The One Mind

By David Reigle on December 21, 2019 at 11:30 pm

This is part of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to the Book of Dzyan.

“Extracts are given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar Commentaries and Glosses on the Book of Dzyan— . . . Thus, were one to translate into English, using only the substantives and technical terms as employed in one of the Tibetan and Senzar versions, Verse 1 would read as follows : . . . alone Tho-og Yinsin in night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna), . . .” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 23).

yinsin, yin-sin, yin sin, yih-sin, yi-hsin. The word is printed as Yinsin in The Secret Doctrine 1.23; Yin-Sin in SD Würzburg, p. 143, and in SD 1.635; Yin Sin in Mahatma Letter #15 2nd ed.; Yin-sin in ML #15 3rd ed. and chron. ed.; Yih-sin in ML #59 2nd ed.; Yi-hsin in ML #59 3rd ed. and chron. ed. This Chinese word was adopted from yih-sin in Samuel Beal’s 1871 Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, pp. 373, 393, 98 fn. (the change of yih-sin to yin-sin is an obvious scribal or typographical error, mistaking an “h” for an “n”). Beal’s early spelling came to be standardized as i-hsin in the once commonly used Wade-Giles system of writing Chinese words in Roman letters, and as yixin in the now more standard pinyin system. Beal understood it as the “universally diffused essence” (pp. 11, 12, 13, 14, 29, 143-144, 340, 352, 373), and the “one form of existence” (p. 373). These phrases were used in the Mahatma letters to define it.

            This Chinese term translates the Sanskrit term eka-citta, meaning the “one mind.” The teaching of the “one mind” is presented in the Buddhist scripture known in the west as The Awakening of Faith (translated by Yoshito S. Hakeda, 1967), Sanskrit Mahāyāna-śraddhotpāda, Chinese Dasheng qixin lun. It is there taught as being the all, saying that (Hakeda, p. 28): “This Mind includes in itself all states of being of the phenomenal world and the transcendental world.” Further, that (Hakeda, p. 31): “the principle of One Mind has two aspects. One is the aspect of Mind in terms of the Absolute (tathatā; Suchness), and the other is the aspect of Mind in terms of phenomena (samsara; birth and death). Each of these two aspects embraces all states of existence. Why? Because these two aspects are mutually inclusive.” The first aspect (as suchness, tathatā) is the one mind as it is in itself, described as the dharma-dhātu (“element of attributes” or “realm of phenomena”), and as being unborn and imperishable (Hakeda, p. 32). As the tathāgata-garbha (“buddha-matrix” or buddha-nature) the one mind is the ground of saṃsāra (Hakeda, p. 36), birth and death, the production and cessation of the manifested cosmos. The tathāgata-garbha has been understood by different commentators on this text as the one mind itself, the first aspect, or as production and cessation, the second aspect (Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, under yixin). The second aspect, birth and death or production and cessation, is the one mind as the ālaya-vijñāna, the storehouse consciousness (Hakeda, p. 36) or foundational consciousness. The ever-changing ālaya-vijñāna carries the seeds (bīja) of future results (phala) produced by all actions (karma), and thus produces the manifested cosmos. The cosmos, often referred to as the three worlds or the triple world (traidhātuka), operates by way of the twelvefold chain of causation or becoming (the twelve nidānas of dependent origination, pratītya samutpāda). The teaching of the one mind and its two aspects is very succinctly put in a famous statement from the Daśabhūmika-sūtra, for which we have the original Sanskrit in both prose and verse. These two Sanskrit formulations are given here, along with my English translation:

citta-mātram idaṃ yad idaṃ traidhātukam | yāny apīmāni dvādaśa bhavāṅgāni tathāgatena prabhedaśo vyākhyātāni tāny api sarvāṇy eka-citta-samāśritāni |

(Ryuko Kondo ed., p. 98; Johannes Rahder ed. has eva instead of eka, copied in the P. L. Vaidya ed.).

“This triple world is only mind. Also these twelve limbs of becoming that were explained individually by the Buddha, all those, too, are based on the one mind.”

te citta-mātra ti traidhātukam otaranti api cā bhavāṅga iti dvādaśa eka-citte |

(Rahder/Susa ed., p. 53, verse 16; Kondo ed., p. 108, verse 6; Vaidya ed., p. 87, verse 16).

“They comprehend that the triple world is only mind, and also that the twelve limbs of becoming are within the one mind.”

References: “Nor can it well be called force since the latter is but the attribute of Yin Sin (Yin Sin or the one “Form of existence,” also Adi-Buddhi or Dharmakaya, the mystic, universally diffused essence) when manifesting in the phenomenal world of senses, namely, only your old acquaintance Fohat. . . . The initiated Brahmin calls it (Yin Sin and Fohat) Brahman and Sakti when manifesting as that force.” (Mahatma Letter #15, 2nd ed. p. 90, 3rd ed. pp. 88-89, chron. ed. #67, p. 181).

“In symbology the central point is Jivatma (the 7th principle), and hence Avalokitesvara, the Kwan-Shai-yin, the manifested “Voice” (or Logos), the germ point of manifested activity; hence, in the phraseology of the Christian Kabalists, “the Son of the Father and Mother,” and agreeably to ours—”the Self manifested in Self—Yih-sin, the “one form of existence,” the child of Dharmakaya (the universally diffused Essence), both male and female. Parabrahm or “Adi-Buddha” while acting through that germ point outwardly as an active force, reacts from the circumference inwardly as the Supreme but latent Potency.” (Mahatma Letter #59, 2nd ed. p. 346, 3rd ed. pp. 340-341, chron. ed. #111, pp. 378-379).

Compare Beal’s Catena, p. 373: “So again, when the idea of a universally diffused essence (dharmakaya) was accepted as a dogmatic necessity, a further question arose as to the relation which this “supreme existence” bore to time, space, and number. And from this consideration appears to have proceeded the further invention of the several names Vairochana (the Omnipresent), Amitâbha (for Amirta [sic for Amrita]) the Eternal, and Adi-Buddha (yih-sin) the “one form of existence.””

Beal’s Catena, p. 11: “The whole of these systems again he includes within one universally diffused essence, which, for want of a better word, is called the “Heart,” but which, in fact, corresponds to the soul of the universe, the all-pervading Self or the “All in all” of pure Pantheism.”

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The Territory of Doubt

By David Reigle on June 8, 2019 at 4:00 pm

            Mahatma letter #16 (chronological #68), the so-called “devachan letter,” refers to the “Territory of Doubt”:

“Thus, for instance, in enumerating the seven lokas of the ‘Kama-Loka’ the Avatamsaka Sutra gives as the seventh, the ‘Territory of Doubt.’ I will ask you to remember the name as we will have to speak of it hereafter.”

In the Mahatma’s answer to the next question, this phrase occurs again:

“From ‘Sukhavati’ down to the ‘Territory of Doubt’ there is a variety of Spiritual States; . . .”

Although the Mahatma asks his correspondent “to remember the name as we will have to speak of it hereafter,” we do not hear of it again in either the rest of the Mahatma letters or in the writings of the Mahatmas’ sometime amanuensis H. P. Blavatsky.

