Ex Oriente Lux
Ex Oriente Lux
The interest of the West in the Orient is widespread, but, too often such interest is along the line of self-pride which enquires in what manner and to what extent is this or that country becoming Europeanized. All agree that this is an economic civilization, and yet repeat that man cannot live by bread alone. How many try to learn by what nourishment, other than that of earning their daily bread by the sweat of the brow, do millions of our fellow-men live in old Asia? Now and then one hears, “Light comes from the East,” and having heard, forgets what is that light by which souls have lived in the Orient for many hundred centuries.
Ex Oriente Lux — has many meanings, ranging from the most obvious to be observed in the rising Sun, to the most occult, which, like other ideas of the Mysteries, cannot be put in words. Great and wonderful cultures have reared magnificent Empires and civilizations all over the East. Some of them are now dead, like that of ancient Babylonia, and yet who can say that that age-long influence is not at work today? Some have undergone a complete metamorphosis; for example, Japan — now thoroughly westernized, in other words, materialized and militarized. Some, like China, are undergoing a similar change. In India, where a very ancient culture continues to vivify the life of the peoples, a somewhat different phenomenon is taking place: more directly old cultural ideas and ideals are shaping the structure which is rising. Shintoism and Buddhism are only indirectly influencing Japan; the power of Lao Tzu and Confucius, as also that of the Buddhist patriarchs, is also indirectly manifesting itself in the new China; still less direct is the influence of old Iran visible in the affairs of modern Persia. But in India it is different. The pre-Aryan civilization of the Dravidians is still contributing its quota in making the India of tomorrow; the Vedic hymns and rituals, the Upanishadic metaphysics and philosophy, the Puranic Anthropology are likewise active; the Islamic cultural current, as the Avestaic through the Parsis, plays each its part. Thoughtful leaders and large numbers of Indians directly wish for a deliberate assimilation of the old cultures of Arya Varta, of Bharata Varasha, and other ancient lands.
Westerners — if sincere — are confronted with a double task in the wish to help the East, or be helped in return: (1) they should learn the real basis and nature of the old philosophies and ethics which are indirectly or directly influencing the Asia of our days; (2) as an international cosmopolitanism is the vision of so many thoughtful philanthropists in Europe and America, they should endeavour to learn what can be assimilated from these old cultures and thereby draw closer to their Asiatic brethren.
Avoiding the danger of carnalizing and materializing the ancient truths on the one hand, and avoiding the pitfall of superstition created by the hordes of modern Asiatics on the other, there is still much in the East, and especially in India, that is noble and beautiful, and which the West does not possess. The soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans is needed in Europe and America.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 4, February, 1931
I: The Eternal Religion
* Isis Unveiled, II, p. 30.
Forty years ago, expounding Theosophical tenets, W. Q. Judge called them “Echoes from the Orient.” His words convey a deeper truth than is generally understood: Modern Theosophy verily is but the echo of the Occult Voice of the Orient.
Time was when the ancient continent of Asia, from Fo-Kien to Baku, lived by the same religious truths which united tribes and races and nations into a harmonious whole. The universal Wisdom-Religion was the root of that mighty Tree on which in later times grew the branches of the Zoroastrian, the Chaldean, the Egyptian religions; this takes us back ages before Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad tried to teach the eternal truths. Before the Vedas existed, that Wisdom-Religion, the Bodhi-Dharma, the Source of Brahmanical lore, was.
Not without good reasons the Hindus call theirs the Eternal Religion, Sanatana Dharma. Properly speaking, that title by right can belong only to the Mother Source of all religions, viz., Theosophia or the Wisdom-Religion; but of all exoteric faiths the Brahmanical is the one which approximates most nearly to the original; the first-born of the Aryan family of religions, it bears a very close resemblance to the Mother.
First, of all Asiatic cultures only that of old India survives* as a living reality. Says Mr. Judge, “Of all the old races the Aryan Indian alone yet remains as the preserver of the old doctrine. It will one day rise again to its old heights of glory” (Ocean of Theosophy, p. 85). This is a striking fact, and its meaning becomes clearer when the student of H.P.B.’s Secret Doctrine notes that India became and still is the home of the parent-stock of the Aryan Root-Race which started on its eventful journey a million years ago. Four sub-races of the Fifth Root-Race, the Aryan, have run their course, and at present the fifth sub-race is in the ascendant. During these million years the root-stock has been the Foster Mother of the sub-races, nourishing with her hoary culture the daughter-races in many Western lands. It began with Egypt: “Egypt and India”, says H.P.B. (Isis Unveiled, I, p. 515), “were the oldest in the group of nations; and … the Eastern Ethiopians — the mighty builders — had come from India as a matured people.” The following is from the same book (II, p. 435):
…we are prepared to maintain that Egypt owes her civilization, commonwealth and arts — especially the art of building, to pre-Vedic India, and that it was a colony of the dark-skinned Aryans, or those whom Homer and Herodotus term the eastern Æthiopians, i.e., the inhabitants of Southern India, who brought to it their ready-made civilization in the ante-chronological ages, of what Bunsen calls pre-Menite, but nevertheless epochal history.
We must remember in this connection, that the peoples of Southwestern and Western Asia, including the Medes, were all Aryans. It is yet far from being proved who were the original and primitive masters of India. That this period is now beyond the reach of documentary history, does not preclude the probability of our theory that it was the mighty race of builders, whether we call them Eastern Æthiopians, or dark-skinned Aryans (the word meaning simply “noble warrior,” a “brave”). They ruled supreme at one time over the whole of ancient India, enumerated later by Manu as the possession of those whom our scientists term the Sanskrit-speaking people.
* Readers must bear in mind that archaic India was a far flung country; modern India has shrunk to its present proportions — wide and large as they are — from the geographical marvel that it was! Says H.P.B. in Isis Unveiled, I, p. 589: — “There was an Upper, a Lower, and a Western India, the latter of which is now Persia-Iran. The countries now named Thibet, Mongolia, and Great Tartary, were also considered by the ancient writers as India.”
Similarly “Babylonian civilization was neither born nor developed in that country. It was imported from India, and the importers were Brahmanical Hindus” (Isis Unveiled, I, p. 576). And again, “The Babylonians … got their wisdom and learning from India” (Secret Doctrine, II, p. 566). And so the deduction (Isis Unveiled, I, p. 584):
Can there be any absurdity in the suggestion that the India of 6,000 years ago, brilliant, civilized, overflowing with population, impressed upon Egypt, Persia, Judea, Greece, and Rome, a stamp as ineffaceable, impressions as profound, as these last have impressed upon us?
And again (Isis Unveiled, II, p. 361):
…all the knowledge possessed by these different schools, whether Magian, Egyptian, or Jewish, was derived from India, or rather from both sides of the Himalayas.
The process continues: in some few hundred years more the sixth sub-race will become the pioneer; it will flower in America from the seeds which have been, and are being, sown. Another 25,000 years and the seventh sub-race will come into being, when alone the Aryan Fifth Root-Race will have completed the great drama of its evolution (Secret Doctrine, II, p. 445). It is obvious that the cyclic rise of India is contemporaneous with the rise of each of its daughter sub-races. Every time India rises to the crest of the wave in grand creative activity, she radiates the energy of wisdom, which fructifies a new civilization; then follows the period of preservation, during which India guards her hoard of knowledge, waiting and watching for another hour of cyclic rising, while within her borders the struggle of existence goes on. Thus there are dynamic and static periods in Indian history, and of the latter Mr. Judge says this (Ocean, p. 9):
Turning to India, so long forgotten and ignored by the lusty and egotistical, the fighting and the trading West, we find her full of the lore relating to these wonderful men of whom Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Solomon are only examples. There the people are fitted by temperament and climate to be the preservers of the philosophical, ethical, and psychical jewels that would have been forever lost to us had they been left to the ravages of such Goths and Vandals as western nations were in the early days of their struggle for education and civilization.
Thus India will live fulfilling her mission till the whole of the Aryan Race has discharged its Dharma to the God of Time. In the fascinating story of India’s hoary past, which, says H.P.B., is part of the Great Record, her cyclic rise to eminence, her influence at the birth of new sub-races, etc., are all described. Allegorical reflections of that Record are to be found in what is called Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion — which title is not altogether correctly understood by Hindus themselves. This is one real reason why that title belongs to the religious lore of old India: in the Occult History of Aryavarta is to be found the history of the entire Aryan Root-Race with its seven sub-races.
Secondly, it is a well-known fact that even in extant Hinduism, every soul finds its own especial nourishment. From fetishism, through polytheism and pantheism to the highest and the noblest concept of Deity and Man — in Hinduism the whole gamut of human thought and belief is to be found. For every class of worshiper and thinker Hinduism makes a provision; herein lies also its great power of assimilation and absorption of schools of philosophy and communities of people. And another aspect of this phase consists in the power old India wields in impressing the mind of distant countries, and moulding the heart of foreign cultures. To the real India there are no aliens, for whatever others believe and think is to be found in some phase of Hindu religious philosophy. Of her spiritual commonwealth it can truly be said that it encompasses the whole world. There is not a philosophy, a science or a magical art of Chaldea, Persia, or Greece whose original counterpart cannot be traced to some Sanskrit source. Says H.P.B. in Isis Unveiled, I, p. 620:
Name to us any modern discovery, and we venture to say, that Indian history need not long be searched before the prototype will be found of record.
Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, has narrowed down to a creed, because during the last many centuries this reality of its touching the wide spaces of earth and encompassing many cycles of time has not been rightly perceived. As genuine Theosophy gains ground in the world, this old and forgotten view of Sanatana Dharma will be more and more recognized. When in America the time arrives for the sixth sub-race to function as a race apart, her sustenance will come from India as in ages gone by it came thence to Egypt and Ethiopia and Babylonia and Greece and Rome. H.P.B. calls India “that old initiatrix” and bearing in mind the kinship between old Egypt and modern America, to which Mr. Judge makes more than one pointed reference, the student is called upon to ponder over this statement from Isis Unveiled, I, p. 589:
…we affirm that, if Egypt furnished Greece with her civilization, and the latter bequeathed hers to Rome, Egypt herself had, in those unknown ages when Menes reigned, received her laws, her social institutions, her arts and her sciences, from pre-Vedic India; and that therefore, it is in that old initiatrix of the priests — adepts of all the other countries — we must seek for the key to the great mysteries of humanity.
With all this in view Mr. Judge wrote in The Path for February, 1891:
If I were convinced by any reasonable proof or argument that Palestine was ever the cradle of our civilization or philosophy, or other than the seat of a people who are the true exponents of a fine social materialism, I would advocate great attention to her records. But it is not a single small nation we should look to. The fountain head is better than a secondary receptacle, a mere cistern that takes the overflow from the source. The fountain is old India, and to that the members of the Theosophical Society who are not only desirous of saving time but also of aiding the sages of the past in the evolution of doctrines which, applied to our great new civilization, can alone save it from failure, will bend themselves to the task of carrying out our second object — the investigation of Aryan literature, religion, and science.
We must prepare. There are men in India to-day who are qualified and willing to aid in translating works hitherto untranslated, in collecting that which shall enable us to disseminate and popularise true doctrines of man’s life and destiny. Time is very short and cannot be spent by all of us in learning Sanskrit… Let us then get ready to use the material in the ancient storehouse of India, treasures that no man can be called a thief for taking, since the truths acquired by the mind respecting man’s life, conduct, constitution, and destiny are the common property of the human race, a treasure that is lost by monopoly and expanded by dissemination.
How very close the mind of Judge was to the great mind of H.P.B. in all matters is once again to be seen by comparing the above with that which follows:
…it is to India, the country less explored, and less known than any other, that all the other great nations of the world are indebted for their languages, arts, legislature, and civilization (Isis, I, p. 585).
No wonder then why H.P.B. called India “The Alma-Mater, not only of the civilization, arts, and sciences, but also of all great religions of antiquity” (Isis, II, p. 30.)
Bearing this in mind let us see what we can learn from Aryavarta of old.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 7, May, 1931, Pages 294-298
II: The Temple of Knowledge
What has India been preserving through the ages?
That science which is called in some places, the “seven-storied,” in others the “nine-storied” Temple. Every story answers allegorically to a degree of knowledge acquired. Says Isis Unveiled II, p. 392:
Throughout the countries of the Orient, wherever magic and the wisdom-religion are studied, its practitioners and students are known among their craft as Builders — for they build the temple of knowledge, of secret science.
India’s surviving rock-cut caves, her ancient shrines, her gopurams and mandapams are but concrete records of the Invisible Temple above referred to. The Temple Lore is therefore dual — exoteric and esoteric, the former but the shadow and reflection of the latter. The visible and tangible record of the Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, is but the garment of the true Wisdom-Religion which antedates the Vedas themselves.
The extant writings from Vedas to Puranas are like the numerous shrines of India; they are symbols of the Invisible Temple of Secret Knowledge. It is an awe-inspiring vision to behold the concrete record in its incomplete completeness. The plan of knowledge imparted by Living Divine Men is still available though but in silhouette form. What wealth of detailed information must have been the valued possession of generations of Aryans? What depth of pure and reverent perception must have been theirs to be worthy of such mines of Wisdom?
While the striking fact about other ancient religious philosophies is their fragmentary nature (for example the Zoroastrian), the most remarkable feature of the Brahmanical Shastras is their breadth as well as their depth. Almost every conceivable subject of enquiry meets with some treatment, and compared to our modern knowledge the ancient Indian views are certainly more profound, even though puzzling, than those of any other philosophy.
The first point to note is that while with the approach of Kali-Yuga, the cycle of shadows which darkens everything and blinds man’s moral perceptions, important information and practical instruction were withdrawn, we have still remaining with us most of the map of complete knowledge, which gives us some idea of how this complete knowledge was divided into schools of science and of philosophy, into myths and history, and into codes of laws. Thus, for example, the Upanishads give us an idea of the lofty concepts of Deity, Nature, the Human Soul, and their inter-relationship, which concepts still remain unrivalled; but they also show certain signs of careful withdrawal of important doctrines, which to the ordinary reader, however, appear but as gaps, as illogical sequences and uncalled for deductions. In every department of Aryan Knowledge these gaps are visible, and their true explanation is to be found in the introductory to the first volume of The Secret Doctrine.
Such gaps, due to withdrawal and other causes, notwithstanding, the Brahmanical religious-philosophy contains almost the whole doctrine which will ever become public on this globe in this round. Says Isis Unveiled, II, p. 535:
This creed has not decayed, and its hidden philosophy, as understood now by the initiated Hindus, is just as it was 10,000 years ago. But can our scholars seriously hope to have it delivered unto them upon their first demand? Or do they still expect to fathom the mysteries of the World-Religion in its popular exoteric rites?
One of the most important factors, often overlooked by Western students of Hinduism and more often by Hindus themselves, is that there are interpolations as well as gaps in the doctrine. Corruption of Hinduism is not so much due to what has been withdrawn as to what has been inserted and added. To buttress their own beliefs and attain ulterior purposes, men with vested interests have unscrupulously tampered with texts, while honest interpreters were writing commentaries on them, some of which are illuminating, yet most of which befog the vision. With this note of caution sounded let us draw pertinent attention to the following from Isis Unveiled, I, p. 583:
No people in the world have ever attained to such a grandeur of thought in ideal conceptions of the Deity and its offspring, MAN, as the Sanskrit metaphysicians and theologians.
All knowledge was divided into two divisions — Para-Vidya, the esoteric knowledge and Apara-Vidya, the exoteric. It must not be supposed that the former is distinct and separate from the latter; like the Soul and mind in man, the esoteric and exoteric are closely interknit. Within the exoteric lies hidden the esoteric, though it is true that the esoteric extends beyond the exoteric, just as soul vision transcends mind perception. The exoteric record is objective — in architecture, in amulets, in coins, in jewels, in Mss., in ritual, etc., it can be read. The esoteric record is subjective — it is made and retained in the volume of the brain, hidden in certain of its organs, whose functions and powers are unknown to modern anatomy and physiology; words of silence communicate it from Hierophant to neophyte, from Guru to chela. This Para-Vidya is also named Guhya-Vidya: the secret Art only to be learnt and practiced in the cave (guha) of the heart. This Gupta-Vidya, says H.P.B. (Secret Doctrine II, p. 565), is “the primeval and original Occultism of Aryavarta, brought into India by the primeval Brahmins, who had been initiated in Central Asia. And this is the Occultism we study and try to explain, as much as is possible in these pages.” And again (Ibid, p. 584), she speaks of “the one root, the root of wisdom, which grows and thrives on the Indian soil … the sacred land of Aryavarta.”
We must now survey Apara-Vidya, the exoteric knowledge — not as a field but as a veritable continent.
Before we name the contents of the exoteric knowledge let us dispose of the classification of Karma-Kanda and Gnyan-Kanda so often referred to. There is some confusion of thought and only the true Theosophic light dispels the surrounding fog.
Karma-Kanda is that part of Apara-Vidya or exoteric knowledge, which enables a man to act righteously, to practice Dharma-Religion. Every tome of the exoteric knowledge has this Karma-Kanda which tells the reader how to act, what to do, the way to avoid the sins of omission as well as those of commission. Much of ritualism, most of the laws and rules laid down, are accepted and believed in and practiced. The strong point and the virtuous aspect of this arrangement lies in the training which men and women get through methodic and regular religious exercises; repetitive acts of worship and sacrifice whereby people are made to remember (1) their own inner Divinity; (2) the grandeur of visible and invisible Nature which surrounds them; (3) the inter-relationship between them; and (4) the debt which men owe to the beings of the invisible worlds on whom they are dependent, as also their own dignity as beings on whom these invisible beings, in turn, rely for help and guidance of a particular kind. The weak point and vicious aspect of the arrangement is that people, not understanding the real meaning of these rituals, have come to perform them quite mechanically, and the energy of faith has evaporated leaving behind the scum of blind-belief. So to-day the religious actions and exercises are in greatest measure a farce, nay more, a blasphemy. This is one of the chief curses under which India of to-day is groaning. But for all that, the value of Karma-Kanda is very great and has served the people worthily for long centuries.
