India: A Trumpet Call at a Crisis
Lucifer, April, 1893
From the facts that I am now the General Secretary of the American Section of the T. S. and its Vice-President, and was one of those who participated at the very first meeting of the Society in 1875, and for many years was intimately acquainted with H. P. Blavatsky and also with Col. Olcott, what I have to say on the subject of this article should have a weight it could not have if I were a new member, or unacquainted with its history, its real aims, and the aims and purposes of those who, greater than I, were and are so long in the front of its ranks. I ask for these few remarks, therefore, a serious consideration by our members in all countries, and also by such persons in India, not members, who may read this article.
Is there a crisis, and if so what is it and what does it amount to? There is a crisis not noticeable on the top of our historical wave, and which will not be perceived by those among us who are much interested in the work in their own particular Section. In some places there is no cause for any alarm, as interest is great and work goes forward. But the T. S. is not a national body; it is international; it has an object that embraces the entire race; causes at work in any one part of it may react on all with force when the time comes. We must, for that reason, look over the whole field from time to time, and not confine our estimate to what goes on merely in our own Section or Branch.
The critical spot is in India, the land where at the present time the Masters live in person, and from where went out the real impulse for our foundation and work. If India is of no consequence in our movement, then discussion is useless, for to bother about a place of no importance would be waste of time. If Western members are so enamored of Western culture, civilization, and religion, as to look on Indian thought and philosophy as more or less fantastic, any consideration of the present would be out of place; to all such members I say, do not read this. But those who know that our forms of thought are really Indian, colored a little by our own short lives as nations; those who realize how important in the great family of nations the Indian race is; those who see that no part of the great human mind can be left out—all those will be able to appreciate the nature of the crisis, and then will act as discreetly as possible to the end that danger may be averted.
Centuries before the West had grown out of its savagery, the mighty East had grappled with all the problems that vex the men of the Western world and the nineteenth century. The solutions of these were recorded and preserved among the people of the East. This preservation has been in many ways. In stone of monuments, in books of various materials, in the arrangement of cities, in customs of the people, and last, but not least, in the very beliefs of the common people, looked on by our great men—whom many follow like sheep—as superstition and folly, and often degrading. The monuments and temples need to be read in the light of symbolism; the books are cast in a mold not quite the same as the idioms of the West, and have to be read with that in view as well as holding in the mind the fact that those who wrote them knew more of the Occult machinery of the Kosmos than we now know; they are not to be thrown on one side as folly or phantasy, but should be studied with serious care and with the help of the Hindus of today, who must naturally have some inkling of the hidden meaning. The philosophy in these books is the grandest known to man; the true religion there will be found, when the dust is cleared away, to be, as it says, the religion of Brahma, and hence the first. It will turn out to be the foundation for which the members of the T.S. are looking. But this does not mean to say that that true core and center is just what this, that, or the other school of Vedantins say it is, for it might turn out to be different. It is hence of the highest importance that our Society should not, at any time, needlessly bring into the minds of Brahmans the idea or belief that the T. S. is engaged covertly or openly in bringing forward any other religion, or any particular religion or philosophy. And if by accident or fortuitous circumstance Brahmans in general acquire such an idea or belief, then it is the duty of our members to show how that is a mistake and to induce the others to alter their attitude.
But some may say that it is not of much consequence what some or many Brahmans who do not enter the T. S. may say or think on the matter. It is of consequence, for the reason that the Brahman in India is the natural priest, the one who is supposed to preserve the truth as to religion and religious books; and as the whole country so far as Brahmanism is concerned moves on by and through religion, a false attitude on the part of the Brahmans is very serious, and should be done away with if possible, by all right means and arguments. If they in their own circle, having a false idea of our movement, preach against us, we shall find a silent, subtle, untouchable influence negativing all our work. On the other hand, these teachers of the Hindu can do much work if they have a mind, as they have shown in the past. As an illustration I may cite the Arya Samaj, which rose up from the efforts of one Brahman, but obtained the support of many more, and learned ones also, when it was seen that the object in view was necessary.
Now, then, the crisis is that the Brahmans in general all over India are beginning to get the idea and belief that the T. S. is merely an engine for the propagation of Buddhism. They are therefore starting an opposition by means of their own power and influence, and the consequence may be that they will keep many worthy men there from coming into the T. S., or from giving it any encouragement whatever. They are not making a new society, but are privately arguing against the T. S., and that is more subtle than public effort, because no counter argument is possible.
It is true they are not supported by the real facts, but to some extent they have arguments from appearances. A famous book in our list is called Esoteric Buddhism, while, in fact, it is not Buddhism at all distinctively, but is distinctively Brahmanical. Its entitlement was due perhaps to enthusiasm about the Guru of the writer. Col. Olcott has declared himself officially and privately to be a Buddhist duly admitted to the high priest, and has written a Buddhist Catechism, a great and useful work which has the approval of the same high priest. The Colonel also is now going about a strictly Buddhist work, which has not so much to do with religious or philosophical opinion as it has with mere questions relating to a theological foundation, a temple and its appurtenances in the heart of India. If these Brahmans were able to gauge public opinion in America they would have more arguments from the outer look of things, because here everything in respect to Indian religion is called by the generic name of “Buddhism,” as the people are too hurried to distinguish between that and Hinduism, and have been accustomed to the Light of Asia and other works bringing forward the name of the religion of the Buddha. So much is this the case that all newspaper matter on this subject is labeled with the one name, and very often people when speaking of a Hindu will say, “Of course he is a Buddhist.”
Our crisis is, then, that all our efforts may be hindered in India, and we may be deprived of the very necessary help of the Brahmans in the attempt to bring forward to the world the great truths of the Wisdom Religion. What then is the remedy? Is any one to blame?
No one is to blame. Col. Olcott’s efforts are right and proper, as he could not be rightfully asked to give up one form of his general work just for the sake of one religion or system. We all know very well that he is not engaged in trying to make the T. S. an engine for the propagation of Buddhism. For many years he labored for Hinduism to almost the exclusion of the other system. Mr. Sinnett is not to be censured either, for his book really teaches Brahmanism. Besides, all the work of Col. Olcott and of the book named must end in giving to the West a greater light on the subject of the Hindu religion, and in deepening the effect on the Western mind of ancient philosophy as found in the Wisdom Religion. In consequence of that, every day, more and more, the West will look for the treasures of the East, if these are not deliberately hidden away.
The remedy is for all the members who take the right view in this matter to persistently show to the Brahman how he is mistaken, and how, in fact, the T. S. is the very best and strongest engine for the preservation of the truths of the Vedas. If the Brahman non-member is convinced of this, he will then encourage the community to help the T. S., and the young men under his influence to enter its ranks; he will try to discover hidden manuscripts of value and give them to us. We should also show that in the course of progress and the cycles, the time has come now when the Brahman can no more remain isolated and the sole possessor of valuable treatises, for the West is beginning to drag these from his hands, while at the same time it is doing much to spoil the ideals of the younger generations of India, by the mechanical and material glitter of our Western civilization. Waked up fully to this, he will see how necessary it is for him to seek the help of the only organization in the world broad and free enough to help him, and to give all that equal field without favor where the Truth must at last prevail.
We should all rise then at this call and do whatever we can at every opportunity to avert the danger by applying the remedy. The sincere Hindu members of the T. S., especially, should take note and act in accordance with this, and with the facts they know of their own observation, warrant, and demand.