            The phrase “territory of doubt” comes from A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, translated by Samuel Beal, 1871. It occurs only once there, on page 120, according to a digital search:

“If, however, a man prepares himself to acquire merit, and prays for birth in that land [Sukhāvatī, the Paradise of Amitābha], and yet afterwards goes back and loses his faith, he shall be born, if he again turns to the true belief, in a ‘territory of doubt,’ where he shall for five hundred years neither see Buddha nor hear the Law or the Bôdhisatwas.”

It was referred to earlier in Beal’s Catena, p. 42, footnote, as the “city of doubt”:

“But if a man who reverences Buddha, and has observed the precepts, yet with less thorough purpose, die without any marks either good or bad on his person, but lies as it were in a sleep, and, awaking for a moment, thus departs, this man, not yet wholly freed from the influences of unbelief, shall be born for five hundred years in an external paradise,* and afterwards enter on his perfect reward.”

“*City of doubt, a region bordering on the true Paradise of Amitâbha.”

The idea was referred to one more time, in a passage translated in Beal’s Catena, p, 375:

“And therefore the Amitâbha Sûtra says: ‘Every faithful person ought naturally to pray for birth in that happy country (Paradise).’ . . .

“Again there is a passage which says, ‘If a man is well-rooted, yet if he doubts, the flower will not open; but if he believes, then his heart (inner self) pure and calm, opening out like the flower opens from the bud, he forthwith beholds Buddha, and comprehends (hears) the law.’”

            From these references, we can see that the idea of the territory of doubt comes from the Sukhāvatī-vyūha-sūtra, referred to as the Amitābha Sūtra. The Mahatma’s reference to this as coming from the Avataṃsaka-sūtra is not found in Beal’s book, although Beal often refers to this sūtra, and may be an error (I could not find any such thing in a digital search of this extensive sūtra translated into English by Thomas Cleary as The Flower Ornament Scripture). This idea is explained at length in the larger Sukhāvatī-vyūha-sūtra. It is that if a person has once made the wish to be reborn in sukhāvatī or devachan, but later doubts rebirth in such a place, yet “plants the roots of merit,” that person will be reborn inside a closed lotus in sukhāvatī. Thus the person will be in sukhāvatī, but will not be able to benefit from its wonderful features until, after a long time, the lotus opens. The full passage explaining this is, as translated from Sanskrit by Luis O. Gómez in The Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light, Sanskrit and Chinese Versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutras, 1996, pp. 104-106:

Two Kinds of Rebirth in the Land of Bliss

§133.    The Blessed One said: “Now, Ajita, do you also see the dwelling of those who here in this Land of Bliss dwell inside the closed calyxes of immense lotus flowers?”

            He said: “Blessed One, I see that these human beings whose dwelling is the closed calyxes of noble lotus flowers here in the Land of Bliss enjoy dwellings like those of gods—just as the gods of the Thirty-Three or the gods of the Yama Realm live in palaces fifty leagues or a hundred leagues or five hundred leagues wide, where they play, sport, and enjoy themselves, in exactly the same manner, Blessed One, those in the closed calyxes of noble lotus flowers play, sport, and enjoy themselves in similar palaces.

§134.    “Furthermore, Blessed One, there are beings who, born miraculously, appear sitting cross-legged on the lotus flowers. What are then, Blessed One, the causes, what are the conditions, that determine who will dwell in a closed calyx, and who will be reborn miraculously to appear sitting cross-legged on open lotus flowers?”

§135.    The Blessed One said: “Those bodhisattvas in other buddha-fields, Ajita, who entertain doubts about rebirth in the Land of Bliss, but who in spite of their doubts plant the roots of merit, they will dwell inside the calyx. But those who, on the contrary, are free of doubt, who have cut through uncertainty, and who plant roots of merit in order to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, and trust in the unimpeded knowledge of blessed buddhas, believe in it, and are committed to it, they are reborn miraculously to appear here sitting cross-legged in open lotus flowers.

§136.    “Those bodhisattvas mahasattvas, Ajita, who abide in buddha-fields elsewhere in the universe, if they aspire to see Amitabha, the Tathagata, Arhat, perfect and full Buddha, if they never entertain a doubt, never hesitate regarding the unimpeded knowledge of the buddhas, and believe in their own roots of merit, they too will be reborn miraculously, appearing cross-legged on the lotus flowers, in only an instant, already possessing a body exactly like that of other beings who have been born there long before.

§137.    “Consider, Ajita, the weakness in the discernment of those who do not believe in the Buddha’s knowledge. Consider the limitations of their discernment, the deficit in their discernment, the feebleness of their discernment. For, during five hundred years, they are deprived of seeing the Buddha, of seeing the bodhisattvas, of hearing the Dharma, of speaking about the Dharma. They are deprived of the practice of the roots of merit, of accomplishing the roots of merit. And all of this only because their ideas and conceptualization have fallen prey to doubt.

§138.    “Ajita, it is as if an anointed kshatriya monarch had a prison, inlaid entirely with gold and emerald, with strings of silk cloth, garlands, and tassels hanging from the walls, with open canopies of different colors. Its walls would be covered with cotton and silk, its floors scattered over with open flowers of many kinds. The prison would be scented with excellent scents, embellished with terraced roofs and terraced pavilions, with skylights, railings, and gateways, decorated with jewels of all kinds, covered with nets of bells of gold and gems. It would have four corners, four pillars, four doors, four stairs. And the son of that king would be thrown into that prison for some misdeed. He would be bound with chains made of gold from the Jambu River. And a couch would be prepared for him there, covered with many thick woolen spreads, with cotton and wool coverlets, pleasant to touch like fine Kachilindika cloth, wrapped in covers made of Kalinga cloth, and, on top, a silk spread, with red cushions on both sides, colorful and charming. He would sit or lie on that couch. And much food and drink of various kinds, pure and excellent, would be offered to him there. What do you think, Ajita? Would the prince have there fine objects of enjoyment?”       He said: “They would be great, Blessed One.”

§139.    The Blessed One said: “What do you think, Ajita? Would he relish this food, consume it, or feel any satisfaction from it?”

            He said: “No indeed, Blessed One. On the contrary, led away by the king and thrown in that prison, he would only wish for release from there. He would seek the nobles, princes, ministers, ladies of the court, rich merchants, property owners, and lords of castles, who might release him from that prison. Furthermore, Blessed One, there would be no pleasure for that prince in that prison, nor would he be freed from there until the king would show him favor.”

§140.    The Blessed One said: “In exactly the same way, Ajita, those bodhisattvas who plant roots of merit, but have fallen prey to doubt, hesitate in their belief in the knowledge of a buddha, which is a knowledge equal to the unequalled. They may be reborn in this world called the Land of Bliss, if they have heard the Buddha’s name, and by the sheer power of a serene, trusting, mind generated by that hearing; but are not born miraculously and do not appear in that land sitting cross-legged on the lotus flowers. Rather, they dwell only in the closed calyx of the lotus flowers. Although they reside there, inside the lotus flowers, with a mental image of the palaces and the gardens of the Land of Bliss, and no excrement or urine is discharged from their bodies, no phlegm or mucus, and nothing disagreeable to the mind is found on their bodies or in their dwellings, still, for five hundred years they are deprived of seeing buddhas, hearing the Dharma, seeing bodhisattvas, speaking about and ascertaining the Dharma, and practicing any of the best virtues taught in the Dharma . Although they do not rejoice there or find satisfaction, still, when their previous transgressions have been exhausted, they then, at last, leave that calyx; and, as they leave it, they cannot tell if they are leaving from above, from below, or across.

