dhātu = ātman

By David Reigle on July 29, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Not long after the Sanskrit text of the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga was first published (1950), V. V. Gokhale published a note (ratnagotravibhaga_1.52_=_bhagavadgita_13.32_gokhale_1955) calling attention to the parallel between its verse 1.52 and Bhagavad-gītā verse 13.32. Both verses give a comparison with space (ākāśa) in the same words. The Bhagavad-gītā verse speaks of the ātman, the “self,” while the parallel Ratna-gotra-vibhāga verse speaks of the dhātu, the “element.”

Bhagavad-gītā 13.32:

yathā sarva-gataṃ saukṣmyād ākāśaṃ nôpalipyate |
sarvatrâvasthito dehe tathâtmā nôpalipyate || 13.32 ||

Just as all-pervading space, due to its subtlety, is not tainted, so the ātman, everywhere established in the body, is not tainted.

Ratna-gotra-vibhāga 1.52:

yathā sarva-gataṃ saukṣmyād ākāśaṃ nôpalipyate |
sarvatrâvasthitaḥ sattve tathâyaṃ nôpalipyate || 1.52 ||

Just as all-pervading space, due to its subtlety, is not tainted, so this [the dhātu], everywhere established in the living being, is not tainted.

The pronoun “this” (ayam) refers back to the dhātu in the preceding verse 1.49:

sarvatrânugataṃ yadvan nirvikalpâtmakaṃ nabhaḥ |
citta-prakṛti-vaimalya-dhātuḥ sarvatra-gas tathā || 1.49 ||

Just as space, whose nature is non-conceptual, is everywhere-pervading, so the dhātu, which is the purity of the nature of mind, is everywhere-pervading.

If these two parallel verses are representative, the dhātu in the teachings of the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga holds the same place as the ātman holds in the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā.

Category: Dhatu, Ratnagotravibhaga | 2 comments


K.H. and the Kadampas

By Jacques Mahnich on June 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

The Book of Dzyan is linked to the books of Kiu-te or the Tibetan Buddhist tantras.

Specific authors and texts have been identified for the similarity of their teachings with the Secret Doctrine fundamental propositions. The Maitreya/Asanga’s works and the Jonangpa’s tradition are among them. The glimpse of the Wisdom Tradition was brought or transmitted by the Adepts in contact with the TS founders. Based on the HPB’s testimony and various letters from the Mahatmas, they were followers of Tibetan Buddhism practices, living or staying in Tibetan monastery for their practices like silent retreats. They may have been linked with one Tibetan Buddhist lineage more specifically (or maybe not). Identifying this may bring some more tracks to locate the original Book of Dzyan (or maybe not…).

In a book, first published in 1941, « The K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater », C. Jinarajadasa commented at the end of the first letter :

« With this invocation to the Highest in C.W. Leadbeater to remember, and to be guided by that memory – to decide for the best – » , the letter ends with the initial « K.H. » of the name Koot Hoomi, which is not the Master’s personal name, but the title of his office as a high dignitary of the Koothoompa1 sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

(1) But pronounced Kethoomba, the Master informs Mohini Chatterje in Letter 59, The Letters from the Master of Wisdom, Second Series

This Letter 59 says : « However, the written name is Kuthoompa (disciples of Kut-hoomi), and its spelling is Kethoomba. »

Looking at the various sects and lineages in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, the closest to the Kuthoompa or Kethoomba seems to be the Kadampa (Kadam Tradition).

This specific lineage is in fact at the root, the foundation of most of the current existing lineages, and more specifically to the Gelugpa who are the « continuation » of the Kadampa.

Looking more in detail inside the history of this movement, this tradition was brought and installed in Tibet by the Bengali master Atisha Dipamkara (982-1054) and his principal disciple Dromtön Gyalwai Jungné (1005-1064). The flourishing of Avalokiteshvara and Tara in Tibet seems to be linked to this phase of their history. More specifically, quoting Thupten Jinpa – The Book of Kadam

Although Avalokiteshvara was propipiated in Tibet before the tenth century, and although the designation of the seventh-century Tibetan emperor, Songtsen Gampo, as an embodiement of Avalokiteshvara most probably predates Atisha’s arrival in Tibet, the available textual evidence points strongly toward the eleventh and the twelfth centuries as the period during which the full myth of Avalokiteshvara’s special destiny with Tibet was established.”

