The Oriental Department
The Path, February, 1891
The year 1891 is to mark an era in the Theosophical Society. The General Secretary desires to announce that with the consent of the Executive Committee he will begin this month the work of the ORIENTAL DEPARTMENT in order to carry out more effectually than ever before the second object of the Society—the investigation of Aryan and other religions, sciences, and literature. It is purposed to procure articles or translations relating to eastern religions, philosophies, literature, folk-lore, social customs and observances from competent Hindus, Parsees, and other Asiatic members and persons. These will be issued in pamphlet form monthly or oftener as funds allow, and will be distributed free to all Branches and members-at-large in good standing.
An extension of this scheme includes the employment of pandits—scholars—in India and elsewhere as soon as the funds come to hand. It is obvious to anyone who will inspect the cash book that our funds will not now permit of the enlargement of this scheme, but it could be put into extensive operation at once if members would give more than the small fee required by the Constitution. Through this Department the General Secretary hopes to be able to furnish a fund of valuable and interesting information such as cannot be otherwise obtained except at great expense for books and other means of study. It is certain that what little has been said to our people by interested missionaries and travellers has been very wide of truth in respect to the people of Asia, their manners, customs, literature, and social life. Indeed, but little can be got from Asiatics by such agents, and it is believed that only through our Society the real truth may be reached. Such a general and correct knowledge of distant people, all brothers of the human family, will do much to enlarge the boundaries of our thoughts, to abate race prejudice, and in all ways tend to strengthen the feeling of brotherhood which it is the aim of the Theosophical Society to arouse. Nor is there any reason why the T.S. should not be a great Asiatic investigating Society.
Any one desiring to aid the Society in this work can do so by making donations to the General Treasury, as the Executive Committee has passed an order that the general fund may be used for this purpose in addition to the items of rent, clerk hire, Forum and Branch paper printing to which it is now devoted.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE
The Path, September, 1891
The General Secretary is now able to announce the definite engagement as Pandit for the American Section of Prof. Manilal N. Dvivedi of Nadiad, India. He is a B.A. of the University of Bombay, graduating with honors and prizes, has been Inspector of Schools, and is now Professor of Sanscrit. The translations the Professor will furnish will undoubtedly be of great value, and the American Section may well be congratulated on the acquisition of his contributions to the Oriental Department.
AMERICAN SECTION T. S.
GENERAL SECRETARY’S OFFICE, 144 MADISON AVE.
NEW YORK, November 28th, 1893.
To the Members of the T. S.:
I have at last been able to secure, with the advice and Consent of the Executive Committee, the services of a Competent Sanscrit scholar in Europe, 1 who is at the same time a devoted member of the Society, for this Department, and desire to notify you of it as also to outline to you the plan for carrying on the Department. The name of this person will not be given out for the present by his own request until later when the work has proceeded to some extent. Of his qualifications there is no doubt, as he has had experience in this field, has also for some time been teaching Sanscrit, and brings to the work a sincere sympathy with Indian thought as well as devotion to the Society which will without question make the matter furnished of value as well as interest. The plan is this:
Readers are not familiar with the books of the East. They should have (a) a sound course of the twelve great Upanishads until they grow thoroughly familiar with them. Two versions are already out, but the Upanishads have never yet been translated in the light of Theosophy. The Prasna Upanishad will probably be translated first, so that the translation, while preserving the spirit of the text, will be thoroughly sound and readable English. After each instalment of the text a commentary will be given of sound literary form, combining the Indian tradition of Shankaracharya’s commentary with Theosophy, thus letting the two illumine each other. (b) The Laws of Manu will be taken up, and also Shankaracharya’s great books, whether already translated or not. The Oriental ideal is that the student should know the book by heart; the western is, “Oh I read that before”. The readers should know the ideas by heart, not the words: this is the medium course. (c) Buddhism will be taken up. Many of the best Pali books are still untranslated; and the Sanscrit books of Nepal on Northern Buddhism, such as Tathagata Guhyakam or Buddha’s Secret teaching can be dealt with. With proper treatment these would be invaluable. Other Eastern religions would follow in due course. (d) To give life and actuality to the East some modern work would be used. (e) Possibly a fifth element in a series called, “Friends of the East”, men not Theosophists who have given up their lives to Oriental research, with a portrait. This would give personal interest and not put the Eastern notion in the background.
All this of course takes time and much labor. I am authorized to spend something on the plan, but our funds at one dollar a year from each member will not permit adequate compensation for the work of the pundit. Indeed all that is done for members by this office is worth more than is paid by them and costs more. Hence if this plan finds favor and if the issues so far of the Department only in the light of a promise have been of service, it is for the members to show whether we will in the future be able to carry on this department in a systematic and proper manner. We cannot raise the rate or dues, as that would exclude many worthy persons. But no member is prevented from paying more per year if his or her means permit, and it is true that many belong to other bodies for various purposes wherein the yearly dues are much higher.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE,
1. The scholar here mentioned is Charles Johnston, F.T.S. [ED.]