§141.    “Consider this, Ajita. If one did not dwell inside a calyx for five hundred years, one could wait upon many hundreds of thousands of millions of trillions of buddhas during those five hundred years. One could plant an immense, innumerable, immeasurable number of roots of merit, and one could gain all the qualities of a buddha. Now, inasmuch as these bodhisattvas will miss all this by reason of their doubting, consider, Ajita, how great is the misfortune to which the doubt of a bodhisattva can lead.

§142.    “Therefore, Ajita, bodhisattvas who are free from doubts should generate this aspiration to attain awakening. And, in order to obtain quickly the capacity to confer benefit and happiness on all living beings, they should dedicate their roots of merit to rebirth in the Land of Bliss, where the Blessed One Amitabha, the Tathagata, Arhat, perfect and full Buddha dwells.”

            One must wonder if the Mahatma intended to link this territory of doubt to the gestation state that he describes as taking place after death and before the person is reborn in devachan, i.e., sukhāvatī. Certainly, being in a closed lotus bud can be compared to a gestation state, whether in the womb or between lives. Indeed, the word that Luis Gómez translates as “closed calyx” is garbha, which is also the usual Sanskrit word for “womb.” Moreover, the Mahatma writes in this letter that the gestation state is “very long,” and the Buddhist text’s “five hundred years” would suggest a very long time to its readers. When a person enters the gestation state between lives, we are told, the cast-off fourth and fifth principles consisting of lower thoughts and emotions go on their way to eventual disintegration. Doubts would naturally be part of the discarded lower thoughts that are slowly fading away while the real person, consisting of the higher principles, is in the gestation state. When the gestation state is over, like when a lotus bud opens, the person is in effect reborn in sukhāvatī, i.e., devachan.

Note on References:

The Sanskrit text of the passage quoted above as translated by Luis O. Gómez is found in the edition by F. Max Müller and Bunyiu Nanjio, Sukhāvatī-vyūha, Oxford, 1883, pp. 65-69, and in the edition by Atsuuji Ashikaga, Sukhāvatīvyūha, Kyoto, 1965, pp. 57-60. It was also translated from Sanskrit by F. Max Müller in Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts, Part II (Sacred Books of the East, vol. 49), 1894, pp. 62-65. Luis O. Gómez additionally provided a translation of it from its most widely used Chinese translation in the same book cited above, pp. 217-219.

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The Dwelling of Māra

By David Reigle on May 30, 2019 at 11:54 pm

            Throughout Mahatma letter #16 (#68 in the chronological edition), the so-called “devachan letter,” are found several quotations from Buddhist scriptures. These come from an 1871 book titled, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Samuel Beal. In this book (pp. 15-125), Beal translated what he called “The Buddhist Kosmos” (Fah-kai-on-lih-to, in his transcription of the Chinese title, p. 12), written by Jin-Ch’au, and published in 1573 C.E. The book by Jin-Ch’au includes many quotations from the Buddhist scriptures. It is usually these quotations that are given in the Mahatma letter. One of these quotations refers to the “dwelling of Māra” (Mahatma Letters, 2nd ed. pp. 106-107; 3rd ed. p. 104, chronological ed. p. 195; from Beal’s Catena, p. 90). This Māra, says the Mahatma letter, is the allegorical image of the mysterious “Planet of Death,” a sphere located “between Kama and Rupa-lokas.”

            The dwelling of Māra was referred to a few pages earlier in Beal’s Catena (p. 84) as the “abode of Māra.” The earlier quotation confirms the later quotation, that this dwelling or abode of Māra is “between the Kama Loka and the Rupa Loka” (p. 90); that is, between the kāma-dhātu or desire realm and the rūpa-dhātu or form realm. However, no such place is known in the Buddhist teachings that have become standard, such as are based on the Sanskrit Abhidharma-kośa or the Pali Abhidhammatha-saṅgaha. In the standard Buddhist teachings, the kāma-dhātu ends with the sixth of six heavens, the para-nirmita-vaśavartin heaven, after which begins the rūpa-dhātu with the first of seventeen or sixteen higher heavens, the brahma-kāyika heaven (these have been translated as “heavens” only because they are abodes of gods located above the human realm; the Sanskrit text merely calls them “places, localities,” sthāna). There is no mention of any dwelling or abode in between. Indeed, in the standard teachings Māra, the god of desire, dwells in the sixth and highest heaven of the kāma-dhātu, the desire realm, not in some sphere between the kāma-dhātu and the rūpa-dhātu. Where, then, does this teaching come from? The text translated by Beal quotes it from what Beal transcribed as the “Lau-Tan Sutra.”

            The first step is to figure out what is the “Lau-Tan Sutra,” as transcribed by Beal. He thought (p. 90) that it might be the “Pinda-dhana Sûtra,” but no such sūtra shows up in our catalogues. Fortunately, Beal himself prepared a catalogue of the Chinese Tripiṭaka, the first ever in English, published in 1876: The Buddhist Tripiṭaka, as It Is Known in China and Japan. A Catalogue and Compendious Report. There, on p. 39, no. 6 is the Fuh-shwo-Lau-tan-king, i.e., the Lau-tan Sūtra. Several years later, in 1883, Beal’s pioneering catalogue was improved upon by Bunyiu Nanjio with his still used Catalogue of the Chinese Translation of the Buddhist Tripitaka. From Beal’s description in his catalogue, giving the translators, etc., we can see that the Lau-tan Sūtra is no. 551, pp. 138-139, in Nanjio’s catalogue: the Fo-shwo-leu-thân-kiṅ. Nanjio there tells us that it is one of three “earlier translations of No. 545 (30), i.e. the Sûtra on the record of the world, in the Dîrghâgama.” From this information, we can trace it to the now standard edition of the Chinese Tripiṭaka, the Taishō edition, which was compiled and published 1922-1934. In the 1931 Taishō catalogue, this sūtra is no. 23, the Ta leou t’an king. In the once commonly used Wade-Giles system this is written Ta lou t’an ching, or in the now more standard pinyin system, Da lou tan jing.

