KEY05.TXT (Key to Theosophy - HPB)
Feb 08, 1996 03:57 PM
Text supplied by Eldon Tucker, Converted to ASCII by Alan Bain.
Theosophy is Not Buddhism
Q. You are often spoken of as "Esoteric Buddhists." Are you then
all followers of Gautama Buddha?
A. No more than musicians are all followers of Wagner. Some of
us are Buddhists by religion; yet there are far more Hindus and
Brahmins than Buddhists among us, and more Christian-born
Europeans and Americans than _converted_ Buddhists. The mistake
has arisen from a misunderstanding of the real meaning of the
title of Mr. Sinnett's excellent work, _Esoteric Buddhism,_
which last word ought to have been spelt _with one, instead of
two, d's,_ as then _Budhism_ would have meant what it was
intended for, merely "Wisdom-_ism_" (Bodha, bodhi,
"intelligence," "wisdom") instead of _Buddhism,_ Gautama's
religious philosophy. Theosophy, as already said, is the WISDOM-
Q. What is the difference between Buddhism, the religion founded
by the Prince of Kapilavastu, and _Budhism,_ the "Wisdomism"
which you say is synonymous with Theosophy?
A. Just the same difference as there is between the secret
teachings of Christ, which are called "the mysteries of the
Kingdom of Heaven," and the later ritualism and dogmatic
theology of the Churches and Sects. _Buddha_ means the
"Enlightened" by _Bodha,_ or understanding, Wisdom. This has
passed root and branch into the _esoteric_ teachings that
Gautama imparted to his chosen _Arhats_ only.
Q. But some Orientalists deny that Buddha ever taught any
esoteric doctrine at all?
A. They may as well deny that Nature has any hidden secrets for
the men of science. Further on I will prove it by Buddha's
conversation with his disciple Ananda. His esoteric teachings
were simply the _Gupta-Vidya_ (secret knowledge) of the ancient
Brahmins, the key to which their modern successors have, with
few exceptions, completely lost. And this _Vidya_ has passed
into what is now known as the _inner_ teachings of the
_Mahayana_ school of Northern Buddhism. Those who deny it are
simply ignorant pretenders to Orientalism. I advise you to read
the Rev. Mr. Edkin's _Chinese Buddhism_ - especially the
chapters on the Exoteric and _Esoteric_ schools and teachings -
and then compare the testimony of the whole ancient world upon
Q. But are not the ethics of Theosophy identical with those
taught by Buddha?
Certainly, because these ethics are the soul of the
Wisdom-Religion, and were once the common property of the
initiates of all nations. But Buddha was the first to embody
these lofty ethics in his public teachings, and to make them the
foundation and the very essence of his public system. It is
herein that lies the immense difference between exoteric
Buddhism and every other religion. For while in other religions
ritualism and dogma hold the first and most important place, in
Buddhism it is the ethics which have always been the most
insisted upon. This accounts for the resemblance, amounting
almost to identity, between the ethics of Theosophy and those of
the religion of Buddha.
Q. Are there any great points of difference?
A. One great distinction between Theosophy and _exoteric_
Buddhism is that the latter, represented by the Southern Church,
entirely denies (a) the existence of any Deity, and (b) any
conscious _postmortem_ life, or even any self-conscious
surviving individuality in man. Such at least is the teaching of
the Siamese sect, now considered as the _purest_ form of
exoteric Buddhism. And it is so, if we refer only to Buddha's
public teachings; the reason for such reticence on his part I
will give further on. But the schools of the Northern Buddhist
Church, established in those countries to which his initiated
Arhats retired after the Master's death, teach all that is now
called Theosophical doctrines, because they form part of the
knowledge of the initiates - thus proving how the truth has been
sacrificed to the dead-letter by the too-zealous orthodoxy of
Southern Buddhism. But how much grander and more noble, more
philosophical and scientific, even in its dead-letter, is this
teaching than that of any other Church or religion. Yet
Theosophy is not Buddhism.
Ancient Wisdom for a New Age
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