31
May

Theosophical Glossary Sources

By David Reigle on May 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The Theosophical Glossary by H. P. Blavatsky, published in 1892, draws its definitions from many sources. Comparatively little of it was written by Blavatsky herself. Boris de Zirkoff laboriously located the source references for a large number of its entries, and he hand-wrote these in his copy of this book. These source annotations are of great value for students of Theosophy. They show what was merely copied from then existing sources, as opposed to Blavatsky’s own definitions. His annotated copy thus nicely complements the listings of Secret Doctrine References that were made available on the website of the Theosophical Society, Pasadena, or Theosophical University Press, and the extensive supplement to these prepared by William (Bill) Savage (see blog posts of Jan. 24, 2016, and June 30, 2016).

We are very fortunate that this labor of Boris de Zirkoff did not die with him. He left his books to the Theosophical Society in America, and his annotated copy of The Theosophical Glossary is now in its Archives. Janet Kerschner and Michael Conlin spent a lot of time and effort in making a scan of this book, which they have kindly made publicly available here:

http://resources.theosophical.org/pdf/Blavatsky_Theosophical_Glossary.pdf

They received much assistance from Richard Robb in identifying the bibliographic sources referred to. Boris in his annotations had used brief abbreviations and brief titles that were known to him, but were not spelled out in full. A detailed listing of these, along with much other helpful information, is found at the Theosophy Wiki entry on The Theosophical Glossary, here:

http://theosophy.wiki/en/The_Theosophical_Glossary_(book)

To me, it is a very great boon to have access to the knowledge of where any particular entry in Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary came from. This allows us to evaluate its accuracy. I am extremely grateful to Boris de Zirkoff for tracing these sources, and to all involved in making this information publicly available.

Category: Uncategorized | 2 comments

30
April

Some Mahatma Letters Sources

By David Reigle on April 30, 2017 at 11:59 pm

The previous post, “A Mahatma Letters Puzzle,” ended with the statement: “The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters almost always come from then existing books, and therefore cannot be relied upon for accuracy.” This statement should be substantiated by more than just the one example given in that post (nirira namastaka = nivva namastaka = nirvvānamastaka = nirvāṇa-mastaka, a ghost word). For this purpose we may look at the long and doctrinally important Mahatma letter #16, chronological #68, called the “devachan letter” because it is the primary source for the Theosophical teachings on the after-death states including devachan (Tibetan, bde ba can).

Before the days of digital books and electronic searches, Doss McDavid noticed many parallels between the devachan letter and passages in an 1871 book by Samuel Beal, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese. He found that the quotations of Buddhist scriptures given in this letter come from this book. There would be no reason for the Mahatma to translate these passages himself. These letters were personal correspondence, not scholastic treatises, and were often written in haste. The Mahatma simply drew upon what was already available in order to help make his point.

Mahatma letter, 2nd ed. pp. 99-100, 3rd ed. pp. 97-98, chronological ed. pp. 189-190:
(1) The Deva-Chan, or land of “Sukhavati,” is allegorically described by our Lord Buddha himself. What he said may be found in the Shan-Mun-yi-Tung. Says Tathâgata:—
“Many thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this (ours) there is a region of Bliss called Sukhavati. . . . This region is encircled with seven rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees; this holy abode of Arahats is governed by the Tathâgatas (Dhyan Chohans) and is possessed by the Bodhisatwas. It hath seven precious lakes, in the midst of which flow crystaline waters having ‘seven and one’ properties, or distinctive qualities (the 7 principles emanating from the ONE). This, O, Sariputra is the ‘Deva Chan.’ Its divine Udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it. Those born in the blessed region are truly felicitous, there are no more griefs or sorrows in that cycle for them. . . . Myriads of Spirits (Lha) resort there for rest and then return to their own regions.1 Again, O, Sariputra, in that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas . . .”2 etc., etc.

Footnotes:

1. Those who have not ended their earth rings.
2. Literally—those who will never return—the seventh round men, etc.

Beal’s Catena, pp. 378-379:
[Translated from the Chinese version of Kumârajîva, as it is found in the Shan-mun-yih-tung.] At this time Buddha addressed the venerable Sariputra as follows:—

“In the western regions more than one hundred thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this, there is a Sakwala named Sukhavatî. Why is this region so named? Because all those born in it have no griefs or sorrows: they experience only unmixed joys; therefore it is named the infinitely happy land. Again, Sariputra, this happy region is surrounded by seven rows of ornamental railings, seven rows of exquisite curtains, seven rows of waving trees—hence, again, it is called the infinitely happy region. Again, Sariputra, this happy land possesses seven gemmous lakes, in the midst of which flow waters possessed of the eight distinctive qualities . . . .

