This group focuses on key concepts as presented in theosophical literature. Each Phase will take up passages drawn from selected texts in order to fuel discussion among members.
This group explores the fundamental principles of theosophy as set out by H.P. Blavatsky and her predecessors in the larger Wisdom Religion tradition of mankind. We are looking at these key ideas from a variety of standpoints, philosophical, metaphysical, psychological, practical or scientific. The hope is to connect with the core ideas so that we can better understand both their esoteric meaning but also to find therapeutic applications.
Theosophical Tenets: Human Perfectibility
January 7, 2017 at 10:29 pm #4383
Theosophical Tenet: Human Perfectibility
“Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality”; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya [illusion].”
— HP Blavatsky, from The Key to Theosophy
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Theosophical Tenets: Human Perfectibility
ModeratorTN January 7, 2017 at 10:44 pm #4389
Masters are, in consequence of evolution and great effort continued through many lives, now at the point of physically, mentally and spiritually where adepts, and others striving, will be in the distant future. They are living men, only higher and holier than we are. While They are truly living men, They may not be understood to be like ourselves. They have bodies, but these bodies are made of the most highly refined and spiritualized matter – matter of which we have but the slight conception. … If we thus dimly grasp the nature of Masters, we will be ble to reverence Them in our hearts, and to endeavor to draw near to Them in our innermost being; nor will we be deceived by claims made by, and for, this or that person, nor take it for granted that books written with purpose of defining Master’s powers, place, or imagined individual characteristics, have any value whatever. All such are mere speculations and an attempt in fact to drag those great Beings down to our plane of terrestrial conceptions – ” a misuse of sacred names,” as H.P.B. wrote in The Key to Theosophy. Masters are facts in Nature, facts however which our highest ideals will not fully encompass. Let us therefore endow Them with the highest we can conceive of, try to assimilate that ‘highest’ within ourselves, endeavor to draw near to Them in our heart of hearts, and thus form for ourselves that line of communication which They have said They are always ready to help establish; and let us keep that ideal as a sacred thing in the repository of our hearts, not to be lightly thought of nor spoken of, but as a shrine of our highest aspirations, safely guarded from all intrusion, sacred and secret. Thus and thus only may we in time come to know Them face to face.
— Robert Crosbie
ModeratorTN January 18, 2017 at 10:18 pm #4553
“Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality”; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya [illusion].”
— HP Blavatsky, from The Key to Theosophy
Gerry Kiffe January 20, 2017 at 6:22 pm #4586
Great question. From one point of view the vestures could be one answer. The entire human constitution needs to be more porous to the energies of the higher planes, more resilient to disruption from below. From a philosophical point of view perfectibility could be thought of in terms of clarity and accuracy of perception along with the removal of muddle and confusion. From a psychological point of view perfectibility might be characterized as an ever expanding circle of identity with one’s fellow man and nature. Metaphyscially it might be thought of as purification of elementals. I am sure there are other ways to look at it.
Pierre WoutersModeratorPierre Wouters January 23, 2017 at 2:57 am #4634
From the time of antiquity, the general approach (exoterically speaking) was that man represents a threefold being consisting of spirit, soul and body. HPB pointed out that this trinity could be further expanded into a sevenfold constitution. These 7 principles – from the most material to the most spiritual – have their existence in the material and differentiated world (rupa). We could thus say that each manifested principle (a monad on its own plane as expressed by one of the Masters) has the potential for eternal relative perfection. Relative seems to be the keyword here (rather than perfection), as perfection is always relative to the complete exhaustion of experience (i.e., karma) on any given plane to which a distinct principle belongs. Once the experience of any given plane is exhausted (or relatively perfected), the potential for further growth moves on to a new field or plane of “substantial” experience. Perfectibility as such, seems thus to consist of an ever widening range of action and perspective coupled with an ever deepening understanding and realization of that infinite potential unity. By definition we can thus say that in an infinite cosmos are infinite possibilities, irrespective of the plane of cosmos we’re referring to.
Below are some examples of HPBs emphasis on the idea of perfectibility being actually a relative concept. Perfection as such, or in an absolute sense, only “exists” in the infinite potential of the Monas Monadum or the Pythagorean Monad to which nothing can be added or subtracted as it represents at the same time also the absolute archetypal ideas.
…this doctrine of Reincarnation has not its equal on earth. It is a belief in a perpetual progress for each incarnating Ego, or divine soul, in an evolution from the outward into the inward, from the material to the Spiritual, arriving at the end of each stage at absolute unity with the divine Principle. From strength to strength, from the beauty and perfection of one plane to the greater beauty and perfection of another, with accessions of new glory, of fresh knowledge and power in each cycle, such is the destiny of every Ego, which thus becomes its own Saviour in each world and incarnation. Key 154-155
(b) “Paranishpanna” is the absolute perfection to which all existences attain at the close of a great period of activity, or Maha-Manvantara, and in which they rest during the succeeding period of repose. In Tibetan it is called Yong-Grub. Up to the day of the Yogâchârya school the true nature of Paranirvana was taught publicly, but since then it has become entirely esoteric; hence so many contradictory interpretations of it. It is only a true Idealist who can understand it. Everything has to be viewed as ideal, with the exception of Paranirvana, by him who would comprehend that state, and acquire a knowledge of how Non Ego, Voidness, and Darkness are Three in One and alone Self-existent and perfect. It is absolute, however, only in a relative sense, for it must give room to still further absolute perfection, according to a higher standard of excellence in the following period of activity — just as a perfect flower must cease to be a perfect flower and die, in order to grow into a perfect fruit, — if a somewhat Irish mode of expression may be permitted. SD I:42-43
These “Seven Wheels” are our planetary chain. By “Wheels” the various spheres and centres of forces are generally meant; but in this case they refer to our septenary ring. (a) The Worlds are built “in the likeness of older Wheels”—i.e., those that existed in preceding Manvantaras and went into Pralaya, because the LAW for the birth, growth, and decay of everything in Kosmos, from the Sun to the glow-worm in the grass, is ONE. It is an everlasting work of perfection with every new appearance, but the Substance-Matter and Forces are all one and the same. But this LAW acts on every planet through minor and varying laws. SD I:144-145
Peter January 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm #4641
Pierre, that’s such a good synopsis of the overall vision of evolution which we could apply to all three spiritual streams that the SD discusses: spiritual, mental and physical. Great post and really helpful passages from the literature for us to reflect upon.
Another passage you could have quoted, one that I know you are already very familiar with is, is below. Referring to the ‘time’ when everything will have re-entered the Great Breath. i.e. Paranirnava, HPB writes:
‘…re-absorption is by no means such a “ dreamless sleep,” but, on the contrary, absolute existence, an unconditioned unity, or a state, to describe which human language is absolutely and hopelessly inadequate. . . . Nor is the individuality — nor even the essence of the personality , if any be left behind — lost, because re-absorbed. For, however limitless — from a human standpoint — the paranirvanic state, it has yet a limit in Eternity. Once reached, the same monad will re-emerge therefrom, as a still higher being, on a far higher plane, to recommence its cycle of perfected activity. The human mind cannot in its present stage of development transcend, scarcely reach this plane of thought. It totters here, on the brink of incomprehensible Absoluteness and Eternity.’
(SD I 266)
A few thoughts come to mind when reflecting upon your post and the passage from HPB, above. Firstly, from a theosophical perspective it does not appear to be enough to describe the goal of the spiritual path solely in terms of becoming one with the Divine / Absolute or similar such phrases. These passages point to a much larger process of Becoming –– one on a Kosmic scale that we cannot begin to imagine. To awaken to the underlying Reality of our existence is only a part of our journey it seems. Hence, awakened Beings still toil and work with Nature in our current cycle, just as they too will have to embark on still higher rungs of the Kosmic ladder in future Maha-manvantaras, according to the Secret Doctrine.
