Nov 14, 1995 02:36 AM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins
> JHE 11/13
> I'm really confused here. In Olcott's parenthetical phrase:
>"whose Master of Ceremonies one of our own revered Mahatmas is"
>I understand you are reading to say that this Master of
>Ceremonies of the Panchen Lama is one of our Masters. But since
>Sengchen Tulku was dead Olcott may be talking about his
> OK now my original question was whether or not HPB or HSO
>called Sengchen Tulku a Master. Your original answer was yes
>but with the addition of the idea that Olcott might be talking
>about Sengchen's successor your answer becomes a maybe. Now
>what confuses me is why would Olcott publicly identify Sengchen
>Tulku or even his successor in ODL as a Master if he and HPB
>were trying to keep these identities a secret? If you had found
>this statement in a diary or in a confidential private letter
>then I would understand it as being some privileged information.
>But you are quoting from Olcott's quotation from Sarat Babu's
>"Narrative of a Journey to Lhasa in 1881-82. The parenthetical
>phrase appears to have been added by Olcott. If you are reading
>this correctly then that makes a very public proclamation of
>the identity of a Mahatma to me. Why the reversal of policy in
>this case? Perhaps because he is dead? This is a very
>intriguing passage but seems to simultaneously help and hurt
> Jerry HE
I'm glad to be focusing on this part of the book because it
seems to me to have some more fruitful possibilities in terms
of confirmation than some of my other speculations.
I think you have a lead here that might yield more
information about the Masters. But before we get carried away
with further theories built upon other theories let's keep in
1. The passage in question mentions the Panchen Lama's "Master of
Ceremonies" as being "one of our own revered Mahatmas is." It
does not mention Sengchen Tulku or his successor. As you have
admitted the identification of Sengchen Tulku to the above
passage is a possibility among other possibilities but not a
2. Since we have as yet no definitive evidence that the title
"Master of Ceremonies" refers to Sengchen Tulku his successor
or as you mentioned a "friend of the T.S." this passage may
very well have nothing to do with Sengchen Tulku at all.
First let me say that HPB doesn't use the word Master or Mahatma
but calls the Sengchen the "Chohan Lama of Shigatse." Which is
enough for me.
But the passage you have in mind BCW III:398 does not
specifically mention Sengchen Tulku. You didn't mention that HPB
in the same passage also describes whoever she is talking about
as a "`Panchhen' or great teacher one of our most learned
theologians of Northern Buddhism and esoteric Lamaism" BCW
III:398. This might fit Sengchen Tulku but it also might fit
others. Your connections in TMR between whoever HPB and HSO are
talking about which may very well be two different persons and
Sengchen Tulku are circumstantial but not definitive.
Yes whoever HPB is talking about is a "Chohan Lama"
according to HPB. But what is a Chohan Lama? You say it means a
Master. If by Master you mean one of HPB's sources of
information; that is evident within the text itself without
worrying about his title. Obviously HPB considers this person to
be an authority on esoteric Lamaism. But by "Chohan Lama" does
HPB mean Master by your's or her definition? How can you know?
On the face of it I would think the title would mean a Lama with
a very important position and a person of high status. I might
speculate that HPB *might* also mean an Adept or a Mahatma They
are not the same as HPB made clear but I see nothing to pin
that speculation on. On the other hand even if by "Chohan Lama
of Shigatse" HPB met "Master" it still doesn't mean that she was
referring to Sengchen Tulku.
So here is an example of building a speculation upon a
speculation: HSO *might* be identifying Sengchen Tulku as a
Mahatma; HPB *might* be talking about the same person whom she
*might* be referring to as a Mahatma. Therefore Sengchen Tulku
*might* be one of HPB's Mahatmas. And you say that this is one
of your more "fruitful possibilities"? To me it looks like you
are building upon quicksand--not a good foundation for a solid
As for Olcott the very ambiguity of whether he
is talking about the Sengchen who was in office at the time of
Das's visit or the present one makes it a blind of sorts.
In the case of the Sankaracharya all the passages calling him
an Initiate Adept etc. are in private letters as one would
expect in such a case.
I would not say a "blind." Olcott just simply didn't name
the person he was referring to nor did HPB--and we can't even by
absolutely sure that HPB and HSO are talking about the same
person in these two quotes. Perhaps private letters would give
more information and clarify who HSO is talking about. Do you
have any to offer?
Three possibilities suggest themselves as to why Olcott would
drop such a clue:
1 Without HPB around to censor him he was simply indiscreet
not realizing that this was perhaps unwise to say.
2 The one you suggest; he is talking about someone dead and
feels that the need for secrecy is no longer a factor.
One the other hand since there does not seem to be any
definitive evidence that HSO is talking about Sengchen Tulku in
the first place perhaps Olcott was not being indiscreet after
3 What I suspect is the main reason which is the same motive
I see in lots of HPB's references to the Masters. This relates
to Jerry S.'s comments on "blinds." That is to tell the truth
in salient details but to be vague or misleading about others so
as to leave wiggle room if people get too inquisitive.
Unless I missed something I believe this was my comment.
Jerry S. was talking about HPB's description of blinds in the
Hindu scripture's description of Lokas and Talas. I was talking
about HPB's pattern of generalizing when discussing teachings
that she had not yet given sufficient background in order to
discuss in any detail. Whether the information is "misleading"
is another issue. I don't believe she did this with the
intention to mislead but to spare readers details that they were
not yet ready for. Though it does seem that some readers were
mislead by it when they consider the fact that HPB did not cover
all of her teachings at once to be proof that she made them up as
she went along. We can call this a "blind" if you want but I
think a better term would be in order. Perhaps
"misconstruction" on the reader's part might be a better term.
This goes back to what I said in the talk at Berkeley in response
to Apr's question about the Mahatma letters. At first they
are unambiguous about K.H. being a resident of Amritsar being
named Singh and fairly clear about his being a Sikh. This
kind of detail whets the curiosity of Sinnett and he starts
asking questions. The questions cause HPB and her Masters to
realize the need for throwing him off the track and in comes a
bunch of stuff about Tibet. Check out the difference between
the K.H. of 1880 and of 1883. By the latter year Mohini is
coming up with testimonies that there is an entire sect of his
disciples in Tibet. In some places M. and K.H. are depicted as
Hindu and Sikh; elsewhere Buddhists. Also in
1882-3 we see HPB Ramaswamier and others heading off to meet
the Mahatmas in Sikkim while a year later Olcott Damodar
Brown meet them in Lahore and Jammu. Lots of confusion about
where they are and deliberately so IMO.
My reading of the Mahatma Letters is very different and I have
never noticed a difference in the characterization of the
Mahatmas from 1880-83 as you describe. I have prepared and led
several classes where we went through the ML in Hanson's
chronological order and I have studied them on my own. Further
my own studies and preparation also included the bringing in of
germane material from outside of the ML. So I find it very hard
to believe that I would miss something like this. Once again my
recollection of reading TMR was that you seemed to have been
selecting information building supposition upon supposition and
forcing it to fit your theory as you also seem to have done with
Sengchen Tulku. However I would not mind going through your
reasoning with you step by step. Perhaps your argument is
stronger than it appears in TMR.
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