“Again, Sâriputra, the land of that Buddha ever shares in heavenly delights (or music), the ground is resplendent gold, at morning and evening showers of the Divine Udambara flower descend upon all those born there, at early dawn the most exquisite blossoms burst out at their side: thousand myriads of Buddhas instantly resort here for refreshment, and then return to their own regions, and for this reason, Sâriputra, that land is called most happy. . . .

“Again, Sâriputra, in that land of perfect joy all who are born, are born as Avaivartyas (never to return), . . .”

We notice that, or order to make his point, the Mahatma emphasized certain parts of this quotation by underlining (italics in the printed version), such as the word seven. But he also changed the quotation in order to make his point, changing Beal’s “eight distinctive qualities” to “‘seven and one’ properties, or distinctive qualities (the 7 principles emanating from the ONE).” Beal’s “at morning and evening showers of the Divine Udambara flower descend upon all those born there” became “Its divine Udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it.” Beal’s “all those born in it have no griefs or sorrows” was moved down and became “there are no more griefs or sorrows in that cycle for them.” Beal’s “thousand myriads of Buddhas instantly resort here for refreshment, and then return to their own regions” became “Myriads of Spirits (Lha) resort there for rest and then return to their own regions.1,” with the footnote “1. Those who have not ended their earth rings.” Beal’s “Again, Sâriputra, in that land of perfect joy all who are born, are born as Avaivartyas (never to return),” became “Again, O, Sariputra, in that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas . . .2,” with the footnote “2. Literally—those who will never return—the seventh round men, etc.”

As may be seen, all of these changes made by the Mahatma in the quotation brought in teachings about devachan that the Mahatma was giving to his correspondent, A. P. Sinnett. It may be thought that these changes made by the Mahatma are simply more accurate translations of the Buddhist text. They are not. They are less accurate translations, but bring in esoteric interpretations of the Buddhist text. We learn what the Shan-mun-yih-tung is from Samuel Beal’s article, “Translation of the Amitâbha Sûtra from Chinese” (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1866, pp. 136-144). Beal begins his translation by saying: “The Amitâbha Sûtra. Extracted from the work called ‘Shan Mun Yih Tung,’ or Daily Prayers of the Contemplative School of Priests” (p. 140). He had a few pages earlier introduced it as follows: “The following translation of the Amitâbha Sûtra is made from the Chinese edition of that work, prepared by Kumârajîva, and bound up in a volume known as the ‘Daily Prayers of the Buddhist Priests belonging to the Contemplative School’ (Shan-mun)” (p. 136). So what we have from Beal in his 1871 Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese is actually a translation of the Amitābha Sūtra. As is well known, the Amitābha Sūtra is a popular name for the shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra.

The original Sanskrit text of the shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra was recovered and first published by F. Max Müller in his article, “On Sanskrit Texts Discovered in Japan” (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1880, pp. 153-188). It was reprinted along with the larger Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra in the book, Sukhāvatī-vyūha: Description of Sukhāvatī, the Land of Bliss, edited by F. Max Müller and Bunyiu Nanjio (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1883). So we can compare the original Sanskrit. The Sanskrit word for the first change, “eight” to “seven and one,” is aṣṭa, “eight.” The Sanskrit word for the second change, “showers” to “shadow,” is pravarṣati, “showers.” Further, the Sanskrit does not have “Udambara flower” here, but rather has “māndārava flower.” The third change, the addition of “in that cycle,” is not in the Sanskrit. The fourth and fifth changes are a little more complex. Beal’s translation from the Chinese does not quite match the Sanskrit, but neither do the changes introduced by the Mahatma. Of course, the added footnotes by the Mahatma bring in esoteric teachings, not found in the exoteric text.

For those who wish to pursue this in English translations, both the shorter and the longer Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtras were first translated from the original Sanskrit by F. Max Müller in Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts, Part II (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1894), = Sacred Books of the East, vol. 49. This was a pioneering translation, when the meaning of a number of Sanskrit Buddhist terms was not yet established. Both the shorter and the longer Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtras were again translated from the original Sanskrit by Luis O. Gómez, and published in Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996). This book also includes separate translations of these two texts from the Chinese translations. The shorter Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra was translated from the Tibetan translation by Georgios T. Halkias, and published in Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013).

References to the rest of the quotations from Buddhist texts in Mahatma letter #16, chronological #68, the “devachan letter,” in Beal’s Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, are, in sequence: pp. 117, 86, 85, 90, 120, 64. Perhaps more about these and others can be posted later.