The Kadam school (bka’ gdams) was identified soon after Master Atisha’ death , especially after the creation of the Radreng Monastery in 1056, not far from Lhasa. Atisha organized the entire corpus of the Buddhists teachings in his Lamp for the Path to Enlightment. He was the first to propose the teachings under the form a gradual approach to the Buddhist path (lamrin), based on two divisions : the lamrim proper, and the tenrim (stages of the doctrine). Tsongkhapa’s texts will follow the same format. Atisha wrote extensively on Buddhist Vajrayana practice, including Guhyasamaja, Cakra samvara, Avalokiteshvara and Tara.

Known as Atisha and Dromtönpa’s “secret teachings” (gsang chos), is the Book of Kadam, which some excerpts were translated and published (© 2008 Institute of Tibetan Classics).

Kadampa’s lineage went on up to the end of the sixteen century where it looks like if it disappears. In fact it cease to be a distinct school , partly due to the “new Kadam School” created by Tsongkhapa, but mainly because all other Tibetan Buddhism Sects had integrated the Kadam teachings in their core teachings. There was no more need for a distinct school. Even the Nyingma School often refers  to the “Kadam Masters”.

So, the Kadam school being no more an active lineage in the 19th century, it does not help us much to know that Master K.H was a high dignitary of the “Koothoompa” sect, if it ever was the Kadampa sect who was referred to. Maybe it is only Jinarajadasa’s own comment.

However, looking at The Book of Kadam and other Atisha‘s works may be worth the “détour”.


Category: Book of Dzyan, Five Books of Maitreya, Jonangpa, Mahatma Letters, Tibetan Buddhism Traditions | 1 comment


The Doctrine of ‘Nature Origination’ in the Korean Ch’an Buddhism of Chinul and Li T’ung Hsuan’s ‘Hua-yen’ – by Ken Small

By admin on September 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

[ ADMIN Note : The following post was provided par Ken Small as an introduction to a new discovery which is of much interest for the students of the Theosophical teachings on Svabhava. This is opening a new area for research. Thanks to him for sharing this insight with us.]


One of the most important and challenging concepts in Blavatsky’s ‘Secret Doctrine’ is the doctrine of ‘svabhava’ or ‘svabhavat’.

David Reigle in his opening to his chapter on ‘The Doctrine of Svabhava’ makes reference to works “… found in the Bodhisattva-bhumi, attributed to Asanga … or to Maitreya… . This text in its tattvartha or “reality” chapter speaks of the inexpressible svabhavata (nature or essence) of all the elements of existence … . Being beyond the range of speech, this absolute (paramarthika) svabhava of all dharmas is accessible only to non-conceptual wisdom (nirvikalpa-jnana)…” (BSB, p.106 – Reigle)

Reigle continues in this chapter of his book (Blavatsky’s Secret Books p.106) linking this svabhava doctrine to the tathagata-garbha doctrine found in Maitreya’s Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, and questions on svabhava, anatman and sunyata are delved into and a process of clarifying their relation to Blavatsky’s. A question that frequently arises is how these ideas, so harmonious with the Theosophical view, continue in living traditions today?

The Korean Ch’an (kor. Son) schools descending from the 12th century founding teacher Chinul remain currently active and in practice. Many scholars and practicioners today consider him the founder of the unified Son (Ch’an) / Kyo (doctrinal Buddhism) Korean Buddhism of today. Chinul was a unique figure that merged together both Ch’an and Hua-yen view into one school of thought and practice. While this is a large subject to cover that would require a book length text, a few points are here quoted that appear to relate closely to subjects in Blavatsky’s perennial Theosophy.


