Moving on in the article on Scope, Structure and Method

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Why has the method of teaching in esoteric science been from universals to particulars?

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"Here we come across a view about synthesis and unification of knowledge which is different from the one ordinarily held in the modern world. Mme. Blavatsky’s synthesis has this advantage that the propositions of science, religion and philosophy brought together in her system do not clash with each other, but on the other hand blend together in a harmonious whole.

This synthesis is arrived at not by the method of putting details together, but, unlike so many modern syntheses, it proceeds from Universals to particulars. Parts do not lead to the whole; the whole reveals the parts. Thus the risks of the Inductive method are avoided and, from Principles and Fundamentals, applications are made and details are derived. From within without, Unity multiplying into diversity according to the Hermetic axiom of “As Above so Below” — the synthesis of The Secret Doctrine is like a burgeoning blossom; every petal of the bud stands revealed in its proper station and signifies its place, utility and value in the whole scheme of the flower.

From Universals to particulars has always been the process of teaching and exposition in the schools of esoteric science. We may mention in passing that care should be taken not to identify this old system with that of the Realists, the opponents of Nominalists who fought over a passage in a translation of Porphyry by Boethius. Nor should this procedure be mistaken for deductive or syllogistic inference in the science of Logic; for the prevailing use of deduction is practically identical with Aristotelian propositions which themselves have assumed different forms since they were brought before Western thought by Bacon. True Induction and Deduction are like spirit and matter — they exist and evolve together and are never separate. Pythagoras learnt to use them both correctly in connection with his Decad, and the intelligent student, if he is in earnest, will soon learn the art in the task that awaits him in The Secret Doctrine."

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So what does the process of working from universals to particulars entail, and what might some of its advantages be?

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"Why has the method of teaching in esoteric science been from universals to particulars?"

Probably because correct deductions can be made when the whole is known or seen, but correct conclusions cannot be induced from knowing or seeing only its parts. The most famous illustration of this is no doubt the story from the Jaina tradition of the five or six blind men and the elephant, which can be seen in the video posted here recently by Jon.

This has been used as an illustration of the Jaina teaching of anekanta-vada, "the doctrine of non-one-sidedness." This is the central philosophical teaching of Jainism, and has caused that religion to be quite tolerant. It says that nearly any philosophical position is true, but only true from one perspective, and therefore not true from another perspective. So they allow that the various Hindu and Buddhist schools are true from particular perspectives. What they disagree with is the idea that any one of these, such as the Advaita Vedanta Hindu view that all is the one brahman, or the Abhidharma Buddhist view everything is momentary, can be the absolute truth. An Advaita Vedanta rejoinder might be that when you see the elephant, you see that it is indeed one (and only one), and includes all the partial truths put forth by the five or six blind men.

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Thanks David. For anyone interested here is the video David mentioned:

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The Mundaka Upanishad:

"What is 'that' by knowing which all is known?"

and...

"Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body."

This idea of one universal Self is repeated throughout the sacred scriptures of the east. Approaching Universals to Particulars from this angle, the scriptures present the truth deductively, and it is the job of the reader, or meditator, to realize the truth inductively, by intuiting from the particular (the "I"), to 'that' which stands behind it. Does anyone else have any thoughts about this?
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It is certainly the case that the idea of one universal principle, called the Self, is repeated throughout the sacred writings of the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. I think we can say that it is also accepted in the Theosophical writings by Blavatsky and her teachers. But this idea is not accepted in Buddhism. Indeed, knowledgeable critics use this point to prove that Theosophy cannot have come from Tibetan teachers, as Blavatsky claimed. The idea of one universal principle such as the Self is rejected in Tibetan Buddhism, as well as in other Buddhism. So Buddhists cannot use this method of going from universals to particulars. For those who accept it, however, it does seem to be a good method.

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Do you think it is true that both methods are important in the philosophical process? Is the order what is critical?

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What I meant was could the inductive method play a role in the philosophical process even if we give the deductive method the preeminent position. We start with the deductive method and test with the inductive method forming a kind of dialectic.

From Damodar K. Mavalankar

"The student must first learn the general axioms. For the time being, he will of course have to take them as assumptions, if he prefers to call them so.... What the student has first to do is to comprehend these axioms and, by employing the deductive method, to proceed from universals to particulars. He has then to reason from the "known to the unknown," and see if the inductive method of proceeding from particulars to universals supports those axioms. This process forms the primary stage of true contemplation."


In this manner the inductive method serves as a test to verify the accuracy of and clarity of our deductive conclusions. Then we begin the process anew with a new set of insights.

Any thoughts on this?

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Using analysis of specifics to support the general law is not the same as using specifics to try and find the general law.

Ya, this seems to me to be what Damodar is essentially saying: we need the fundamental principles as guides for the inductive, so it can be used as verification. To me, the inductive follows after the deductive (to address Gerry's comment/question on order). We first have some insight into a principle and then investigate to see if our observations on the lower planes correspond to the 'as above, so below' rule. If the inductive doesn't support our insight into the principle (and the deductive process that comes from it), then there might be some error in the clarity of our insight.

Checks and balances.

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Your point:

Using analysis of specifics to support the general law is not the same as using specifics to try and find the general law.

This is a supremely important distinction. Thanks

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It is quite well known that in Philosophy the workings are from the universals to the particular , and so it works top down at every level of reasoning from the axioms obtaining at that level . Another noteworthy factor is that universals do exist at different levels and not necessarily be an axiom of the universal - universal nature . Again Philosophy (Theosophy) for that matter deals in Causes downwards . Science which is actually the investigation into Effects is more pliable for induction as particulars are involved . The upper limit (or Axioms in science) is still an Effect in the sciences and cannot be worked in a bottoms up approach unless a metaphysical assumption is made to "bridge" the so called gap in reasoning . This point is generally referred to as the "occult point" . So basically it will be more consumnate for a person to use Deductive logic when working from Causes and if one is working from particulars (which in Philosophy is not so easy unless a person is really well into the areas of Reason and Judgement within his knowledge with a keen intuition ).

Just by way of an example : If one were to assume that Gravity is a universal and reason deductively it would mess up with the reason in his intellect and consequently his ethics which should also be intuitive (rather than having to think about right or wrong before actions ) . But if one were to rightly infer that gravity is only valid as far as matter works on matter (and that too solids ) he would be able to "arrive" at an axiom on solids at a particular level of the intellect which may be used as a universal to deduct to lower levels . ie. more particulars - what essentially happens here is that the person thus has set an upper limit in his reason by this universal , which is utterly verifiable and can be worked down profitably (but only as far as matter is concerned as solid ) . Now he will not be able to work beyond his intellect when he has subsumed all the intermediary concepts within the primary axiom when he reaches the state of atoms . He obviously cannot go on reducing his primary axiom (which is gravity related to solids) beyond the penultimate step before he reaches an atomic imagery or mental imagery in his mind and knowledge in the intellect . In short the lower limit is drawn just before the matter (solid) in his reasoning within the intellect "turns" to an atomic way of thinking - for then the particular will subsume the axiom - as all matter can be reduced to atoms and their components of electrons and protons so homogeneity in his intellect and reason will be lacking and wrong mental images will be present . It is at this point where he reaches a "lower occult point" and has to then go back and  revise his preliminary statement to be more inclusive ie. Matter or his concept of matter as Solid has to be reworked to include liquids and gases which will clear up the lower occult point and bring it into focus as verifiable , but then even with an expanding of his concept of matter to include both liquids and gases he is faced with having to "rework" the primary axiom (which is on a superficial note true of gravity ie. observations as in science ) . But then gravity would no longer define the upper limit - by which I mean the word and word idea of gravity , since liquids and gases are not much affected by gravity just as birds in flight and air or space (the other great elements) . So the person is in a quandry he has achieved harmony at the lower level and resolved everything that is matter (as he has concieved at that stage) , but the upper limit requires a revamping in order to accommodate the lower within its scope . So he may resort to (in the light of the experience of his own logic and reasoning)  re state the original axiom as Gravity as power rather on the terms of magnetism or attraction and repulsion in the matter of people and feelings etc and keep at the exercise . It is possible to intelligently resolve both the lower and upper occult limits , by reworking and it does take a keen intellect to resolve the situation but quite rewarding , leading to a lot of insight into oneself and the world. In pure Theosophy(or Philosophy) - Induction onl works within the areas of science , and stops short at the occult points in within the intellect , yes a revision can be done if one is very inclined to the inductive method only as DKM has stated - but one has to be rightly intutive as to having reached the Occult point whether higher or lower necessitating the making of a metaphysical assumption as abridge . It can be done at any level and mostly occult points occur where "agency" comes in thought in the transformation or production of an object of knowledge .

I hope I have been helpful and not too obtuse. As you have rightly mentioned it is supremely important - this distinction , since a person can be stymied for years on his path if he is not careful - I am not against DKM but the pitfall for a student of theosophy is that say he reaches an occult limit at the top , he being a student of theosophy would easily make the metaphysical assumption (which is rather easy in his case) of a "self" or a "one" or a "monad" which would allow any other linkages in his thinking and he would become unknowingly slack in his reasoning , and allow all kinds of "energy and vibrations and movements' etc of atoms to conceieve of the astral or higher planes of consciousness - this is an impediment .Bodily ideas are superimposed on finer states of consciousness which have no relation to the body idea . A little practice and care will go a long way in raising ones intuition .

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But this idea is not accepted in Buddhism.

I find this very interesting. It leads me to a couple of questions:

Who do you refer to when using the terms "Buddhism" and "Buddhists"? Aren't there are a wide variety of beliefs and interpretations throughout the various schools of Buddhism, and among individual 'buddhists'? Or is it the case that none of them accept this idea? (genuine question)

What are these Buddhist's interpretation of "Adi-Budha", "Adi-Buddha" and "Adi-Buddhi", etc.? Aren't they getting pretty close to the concept of the Absolute with these? Or is their interpretation entirely different than the theosophical?

Aren't Bodhisattvas viewed as the reflections of Adi-Buddha in Buddhist philosophy? And if so, doesn't this lend itself to the idea of one underlying Self?

Very curious this...

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Buddhism has three defining characteristics, accepted by virtually all Buddhists of whatever school. They are: (1) the truth of suffering (duhkha); (2) the truth of impermanence (anitya); (3) the truth of no-self (anatman). These three define a Buddhist as being a Buddhist, and distinguish him or her from other religions.

The third of these, no-self, has been understood by Buddhists down through the centuries as specifically countering the Hindu Vedanta teaching of the one universal Self, equivalent to brahman. Such an idea is rejected, and Buddhists accept instead the idea of the momentariness of all things. These ideas are well put in Walpola Rahula's standard book, What the Buddha Taught.

The idea of an adi-buddha is found only in the Buddhist tantras (texts rejected by southern Buddhists), and only in a comparatively few of these, such as the Kalachakra Tantra. It there has little resemblance to what is found about it in Theosophical writings, copied from early books having no real knowledge of it. As Urban Hammar points out in his article on adibuddha in As Long as Space Endures, p. 206: "The most common use of the word adibuddha in the Kalacakra texts is in referring to the very texts themselves."