Gnyan-Kanda is supplementary to Karma-Kanda; it gives knowledge about why and how actions according to the Karma-Kanda should be performed. Study and practice went hand in hand and both, duly observed, led the students to the esoteric side of things. The glory of old Sanatana Dharma lay in the Gnyan-Kanda which explained Nature and Nature’s Laws and made the living of the life a noble process.
Another way to look at these two is to regard Gnyan-Kanda as the hidden esoteric soul of Karma-Kanda, the exoteric ritual or form side of religion.
Next, we will consider still another classification of knowledge which is recognized by Hinduism. These various classifications are instructive inasmuch as each of them reveals a fundamental and true aspect of the subject under review.
All knowledge was divided into four classes — (1) Science; (2) Philosophy; (3) Religion; (4) Esotericism. Science is the body, philosophy the mind, religion the soul, and esotericism the spirit of knowledge. Four great paths take the student to the end of the journey.
The Path of Practice, Abhayasa, is the path of the Scientist. By repeated experimentation, by observation checked and rechecked, by analysis and reiterated verification the scientist grows — learning and teaching. Treading this path, he develops patience, accuracy, and detachment for the results of his labours. The Path of Science must be valued in the light of the virtues it brings out in the practitioner; many Theosophical students are wrong in evincing a sneering or superior attitude to Modern Science. It is not what is said by the scientist that should be made the means of measuring his achievements; no doubt his theories change; but in evolving theories, qualities are unfolded, which are assets for the future collected in the present.
The Path of Knowledge, Gnyan, is the path of the philosopher. By the method of synthesizing the many theories and even speculations, he builds the power of abstract meditation. Removing his thinking from the field of objects he enters that of subjects, from the world of forms he goes inwards to formless worlds. Unlike his brother scientist, he is unconcerned about details and confines his reflections to underlying principles. He finds out the trinity of Gnyata, Gnyan and Gneyam — knower, knowledge and object known.
The Path of Devotion, Bhakti, is the path of the religious. Having seen with the mind’s eye the source of all which is freedom absolute — Sat, Chit, Ananda, the existence of bliss-full ideation; and also that the separated “I” or Ahamkara is the cause of bondage to Gnyan, Knowledge, and therefore to ignorance, Avidya; to Ichcha, the will to live, which implies the will to die; to kriya, action, which means also to fate, prarabdka Karma — the religious unfolds true fiery devotion as a means to a grand end, a sublime attainment. What is his objective? To reach that state of Compassion Absolute, Paramartha Satya, which enables him to love all creatures, the little selves, bound by the power of the One Great Self. As pure and powerful manifestations of the Great Self, in the world of men, he uses the life-work of the Incarnations, Avataras. To understand the mystery, the hidden reality, the Occultism of Life Incarnate, he perforce seeks Teachers, Gurus of the great knowledge, Maha-Vidya, which is secret-knowledge, Guhya-Vidya.
The Path of Yagna, Sacrificial Action or real magic is the path of the esotericist. The esotericist labours in full knowledge; performance of certain actions is undertaken, in definite manner, by deliberately planned method, according to what is learnt from the lips of Divine Men perfected. He alone knows what the devotee feels, what the philosopher thinks, what the scientist sees, without their limitations.
Thus the four categories of knowledge are practically utilized and the thread of evolution of the human being runs through them.
We must leave here, for the time being, Para-Vidya, the esoteric soul of knowledge and confine our attention to exoteric or Apara-Vidya. And at the very start we will request the reader to keep in mind that in ancient India exoteric knowledge was not what learning is to-day — materialistic, speculative, hesitant, changing, giving a dozen theories for one fact. Then, even exoteric knowledge was classified on principles; what was taught were provable facts, and theories were working hypotheses which the pupil was called upon to accept, not to abandon after a while for new ones, but to transform them one by one into proven facts.
All knowledge was divided into three main compartments: (1) Sruti — revelation; (2) Smriti — Laws and Tradition; (3) Itihasa-Purana — History and Mythology. They are numbered in the order of their value and importance and to their examination we must now turn.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 8, June, 1931, Pages 347-351
III: History and Myths
WE must start with the primary division of all knowledge into three compartments: (1) Sruti — Revelation; (2) Smriti — Laws and Tradition; (3) Itihasa and Purana — History and Mythology. Sruti contains the Vedic lore; Smriti is composed of codes of laws; the third consists of the Epics and the Puranas. However, it will facilitate our work to survey them in the reverse order, beginning with the third compartment.
The main divisions of this third class are two: (a) Itihasa — History; (b) Puranas — Myths; both contain stories innumerable. These are mostly allegories of cosmical and psychological facts especially meant for the less educated portion of the community unable to read the Sruti (Vedas, etc.), or the Smriti (Law-Codes). In every Indian village, even to-day, stories are told under the shady tree. Many are the favourite tales of the peerless Sita, of the devoted Savitri, of the sin of Kaikeyi, heard by the girls, while their brothers enjoy tales of the playfulness of Krishna, the Divine Cowherd, the prowess of Arjuna, the degrading destruction of the evil-minded Duryodhana.
The art of story-telling (actually telling by word of mouth) is almost perfect among the illiterate, but by no means uncultured, villagers, and especially among the women-folk. This has given rise to a very rich folk-lore, and there are stories short and long which give not only mundane but also spiritual knowledge — every one of them is aptly adorned with a moral. In these folk-lore tales Indian proverb-stories should be included. All of these are full of wit, humor and charm and have proven a veritable grace which purifies and uplifts the heart of the simple men and women. A special department of this should also be referred to in passing. Wandering Sadhus and others, especially those gifted with a voice for song and a quick wit perform kalakshepams and Hari-Kathas — speak of Hari the Great Lord in story and song. This is the only form of drama and concert which Indian villagers in their millions ever hear or know about. Their educative value is greater than is ordinarily suspected, for among such workers are sometimes servant-chelas of Great Masters.
(a) Itihasa or History consists of epics in which are narrated actual historical events and happenings and in which also, the psychological, the mythical, and the philosophical moral of each is well and carefully drawn. The epics are the well-known Ramayana and Mahabharata, most likely the originals of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Myths represent the living soul of history; the former help men to image forth the future, as history enables them to visualize the past. Myths deal with the whole man, history only with the visible part of him. Therefore has Myth the power to prognosticate. Myths may be rightly regarded as records of souls, and in India their practical application is constantly sought and made.
The Ramayana deals with the historical period of the first King of the Divine Dynasty. Says the Secret Doctrine (II, p. 495):
The whole History of that period is allegorized in the Ramayana, which is the mystic narrative in epic form of the struggle between Rama — the first King of the divine dynasty of the early Aryans — and Ravana, the symbolical personation of the Atlantean (Lanka) race. The former were the incarnations of the Solar Gods; the latter, of the lunar Devas. This was the great battle between Good and Evil, between white and black magic, for the supremacy of the divine forces, or of the lower terrestrial, or cosmic powers.
But both history and myth are intermingled and the latter aspect also is dealt with in the Secret Doctrine (II, p. 163):
In the Ramâyana, when Hanuman is reconnoitering the enemy in Lanka, he finds there Rakshasas, some hideous, “while some were beautiful to look upon,” and, in Vishnu Purâna, there is a direct reference to their becoming the Saviours of “Humanity,” or of Brahmâ.
The allegory is very ingenious. Great intellect and too much knowledge are a two-edged weapon in life, and instruments for evil as well as for good. When combined with Selfishness, they will make of the whole of Humanity a footstool for the elevation of him who possesses them, and a means for the attainment of his objects; while, applied to altruistic humanitarian purposes, they may become the means of the salvation of many. At all events, the absence of self-consciousness and intellect will make of man an idiot, a brute in human form. Brahmâ is Mahat — the universal Mind — hence the too-selfish among the Rakshasas showing the desire to become possessed of it all — to “devour” Mahat. The allegory is transparent.
Similarly, the Mahabharata deals with the historical event of the Great War on the battle-field of Kurukshetra, which event is allegorized as the Psychological War on Dharmakshetra, the field of Duty. This Mahabharata War marked the closing epoch which the Ramayana War opened, for “the Aryan races had never ceased to fight with the descendants of the first giant races.” This last war coincided with Kaliyuga which began 5,000 years ago.
