Perhaps the first and certainly a very influential Mahayana teaching.  Here is how Fa-tsang's (643-712) commentary begins:

The True Mind that is serene and vast is separate from the words and forms found in the fish nets and hare snares (of deluded conceptualization).

Abstrusely boundless, invisible and inaudible, it is neither the object of that which knows nor the subject of that which is known. 

It is neither produced nor destroyed and is not something affected by the four momentary states. Neither coming nor going, none of the three time periods can change it. But, taking non-abiding as its nature, it flows and branches, rising and falling in accord with  delusion and enlightenment. So, in dependence on causes and conditions it does arise and is destroyed.

Nevertheless, though multitudes of phenomena repeatedly arise, rousing and popping about, (such activity) has never yet moved the Mind’s Origin. Still and quiet, empty yet formed it does not stand in opposition to karmic results. So, utilizing an unchanging nature it nevertheless dependently arises so that the pure and the impure are constantly differentiated.

Yet, in not abandoning conditions as Thusness, the sage and the common man become one. It is just like waves which because they are not different than the water’s movement, are just the water differentiated into waves. Furthermore, because the water itself is not different than the stream of flowing waves, it is just the waves manifest on the water.

Because of this, movement and quiescence interpenetrate, the ultimate and the conventional interfuse, and samsara and nirvana uniformly pervade one another.

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The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 23:

"Thus, were one to translate into English, using only the substantives and technical terms as employed in one of the Tibetan and Senzar versions, Verse I would read as follows: — “Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not; Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna), &c., &c.,” which would sound like pure Abracadabra."

In the word "Yinsin" the "n" should be "h". It is found in The Mahatma Letters, 2nd ed., letter #15 as: "Yin Sin or the one 'Form of Existence'," and in letter #59 as: "Yih-sin, the 'one form of existence'." It is found in Samuel Beal's 1871 book, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, p. 373, as: "(yih-sin) the 'one form of existence'." Beal's early phonetic transcription "yih-sin" is in the later Wade-Giles system of transcription "i-hsin," and in the current pinyin system of transcription "yixin." It means the "one (yih, i, yi) mind (sin, hsin, xin)," Sanskrit eka-citta. It is what the Awakening of Faith starts with at the opening of its first chapter. It is the "True Mind" of Fa-tsang's commentary, quoted by Nicholas above.


The Awakening of Faith may indeed serve as a commentary on The Secret Doctrine, a needed commentary. As Nicholas wrote: "I insert these Buddhist texts and quotes not just for purposes of religious harmony or brotherhood.  If one wants to understand some of the root teachings of Theosophy, one will find a treasury in this text and this notion of yixin."

What is the "universal mind" of Book of Dzyan, stanza 1, sloka 3? We are not given much information about it. Is it the one mind, eka-citta, yixin, of the Awakening of Faith? If we agree that it most likely is, then we can proceed with what the Awakening of Faith tells us about it, and how this helps to explain the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan.


For Tsongkhapa, the "one mind" teaching must be interpreted. The one mind or the tathagata-garbha or the alaya-vijnana, if understood as they are stated in the Buddhist scriptures, would be no different than the Hindu atman teaching, he says in his Essence of True Eloquence. Therefore, since we can't have that, they must be interpreted.

This is why I raised the question as to whether we agree that the "one mind" of the Awakening of Faith is the same as the "universal mind" of the Book of Dzyan. If it is, then the Awakening of Faith helps us to understand it. At the same time, it brings out the difference between the teachings of The Secret Doctrine and those of Tsongkhapa, who many Theosophists regard as teaching the same as what The Secret Doctrine teaches.


David, the Universal Mind referred to in Stanza 1: 3 appears to refer to the manvantaric aspect of Universal Mind which hasn’t yet taken place at this stage of reawakening. To my mind this aspect of universal mind, by itself, isn’t that same as the “one mind” of 'The Awakening of Faith' because it is finite. As HPB writes: ‘Now the collective Mind - the Universal - composed of various and numberless Hosts of Creative Powers, however infinite in manifested Time, is still finite when contrasted with the unborn undecaying Space in its supreme essential aspect.’ (SD II 487)

However, as we both know, things are never straightforward when studying HPB as she also says that the Universal mind and Absolute mind are one, though we have to distinguish between the absolute mind which is ever present, and its reflections in the Ah-hi, those intelligences on the highest plane who reflect the universal mind collectively (SD Dialogues 28).

Taking those two aspects together, there does seem to be a strong connection with the One Mind and its two aspects as referred to in The Awakening of Faith:

        1. One Mind and Its Two Aspects.
The revelation of the true meaning [of the principle Mahayana can be achieved] by [unfolding the doctrine] that the principle of One Mind has two aspects. One is the aspect of Mind in terms of the Absolute (tathatā; Suchness), and the other aspect is the aspect of Mind in terms of phenomena (samsara; birth and death). ‘(Hakeda edition, p31)

As I understand it, Tsongkhapa argues that there is an absolute truth but not an absolute as a principle or basis from which all arises and into which all returns. The absolute truth for Tsongkhapa is that there is no absolute existence that can withstand analysis and not be found to be empty of inherent existence. This would suggest that Tsongkhapa's teaching on the ultimate nature of things doesn’t support the First Fundamental Proposition of the Secret Doctrine.  It's an interesting situation as Theosophy is often linked with the Gelugpa tradition and its teachings, founded Tsongkhapa.

I'd be interested to know your own thoughts on the above.