Secondly, if absolute perfection is absolute as far the capacity for becoming (or perfection) in any one great cycle (Maha-manvantara) is concerned, and yet it is still relative in terms of Absoluteness, then we may need to be a bit more cautious and reflective when we use the term Absolute. Even the notion of Parabrahm may need more investigation, especially as we find the terms Parabrahm and Para-parabrahm used in the Mahatma letters (see letter 13, Barker edition).
Is there a symbol that might hint at the distinction between Absolute Perfection and an ‘incomprehensible Absolutenes? The symbol of the immaculate white disk within a dull black ground as found on the first page of the PROEM in the Secret Doctrine might serve.
‘The once circle is divine Unity, from which all proceeds, whither all returns. Its circumference –– a forcibly limited symbol, in view of the limitation of the human mind –– indicates the abstract ever incognisance PRESENCE and its plane, the Universal Soul, although the two are one. Only the face of the Disk being white and the ground all around black, shows clearly that its plane is the only knowledge, dim and hazy though it still is, that is attainable by man.’ (SD I 1)
The ‘absolute’ perfection of any grand cycle (maha-manvantara) may well correlate with the symbol of the face of the Disk – the ONLY knowledge which is attainable in this particular grand cycle and which is still dim and hazy to us at this stage of our development. The ever incognisance PRESENCE, incomprehensible Absoluteness is symbolised by the dull black ground.
Just some thoughts. Thoughts which may already be obvious (or obviously incorrect) to others, of course.
Irfan Rouhani January 23, 2017 at 6:44 pm #4650
My question in regards to this, is this though: if the Infinite One exists, then everything is the Infinite One; and if everything is the Infinite One, then nothing is outside of or distinct or apart from the Infinite One (which follows from the definition of the designation “Infinite One”) … and from this necessarily follows the deduction that: if something appears to be separate, distinct, different or apart from or other than the Infinite One, it only appears as such, but isn’t in reality (Shankara: Snake and Rope) … thus to quote an apophatic theologue: “…every concept that comes from some comprehensible image, by an approximate understanding and by guessing at the Divine nature, constitutes a idol of God and does not proclaim God.”
Therefore, any conception of the Real, formulated by the Real, is indeed, not in fact the Real, nor is it other than.
Pierre WoutersModeratorPierre Wouters January 25, 2017 at 11:14 pm #4676
“we may need to be a bit more cautious and reflective when we use the term Absolute. Even the notion of Parabrahm may need more investigation”
Indeed, the nomenclature used by HPB in her writings remains (I’d think purposely) most of the time obscure, thus in a certain sense also flexible and non-dogmatic, as – by far – terminology per se does not reveal the true meaning of what is conveyed. As HPB points out frequently, reality cannot be captured into words as our present state of mental development has no cognizance of how to “determine” that “experience” (even both these terms of necessity are misleading).
Sometimes the Absolute is equated with Parabrahm, sometimes it’s an aspect, sometimes the arupa planes are inclusive of the Absolute or of Parabrahm, sometime it’s relative.
Here are a few examples of the different applications:
In its absoluteness, the One Principle under its two aspects (of Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti) is sexless, unconditioned and eternal. SD I:18 )
…Parabrahm is, in short, the collective aggregate of Kosmos in its infinity and eternity, the “THAT” and “THIS” to which distributive aggregates can not be applied. SD I:7
Whatever meaning various schools may give the term, Sattva is the name given among Occult students of the Aryasanga School to the dual Monad or Atma-buddhi, and Atma-buddhi on this plane corresponds to Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti on the higher plane. SD I:69
* The manifested Spirit; Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also. SD I:337 fn*
Mme. Blavatsky: I refer to absolute non-being from the standpoint
of our finite and relative intellects. This is what I do, but not at all
what it would be, because that which is for us absoluteness, perhaps
if you go on the plane higher, it will be something relative for those
on the plane above. Secret Doctrine Dialogues p. 214
As to your later question/comment:
“Is there a symbol that might hint at the distinction between Absolute Perfection and an ‘incomprehensible Absoluteness? The symbol of the immaculate white disk within a dull black ground as found on the first page of the PROEM in the Secret Doctrine might serve.”
I think you are absolutely (pun intended) correct. The white disk or circle can stand as the symbol for infinite perfection or potential(ity) relative to the “universe” or Logos to which this “disk” is applicable, whereas the dark or black circle stands as the symbol for that “incomprehensible” to which even the concept of perfectibility or potentiality doesn’t even apply; virtually nothing can be said about it, as it is the “ever beyond”.
Here’s an example that represents the “white disk”:
“Every Universe (world or planet) has its own Logos,” says the doctrine. SD II:25
ModeratorTN January 20, 2017 at 6:39 pm #4587
January 20, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Deity — Transcendent and Immanent
To bring this cosmos into being, the All-Soul first laid aside
its eternity and clothed itself with Time. — PLOTINUS
He is hidden in His manifestation, manifest in His concealing. — HALLAJ
Irfan Rouhani January 23, 2017 at 7:37 pm #4652
it seems to me, and my brother Ram might counter this claim, but I would suggest that the reason Destiny, Karma or Divine Will sent the Mughals to kick the Nalanda sect out of the Subcontinent … was precisely due to these “madhyamika” extremists … so that the Doctrine of the True could be established … aka the synthesis of Sufism and Vedanta (two sides of one coin). Whose to blame? One rogue stands out in particular: Mr. Shantidev.
Aye, they were humbled indeed.
Aye, they were humbled indeed.
Hopefully the Tibetans eventually rejoin the rest of humanity and comeback to the true doctrine (not this endless and indeterminate moralization aka endless transmigration of missionary activities).
Shankara and the Sufi Masters would do them well.
… correct me if I’m wrong … I’m not so foolish as to claim absolute anything.
Ramprakash ML January 25, 2017 at 10:54 am #4661
January 23, 2017 at 7:37 pm #4652
I wonder what makes our brother Rouhani to discredit Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism with such vehemence ! Nalanda, like its western counterpart, the Alexandrian school of Neoplatonism, was a great university in which all branches of science, religion, philosophy, arts were studied. Both were the meeting place of western and eastern cultural traditions. Light shone brightly from these two great luminaries of learning.
Why were both destroyed ? Alexandrian library was gutted in fire more than once. Last time the army of of Julius Ceaser set it on fire and destroyed it completely just about the close of the pre-christian era. Nalanda was destroyed by Moghul invaders.
No one or no community can be blamed. As Rouhani says is the working of the cyclic and Karmic law. What has a beginning must have an end, and what ends has its reappearance elsewhere. Nothing is destroyed really. Physical objects like MSS, concrete structures, personalities do get destroyed but all the knowledge and wisdom remain in the Souls to be brought out again when they return under cyclic law. As the Voice of the Silence says, the Ego is the man that was, is and ever shall be, it is knowledge itself, not of fleeting life. It is symbolized as the leaves of the Tree of Life which continuously renews itself, season after season. It is like the cyclic revolution of the seasons. Periods of enlightenment are followed by periods of darkness. End of a cycle is always accompanied by cataclysms–by fire, or floods, earth quakes, destruction by armies etc. But the Eternal Sutratman, the Ego, who is the repository of all the acquired and assimilated wisdom of immense past is never destroyed but returns again.
About Rouhani’s ire against the stalwart of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism, Shanti Deva, all true students of comparative religions–especially in the light of Theosophy–know such animosity is misplaced, owing, perhaps, to some theological prejudice, but they hold Shanti Deva in highest esteem, and immensely value the Mahayana wisdom tradition, as the most logical, scientific, systematic exposition of the nature of Reality or Truth. One reason why theistic religionists detest Buddhism is–most probably–it does not speak of “God” as monotheists do. If Mahayanists do not speak of God in anthropmorphic sense is that such conceptions are merely human mind creations and has no reality. The ultimate Reality cannot be named, worshiped in the anthropomorphic sense but to be realized as absolutely Impersonal, unnameable, indescribable THAT or SUCHNESS, and THAT Thou Art. Brahmans call it Brahm. But Buddhist may call it Adi-Buddh.
