maya and the highest triad
Dec 07, 1993 12:41 PM
Jerry H-E & Jerry S:
I will have to take responsibility for my description of the three
highest principles, until I can at some point make a case with quotes.
For now, though, I do have a few more comments regarding them.
The terms used in theosophical literature have a multitude of meanings.
Different truths are expounded with the same words. It can be
extremely frustrating to study, when trying to pin down specific
meanings to the terms, given the manner in which the terms are used.
We are told that this is sometimes done on purpose, to veil deeper
truths from those without the proper training, without the proper keys
to unlock the special meanings.
We also find the same terms used to describe different things because
of the inter-related nature of life, where a truth can be talked about
by describing ideas related to it, talked about using a form of
indirection that allows the student to seize upon the truth, to make
the connection himself. This method of teaching allows the student the
merit of arriving at the thought himself, and does not put additional
karmic burdens upon his teacher.
A third reason for terms being used in Theosophy with multiple meanings
is the lack of a rich vocabulary in the English language. Even with
a sprinkling of foreign words from Sanskrit and other languages, we are
held back by our lack of words to use.
Our theosophical literature has an additional handicap, in the sense
that the terms it uses to describe the Esoteric Philosophy are mostly
borrowed from other religions and philosophies. We can never safely
assume that when we use terms like "sunyata" or "swabhava" that what
they mean to us is the same as what they mean in the religion that they
are borrowed from.
In "The Secret Doctrine," we read of how the Wisdom Tradition agrees
with certain ideas found throughout the many religions of the world.
We read of agreement, and at times of disagreement as well. There is
not a complete embracing of any particular religion or philosophy as
When we consider the term "maya," for instance, we hear that it refers
to the illusory nature of physical life, that it says that what we
see and feel is false, something not truly real. But with a deeper
understanding, we see that it refers to *misperception*. There is
something before us that is real, that does exist, that actually is
there, but we do not see it correctly.
Walking in the dark, for instance, we mistake a rope on the ground for
a snake and are startled. The rope was there, it is real, but we
misperceived it, we falsely saw a snake where there was none.
This misperception can be in terms of any of our principles. We can
feel and think things about events in life and other people that are
not related to them, but which rather arise from the content of our
own consciousness, where psychological projection has replaced
peception, and we see what we want rather than see what is really there.
A religion may describe the various aspects of life as good or as bad
depending upon the intended affect upon its followers.
Reincarnation may be denied in popular Christianity in an attempt to
make people more pious about living a spiritual life, through making
people more concerned about being good people due to the thought that
we may only have one time.
The wheel of rebirth may be described as a form of suffering that we
need to escape from, in Hinayana Buddhism, because it teaches the
goal of individual liberation. On the other hand, in Mahayana Buddhism,
which teaches the path of compassion, the path of the Bodhisattva that
stays behind to help others, rebirth is also the means of living out
the *highest* aspect of life, the aspect of self-sacrifice.
When we consider the essential nature of a man, swabhava, it can be
looked upon as good or bad too, based upon what point we are trying to
make, and upon the way that we are looking on life. If we consider the
personal self, its characteristics could be considered as mental
baggage that are unnecessarily carried along, baggage that keeps the
man from really experiencing life. We may be taught to let go of the
image that we have of ourselves, of our habits and personal quirks and
perferences in life and experience direct perception. We are taught to
develop direct, buddhic insight into the experience of life, and to
transcend the crippling sense of self.
Transcending the sense of self is fine, and we can experience life
from the standpoint of principles in ourselves higher than Manas,
at which it arises. We can experience life from the standpoint of a
stream of consciousness, without any fixed sense of self. It is an
alternate experience of life from the one of having a supreme self,
Atman, and it is an equally valid mode of being. We can go back and
forth between the two modes of being.
Buddhism may emphasize the experience of life from the standpoint of
the stream of consciousness, and seek to teach us to transcend any
sense of self. The idea of swabhava could be interpreted as the
baggage of self, the collection of personal characteristics or colorings
that may us the particular personalities that we are. In this sense,
and for this purpose, it could be described as bad.
But swabhava could also refer to the inmost characteristics of being,
of one's inner nature, the storehouse of one's karmic experience that
makes up the sum total of the individual's personal evolution. Over
countless ages we have evolved ourselves to be what we are, and there
is a living, dynamic aspect of us that represents this totality of
ourselves, a totality rooted in time and changing at every moment.
We might say that this totality of being, this sum of our evolution,
through *all of time*, our evolution as Monads, is our swabhava. But
I would use the term for something still higher. I would say that there
is a part of our natures that is timeless, that is higher than time,
that is unchangeable, but in relation to us. This is our *essential*
nature, what is unique about us, an ever-present ideal that drives
us throughout time.