Both these Epics are wonderful spiritual treatises — “every line of which has to be read esoterically” says the Secret Doctrine. They disclose “in magnificent symbolism and allegory the tribulations of both man and soul.” (Secret Doctrine, II, p. 496.) But let them not be regarded as unscientific; says the Secret Doctrine (II, p. 680):
The Evolutionists stand firm as a rock on the evidence of similarity of structure between the ape and the man. The anatomical evidence, it is urged, is quite overpowering in this case; it is bone for bone, and muscle for muscle, even the brain conformation being very much the same.
Well, what of it? All this was known before King Herod; and the writers of the Ramayana, the poets who sang the prowess and valour of Hanuman, the monkey-God, “whose feats were great and Wisdom never rivalled,” must have known as much about his anatomy and brain as does any Haeckel or Huxley in our modern day. Volumes upon volumes were written upon this similarity, in antiquity as in more modern times.
Whence all this knowledge of physiology, psychology and anthropology, not to mention astronomy, mechanics and mathematics? The Secret Doctrine tells us (II, p. 426):
It is from the Fourth Race that the early Aryans got their knowledge of “the bundle of wonderful things,” the Sabha and Mayasabha, mentioned in the Mahabhârata, the gift of Mayâsur to the Pándavas. It is from them that they learnt aëronautics, Viwán Vidya (the “knowledge of flying in air-vehicles”), and, therefore, their great arts of meteorography and meteorology. It is from them, again, that the Aryans inherited their most valuable science of the hidden virtues of precious and other stones, of chemistry, or rather alchemy, of mineralogy, geology, physics and astronomy.
(b) The Puranas are eighteen in number. The attention of the student of Occultism may once more be drawn to this oft-recurring number — 18 Chapters of the Gita, 18 days of the Great War, both of which form part of the 18 books of the Mahabharata, etc., and now the 18 Puranas. The name Purana means “Ancient”* signifying that it is the ancient lore which is re-told in a new form. The birth and dissolution of the Cosmos with its many systems; the numerous marvels of anthropogenesis; the appearance and actions of Great Incarnations, Avataras; the intimate relation between the Invisible worlds of Devas and Dhyan-Chohans and their creatures the Devatas or Elementals on the one hand, and the visible earth on which men live and labour affecting and affected by crystals and metals, by giant trees and flowering shrubs, by the bird, the beast, the reptile, on the other; the sage advice of Deva-Rishis, the example of sacrifice of the Raja-Rishis — all this and more is to be found in the Puranas. These Chronicles are certainly more valuable than they are given credit for, generally speaking.
* Midrashim of the Hebrews, who in so many respects, especially in mystical and ritualistic, have copied ancient Brahmanas, but invariably corrupting and animalizing them.
H. P. Blavatsky reiterates the value of the Puranas to the student of esoteric science, pointing out that they are but attempts at the repetition of the tenets of the esoteric doctrine under exoteric form of national symbols, for the purpose of cloaking these tenets. (S.D. II, p. 455.) We cannot do better than give her own words, selecting only a few from the many passages on the subject:
By the scholar who studies the Hindu religion from the Purânas, one thing is to be especially noted. He must not take literally, and in one sense only, the statements therein found; since those which especially concern the Manvantaras or Kalpas have to be understood in their several references. (I. p. 369).
It is evident that, taken in their dead letter, the Purânas read as an absurd tissue of fairy tales and no better. But if one reads chapters I., II. and III. from Book II. (Vol. II.) of Vishnu Purâna and accepts verbatim its geography, geodesy, and ethnology, in the matter of Priyavrata’s seven sons, among whom the father divides the seven Dwipas (Continental Islands); and then proceeds to study how the eldest son, the King of Jambu-dwipa, Agnidhra, apportioned Jambu-dwipa among his nine sons; and then how Nabhi his son, who had a hundred sons and apportioned all these in his turn — then the reader is likely to throw the book away and pronounce it a farrago of nonsense. But the esoteric student will understand that, in the days when the Purânas were written, the true meaning was clear only to the Initiated Brahmins, who wrote those works allegorically and would not give the whole truth to the masses. (II, p. 320).
…in the Purânas one may find the most scientific and philosophical “dawn of creation,” which, if impartially analyzed and rendered into plain language from its fairy tale-like allegories, would show that modern zoology, geology, astronomy, and nearly all the branches of modern knowledge, have been anticipated in the ancient Science, and were known to the philosophers in their general features, if not in such detail as at present!
Purânic astronomy, with all its deliberate concealment and confusion for the purpose of leading the profane off the real track, was shown even by Bentley to be a real science; and those who are versed in the mysteries of Hindu astronomical treatises, will prove that the modern theories of the progressive condensation of nebulae, nebulous stars and suns, with the most minute details about the cyclic progress of asterisms — far more correct than Europeans have even now — for chronological and other purposes, were known in India to perfection.
If we turn to geology and zoology we find the same. What are all the myths and endless genealogies of the seven Prajâpati, and their sons, the seven Rishis or Manus, and of their wives, sons and progeny, but a vast detailed account of the progressive development and evolution of animal creation, one species after the other? Were the highly philosophical and metaphysical Aryans — the authors of the most perfect philosophical systems of transcendental psychology, of Codes of Ethics, and such a grammar as Pânini’s, of the Sankhya and Vedanta systems, and a moral code (Buddhism), proclaimed by Max Müller the most perfect on earth — such fools, or children, as to lose their time in writing fairy tales; such tales as the Purânas now seem to be in the eyes of those who have not the remotest idea of their secret meaning? What is the fable, the genealogy and origin of Kasyapa, with his twelve wives, by whom he had a numerous and diversified progeny of nagas (serpents), reptiles, birds, and all kinds of living things, and who was thus the father of all kinds of animals, but a veiled record of the order of evolution in this round? So far, we do not see that any Orientalist ever had the remotest conception of the truths concealed under the allegories and personifications. (II, p. 253.)
Just as in old alchemical works the real meaning of the substances and elements meant are concealed under the most ridiculous metaphors, so are the physical, psychic, and spiritual natures of the Elements (say of fire) concealed in the Vedas, and especially in the Purânas, under allegories comprehensible only to the Initiates. Had they no meaning, then indeed all those long legends and allegories about the sacredness of the three types of fire, and the forty-nine original fires — personified by the Sons of Daksha’s daughters and the Rishis, their husbands, “who with the first son of Brahmâ and his three descendants constitute the forty-nine fires” — would be idiotic verbiage and no more. But it is not so…. Science has no speculations to offer on fire per se; Occultism and ancient religious science have. This is shown even in the meagre and purposely veiled phraseology of the Purânas, where (as in the Vâyu Purâna) many of the qualities of the personified fires are explained….the writers of the Purânas were perfectly conversant with the “Forces” of Science and their correlations; moreover, with the various qualities of the latter in their bearing upon those psychic and physical phenomena which receive no credit and are unknown to physical science now. Very naturally, when an Orientalist, — especially one with materialistic tendencies — reads that these are only appellations of fire employed in the invocations and rituals, he calls this “Tantrika superstition and mystification”; and he becomes more careful to avoid errors in spelling, than to give attention to the secret meaning attached to the personifications, or to seek their explanation in the physical correlations of forces, so far as known. So little credit, indeed, is given to the ancient Aryans for knowledge, that even such glaring passages as in Book I, chap. ii, Vishnu Purâna, are left without any notice. (I, p. 520-21.)
…the Hindu Purânas give a description of wars on continents and islands situated beyond Western Africa in the Atlantic Ocean; if their writers speak of Barbaras and other people such as Arabs — they who were never known to navigate, or cross the Kala pani (the black waters of the Ocean) in the days of Phoenician navigation — then their Purânas must be older than those Phoenicians…. (II, p. 406.)
The Puranic lore has remained unexplored. However late the era in which they were transcribed to writing, the Puranas are ancient historical records which deal with the “story of creation” of stars and souls, of gods and demons, and finally of humans, separating into men and women. We cannot close this instalment more fitly than by repeating the advice H. P. Blavatsky gave to young Indians, which has not yet been accepted. She wrote (I, p. 522-3):
Truly the young Brahmin who graduates in the universities and colleges of India with the highest honours; who starts in life as an M.A. and an LL.B., with a tail initialed from Alpha to Omega after his name, and a contempt for his national gods proportioned to the honours received in his education in physical sciences; truly he has but to read in the light of the latter, and with an eye to the correlation of physical Forces, certain passages in his Purânas, if he would learn how much more his ancestors knew than he will ever know — unless he becomes an occultist.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 9, July, 1931, Pages 392-397
IV: Odes Of Duty
SMRITIS are traditions imparted orally; the word Smriti means Memory. The occult origin is obvious: facts which could not be transcribed were passed on orally; also the cultural value of memory was so fully recognized that the ear was regarded as more important than the eye and the spoken word came into greater educational use than the written word. Their other name is Dharma-Shastra — Codes of Law, or the Lore of the Laws of Duty. There are four great Codes recognized, even by the British Government Courts, and these are constantly used to seek for precedents, etc. Just as the Itihasa-Puranas are living realities in Indian homes, so are the Smritis vital and essential in statecraft and civic administration. They are: (1) Manu Smriti, about which one of the great Theosophical Mahatmas wrote to H.P.B. to advise students of esotericism “to study Manu;” (2) Yagnavalkaya Smriti; (3) Shankha Likhita Smriti; (4) Parashara Smriti. There are also others, some of which contain rules and laws for special occasions and precedents for untoward and not ordinary cases.