In summary, the Mahatma letters teach esoteric Buddhism. Being letters, they used then available translations of Buddhist texts for their quotations. They often altered these quotations to show the esoteric teachings. The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters are therefore often inaccurate on two counts: They are quotations from early and often unreliable translations; they are often altered to bring in esoteric teachings that are not stated in the Buddhist texts themselves.

Category: Uncategorized | 1 comment

31
March

A Mahatma Letters Puzzle

By David Reigle on March 31, 2017 at 11:05 pm

The term “Nirira namastaka” is found in all editions of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions, p. 44, letter #9; chronological edition, p. 62, letter #18). The context may be seen in the following quotation (quoted from the 3rd edition):

“When our great Buddha—the patron of all the adepts, the reformer and the codifier of the occult system, reached first Nirvana on earth, he became a Planetary Spirit; i.e.—his spirit could at one and the same time rove the interstellar spaces in full consciousness, and continue at will on Earth in his original and individual body. For the divine Self had so completely disfranchised itself from matter that it could create at will an inner substitute for itself, and leaving it in the human form for days, weeks, sometimes years, affect in no wise by the change either the vital principle or the physical mind of its body. By the way, that is the highest form of adeptship man can hope for on our planet. But it is as rare as the Buddhas themselves, the last Khobilgan who reached it being Tsong-ka-pa of Kokonor (XIV Century), the reformer of esoteric as well as of vulgar Lamaism. Many are those who ‘break through the egg-shell,’ few who, once out, are able to exercise their Nirira namastaka fully, when completely out of the body. Conscious life in Spirit is as difficult for some natures as swimming is for some bodies.”

It appears to be an important technical term, pertaining to advanced Buddhist metaphysics. However, no such term could be identified in the 93 years since the Mahatma letters were published, even with the availability in recent decades of large numbers of primary Buddhist texts. Since photographic images of the Mahatma letters have become available, it has become possible to see if there is another way to read this term in the handwriting of the letter (http://theosophy.wiki/ML/18-12_6117.jpg). Daniel Caldwell did this last year (April, 2016), and saw that it could be read as “Nirvva namastaka.” If we now break the word differently, we find the familiar Buddhist term, “nirvvana”; i.e., “nirvana” (nirvāṇa). Daniel could then search the internet for “nirvvanamastaka.” Sure enough, as Daniel informed me, it turned up in the entry on “Buddhism and Buddha” in The New American Cyclopaedia, vol. 4, 1869 and 1870, p. 66.

Just as the similarly long unidentified phrase “Kam mi ts’har” found in the Mahatma letters was copied directly from a book existing at that time, as shown by Antonios Goyios (http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/kammitshar/kammitshar.htm), so with this term. It is even found hyphenated at the end of a line in The New American Cyclopaedia at exactly where it was wrongly broken in the Mahatma letter: Nirvvā-namastaka. There can be no doubt that this is the source from which it was taken by the Mahatma or his chela amanuensis. As Daniel pointed out, the Mahatma letter also has: “Many are those who ‘break through the egg-shell,’ few who, once out, are able to exercise their Nirira namastaka fully, when completely out of the body.” The New American Cyclopaedia has (p. 66): “He who breaks its fetters, ‘breaks through the eggshell’ and escapes the alternation of births.” Later on in this Mahatma letter we also read: “Matter found entirely divorced from spirit is thrown over into the still lower worlds—into the sixth ‘Gati’ or ‘way of rebirth’ of the vegetable and mineral worlds, and of the primitive animal forms.” (3rd edition, p. 47; the 1st and 2nd editions wrongly have ‘Gate’ for ‘Gati’). The New American Cyclopaedia has (p. 66): “In some cases the soul of man may sink even below the 6 Gatis or ways of rebirth into the vegetable and mineral way; . . .” Of course, the Mahatma letter used this term and these phrases somewhat differently, but clearly adopted them from this source.

About nirvvānamastaka, i.e., nirvāṇa-mastaka, The New American Cyclopaedia has (p. 66):

“The final goal of Buddhistic salvation is the uprooting of sin, by exhausting existence, by impeding its continuance; in short, by passing out of the Sansāra into the Nirvāna. The signification of the latter term is a prolific subject of discussion and speculation with the different philosophic schools and religious sects of Buddhistic Asia. Its interpreters prefer vague definitions, from fear of offending sectarians. It means the highest enfranchisement; to theists, the absorption of individual life in God; to atheists in naught. The Thibetans translate it by Mya-ngan-los-hdah-ba, the condition of one freed from pain; eternal salvation, or freedom from transmigration. Its etyma are: nir, not; van, to blow, and arrow; its orthography is Nirvvāna; its collaterals are: Nirvvānamastaka, liberation ; nirvvāpa, putting out, as a fire, &c. It is Nibbāna in Pali, Niban in Burmese, Niruphan in Siamese, Ni-pan in Chinese.”