The other two words, adi-budha and adi-buddhi, have not been found in any known Buddhist text. Any idea of an adi-buddha similar to a one underlying Self has been strongly rejected by the vast majority of Tibetan Buddhists, with Tsongkhapa and the Gelugpas leading the attack. It was the charge that the Jonangpas were Hindus in disguise, accepting something that was compared by their critics to the Hindu Self or atman, that led to their being banned in Tibet and discredited there as real Buddhists.

I guess the question about Bodhisattvas being viewed as the reflections of Adi-Buddha has already been answered.

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Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 2, 2012 at 11:46pm
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Interesting. I didn't realize the term Adi-Buddha was so rare.

The third of these, no-self, has been understood by Buddhists down through the centuries as specifically countering the Hindu Vedanta teaching of the one universal Self, equivalent to brahman. Such an idea is rejected, and Buddhists accept instead the idea of the momentariness of all things.

It is quite humorous that we (humans) can't see the complimentary nature of such ideas. We are a silly race ;).

Whether we conceive of the ONE ALL as devoid of limitations and finite characteristics and thus determine it to be "no-self" (because IT is not an individuality) or whether we conceive of the ONE ALL as all there is, as the source of all selves and thus conceive it as "all-self", we are still dealing with one and the same conception. There is no essential difference except in perspective and language.

...Buddhists accept instead the idea of the momentariness of all things.

Key problem is the word "instead", the assumption that the ideas are mutually exclusive. The momentariness of all things can (and must) co-exist with the One unchanging reality - changeness and changelessness cannot be truly separate ideas, but must be sourced together. There's really no philosophical way out of that pickle. ;) One cannot have momentariness without that in which momentariness occurs, and given that consciousness cannot be separated from the idea of change, this means that there is something within which consciousness occurs which cannot be separated from that consciousness, and thus the idea of SELF becomes unavoidable.

That ONE SELF is both Self and No-Self. And that momentariness of all things is its one absolute attribute. Two systems, two perspectives, one truth.

The 'conflict' strikes me as a little like two people arguing about the color of the ocean - one demanding that the ocean is blue, the other demanding that it's azul! ;). The means by which to inwardly resolve such mayavic conflicts is the use of both the deductive and inductive methods, as Damodar explained in his article On Contemplation, so that we can move through the 'laya point' of the seeming paradox.

In regards to Buddhism, it also strikes me as interesting that notable Buddhists, like the 9th Panchen Lama, the current Dalai Lama, DT Suzuki, would promote the Voice of the Silence, which is a book with many references to the SELF and the Self, if such an idea is opposed to Buddhist doctrine.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 3, 2012 at 3:32pm
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HI Jon:

I take it that you are saying momentariness of all things with the Buddhists and the one universal Self with the Hindu Vedanta are essentially identical.  It is a matter of semantics or seeing it from a different angle.  I, too, wonder if the Buddhists are referring to specific planes when they say there is no-self because it is true on one level but may not so on another. (At the same time, I need to be very careful not to twist any teaching to my liking).  As human beings, it is unavoidable we sense that there is “something” bigger than us, more powerful than us, and know more than us which culminates to a sense of the All-Self.  One of the quotes peter posted explains this instinctive feeling –

'The mission of the planetary Spirit is but to strike the KEY NOTE OF TRUTH. Once he has directed the vibration of the latter to run its course uninterruptedly along the catenation of that race and to the end of the cycle -- the denizen of the highest inhabited sphere disappears from the surface of our planet -- till the following "resurrection of flesh." The vibrations of the Primitive Truth are what your philosophers name "innate ideas."' (Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett: Letter 18, p59, Chronological Edition. Letter 9, Barker Edition).

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 3, 2012 at 4:22pm
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I take it that you are saying momentariness of all things with the Buddhists and the one universal Self with the Hindu Vedanta are essentially identical.

More so that the concept of "no-self" and the concept of "all-self" are essentially identical, momentariness being an attribute of That. Basically, I see no conflict between the two teachings - the only conflict is in the interpretations, as is the case between all major religions. :)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 4, 2012 at 11:33pm
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Is it important for Theosophy to square with modern Buddhism? If the Secret Doctrine is sui generis, would it not be more helpful to know where Buddhism square's with Theosophy and not the other way around.  As students of the SD is it not our object to understand the Sui Generis teaching as our primary objective.   All the other traditions of the world distort the teachings of the Parent Doctrine.   Would this not also be true with Exoteric Buddhism?

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 6, 2012 at 8:09am
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"Is it important for Theosophy to square with modern Buddhism? If the Secret Doctrine is sui generis, would it not be more helpful to know where Buddhism square's with Theosophy and not the other way around.  As students of the SD is it not our object to understand the Sui Generis teaching as our primary objective.   All the other traditions of the world distort the teachings of the Parent Doctrine.   Would this not also be true with Exoteric Buddhism?"

Speaking for myself, no, I do not think it is important for Theosophy to square with modern Buddhism. I think it is important for the statements made by Theosophical writers about Buddhism to square with the facts. Only then can we find out where Buddhism squares with Theosophy.

This is important for the very reason that the Secret Doctrine is sui generis. Because it is unique and therefore new and unknown to the world, HPB frequently attempts to show its teachings by comparison with known teachings. She does this often with the teachings of Buddhism, and also with the teachings of Advaita Vedanta, which she says are the two closest of the exoteric religions to the Secret Doctrine.

Thus, for example, in her article, "Eastern and Western Occultism," HPB writes: "matter in abscondito, as it is called by the Alchemists, is eternal, indestructible, without beginning or end. It is regarded by Eastern Occultists as the eternal Root of all, the Mulaprakriti of the Vedantin, and the Svabhavat of the Buddhist; . . ." (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, pp. 233-234). She repeats this idea elsewhere (e.g., The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 46; BCW vol. 10, p. 304). But the comparisons are greatly weakened because the statements about Vedanta and Buddhism do not square with the facts about these known religions.

Today, Vedanta centers and Buddhist centers exist in major cities around the world. If you ask a Vedanta swami about "the Mulaprakriti of the Vedantin" you will find that there is no such Vedanta teaching. Mulaprakriti is one of the two primary principles taught in the Samkhya philosophy, and the Samkhya philosophy is the primary target of refutation by Shankaracharya in his most standard work, his great commentary on the Brahma-sutras or Vedanta-sutras. Insofar as Samkhya ideas are accepted in Advaita Vedanta, the other of the two primary principles, purusha, may be taken as equivalent to the Vedanta brahman or atman. But Advaita Vedanta accepts only one ultimate reality. So mulaprakriti, or simply prakriti, is relegated to maya, illusion, or avidya, ignorance.

Likewise, if you ask a Tibetan Buddhist lama about "the Svabhavat of the Buddhist" you will find that there is no such Buddhist teaching. On the contrary, svabhava (Tibetan rang bzhin or ngo bo nyid) is just what Buddhism denies. When Mahayana Buddhist teachers speak of emptiness, the emptiness of all things, the more complete statement is the emptiness or absence of svabhava in all things.

The erroneous idea about "the Svabhavat of the Buddhist" entered the Theosophical teachings through the writings on Buddhism then available, at a time when almost nothing was known about it. These were based on the writings of Brian Hodgson, the British Resident in Nepal in the early 1800s, and the only westerner allowed into Nepal at that time period.

The erroneous idea about "the Mulaprakriti of the Vedantin" entered the Theosophical teachings through the writings of T. Subba Row, an Advaita Vedantin whose knowledge HPB trusted because he was a chela of the Theosophical Mahatmas. But he was writing as an esoteric Advaita Vedantin. He did not distinguish his esoteric understanding from that of exoteric Advaita Vedanta, but simply put it forth as what Advaita Vedanta teaches.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 6, 2012 at 10:22am
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He did not distinguish his esoteric understanding from that of exoteric Advaita Vedanta, but simply put it forth as what Advaita Vedanta teaches.

This, I think, is very important. The esoteric teachings of any system are the teachings of that system; the exoteric are the interpretations of that system. The interpretations will never square with one another, anymore than any one of us is ever going to see with the eyeballs of another.

From my limited understanding, Svabhava is definitely a teaching contained in Buddhism, and the central argument for it not squaring with 'the theosophical view of svabhava in Buddhist teaching' is that the interpretations of what is meant by theosophists and buddhist don't seem to match. It is argued that (mahayana) buddhists don't recognize svabhava because they insist on the emptiness of all things, which, they imagine negates svabhava. But again, just as before, these two are not mutually exclusive, even if imagined to be by the majority of Buddhists.

Again, this goes back to the argument for the mutual-exclusivity of phenomenon and noumenon, which I argued against above. Emptiness doesn't demand 'no svabhava' any more than svabhava would demand 'no emptiness'.

Svabhava certainly shows up in buddhist writings, and what HPB is giving is a theosophical perspective of what that term is meant to mean, not how it is undertood by the layman. Similarly, Subba Row is giving Mulaprakriti as it is meant to be understood, even if that differs from the exoteric interpretation of other vedantins (question: did the advaita's come out against Subba Row after he taught this?)

It is a little like we have thousands upon thousands of middle-schoolers, and one or two university professors. We try to square the understanding of the latter by whether or not it conforms to the former and proceed to dismiss it when it fails to.

I do recognize that we need to understand and accept where Buddhist thought currently is, and be realistic about what the followers of it think, but I do also think its the duty of a theosophist to challenge their thought, even in regards to their own religion. We must ask them exactlywhat they mean by emptiness and by svabhava, to really push for explanation, because when pushed certain assumptions of such Buddhists may be found to be ill-conceived.

The erroneous idea about "the Svabhavat of the Buddhist" entered the Theosophical teachings through the writings on Buddhism then available, at a time when almost nothing was known about it. These were based on the writings of Brian Hodgson, the British Resident in Nepal in the early 1800s, and the only westerner allowed into Nepal at that time period.

Can you explain how we square this with your article on Svabhava, which seems to argue against the above point, wherein you say:

"What is said about svabhāva in the Book of Dzyan is not found in the writings of Brian Hodgson on the alleged Svābhāvika school of Nepal. It does, however, well match the idea that the dharmas are the svabhāva of the dharma-dhātu, and that the dharma-dhātu has svabhāva, both of which are in fact found in Buddhism."

http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/the-connection-to-a-svabhava-teaching-in...

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 7, 2012 at 6:33pm
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The svabhava question is complicated by the fact the this term is used in Theosophical writings in a way that does not reflect the svabhava issue in Buddhism. In Theosophical writings svabhava is an eternal essence. An eternal essence, under the name of atman, was understood by Buddhists to be denied from the beginning (whether it actually was or not is another question). 