            The Lau-tan Sūtra, as Nanjio informed us, is an earlier translation of the thirtieth sūtra in the Dīrghāgama. The Dīrghāgama collection, originally in Sanskrit, consists of thirty sūtras in the Chinese translation. The Sanskrit Dīrghāgama was long lost, but in recent years an incomplete manuscript of it was discovered. In this manuscript, the Dīrghāgama consists of forty-seven sūtras. Unfortunately, an original Sanskrit text of the Lau-tan Sūtra is not among these (see: Jens-Uwe Hartmann, “Contents and Structure of the Dīrghāgama of the (Mūla-)Sarvāstivādins,” Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University, vol. 7, 2004, pp. 119-137, especially pp. 125-128). The Dīrghāgama is parallel to the Pali Dīgha-nikāya, which consists of thirty-four suttas or sūtras. None of these, however, provides us with a parallel to the Lau-tan Sūtra. So we still do not know the Sanskrit title of the Lau-tan Sūtra. One surmise was the Loka-dhātu Sūtra; a later surmise was the Loka-prasthāna Sūtra. The most plausible one is Loka-prajñapti Sūtra, found in an article on the related Loka-prajñapti Śāstra (Siglinde Dietz, “A Brief Survey on the Sanskrit Fragments of the Lokaprajñaptiśāstra,” Annual Memoirs of the Otani University Shin Buddhist Comprehensive Research Institute, vol. 7, 1989, p. 80). More importantly, we do not have a Sanskrit or Pali text of it to check for this “dwelling of Māra.”

            The next step, then, is to see if another text can be found that refers to the “dwelling of Māra” located between the kāma-dhātu and the rūpa-dhātu. As already said, the texts that provide the standard Buddhist teachings on cosmography do not refer to any such place, including their commentaries such as the comprehensive Chim commentary on the Abhidharmakośa recently translated from Tibetan (by Ian James Coghlan, Ornament of Abhidharma, 2018). After a fruitless search of possible candidates, such as the Divyāvadāna (five descriptions of the heavens without it), the Mūla-sarvāstivāda-vinaya-vastu (four descriptions without it, all in its Saṅgha-bheda-vastu), the Dharma-skandha (five descriptions without it in the lengthy extant Sanskrit portions), the Loka-prajñapti-śāstra (several descriptions without it, searched via its Tibetan translation, none in the extant Sanskrit fragments), etc., I came to the Mahāvastu, an old vinaya text that never made it into mainstream Buddhism. There we find two references to such a place. The Mahāvastu refers to the dwelling (bhavana) of Māra, the abode (ālaya) of Māra, that is between the kāma-dhātu and the rūpa-dhātu. Before bringing in the Mahāvastu references, it will be useful to review the passage translated by Beal and quoted in the Mahatma letter, and the supporting passage translated by Beal showing that this place is in fact between the kāma-dhātu and the rūpa-dhātu.

            The passage translated by Beal and quoted in the Mahatma letter, from Beal’s Catena, p. 90:

“The Lau-Tan Sutra says:1 ‘Between the Kama Loka and the Rupa Loka, there is a distinct locality, the dwelling of Mâra. This Mâra, filled with passion and lust, destroys all virtuous principles, as a stone grinds corn. His palace is 6,000 yojanas square, and is surrounded by a seven-fold wall.’”

“1 Pinda-dhana Sûtra.”

            The supporting passage that is found a few pages earlier briefly describes the six heavens of the kāma-dhātu, the “World of Desires,” one by one. It is preceded by this note from the Chinese Editor on its sources: “For bodily size we follow the Kosha; for the character of the garments the Dirghâgama Sutra; for the duration of life the Kosha and Abhidharma.” After the six heavens of the kāma-dhātu and before moving on to the rūpa-dhātu, or “Rupa-loka,” it brings in the “Mâra-vasanam-Heavens,” the “abode of Mâra.” It is from Beal’s Catena, pp. 83-84:

           “10. With respect to the six heavens of the World of Desires, the size of the bodies of the ‘Four Kings,’ is half a li, the weight of their garments half a tael (ounce), and fifty years of men equal one of their days and nights; they live 500 years.

            “In the Trayastriñshas Heaven the size of the body is one li, the weight of the garments six chu (one fourth of an ounce), one night and day equal 100 years of men, and they live 1,000 of these years.

            “In the Yama Heaven, the height of the body is one li and a half, their garments three chu (scruples) in weight, one night and day equals 200 years of men, and they live 2,000 of these years.

            “In the Tusita Heaven, height two li, weight two chu, life 4,000 years, each year being 400 years of men.

            “In the Nirmâna rati Heaven, height two and a half li, weight one chu, duration of life 8,000 years, each year being equal to 800 years of men.

            “In the Parinirmita-vasavartin Heaven, the height is three li, weight of garments half a scruple, and they live 16,000 years, each year of which is equal to 1,600 years of men.

            “In the Mâra-vasanam1-Heavens, the weight of garments is 128th of an ounce, and the years of their life 32,000.

            “In the Rupa-Ioka they use kalpas to measure the duration of life, and they wear no garments, there being no distinction of sexes.”

            “1. Mo-Io-po-seun, i.e., Mâra-vasanam, or abode of Mâra; vide Burnouf, Introd., 617.”

            This shows clearly that the dwelling or abode of Māra is a distinct locality, with its own distinct weight of garments and years of lifespan, beyond the para-nirmita-vaśavartin heaven, the highest heaven of the kāma-dhātu, and before the rūpa-dhātu. It confirms the quotation from the Lau-tan Sūtra. The later Chinese translation of the Lau-tan Sūtra as found in the Dīrghāgama has now become available in a complete English translation of the Dīrghāgama. This translation of the same passage quoted by Beal’s author differs in some ways from Beal’s translation of it, but confirms that the dwelling of Māra is a distinct locality between the para-nirmita-vaśavartin heaven and the brahma-kāyika heaven. As translated by Shohei Ichimura in The Canonical Book of the Buddha’s Lengthy Discourses, vol. 3, 2018, p. 155:

“Between Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven and Brahmakāyika Heaven is the palace of the lord of the evil ones, Māra, an area of sixty thousand yojanas surrounded by sevenfold walls with seven railings, seven ornamental nets, and seven lines of trees, and so on, with innumerable birds singing harmoniously together, just as before.”

            Another English translation of this passage from the later Chinese translation of the Lau-tan Sūtra as found in the Dīrghāgama, made by Angela Falco Howard, is found in her partial translation of this sūtra from her 1986 book, The Imagery of the Cosmological Buddha, p. 117:

“Between the Paranirmita and Brahmā Heavens is the palace of Brahmā deva, which extends for six thousand yojanas in both directions. The palace’s walls are seven-fold with seven balustrades, seven rows of trees with seven precious bells, and countless birds singing harmoniously to each other.”

            This translation differs from the 2018 translation in the number of yojanas in extent, six thousand instead of sixty thousand, and more significantly, the palace of Brahmā rather than the palace of Māra. However, this is almost certainly a slip on the part of Howard. Later in this sūtra as translated by Howard, we see that it is indeed “Māra’s Heaven” that is between the Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven and the Brahmā Heavens, p. 154:

“There are twelve categories of sentient beings who belong to the Kamadhātu or World of Desire. Which are they? They are [the denizens of] hell, the animals, pretas, men, asuras, the Four Heavenly Kings, [those who live in] the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, Yama Heaven, Tuṣita Heaven, Nirmāṇarati Heaven, Paranirmitavaśavartin Heaven, Māra’s Heaven. There are twenty-two categories of sentient beings who belong to the Rupadhātu or World of Form. They are [the beings living in] Brahmā’s Heaven, in the Brahmakāyika Heaven, Brahmāpurohita Heaven, . . .”