Even the intelligent creative forces — which are personified and euhemeriszed in myths and legends as gods and goddesses— are also Impersonal intracosmic forces not to be worshiped, but the constitution of man in his spiritual, psychic and physical being is formed of the essence of these Planetary spirits. He is integrated, inseparably interwoven with them and the Absolute Deity. What God is there on earth but Man ?
There is no higher ideal a man may ever find than the Bodhisattva Ideal. If some people denounce it, they are welcome to do so. No problem. But if they ever shed their theological predilections and biases and look into it honestly, they will revise their antagonistic posture.
The Voice of the Silence which we study and follow belongs precisely to this Mahayana School of which Shanti Deva was a Master exemplar.
Irfan Rouhani January 25, 2017 at 8:24 pm #4669
There is a higher ideal than the Messianic Missionary Ideal … and that is God the Supreme Absolute in and of Himself … which transcends all possible ideals, actions and activities, and understandings in its supreme majesty of unqualified illimitable sublimity and infinite glorious divinity beyond all mind and measure.
Samantha Province January 25, 2017 at 8:58 pm #4673
The God who is the Supreme Absolute is not ontologically different than maya and samsara. Maya is simply illusion, i.e. a misperception of what is. So in reality there is no distinction between eternal compassionate action in samsara and the eternal timelessness of the Absolute.
Irfan Rouhani January 25, 2017 at 11:49 pm #4682
Samantha, but one thing, yes and no … no in this sense: that compassionate action it seems to me is not truly eternal from the level of a given individual … just very long … but one eventually gets replaced by other advancing life streams in that role.
And then one drops form and goes into the formless Absolute or Absolute without form.
Pavel Axentiev January 26, 2017 at 7:03 pm #4703
Irfan, may I venture in that your own, human conception of God, even as the Most Infinite, Absolute, Unknowable, and Undescribable, is as blasphemous as the idea of emptiness?
If one takes Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, as a combination of philosophy and esoteric practices (as well as religion), then to understand it one should understand the result of BOTH philosophizing and meditation aka yoga. To hell with pure jnanis, they achieve nothing. The state a Tibetan Buddhist experiences after prolonged meditation and study is the answer, and that is what may lead one to pure action on the Boddhisattva path.
Irfan Rouhani January 25, 2017 at 11:50 pm #4683
Universal salvation is not an ideal, it seems to me, that is sustained by a given set of boddhisatvas, that are eternally attempting to sustain and actualize it … one adds ones fuel to the Fire of that endless end … but eventually others sets of boddhisatvas replace you … and you’re service in that role eventually gets exhausted and redundant … and is dispensable … and you move on into retirement so to speak.
Irfan Rouhani January 23, 2017 at 5:32 pm #4648
The notion of endless “improvement”, which is a form of vanity or egotism absolutized out of all proportion, is a fallacious misperception (concocted by the impostor elect such as Gregory of Nyssa, from his overzealous rhetorical flourishes based on Origen, I imagine) … based on a misunderstanding of the idea of infinity, which becomes delusively miscognized in pseudo-linear terms. Infinity and indeed, infinite absolute perfection, according to the preliminary postulates of universal gnosis, is always ever present … and is the Source and Goal … yet for some unknown reason … it goes through this seeming intermediary process … in order to perpetually know itself anew … and my guess is because it is eternally in the process of “creating” (for lack of a better word) new forms of itself so as to ever increase and multiply in its own enjoyment of its own absolute infinite perfection.
So you might ask, if you designate it absolute infinite perfection, why was it not already, timelessly, experiencing its own infinite absolute perfection in infinite ways so to speak.
Yes, good question, and the only answer that comes to mind is, Reality is beyond the intellect, pure and simple.
Ramprakash ML January 26, 2017 at 5:42 am #4686
Hegel, the German philosopher, correctly articulates the Occult doctrine in his theory of “Unconscious purposiveness” cited in SD, I, 640 :
“These vast congeries of volitions, interests and activities constitute the instruments and the means of the WORLD SPIRIT for attaining its object : bringing it to consciousness and realizing it. And this aim is none other than finding itself–coming to itself–and contemplating itself in concrete actuality.”
This is the undertone of wondrous manifestations of the WORLD SPIRIT. Call it Paramatama, of Brahma, if you like. This One Spirit or One Life manifests itself as many selves to arrive at the grand end. If the whole human history is to be seen in this light, meaning underlying every event and experience can be discerned. Goes on he :
“But those manifestations of vitality on the part of individuals and peoples, in which they seek and satisfy their own purposes, are at the same time the means and the instrument of a higher power, of a higher and a broader purpose of which they know nothing–which they realize unconsciously–might be made a matter of question; rather has been questioned…..on this point I announced my view at the very outset, and asserted our hypothesis…and our belief that REASON GOVERNS THE WORLD AND HAS CONSEQUENTLY GOVERNED ITS HISTORY. In relation to this independently universal and substantial existence–all
else is subordinate, subservient to it, and the means for its development.”
HPB says that no one can demur to these truths which are all embodied in esoteric teachings.
“According to Hegel, the “Unconscious” would never have undertaken the vast and laborious task of evolving the Universe, except in the hope of attaining clear Self-consciousness.” (SD, I, 51)
Why THAT, the Absolute Consciousness,” is called Unconsciousness is because it cannot have any element of personality, as it transcends human conceptions.
“Only the liberated Spirit is able to faintly realize the nature of the source whence it sprung and whither it must eventually return.” (ibid)
We see here Universal Brotherhood, the unity of Self and unity of the grand purpose of all–however much we may be ignorant of it, even oppose it, deride the idea, still, all these conflicting theologies, views, doctrines arsing out of human beliefs are the very experiences which finally lead to that one grand end.
Gerry Kiffe January 25, 2017 at 6:03 pm #4665
The Bodhisattva Ideal, essentially to forgo Nirvana and remain in the world for the enlightenment of ever beings, is the pinnacle of human perfectibility in my book. It is hard to conceive of a more sacrificial enterprise. And at a very basic and human level no human quality speaks to our hearts more powerfully than sacrifice.
Kristan StratosModeratorKristan Stratos January 27, 2017 at 1:14 am #4736
I am not too sure where exactly I should post this, but it is in reference to Rouhani’s comment made in another thread. Sorry for not getting back sooner ;
“Yes, well here is the central thing I’m trying to understand … does it not stand to reason that from One came many … which is to say … that all finite diversity and differentiation issued forth from so to speak (and has its basis in) some fundamentally underlying principle of infinite unity?
Now the question is, that infinite unity, from the ultimate point of view (which may evade us no doubt) … can it be characterized as a pure and unqualified nonduality … or as a qualified nonduality …
Or in other words … is there only one Soul without a second … or are there many souls suffused and infused in One Spirit? .”
It has been said that many (multiplicity) cannot come from The One (directly). Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardī ;
“… Multiplicity can not conceivably result from the Light of Lights in Its Unity, nor can any darkness be conceived to result from a dusky substance or state, nor yet two light result from the Light of Lights in Its Unity. Therefore, that which first results from the Light of Lights must be a single incorporeal light. This, then, cannot be distinguished from the Light of Lights by any dark state acquired from the Light of Lights. This would imply multiplicity of aspects in the Light of Lights in contradiction to the demonstration that the lights, particularly the incorporeal lights, do not differ in their realities. Therefore, the Light of Lights and the first light that results from It are only to be distinguished by perfection and deficiency…
.. the first emanation of the Light of Lights is single- the Proximate Light, the Mighty light, which the Pahlawis called Bahman.”
Take the above and consider the macrocosm and microcosm. Then consider the following;
“… though it has been clearly explained to you that ordered simultaneous classes, whether bodily or otherwise, are finite. Nonbeing cannot conceivably be pointed to. It would be the same if this all-encompassing barrier admitted of division or if it were composed of many barriers… each of these barriers- even if it was assumed to be indivisible- would necessarily be composite and so would be subject to compounding and division.