So is nirvāṇa-mastaka, then, an important technical term pertaining to advanced Buddhist metaphysics? No. It is a ghost word, a word that appeared in a dictionary and was copied in other dictionaries, but has not been found in use in Sanskrit texts. According to my research, it first appeared in the 1832 second edition of Horace Hayman Wilson’s Sanskrit-English dictionary (A Dictionary in Sanscrit and English, Calcutta). It is there written nirvvāṇamastaka, and defined as “liberation,” with the etymology nirvvāṇa and mastaka, “head, chief” (p. 477). It was obviously copied from there by the unnamed writer of the “Buddhism and Buddha” entry in The New American Cyclopaedia. It is not found in the 1819 first edition of Wilson’s Sanskrit-English dictionary, nor is it found in the 1900 revised edition of Wilson’s dictionary. We may guess that one of Wilson’s assistants may have found it in some Sanskrit kośa, lexicons that often list words that are not found in use, and put it in the second edition of his dictionary. From there it was copied (but without doubling the “v”) in the relevant 1865 volume 4 of the massive 7-volume Petersburg Sanskrit-German dictionary (Sanskrit-Wörterbuch, by Otto Böhtlingk and Rudolph Roth, St. Petersburg), where it is followed by “!” and specifically stated as coming from Wilson (p. 209). It was retained in the relevant 1882 volume 3 of the shorter 7-volume Petersburg dictionary (Sanskrit-Wörterbuch in Kürzerer Fassung), keeping the “(!)” after it (p. 219). It was likewise copied in Monier Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary, both his 1872 first edition and his 1899 enlarged edition, where it is also specifically stated as coming from Wilson. It is also found in Vaman Shivram Apte’s Sanskrit-English dictionary, but no source is given. This typically means that Apte did not find it in any Sanskrit text, but copied it from previous dictionaries. It is even found in the Vācaspatyam Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, where it is defined like a compound of such type would have to be construed: nirvāṇam nirvṛtir mastakam iva yatra, i.e., as nirvāṇa that is like the head. It is not, however, found in the earlier Śabda-kalpa-druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary. Nor is it found in Franklin Edgerton’s Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary. My electronic searches of massive quantities of Sanskrit texts, now possible, have failed to yield a single occurrence of this term. I even posted a query for a “textual source for nirvāṇa-mastaka” to the Indology e-list on Jan 13, 2017, consisting of several hundred Indologists working today. No one was able to come up with a textual source for this term.

The Mahatma letter is describing a form of adeptship that is not described in any Buddhist text known to me; yet in doing this the Mahatma or his chela amanuensis used a ghost word copied from an 1869 book that was in turn copied from an 1832 dictionary. We have seen other cases of this type of copying from then existing books in the Mahatma letters, as found by Antonios Goyios in the article linked above (“Tracing the Source of Tibetan Phrases Found in Mahatma Letters #54 and #92”), and there are still others that could be cited. The relevance of this to students of Theosophy is that, due to the methods used by the Mahatmas in writing their letters, terms such as this found in the Mahatma letters may not be actual Buddhist technical terms that can be found in the Sanskrit texts. As we know from a number of statements made by the Mahatmas in their letters, their method of writing was to surround themselves with material on the topic at hand that is impressed upon the ākāśa, and to draw from it what they needed. They were not native English speakers. Their letters constitute personal correspondence, often written in haste, not articles written for publication. The Buddhist terms and quotations found in the Mahatma letters almost always come from then existing books, and therefore cannot be relied upon for accuracy.

Category: Uncategorized | 6 comments

1
March

de la Loubère on Tévetat

By Jacques Mahnich on March 1, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Here is short translation of the first pages which confirms the identity of Sommona-Codom (Buddha Shakyamuni) and Tévetat (Devadatta).

The life of Tévetat, translated from the “Bali” language by de la Loubère -1691

“Following the birth of Pouti Sat1, who, due to his good works during time, reached Nireupan [Nirvana], his father, King Taoufoutout checked with soothsayers to know what was his future, and what would be his son’s fate, such son who’s birth which was surrounded by so many wonders. All of them assured him he had good reason to rejoice, and that, should his son stayed in the world, he would become the emperor of the whole earth, or, if he would become a Talapoint [monk], abandoning the pleasures of the century, he would reach Nireupan [nirvana]…