            This is in turn confirmed in Ichimura’s 2018 translation of this same passage of the Dīrghagama, vol. 3, p. 244:

“There are twelve kinds of sentient beings in the realm of desire. What are the twelve? They are (1) hell beings, (2) animals, (3) hungry ghosts, (4) humans, (5) asuras, (6) the guardian gods, (7) the Trāyastriṃśa gods, (8) the Yama gods, (9) the Tuṣita gods, (10) the Nirmāṇarati gods, (11) the Paranirmitavaśavartin gods, and (12) the evil ones (Pāpīyas). There are twenty-two kinds of sentient beings in the realm of form: (1) the Brahmakāyika gods, (2) the Brahmapurohita gods, . . .”

            Yet with all this, we were still lacking a Sanskrit original to confirm the English translations of the Chinese translations, until found in the Mahāvastu. The Mahāvastu, one of the earliest Buddhist Sanskrit texts we have, is a text from the vinaya of the long-defunct Lokottara-vādin Mahā-sāṃghika Buddhists. Two passages in this text refer to the dwelling (bhavana) of Māra, the abode (ālaya) of Māra, and show clearly that this dwelling or abode of Māra is a distinct locality between the para-nirmita-vaśavartin heaven of the kāma-dhātu and the brahmā heavens of the rūpa-dhātu. Here there can be no question, since we have the original Sanskrit. The two passages from the Mahāvastu are:

śīlena pariśuddhena cyavantaṃ paśyate naraḥ |
vimānaṃ ruciraṃ śreṣṭhaṃ apsaro-gaṇa-sevitaṃ ||
śīlena pariśuddhena cyavantaṃ paśyate naraḥ |
sumeru-mūrdhne rucire trāyastriśānam ālaye ||
śīlena pariśuddhena yāmāṃ paśyati devatāṃ |
taṃ caiva nagaraṃ divyaṃ apsarāhi parisphuṭaṃ ||
śīlena pariśuddhena tuṣitāṃ paśyati devatāṃ |
vimānāṃ paśyati teṣāṃ vicitrāṃ ratanāmayāṃ ||
śīlena pariśuddhena nirmāṇa-ratīṃ paśyati |
sunirmitāṃ deva-putrāṃ paśyati ca svalaṃkṛtāṃ ||
śīlena pariśuddhena devāṃ paśyati śobhanāṃ |
para-nirmita-vaśavartī vimāneṣu pratiṣṭhitā ||
śīlena pariśuddhena paśyate māram ālayaṃ |
maṇi-vitāna-saṃchannaṃ apsaro-gaṇa-sevitaṃ ||
śīle ābhogaṃ kṛtvāna brahmāṃ paśyati devatāṃ |
jāṃbū-nada-vimānaṃ ca maṇīhi pratimaṇḍitaṃ ||
śīlavāṃ paśyate bhikṣu devāṃ ca brahma-kāyikāṃ |
brahma-purohitāṃ devāṃ vimānehi pratiṣṭhitāṃ ||

(Le Mahâvastu, edited by É. Senart, vol. 2, 1890, pp. 359-360)

            “Through his pure morality a man can see one passing away to the highest brilliant mansion, the resort of throngs of Apsarases.

            “Through his pure morality a man can see one passing away to the bright peak of Sumeru, the abode of the Trāyastriṃśa devas.

            “Through his pure morality he can see the Yāma devas, and that celestial city which is crowded by Apsarases.

            “Because of his perfectly pure morality he sees the Tuṣita devas; he sees their bright bejewelled mansions.

            “Because of his perfectly pure morality he sees the Nirmāṇarati devas, the devas (named) Sunirmita, makers of their own adornments.

            “Because of his perfectly pure morality he sees the shining Paranirmitavaśavartin devas standing in their own mansions.

            “Because of his perfectly pure morality he sees the abode of Māra, covered with a canopy of jewels and crowded by throngs of Apsarases.

            “Through fixing his mind on morality he sees the Brahmā devas and their mansion of Jāmbūnada gold begirt with jewels.

            “The moral monk sees the devas in Brahmā’s train, and the devas who are his priests, standing in their mansions.”

(The Mahāvastu, translated by J. J. Jones, vol. 2, 1952, p. 327)

atīva cāturmahārājikānāṃ devānāṃ bhavanāni pariśuddhāni paryavadātāni abhūṣi | atīva trāyastriṃśānāṃ yāmānāṃ tuṣitānāṃ nirmāṇa-ratīṇāṃ para-nirmita-vasavartināṃ devānāṃ bhavanāni pariśuddhāni paryavadātāni abhūṣi || atīva māra-bhavanāni dhyāmāni abhūnsuḥ | durvarṇā niṣprabhāṇi dhvajāgrāṇi māra-kāyikānāṃ devānāṃ māro ca pāpīmāṃ duḥkhī durmano vipratisārī dhyāmanta-varṇo anto-śalya-paridāgha-jāto || brahma-kāyikānāṃ devānāṃ bhavanāni pariśuddhāni paryavadātāni abhūnsuḥ | śuddhāvāsānāṃ devānāṃ bhavanāni pariśuddhāni paryavadātāni abhūnsuḥ |

(Le Mahâvastu, edited by É. Senart, vol. 2, 1890, p. 163)

“The abodes of the Cāturmahārājika devas became exceeding bright and pure, and so did the abodes of the Trāyastriṃśa devas, of the Yāma devas, of the Tuṣita devas, of the Nirmāṇarati devas, and of the Paranirmitavaśavartin devas. The abodes of Māra became exceeding gloomy. The standards of Māra’s companies became dulled and without lustre. And wicked Māra became unhappy, discomfited, remorseful, dark-visaged and tortured by the sting within him. The abodes of the Brahmā devas and of the Śuddhāvāsa devas became exceeding bright and pure.”

(The Mahāvastu, translated by J. J. Jones, vol. 2, 1952, p. 158)

            The probable reason why the teaching of the dwelling of Māra between the kāma-dhātu and the rūpa-dhātu did not become standard Buddhist doctrine is that it refers to an exceptional realm of existence, not a normal realm of existence. The Mahatma letter has been describing the states after death. It explains that the dwelling of this Māra is the allegorical image of the sphere called the “Planet of Death,” where the lives doomed to destruction disappear.

“Nor must you laugh, if ever you come across Pindha-Dhana or any other Buddhist Sutra and read: ‘Between the Kama-Loka and the Rupa-Loka there is a locality, the dwelling of “Mara” (Death). This Mara filled with passion and lust, destroys all virtuous principles, as a stone grinds corn.* His palace is 7000 yojanas square, and is surrounded by a seven-fold wall,’ for you will feel now more prepared to understand the allegory.”

“* This Mara, as you may well think, is the allegorical image of the sphere called the ‘Planet of Death’ — the whirlpool whither disappear the lives doomed to destruction. It is between Kama and RupaLokas that the struggle takes place.”