“… heterogeneous things must necessarily occur individually first and then be compounded. The simple substance must first be made as a single body and then be divided, if it admits of that. Thus, it must necessarily be a homogeneous, single, indivisible, all-encompassing barrier (vehicle/form/etc.) in which parts cannot be imagined to exist.”
It is just another way of expressing timeless fundamentals.
Pavel Axentiev January 27, 2017 at 8:52 am #4740
I advise anybody who wants to gain some understanding of Buddhism (and the related ideas of bodhichitta, “emptiness” aka shunyata, etc.) to locate recordings of public teachings of the Dalai Lama. They are usually 3-5 long. I believe they are in public domain (I have some with Russian voiceover, e.g. the ones in Buddhapest ;).
Peter January 27, 2017 at 2:43 pm #4743
Pavel – that’s a sound suggestion. Why not hear the doctrine from one who so obviously practices it? In addition, one might consider buying “A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night’ – a commentary by the Dalai Lama on Shatideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.’ This would allow people to reflect upon the notion of the Bodhisattva ideal and come to their own conclusions about its value.
The doctrines on Compassion and Emptiness go together, don’t they. If the doctrine of Emptiness was merely nihilistic there would be no one to feel compassion towards.
Pavel Axentiev January 29, 2017 at 9:32 pm #4753
I find this part of Chapter 6 of Bhagavad-Gita particularly encouraging:
A transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.
The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.
Or [if unsuccessful after long practice of yoga] he takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom.
Bh.-Gita, transl. by Swami Prabhupada (2nd ISKCON ed.), 6.40-42
Pavel Axentiev January 30, 2017 at 2:11 am #4754
The Russian post-Theosophic movement, presented by N. Roerich and His Wife Helena Roerich:
Here is from the preface to ‘Agni Yoga’:
Yoga—that supreme bridge to cosmic attainment—has existed through all ages. Each Teaching comprises its own Yoga, applicable to that step of evolution. The Yogas do not contradict each other. As the branches of one tree they spread their shade and refresh the traveler exhausted from heat.
His strength regained, the traveler continues on his way. He took naught that was not his, nor did he divert his striving. He embraced the manifested benevolence of space. He liberated the preordained forces. He mastered his single belonging.
Do not reject the forces of Yoga, but like light carry them into the twilight of labor unrealized.
For the future, we arise out of sleep. For the future, we renew our garments. For the future, we sustain ourselves. For the future, we strive in our thought. For the future, we gather strength.
First we shall apply the counsels of life. Then we shall pronounce the name of the Yoga of the time approaching. We shall hear the advancing footsteps of the element of fire, but we shall already be prepared to master the undulations of the flame.
Therefore, we hail the yoga of the past—the Raja Yoga. And we affirm that of the future—the Agni Yoga.
Pavel Axentiev February 2, 2017 at 5:40 am #4775
In the Fourth Way, the highest level of development, accessible to man, is the development of his/her higher functions, associated with the Higher Centers – the Higher Emotional (buddhi?) and Higher Intellectual (Atman?). The “problem” with the Higher Centers is that they are accessible from the Third or, Higher Intellectual, from the Fourth states of consciousness. (The states of consciousness are described as, the first – normal sleep, the second – “normal” daily state, the third – state of Self-Remembering, with which most of the Work is associated, and the Fourth, signifying a superior, fully awakened state of development.
Pavel Axentiev February 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm #4776
Gods (such as mythological gods) are, essentially, our Higher Functions, which are accessible only after prolonged state of Self-Remembering).
In the Fourth Way, the highest level of development, accessible to man, is the development of his/her higher functions, associated with the Higher Centers – the Higher Emotional (buddhi/higher manas?) and Higher Intellectual (Atman/buddhi?). The “problem” with the Higher Centers is that they are accessible only from either the Third or Fourth states of consciousness. Normally, man exists only in the first 2 states of consciousness. The states of consciousness are the following: the first – normal sleep; the second – “normal” daily state; the Third State – state of Self-Remembering, with which most of the Work is associated; and the Fourth, signifying a superior, fully awakened state of development.
Pavel Axentiev February 3, 2017 at 7:40 am #4778
Thank you, Barbara, for asking. In the Fourth Way, the Fourth State of consciousness is a very remote goal. It is said that only certain individuals experience it, and that in glimpses. The Work is mainly focused on the Third State. Very little, in fact, is said about the Fourth State and the Higher Centers, for it is considered impractical for most people.
Self-remembering, as I’ve come to understand it, is the constant awareness of the direction of one’s Higher Self. That is, we may not at first be able to link to it directly, but we can get to a slightly higher level than we typically do. The Fourth Way stresses that this should be practiced in the most mundane routines and environments: brushing one’s teeth, getting out of bed, etc., and especially when one doesn’t want to do it. In my experience, self-remembering is a constant, wordless prayer directed to our Spiritual Goal, which represents the next level of development we want to achieve.
With time, one develops the ability to be in tune with signals that are constantly sent to us from above, and then begins to implement them. Partially, this expresses itself as heightened intuition. One also gains a certain control over one’s thoughts and emotions, begins to behave more consciously towards others, and becomes a more integrated person. This, however, may take long periods of time, depending on the person – say, up to 20 years.
Pavel Axentiev February 4, 2017 at 7:05 am #4788
Another level of Self-Remembering is when you can access the awareness of the Higher for a prolonged period of time. Then, the Work becomes the transfer of this awareness into your lower functions (the Physical, Emotional and Intellectual functions). You should become the master of your reactions (as all our actions are, pretty much, reactions to certain stimuli). Not a single movement, not a single expression should pass without your awareness. We should saturate our being with intention. Everything we do, should be done on purpose. We should not express any negative emotions. We should not indulge into the “internal talk” (called in the Fourth Way, Imagination). We should not refrain from lying. We should refrain from unnecessary talking.
Pavel Axentiev March 5, 2017 at 7:31 pm #5075
Self-remembering aka the connection to one’s Higher Self is said to be our birth right. However, due to the conditions of up-bringing and education this connection is not allowed to develop already since the early childhood. The child learns from parents and the environment modes of thinking and behavior incompatible with the Higher State of Consciousness.
For the list of obstacles to the state of Self-Remembering see my post #5060.
barbara March 7, 2017 at 3:48 am #5086
Discovering our true Self is an arduous process fraught with dangers and temptations, described beautifully in the Voice of the Silence. We are given the seven virtues or powers to unlock the door to Reality.
“Yea, Lord; I see the PATH; its foot in mire, its summits lost in glorious light Nirvânic. And now I see the ever narrowing Portals on the hard and thorny way to Jñâna.”*
Thou seest well, Lanoo. These Portals lead the aspirant across the waters on “to the other shore”. Each Portal hath a golden key that openeth its gate; and these keys are: —
1. DÂNA, the key of charity and love immortal.
2. SHÎLA, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
3. KSHÂNTI, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
4. VIRÂG’, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived.
5. VÎRYA, the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial.
6. DHYÂNA, whose golden gate once opened leads the Naljor* toward the realm of Sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.
7. PRAJÑÂ, the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyânis.
The way I see it is that we are composite beings made up of terrestrial (impermanent) and celestial (permanent) components. If we are so fortunate, we may have a faint glimmer of our immortal Self, but the memory will fade because our earthly elements are too strong. Until we transform our lower nature into the higher, the Self remains as a nice thought. One of my favorite quotes is, we can baptize a person a thousand times and we still cannot make him a saint.
Pavel Axentiev March 7, 2017 at 10:14 pm #5087
Yes, Barbara, these are wonderful rules, and I largely agree with you. It takes, however, slightly more than being fortunate, as I presume, it takes constant, unceasing effort to get the glimpse you’re talking about. Once you have the glimpse, though, you may have everything you need to transform your life so that you’re able to follow the principles you’ve outlined.
In my opinion and experience, the practice of self-remembering, that I am here trying to share information on, is the “missing link,” not having which makes it very difficult to implement the teachings of almost every tradition I have heard of, including Theosophy. Once it is grasped, though, everything seems to fall into place, and one is able to see that all the various traditions and their descriptions try to follow the same route.
barbara March 9, 2017 at 3:42 am #5105
Sorry for my sloppy choice of word. Awakening does require more than just fortune, discipline and right efforts are needed as well, and assuming the law of karma permits. I think the Noble Eightfold Path gives us a very good foundation.