Of all the Smritis the Manu Smriti is the most important. It is also known as the Manava Dharma Shastra. Like other authentic texts it begins with universals from which it proceeds to particulars. Why ethics and rites of a particular description should be practised is demonstrated by the fact that these rest on, and have their origin in, philosophical and metaphysical truth. Therefore the Code of Manu begins with the story of Svayambhu, the Self-Existent which shines forth of Its own Will and which can be perceived by subtle sight only. Then follows the manifestation of all else — human principles, spirit, mind, body and their cosmic correspondences and sources. In short compass but without lacunae the Code lays the foundation, cosmic and universal, for human conduct. It advises all men to learn the Sacred Law which is fully known by the Enlightened Ones; but to which an intuitive assent is given by virtuous mortals who then follow it; it imparts to those who practise it the power of powers — to become exempt from hatred and inordinate affection (II, 1). If the learner, because of the intuitive urge, is intent on the performance of his own Duty according to the teachings of this great Code, he finds that in him opens the eye of discernment (II, 8). And as not a single act performed by mortals on earth is free from desire (II, 4) the Code essays the task of teaching how to perform congenital duties.
Now the whole struggle of human existence lies in the struggle of duty. Man discards his proper duty because it is unpleasant and through attachment he assumes duties which are not his, and thus forges links of future bondage. He rushes to perform actions which are not his duties and runs away from their legitimate reactions when these have to be faced. What then is congenital duty? As an ordinary mortal is not capable of determining by his own unaided effort, the Master-Codifiers give indications, signs and tokens. How shall a man know what his duty is? By following the instruction imparted in the Codes, where different stages of human evolution, each with its appropriate qualities and attributes, are described. Just as in a new city with the help of a map the traveller finds out in what particular street of the city he is, and where that street leads to, so also with the aid of the Codes a soul born in a new environment can learn his place and position in the scheme of things. For this reason are rites and sacraments laid down, and castes and states detailed. From birth to death, life is one long ritual and the life-thread, sutra-atma, is Duty.
It would be impossible to give in full what the Code of Manu offers. Moreover, we must guard against interpolations by priests and others with vested interests. Once again, the key of Theosophy, the religion of common sense par excellence, must be applied. According to the Bhagavata Purana, far back in the mists of a forgotten past, time was when there was among the Hindus only “One Veda, One Deity, One Caste.” Then came the cycle of natural divisions into four castes, which later were degraded into the tyrannical institution which the system now is. We will here examine the two principal teachings about Caste (Varna) and State (Ashrama) especially as they have a practical bearing on, and can be of service to, our modern civilization.
The origin of Caste is said to be Brahma Himself; to make the earth prosper He caused the Brahamana to be born of his mouth, the Kshatriya of his arms, the Vaisha of his thighs and the Shudra of his feet. The significant point to note is that they are all born of Brahma, and that really in their original forms no distinction of superiority or inferiority is made. These castes are universal and the Code of Manu applies to the entire human kingdom. “In order to protect the universe, He the most resplendent one assigned separate occupations to those who sprang from his mouth, arms, thighs, and feet” (I, 87), and it is said that “there is no fifth caste” (X, 4). Those that are not born from Brahma are named Dasyus. Much misrepresentation and misunderstanding exists in this matter, because in reality the four castes have an esoteric significance and represent the work of four classes of super-physical, but all the same corporeal beings (S.D. II, 89) who are devoid of intellect (S.D. II, 91). The Secret Doctrine contains the real key to the solution of this problem. First, it must be clearly grasped that, however important a part birth may play in it, the institution of caste is determined by the inner birth marks. In earlier Yugas when the swing of evolution was rhythmic, physically and super-physically, materially and spiritually, caste laws worked infallibly, i.e., only an appropriate soul incarnated in the caste body. But in this Kali-Yuga, the caste-confusion feared by Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita has taken place. Nowadays in exceedingly rare cases do soul virtues find virtuous vehicles in which to incarnate. All over the world caste-confusion prevails, causing innumerable problems — among them, the problem of Varna, colour. The colour problem in America, in India and elsewhere will find its true meaning and solution when Manu’s Code is really understood, and for that the key of the Esoteric Philosophy has to be applied.
The Code of Manu says: “Behaviour unworthy of an Aryan, hardness, cruelty and habitual neglect of prescribed duties, betray in this world a man of impure origin” (X, 58). By this criterion there are but few caste-men in existence! Again there is much in this paradoxical statement: “Having considered the case of a non-Aryan who acts like an Aryan, and that of an Aryan who acts like a non-Aryan, the creator declared — ‘Those two are neither equal nor unequal.'”
The Gita defines the virtues and attributes of each caste. His own Karma determines the caste into which a soul is born, as by his past Karma he attracts to himself his instruments which possess Gunas or attributes. Karma and Guna — actions and qualities — determine the caste of a man. We must note the dual element of forces, spiritual and material. Caste is not of the Soul, nor of the body, but arises out of the conjoint action of the two. Krishna is the “author” of these (Gita IV, 13). The natural duties of the four castes are defined (Gita XVIII, 41-44).
Each and every human being belongs to one of the four castes: He whose natural bent is to study and to teach, to sacrifice his self to Self and his self for other selves, to be generous in giving and to humbly accept gifts, he is a Brahmana, whatever his walk in life. He whose natural bent is to offer protection to all, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifice, to study and to fight against sensuous life, he is a Kshattriya, whatever his status in life. He whose natural bent is to amass wealth by agriculture or trade, to borrow and lend money, is a Vaishya, whatever his place in life. He whose natural inclination is to be dependent on others and to labour for them is a Shudra, whatever position he occupies in life. These natural bents expressing qualities show what vices one should avoid and what virtues one should cultivate.
Still more practical is the division of a single life into four compartments called Ashramas or states to which also the Smritis make pointed and repeated reference. Let us glance at them.
The Caste institution depicts the larger circle of the steady and rhythmic unfoldment of the man through many lives. The colours of his qualities from that of dark Inertia, through the green of Mobility, to the golden lustre of Truth and the radiance of the white Purity of the One Self, mark the steady and long progress achieved. Esoteric science teaches that this change of colours of the inner astral man verily does take place. Shades of colour in the Astral Man are as real as pigmentation of the skin, colour of the eye, lustre of the hair, etc., in his physical body. These developments represent a long line of evolution through the round of many births and deaths, and belong to the entire human kingdom.
Similarly, the Codes of Duty lay down the rhythm of progress in the smaller circle of a single incarnation. If there is caste-confusion, and its sequence, non-recognition of the fact that man’s evolution can be made to proceed along harmonious lines, so also is there confusion in this Kali-Yuga, when youths who ought to be learning are wage-slaves, when men and women who ought to be building homes are utilizing demoniac devices to shatter the dignity of parenthood, and when old men are clinging to worldly possessions or have to cling to worldly avocations, and die in harness with their minds fixed on earth instead of in the quietude of spiritual contemplation. It may take a longer time for the modern man to see the wisdom of the ancient teaching about caste, than to understand the four stages through which each one passes in a single life. Once the latter scheme of rhythmic progress is perceived, however, it will not be very difficult to see the truth underlying the former.
What is the teaching about the four ashramas or orders?
Each human being should pass through (1) studentship, (2) family life, (3) non-worldly contemplation, (4) service of his fellow men.
I. Studentship is named Brahmacharya — service of Brahman, i.e., the student is acquiring knowledge now for the service of omnipresent Deity or Nature, to last for the rest of his life. The term is translated as continence, celibacy, because sex-purity is the centre-virtue, the foundation of the life of the learner — “let him never waste his manhood” (II, 180). Also, learning, which is regarded as an accumulating process, has as its bodily counterpart the preservation of the creative forces, the gathering in of the forces which, in the next stage only, should be used. The relation between these two is to be seen in this verse: “Those organs which are strongly attached to sensual pleasures, cannot so effectually be restrained by abstinence as by a constant pursuit of knowledge” (II, 96). Therefore has the term Brahmacharya this dual meaning — celibacy and service: creating bodily and intellectual progeny follows the gathering in of seminal powers of both types.
Wisdom is the goal of the learner and whatever branch of knowledge he may be engaged in acquiring he is called upon to observe the following general rules:
A wise man should strive to restrain his organs which run wild among alluring sensual objects, like a charioteer his horses. Those eleven organs which former sages have named, I will properly (and) precisely enumerate in due order, (Viz.) the ear, the skin, the eyes, the tongue, and the nose as the fifth, the anus, the organ of generation, hands and feet, and the (organ of) speech, named as the tenth. Five of them, the ear and the rest according to their order, they call organs of sense, and five of them, the anus and the rest, organs of action. Know that the internal organ (manas) is the eleventh, which by its quality belongs to both (sets); when that has been subdued, both those sets of five have been conquered. Through the attachment of his organs (to sensual pleasure) a man doubtlessly will incur guilt; but if he keep them under complete control, he will obtain success (in gaining all his aims). (II, 88-93).