The Buddhist worldview has from beginning to end been concerned with the dharmas, the elements of existence that make up the world and everything in it. These are seen as primarily psychological rather than physical, and thus are often translated from Pali texts as "states." Translators from Tibetan texts most often use "phenomena" nowadays. These dharmas are impermanent and momentary, and Buddhists have never doubted the tenet of the momentariness of dharmas. But according to early Buddhism these impermanent and momentary dharmas are nonetheless real. 

What makes the dharmas real is that they each have a svabhava, an inherent nature of their own. This svabhava is something that each individual dharma has that makes it what it is. A flower is a flower because it has the inherent nature of a flower. This svabhava is not a universal essence like the word was used in Theosophical writings. It is the inherent reality of the individual momentary dharma. It is this that Mahayana Buddhism rejected.

The Mahayana reform in Buddhism was to deny the reality of the individual dharmas. They did this by saying that the dharmas lack any svabhava of their own, as was previously held to be the case. The dharmas are empty of svabhava. Thus, ultimate truth for Mahayana Buddhism is emptiness, the emptiness of all dharmas, the absence of an inherent nature in any dharma. This is a way of saying that the dharmas are not ultimately real. The implication of svabhava, literally "inherent nature," is thus "inherent existence"; and this is how the term svabhava is often translated from Tibetan texts nowadays. 

This is the svabhava issue in Buddhism. The inherent nature or inherent existence of dharmas was accepted in early Buddhism. This was denied in Mahayana Buddhism. But this inherent existence, this svabhava, is that of the individual dharmas. It was not an inherent nature or inherent existence based on the dharmas being part of a universal essence such as brahman or atman.

So the svabhava accepted in early Buddhism, and denied in Mahayana Buddhism, is not svabhava as used in Theosophical writings. It is therefore quite erroneous and misleading to say, when speaking of an eternal essence, that it is "the Svabhavat of the Buddhist." Here it is not a case of Theosophy giving an esoteric interpretation of a Buddhist term. It is a mistaken usage, pure and simple, adopted from the erroneous books of the 1800s that attributed such an idea to Buddhism.


Next, to reply to your query regarding my statement that the erroneous idea about "the Svabhavat of the Buddhist" entered the Theosophical writings ultimately from the writings of Brian Hodgson, where you wrote:

"Can you explain how we square this with your article on Svabhava, which seems to argue against the above point, wherein you say:

"What is said about svabhāva in the Book of Dzyan is not found in the writings of Brian Hodgson on the alleged Svābhāvika school of Nepal. It does, however, well match the idea that the dharmas are the svabhāva of the dharma-dhātu, and that the dharma-dhātu has svabhāva, both of which are in fact found in Buddhism.""

The erroneous idea about "the Svabhavat of the Buddhist" did ultimately come from the writings of Brian Hodgson. The point I was making here is that the statements made about svabhava in the Book of Dzyan were not copied from Hodgson, as critics who think Blavatsky made the whole thing up may allege. Rather, what the Book of Dzyan says about svabhava matches two teachings that are actually found in Buddhism, although they are very little known there or anywhere and are not normally accepted teachings of Buddhism.


Finally, you wrote:

"Similarly, Subba Row is giving Mulaprakriti as it is meant to be understood, even if that differs from the exoteric interpretation of other vedantins (question: did the advaita's come out against Subba Row after he taught this?)"

Yes, they did. Since this reply has gotten way too long, I will use the expedient of referring you to where this is quoted,http://www.easterntradition.org/confusing%20esoteric%20with%20exote..., p. 21. In brief, they say that since mula-prakriti is maya, and there can be no maya in the state of moksha or nirvana, mula-prakriti cannot be eternal as Subba Row said it is.

It should also be noted that the word mula-prakriti is hardly ever used in Advaita Vedanta writings. It is not an Advaita Vedanta term. It so happens that it is used a few times in the treatise that is referred to here by Subba Row's respondents, the Vasudeva-manana.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 3, 2012 at 5:08pm
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"Key problem is the word "instead", the assumption that the ideas are mutually exclusive. The momentariness of all things can (and must) co-exist with the One unchanging reality - changeness and changelessness cannot be truly separate ideas, but must be sourced together. There's really no philosophical way out of that pickle. ;) One cannot have momentariness without that in which momentariness occurs, and given that consciousness cannot be separated from the idea of change, this means that there is something within which consciousness occurs which cannot be separated from that consciousness, and thus the idea of SELF becomes unavoidable."

Jon, I wholly agree with your reasoning here. But in doing so, I am agreeing as a student of Theosophy. If I was a Buddhist exclusively, I would have to disagree. Your statement, "One cannot have momentariness without that in which momentariness occurs," is the same reasoning used by Dolpopa, the primary Jonangpa writer. It is this very reasoning that was so strongly opposed by Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa order, by Santideva before him, author of the classic of the bodhisattva path, the Bodhicaryavatara, and by many other Buddhist writers. 

You can indeed have qualities (dharmas) without there being anything that they are qualities of, they say. This has been the Buddhist platform for at least two thousand years. Indeed, an integral part of this platform is that belief in any sort of a substratum of any kind will prevent one from achieving full enlightenment. Vasubandhu in his supplementary ninth chapter of his Abhidharmakosa, a standard text of the Tibetan monastic curriculum, specifically says that belief in the one universal self, the atman, is the major impediment to enlightenment.

Tsongkhapa takes the argument to a new degree of refinement in his most fundamental philosophical work, the Essence of Eloquence (Legs bshad snying po). This text became the basis of how Gelugpas (and many other Tibetan Buddhists) understand the world. In it, Dolpopa's reasoning that the very fact that the phenomenal world exists shows that there must be some noumenon behind it, is thoroughly refuted. For Gelugpas and most other Buddhists, there is no noumenon, nor can there be. There is only phenomena (dharmas).

Although such disputations over such questions may appear to us as being silly, they are viewed within Buddhism in full earnest and in great seriousness. To them, it is a matter of following a path that leads to enlightenment or does not lead to enlightenment. On the other side of the coin, the great Advaita Vedanta writer Shankaracharya states that the Buddhist belief that everything is momentary is pure folly that will lead one nowhere (Brahma-sutra-bhasya 2.2.32).

As may be seen, the greatest teachers known to history line up on the two sides of this issue. And these are the teachers put before us as examples in Theosophy, without telling us that they combat each other. It is only Theosophy that teaches, as you well put it, "Two systems, two perspectives, one truth."

Regarding the endorsement of The Voice of the Silence by three notable Buddhists, it is possible to endorse a thing because of an outstanding feature of it, while not endorsing everything else in it. The Voice was endorsed by these Buddhists because it promotes the noble bodhisattva path.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 3, 2012 at 7:23pm
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Thanks David. Your unique insights into the traditions is much appreciated!

Although such disputations over such questions may appear to us as being silly, they are viewed within Buddhism in full earnest and in great seriousness.

Certainly. And I fully respect that earnestness. I playfully call us (all humans, including myself) silly because... well, aren't we? We think we're separate beings, for starters. How silly is that! :) We think/believe all kinds of nonsense. It's difficult to portray online, but when I say we're silly, I say it with a genuine smile and much love for humanity, and I fully include myself, who I personally know to be hilariously inept! ;)

If we take an example from what you've said here, I think we can still see that it is only the interpretations that are seemingly in conflict, and we can do this by demonstrating another interpretation that has no conflict.

For Gelugpas and most other Buddhists, there is no noumenon, nor can there be. There is only phenomena (dharmas).

It can be both true that there are no noumenon and that there are noumenon, depending wholly on our philosophical perspective. Ultimately the divisions of noumenon and phenomenon can be seen to be relativistic  - i.e. from any specific position within the spectrum of reality there are noumenon (inner causes) and phenomenon (outer effects), but what appears from one level as noumenon is phenomenon to another, higher level, and so on upwards ad infinitum. Wherever I stand (and thus form my perspective of reality) I determine that 'below' (or without) are effects and 'above' (or within) are causes, but this is just as a knot on an endless string - from another knot, 'higher up', what I looked up to as noumenon, he looks down to as phenomenon. Thus, thereare noumenon and phenomenon as aspects of waking reality, which are experienced by manifest beings, while at the same time these are but relative realities subject to perception (whether sensory or subjective) and ultimately they must all be seen to be mayavic just as the very perceivers of them are mayavic.

We can apply this equally to the idea of Self or No-Self - Brahman is ultimately mayavic, and yet Brahman is also Self: relative per se, but absolute to those within its manifestation.

Think of an fetus developing in a womb. To it, the woman housing him/her is its absolute - there is nothing else. She is the cause, all within the womb is effect of that cause. The fetus cannot possibly conceive of her as anything but its absolute. Yet, from the perspective of that woman's husband or friends and family, she is but one of many human beings; she is relative, the effect of another cause, from within the womb of our universe.

To me it seems that the Buddhists take their (highly metaphysical) position which focuses more exclusively on the mayavic character of such concepts (one perspective), while the Advaita view it from another perspective which approaches such concepts as realities to us, which they are (i.e. Brahman is our reality, even if ultimately, philosophically relative and mayavic), and just as the blind men and the elephant, both are right from their perspective.

So, I'm still not convinced that the great teachers actually stand on two sides of the issue (for starters because I cannot imagine them to have been incapable of seeing what little ol' me can see). I still think they taught the same underlying concepts from two different perspectives. And, from this approach, it is entirely possible to be a Buddhist and subscribe to the idea of Self, just as it's entirely possible to be a Vedantin and subscribe to the idea of No-Self - since we can do both simply by an inner shift of philosophical perspective. We need not restrict our labels to the dogmatic norms (i.e. I can call myself a Buddhist (and I do consider myself a follower of Buddha), even if it conflicts with someone else's (or even the majority's) idea of what a Buddhist is). I would hate for a Christian, for instance, to be defined only by what the majority of Christian's determine to be the qualifications of such a term.

One potential reason for the refutations of one teacher to another:

Every great teacher comes to a specific time and place and to a specific culture and people - they have to customize their teachings to those they are teaching. Perhaps the prevalent cultural mind of the tibetans (and others drawn to traditional Buddhism) were/are such that the concept of a SELF as taught in Advaita would lead to unnecessary anthropomorphizations that would be more a hindrance than a help - perhaps for them it is better to take the "no-self" perspective - but perhaps those targeted by Sankaracharya (as those targeted by HPB) have mental make-ups that work well with the concept of SELF presented in that way.

There are many paths and each one necessarily has a unique view of the goal. If I were a teacher and I saw that the introduction of a different perspective would be harmful to those with whom I had taken the responsibility to instruct, I would certainly not hesitate to argue against it, while simultaneously teaching the point of view that will work for such people and while inwardly understanding the philosophical commonality of the underlying concept. And I'd do this because the goal is not to develop the perfect concept, but to use concepts as stepping stones to reach beyond the concept-building Mind. In essence, concepts are the philosophers version of the tools an artisan uses, and different artisans do better with different tools. A good teacher would recognize the right tools for his students and teach them, while guiding them away from tools that would only be harmful to their path.

p.s. that makes sense about the endorsement of the Voice. Thanks.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 4, 2012 at 1:57pm
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You make excellent points, Jon, and once again I find myself in agreement with them.