1. right view
2. right intention
3. right speech
4. right action
5. right livelihood
6. right effort
7. right mindfulness
8. right concentration
Pavel Axentiev March 9, 2017 at 4:06 am #5106
Yes, Barbara, I find your choice of words totally appropriate. I as well find the Noble Eightfold Path a great foundation, and have used it as my guidance.
Perhaps my introduction to the Fourth Way here is totally mislead. I remember finding it, and how all the other traditions suddenly made much more sense. That could be my own subjective experience, however.
The few things may need be explained:
One, it is commonly recommended in the Fourth Way schools to “unlearn” what you already know. The real part of the knowledge may after a time come back. This may be unfair to ask of many theosophists.
Secondly, it is often explained that we may create a certain picture of ourselves in our own mind, thinking that we are already enlightened, etc. This, however, may be just an “imaginary” idea of ourselves, that doesn’t stand small facts of life (i.e. how we behave in most mundane circumstances may be used as a sort of indicator of our real progress). Learning how to distinguish our real accomplishments from the things that we “learnt” but which won’t last may be one of the hardest things to do on the Way.
ModeratorTN February 4, 2017 at 8:12 pm #4795
It is not in the course of natural law that man should become a perfect septenary being, before the seventh race in the seventh Round. Yet he has all these principles latent in him from his birth. Nor is it part of the evolutionary law that the Fifth principle (Manas), should receive its complete development before the Fifth Round. SD II:167
ModeratorTN February 4, 2017 at 8:12 pm #4796
That physical nature, the great combination of physical correlations of forces, ever creeping onward towards perfection, has to avail herself of the material at hand; she models and remodels as she proceeds, and finishing her crowning work in man, presents him alone as a fit tabernacle for the overshadowing of the divine Spirit.” SD I:185fn
ModeratorTN February 7, 2017 at 5:33 pm #4811
From The Path 1889 “Some Thoughts on the Mahatmas”
“Unlike the ordinary man, the Mahatmas live wholly in the spirit. The Mahatmas do not ignore the conditions of daily life; they fully sympathize with the struggling masses of humanity, but the higher cannot stoop to the lower; the lower must see the heights above, and scale them if it will. It must never be thought that the Mahatmas are creators: they are only inspirers and educators. They have undoubtedly a human side to their characters, but it is so inseparably blended with their higher spiritual nature that no one who tries to dissociate the two parts of their being will ever understand either correctly.”
ModeratorTN February 22, 2017 at 7:13 am #4943
MAHATMAS AND CHELAS
Article by H. P. Blavatsky
A MAHATMA is a personage, who, by special training and education, has evolved those higher faculties and has attained that spiritual knowledge, which ordinary humanity will acquire after passing through numberless series of reincarnations during the process of cosmic evolution, provided, of course, that they do not go, in the meanwhile, against the purposes of Nature and thus bring on their own annihilation. This process of the self-evolution of the MAHATMA extends over a number of “incarnations,” although, comparatively speaking, they are very few. Now, what is it that incarnates? The occult doctrine, so far as it is given out, shows that the first three principles die more or less with what is called the physical death. The fourth principle, together with the lower portions of the fifth, in which reside the animal propensities, has Kama Loka for its abode, where it suffers the throes of disintegration in proportion to the intensity of those lower desires; while it is the higher Manas, the pure man, which is associated with the sixth and seventh principles, that goes into Devachan to enjoy there the effects of its good Karma, and then to be reincarnated as a higher individuality. Now, an entity, that is passing through the occult training in its successive births, gradually has less and less (in each incarnation) of that lower Manas until there arrives a time when its whole Manas, being of an entirely elevated character, is centered in the higher individuality, when such a person may be said to have become a MAHATMA. At the time of his physical death, all the lower four principles perish without any suffering, for these are, in fact, to him like a piece of wearing apparel which he puts on and off at will.
Ryan HauckParticipantRyan Hauck February 22, 2017 at 12:30 pm #4945
IMHO, the perfectibility of the human is a misnomer. If we are to agree that the “perfection” of something lies in the needlessness of change (The Lord is all perfect, unchanging, un-moving, forever), and the human being is always changing, then there must be something else that is seeking perfection.
Perhaps, instead of seeking a state of perfection, something is seeking to EXPRESS it’s already realized perfection?
Perhaps evolution on the material level is merely the noumena, consciousness, seeking avenues to express its perfection of being?
Gerry Kiffe February 22, 2017 at 6:37 pm #4958
The word is perfectibility and not perfection. One implies a process the other a fixed state. The idea implies an infinite capacity for growth. The idea of perfectibility is built right into the 3rd Fundamental Proposition of the Secret Doctrine. The fundamental identity of all souls (us) with the universal Over-Soul (The SELF) implies an endless journey of Self-Realization. No doubt the Immortal Soul needs no improvement, but for the expression of our Highest Nature to shine through onto this plane of manifestation through vestures and vehicles of the human constitution, call them heart, mind and hands if you will, they must all be trained, refined, purified and yes perfected. Unless you are walking around 24/7 in bliss consciousness and have no separate identity and feel at one with all that lives there is some perfecting to do. If Time is cyclical rather than linear, as the SD suggests, why not enjoy the ride? So I see it the other way. I find the term perfectibility ennobling, inspiring, and challenging. To further the mystery of it all consider Emerson’s intuitive statement about this very topic:
“I the imperfect, adore my own Perfect.”
Pavel Axentiev February 28, 2017 at 4:36 am #5022
In my opinion, the idea of human perfectibility may be represented by the following two goals:
1) Establishing a connection with one’s Higher Self.
2) Promoting that connection so that no moment, no movement, no activity, no matter how mundane, is spent without it.
Pavel Axentiev March 3, 2017 at 1:18 am #5060
Correction to my post #4788:
We should refrain from lying.
Lying is seen as one of the major obstacles to self-remembering (i.e., establishing the connection with the Higher Self). The other obstacles are the following (note that most of the terms have a peculiar meaning in the Fourth Way tradition):
1. Identification: implying that we commonly lose the sight of self-remembering in whatever we do.
2. Imagination, i.e. the tendency to indulge in “daydreaming,” internal self-talk; lack of mental discipline.
3. Negative emotions
4. Internal considering, i.e. being anxious as to whether others criticize or approve of your actions (the antipode of which is external considering, i.e. seeing others as equal to oneself, which implies attending to the needs of others).
5. Unnecessary talking – this one, as well as the #3 (negative emotions), is, for the most part, self-explanatory.
Peter March 6, 2017 at 11:17 am #5077
Grace asks: Is there a sense in which we, as students, with the understanding that the Absolute cannot be contained or conceived of, but despite this recognition, we should still try to place the mind on the idea of the Absolute, as an exercise?
Grace, This is how I understand it. If the universe and everything in it, including ourselves, is an entire illusion while the Absolute is something either outside of, or beyond, this universe then there’s probably about as much value trying to place our mind on the idea of the Absolute as there is in trying to place our mind on the idea of a planet which may or may not exist in some distant part of the universe that we will never be able to reach.
If the the idea of the Absolute is that there is, indeed, an underlying Reality which is the support, base or true nature of the manifested ALL, then to place our mind on the nature of the Absolute is, at the very least, to wonder ‘what is our true nature and the underlying reality of the world around us?’ In the same breath we are also asking ‘what is the true nature of this being who asks the question and seeks to know Reality?’