His parents, some ten thousands, having learn from the soothsayers that the universal domain of this world, or the Nireupan [nirvana] would be reached by this young prince, decided together to give him, when he would be aged enough, each of them one of their son, to follow him : and so they made it. Then, when this Prince, after the seven years’ penance in the woods, became worthy of the Nireupan [nirvana], a lot of these young men we just talked about, who were following him, became Talapoins [monks] with him ; but among this large troupe, there were six who, even if they were his parents and following him, were not willing to. Here are the names, because we will not talk about them any more later. The first was Pattia, the second Anourout, the third Aanon, the fourth Packou, the fifth Quimila, the sixth Tévetat2, and this is the one we are writing the history…

One day, after Sommona-Codom preaching, Anourout was elevated to the Angel degree. In the same time, the monk Aanon reached the first level of perfection. Packou and Quimila, after having being trained for a long time in prayers and meditation, were elevated to become Angels. Tévetat could not obtain anything but a great power and the capability to perform miracles.3

Sommona-Codom having gone with his Talapoins to the town of Koufampi, the inhabitants came everyday to provide with presents, sometimes to Sommona-Codom, sometimes to Moglà and Saribout, his two preferred disciples, one sitting on his right side, the other one on his left side ; some gave presents to Kasop and to Pattia, some others to Quimila and Packou, or to Anourout, but what was remarkable is that no one gave any present to Tévetat. Nobody talked about him, as if he was never born, which made him very outraged.”

NDT : then follows the story of Tévetat transforming himself magically into a young child covered with snakes in order to convince Achatasatrou, the son of the King of Pimmepisan to give presents to him and to participate to his conspiration against Sommona-Codom. After having being rebuked by Sommona-Codom, Tévetat went back to Achatasatrou, and persuaded him to take over his father, to become king and then give Tévetat the means to destroy Sommona-Codom. The new king gave Tévetat 500 warriors to go kill Sommona-Codom, which did not happen, Sommona-Codom being able to convince all the warriors to become his disciples. Then Tévetat keep trying to kill Sommona-Codom by throwing stones to him, with no success. Another time, he sent his most fierce elephants to crush him, again with no success.

Many other stories are told about Tévetat trying to defeat Sommona-Codom, including previous lifes’ stories. He finally end up in the Avethi hell [Avichi?].

-o-o-o-o-

On the “Bali” language : de la Loubère gave us pictures of the “Bali” alphabets as follows :

1This is one of the names of Sommona-Codom, Sat meaning, to my opinion, Lord in Pali, like Tchaou in Siamese, and therefore we say Pouti Sat, and Puti Tchaou, the word Puti being Pali.

2The siameses say Tévetat was Sommona-Codom brother, but in this story, he is considered only as a parent.

3Tévetat’s miracles are evil’s ones.

Category: Uncategorized | No comments yet

28
February

King Thevetat of Atlantis

By David Reigle on February 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm

A remarkable story about King Thevetat of Atlantis is given by H. P. Blavatsky in her 1877 book, Isis Unveiled. Although this king was the source of the “evil” that made his people “wicked,” they were not wicked due to any evil intent. They, and he, were simply natural-born seers and magicians, and lacked the restraining influence that systematic training would have given them. Here is the story (vol. 1, pp. 589-594):

“Tradition says, and the records of the Great Book explain, that long before the days of Ad-am, and his inquisitive wife, He-va, where now are found but salt lakes and desolate barren deserts, there was a vast inland sea, which extended over Middle Asia, north of the proud Himalayan range, and its western prolongation. An island, which for its unparalleled beauty had no rival in the world, was inhabited by the last remnant of the race which preceded ours. This race could live with equal ease in water, air, or fire, for it had an unlimited control over the elements. These were the ‘Sons of God’; not those who saw the daughters of men, but the real Elohim, though in the Oriental Kabala they have another name. It was they who imparted Nature’s most weird secrets to men, and revealed to them the ineffable, and now lost ‘word.’ This word, which is no word, has travelled once around the globe, and still lingers as a far-off dying echo in the hearts of some privileged men. The hierophants of all the Sacerdotal Colleges were aware of the existence of this island, but the ‘word’ was known only to the Yava Aleim, or chief lord of every college, and was passed to his successor only at the moment of death. There were many such colleges, and the old classic authors speak of them.

. . . . . . . . . .

“There was no communication with the fair island by sea, but subterranean passages known only to the chiefs, communicated with it in all directions. Tradition points to many of the majestic ruins of India, Ellora, Elephanta, and the caverns of Ajanta (Chandor range), which belonged once to those colleges, and with which were connected such subterranean ways. Who can tell but the lost Atlantis—which is also mentioned in the Secret Book, but, again, under another name, pronounced in the sacred language—did not exist yet in those days? The great lost continent might have, perhaps, been situated south of Asia, extending from India to Tasmania? If the hypothesis now so much doubted, and positively denied by some learned authors who regard it as a joke of Plato’s, is ever verified, then, perhaps, will the scientists believe that the description of the god-inhabited continent was not altogether fable. And they may then perceive that Plato’s guarded hints and the fact of his attributing the narrative to Solon and the Egyptian priests, were but a prudent way of imparting the fact to the world and by cleverly combining truth and fiction, to disconnect himself from a story which the obligations imposed at initiation forbade him to divulge.