"So, I'm still not convinced that the great teachers actually stand on two sides of the issue."

Neither am I. But the vast majority of their followers are so convinced. I think it is important for us students of Theosophy to recognize this. The writings of Theosophists have often been justly criticized for being out of touch with reality in their depictions of the religious traditions of the world.

The great majority of Hindus believe that Shankaracharya drove Buddhism out of India because its teachings were faulty. The great majority of Buddhists believe that Hindus, with their idea of the one eternal atman or brahman, can never reach enlightenment. Both believe that the great teachers of the other religion taught a path of error. When Theosophists, then, try to reconcile the two teachings, it is understandable why we would be regarded as having our heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich.

Of course, there are many people today who are sympathetic to a view that would reconcile the two teachings. For Theosophy to provide this, we must start with a recognition of these religions as they are found, and then offer a plausible scenario for this. I think you have offered just such a scenario in your post. In the unending scale of life, what is absolute truth for one being will be relative truth for another being. So as you said, "It can beboth true that there are no noumenon and that there are noumenon, depending wholly on our philosophical perspective."

What makes this a difficult position to promote, is that the direct heirs to the teachings of Shankaracharya or of Tsongkhapa will not accept it. If anyone knows what Shankaracharya actually taught, it is the Advaita Vedanta sannyasis who are in a direct lineage from him, and if anyone knows what Tsongkhapa actually taught, it is the Gelugpa lamas who are in a direct lineage from him. For the sannyasis, there is only noumenon, and for the lamas, there is only phenomena. It is regarded as highly presumptuous for we Theosophists to say that we know better than they what their respective teachers meant.

Nonetheless, there is actual historical evidence for the Theosophical position. There is evidence that misunderstanding occurred to such an extent that it pervades the respective religious traditions. There is evidence that the Buddha never denied the atman/brahman taught in the Upanishads, and there is evidence that the Shankaracharya who is credited with driving Buddhism out of India lived more than a millennium after the original Shankaracharya.

So yes, there is plausible evidence that the great teachers do not actually stand on two sides of the issue. This evidence must compete with the whole weight of tradition against it. But it is there, for those who are interested in it, and who seek a more satisfactory outlook on life than the either/or syndrome that has characterized known history.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 5, 2012 at 9:03am
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Thanks again David. Wonderful reply!

But the vast majority of their followers are so convinced. I think it is important for us students of Theosophy to recognize this.

You're right. I personally may neglect this a bit too much. I can understand why we'd be seen as out of touch with the reality of the traditions. I don't think we're out of touch with the reality of the teachings though, but you're probably right and we could do more to bridge the gap between ourselves and the many followers of the various traditions. I'd have to agree with Nicholas's approach below on that subject.

Both believe that the great teachers of the other religion taught a path of error.

Of course, this is the way of religious dogma and tradition, across the board. I think it's fine and healthy for many people to prefer one religion over another and to dedicate themselves to one path (they all lead to the same source if followed sincerely), but what you point out here demonstrates where problems arise. It's fine to prefer our own, but as soon as we think another's is fundamentllywrong we begin to sow the seeds of animosity.

What makes this a difficult position to promote, is that the direct heirs to the teachings of Shankaracharya or of Tsongkhapa will not accept it.

Yes, which is why I think we ought not bother trying to convince them. It's the secular youth that the theosophical perspective ought to be demonstrated to.

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - Max Plank

It is regarded as highly presumptuous for we Theosophists to say that we know better than they what their respective teachers meant.

We see this everywhere, even in non-religious circles. Someone who considers themselves an expert is not likely to listen to the perspective of someone they consider to know less than them. A scientist is just as likely to dismiss the thoughts of a theosophist if said person has no degree to back them up. A sanyassi or a lama is not likely to listen to a theosophist either, even if said theosophist does know his teacher's teachings more thoroughly or from a more complete perspective. That manifestation of human nature sure doesn't appear to be going anywhere ;)

This evidence must compete with the whole weight of tradition against it. But it is there, for those who are interested in it, and who seek a more satisfactory outlook on life than the either/or syndrome that has characterized known history.

Completely agree. And though it may be a slow uphill climb, I think we theosophists need to continue attempting to demonstrate the underlying commonalities, even when faced with opposition. If we can demonstrate them with clarity of thought and sound philosophical reasoning, some will accept the ideas.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 5, 2012 at 8:23pm
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The answer by Damodar is related to our discussion -

Vedantism and Buddhism*

[From The Theosophist, August, 1884.]
[*Comment by "An Enquirer" on "The Vedantasara" with Damodar's Note appended. — EDS.]
In the review of the Vedantasara on page 318 of Vol. IV of the Theosophist, I find the reviewer asserting that Sankaracharya's Adwaita teaching is identical with the Buddhistic exposition of Gautama Buddha, and that Sankaracharya "throughout his works keeps wisely silent about the esoteric doctrine taught by GautamaBuddha." He further challenges the Arya to disprove his statements. I now beg to draw the attention of the reviewer to page 76 of the Arya for this month, where a translation of Sankaracharya's remarks against Buddhism is given, and would like to know how he can reconcile this with his assertions. 9th June 1884. An ENQUIRER.

Note. —

The translation in the Arya is of Sankaracharya'sCommentary on the Brahma Sutras of Vyasa. TheBouddhas, therefore, referred to therein, could not have been the followers of Gautama Buddha who lived only about twenty-five hundred years ago, while Vyasa, who mentions the Bouddhas in his Sutras — against whom only does Sankaracharya argue — preceded him by several thousand years. Consequently the fact that Sankaracharya remains silent throughout his works about the esoteric doctrine taught by Gautama Buddha, remains perfectly sound and unassailed. Probably the so-called "Buddhist" religion in the time of Vyasa, the writer of the Brahma Sutras, was degenerated as we find the Vedic Religion in our times. Gautama was one of the reformers, and although his followers may have been known by the same name, it does not follow that the opposition to a religion called Buddhistic necessarily means antagonism to the teachings of Gautama. If that were the case, Gautama himself might be called an opponent of Buddhism, for he went against its abuses, and thus against the degenerated system known as Buddhism before his time. We maintain that the Arhat Doctrine of which the latest public expounder was Gautama Buddha, is identical with the Adwaitee Philosophy, whose latest public exponent was Sankaracharya. Hence the latter Philosopher's silence about the former's teaching. The objections urged by "An Enquirer" were already anticipated and answered by Mr. Subba Row in his article on "Sankara's Date and Philosophy." (See Vol. IV, Theosophist, page 306.)* — D. K. M.

*[Republished in Five Years of Theosophy, pp. 278-308. See also 1st footnote in "The Metaphysical Basis of 'Esoteric Buddhism' " below. — EDS.]

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 6, 2012 at 9:41am
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Thanks Barbara!

it does not follow that the opposition to a religion called Buddhistic necessarily means antagonism to the teachings of Gautama.

This seems to be at the heart of the issue, and I'd have to agree fully.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 6, 2012 at 11:17am
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The reply buttons have disappeared from some of the posts. This is in reply to Barbaram, who posted a quote on Vedantism and Buddhism by Damodar. I will try posting it in the vicinity, and hope it ends up in the right place.

Thank you very much for posting this important quote. It gives the view of Damodar on this question, and also refers to the same view of T. Subba Row, both of whom are highly regarded chelas of the Theosophical Mahatmas. These are good examples of Theosophical writers who would be regarded as having their heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich. With no apparent cognizance of the fact that the whole of India regards Sankaracharya as having driven Buddhism out of India, these two writers attempt to maintain that Sankaracharya did not refute the teachings of Gautama Buddha. They do not say that this is true esoterically, but write as if this is also true exoterically.

Damodar says that the Buddhism that is refuted in Sankaracharya's commentary on the Brahma Sutras must refer to a Buddhism prior to the Buddhism of Gautama Buddha. In the time of Damodar and T. Subba Row, almost nothing was known in India about Buddhism. So they did not know that the three forms of Buddhism refuted by Sankaracharya are certainly the three forms of Buddhism that existed in India in the first millennium C.E., Buddhism that traces itself to Gautama Buddha. These can be found in Sankaracharya's commentary on the Brahma Sutras, 2.2.18 to 2.2.32. The three refuted, in his own words, are the Sarvastitvavadins, the Vijnanastitvamatravadins, and the Sarvasunyatvavadins. As is now well known, these refer to the early Abhidharma Buddhists then generally known as the Sarvastivadins, the later Yogachara Buddhists also known as the Vijnanavadins, and the later Madhyamika Buddhists also known as the Sunyavadins. The descriptions of the doctrines refuted leave no doubt about this.

That the Buddhist Arhat Doctrine is identical with the Advaiti Philosophy is no doubt true, esoterically speaking. For this we can trust the statements of Damodar and T. Subba Row. But this is certainly not a fact, exoterically speaking.

Permalink Reply by Hari Menon on July 3, 2013 at 5:30pm
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Dear Jon,

  Just by way of inputs if it is of any help , The Buddhist teaching of non-self has been much misunderstood by the western world , there are no contradictions with that of the Vedas which is known as "neti neti" (it is actually na iti ,na iti ...iti) . Just by way of explanation and a small clarification - The non self of the Buddhists if you will is an English expression (Non-self) .  In the Vedas it is known as "This" - it is (both what Buddhism has been labelled with as espousing "non self" and the "this" of Vedanta ) .

It is basically a subject - object orientation to be understood and known before one enters into the study of either of these paths .

All objects (which are effects including the human body ) are the "non self" . Now in Vedanta it is a bit more subtler as it goes by language and sound , according to Vedanta all objects we designate as either "This'' or "that" based on proximity .Including topics of interest in the intellect ie. say astrophysics is a topic or an "object" within the intellect (whereas by a strange quirk of language we call it subject in the english language !!). Now basically since the aspirant starts out with an idea of "searching" for a something or requiring an evidence for the self or whatever it may be whether God, Self or Brahman or whatever it is the"That" just as we would point out an object afar to another and say "that is my house" or "that is the person I was talking about " (In the latter you will see that person may be a "topic" of discussion and need not physically be within our ken of the eyes ).

Now everything that we designate as "this" is something particular and can be pointed out physically in the first instance and described accurately ie. "This is the thing I was talking about " etc . So it is particularized even a forest though general in a way is particular when one says "this is the forest" . Now anything that can be so designated by the word "this" is an effect or an object and so is the non - self , as the self has no name, species or genus and is a non object and so does not come within the purview of names and forms . 

This in Sanskrit = Iti  which automatically means non self for a vedantin . That is all what Buddhism means by Not -Self . It pre supposes an understanding of what constitutes the self on part of a student (not experentially but by initiation or instruction from a master or guide or ally ).

