Svâbhâvat

By admin on February 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm

The word Svâbhâvat occurs seven times in the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. It is a fundamental idea in the teachings of the Secret Doctrine, and plays a central role in cosmogenesis. This term has given rise to two major problems: (1) its form, ending with “t”; and (2) its meaning, given as “essence.”

Earlier discussion of these problems may be found in the third and fourth Book of Dzyan Research Reports, “Technical Terms in Stanza II,” January 1997 (http://www.easterntradition.org/book%20of%20dzyan%20research%20report%203-technical%20terms%20in%20stanza%202.pdf), and “The Doctrine of Svabhāva or Svabhāvatā and the Questions of Anātman and Śūnyatā,” June 1997 (http://www.easterntradition.org/book%20of%20dzyan%20research%20report%204-the%20doctrine%20of%20svabhava%20or%20svabhavata%20and%20the%20question%20of%20anatman%20and%20suntyata.pdf). Both of these were reprinted in the 1999 book, Blavatsky’s Secret Books: Twenty Years’ Research (http://www.wizardsbookshelf.com/hpb-secret-books).

The first of these two problems was finally solved on Oct. 13, 2009, by Daniel Caldwell, who found the source from where Blavatsky had copied this spelling, ending with “t”. It was a book by F. Max Muller, who had used the word svabhāva as declined in the ablative case, svabhāvāt. This will be further described here in this blog. A solution had been given several decades ago by Gottfried de Purucker, taking svabhavat as a present participle, but this did not prove to be correct. A suggestion made by myself, that the word may be svabhāvatā, also did not prove to be correct.

The second of these two problems remains. It pertains to the meaning of this term and its usage in known sources, especially its significance in Buddhist texts. The sources available in Blavatsky’s time, that she and everyone else writing at that time necessarily drew upon, were not very accurate. This question will be discussed in this blog.

A compilation of references to the term svabhāva in Theosophical writings was prepared by Jacques Mahnich. It is titled, Studies on Svâbhâvat. It allows us to quickly see in one place how this term was used throughout, and will be an important reference source for our research.

David Reigle

 

 

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