NOTES ON SOME ÂRYAN-ARHAT
Articles by HPB
[Vol. III. No. 4, January, 1882.]
[Footnote *: The following are a collection of notes and appendices on an article, entitled "The Âryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man," by T. Subba Row, B.A., B.L.—EDS.]
THE Tibetan esoteric Buddhist doctrine teaches that Prakriti is cosmic matter, out of which all visible forms are produced; Âkâsha is also cosmic matter, but still more imponderable, its spirit, as it were; Prakriti being the body or substance, and Âkâsha-Shakti its soul or energy.
Prakriti, Svabhâvat or Âkâsha is Space, as the Tibetans have it; Space filled with whatsoever substance or no substance at all, i.e., with substance so imponderable as to be only metaphysically conceivable. Brahman, then, would be the germ thrown into the soil of that field, and Shakti, that mysterious energy or force which develops it, and which is called by the Buddhist Arahats of Tibet, Fohat.
"That which we call Form (Rûpa) is not different from that which we call Space (Shûnyatâ) . . . Space is not different from Form. Form is the same as Space; Space is the same as Form. And so with the other Skandhas, whether Vedanâ, or Sanjña, or Sanskâra or Vijñana they are each the same as their opposite." (Book of Sin-king or the "Heart Sûtra." Chinese translation of the Mahâ-Prajñâ-Pâramitâ-Hridaya-Sûtra; chapter on the "Avalokiteshvara," or Manifested Buddha.)
So that, the Âryan and Tibetan or Arhat doctrines agree perfectly in substance, differing but in names given and the way of putting it, a distinction resulting from the fact that the Vedântin Brâhmans believe in Parabrahman, a deific power, impersonal though it may be, while the Buddhists entirely reject it.
The country called Si-dzang by the Chinese, and Tibet by Western geographers, is mentioned in the oldest books preserved in the province of Fo-kien (the chief headquarters of the aborigines of China) as the great seat of occult learning in the archaic ages. According to these records, it was inhabited by the "Teachers of Light," the "Sons of Wisdom" and the "Brothers of the Sun." The Emperor Yu, the "Great" (2207 B.C.), a pious mystic, is credited with having obtained his occult wisdom and the system of theocracy established by him—for he was the first one to unite in China ecclesiastical power with temporal authority—from Si-dzang. That system was the same as with the old Egyptians and the Chaldees—that which we know to have existed in the Brâhmanical period in India, and to exist now in Tibet—namely, all the learning, power, the temporal as well as the secret wisdom were concentrated within the hierarchy of the priests and limited to their caste. Who were the aborigines of Tibet is a question which no ethnographer is able to answer correctly at present. They practise the Bhon religion, their sect was pre-buddhistic and anti-buddhistic, and they are to be found mostly in the province of Kam—that is all that is known of them. But even that would justify the supposition that they are the greatly degenerated descendants of mighty and wise forefathers. Their ethnical type shows that they are not pure Turanians, and their rites—now those of sorcery, incantations, and nature-worship—remind one far more of the popular rites of the Babylonians, as found in the records preserved on the excavated cylinders, than, as alleged by some, of the religious practices of the Chinese sect of Tao-sse—a religion based upon pure reason and spirituality. Generally, little or no difference is made even by the Kyelang missionaries who mix greatly with these people on the borders of British Lahoul—and ought to know better—between the Bhons and the two rival Buddhist sects, the Yellow Caps and the Red Caps. The latter of these have opposed the reform of Tzong-ka-pa from the first, and have always adhered to old Buddhism, so greatly mixed up now with the practices of the Bhons. Were our Orientalists to know more of them, and compare the ancient Babylonian Bel or Baal worship with the rites of the Bhons, they would find an undeniable connection between the two. It is out of the question to begin an argument here to prove the origin of the aborigines of Tibet as connected with one of the three great races which superseded each other in Babylonia, whether we call them the Akkadians (invented by F. Lenormant), or the primitive Turanians, Chaldees and Assyrians. Be it as it may, there is reason to call the Trans-Himâlayan esoteric doctrine Chaldæo-Tibetan. And, when we remember that the Vedas came—agreeably to all traditions—from the Mansarova Lake in Tibet, and the Brâhmans themselves from the far north, we are justified in looking on the esoteric doctrines of every people who once had or still have them, as having proceeded from one and the same source, and to thus call it the "Âryan-Chaldæo-Tibetan" doctrine, or Universal Wisdom Religion. "Seek for the Lost Word among the hierophants of Tartary, China and Tibet," was the advice of Swedenborg, the seer.
The Vedas, Brâhmanism, and along with these Sanskrit, were importations into what we now regard as India. They were never indigenous to its soil. There was a time when the ancient nations of the West included under the generic name of India many of the countries of Asia now classified under other names. There was an Upper, a Lower, and a Western India, even during the comparatively late period of Alexander; and Persia, Iran, is called Western India in some ancient classics, and the countries now named Tibet, Mongolia, and Great Tartary were considered as forming part of India. When we say, therefore, that India has civilized the world and was the Alma Mater of the civilizations, arts and sciences of all other nations (Babylonia, and perhaps even Egypt, included), we mean archaic, prehistoric India, India of the time when the great Gobi was a sea, and the lost Atlantis formed part of an unbroken continent which began at the Himâlayas and ran down over Southern India, Ceylon, Java, to far-away Tasmania.