Rules of life are stressed much more than the subjects of study. What would an undergraduate of to-day say to this:
Let him abstain from meat, perfumes, flavouring substances, and doing injury to living creatures. Let him abstain from anointing his body, applying collyrium to his eyes, as from desire, dancing, singing, gambling, looking at or touching women; also from idle disputes, backbiting and seducing or being seduced.
II. The Householder stage unfolds out of the student stage. The student lived in his teacher’s home, which was like unto a boarding school. Grihastha ashram is the stage of home-building which follows marriage. This stage is considered to be the highest of the four, for from it the other three spring. (VI, 87).
As all living creatures subsist by receiving support from air, even so all orders subsist by receiving support from the householder. (III, 77).
Elaborate and detailed rules and regulations for this stage are given — beginning with marriage. Our modern students of Eugenics who are groping in the dark will gain much by a careful and discriminative study of these sections of the Code of Manu. To those who believe that the Laws of Manu hold woman’s estate to be low the following may be cited:
Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law if they desire their own welfare. Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields reward. (III, 55-56).
It would be impossible to go into details and so we will permit ourselves one more quotation which sums up the vocation of a Grihastha, a gentleman:
Let him not, out of desire attach himself to sensual pleasures, and let him carefully obviate an excessive attachment to them, by reflecting on their worthlessness in his heart. Let him avoid all means of acquiring wealth which impede the study of the Veda; let him maintain himself somehow but let him maintain study because through study he secures the realization of his aims. Let him walk the way of life bringing his dress, speech and thoughts to a conformity with his age, his occupation, his wealth, his sacred learning and his race. (IV, 16-19).
III. Vanaprastha, the Forest-dwelling stage follows. When a man is beginning to become wrinkled, when grey hairs are turning white, when he sees his grandchildren around him, then is his time for the contemplative life, to practise which he must seek retirement, either committing his wife to the care of his sons, or accompanied by her, if she be willing. The industry of the forest-dweller is reciting the sacred texts; his independence is not receiving gifts; his ritual is with the three sacred fires. The Code describes what he should eat and how he should live and in order to attain union with the Supreme Soul he must study the Upanishads.
IV. Just as the student stage is the preparatory stage for that of the householder, so also the forest-dwelling stage precedes the fourth, that of Sannyasa, complete Renunciation. In this, a man comes in contact with his fellow-men and lives for them:
Let him not desire to die, let him not desire to live; let him wait his hour, as a servant for his wages. Against an angry man let him not be angry; let him bless when he is cursed; let him not utter speech, devoid of truth, scattered at the seven gates. Neither by explaining prodigies and omens, nor by skill in astrology and palmistry, nor by giving advice, let him ever seek to obtain alms. By deep meditation let him recognize the subtile nature of the Supreme Soul, and its presence in all organisms, both the highest and the lowest. Let him recognize by the practice of meditation the progress of the individual soul through beings of various kinds, a process hard to understand for unregenerate man.
The student of Theosophy will recognize in all this much of his own instructions and in his sincere effort to change the mind of the race will find these ancient ideals of profound significance and great value. Both simplicity and beauty have gone out of life. Ugly complexities have imprisoned the Soul and have produced wickedness. Unrighteousness prevails because Dharma, the Law of Duty, is not practised. Its knowledge will help us to bring the world to Duty and with Duty simplicity of life as well as its beauty will come to abide.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 11, September, 1931, Pages 495-501
V: On Revelation
SRUTI means Revelation. Smriti results from remembrance of “what is heard,” i.e., Sruti. In the Western religions, both in modern Christianity and in its parent Judaism, Revelation connotes that which is revealed by God to his chosen Prophets. In Hinduism it does not mean that at all. By purity of life, study, and meditation the human soul becomes capable of hearing the Song of Life which Mother Nature chants in the Voice of the Silence; such highly evolved souls repeat in the language of words what is heard; that repetition is Sruti or Revelation. On the banks of the sacred rivers, in the heart of the living forests, wise ones heard by the soul what the Mahatmas and Nirmanakayas and Devas said and sang; they saw by the Soul what the “upholders of the universe” who are “the knowers of the essence of things” were doing by way of duty and of sacrifice; what they heard and saw they described and that faithful description is the Sruti. This is not the work of one or several isolated individuals, but is the great record of Truth made by checking, testing and verifying the work of each with that of all others and by centuries of experience.
The Sruti is composed of the Four Vedas. Occultism teaches that these were delivered by Primeval Sages on Lake Manasa-Sarovar beyond the Himalayas, tens of thousands of years ago.
It is, comparatively speaking, not important to argue out the exact era in which the Vedas were first transcribed, or subsequently arranged. The stages seem to be, first, the age when they were heard and remembered; second, the age when they were fully transcribed; and third, the age when they were rearranged till their present form was reached. H.P.B. says, “They are the most ancient as well as the most sacred of the Sanskrit works.”
There exist to-day four Vedas: Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. Whether or not the Vedas known to-day retain their Original Impulse and their Original Vision is doubtful; this, however, may be taken as certain, that the efficacy of even what exists does not consist in their surface-meaning, but in their correct chanting. Originally there were three classes of priests, learned and holy, Hotri, Adhvaryu, and Udgatri; the first used the Rig, the second the Yajur, and the third the Sama. The use of the fourth or Atharva Veda was confined to a few versed in the esotericism of the three.
The Hymns of the Rig Veda are highly philosophical and describe the processes of visible and invisible Nature and name the Presiding Genius over every such process. Even to-day by right repetition pure minds can understand the plan of action in Nature which is a Living Whole.
The Chants of the Sama Veda are songs of peace and praise which unveil the Powers and Potencies of that Living Nature; even to-day rightly sung they produce results.
The Rites of the Yajur Veda detail the performance of all sacrifices; why, where, when and how these rituals should be performed is taught. The real knowledge is mostly lost, for it rests on that Faith or Will which is so rare, and so even the intellectual understanding of what is meant and implied has become difficult. With the rise of Spiritual Knowledge, which strengthens Spiritual Will, the effective art of pure ritual will again become known — first in India, and then in the world.
The sacred incantations, formulas and aphorisms which cure all diseases, bodily, mental and moral, and also by which magical phenomena can be performed, are given in the fourth or Atharva Veda.
These four make the foundation of Sruti or Revelation, on which a majestic edifice stands.
Each Veda is divided into three parts: Mantras or Samhitas, Brahamanas and Aranyakas. Mantras are verses used as charms and made up of sounds of power. Samhita means collection. In each Veda there are verses of sound power, and all these as a collection are known as the Mantra Samhita of the Veda. They make majestic poetry addressed to the Devas and sing their glory. In days of old these Mantras were practically efficacious in their use. At present all recognize them to be mystical and powerful but the knowledge and their practical use are confined to the charmed circle of Mahatmas and Their disciples; but their mere repetition is very general and while people do not know how to use them they are aware because of tradition that a certain Mantra is meant to produce certain definite results. Their occult power, however, does not reside in the words but in the inflexion or accent given, and the necessary sound originated thereby. Among very orthodox Brahamanas even to-day, there are a few who have acquired by heredity-osmosis the correct intonation and their automatic repetition is not altogether fruitless.
There is, however, an extended meaning which should be given to the institution of Mantra to understand fully all that this section of the four Vedas stands for. Every letter of the alphabet represents a Number, has a form and colour, besides a sound. In the Sanskrit alphabet there are forty-nine letters, each a number with a colour, sound and form, and each is representative of a hidden Power in Nature, of a Force of the invisible universe, called a Deva, a Shining One, a Resplendent God. Deva-Nagari is the name of the characters of the Sanskrit alphabet.
There are therefore Words of Power like Aum, Sat, Tat; or phrases and sentences like the Gayatri. Thus to give an example of these words lit by and born of fire: Manu records that Prajapati milked from the Vedas three fiery words — Bhur from the Rig, Bhuvah from the Yajur, and Swar from the Sama. All three are creative potencies. The Satapatha Brahamana explains that they are “the three luminous essences” extracted from the Vedas through heat by Praja-patis, Progenitors. Brahmá uttered Bhur, and lo! the earth; Bhuvah, and thereupon materialized the firmament of Astral Light; Swar, and there was the Heaven of Ideation. It is said, and truly indeed, that Atharva-Veda yielded the fourth luminous essence and the word Mahar, but it is so purely magical that its very intonation cannot be even taught, but results from the purification of the lower triad in man.