The trick in both the Vedas and the Buddhist systems are to emphasize that the world is all objects , if taken on a whole and so effects and capable of being made into particulars or being observed. The only exception being animals and man which are conscious and so can become subjects or "observers of objects" but again the presupposition is that for an acute observer to be there (or a knowledgeable one) Reason and Judgement which are alone the privilege of humans restrict only human beings to the category of really intelligent subjects vis a vis the non self or objects .Suffice to say your body is an object to me and vice versa so it comes under the domain of non- self or "iti" . But since 

a) It is known by experience - humans are both conscious and intelligent and have reason and judgement and can stand in relation to an object as a subject , yet are part of objects (the world taken as a whole ) - the implication is that an observer exists who is 

a. Intelligent  b. conscious c. having reason and Judgement (basically intelligence) d. Knowledge etc to whom all things appear as objects but is incapable of being made an object as it is a formless (or bodiless subject ). 

It is pure and plain inference only as to the existence or nature of the infinite based on what we possess , for it would be stupid to infer that a son or daughter is intelligent and reasonable without the same being inherent in their parents(what ever the nature of their exterior manifestation) . 

So we have an emerging Axiom for our search based not on heresay but on firm knowledge and experience and observation . One has to be convinced of the above in reason and logic otherwise it is of no help if a person just "believes" that there is a self or God or Monad and then just pursues his interests , it would still in the end require validation if not now then at the end and the aspirant would be left with a sense of unfulfillment .

As Plato says anachronisms have to be avoided in thought and strictness employed towards ourselves , within the intellect - Sanathana Dharma is Older than  Buddhism and , there is a wrong notion that Buddhism does not believe in the Vedas - the central principles are same for all Indian systems of thought as well as the Origin, Source and its aims.  Buddhism was corrupted in later years by the followers of Gautama Buddha in later years and it degenerated into a very lascivious and perverted religion due to the large scale induction of undesirable elements into their system of thought which did not have any allegiance to the Vedas . This allegiance is not a sine qua non for realization or anything , but it is required to understand the purificatory process involved within oneself  , and covers many aspects of the inner equipments . I digress now coming back to the other point 

"momentariness of all things " is highly wrong and was never never a teaching of Gautama Buddha who is revered as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu among Hindus even today much as Adi Shankaracharya is revered as an avatar of Lord Shiva. These concepts are there so that the original teachings of these persons can be kept separate from the later dilutions from that of the third and fourth persons etc. 

We cannot assume anything in relation to the acts of great souls since their actions are manifestations of intent unlike normal people. In the case of Buddhists (not Buddha) - what happened in India was that a gross understanding of the Non Self and the second thing viz."momentariness of all knowledge" stymied further realizations leding to a degeneracy in the Religion it was incapable of producing self realized leaders as it stopped short at the Intellect and never investigated further into the Atma or what the basis for the empirical existence (or Ego) was . It assumed that the causal body was momentary and so the non self and hence liable to vanish just as all other objects , which was wrong - the causal body is made up of momentary knowledge and hence liable to be time bound , but such momentariness in "knowledge" could only be perceieved in the background of an unchanging substratum , it was not unknown to them but it suited their purposes as it would then mean that they would have to accept the findings of the Vedas at this late stage of development whereas they had espoused its non utility on the grounds that the BUddha had never espoused such a thing . It is only a quirk of history and control over religion and power by the exponents of Buddhism which led to this perversion in the intellect .

Shankaracharya who discredited such a form of Buddhism in later years - discusses it from the view point of "momentariness of knowledge within a person" and contrasting it with the knowledge of "Drik-Drishya Vivekam" or Subject Object orientation . In a way he ironically used the not - self approach of the BUddhists themselves and their understanding of it to discredit the Buddhism that was practised at that time in India . Sadly however there are many commentators both in India and the Western world who have made out cases of Shankara having incorporated many aspects of Buddhism and even gone to the extent of carrying out exegesis on his works - this is a total misrepresentation of facts since it again reduces the Buddhist system to the intellect and stops . Obviously if one disregards the effects of Vedas (Knowledge) of which is so intrinsic to man , it will end at non knowing only . A proper study and dissolution of the empirical self cannot be carried out and so fails miserably .

Intellectual knowledge is only acquired knowledge from worldly life and it grows and with the death of a person passes away into nothingness. The Buddhas instruction in silence is  interpreted as nothingness !! . If it is so then anything is permissible and ethics is of no use . It engenders the shady side of life .

I hope I have been helpful.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 4, 2012 at 11:21pm
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Isn't it HPB's contention that all the religious traditions find their source in a more ancient doctrine (Theosophia) and that it would predate Buddhism as well as Hinduism itself?  Therefore the notion that Theosophia, Gupta Vidya, Perennial Philosophy, whatever we call it could not have come from Tibetan Buddhism any more than it comes from Taoism or Plato?  Could it be that what HPB is trying to say is that all of these traditions show a common esoteric strain that is more or less faithful to the Parent Doctrine?

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 2, 2012 at 3:19pm
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From the theosophical and occult viewpoint the universals are the noumenon, the underlying realities perceived by the mind and intuition; the particulars are the things (phenomenon) perceived through the physical senses.

For Pythagoras and Plato, who is most often associated with this approach, the noumenal world is the Ideal world, the realm of essences; the phenomenal world is the ever changing world of effects, of appearances. 

When we talk about the process of deduction from the esoteric point of view it means to reason from essences (underlying causes) to their effects, from noumena to phenomena.  This is somewhat different to the usual meaning given to the term deduction in philosophical logic and science.

From a theosophical perspective Plato’s ideal world is:

"Cosmic Ideation, MAHAT or Intelligence, the Universal World-Soul; the Cosmic Noumenon of Matter, the basis of the intelligent operations in and of Nature, also called MAHA-BUDDHI."   

(SD I 16)

For Pythagoras, Plato and Theosophy:

- Plurality flows from unity. From the One comes the many.

- The essences or noumenon exist independently of their ever changing effects.  

The reason we say that the inductive approach proceeds from particulars to universals is that it’s starting point is sensory data, the world of effects and appearances, and from this sensory base it seeks to form general theories of causation.  For the inductive approach, theory (ideas) rests upon empirical data.  We’ve seen in western science this has led to theories whereby matter is the basis (cause) of consciousness and its various states.  Aristotle, for example, reasoning from empirical data argued that the soul was the expression of the body rather than vice versa. Essences cannot exists independently of their effects, from this perspective, which doubts the very existence of those essences or noumenon.

Much could be said about the methods of deduction and induction from a philosophical perspective but it really isn’t necessary to get caught up in all of that if we just remember the general approach of deduction and induction.  From an esoteric perspective deduction proceeds from essences/noumenon to effects, from the One to the Many and is apprehended by mind/intuition (buddhi-manas).  Induction proceeds from sensual perception of effects to generalities depending largely (but not exclusively) upon the operation of the rational mind in cooperation with the brain and physical senses.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 2, 2012 at 11:51pm
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Well said Peter. I agree, it's important to think of universals and particulars in terms of noumena and phenomena.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 4, 2012 at 11:13pm
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Very clearly stated, thank you.  How does this method effect the manner in which we study the Secret Doctrine?

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on November 3, 2012 at 9:29pm
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Coming from only learning particulars, I would have to agree with the statement of:

 Parts do not lead to the whole; the whole reveals the parts.

The bits and pieces do not give me the whole, only a riddle.

And in Spirit and Matter, is spirit 'mind' or is it seperate? In which, would we form the mind first to manifest the matter? (Only asking because I am not sure)

As for all the replies I read, and the Six Blind Men video, very valid points. Almost like taking a picture. We all look through the same lens, it's our own ego that changes perception. Same picture or same elephant.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on November 4, 2012 at 6:33am
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My view (or imperfect understanding):
Mind is an "activity" of Spirit, including thinking, willing, feeling, etc.; Spirit and Matter are opposite poles of the same thing. In the past I allowed myself to get lost in the metaphysical complexities that seem to flow from these kinds of terms. Presently, I find myself drained of my mental resources in the effort. Now I just refer all terms to a single unnamed and abstract principle. Maybe I should have done that to begin with. :)
Permalink Reply by Sharisse on November 4, 2012 at 1:25pm
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Hi Jimmy,

Thank you for your insight, it has given me a better understanding of the polarities in all things. Actually, your insight has a two fold process for me. Not only the polarities in all things, but of the Hermetic axiom 'As above, so below' and the correlation of it all. Without one, how do you have the other, and how could it be named singularly.

Maybe I should have done that to begin with.

Funny :) I don't mean this in a bad way at all, but your understanding has made mine a little easier, and probably will for many other people to come. So in a weird way I am grateful you depleted your mental resources and hope your resources fill back up all in one. :)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 4, 2012 at 2:11pm
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I'd have to agree with Jimmy here. We see this touched on in the Proem of the SD. It seems this polarity runs through all things, from high to low, so there is the "spirit-side" and the "matter-side" on every plane of being.

Actually there's this wonderful diagram from page 153 of volume 1 that shows this well. Under "human principles" we could say the the right side is the 'spirit-side', the left is the 'matter-side', so on each plane there is both 'spirit' (as it manifests on that plane) and an appropriate vehicle for it to work through.

As to which comes first... it seems to me that "matter" and "spirit" in essence are "co-eternal".

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on November 4, 2012 at 11:47pm
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So each 'spirit-side' on every plane descends into the matter/vehicle in order for it to work, as you were saying from high to low. Spirit and matter are synergistic. "co-eternal", just as the planetary division everything is created out of the other in the chain to which it belongs, so is spirt and matter. Thanks for sharing that. I didn't realize how central that was until after reading the few pages from the diagram.

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Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 5, 2012 at 3:21pm
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Well put!

The more I study, the more this pair 'spirit-matter' seems to hold almost thecentral position in the philosophy. There's a gnostic idea that all beings are composed of male/female pairs (syzygies), and this seems quite in line with the theosophical - every being is "consciousness" working through a vehicle.

One term I love that connects with this idea is found on page 9 of the Proem:

Space is called in the esoteric symbolism: "the Seven-Skinned Eternal Mother-Father."

But page 15 of the Proem is where the rubber really hits the road and the place of spirit-matter in the philosophy is laid bare. :)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 4, 2012 at 11:42pm
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Would it be fair to say also that Mind is a tool of spirit, a vehicle perhaps on a certain plane?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 4, 2012 at 11:36pm
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"This synthesis is arrived at not by the method of putting details together, but, unlike so many modern syntheses, it proceeds from Universals to particulars. Parts do not lead to the whole; the whole reveals the parts."

Could someone venture an example of this concept for us?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 5, 2012 at 11:16am
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Well, I'll throw out an analogy I like to use, which should support the complimentary nature of the deductive and inductive.

The analogy is putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We work with a box full of particulars (pieces), and begin attempting to put them together. It is possible to put them together (eventually) without a picture to guide us, but it is certainly easier and more direct with that picture available. It is also easier if one starts by putting together the boundary pieces (fundamental principles) and then fill the rest of the (inner / particular) details in.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, because when those parts are put together a picture is revealed that could never have been seen in any individual part or in any partial combination of the parts - it is only revealed when (at least nearly) all parts are properly arranged and combined. And that picture has a meaning that is beyond the incomprehensible mix of colors of each part.

