[Notes on the Theosophical Society, Christianity, Buddhism and Vedanta]
Theosophist, July, 1881
Article Selections from “The Work of the Theosophical Societies” | Notes by H.P.B.
Extracts from the President’s Letters to the Bombay Headquarters
Thursday, May 12, Colombo:—“I lectured at the College last evening to an audience of about five hundred. . . . I had in my hand a paper on which the High Priest, the Rev. Sumangala, had entered all the lies about the Theosophical Society, I was to refute, and I went at it strong. I defied everybody, Christian or otherwise, that had anything to say either about the Theosophical Society or ourselves, to come on the platform like men and say it to my face. I was standing there for the very purpose of answering charges, etc. But although I had received a warning and threatening letter from a Christian that day, not a soul dared open his mouth.1 . . .
1. And the Missionary organs, like the Lucknow Witness and others, denounce us yet for our lack of sympathy for the padris and Christian converts! For six years we have to fight step by step, falsehoods, slanders and vilification invented with the sole object of making the public lose every confidence in the Theosophical Society. And all that in the name of the Bible, which commands—“Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and in that of Christ, of Him, who, represented as the meekest and the most forgiving of all men, is said to have died for humanity to save the world from sin! Verily more crimes are perpetrated, and false evidence daily given in the name of the “meek Nazarene” by his followers, than there ever was among those Jews and heathen he called—a “generation of vipers”! Can Truth ever need such weapons?—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
Views and Plans of the Theosophists.
On the 11th instant, about 7 p.m. a lecture was delivered to a large audience, by Col. H. S. Olcott, at the Widdyodaya College. The High Priest Sumangala presided. The object of the lecture was to notice and answer slanders circulated by the opponents of the Theosophical Society. . . . It was also asked whether the parent society is Buddhistic or not. The reply was yes and no. As the two founders of the society are Buddhists, and the pure motive of the society is to promote Universal Brotherhood, and among other things to promulgate Buddhism, the lecturer said that the parent society may be said to be Buddhist.2 But as it is also composed of Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews, Mahomandans, Christians, Free-thinkers, Atheists, etc. he said the Society is in that sense un-Buddhistic. . . .
2. The Reporter must have misunderstood our President. The Parent Society cannot be said to be “Buddhist” since (a) it is more unsectarian than any of its branches, and (b) its numerous body being composed of members who professing the most widely separated creeds—many of them are liberal Christians, Mohammedans, Hindus, Parsees, etc.,—while others and the greater number are materialists and spiritualists. The “Parent Society” is not composed only of the two Founders (now in India) and the Recording Secretary, these three alone being openly Buddhists, but of other original Founders who are scattered about America and Europe, and of members, half a dozen or so of whom also profess that faith and “take refuge in Buddha.” But even the fact of the two Founders being Buddhists does not make them respect any the less for it the Vedas and especially the Vedanta. After as much study as we could give to it, we came to the firm conviction that Vedantism and Buddhism were two synonymous, nearly identical philosophies, in spirit, if not in practice and interpretation. The Vedanta system is but transcendental or so to say spiritualized Buddhism, while the latter is rational or even radical Vedantism. Between the two stands Sankhya philosophy.—[H.P.B.]
News coming from Australia, which are sure to please our Buddhist Brethren in Ceylon, speak also of the work of the Theosophists in that fair island. In The Harbinger of Light . . . we find the following:—
“By the last Suez mail we are in receipt of a photograph of the Theosophical Society’s Buddhist School at Point de Galle, where a reform in the right direction was initiated and is now in active operation, viz., the Redemption from blind Christianity to rational Buddhism of the Singhalese ‘rising generation.’ . . .
“Buddhism is a pure Theism3 combined with the highest morality, a religion calculated to expand the higher faculties of the mind, and exempt from the soul-binding dogmas with which the Christian system is weighted. . . .
3. Our esteemed friend is mistaken. Buddhism is no “Theism,” since Buddhists do not believe in a “personal god,” and reject altogether Revelation. They “take refuge in Buddha” and call him “Saviour” not because they regard him as a god but, on account of the “Enlightened Teacher” having saved humanity from the great darkness of superstition, from blind faith in the teachings of fallible men and belief in their authority. Siddhârtha Buddha is a saviour indeed, for, taking us by the hand he was the first to show us the way to true salvation—deliverance from the miseries of human life; future everlasting misery and eternal bliss depending but upon our own personal merits. We are our own Saviours.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]