Peter, what you say is also my impression of this. To make sense of the teachings of The Secret Doctrine on the universal mind, we may accept the "one mind" in its two aspects as described in the Awakening of Faith. The Awakening of Faith and the Lankavatara-sutra and the Ghana-vyuha-sutra are the three known texts that equate the tathagata-garbha and the alaya-vijnana. The tathagata-garbha or buddha-nature is permanent, the permanent aspect of the one mind, while the alaya-vijnana or foundational consciousness is not permanent, the impermanent aspect of the one mind.

Book of Dzyan, stanza 1, verse 9, asks "where was the Dangma when the alaya of the universe was in paramartha?" The alaya, presumably the alaya-vijnana, was out of manifestation, "in paramartha." This appears to directly relate to verse 3, saying "universal mind was not." This equates the alaya of verse 9 with the universal mind of verse 3. But the alaya-vijnana is not usually considered to be the universal mind in Buddhism, and it seems doubtful to me that alaya-vijnana is the term behind "universal mind" in verse 3. Here in The Secret Doctrine Commentaries, when asked about her translation "universal mind," Blavatsky says three times that she is obliged to translate just as the stanzas give it, and that many verses come between that she has left out (pp. 30-34). To make sense of this, we may accept the equation of the alaya-vijnana and the tathagata-garbha, as the three above-mentioned Buddhist texts do. 

In its aspect of the permanent tathagata-garbha, the one mind would not be non-existent, but rather would be existent as a potential when it was out of manifestation. This is just what Blavatsky says in her commentary on this verse, that during pralaya the "'universal mind' remains as a permanent possibility of mental action" (SD 1.38), and in her Secret Doctrine Commentaries she describes the universal mind at this time as a "potentiality" (p. 30). Thus, universal mind "was not," but it was not non-existent. While the Buddhist texts speak of the alaya-vijnana ceasing, such as in the case of a buddha, they do not speak of the tathagata-garbha ever ceasing. When the two are equated as the two aspects of the one mind, this teaching well explains these verses from stanza 1 of the Book of Dzyan.


It is not only Dzogchen that teaches an alaya as distinct from the alaya-vijnana. The alaya is a basic teaching in the Sakya order, in their Lamdre teachings. The alaya is taught in the Guhyasamaja-tantra and related texts, where it is translated into Tibetan as gnas, "foundation," rather than its usual kun gzhi, "basis of all." So it is part of Gelug teachings. It is used in the Lojong teachings; see Jinpa's glossary in his book, Mind Training, p. 656. The Third Karmapa wrote "A Song on the Alaya," translated by Karl Brunnholzl in his book, Luminous Heart, p. 201. So it is part of Kagyu teachings. It is used by Dolpopa as short for alaya-jnana, "alaya wisdom," something ultimate, sharply distinguishing this from the alaya-vijnana, "alaya consciousness," something impermanent. So it is part of Jonang teachings. This usage was also adopted by writers of other Tibetan Buddhist orders, especially Kagyu, but not Gelug. Therefore, a case can easily be made that alaya in Book of Dzyan stanza 1, verse 9, may not be short for alaya-vijnana. It should be noted, however, that it very often is short for alaya-vijnana in Tibetan writings.


David and Nicholas, thanks.  I've often felt my forehead go into 'wrinkle' mode when I come across the term Alaya in HPB's writings, as it's meaning has seemed so variable and context dependent. What you say is helpful.

The Universal Mind of Stanza 1:3 could be interpreted a number of ways just looking at that page alone. However, I think what you say is right, David, once we take the SD Commentaries into account.

David, I have the other works you refer to but I'm not familiar with the Guhyasamaja-tantra. Does it go by any other name?


The Guhyasamaja-tantra has not yet been published in English translation, even though it has always been the main tantra studied and practiced in the Gelug tradition. Tsongkhapa wrote a number of works on its teachings, a couple of which are quite lengthy. One of these is his extensive commentary on its completion stage, in the form of a commentary on Nagarjuna's Pancakrama, "Five Stages," which is an exposition of the Guhyasamaja completion stage practices. This large commentary by Tsongkhapa has been translated into English and published twice. First by Robert Thurman, 2010, as Brilliant Illumination of the Lamp of the Five Stages. He translates Sri-Guhyasamaja as "The Glorious Esoteric Community." Second by Gavin Kilty, 2013, as A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages. He leaves Guhyasamaja untranslated. While English translations of book titles are very helpful, they also make a problem in cross-referencing, when each translator translates them differently. For example, Guhyasamaja has also been translated as "Secret Assembly." Very often then, with varying English titles, readers never know that the same book is being referred to by different authors.

Besides Nagarjuna's Pancakrama, another very important Indian exposition of Guhyasamaja practice is Aryadeva's Carya-melapaka-pradipa. This has been translated into English by Christian Wedemeyer, 2007, as Aryadeva's Lamp that Integrates the Practices. Tsongkhapa in a brief autobiographical account specifically says that with the help of this text he was able to get the meaning of the Guhyasamaja-tantra, and that this allowed him to successfully accomplish its practice. The Carya-melapaka-pradipa teaches the graded path in its exposition of the Guhyasamaja-tantra, and thus fits in with the overall graded path or lam rim teachings that Tsongkhapa and the Gelugpa order always advocated. Thus, Tsongkhapa wrote his famous Lam rim chen mo on the graded path according to non-tantric Buddhist teachings, and he wrote his sNgags rim chen mo on the graded path according to the Buddhist tantras.


Beautifully explained, Nicholas.