We can expand the analogy to say that the inductive alone would be like dumping all the pieces on the table and then trying to see the picture without putting the pieces together in their proper arrangement. The deductive alone would be to merely stare at the picture on the box and assume it matches the picture that would develop from putting the pieces together. The combination of the deductive and the inductive would be to look at the picture and then verify it by putting the pieces all together.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 5, 2012 at 1:12pm
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Deduction and Induction.

Dear friends,

First of all, apologies for the length. Secondly, I am finding these threads physically hard to follow so this is not linked to any specific conversation.

I think we are making heavy going of this theme of deduction and induction. From the general standpoint of science and philosophy they each work as follows:

INDUCTION. These are inferences we make and which are drawn from events either from the present or from the past.

Example: I know from my experience that at at 7.35am a train leaves my local railway station and travels to London. Since this has happened everyday without fail since I have been travelling to London I reason from these events that there will be a train at 7.35 tomorrow. In other words, I reason from a series of particulars (repeated past observations) to a general rule or idea namely, 'a train always leaves my station for London at 7.35am.' This is an inductive inference which may turn out to be right or it may turn out to be wrong. Something may intervene to prevent this even occurring.

Much of our life is carried out with this kind of inference. There are all kinds of events, things and people we expect to come across everyday based on the inference that they have always done so in the past. That the sun will rise tomorrow is one of them. That it will rain when a certain type of cloud formation occurs at a certain height and temperature etc etc. That evening will come etc etc.

If I had never heard of the law of gravity and I observed repeatedly that when fruit became detached from trees they always fell down towards the earth I might infer from this that there is some force in operation that has an effect on all bodies causing them to fall to earth. If I was clever enough I may even formulate a general law as to how this force effects all bodies in the universe.

Induction works as follows:-  from observed events, we notice a pattern (or not) and from this infer a general law or rule in relation to those events. We can see from this that many scientific discoveries occur this way and many general truths (scientific theories) are generated by this method. However, as more and more events occur or as the measuring instruments becomes more powerful and refined new events (data) come to light which cast doubt on previous truths which are then reformulated.

There is never any certainty that inductive truths will always turn out to be true. Induction really deals with probability not certainty. Another example: when a criminal is tried by a jury the process of finding that person innocent or guilty is by induction (inference). Based on the evidence the jury finds that the person is probably guilty (or innocent) beyond reasonable doubt. However, no matter how much or how compelling the evidence there is always the possibility that some new evidence will come to light and lead to a different verdict.

DEDUCTION. Deduction starts from a set of premises (general ideas or theory) and from these a conclusion is drawn. The well known example is:

Premise 1.    All humans are mortal.
Premise 2.    Socrates is human.
Conclusion.  Socrates is mortal.

The above reasoning went from a general idea (a universal) from which is drawn a specific conclusion (the particular).

Unlike induction which can never provide for certainty, in a deductive argument IF the premises are true AND the argument is valid then the conclusion MUST be true.

What determines a valid deductive argument is its structure. The argument below is valid by way of its structure even though the first premise is not true:

Premise 1:     All humans are 10ft tall.    
Premise 2:     Socrates is a human.            
Conclusion:   Socrates is 10ft tall.          

The following argument is not valid by way of its structure:

Premise 1:     All humans are 10ft tall.
Premise 2:     Nelly is 10ft tall
Conclusion:   Nelly is human.

The above argument is not valid for obvious reasons. It doesn't necessarily follow that everything which is 10ft tall is a human. Nelly could be the name of an elephant.

What determines whether a deductive argument is SOUND or not is whether its structure is valid and the premises are true. If they are then the conclusion MUST be true. The argument below is SOUND.

Premise 1:        All mammals are animals.
Premise 2:        Dogs are mammals.
Conclusion:      Dogs are animals.

Of course, many deductive arguments are more complex than the ones given above and contain sub conclusions, further premises and final conclusions but the above structure applies to every stage.

The general statements given in the Proem of the SD, for example it's three fundamental proposition, are all laid down premises from which further sub conclusions, further premises, and further conclusions are offered either explicitly or left to the intuition of the reader to discover.  The truth of the conclusions we draw will depend on the truth of the premises.

Hope that is useful.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 5, 2012 at 1:18pm
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Here is a passage from Transactions of Blavatsky Lodge questions and answers to HPB.  Please notice that the term deduction is used in a different manner to that used in general science and philosophy:

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Q. Then all substances on the physical plane are really so many correlations or combinations of these root elements, and ultimately of the one element?

A. Most assuredly. In occultism it is always best to proceed from universals to particulars.

Q. Apparently, then, the whole basis of occultism lies in this, that there is latent within every man a power which can give him true knowledge, a power of perception of truth, which enables him to deal first hand with universals if he will be strictly logical and face the facts. Thus we can proceed from universals to particulars by this innate spiritual force which is in every man.

A. Quite so: this power is inherent in all, but paralyzed by our methods of education, and especially by the Aristotelian and Baconian methods. Hypothesis now reigns triumphant.

CW 10 349  (Transactions of Blavatsky Lodge pp57-58)

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 6, 2012 at 9:15am
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The reply buttons have disappeared from some of the posts. This is in reply to Jon Fergus, who wrote:

"Yes, which is why I think we ought not bother trying to convince them. It's the secular youth that the theosophical perspective ought to be demonstrated to."

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - Max Plank

Great quote from Max Planck. How true! It is indeed the secular youth that the theosophical perspective ought to be demonstrated to, as well as can be done.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 9, 2012 at 5:06am
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David has made some wise comments about our relationship towards other religions. In the posts that follow I’ve given a very brief summary of how emptiness (lack of: self nature/inherent nature/svabhava) is presented in different schools of buddhism.  This shows some very clear differences between the later Madhyamaka Schools (e.g. the Gelugpas) in particular and Theosophical teachings on svabhava.  However, it will be seen when looking at the Shentong Madhymaka school that there are potentially important areas of agreement with Theosophy, as also with Advaita Vedanta.

I have made this into four posts.  The first containing the views of some of the early schools in buddhism - the Vaibhasika and Sautrantika.  The second, the Cittamatra (Mind Only) School.  The third, two schools of the Madhyamaka systems:  the Svatantrika and Prasanga.  The fourth, the Shentong Madhyamaka (this contains teaching on the Ultimate Nature similar to Theosophy and Advaita Vedanta.  It’s not necessary for a student of theosophy to know these teachings, in fact to follow them might become a distraction from the study of The Secret Doctrine. So to ignore all these posts will not constitute a loss.  However, if you are interested they may provide for reference or for further thought. The condensation of these teachings into such a brief summary means that some views may not be presented clearly or have mistakes, or both.  Corrections are welcome.

PART ONE:

The buddhist doctrine of emptiness (absence) of a self of persons appears to have been a constant in all the public teachings of buddhism since the time of the Buddha.  However, the meaning of emptiness and what it applies to has evolved over time and also been a matter of fierce debate and conflict between different buddhist schools and sects, each evolving their own definitions of the meaning of ultimate truth and relative truth.  The basic meaning of emptiness applied to the self of persons is that this self is a conceptual contrivance (an imputation) which does not exist independently of the five aggregates (skandhas) of form, perception, feeling, mental-formations and consciousness. When this combination of aggregates falls apart or is broken down no separate self is found.  Theosophy would agree with this definition as far as the personality (the lower quaternary) is concerned.  

THE VAIBHASHIKA (GREAT EXPOSITION) SCHOOL:

was based on the Abhidharma texts said to convey the actual teachings of the Buddha.  These teaching were clarified and explained many centuries later by Vasubhandhu in his “Treasury of Higher Knowledge (Abidharmakosha) and his auto-commentary.

The Vaibhashikas taught the selfless-ness of persons, as explained above, yet argued that the five aggregates (skandhas)were substantially self existent. While the physical body or other like phenomena associated with aggregate of Form can be broken down, Vaibhashikas believed that no matter how small those particles the aggregate of Form itself always remains, therefore it is regarded as having substantial existence.  The same argument is applied to the other aggregates.

THE SAUTRANTIKA SCHOOL:

is thought to have come about as a development of a sub school within the Vaibhashikas.  They rejected the claim that the Abhidharma Texts were sutras (words of the Buddha) and claimed they were just shastras (commentaries by later Indian masters).  What is known of this schoo comes largely from Dharmakirti who lived centuries later.  As with the Vaibhasikas, this raises a question as to the accuracy of these later teachers in presenting the teachings of the earlier schools.

The Sautrantika School believed in the selfless-ness of persons based on the argument already mentioned above.  At the same time they asserted that there were truly independently existing phenomena: 

"Because all [real] things abide in their own essence, they partake in the differentiation between [themselves and other] similar and dissimilar things."  Dharmakirti (Commentary on Valid Cognition)

Along with the Vaibhashikas, they argued that things/events are made up of the aggregation of part-less particles (fundamental atoms) and part-less moments of consciousness. (While this theory was rejected by later schools, there is a similarity here between these fundamental atoms and the monads of Theosophy.)

The Sautrantikas argued that real things do exist and that these are the cause for consciousness to arise. A real thing occupies a definite location in space and time and comes into existence due to specific causes and conditions.  In other words it is not a conceptual construction. Real things also perform functions, whereas conceptual constructions do not.  Real things would be the equivalent to Ultimate Truths while concepts would be equivalent to Relative Truths.

A person is a conventional truth because it is seen as a conceptual construct imputed onto the aggregates and unable to perform a function.  It is the aggregates of body and mind that perform the functions.

continued

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Permalink Reply by Peter on November 9, 2012 at 5:09am
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PART TWO

THE CITTAMATRA (MIND ONLY) SCHOOL:

The above two schools are classified by later schools as part of the Hinayana System.  The founding of this school is traditionally linked to the two half brothers Aryasanga and Vasubandhu (mentioned above) and belongs to the Mahayana tradition.  

The Cittamatra school held to the selfless-ness of persons argument.  However Cittamatrins refuted the sort of claims found in the Sautrantika school that real things exist independently of a perceiving consciousness. 

They refuted the existence of external objects independent of consciousness, asserting this to be a false view based upon conceptualisation. What alone is real is the non-dual nature of mind which the yogi can rest in when the false appearance of the duality between object and subject is gone.

All experience and existent things are divided into three natures each with its own kind of emptiness.

Paratantra -       The Dependent nature.

Parikalpita -      The Imputed nature (conceptual fabrications, imagination)

Parinispanna -   The Perfect or truly existent nature

The Dependent nature:  all things that arise out of causes and conditions are other-powered. Lacking their own substantial nature all things depend on other things for their existence. The dependent nature includes all the six consciousness (5 sense consciousnesses and the mind) and their objects. These arise as the result of the causal flow of causes and conditions. The causal flow is known as the alaya-vijnana or mind-basis-of-all.  The dependent nature actually exists but is empty of conceptualisation (the imputed nature). 