            Earlier in the letter the “planet of Death” is referred to for the first time. Besides the two references to it in this letter, this mysterious place is referred to only one more time in the whole of the primary Theosophical writings, only to say in reply to Sinnett’s query about it, “A question I have no right to answer.” (Mahatma letter #23, chronological #93). Then follows in this letter a lengthy description of how a person may end up there. The letter concludes with the statement that this is very rare, an exception rather than the rule.

            “Every one but that ego which, attracted by its gross magnetism, falls into the current that will draw it into the ‘planet of Death’ — the mental as well as physical satellite of our earth — is fitted to pass into a relative ‘spiritual’ condition adjusted to his previous condition in life and mode of thought. To my knowledge and recollection H.P.B. explained to Mr. Hume that man’s sixth principle, as something purely spiritual could not exist, or have conscious being in the Deva-Chan, unless it assimilated some of the more abstract and pure of the mental attributes of the fifth principle or animal Soul: its manas (mind) and memory. When man dies his second and third principles die with him; the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles form the surviving Quaternary. (Read again page 6 in Fragments of O.T.)  Thenceforth it is a ‘death’ struggle between the Upper and Lower dualities. If the upper wins, the sixth, having attracted to itself the quintessence of Good from the fifth — its nobler affections, its saintly (though they be earthly) aspirations, and the most Spiritualised portions of its mind — follows its divine elder (the 7th) into the ‘Gestation’ State; and the fifth and fourth remain in association as an empty shell — (the expression is quite correct) — to roam in the earth’s atmosphere, with half the personal memory gone, and the more brutal instincts fully alive for a certain period — an ‘Elementary’ in short. This is the ‘angel guide’ of the average medium. If, on the other hand, it is the Upper Duality which is defeated, then, it is the fifth principle that assimilates all that there may be left of personal recollection and perceptions of its personal individuality in the sixth. But, with all this additional stock, it will not remain in Kama-Loka — ‘the world of Desire’ or our Earth’s atmosphere. In a very short time like a straw floating within the attraction of the vortices and pits of the Maelstrom, it is caught up and drawn into the great whirlpool of human Egos; while the sixth and seventh — now a purely Spiritual, individual MONAD, with nothing left in it of the late personality, having no regular ‘gestation’ period to pass through (since there is no purified personal Ego to be reborn), after a more or less prolonged period of unconscious Rest in the boundless Space — will find itself reborn in another personality on the next planet. When arrives the period of ‘Full Individual Consciousness’ — which precedes that of Absolute Consciousness in the Pari-Nirvana — this lost personal life becomes as a torn out page in the great Book of Lives, without even a disconnected word left to mark its absence. The purified monad will neither perceive nor remember it in the series of its past rebirths — which it would had it gone to the ‘World of Forms’ (rupa-loka) — and its retrospective glance will not perceive even the slightest sign to indicate that it had been. The light of Samma-Sambuddh

                        ‘. . . that light which shines beyond our mortal ken

                        The line of all the lives in all the worlds’ —

throws no ray upon that personal life in the series of lives foregone.

            “To the credit of mankind, I must say, that such an utter obliteration of an existence from the tablets of Universal Being does not occur often enough to make a great percentage. In fact, like the much mentioned ‘congenital idiot’ such a thing is a lusus naturae — an exception, not the rule.”

            It may be that this teaching of a realm between the kāma-dhātu and the rūpa-dhātu, explained here as where the lives doomed to destruction disappear, dropped away from the Buddhist teachings for the same reason that it dropped away from the Theosophical teachings: as the Mahatma said, “I have no right to answer” Sinnett’s question about this mysterious “planet of death.” In the Theosophical teachings it pertains only to exceptions, where the life was so devoid of any redeeming qualities that the principles which make up the person go to annihilation without anything left to continue on to rebirth, thus breaking the connection with the spiritual individual monad that once animated that personality. In Buddhist terms, the series of sets of skandhas that make up a person and form an unbroken causal continuum of rebirth from life to life to life is broken. This is not something that the standard Buddhist teachings speak of.

            The dwelling of Māra referred to in these early Buddhist texts, the Dīrghāgama and the Mahāvastu, would in accordance with the Theosophical explanation refer to Māra as death, mṛtyu-māra; thus the dwelling of Māra is the planet of death. This Māra is not the more usual Māra of desire whose dwelling is the para-nirmita-vaśavartin heaven at the top of the kāma-dhātu: Māra the god, deva-putra-māra, who as personified desire has sway over the whole desire realm or kāma-dhātu. The Theosophical teachings attempted to explain the allegorical Buddhist teachings in straightforward language, thus giving out for the first time what was hitherto esoteric information. The Buddhist teaching of sukhāvatī or devachan (Tibetan, bde ba can), a pure buddha-field or pure land that Buddhists could aspire to go to after death, was explained as the after-death state that most people go to. Those who do not go to that state, the exceptions, had also to be accounted for. As exceptions, it was not necessary, and apparently was not permissible, to say much about them. Nonetheless, for the explanation of the after-death states to be complete, the dwelling of Māra or the planet of death had to at least be mentioned.

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Kalahaṃsa: the Soft-spoken Goose

By David Reigle on April 30, 2019 at 10:58 pm

            The kalahaṃsa, written more phonetically as kalahansa, is a particular kind of haṃsa (or hansa). A haṃsa is a goose, although it has often been translated as a swan, because this is more poetic for Western readers.1 The term is not kālahaṃsa, where the first word would be kāla, meaning both “time” and “black.” Thus, the term does not mean the goose/swan of time, or the black goose/swan. The term is kalahaṃsa, where the first word is kala, meaning soft or low (as a tone). Thus, the term means the goose whose call is soft or low in relation to the sound made by other geese. Specifically, it is the name of the gray lag goose, a more soft-spoken goose, in contradistinction to the louder bar-headed goose.


This was shown in a 1962 monograph by Jean Philippe Vogel that has become the standard work on the subject, The Goose in Indian Literature and Art. He writes in his Introduction, pp. 1-2:

            “In Sanskrit and Pali literature we frequently meet an aquatic bird called haṃsa and this word according to European dictionaries of those languages means not only a goose but also a swan and flamingo. In translations by western scholars haṃsa is usually not rendered by ‘goose’, but either by ‘swan’ or ‘flamingo’. This preference we can well understand. In this part of the world the goose, known chiefly in its degrading domesticated state, is looked upon as a homely animal unfit to enter the exalted realm of poetry. . . .

            “If we turn to ancient India we find the goose associated with conceptions and sentiments entirely different from those of the West. For the Indians the haṃsa is the noble bird par excellence worthy of being sung by poets like Kālidāsa and figured on religious monuments. The goose is the vehicle of Brahmā the Creator. In ancient fables he is the embodiment of the highest virtues and in Buddhist jātakas we meet him reborn as the Bodhisattva, the exalted being predestined to become the Buddha Śākyamuni.

            “But are we justified in identifying the haṃsa of Indian literature with the goose? Should we not follow our predecessors, including great scholars like Böhtlingk and Kern, and rather choose the swan or the flamingo, more graceful to the western eye than a plump goose? The question is: are we really allowed to make a choice? Or does Sanskrit haṃsa mean a goose and nothing else?”

