[On the T.S. Policy of Eclectic Tolerance of All Creeds]
Theosophist, June, 1882
Article Selections by N. Chidambaram Iyer | Notes by H.P.B.
. . . You are surprised to find that your friend and ally, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, should so suddenly lose all sympathy for the noble cause you have at heart, on learning that yourself and your colleague are Buddhists. Believe me, when I say you should properly have no reason for being thus surprised. You must never forget that this land, judging from its past religious history, will never allow Buddhism to strike root in the soil. Like other countries, this country is not without its history of religious persecution. When Hinduism was in its zenith of glory and power, it drove our Buddhism from the land. . . .
. . . The mere circumstances that you both [H.P.B. and Olcott] are Buddhists will never materially impede the success of your generous undertaking in this land, so long as you do not set your religion over Hindiusm. . . . We Hindus of the present generation, excepting perhaps persons of the stamp of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who may not like to have anything to do with Buddhists, have no objection to your following the religion of Gautama Buddha, so long as you both refrain yourselves from teaching that religion to us, and also so long as you do not openly declare it to be superior to Hinduism. Now, in a spirit of indignation perhaps at what Swami Dayanand Saraswati has said about your change of religion, as he understood it, from Hinduism to Buddhism and from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism, and declaring the alliance between your Society and the Arya Samaj broken, you say that, “for all the alliances in the world,” you will not renounce what you “consider to be the truth,” or pretend belief in that which you “know to be false.” On behalf of the Hindus, permit me to remark that you would have done well if you had omitted the latter clause, viz., “or pretend belief in that which we know to be false.”1 For, though Dayanand Saraswati Swamit may not be liked by the orthodox section of the Hindu community for his peculiar interpretation of portions of the Vedas, what he taught in the main was pure Hinduism. . . .
1. A clear misconception, we regret to see. Our correspondent has evidently failed to comprehend our meaning. We referred to so-called “Spiritualism,” and never gave one thought to Buddhism! We were accused likewise by Pundit Dayanand of having turned “Zoroastrians.” Why, then, should our correspondent have understood us to mean only Buddhism as being “true,” and paid no attention to the religion of the Parsis? Read Editor’s Note which follows.
If Dayanand spoke of Isvar as a personal God, well, he taught but Hinduism. Belief in Isvar as a personal God—as a God, as the Creator, the Preserver and the Lord of this universe, as a God that hears prayers, that punishes the wicked and rewards the virtuous, and not belief in an anthropomorphic deity, is one which is the peculiar feature of almost all the religions in the world, except perhaps Buddhism.2 . . .
2. Our correspondent forgets, we see, those Hindus who are Vedantic Advaitees?—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . The Hindus believe in a Saguna Brahman as well as in a Nirguna Brahman, while the Buddhist perhaps rejects the former idea. Now, you must remember, as Buddhism is only an offshoot of Hindiusm, you have only drunk from one of the minor streams, and not from the fountain-head. Well, irrespective of the merits of either religion, you would have done well as a Theosophist, and in pursuance of the policy you have till now followed, if you had not remarked of Hinduism as a religion which you know to be false. While you consider the one (Buddhism) as true, you say, you know the other (Hinduism) to be false. I am, however, disposed to think that you will, yourself admit that the statement is a little too strong, and that you have in all probability overshot yourself in making it.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—It is our intelligent correspondent, rather than ourselves, who has “overshot” his mark. He totally misconceives our meaning in the quoted sentences. We had in mind neither Hinduism nor Buddhism, but truth in general, and the truth of Asiatic Psychology in particular. We maintain that the phenomena of Spiritualism are true; Swami Dayanand insists (though he knows better) that they are all false and “tamasha.” We defend the truth of man’s latent and—when developed—phenomenal powers to produce the most marvellous manifestations; the Swami tells his public that to insist that phenomena can be produced by will-power alone “is to say a lie,” and forthwith derides very unphilosophically all phenomena; thus contradicting what he had maintained and admitted himself orally and in print, before he got “out of patience” with us for our eclecticism and universal religious toleration. That is what we meant by “true” and “false,” and nothing more.
If we were disposed to imitate the sectarian bigots of whatsoever creed, our advocacy of the superior merits of Buddhism would not have taken the form of a casual sentence or two in an article upon a totally different subject, but would have been boldly and openly made. Our friend is but just when he says that, since beginning our Indian work, we have never publicly preached our private religious views. It would be well, if this fact were never lost sight of. Colonel Olcott, in addressing audiences of various religious faiths, has always tried to put himself, for the moment, in the mental attitude of a believer in that faith which his audience represented, and to bring prominently before their minds the highest standard of morals and attainable wisdom which it contains. Thus, he has, to the Parsis, shown the magnificence of ancient Mazdasnianism; to the Hindus, the splendours of Aryan philosophy, etc. And this, not from a poor desire to indiscriminately please, but from the deep conviction, shared by us both, that there is truth in every religion, and that every sincere devotee of any faith should be respected in that devotion, and helped to see whatever of good his faith contains. The rupture of the Swami with us resulted, not because of our holding to one religion or the other, but because of the strict policy of eclectic tolerance for men of all creeds upon which the Theosophical Society was founded and has since been building itself up.