. . . . . . . . . .

“To continue the tradition, we have to add that the class of hierophants was divided into two distinct categories: those who were instructed by the ‘Sons of God,’ of the island, and who were initiated in the divine doctrine of pure revelation, and others who inhabited the lost Atlantis—if such must be its name—and who, being of another race, were born with a sight which embraced all hidden things, and was independent of both distance and material obstacle. In short, they were the fourth race of men mentioned in the Popol-Vuh, whose sight was unlimited and who knew all things at once. They were, perhaps, what we would now term ‘natural-born mediums,’ who neither struggled nor suffered to obtain their knowledge, nor did they acquire it at the price of any sacrifice. Therefore, while the former walked in the path of their divine instructors, and acquiring their knowledge by degrees, learned at the same time to discern the evil from the good, the born adepts of the Atlantis blindly followed the insinuations of the great and invisible ‘Dragon,’ the King Thevetat (the Serpent of Genesis?). Thevetat had neither learned nor acquired knowledge, but, to borrow an expression of Dr. Wilder in relation to the tempting Serpent, he was ‘a sort of Socrates who knew without being initiated.’ Thus, under the evil insinuations of their demon, Thevetat, the Atlantis-race became a nation of wicked magicians. In consequence of this, war was declared, the story of which would be too long to narrate;1 its substance may be found in the disfigured allegories of the race of Cain, the giants, and that of Noah and his righteous family. The conflict came to an end by the submersion of the Atlantis; which finds its imitation in the stories of the Babylonian and Mosaic flood: The giants and magicians ‘. . . and all flesh died . . . and every man.’ All except Xisuthrus and Noah, who are substantially identical with the great Father of the Thlinkithians in the Popol-Vuh, or the sacred book of the Guatemalans, which also tells of his escaping in a large boat, like the Hindu Noah—Vaivasvata.

“If we believe the tradition at all, we have to credit the further story that from the intermarrying of the progeny of the hierophants of the island and the descendants of the Atlantean Noah, sprang up a mixed race of righteous and wicked. On the one side the world had its Enochs, Moseses, Gautama-Buddhas, its numerous ‘Saviours,’ and great hierophants; on the other hand, its ‘natural magicians’ who, through lack of the restraining power of proper spiritual enlightenment, and because of weakness of physical and mental organizations, unintentionally perverted their gifts to evil purposes. Moses had no word of rebuke for those adepts in prophecy and other powers who had been instructed in the colleges of esoteric wisdom mentioned in the Bible. His denunciations were reserved for such as either wittingly or otherwise debased the powers inherited from their Atlantean ancestors to the service of evil spirits, to the injury of humanity. . . .”

Such is the story about King Thevetat of Atlantis given by H. P. Blavatsky in her 1877 book, Isis Unveiled. Further on in Isis Unveiled we are able to see where the name Thevetat came from (vol. 2, p. 576). Blavatsky refers to an “old book, published in 1693 and written by the Sieur de La Loubère, French Ambassador to the King of Siam,” from which she “will quote his words about the Siamese Savior—Sommona-Codom”:

“How marvellous soever they pretend the birth of their Saviour has been, they cease not to give him a father and a mother. His mother, whose name is found in some of their Balie (Pali?) books, was called, as they say, Maha MARIA, which seems to signify the great Mary, for Maha signifies great. However it be, this ceases not to give attention to the missionaries, and has perhaps given occasion to the Siamese to believe that Jesus being the son of Mary, was brother to Sommona-Codom, and that, having been crucified, he was that wicked brother whom they give to Sommona-Codom, under the name of Thevetat, and whom they report to be punished in Hell, with a punishment which participates something of a cross.  . . .”

The Siamese Savior that Monsieur de La Loubère is speaking about is of course the Buddha. His phonetic rendering “Sommona-Codom” from the “Balie” or Pali language represents what in modern transliteration is “samaṇa Gotama.” We can now see that “Thevetat,” as spelled in the 1693 English translation,2 or “Tevetat,” as spelled in the 1691 French original,3 is “Devadatta,” the wicked cousin of Gotama Buddha.