Vogel concludes his book, p. 74:

            “The conclusion of our enquiry is perfectly clear. The goose is a favourite decorative device in Indian art from the time of Aśoka to the Mogul period. From Kashmir to Ceylon it is employed to adorn religious buildings both Buddhist and Brahmanical. The swan and the flamingo, on the contrary, do not occur. The evidence of Indian art is in perfect agreement with the observations of naturalists. We may therefore be certain that the Sanskrit word haṃsa always designates the goose and nothing else.”


            According to naturalists, swans are not now found in India, except occasionally as visitors at the northern fringes of the country. The two common species of geese found in India, the very numerous bar-headed goose and the much less numerous gray lag goose, are both largely gray in color. But based on a number of references in classical Sanskrit texts to the haṃsa as being white (śveta) in color, K. N. Dave in his detailed 1985 study, Birds in Sanskrit Literature (pp. 422-447), concluded that the haṃsa was originally a swan, which must have once been found in India. This is of course plausible, going back in time farther than all the sculptures surveyed by Vogel. This would take us close to Vedic times.

            The word haṃsa is found in the most ancient Vedic text, the Ṛg-veda, several times. None of these references describe it as being white in color. On the contrary, it is described there as “dark in colour on the back (nīla-pṛṣṭha)” (Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, vol. 2, p. 497). The verse is So this would not be a swan, which is all white. In fact, this would well describe the gray lag goose, which is darker gray in color on the back than is the bar-headed goose. The gray lag goose, we recall, is the kalahaṃsa, whose call is more mellow than that of the bar-headed goose.


1. The practice of translating hasa as “swan” rather than “goose” started as early as 1813, and has been widely followed ever since. See, for example:

The Megha Duta; or, Cloud Messenger: A Poem, in the Sanscrit Language, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, 1813, annotation on verse 71: “The Rájahansa, is described as a white Gander with red legs and bill, and together with the common Goose is a favorite bird in Hindu poetry: not to shock European prejudice, I have in all cases substituted for these birds, one to which we are rather more accustomed in verse, the Swan; . . .”

Nala and Damayanti, and Other Poems, translated by Henry Hart Milman 1835, p. 121: “There the swans he saw disporting.] In the original this is a far less poetic bird, and the author must crave forgiveness for having turned his geese into swans.”

2. Ṛg-veda 7.59.7, in various translations:

May the Maruts yet unrevealed, decorating their persons, descend like black-backed swans: . . . (H. H. Wilson, 1866)

Decking the beauty of their forms in secret the swans with purple backs have flown down hither. (Ralph T. H. Griffith, 1891)

Secretly adorning their bodies, the blue-backed swans have flown hereward. (H. D. Velankar, 1963)

Surely even in secret they [the Maruts] keep preening their bodies. The dark-backed geese have flown here. (Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, 2014)

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By Jacques Mahnich on December 28, 2018 at 1:39 pm

A quest was launched during 2012 to identify a correlation between the affirmation of H.P.B. in her S.D. 2.69 that the age of humanity has more than eighteen million years (18,618,725 years up to Kali-Yuga 4986, or 1884-1885 C.E.). Many articles were published on this blog, with all details of calculations according to the old Indian Tradition, more specifically from the Tirukkanda Panchanga which can be can clearly be traced to the Sūrya-siddhānta.

A copy of the Sūrya-siddhānta was uploaded on this site. Chapter one is giving the basic calculations for the cycles (yugas) :

We start with the classical Maha-Yuga, made of the four yugas plus the sandhyas and sandhyansas, with a duration of 4,320,000 human years.

Then, we have the duration of a Manvantara, with 71 Maha-Yugas, plus one Krita-Yuga :

Then, we have the definition of the Kalpa, made of fourteen manvantaras, plus the fifteenth sandhi (Krita-Yuga)

Then, the definition of the Day of Brahma, made of one hundred Kalpas.

We learn here that the present Kalpa is the first in the remaining half of this Brahma age.

Then we have the calculation to reach our current date :

The two next verses are the ones of interest for the search for the 18 million years :

Since the end of the Krita Yuga, 47,400 years of the Gods = 47,400 x 360 = 17,064,000 human years have elapsed, to which we add the Krita Yuga :

17,064,000 + 1,728,000 = 18,792,000 human years

We still have a discrepancy of 18,792,000 – 18,618,725 = 173,275 years, but the order of magnitude is very close by.

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The Three Natures in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā

By David Reigle on September 7, 2017 at 11:53 pm

The Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā sūtra, the sūtra on Perfection of Wisdom in Five Hundred Lines, when describing the aggregates, etc., uses three terms that apparently refer to the three natures (svabhāva) taught in Yogācāra texts. As a Prajñā-pāramitā sūtra, it would be part of the second promulgation of the Dharma, while the sūtras behind the Yogācāra texts are part of the third promulgation of the Dharma. Because of this, the Tibetan teacher Dolpopa regarded the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā as a text of definitive meaning (nītārtha), and characterized it as one of the Buddha’s own auto-commentaries (rang ‘grel ) on the extensive Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras. Dolpopa taught that the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras should be understood by way of the three natures found in these “auto-commentaries.” However, one of the three terms used in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā in its Tibetan translation does not seem to fit well as referring to the three natures. The original Sanskrit text was long lost, and with no Indian commentary to consult even in Tibetan translation, there was no way to determine what was actually meant by this term. Fortunately, the Sanskrit original was recovered in Tibet and published in 2016 as number 20 of the important series, Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region.1

The three terms in the Tibetan translation of the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā, near the beginning, are dngos po med pa, dngos po ngan pa, and dngos po yod pa, translated by Edward Conze in 1973 as “non-existence,” “a poorish kind of existence,” and “existence,” and translated by Cyrus Stearns in 2010 as “nonexistent,” “an inferior existence,” and “existent.”2 These are supposed to correspond to the three natures: the imagined (parikalpita, kun brtags), the dependent (paratantra, gzhan dbang), and the perfect (pariniṣpanna, yongs grub). As may be seen, the second term in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā, dngos po ngan pa, “a poorish kind of existence,” or “an inferior existence,” does not seem to fit well in this scheme. Yet these English terms are fully accurate translations of the Tibetan term. With the Sanskrit now available, we can see what happened. The three Sanskrit terms are: abhāva, “non-existent,” nâbhāva (na abhāva), “not non-existent,” and sad-bhāva, “truly existent.”3 These correspond well to the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts: the imagined, the dependent, and the perfect.