The Mahatma KH writes to A.P.Sinnett:
‘We are not Adwaitees, but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm. And no true philosophically brained Adwaitee will ever call himself an agnostic, for he knows that he is Parabrahm and identical in every respect with the universal life and soul…’
(Mahatma Letter to Sinnett; no. 10)
Or, put slightly differently in The Secret Doctrine:
“The ever unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart — invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through “the still small voice” of our spiritual consciousness…’
(SD I 280)
Gerry Kiffe March 6, 2017 at 5:10 pm #5079
I second Peter’s statement here. How wonderful to let the mind soar. Yes of course, to entertain the highest that we can in our mind, and then push farther is to strengthen our metaphysical muscles. Gandhi said that the nature of an Ideal is that it recedes as we move closer.
Ramprakash ML March 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm #5082
However much Absolute is beyond the grasp of our intellect we can never cease thinking of IT, speculating on IT, and aspiring to IT.
Why? Because We are THAT. “THAT thou art.”
Our lower mind is utterly unable to comprehend IT. Yet we somehow understand it, not so much by our brain mind, as by higher our consciousness — Intuition.
S.D. says that while our normal mundane consciousness cannot comprehend IT, the highest spiritual faculties, when we have developed and perfected our spiritual nature, senses it and feels it. That spiritual feeling when we were yet gods in heaven, before our descent into matter, is not dead but alive deep in our psyche, though obscured.
That is why, perhaps, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says :
If one says he knows IT he knows it not; if one says he knows IT not he knows IT.” A statement pregnant with meaning.
barbara March 9, 2017 at 5:12 am #5107
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
It is good to hear that all the ideas from different traditions came together for you after you discovered the Fourth Way. Long time ago, I read books by Gurdjieff, Nicoll, Bennett, and Ouspensky. I found their writings a little too narrow for me; they seem to focus largely on psychological makeup and on self-development. All these have their own merits; however, there are some important elements that are not emphasized nor mentioned in their teachings, like viewing life as a whole, seeing the Unity in all living things, understanding the relationship between the Macrocosm and microcosm, studying manifestations of the Universal Laws, etc. etc.
I find growth often comes from losing myself in meaningful activities (or service) and in study; in retrospect, it is in self-forgetfulness do I find most growth, which is different from you. There is a quote from the Light on the Path that is very interesting –
Grow as the flower grows, unconsciously, but eagerly anxious to open its soul to the air. So must you press forward to open your soul to the Eternal. But it must be the Eternal that draws forth your strength and beauty, not desire of growth. For in the one case you
develop in the luxuriance of purity; in the other you harden by the forcible passion for personal stature.
Pavel Axentiev March 9, 2017 at 5:52 am #5110
I agree, I’ve also “formally” left the Fourth Way now almost 13 years ago and since then experimented with different paths. I do find it a great, if not essential foundation. I now consider the Fourth Way as the Method and Theosophy as the Wisdom (in the sense these terms are used in Tibetan Buddhism).
Self-remembering is “forgetting oneself” essentially – as you have described, and as, I am sure, the Sufis would agree with you. This may be exemplified by the life of one of the most mystic writers I have ever come across, a student of P. D. Ouspensky, Rodney Collin.
Pavel Axentiev March 9, 2017 at 5:57 am #5111
I quote from the article linked above:
For a man to whom it has become obvious and clear that only the heart can reconcile inconsistencies, serving becomes a necessity. In his lectures, Collin focused the attention more and more toward the need of giving service to the people of the world and the needs of the planet.
Ramprakash ML March 9, 2017 at 4:21 pm #5116
It is in self-forgetfulness in the true service of humanity that entrance into Inner life is possible–the only right royal road. HPB warns that any other motive at entrance will either be futile or run the risk of being “blasted at the threshold.” (HPB’s 5 Messages).
Pavel Axentiev March 9, 2017 at 5:26 pm #5117
Thank you, Ramprakash, for the beautiful quote.
Let us not be mislead by superficial contradictions. Real self-remembering has nothing to do with selfishness. But can one who cannot help herself really help others? Of the state of the world Gurdjieff has said, that people cannot do, they have no will. You are thinking of the fruit, while for most people even becoming a flower bud is too far away. If you have sufficient will for serving others that it becomes your only drive, then you are close to being called a human being. Otherwise, it’s just small talk.
Pavel Axentiev March 10, 2017 at 6:02 pm #5128
In The Key to Theosophy I, p. 10 (1889), HPB writes:
Real ecstasy was defined by Plotinus as “the liberation of the mind from its finite consciousness, becoming one and identified with the infinite.” This is the highest condition, says Prof. Wilder, but not one of permanent duration, and it is reached only by the very very few. It is, indeed, identical with that state which is known in India as Samadhi.
And further, on the same page:
Meditation is silent and unuttered prayer, or, as Plato expressed it, “the ardent turning of the soul toward the divine; not to ask for any particular good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good itself–for the universal Supreme Good” of which we are a part on earth, and out of the essence of which we have all emerged.
Incidentally, I may add, this is the kind of state that has been described as “self-remembering” – the practice of which is the essence of the Fourth Way.
barbara March 14, 2017 at 10:07 pm #5158
Thank you for sharing about “the Fourth Way.” I am sure some students find the teachings helpful; a lot depends of one’s temperament, isn’t it?
Some of the discussions on this thread remind me of a passage in the Mahatma Letters, pg 283. It is simple and very practical.
“And this was and has been no secret for thousands of years. Fasting, meditation, chastity of thought, word, and deed; silence for certain periods of time to enable nature herself to speak to him who comes to her for information; government of the animal passions and impulses; utter unselfishness of intention, the use of certain incense and fumigations for physiological purposes, have been published as the means since the days of Plato and Iamblichus in the West, and since the far earlier times of our Indian Rishis. How these must be complied with to suit each individual temperament is of course a matter for his own experiment and the watchful care of his tutor or Guru.”
Jon Fergus January 25, 2017 at 8:31 pm #4671
Irfan, perhaps it would be helpful if you outlined your own views on the subject. As of yet you seem to have focused on disparaging the views of others, which is not only unhelpful but directly opposed to the spirit of our endeavor here. Since you seem quite passionate about these ideas, and clearly desirous of engaging us in discussion on them, I would ask you to please openly explain your position such that we may understand the perspective underlying your outrage with the views you have opposed here.
Samantha Province January 25, 2017 at 9:16 pm #4675
Nagarjuna is spoken of as an adept in the Secret Doctrine and his Madhyamaka school (and more specifically, prasangika Madhyamaka) are praised by her (see http://www.katinkahesselink.net/blavatsky/articles/v14/mb_010.htm).
Irfan Rouhani January 25, 2017 at 11:42 pm #4680
Yes Samantha but see here: https://blavatskytheosophy.com/alaya-the-universal-soul/
“The Yogacharya school began in India and is part of Mahayana Buddhism. In the Buddhism of Tibet, where the Yogacharya teaching gained its strongest and most enduring ground, the two main philosophical viewpoints present in the various schools and branches of Buddhism are the Yogacharya and the Prasangika-Madhyamika. The two are quite antithetical, since the Madhyamikas seem almost obsessed with the theme of emptiness and insist that the ultimate nature of everything is emptiness, that there is nothing beyond emptiness, and that even this emptiness is empty of emptiness itself!
HPB has referred to them as “the great deniers,” “teaching a system of sophistic nihilism,” and describes their doctrines and conclusions as “exoteric travesties.”
The Prasangika-Madhyamika philosophy is the prevailing and predominant one in Tibetan Buddhism today, with the Yogacharya perspective now relegated to a back seat or, at best, insipidly blended with certain forms of Prasangika-Madhyamika.”
Irfan Rouhani January 25, 2017 at 11:47 pm #4681
Hi Jon, my only issue is one … and that is the eternalization of the bodhisattva ideal at the individual level … my view is that … for those on the bodhisattva path … it is not infinite but finite … that is … at a certain point … they exhaust their service … are replaced by others who take their place … and they go off into the formless and beyond all form.
Otherwise there would be a infinity of such Beings in phenomeanl existence … which there quite clearly are not.
So in reality, it is a finite ideal … and not truly in-finite …
maybe one stays in that mode for a extensive period of time … but then is replaced in that role by another … and moves on beyond.
It is not indefinite.