To ascertain such disputed questions [as to whether or not the Tibetan adepts are acquainted with the "esoteric doctrine taught by the residents of the sacred Island"], we have to look into and study well the Chinese sacred and historical records—a people whose era begins nearly 4,600 years back (2697 B.C.). A people so accurate—by whom some of the most important '-inventions" of modern Europe and its so much boasted modern science (such as the compass, gunpowder, porcelain, paper, printing, etc.), were anticipated, known, and practised thousands of years before these were rediscovered by the Europeans—ought to receive some trust for their records.
From Lao-tze down to Hiouen-Thsang their literature is filled with allusions and references to that Island and the wisdom of the Himâlayan adepts. In the Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by the Rev. Samuel Beal, there is a chapter "On the Tian-Ta'i School of Buddhism " (pp. 244-258), which our opponents ought to read. Translating the rules of that most celebrated and holy school and sect in China founded by Chin-che-chay, called the wise one, in the year 575 of our era, on coming to the sentence, "That which relates to the one garment (seamless) worn by the Great Teachers of the Snowy Mountains, the school of the Haimavatas" (p. 256), the European translator places after it a sign of interrogation, as well he may. The statistics of the school of the Haimavatas or of our Himâlayan Brotherhood, are not to be found in the General Census Records of India. Further, Mr. Beal translates a rule relating to "the great professors of the higher order who live in mountain depths remote from men," the Âranyakas, or hermits.
So, with respect to the traditions concerning this Island, and apart from the (to them) historical records of it preserved in the Chinese and Tibetan Sacred Books, the legend is alive to this day among the people of Tibet. The fair Island is no more, but the country where it once bloomed remains there still, and the spot is well known to some of the "great teachers of the snowy mountains," however much convulsed and changed its topography may have been by the awful cataclysm. Every seventh year these teachers are believed to assemble in Scham-bha-la, the "happy land." According to the general belief it is situated in the north-west of Tibet. Some place it within the unexplored central regions, inaccessible even to the fearless nomadic tribes; others hem it in between the range of the Gangdisri Mountains and the northern edge of the Gobi Desert, south and north, and the more populated regions of Khoondooz and Kashmir, of the Gya-Pheling (British India) and China, west and east, which affords to the curious mind a pretty large latitude to locate it in. Others still place it between Namur Nur and the Kuen-Lun Mountains—but one and all firmly believe in Scham-bha-la, and speak of it as a fertile, fairy-like land, once an island, now an oasis of incomparable beauty, the place of meeting of the inheritors of the esoteric wisdom of the god-like inhabitants of the legendary Island.
In connection with the archaic legend of the Asian Sea and the Atlantic Continent, is it not profitable to note a fact known to all modem geologists—that the Himâlayan slopes afford geological proof that the substance of those lofty peaks was once a part of an ocean floor?
We have already pointed out that, in our opinion, the whole difference between the Buddhistic and Vedântic philosophies was that the former was a kind of rationalistic Vedântism, while the latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism. If the Âryan esotericism applies the term Jîvâtma to the seventh principle, the pure, and per se unconscious, spirit—it is because the Vedânta postulating three kinds of existence—(1) the Paramârthika, the true, the only real one; (2) the Vyavahârika, the practical; and (3) the Pratibhâshika, the apparent or illusory life—makes the first Life or Jiva, the only truly existent one. Brahma or the One Self is its only representative in the universe, as it is the universal Life, while the other two are but its "phenomenal appearances," imagined and created by ignorance, and complete illusions suggested to us by our blind senses. The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either subjective or objective reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha declares that there is neither Creator nor an Absolute Being. Buddhist rationalism was ever too alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness, as in the words of Flint—"wherever there is consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism." The One Life is either absolute and unconditioned (Mukta) and can have no relation to anything nor to anyone; or it is bound and conditioned (Baddha), and then it cannot be called the Absolute; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as the first to account for all the evil in this world. Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal and uncreated Unconsciousness (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods, or none; whether there is a universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Mahâ Yugas, during Pralayas and during the periods of Manvantara; and this is Space, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akâsha-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular pulsations of Shakti—the breath or power of a conscious Deity, the theists would say—the eternal energy of an eternal, unconscious Law, say the Buddhists. Space then, or Fan Bar-nang (Mahâ Shûnyatâ) or, as it is called by Lao-tze, the "Emptiness," is the nature of the Buddhist Absolute. (See Confucius' Praise of the Abyss.) The word Jîva, then, could never be applied by the Arahats to the seventh principle, since it is only through its correlation or contact with matter that Fohat (the Buddhist active energy) can develop active conscious life; and since to the question "How can unconsciousness generate consciousness?"—the answer would be: "Was the seed which generated a Bacon or a Newton self-conscious?"