So, as I was recently studying the schools and writings that are sourced in the Avatamsaka sutra (see Cleary’s translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra and his introductory notes), I came across this Korean (Chinul) branch that appears to follow this unique approach to ‘nature’ or ‘svabhava’. It is from the Hua yen tradition through a famous layman, named Li T’ung-hsuan (635 CE – 730). His ideas of ‘nature origination’ find currency again in the Korean Ch’an/Hua yen teacher Chinul* (1158-1210). Here appears an approach to svabhava that appears similar to Blavatsky’s and is rare in Buddhism. I have noted here a few other points of potential confluence between Hua-yen and Blavatsky, including within Hua-yen the following: on the subject of universality and particularity, the one and the many, the nature of time, the identity of mutual interpenetration and identity, the One Mind, microcosm and macrocosm, equivalence of Buddha nature and emptiness, etc. All this is open for new understandings and exploration. It is of interest to also note that within Hua-yen is a unified view of sunyata and the tathagatagarbha doctrines. In what follows I will give some brief quotes from translated sources and scholarly commentary about this aspect of Hua-yen tradition. This is no attempt at even an overview of a very vast and complex subject within Hua-yen, but only to give some very introductory ideas and points of reference of areas for its further study with Blavatsky’s Theosophic perennialism.

Also, always the cautionary note, that it is often rather challenging to get the source terms correctly aligned, when going from Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, Korean and then to the often barely adequate English, where one word may be used for very different ideas, or several words interchangeably for the same Buddhist term. So what follows is very preliminary.

The Korean ‘song’ or ‘songgi’ or Chinese ‘hsing-chi’ for the Sanskrit svabhava (see Odin p. 63) is translated into English as ‘nature’. (I have added some areas in bold for emphasis)

Buswell gives the source for ‘nature’ as:

prakriti, svabhava: The unchanging, absolute nature of all dharmas; contrasted with characteristics.” (CWC – Buswell p.400)

Regarding ‘nature origination’:

Chinul discovered the philosophical basis for such correlated doctrines as the primacy of faith, the primordial identification of sentient beings with Buddha, and sudden awakening, in Li T’ung-hsuan’s radical and unorthodox doctrine of nature origination. (Chi. Hsing-chi; Kor. Yuan-chi) (PMHYB p. 63 Odin)

Chinul emphasizes that whereas conditioned origination articulates reality from the perspective of multiple phenomena (shih) or dynamic function (yung), nature origination articulates reality from the perspective of principle (li) or universal essence (t’i). Where as conditioned origination requires an intermediary intellectual framework of interpenetration and mutual fusion to identify principle (li) with phenomena (shih), the more radical doctrine of nature-origination, instead emphasizes the non-production or non-origination of phenomena and requires no intermediary conceptual apparatus. (PMHYB p. 64 Odin)

The usual interpretation of faith as a belief in the possibility of becoming a Buddha through the step by step procedure of faith, understanding, practice and authentication was changed into the new idea that faith is the resolute conviction that one is already identified with Buddhahood. (PMHYB p. 61 Odin quoting Shim)

Regarding the ethic of Hua-yen, Cleary comments:

The Hua-yen doctrine shows the entire cosmos as one single nexus of conditions in which everything simultaneously depends on, and is depended on by, everything else. Seen in this light, then, everything affects and is affected by, more or less immediately or remotely, everything else; just as this is true of every system of relationships, so is it true of the totality of existence.… The accord of this view with the experience of modern science is obvious, and it seems to be an appropriate basis upon which the question of the relation of science and bioethics – an issue of contemporary concern – may be resolved. … The ethic of the Hua-yen teaching is based on this fundamental theme of universal interdependenc.

(EITI p. 3 Cleary)

Francis Cook states:

Hua-yen is certainly a type of pan-Buddhism. (HYB p.92, Cook)

We might, as a matter of fact, characterize Hua-yen as a species of tathagatagarbha thought which is in turn based on the doctrine of emptiness. Even this is not the whole truth, for it tends to distort the relationship between the two doctrines. Ultimately, sunyata and tathagatagarbha are alternate expressions for the same reality.