Pavel Axentiev January 26, 2017 at 5:29 am #4685
Hi Irfan, I, for one, seem to understand where you might be coming from. I’ve been reading Omar Khayam (and other Persian poets) since childhood, as is the custom in Russia, and I think the quotations you provide, and your eloquent comments speak plenty for your position.
I cannot boast much scholarly knowledge of the subject, and don’t have a lot of quotations I can come up with from memory or from books. So, this is my own view of the subject, based on the limited knowledge I have gained.
The bodhisattva ideal is as finite as their goal is: to remove all beings, bar none, from the suffering of samsara. As soon as that is fulfilled, a bodhisattva, in accordance with his/her vows, may enter the nirvanic state.
Now the nature of that state is not, perhaps, for us to judge. I have quite an eclectic concoction of ideas in my head, which, however, seems to be in line with the spirit of Theosophy: that is, that the final dissolution of the ego (lower self) means that one enters into the spiritual realm of existence. According to some Hindu sources, that realm actually constitutes about 90% of the Creation, while the material realm/samsara, only about 10%. So, most of the “action,” if I may say so, actually occurs on the other side of the divide.
I see samsara as a kind of dark area, while the True, Spiritual Life and World are made of Light. Now, the soul of bodhisattva, drawn to the Light by her pure practices and devotion, lingers on the border before the transition is made, turns her eye back to the suffering sentient beings, and, lead by the spirit of bodhichitta (which, by definition, is spontaneous, i.e. not forced by mental action), dives back into the ocean to try to help others to achieve the same. The word is that there are only so few beings one can save in one life, be one even quite advanced, such as a leader of a group, or a sect, or a monastic order. So, it is quite an endless process bordering on infinity, as far as we are concerned.
Now, as for the numbers of bodhisattvas you may have encountered or heard of, I am not certain, but one can think of a bodhisattva as an equivalent of an angel (in the Christian, and perhaps Sufi, sense). There are indications to this in Oriental art, where bodhisattvas are depicted in a very similar fashion, with wings and all. So, despite their invisibility, perhaps, their number might be plentiful. Which means, of course, that a bodhisattva does not necessarily incarnate on Earth in full but nevertheless retains some contact with its spheres.
I hope this answers some of your questions and clarifies the confusion, if such may be.
Samantha Province January 26, 2017 at 5:58 am #4687
Just as the boundless is eternal, so is the universe without a beginning or an end, extending in all directions infinitely. This being the case, how can there ever be a lack of sentient beings in need of our compassion? So the goal of the Bodhisattva is not finite and has no endpoint. At the same time, the Bodhisattva is a great realizer and knows that ultimately there is no suffering and so their vow is already fulfilled even at this moment. There is no difference between Samsara and Nirvana.
Gerry Kiffe January 26, 2017 at 6:20 am #4688
Dear Friends I sincerely believe we are over thinking this. The bodhisattva ideal and the Kwan Yin pledge are not intended to be technical metaphysical statements posed for philosophical debate. No. I believe they are pointers by wise beings indicating the selfless motivation necessary to tread the spiritual path. Involution is about the one becoming the many. Evolution the many rebecoming the One. The path back leads through selflessness, or put positively realizing the Self as All in All. Theosophy teaches altruism has the highest ethical ideal and essential to spiritual progress. What represents this ideal better than the bodhisattva who puts all other beings before oneself? I think we are considering this idea too literally debating about the wrong things concerning what is finite and what infinite etc. etc.. It is like debating what pigments were used to paint the Mona Lisa. Who cares how he made the paint? It isn’t the chemistry that makes the painting interesting, it is about the magnificent and inspired art.
Peter January 26, 2017 at 11:20 am #4690
To add a further thought to Samantha’s good point – if the underlying Reality is boundless, eternal and infinite then the potentiality for all life to unfold and develop can also be infinite and without limit. The one does not contradict the other. From this point of view we might envisage an unending field of manifestation Absolute Relativity coeval with an ungraspable Ultimate and Infinite Reality – the ‘two’ in fact being two aspects of THE ONE and portrayed as the ceaseless motion of ‘The Great Breath’ in the Secret Doctrine, the inbreathing and out breathing of Kosmos.
Irfan Rouhani January 26, 2017 at 7:22 pm #4707
January 26, 2017 at 5:58 am #4687
This is where Buddhist reasoning gets to a place that just does not compute for me.
I’ll just have to assume it computes for you.
Now, as for myself, thank God that my goal is the mainstream majoritarian goal: Absolute-without-form. Ah, so simpl and easy that way. “Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!”. And has God not been reffered to by the gnosta and philosophers as the Simple One? The other way strikes me as inordinately complicated, maddeningly paradoxical and stress-inducingly convoluted.
But to each his own.
Peter January 26, 2017 at 11:15 am #4689
Good point, Gerry. The Bodhisattva Ideal is not ultimately about metaphysics. Somehow the discussion on metaphysics, the nature of the Infinite, is getting in the way of understanding this aspiration and ideal when, actually, the two support each other.
If we believe in the unity of all life as a fact in nature then the Bodhisattva Ideal would appear to be in harmony with our belief.
If we believe in the One-ness of all life, why would we not want to help other beings?
If the suffering of sentient beings is largely due to ignorance and our misapprehension of the nature of Reality, why wouldn’t those Wise Beings who have overcome that illusion seek to be of aid to those still caught in the delusion? And why would we not strive to become wise and compassionate in that same way if we claim to feel any sense of unity with other beings?
Peter January 26, 2017 at 2:02 pm #4693
Here is something else HPB wrote:
‘The Tibetan sect of the Ngo-vo-nyid-med par Mraba (“they who deny existence,” or “regard nature as Māyā”) can never be contrasted for one moment with some of the nihilistic or materialistic schools of India, such as the Chārvāka. They are pure Vedāntins — if anything — in their views. And if the Yoga-charyās may be compared with, or called the Tibetan Vishishadvaitīs, the Prasanga School is surely the Advaita Philosophy of the land. It was divided into two: one was originally founded by Bhāvaviveka, the Svātantrika Mādhyamika School, and the other by Buddhapālita; both have their exoteric and esoteric divisions. It is necessary to belong to the latter to know anything of the esoteric doctrines of that sect, the most metaphysical and philosophical of all.
(CW XIV 438; from ‘A Few More Misconceptions Corrected.’ )
Samantha Province January 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm #4695
Those lines they quote are from the Theosophical Glossary which is known to not be entirely her work and in any case just quotes and repeats what other authorities say. Best to follow what she says in the article I quoted which is of indisputed authorship: The madhyamaka “can never be contrasted for one moment with some of the nihilistic or materialistic schools of India, such as the Chārvāka.” In general I find the perspective of the “Blavatsky Theosophy” article to be inaccurate and written with little understanding of Madhyamaka.
Irfan Rouhani January 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm #4694
Greetings Peter. And what are those esoteric doctrines referred to exactly? If I’m understanding correctly, what is being said here is, the doctrines known to us of the Madhyamika school, HPB is negating here … and she’s saying there is an “esoteric” doctrine kept secret. Most Buddhists I think everywhere, and scholars, would find this suspect … and when such a claim is made … if those “esoteric doctrines” aren’t divulged in a scholarly revealable fashion, the claim has to be rejected as without any evidence. Personally, you’d have to show me at least one piece of evidence indicating Nagarjuna had a hidden esoteric teaching that superseded his written publications, making his written publications in effect a kind of farce and useless and futile excercise, it would seem to me.
HPB here seems to setup Asanga as against Nagarjuna here, calling them rivals:
“But what is the belief of the inner esoteric Schools? the reader may ask. What are the doctrines taught on this subject by the Esoteric “Buddhists”? With them “Alaya” has a double and even a triple meaning. In the Yogacharya system of the contemplative Mahayana school, Alaya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi) and the Self of a progressed adept. “He who is strong in the Yoga can introduce at will his Alaya by means of meditation into the true Nature of Existence.” The “Alaya has an absolute eternal existence,” says Aryasanga – the rival of Nagarjuna.”