Devadatta is the archetypical “bad guy” in Buddhist writings. He had been a Buddhist monk of high standing and great austerity, and had achieved psychic powers befitting his advanced stage. According to all accounts, he tried to form a schism in the Buddhist order. This is a very serious offense for a Buddhist monk. In some accounts, he even tried to kill the Buddha. His name evokes an image of the greatest enemy of the Buddha and the Buddhist order. Significantly, the Buddhist writings include a number of jātaka stories involving him, stories of previous births, showing that he had been in conflict with the Buddha in past lives as well.

The story about King Thevetat of Atlantis given in 1877 in Isis Unveiled was then referred to in an 1883 article, “Leaflets from Esoteric History,” unsigned but said to have been written or caused to be written by a Mahatma, one of the teachers behind the Theosophical movement. There, like in The Secret Doctrine where Blavatsky repeats this story with additional explanations (vol. 2, pp. 220-222), we also find the spelling Thevetata. This spelling is used in this article in the plural, to refer to gods in the Etruscan pantheon as remnants of the Atlantean gods who were followers of King Thevetat:

“On page 593 of Isis, Vol. I, the Thevetatas—the evil, mischievous gods that have survived in the Etruscan Pantheon—are mentioned, along with the ‘sons of god’ or Brahma Pitris. The Involute, the hidden or shrouded gods, the Consentes, Complices, and Novensiles, are all disguised relics of the Atlanteans; while the Etruscan arts of soothsaying their Disciplina revealed by Tages comes direct, and in undisguised form from the Atlantean King Thevetat, the ‘invisible’ Dragon, whose name survives to this day among the Siamese and Burmese, as also, in the Jataka allegorical stories of the Buddhists as the opposing power under the name of Devadat. And Tages was the son of Thevetat, before he became the grandson of the Etruscan Jupiter-Tinia.”4

This makes the direct connection between the story about King Thevetat of Atlantis and the allegorical stories of the Buddhists about Devadat, i.e., Devadatta. As we have seen, the name Tevetat/Thevetat is only a 1691/1693 phonetic rendering of the name Devadatta from the Pali. It is exactly the same in Sanskrit, Devadatta, and also in the early so-called Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit (e.g., in the Mahāvastu). Devadatta means “given by the gods.” There are no known variants of this name in the Buddhist texts. The Atlantean King Thevetat, i.e., Devadatta, would have been the prototype for the later character of this name, and sometimes even of other names. The connection with gods of the Etruscan pantheon serves to show that the story has been preserved in other places, even if the names have been changed. It is the age-old story of the conflict between good and evil, but with a very important difference. In this story, evil is the result of using naturally-occurring higher faculties without undergoing the necessary training for their proper use. This evil is not the obvious evil of selfishness, greed, aggression, etc., but rather is the more subtle evil of following a wrong spiritual path.

According to this story, from the time of King Thevetat/Devadatta onward there have been in the world two opposed hierarchies of spiritual teachings. By giving the story about King Thevetat/Devadatta of Atlantis, Blavatsky made publicly known the existence of these two distinct classes of hierophants, and their continued existence up to the present through their spiritual descendants. Here we may find the reason for something that has long puzzled students of Theosophy, namely, the opposition shown in the Mahatma letters to the so-called “Red Hats,” i.e., the orders of Tibetan Buddhism other than the Gelugpas or “Yellow Hats.”5 This seems to be diametrically opposed to brotherhood, the first object of the Theosophical Society: “To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.” Moreover, in recent decades many people in the West have come into contact with “Red Hat” lamas, teachers who are obviously good and often saintly individuals. They do not teach anything that we would call black magic, but rather they teach kindness and compassion, just like the “Yellow Hat” lamas do. Some of their other teachings, however, were apparently regarded by the Theosophical Mahatmas as inheritances from King Thevetat/Devadatta of Atlantis.

Since Atlantis is still in the realm of myth rather than history, all means of tracing the descent of the spiritual teachings from the two opposed classes of hierophants spoken of in the story about King Thevetat/Devadatta are closed to us. Since the Theosophical Mahatmas only stated their opposition to the “Red Hats” in the Mahatma letters, but did not explain it, we are left to put two and two together and make our own deductions about it. Is there in known historical times anything that would link the teachings attributed to King Thevetat/Devadatta in the story and the distinctive teachings of the “Red Hats”? Yes, there are three pivotal events in the spread of Buddhism to China and Tibet that show such a link. We must know that the Theosophical Mahatmas opposed quietism, which was described in a Mahatma letter as “that utter paralysis of the Soul.”6 In relation to the story about King Thevetat/Devadatta, quietism means using one’s natural intuitional faculties to achieve spiritual knowledge, “instead of becoming a neophyte, and gradually obtaining his esoteric knowledge through a regular initiation.”7 The contrast between these two approaches to spiritual practice has played out in historical times in a series of pivotal events in the spread of Buddhism.