This nature is our Ever-Becoming, our purpose and meaning in life, an
Ideal that is never reached, but is still very much a part of
ourselves. And I would call this our truly essential nature, and apply
the term "swabhava," not in the sense of any personal baggage or
residuals of prior experience, but rather our own unique *image*, our
own Heavenly Man within, the very specialness that allows us to be
individual Monads, that allows us to be ourselves, that allows the
very creation of us as Monads, were the term "creation" acceptable,
since we are taking about something beyond time, without beginning
We are dealing with a difficult subject, something that is not openly
discussed in theosophical books, because it is so far removed from
anything that we may have known before. We are dealing with the nature
and characteristics of things that are not things, the attributes of
a part of our nature that does not *exist*, but rather deals with the
various experiences of *non-being*.
A discussion of our nature cannot stop at what we exist as. *What we
are*, is not complete, without also considering *what we are not*. There
is a part of ourselves that reaches into non-being, above and behind
the elements that are drawn together to form us in existence. This part
is above and behind the seven principles, ourselves clothed in
skandhas from the elements of outer nature.
We are not our bodies. We are not physical bodies of flesh and blood.
But we are also not our manifest principles, our collections of
skandhas drawn together when *we* come to this world and take on
embodied existence. We are something more, something that reaches into
the non-existing, something that goes to the very core of the mystery
of life itself. And this is as much a real, living part of ourselves
as any outer form or attribute that we take on.
The experience of non-being or non-existence is an integral part of
our consciousness, and we do not have a complete description of
consciousness when we only talk about the seven principles, about the
elements of our manifest consciousness.
With each step away from existence, something is left behind, something
is absent, but also something new is gained, a new level of liberation
or freedom has been attained.
I would describe these steps in terms of four levels, three of which
constitute our highest principles, principles eight, nine, and ten,
and the fourth level as a Mystery about which nothing can be said.
At the first level of non-existence, we are *not in space*, but still
in time, and changing moment to moment is response to the ever-changing
flux of life. We still have something to us, and this is our karmic
storehouse, our treasury of experience, the sum of our evolution *to
this point in time*. It is the living, dynamic, ever-changing suchness
to us, to our nature.
Going one step further, we are *not in time*, but still in relation to
what is. We have reached our eternal Ideals. In this principle
resides our essential uniqueness, our ever-sought for goals in life,
the force that sweeps or draws us through time, our ever-present
And going to the final step, our tenth principle, the highest of the
topmost triad, we are *not*. There is no relation, just an essential
thatness, *tat*, as a principle. We can call it a principle, but it is
no more personally a part of ourselves than Atman is, because in it
there ie neither experience nor experiencer.
I mentioned also a fourth level, which is a Mystery. That's about all
I can say about it, because there is no way to describe it or know it,
by affirmation nor by negation. No quality or attribute can be
inferred regarding it. It cannot even be called unknowable. It's as
though it weren't really there, but we can't even say that.
Coming back to the essential point, it is important to stress the fact
that there *are* qualities to non-being, that we *experience*
non-being as an integral part of life, and the qualities to non-being
*are* principles of consciousness themselves.
But as principles, they are both unique to our particular experience
of life as a ten-principled being in a world or universe, as well as
of a universal nature, spanning everywhere we might be.
This universality has to do with the pure nature of the principles.
The qualities--if we can use such a word--of the highest principles,
are based upon how they are in relation to the manifest world, and
how they are in relation to each other. (The qualities are also derived
from their seven lowest subprinciples, but this is another matter!)
In our studies of such theosophical books as "Fundamentals of the
Esoteric Philosophy," or "The Inner Group Teachings," we can find many
hints that help us fill out our ideas of the highest, the unmanifest
principles of consciousness. We take the Teachings a bit farther than
the books, though, not a lot, just a bit farther than what was plainly
said in the texts, and they start to come together and tell us a lot!
The process of teaching is not just to impart information from Teacher
to student, but rather to awaken the student's innate ability to
realize and approach the Teachings directly. We are taught to think for
ourselves and go farther that we had heard. Our Teacher will always
hint, allude to, and direct our thoughts to greater Truths, in order to
allow us, individually, to arrive at them ourselves. The process of
teaching is to awaken the inner teachers in the students, to awaken
their own buddhic splendor and illumine their minds from within.
We must follow this, we must take what is given to us and *push it
further*, using our own innate faculties, our own personal rootedness
in Mahat, to arrive at the deeper Truths. Until we do so, we come up to
a wall, a barrier, after which no further progress can be made. We
go as far as the brain-mind understanding of the books can take us,
and stand far short of the treasury of Mystery Teachings that await
Eldon Tucker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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