Brahamanas are distinct from Mantras. They are authentic commentaries on those portions of the Vedas which were intended for the ritualistic use and guidance of the caste of Brahamanas, and include prayers. The real Brahamana caste (not the one of Census reports) is composed of men and women who are all twice-born, Dwijas, born in the Occult World, of the Race of the Deathless Ones, in the Home or Lodge of the Parentless — Anupadaka. Real Brahamanas are the Sons of the Fire Mist. The numbers of that Deathless Race were and are recruited from the races of men, which live and die. Time was when the institution of caste (Varna or colour) was real and was known and recognized; to-day it is real in process and operation, because it is a fact in Nature, but is unknown and unrecognized. In modern India, however, caste has become a corrupt and degrading superstition and Brahamanas, lawyers, clerks or cooks, are no more twice-born than the most despised chandâla. These latter are known sometimes as those who eat the flesh of dogs, behind which also there is a mystic meaning. Now alas! most Hindus, though strict vegetarians on the physical plane, eat, metaphorically and metaphysically speaking, dog’s flesh. The untouchable caste, the Pariah or Panchama, is really not only the one-sixth of the Indian people who are submerged and depressed from the socio-economic point of view; but from the inner and occult point of view most Hindus are black in colour (Varna) having polluted themselves with that which in our phrase is represented by “dog’s flesh.” Another graphic expression which is a metaphor is that the true Brahamana is the protector of the kine. Chapter after Chapter in the Mahabharata is devoted to the subject, but the modern Hindu, who is meticulous on the physical plane not to be cruel and who builds pinjra-pols where old animals are fed till they die, is not the protector of the kine in the real sense.
Now the Brahamana portion of the Vedas contains ceremonies and prayers which are efficacious only when performed or said by the real Brahamana — the dwija or twice-born. In the hands and on the lips of the ordinary temple-priest they are a farce, and worse than a farce. Millions superstitiously indulge in the second-hand performance of these ceremonies, and hope against hope that the purohit’s lips are still capable in some kind of a way of charming the inflexible gods of justice who are also merciful! Thus we have in India the ludicrous superstition, immoral and weakening, which is a variant of the laying on of hands by ordained priests of Roman and other Christian churches. The Brahamana priests’ “apostolic succession” is more clever, nearer to the base of truth, from which all priest-caste have strayed, and so more dangerous, more glamorous.
Aranyakas are books for forest dwellers — “meditation in the forest.” They were studied by holy hermits and sages endowed with great mystic powers. These were the Gymnosophists spoken of by Hellenic writers — “the air-clad” mendicants. Retiring into the forest they reach, through great austerities, superhuman knowledge and experience. The world famous Upanishads form part of the Aranyakas of the Vedas.
In addition to these three there are treatises on science and philosophy.
Shad Angani or Vedangas — Six Limbs, or Limbs of the Veda — may be said to be the complement of the Brahamana portion of the Vedas. They consist of very condensed aphorisms called Sutras and commentaries on them. They deal with some seventy sciences classified under six main heads:
(A) Shiksha (Phonetics), (B) Kalpa (Rituals), (C) Vyakarana (Grammar), (D) Niruktam (Etymology), (E) Chhandah (Prosody), and (F) Jyotisham (Astrology).
It is not possible in this series to deal with the science lore of ancient India. Interested readers should turn to the Positive Background of Hindu Sociology, by Prof. Benoy Kumar Sarkar, which deals with geography, ethnology, mineralogy, botany, zoology, physiology, biology and mechanics; also to The Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus, by Sir Brajendranath Seal; then to Hindu Chemistry, by Sir P. C. Roy.
In the closing article we will examine in outline the six schools of Indian philosophy known as Shad Darshanani.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 12, October, 1931, Pages 535-539
VI: The Six Demonstrations
AS this is an age of logic and induction when analysis of beliefs and ideas is the natural method of approach to any subject, those Hindu systems of thought which utilize it are most popular among western scholars. More than any other, the six schools of Indian philosophy, as they are popularly called, are specially favoured by western investigators because they come closest to western ways of reasoning. The Vedas are mystical, the Puranas are folk-lore, even the six limbs of the Vedas offer but unproven statements — such is the general opinion. On the other hand, the six philosophical schools argue and explain propositions and something can be made of them — so say the philologist-philosophers. Hence their popularity.
It must, however, be pointed out that in spite of all the treatises written and lectures delivered on the six schools their soul has eluded the grasp of most of the western savants as of most of their Indian compeers. This is to be expected in the absence of the Theosophical Key which the Esoteric Philosophy provides.
H. P. Blavatsky calls these six schools six Demonstrations. They are like the six cardinal points; each of them presents but one view of truth; not one of them in itself is complete; even the six taken together are not complete; for there is still a seventh darshana known to genuine Chelas of the Masters or Rishis (see H.P.B.’s Glossary — “Occult Sciences”) which in Hindu terminology is Guhya or Gupta Vidya, i.e., the Esoteric Demonstration.
Each of these six schools demonstrates completely the whole of the world-process from one particular angle of vision. The same universe, the same world-process, the same panorama is looked at from one side and then another. Just as a building can be examined from the north and the east and the south and the west, then from above and then from the foundations below, and yet its real worth cannot be perceived unless one enters the building and looks at it from within, so also a philosophical proposition cannot fully and truly be demonstrated unless the seventh step of examination is taken.
Now, why is it that the seventh point of view is not presented, the seventh Demonstration is not made? Neither perverse reticence, nor even spiritual consideration of any kind whatever is responsible. The simple fact is that the seventh viewpoint may be likened to a kind of fourth-dimensional vision. No microscope, no telescope can uncover the fourth dimension; where observation fails, there mathematics steps in and can demonstrate the concept of the fourth dimension. It would be as absurd to refuse to listen to a mathematician because he can not by means of a microscope demonstrate to a man the fourth dimension of space as to say that because the esoteric is invisible to our mental perception therefore it does not exist. The scientist must turn mathematician; so also the ordinary intellectual enquirer must put away his familiar instruments of analysis, logic and inference and adopt a new mode of approach. Just as there are connecting links which bind, say the physicist to the mathematician, so also there are natural bridges which join the six schools of philosophy to their common but hidden spiritual soul, the Esoteric Science.
H.P.B. says that these six demonstrations “have all a starting point in common, and maintain that ex nihilo nihil fit” (Glossary under “Mimansa”).
All exoteric philosophies are concerned with the universe of Spirit-Matter, Purusha-Prakriti. Of the six viewpoints three are from the side of matter and the other three from the side of spirit. They are therefore interlaced. The seventh deals with that which links spirit to matter, and which also transcends both of them. Fohat, says The Secret Doctrine, is “at present unknown to Western speculation” (Secret Doctrine, I, 16). It is called Daivi-prakriti, the Light in and through which Krishna, the Unborn, takes name and form. The highest mystery of human consciousness, as also the grand and sacred mystery of Avataras or Incarnations, is hidden in this Light, which the Gita describes as Krishna’s superior nature (viii-5); again Krishna refers to it when He says, “I am born through my own maya, the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind.” The viewpoint or demonstration presented by this Light can only be acquired by first gathering the knowledge offered by the six schools; then, leaving the methods employed for that gathering, the seeker turns within and employs the only method recommended, that of self-energization, self-purification, and self-discipline. To speak of this seventh Demonstration falls outside of the scope of our article.
Turning then to the six exoteric Demonstrations, the first thing to note is that no single one of them will be found sufficient and that the thread binding them must be seen, especially because it is this thread which helps us to approach the shadowy traces of the seventh to be found in them.
The six Demonstrations are:
1. Vaisheshika, demonstrated by Rishi Kanada.
2. Nyaya, demonstrated by Rishi Gautama.
3. Purva Mimansa, demonstrated by Rishi Jaimini.
4. Sankhya, demonstrated by Rishi Kapila.
5. Yoga, demonstrated by Rishi Patanjali.
6. Vedanta, demonstrated by Rishi Badarayana.
The first three seem to present materialistic outlooks; really they examine the universe from the point of view of matter. The remaining three, however, deal primarily with the consciousness aspect. But each of them is regarded as an explanation of the world-process and as showing part of the way to the Emancipation from that world-process. If the student misses the synthetic viewpoint he will err, as so many others have done, and see one school as antagonistic to one or all of the others. Thus to take but an example — Vedanta-Sutras show the fallacies of the Vaisheshika system, not to overthrow but to supplement that system. In that connection we must also bear in mind that these six Demonstrations are age-old; they have passed through a long evolution; what is extant now is not the unaltered and unadulterated facts originally presented. Interpolation and withdrawal in no small measure have left their marks in each system. It is one of the tasks of the votary of the Second Object of our Theosophical Movement to remove the grain from the chaff and to show the unity underlying them, to show that they are but parts and phases of one whole.