Buddhism was born in India, and was carried to China in the early centuries of the first millennium C.E. There, Buddhism was adapted to the Chinese temperament,8 most notably as Chan, or Zen as it became in Japan and by which it is now known in the West. The decisive moment in the history of Chan/Zen Buddhism occurred in the seventh century C.E., when, as recorded in the highly influential Platform Sūtra, Huineng successfully laid claim to be the real Sixth Patriarch. Although modern scholarship has discredited much of this account, the fact remains that Chan/Zen developed along the lines indicated in this account from then up to the present. According to this account, the Fifth Patriarch’s main disciple Shenxiu wrote a verse to demonstrate his competence to become the Sixth Patriarch: “The mind is like a mirror; it must be polished every day.” Then Huineng wrote a verse demonstrating that it was he, not Shenxiu, who had the real understanding, saying in effect: “What mind? What mirror?” In this way, Shenxiu’s teaching of gradual enlightenment, accompanied by cultivation of the mind, was replaced by Huineng’s teaching of sudden enlightenment, dispensing with training the mind.

Buddhism was carried to Tibet in the later centuries of the first millennium C.E. Around the year 800 C.E., a great debate was held at Samye (bsam yas), Tibet, to determine which form of Buddhism would be adopted in Tibet, Indian or Chinese. The decisive moment in the history of Tibetan Buddhism occurred when Kamalaśīla won this debate on behalf of the Indian faction, teaching the gradual path, the path of mental development. The defeated Chinese faction was teaching sudden enlightenment, which was said to occur without disciplining the mind. This has usually been described as a kind of quietism. The parallel with the description of the Atlanteans who did not exert effort to obtain their enlightenment is obvious. The king of Tibet then decreed that only Indian Buddhism would be adopted in Tibet, and Chinese Buddhism would not be allowed.

By the time of Sakya Paṇḍita, 1182-1251, allegations had begun to surface that the Chinese quietism teachings were reappearing in Tibet in the guise of some (not all) Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā teachings.9 These concerns continued to the time of Tsongkhapa, 1357-1419, who founded the Gelugpa or “Yellow Hat” order in contrast to the previously existing orders, the so-called “Red Hat” orders. Tsongkhapa decisively steered the course for Buddhism in Tibet from then up to the present with his powerful promulgation of the graded path, lam rim, and its emphasis on mental development.10 The previously existing Sakya order, of which Sakya Paṇḍita was a major teacher, was also known for its emphasis on mental development. The previously existing Nyingma and Kagyu orders did not leave out mental development, and all of the orders of Tibetan Buddhism shared the core teaching of developing compassion and working for the sake of others. Nonetheless, the Nyingma and Kagyu orders are most known for their characteristic teachings of Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā, respectively. It is some of these two teachings (again, not all) that were regarded by Sakyapas and Gelugpas as forms of quietism, like the Chan/Zen teachings that had been prohibited in Tibet after the Samye debate.

Here we apparently have the reason for the opposition shown in the Mahatma letters to the so-called “Red Hats.” Some of their characteristic Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā teachings are close enough to the kinds of teachings described in the story about King Thevetat/Devadatta of Atlantis to be considered holdovers or inheritances from them. It is the age-old story of the conflict between good and evil, but here seen in terms of two opposing spiritual paths taught by two opposing spiritual hierarchies. This was considered to be so important that war was reportedly fought over it in Atlantis. Despite the unquestioned need for tolerance and mutual respect, the Theosophical Mahatmas by their opposition to the “Red Hats” clearly placed themselves on the one side as the spiritual descendants of the righteous hierophants of Atlantis, and clearly distinguished themselves from the other side.

 

Notes:

  1. This story is given in The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky (1888), vol. 2, pp. 427-428.
  2. “The Life of Thevetat, tranflated from the Balie,” in A New Hiftorical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam, by Monfieur de La Loubere (London, 1693, English translation from French), vol. 2, pp. 145-157.
  3. “La Vie de Tevetat, Traduitte du Bali,” in Du royaume de Siam, par Monsieur de La Loubere (Paris, 1691), vol. 2, pp. 1 ff. (Amsterdam edition, pp. 1-26.).
  4. The Theosophist, vol. 5, no. 1, Oct. 1883, p. 9 or 10; reprinted in H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 5, p. 222. The names of the gods of the Etruscan pantheon used here can be found in Library of Universal Knowledge (based on Chambers’s Encyclopaedia), vol. 5 (New York, 1880), p. 571:

“. . . the Etruscans . . . . In their pantheon, the predominance belongs to the evil, mischievous gods; . . . . They divide their gods into two classes, and they place them in the most northern, and therefore most immovable point of the world, when