(HYB, p.36 Cook)

All men possess a point of numinous brightness which is still like space and pervades every region. When contrasted with mundane affairs, it is expediently called the noumenal nature. When contrasted with formations and consciousness, it is provisionally called the true mind. (CWC p. 181 Buswell quoting Chinul)

Odin comments on unity and multiplicity in Hua-yen:

The dialectical interpenetration of unity and multiplicity or subjectivity and objectivety in Hua-yen Buddhism essentially represents a microcosmic-macrocosmic model of reality wherein each dharma or event becomes a living mirror of the totality, reflecting all other dharmas—past, present, and future alike—from its own standpoint in nature … not unlike Leibniz’s theory of “monads” or perspectival mirrors in the West. (PMHYB p. 16 Odin)

Keel quoting Tsung-mi:

The original Essence of True Mind has two kinds of function: One is the original function of Self Nature, and the other is the function according to external conditions. If we compare them to copper, the quality of copper is its Essence of
Self-Nature, its brightness the function of Self-Nature, and the reflections appearing on it the Functions according to conditions … Analogously, the constant quiescence of Mind is the Essence of Self-Nature, the
constant knowing of Mind the function of Self-Nature, and to talk, to speak, and to distinguish are the Functions according to conditions. (TFKST p.87 Keel)

Nature giving rise to Characteristics (Phenomena, Functions) is called in Hua-yen doctrine Origination-by-Nature (songgi) as distinguished from Origination-by-condition (yongi). To see a phenomena from the vantage point of Origination-by-Nature means to understand it in its phenomenality, in its conditioned nature, and thus in its Emptiness. So long as a thing is seen in its Nature of Origination-by-Condition, it is Origination-by-nature at the same time. Further, so long as one sees a phenomena in this way, it is seen as a Function of the Essence of True Mind. Thus, for Chinul, the logic of Origination-by-Nature underlies the truth of the mysterious Function of True Mind. Every phenomena, seen in this way, no longer becomes an obstruction to our spiritual freedom but is affirmed plainly as it is. (TFKST p.84-85 Keel)

Buswell clarifying some implications of ‘nature origination’:

Chinul’s acceptance of the doctrine of nature origination (songgi) rather than the conditioned origination of the dharmadhatu stems from the formers superiority in the development of practice. While conditioned origination might be theoretically valid, its efficacy from a pragmatic standpoint is limited. The emphasis on nature origination had important implications for Chinul’s synthesis of the theoretical views of the Hwaom [Hua-yen] and Son [Ch’an] schools …

(CWC pp. 232-233 Buswell)

This is only a brief taste of a few key points in the ideas of Chinul and Li T’ung Hsuan. It is to be hoped that gradually as more of the writings of the Hua-yen and Korean Son (Ch’an) teachers become translated, more light on these ideas will be possible. Certainly, it can be said, that the harmonious confluences between Hua-yen and Blavatsky’s Theosophic perennialism point to a significant and dynamic confluence of views useful to deepening our study and practice in both arenas.

*The Avatamsaka’s influence continued through out the later course of Ch’an history, and is especially noticeable in the thought of Chinul (1158-1210), who during the Koryo Dynasty (937-1392) revivied the declining fortunes of the Ch’an school in Korea. Chinul was profoundly influenced by Tsung-mi … Another important influence on chnul was that of Li T’ung-hsuan (635-730), also an important Hua-yen figure. The Avatamsaka’s influence on Ch’an has been such that it has even been suggested that Ch’an is the practical expression of the profound and comprehensive teaching of the Avatamsaka.

(MTBAAS p.20 Cheng Chien Bhikshu)

References referred to and recommended for further study:

Buswell, Robert E. – The Collected Works of Chinul

Cheng Chien Bhikshu – Manifestation of the Tathagata: Buddhahood According to the Avatamsaka Sutra

Cleary, Thomas – Entry into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism

Cleary, Thomas – The Avatamsaka Sutra

Cook, Francis H. – Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra

Keel, Hee-Sung – Chinul:The Founder of the Korean Son [Ch’an] Tradition

Odin, Steve – Process Metaphysics and Hua-yen Buddhism

Reigle, David and Nancy – Blavatsky’s Secret Books

Category: Five Books of Maitreya, Svabhavat | 2 comments