Let us now turn to a brief examination of these six Demonstrations:
I. Vaisheshika. The object of knowledge is Padarthas — Predicates of existing things. They are seven in number: (1) Dravya — Substance (metaphysically) which “is not destroyed either by its effect or by its cause,” — uncaused and eternal. Of these there are nine — five are atomic substances and four are pervasive; the former are earth, water, fire, air and manas, and the latter are time, space, akasha, and atma. Of these nine eternal and ultimate substances Atma is the most important, for by it all others are cognized. Thus arises an endless number of souls. (2) The second predicate is Guna or Gunatvam — Qualitativeness; there are 24 qualities enumerated of which five belong to all substances, viz., number, dimension, individuality, conjunction and disjunction. (3) Karma or better Karmatvam — Activity is five-fold and is described in terms of Motion: throwing up, throwing down, contracting, expanding and going. Cause-effect is examined under this category in a most interesting way. (4) The fourth predicate is Samanya, i.e., the unifying common basis, the relation of a thing to its genus, sometimes translated as Generality or Generalness. (5) Visesha is the opposite of the fourth and is called Particularity or what constitutes an entity or individuality; from this category the school derives its name and title. (6) Samvaya or Inherence, through which it is said of cause and effect that the one abides in the other and Karma and Karta, deed and doer in each other. (7) Lastly, Abhava — Non-existence, referring to the condition of a thing before its creation or manifestation and after its destruction and dissolution. The knowledge of these Predicates results ultimately in emancipation, for the universe comes into existence mechanically because of them, runs mechanically because of them, and dissolves mechanically because of them. Learn the mechanics of the universe and you are freeing yourself from the tyranny of that great machine.
II. Nyaya. To learn of the mechanics of the universe one must seek knowledge. The essence of knowledge lies in the proofs of cosmic ultimates, to obtain which one must learn about sixteen categories — (1) Pramana — Proofs, (2) Prameya — Objects of proof, (3) Samsaya — Doubt, (4) Prayojana — Purpose, (5) Drishtanta — Example, (6) Siddhanta — Proven knowledge, (7) Avayava — Premises, (8) Tarka — Logical reasoning, (9) Nirnaya — Conclusion, (10) Vada — Discussion, (11) Jalpa — Wrangling, (12) Vitanda — Caviling, (13) Hetvabhasa — Fallacies, (14) Chhala — Quibbles, (15) Jati — Futile analogies, and (16) Nigrahasthana — Unfitness for arguing, which is always to be regarded as an occasion for rebuke. An enquirer to turn student must first acquaint himself with these, to save his own time and that of those from whom he is learning.
Of these the first two are the most important and we shall have space to examine only these.
The ways of gaining proofs are four and they bring right knowledge about twelve things. We have to prove to ourselves the correct value of (1) Atma — the Self, (2) Sharira — Body, (3) Indriya — Senses, (4) Artha — Objects of sense, (5) Buddhi — Intuition, (6) Manas — Mind, (7) Pravriti — Going forth, (8) Dosha — Fault, (9) Pretya-bhava — Change of existing nature or Transmigration, (10) Phala — Fruit thereof, i.e., Karma, (11) Dukh — Suffering, (12) Apavarga — Emancipation therefrom.
By what means can these proofs be obtained? By (1) Pratyaksha — Perception, (2) Anuman — Inference, (3) Upamuna — Comparison, and (4) Shabda — Word, i.e., Recorded Knowledge.
Perception implies use of the senses which is to be aided by Inference, a mental process, in which the law of analogy or correspondence or comparison should be used, and in seeking this comparison the Record of Seers and Sages should be utilized. Shabda — Word, is described as the instructive assertion of a reliable person, i.e., One who Knows.
III. Purva Mimamsa is also called Karma-Mimamsa. It is the record of interpretation which must be examined and studied prior to turning to the spirit-defining schools which flower in Uttara Mimamsa, generally called Vedanta, end of knowledge. It is called Karma-Mimamsa because this record explains the method of rituals and the meaning of material events, etc. The Sutras of Jaimini enquire into and expound Dharma — Law and Duty of ordinary life. As Dharma cannot be fathomed by mere perception and inference, the use advocated by the previous school of applying the law of correspondence and of the study of the Record should be adopted. Therefore these Jaimini-Sutras deal with Adhikaranas or Topics of which there are nearly a thousand. For each topic a Vedic text is offered about which there is doubt. Then follows the setting down of the prima facie view and its refutation. The whole process yields the final proven view or Siddhanta. These are the five limbs of every topic. For living the ordinary life intelligently, not by fanciful thinking or isolated personal reasoning, this school provided a substantial basis. This brings us to the highest view of material life — world life according to religious injunctions, which must be followed intelligently and must not be merely believed in.
IV. Sankhya. The Philosophy of Numbers or the Numerical Demonstration. Much of the original philosophy is reported to be lost to the public world and what is extant is a system of analytical metaphysics. It discourses on twenty-five Tatvas — Forces of Nature in various degrees. Like the very first, the Vaisheshika School, this also is called the “atomistic school” and not without good reason; for in this Demonstration the point of view is of the Spirit, while in the first it was of Matter. It explains Nature by the interaction of twenty-four elements with Purusha (Spirit) modified by three Gunas; it teaches the eternity of Pradhana, primordial homogeneous matter, or the self-transformation of nature and the eternity of the human egos.
This school teaches the permanent prevention of the three-fold pain as the supreme purpose of life. The Purusha or Spirit is free from all association, is not bound by Karma, or by time, or by space; it seems so bound, but this is only verbal, not real, and it resides in human ideation; and the notion of bondage arises in Buddhi through A-viveka — Non-discrimination. The Purusha is felt by us to be bound because of His seeming indifference as a spectator of all the changes taking place in Prakriti, i.e., Buddhi, etc.; the bondage is but the reflection on Him or It of the impurities seen in matter. These three kinds of pain, spiritual, mental and bodily, produce three kinds of bondage, and therefore there are three ways of release, from Karma, from existence in form, and from repose in one’s own Self. The whole process of the Sankhya is to seek for the Number One — the One Purusha, who is at the core of every individual. The original treatise to be studied is Tattva-Samasa, a work of greater value even than Sankhya-Pravachana-Suttra.
V. Yoga of Patanjali is very well known to students of Theosophy. It carries on the thread of the Sankhya. Having found the Purusha behind the 24 tattvas the human spiritual Being must seek and find the union (Yoga) with the universal aspect. Much confusion exists and discussion takes place as to whether there are many Purushas or one Purusha. The Sankhya stops at the human spiritual individuality face to face with dangers and possibilities and Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras continue the line of further advance, showing how man can become Super-Man, i.e., a Universal Potency. Such a Jivan-Mukta or Master is called Dharma-Megha, Cloud of Dharma. Just as rain comes from clouds so do Law, Virtue, Instruction descend from the Mahatma. Also, just as the cloud makes the vision of the sun possible for ordinary sight by standing between the sun and the eye, so also does the Jivan-Mukta, the great Guru, enable his disciple to catch a glimpse of the Universal Self — the Spiritual Universe, boundless and timeless.
VI. Vedanta — Summation of Knowledge. Just as the first two Demonstrations lead to their practice in Purva Mimamsa, so the Sankhya and the Yoga Demonstrations produce the practical code which earnest souls desiring to know the Truth may study so that practice and realization may result. That is why it is called Uttara Mimamsa. The reputed author of Vedanta-Sutras, Badarayana, is known as Vyasa. H.P.B. says that “there were many Vyasas in Aryavarata” and adds that “the Puranas mention only twenty-eight Vyasas, who at various ages descended to the earth to promulgate Vedic truths — but there were many more.”
In more recent centuries three principal schools of Vedanta have arisen. They are the well-known Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita and Advaita. Their equally well-known exponents are, respectively, Madhva, Ramanaja and Shankara.
The Dvaita School emphasizes the distinction between the Human-Spirit-Being and the Universal Self and shows the distinction between the spiritual and the carnal natures in man.
The Vishishtadvaita emphasizes the union between the Human-Spirit-Being and the Universal Self provided the former purifying himself of his carnal nature becomes a vehicle of that Supreme Self. It hints at the continuity of the Human-Spirit-Being in some state in unison with the Supreme Self.
The Advaita emphasizes the absolute identity of the Human-Spirit-Being and the Universal Self. Man in his innate Nature is the Indivisible Whole — all else being part and parcel of Himself in His ultimate aspect.
. . . . .
Not articles but volumes will have to be written to reveal in their pristine grandeur the Landmarks of Ancient India. Here are indicated but a very few sign-posts, each of which takes the active seeker on a different road of the Great Journey. For immemorial ages, yuga after yuga, on the mountain ridges and in the forests on the plains, India’s sons have struggled with the fogs of ignorance and the upas trees of superstition, gaining the vision splendid of which one here has sung, another there has spoken for the guidance of the weary-footed pilgrim of this Age of Darkness. If we humbly bow in devotion to the Ancient Seers and Sages we too may succeed in fully understanding the Mission of the Mighty Ones who have never ceased speaking the Word, the latest from whose ranks was our own teacher — H. P. Blavatsky.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 20, No. 1, November, 1931, Pages 19-25