The Tibetan translator, perhaps to avoid the double negative that is in the Sanskrit, na abhāva, “not non-existent,” chose dngos po ngan pa to translate this second term, ostensibly “a poorish kind of existence,” or “an inferior existence.” The common meaning of ngan pa is indeed “poorish” or “inferior,” as Conze and Stearns translated it. However, here the Tibetan translator apparently intended one of the uncommon meanings of ngan pa, namely, asat, “not true,” thus yielding “not truly existent” in contrast with the third term, “truly existent.” This meaning of ngan pa as asat can be found in the Bodhisattvabhūmi (Nalinaksha Dutt edition, 1966, p. 98): asat-saṃkathā, ngan pa’i gtam, “untrue conversation.” Another example of this meaning can be found in the Jātakamālā (P. L. Vaidya edition, 1959, p. 159): asad-dṛṣṭiḥ, lta ba ngan pa, “false view.”4

With the help of the original Sanskrit, we can now see that these three terms in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā do in fact correspond well to the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts. Three other terms that apparently refer to the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts are used in another Prajñā-pāramitā text that Dolpopo regarded as being of definitive meaning (nītārtha), and that he characterized as one of the Buddha’s own auto-commentaries (rang ‘grel ) on the extensive Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras. The Maitreya Paripṛcchā or “Questions of Maitreya” chapter of the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras in 25,000 and 18,000 lines, when describing the aggregates, etc., uses parikalpita, “imagined,” vikalpita, “conceptually differentiated,” and dharmatā, “true nature” (Tibetan kun brtags pa, rnam par brtags pa, and chos nyid ). These, too, correspond well to the three natures: the imagined, the dependent, and the perfect.

An extensive commentary on all three of the large Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras, those in 100,000 lines, 25,000 lines, and 18,000 lines, directly equates the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts with the three terms found in the “Questions of Maitreya” chapter, and uses these terms throughout in its explanations.5 Dolpopa drew heavily upon this commentary, called in short the Bṛhat-ṭīkā, “Large Commentary,” and known in Tibet as the Yum gsum gnod ‘joms, “Destruction of Objections to the Three Mother Sūtras.”6 Most of Tibetan tradition, including Bu-ston who edited the Tengyur, regarded it as being written by the early Indian teacher Vasubandhu, famous for his Yogācāra treatises. Tsongkhapa, however, held that it was written by the much later writer Daṃṣṭrāsena, because it included some late references. It is of course possible that Daṃṣṭrāsena merely added some things to the earlier text by Vasubandhu. In any case, the method of understanding the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras by way of the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts goes back at least to Dignāga, who is traditionally regarded as a direct disciple of Vasubandhu. Dignāga wrote in his Prajñāpāramitā-piṇḍārtha, verses 27-29:7


prajñā-pāramitāyāṃ hi trīn samāśritya deśanā |
kalpitaṃ paratantraṃ ca pariniṣpannam eva ca || 27 ||

The teaching in the Perfection of Wisdom is based on three:
the imagined, the dependent, and the perfect.

nâstîty-ādi-padaiḥ sarvaṃ kalpitaṃ vinivāryate |
māyôpamâdi-dṛṣṭāntaiḥ paratantrasya deśanā || 28 ||

By the words, “does not exist,” etc., all the imagined is refuted.
By the examples, like an illusion, etc., the teaching of the dependent [is given].

caturdhā vyavadānena pariniṣpanna-kīrtanam |
prajñāpāramitāyāṃ hi nânyā buddhasya deśanā || 29 ||

By the fourfold purification, the perfect is taught.
For in the Perfection of Wisdom there is no other teaching of the Buddha.


Dolpopa, then, was not innovating when he advocated understanding the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras by way of the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts. He was merely following a much older Indian tradition. This led him to find correspondences to these three natures in the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras themselves, such as the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā. He quoted the whole opening section of this sūtra at the beginning of his concise text, Ngo sprod khyad ‘phags, “Exceptional Introduction.”8 He then equated its three terms with the three natures taught in Yogācāra texts. He said the same thing, again equating its three terms with the three natures, in his Autocommentary to the “Fourth Council”.9 Thus, the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā with its three terms corresponding to the three natures was regarded by Dolpopa as a text of considerable importance for understanding the Prajñā-pāramitā sūtras.




  1. Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā: Sanskrit and Tibetan Texts, critically edited by Li Xuezhu and Fujita Yoshimichi. Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House, and Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2016.
  2. “The Perfection of Wisdom in 500 Lines,” in The Short Prajñāpāramitā Texts, translated by Edward Conze (London: Luzac & Company, 1973), p. 108. Relevant sentence quoted by Cyrus Stearns in The Buddha from Dölpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2010), p. 101, with reference to Dolpopa’s comment on it in his Autocommentary to the “Fourth Council”, p. 233. In the 1999 first edition this quotation is on pp. 96-97, and the three terms are translated as: “a nonexistent entity, a base entity, and an existent entity.”
  3. These three terms first describe the neuter word rūpam, “form” (p. 1), so according to their masculine gender they would be nouns rather than adjectives; e.g., “non-existence” rather than “non-existent.” However, to call form “non-existence” does not make sense to me. So bhāva is probably used here as the noun, “an existent” (an existing thing). The sentence, then, would say: “form is a non-existent, not a non-existent, and a truly existent.” This is rather awkward English. I think the same idea is conveyed by translating these terms as if they were adjectives: “form is non-existent, not non-existent, and truly existent.” This is what I have done, even though it is not a literally accurate translation.
  4. These examples are found in J. S. Negi, Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary, Sarnath, Varanasi: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, vol. 3, 1995. I have only added the English translations.
  5. Ārya-śata-sāhasrikā-pañcaviṃśati-sāhasrikâṣṭādaśa-sāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-bṛhaṭ-ṭīkā.
  6. For the English translation of this title, I follow Stearns, 2010 (see note 2 above), p. 97.
  7. The original Sanskrit was first edited by Giuseppe Tucci and published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1947, which I have scanned and posted here: http://www.downloads.prajnaquest.fr/BookofDzyan/Sanskrit%20Buddhist%20Texts/prajnaparamita_pindartha_1947.pdf. It was published again in 1959 by Erich Frauwallner in the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens in 1959, which I have scanned and posted here: http://www.downloads.prajnaquest.fr/BookofDzyan/Sanskrit%20Buddhist%20Texts/prajnaparamita_pindartha_1959.pdf. Although Tucci also included an English translation, I have here re-translated these verses more literally.
  8. The Ngo sprod khyad ‘phags is found in volume 12 of the 13-volume modern typeset edition of the collected writings of Dolpopa, pp. 40-52 (jo nang kun mkhyen dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan gyi gsung ‘bum, [Beijing:] krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2011). For the English translation of this title, “Exceptional Introduction,” I follow Stearns, 2010 (see note 2 above), p. 422. Matthew Kapstein describes it as: “An ‘introduction’ (ngo-sprod ) to the ultimate and definitive significance (nges-don mthar-thug) of the doctrine.” (The ‘Dzam-thang Edition of the Collected Works of Kun-mkhyen Dol-po-pa Shes-rab Rgyal-mtshan: Introduction and Catalogue, p. 66. Delhi: Shedrup Books, 1992). The opening section of this sūtra that Dolpopa quoted (pp. 40-43) corresponds to the Sanskrit edition (see note 1 above), sections 1 and 2, pp. 1-4.
  9. Translated by Stearns, 2010 (see note 2 above), p. 233, and quoted by him on p. 101. In the 1999 first edition this is quoted on p. 96.

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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:


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:


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.

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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?].


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