Irfan Rouhani January 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm #4696
Well lets focus in on a specific question, Tibetan Buddhism is not HPB Theosophy, and HPB Theosophy is not Tibetan Buddhism, nor is HPB Theosophy identical to Perfect Truth or Wisdom, and indeed Perfect Truth or Wisdom is not identical to HPB Theosophy.
Furthermore, Tibetan Buddhism is a wild assortment of sects and schisms. On top of that, it is shot through with problematic factors, not least one being the notion that we’ve been in samsara since “beginngless time” … sorry but it seems to me that the notion that we’ve beenin samsara since beginngless time, has no basis … because a moments reasoning would show that … if we have been in this for an infinite past … then every and any entity or monad would have reached perfection … not only unimaginable aeons ago … but a an infinity ago … aka all logic breaks and reductio ad absurdum.
Also, if Bodhisattva’s are really in this eternally … that would mean there has been an infinite amount of time … which strictly logically speaking … would have produced an infinite number of Boddhisatva’s … and all worlds would be replete with them.
reductio ad absurdum again.
but main point is this, do you adhere to anatma doctrine, without asserting paramatma, as Nagarjuna appears to do … propounding a double negation of both universal spirit and individual soul … which is neither nondual vedanta nor qualified non-dual vedanta.
Samantha Province January 26, 2017 at 8:55 pm #4715
That specific passage on Madhyamaka from the Theosophical Glossary on the “Blavatsky Theosophy” page is actually derived word for word from page 83 of Eitel’s “Handbook of Chinese Buddhism,” so I don’t think this is representative of her own views, which we find set out clearly in the article posted earlier. See Daniel Caldwell’s comments on the nature of this glossary and its composition.
Samantha Province January 26, 2017 at 5:26 pm #4697
This is not correct, she says clearly in that article: “Thus the followers of the Prasanga [Madhyamaka] School are nearer to Esoteric Buddhism than are the Yogacharyâs; for their views are those of the most secret Schools…” H.P.B. doesn’t deny the value of many Yogacara teachings but she does give pride of place to Madhyamaka. As for Asanga and Nagarjuna being rivals, this should be understood exoterically, as being the progenitors of rival schools.
Re: esotericism: Nagarjuna is also understood to have written esoteric works by the Tibetans and many esoteric writings pass under his name, which can be verified by consulting scholarly sources. Even if this were not true, however, the issue we are discussing is her own opinion of the school, not the accuracy of that opinion. In any case, in the article she goes on to discuss Madhyamaka teachings known exoterically at the time and endeavors to correct scholarly misunderstandings of them.
Speaking of the exoteric works of Nagarjuna, a consultation of a good scholarly study such as Murti’s or Jay Garfield’s translation of “The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way” will demonstrate the value of this school and its dialectic.
Peter January 26, 2017 at 8:43 pm #4713
Irfan (#4694) – re HPB’s passage on Yogacharya and Prasangika schools. It is irrelevant what the esoteric doctrines of those schools might be. In order to find support for your ongoing disparagement of Madhymaka / Prasangika doctrines you have found a passage where HPB appears to criticise and dismiss them. However, it’s clear from other passages written by HPB that its not that straight forward – she doesn’t dismiss this school but respects both its exoteric and esoteric teachings. That was the point of posting that passage from Collected Writings.
That Nargajuna and Asanga had rival views means very little on its own. It’s not unusual to find rival views in the same spiritual tradition.
What comes across most clearly in your posts is that you have a deep disdain for Tibetan Buddhism and its Madyamaka /Prasangika philosophy in particular. This shows itself clearly in the very negative way your referred to Shantideva and in the way you dismiss anything shared with you in relation the Bodhisattva Ideal associated with those schools or linked to Theosophy.
I can appreciate from your earlier messages (prior to the discussion of Shantideva and the ‘Heirs of Nalanda’) that these teachings do not accord with the strong beliefs you hold and which are obviously dear to your heart. So, keeping within the context of our discussion topics why not spend a little more time sharing your understanding of those teachings which truly resonate with you rather than arguing over the ones that don’t.
Pavel Axentiev January 26, 2017 at 7:13 pm #4706
That is a sublime vision. I think I got it. Since we cannot know the Parabrahman or its qualities, we can neither claim that Individual Souls disappear in it without a trace, nor we can claim the opposite. The existence of the Soul and the One are Supreme Mysteries.
Irfan Rouhani January 26, 2017 at 7:28 pm #4708
“if the underlying Reality is boundless, eternal and infinite then the potentiality for all life to unfold and develop can also be infinite and without limit.”
IF the universal, infinite, indivisible Eternal Reality is the universal, infinite, indivisible Eternal Reality … THEN it is already itself eternally, universally, infinitely and indivisibly … only this Reality is somehow veiled or covered up.
And that is the mystery of mysteries … its practical corrolarly being spiritual practice of purification for revelation, illumination and realization.
Revelation, illumination and realization of what?
The Simple One, THAT simple, single, unitary One Universal Infinite Eternal Divine Reality … which for some reason right now is not being experienced or perceived.
Does not the logical reasoning follow?
Your last bit was not clear at all and did not seem to follow at all.
Irfan Rouhani January 26, 2017 at 7:32 pm #4709
January 26, 2017 at 11:15 am #4689
My last reply for the day, since I’ve cluttered the feed with too many replies …
what you said here Peter … signifies the eternal gulf or gap between us Vedantins (the universal majoritarian mainstream Perennial Philosophy) and the Mahayanist movement that sort of broke off and went its own way …
And what is that difference, we are obedient to the Will of God in creation … and don’t try to put our selfish ends and aims first … and try to become the messianic saviors.
We are obedient to the main thing the Divine wants, which is union with the Divine, ultimately in the sense without form.
But the Divine may want a very small minority to walk this Bodhissatva path … so I’ll leave that to ya’ll.
Irfan Rouhani January 26, 2017 at 8:05 pm #4711
Very sorry, please excuse me, last point and I’m DEFINITELY 100% out for the day, I just have to refute one misconception:
“If the suffering of sentient beings is largely due to ignorance and our misapprehension of the nature of Reality, why wouldn’t those Wise Beings who have overcome that illusion seek to be of aid to those still caught in the delusion? And why would we not strive to become wise and compassionate in that same way if we claim to feel any sense of unity with other beings?”
Yes that is a part of it for many, but not in some Absolutized and Eternalized Ideal … trust me it reaches levels of absurdity when you really look into it … like how Asanga saw a dog with a wound and maggots on its side and “out of compassion” licked off the maggots and so on … or stories of the Buddha feeding himself to a tiger inorder to save the tiger from starvation.
Simple fact is, all recourse to sentimentality aside … every other tradition has had its illumined saints who saw the Self in all … and helped many beings, and passed on into the Absolute-without-form.
Because to be one with the One in all and beyond all … is to be One not with just “all sentient beings” … but with absolutely everything … and THAT which is beyond everything … AND TO UNDERSTAND … the karmic forces at play … and know “all can’t be saved” in some immediate way … and that the process includes happiness and suffering, good and evil, ignorance and knowledge … and plays itself out for the only ultimate One End of unification with the Divine Absolute-without-form as the final retirement and resting place of all at the end of the process of their evolutionary journey.
One can be both simultaneously an ascending wayfarer in the saintly hierarchy (if one gets to those levels) and ascending into God-without-form, simultaneously … that’s the way it goes.
So please, no sentimentality about messianic aspirations of saving all beings.
Peter January 27, 2017 at 2:29 pm #4742
Irfan wrote: ‘what you said here Peter … signifies the eternal gulf or gap between us Vedantins (the universal majoritarian mainstream Perennial Philosophy) and the Mahayanist movement that sort of broke off and went its own way
The Vedanta and the Mahayana are both great spiritual traditions. While they have their differences what they have in common is the desire to lift the veil of ignorance from human beings so that liberation from the wheel of suffering may be achieved. That they both share such a noble aim might be considered reason enough for respect and goodwill to exist between them. Studying them both has deepened my understanding of Theosophy.