Imputed nature:  We falsely apprehend objects as existing independently of the subject (mind, consciousness) when, according to the Cittamatrins subject and object are really one and arise from a single source (the alaya-vijnana).  This false apprehension of duality is the result of the kleshas (mental afflictions). The imputed nature is always empty of self-nature as are the names and concepts which flow from it. 

Perfect Nature:  The non-dual nature of mind.  Emptiness here is the absence of the subject-object duality. This is the self aware, self illuminating stream of consciousness that remains when the mental afflictions (kleshas)are removed.  This is the truly existent nature, which gives it a kind of absolute existence, and it is this “absolute” which the Madhyamaka Schools sought to refute.

Some Associated texts: 

Tathagatagarbha Sutra  (Buddha Nature Sutra)

Samdhinirmochana Sutra  (Sutra Unravelling the Thought)

Lankavatara Sutra (Descent into Lanka Sutra)

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continued

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 9, 2012 at 5:14am
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PART THREE:

THE MADHYAMAKA (MIDDLE WAY) SCHOOLS:

Originally based on Nagarjuna’s text Mulamadhyamakarika  Traditionally there are two main schools associated with this approach which are related to the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma.  There is also a third approach, the Shentong, associated with the third turning. All accept the argument of the selfless-ness of persons and selfless-ness of phenomena.

1. The Svatantrika 

2. The Prasangika

3. The Shentong 

There are two understandings of the term emptiness that distinguish the first and second schools above from the third.

RANGTONG: means ‘empty of self-nature’ 

SHENTONG: means ‘empty of other’

There are subtle but important differences between the Madhyamaka Rantong approaches of Svatantrika and Prasangika which would need a good space just to themselves to explore, so I won’t do that here, nor am I competent enough to do it full justice to the differences.

Put simply, Rantong Madhyamikas use analytical reasoning to establish that both objects and consciousness arise in dependency on each other and therefore neither have a self-nature of their own.  From the Prasanga point of view for something to have a self (an essence, or self nature) it must be able to exist by why of its own characteristics.  Its existence must not be dependent in any way on causes and conditions. 

Prasangikas don’t deny that things exist. They argue that things don’t exist in the way that they appear. Persons and thing appear to exist to a conventional consciousness as if they have inherent existence.  Prasanga’s argue that analysis shows that things and events and consciousness do not have inherent existence, which is merely imputed.   A classic example of the type of analysis used is Chandrakirti’s seven fold reasoning of the Chariot.  Seehttp://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Sevenfold_reasoning_of_the...

The object of perception named a chariot exists, if it didn’t there would be nothing to ride, but there is no such thing as a chariot that exists inherently i.e., above and beyond the parts that constitute it. If there were such a Chariot, when we completely removed the parts the Chariot would still remain.   The Chariot, like all things and consciousness, is empty of inherent existence.

In other words, according to this approach, things and consciousness exist (avoiding the extreme of nihilism) but these are all dependent arisings lacking inherent existence (avoiding the other extreme of eternalism). This is essence of the term Middle Way.

Importantly, Prasangikas assert that emptiness is not some kind of essence which is the real nature of objects and consciousness. Emptiness is merely the absence of self nature.  

ULTIMATE TRUTH and ABSOLUTE EXISTENCE.  There is an Ultimate Truth but there is nothing whose nature is Absolute Existence.  Emptiness of self (Rangton) is the Ultimate Truth of objects and consciousnesses.

The Prasanga view as developed from Nagarjuna’s teaching notably by Chandrakirti and later by Tsongkhapa is considered by the Gelugpas to be the Ultimate Truth taught by the Buddha.

The Madhyamaka Schools in general trace their roots to Nagarjuna’s teaching.  The primary teachings on emptiness associated with these origins are the Prajnaparamita Sutras (Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutras).

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continued

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 9, 2012 at 5:21am
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PART FOUR.

SHENTONG MADHYAMAKA:  

Affirms there is an Ultimate Nature, the Wisdom Mind (Jnana), which is ‘empty of other’ (shentong).

This approach includes the three natures and three kinds of emptiness expounded by the Cittamatrins. Shentongpas might argue that Svatantrikas and Prasangikas teach only the emptiness related to Parikalpita (the Imputed or imaginary nature).  Since the imputed nature (conceptual contrivance) has no existence whatsoever this would make the ultimate reality a mere nothing-ness.  Yet a mere nothing-ness cannot account for the operations of samsara and nirvana.

Shentong Madhyamikas argue that they are not Cittamatrins, though they are mistaken as such.  They hold, like Rantongpas, that the consciousness (vijnana) of the cittamatrins is without self nature.   Importantly, the Shentong view is that the non-dual self illuminating awareness free of concepts is not a consciousness (vijnana), as the Cittamatrins claim, but absolute reality, the Wisdom Mind.  When this is realised there is no seeing and seen, no realising and realised, there is only the Transcendental Supreme Wisdom (Prajnaparamita).  Other names for this are dhatu, dharmata and tathagatagarbha.  It is not a stream of moments of awareness, as Cittamatrins believe, it is totally without boundaries or limits, free of the concepts of time and space.

Shentongpas regard themselves as the Great Madhyamikas because like Rangtonpas their approach relies on freedom from conceptual contrivances but, in addition it includes the realisation of The Wisdom Mind (Jnana). In other words, Shentongpas use the Rantong approach to negate that which is empty of self-nature and the Shentong approach to realise The Wisdom Mind, which is that emptiness which is ‘empty of other’.  

‘Empty of other’ means that The Wisdom Mind is empty of all the defilements, afflictions, conceptual contrivances, duality and so on.  According to Shentong this is the ineffable true nature of all sentient beings, the ultimate absolute reality.  Before it is realised it is called Tathagatagarbha, when it is realised it is called Dharmakaya.  

From the Shentong point of view the Rangtonpas approach invariably involves some kind of negation which leads the meditator to subtly negate the light of the Wisdom Mind when it begins to break through.  This is why, they argue, that Prasangikas refute the ultimate nature of the Wisdom Mind.  Shentongpas argue that the Buddha’s teaching in the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma was meant to correct the approach of the Rangtonpas, just as the teachings of the Rangtonpas - part of the second turning of the wheel of dharma - are meant to correct the approach of the sravakas.(* See note)

From this perspective Buddha nature is what we are, our primordial existence, rather than something we become or a potential to achieve.  Like the gold buried beneath the soil, it is already existent, it shines through when the surrounding impurities (the afflictions and ignorance) are removed. We find a similar doctrine in Advaita Vedanta.  The Self (Atman) is our true nature, it is what we are not what we become and therefore cannot be realised through Karma (cause and effect).  The Non-Dual Awareness (Jnana) which is The Self shines through naturally once ignorance (avidya) is removed.

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* Note:  In other words, Shengtonpas claim that the Rantong teaching on emptiness (that all persons and phenomena are empty of self nature) was meant by the Buddha as a correction to the First Turning which contained selflessness of persons but not of phenomena.  The Shentong teaching is part of the third turning which teaching is meant as a correction to the Rantong approach.

The notion that Buddha gave three turnings of the Wheel of Dharma is found in theSamdhinirmochana Sutra, which is a central Yogachara text.  Of course, those traditions associated with the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma see it differently.  They argue that the Buddha gave a third turning of the Wheel of Dharma for those aspirants who were not yet developed enough to fully grasp the Ultimate Truth of the Rantong Madhyamaka teaching.  While this doesn’t sound like a logical development of the teaching, however, this is an argument put forward.  So Rangtonpas view the Shentong approach as inferior to their own and aimed at aspirants who can’t accept that everything is empty of self and there is no thing which has absolute existence.  Each view in Buddhism sees itself as superior and containing the ultimate teaching of the Buddha and others as containing only provisional teachings.

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Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 9, 2012 at 11:02am
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Thanks for sharing Peter. :)

I suggest we put this together so you can post it as a blog-post, which will allow people to comment on it directly, outside of the SD study. We've begun to digress a little too far from that study here (initially my fault for veering us off topic). The conversation on Buddhism/Theosophy is very informative and worth having though, and I think your posts made into a blog will allow for that to continue.

I'll send you a private message so we can work this into a blog post.

In terms of the SD study, we've got a new topic open on analogy/correspondence that needs our attention, as its such a central aspect of theosophical study!

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 9, 2012 at 11:15am
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It is divine to focus and tis human to digress.  Good work all of you, now with your permission back to the topics in the SD.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 10, 2012 at 3:37pm
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I'm not sure that this actually was a digression. The topic is "Universals to Particulars" as the method of The Secret Doctrine, and B. P. Wadia compared this with some of the Western approaches (and their failings) such as Aristotelian logic. In India and Tibet, universals and particulars form the keystones of their systems of reasoning, by which they approach the great truths taught in their religions (just like in The Secret Doctrine). Thus in Tibet, the system of reasoning explained by the Indian Buddhist teacher Dharmakirti forms one of the five subjects of the standard monastic curriculum. This hinges on the idea of svabhava, as the quotation from Dharmakirti given by Peter shows:

"Because all [real] things abide in their own essence [[svabhava]], they partake in the differentiation between [themselves and other] similar and dissimilar things."  Dharmakirti (Commentary on Valid Cognition)

The great question was, if only particulars have svabhava (as early Buddhism taught), then how can a person reason from universals to particulars. This question was not faced by Hindu teachers, for whom universals were real and therefore had svabhava. Dharmakirti denied the reality of universals, yet was still able to reason from universals to particulars. His treatise, the Pramana-varttika (Commentary on Valid Cognition), was so highly regarded by Tsongkhapa that it was adopted as one of the five core textbooks of the Gelugpa monastic curriculum. It is impossible to understand without a sound knowledge of svabhava.

So if the method of The Secret Doctrine is reasoning from universals to particulars, we must find out just what a universal is, and just what a particular is. What makes a universal a universal? In India and Tibet, these questions have revolved around the idea of svabhava. In Peter's group of posts we got an outline of how this idea fared in Buddhism. Certainly this is something that the Theosophical Mahatmas were intimately familiar with.

The particular question of universals fascinated Georges B. J. Dreyfus, the first Westerner to become a Geshe and successfully complete the Tibetan monastic curriculum. He has written a book centering around this question. It is titled, Recognizing Reality: Dharmakirti's Philosophy and Its Tibetan Interpretations (the quotation from Dharmakirti given by Peter can be found here on p. 69).

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 10, 2012 at 4:43pm
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Oh, certainly no intention of shunting anything aside. Peter's post is invaluable - I'll be reading it over a few times! I just thought taking it up in another discussion would be fitting. Seems I was wrong (not for the first time) ;)

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 10, 2012 at 5:05pm
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I don't think you were wrong, Jon. You immediately thanked Peter and suggested setting up his posts as a separate blog-post which perhaps would encourage a wider range of comments. I thought this was a very good suggestion.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 10, 2012 at 6:14pm
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I do think this discussion has been good, and you really sum up a central issue above when you say:

"So if the method of The Secret Doctrine is reasoning from universals to particulars, we must find out just what a universal is, and just what a particular is. What makes a universal a universal?"

