderly Lama, who was his (my Master’s) travelling companion at that time. The said Brahmachari having spoken of the encounter in India, had led several persons to mistake the Lama for himself. As to his being perceived clairvoyantly as an “elderly man,” that could never be, he added, as real clairvoyance could lead no one into such mistaken notions. . . .”]