I admit, though I have a sense "intuitionally", I'm having a difficult time finding words to describe what makes a universal a universal and a particular a particular. It's forcing me to really examine these ideas.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on November 10, 2012 at 8:12pm
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I've always understood Universals to be abstract 'terms' (Nominalism) and 'entities' (Realism), like "Man", "Dog", "House" or "Car". And there's no doubt that the esoteric history of the cosmos unfolds from Universals, or blueprints, to the particulars of the manifested world. However, the writer of our article has indicated that if we think of "Universals to Particulars" in this way, then we are off track. And I don't think the writer is talking about reasoning from Universals to Particulars either; he says "Nor should this procedure be mistaken for deductive or syllogistic inference in the science of Logic;" It appears that what he is talking about is a method teaching and exposition. I'm also curious to know what he means by the Pythagorean decad. Is this the Tetractys? If so then this "method" may involve some sort of hierarchical scheme - "Unity multiplying into diversity according to the Hermetic axiom of “As Above so Below”". Does anyone have any idea what this "process" of teaching and exposition may entail?
Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 10, 2012 at 8:55pm
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Looking at this from a mundane viewpoint, a good leader in any business has to see the “big picture” and not get lost in the details because the parts do not add up to the sum.  Where there is a good grasp of the big picture, then, one can begin to see relationships between the parts and understand how each piece fits into the big scheme of things.  It is possible to know the parts but never get to the whole.  The video on the six blind men and the elephant posted on the site is a good example; each blind man feels a part of an elephant but never knows the elephant.  Relative truths do not add up to Absolute truth, yet the latter contains the former. 

HPB wrote Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis; students read the doctrine in this sequence - from the universals to the particular.  G. Barborka suggested a way to study these volumes is by adopting a “look down” method, meaning instead of identifying oneself with the physical body, one identifies oneself as the monad and look upon the physical as a temporary vehicle.  In other words, one lifts oneself out of the isolated unit and be the universal whole.  Reasoning from the Universals to the particulars is valuable if one holds the premise that everything comes from Parabrahm and ultimately returns back to the One and there is an inseparability between the Macrocosm (That which is Eternal) and the microcosm (that which is evanescent) , as taught by the Theosophy and other esoteric traditions.   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 11, 2012 at 9:14pm
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David Thank you for tying things together here.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 11, 2012 at 6:45am
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‘what do we mean by universals and particulars?’ and ‘what makes a universal a universal?’

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This is just to add a little more about Plato’s universals and particulars for those who aren't familiar with it, and to give an example of how this is expressed in the Secret Doctrine (see last two paragraphs). 

In The Republic, X, Plato provides a rather charming conversation between Socrates and Glaucon about the nature of Art and Illusion.  Socrates reminds Glaucon ‘that we always postulate a single form for each set of particular things, to which we apply the same name.’  He goes on to point out there are many particular beds and tables in the world but there are in fact only two forms (ideal forms), one of a bed and one of a table.  All the particular instances resemble the ideal form but none of them are that ideal form. Plato’s underlying theory here is that the ideal form (whether it be of a bed, a tree, a man, a mountain or of beauty) exists independently of all its particular manifestations.  (This is something the buddhist normally refutes.)

Another example comes from geometry, we may be able to draw what we think is a perfect equilateral triangle, but the chances are that if we were to examine it with our highly specialised instruments we would find it is not quite perfect in some way.  The Perfect Triangle exists, according to Plato, but only in the Ideal World.  

Likewise, with Beauty and Wisdom.  There are many instances of beauty in the world about us.  Plato says that is because they each partake in the ideal Form of Beauty in some way, and this is how we recognise them holding beauty.  

The particular instances of the Forms are what we see through the senses; they only approximate to the ideal, hence they are illusory. They exist in time and space and are subject to change and decay.  They are perceived via the the senses.

Plato’s Forms (the Ideal) are eternal - beyond time and space. They can be seen by the wise, those who have developed their reason (intelligence) sufficiently enough.

From the point of view of the Secret Doctrine, the Ideal World of Plato is Mahat, the Universal Mind.  The Ideal Forms (the archetypes/universals) are carried by the Dhyanis. This is how the Secret Doctrine describes it: 

“. . . the emanation of the objective from the subjective, divine Ideation passing from the abstract into the concrete or visible form.  For as soon as DARKNESS - or rather that which is "darkness" for ignorance - has disappeared in its own realm of eternal Light, leaving behind itself only its divine manifested Ideation, the creative Logoi have their understanding opened, and they see in the ideal world (hitherto concealed in the divine thought) the archetypal forms of all, and proceed to copy and build or fashion upon these models forms evanescent and transcendent.”      SD I 380

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on November 11, 2012 at 7:22am
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I've read that Plato taught that the Universals are arranged in a hierarchy with the preeminent Universal, called "The Good", forming the apex. If so, then Plato's doctrine bears an interesting resemblance to the Secret Doctrine's teaching about hierarchies and emanation.

Also, did Plato's method or process of teaching and exposition proceed from universals to particulars?
Permalink Reply by Peter on November 11, 2012 at 8:39am
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Jimmy,  your understanding is correct as far as I know.  

Plato taught that just as the physical sun makes all things visible and is the source of life by which all things grow and flourish, The Good is that by which all things, including the Universals, become intelligible and it alone is the highest object of knowledge.  In The Republic he speaks through Socrates saying:

"The Good therefore may be said to be the source not only of the intelligibility of the objects of knowledge, but also of their being and reality; yet it is not itself that reality, but is beyond it, and superior to it in dignity and power"  (Part VII, Book VI)

I would think that The Good of Plato is The Logos of The Secret Doctrine. 

"Did Plato's method or process of teaching and exposition proceed from universals to particulars?"

Yes. And HPB refers amy times to him being an Initiate and proceeding this way in his teachings.  But the question is, 'what does it mean to proceed from universals to particulars?'

In Plato's case - and I think this is also true in The Secret Doctrine - it means that if you want to know the Truth (the underlying cause(s) and purpose of the universe we live in) we must seek it in the Ideal, or noumenal world and not in the world of phenomena (the particulars).

Permalink Reply by Casady on July 18, 2013 at 9:48am
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A few random thoughts: Marinus' Biography of Proclus mentions that the neoplatonic pedagogical curriculum consisted in a study of Aristotle's works (including the organon) followed by Plato. Historically, it could be said that the neoplatonist schools, beginning with Ammonias Saccas, developed a synthesis of the Aristotelian inductive-perspective and the Platonic deductive approach - one could give the example of Proclus' Elements of Theology' (stoixeiosis theologike) as a top-down logical system that synthesizes both inductive and deductive aspects.

A passage by HPB, comes to mind, (although I don't mean to imply that logic is not important)  (from Transactions 125): "  A. Your axioms of logic can be  applied to thelower Manas only and it is from the perceptions of Kama Manas alone that you argue. But Occultism teaches only that which it  derives from the cognition of the Higher Ego or the Buddhi Manas."

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Erica on July 18, 2013 at 11:09am
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Just a note:

In my first post I mentioned the limitations of logic as regard to both inductive and deductive approaches. However, this does not mean that logic is not important, but that we should be aware of its limitations. The philosopher David Hume, after reflecting about the problems of knowledge claimed that we cannot ever know the truth but only have an approximation to the truth. In this vein, H.P.B. is right when she points out the limitations of logic. On the other hand, logic in philosophy is a science extremely difficult to learn, which requires mathematical training of the mind applied to the use of language. So, logic also involves abstract thinking.    

Permalink Reply by Casady on July 19, 2013 at 10:54am
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Nice post, by the way - I like the Stoic microc/macrocosm quote. I do think HPB had an interesting take on Pythagorean philosophy - I think she relies mainly on Oliver and Ragon, for her references.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=sUsBAAAAQAAJ&pg=PR7&hl=fr&a...

 I'm currently slowly working through ThomasTaylor's 'Theoretical Arithmetic of the Pythagoreans', which uses a lot of the middle and neo-platonic sources.

http://books.google.ca/books/about/Theoretic_Arithmetic_of_the_Pyth...

of which book 3 deals with the more metaphysical approach - overall, I think it's fairly harmonious with HPB's interpretation.

Permalink Reply by Erica on July 20, 2013 at 12:54am
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Hi Casady,

I haven’t read Marinu's Biography of Proclus, so I cannot comment on that. It sounds interesting though. However, "all Aristotle's logic revolves around one notion: deduction" (1). Aristotle characterizes induction as "argument from the particular to the universal" (Ibid) and according to Smith, Aristotle says very little about induction. Nevertheless, there might be other points of views which say the contrary. However, I haven't heard about them. So, I am not sure how Neo-Platonism could have been based on the Aristotelian inductive perspective.   

H.P.B's  passage  refers to another state of mind. Nevertheless, H.P.B. needed to use logic and rational thoughts to express her ideas. After all we all communicate through language and therefore we all need to use reason. On the other hand, anyone is free to embrace beliefs by way of faith alone, without questioning anything and in this vein be much alike with a religious fellow with a holy book. No offense meant for religious fellows who embrace by way of faith certain teachings which they deem true and divine. I suspect though that this is not the spirit a "truth seeker" should embrace.   

On the other hand, there is always mysticism, religious experience which certainly means a lot more for a lot of people than any discussion. So, yes I understand the context of the quote you brought up, and that is fine. 

I cannot agree or disagree with H.P.B.'s quote, which on one side seems much more like a rhetoric reply and on the other side involves her system of thought. However, logic relies on mathematics, and mathematics was practiced by Pythagoras (which H.P.B. praises so much). Mathematic is an abstract science, perhaps the most abstract of all sciences. So, I am not sure how logic could be linked only the realms H.P.B. refers to. Most probably she refers to the limitations of language to reach the nature of things, and the need to transcend such limitations by other means. But, if this approach is to be used as a form of argument there is no meaning to engage on any discussion of this kind. We could just go home, meditate and try to reach that state she refers to. I know you did not imply that logic is not important, but I thought to add my thoughts regarding that quote. I have been avoiding to get engaged on discussions in theosophical forums, because nowadays such discussions seem much more like a reaffirmation of faith. So, a lot of theosophical forums are much like a sort of "religious" forums, used only to reaffirm teachings and to praise the divine instead to incentive the search for truth, independent thought and reflection (which also involves many times criticism) over the material that is being studied. I am saying that because I felt that I need to explain my position.    

(1) Smith, Robin, "Aristotle's Logic", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2012/entries/aristotle-logic/&gt" target="_blank">http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2012/entries/aristotle-logic/...;. 

Permalink Reply by Erica on July 20, 2013 at 12:48am
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