“Esoteric Schools would cease to be worthy of their name were their literature and doctrines to become the property of even their profane co-religionists – still less of the Western public. This is simple common-sense and logic.”
(H. P. Blavatsky, “A Few More Misconceptions Corrected”)
The writer of that article, being aware of references in Theosophical literature in which the term “Koothumpa” or “Kuthoompa” is given as the name for the direct disciples and followers in Tibet and the Trans-Himalayan region of the Master K.H., decides that –
“Looking at the various sects and lineages in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, the closest to the Kuthoompa or Kethoomba seems to be the Kadampa (Kadam Tradition)”
– and proceeds to imply that the term used in the Theosophical literature must be erroneous and a misspelling of “Kadampa,” i.e. the Kadampa tradition of Buddhism founded by Atisha.
Another Theosophist, who is also a scholarly Buddhist and a supporter of and contributor to the website mentioned, once informed us by email that as “Kadampas phonetically comes out close to ‘koothoompas’,” it must therefore be the Kadampas who are meant as the followers of the Master K.H.
This attitude all reflects a common mistake of academics and scholars, namely the belief that unless something can be found in publicly known records and history, it either cannot be true or cannot be accurate, and must – if having a basis of fact – be something other than what it claims for itself.
Let us look at the various Theosophical references to the Koothumpas:
(1) The first comes courtesy of Mohini M. Chatterjee who was, as a young Indian man, a chela (disciple) of the Master K.H. and a close colleague of H. P. Blavatsky in the early days of the Theosophical Society in India.
In “The Himalayan Brothers – Do They Exist?” (published in the December 1883 issue of “The Theosophist” and in the book “Five Years of Theosophy”) he wrote:
“During my visit to Darjiling I lived in the same house with several Theosophists, all as ardent candidates as myself for Chelaship, and most of them as doubtful with regard to the Himalayan Mahatmas as I was myself at that time. I met at Darjiling persons who claimed to be chelas of the Himalayan Brothers and to have seen and lived with them for years. They laughed at our perplexity. One of them showed us an admirably executed portrait of a man who appeared to be an eminently holy person, and who, I was told, was the Mahatma Koothoomi (now my revered master), to whom Mr. Sinnett’s Occult World is dedicated. A few days after my arrival, a Tibetan pedlar of the name of Sundook accidentally came to our house to sell his things. . . .
“On the second day we asked him if he had heard of any persons in Tibet who possessed extraordinary powers besides the great lamas. He said there were such men. That they were not regular lamas but far higher than they, and generally lived in the mountains, beyond Tchigatze [i.e. Shigatse] and also near the city of Lhassa. These men, he said, produce many and very wonderful phenomena or “miracles,” and some of their chelas, or lotoos, as they are called in Tibet, cure the sick by giving them to eat the rice which they crush out of the paddy with their hands, etc. Then one of us had a glorious idea. Without saying one word, the above-mentioned portrait of the Mahatma K. H. was shown to him. He looked at it for a few seconds, and then, as though suddenly recognizing it, he made a profound reverence to the portrait, and said it was the likeness of a Chohan (Mahatma) whom he had seen. . . .
“He said he had seen the Mahatma in question accompanied by a numerous body of gylungs, about that time of the previous year (beginning of October 1881) at a place called Giansi, two day’s journey southward of Tchigatze, . . . On being asked the name of the Mahatma, he said to our unbounded surprise, “They are called Koothum-pa.” Being cross-examined and asked what he meant by “they,” and whether he was naming one man or many, he replied that the Koothum-pas were many, but there was only one man or chief over them of that name; the disciples being always called after the names of their guru. Hence the name of the latter being Koot-hum, that of his disciples was “Koot-hum-pa.” . . . Koothum-pa means man or disciple of Koothoom or Koothoomi . . .
“Now for the other piece of corroborative evidence. . . . A young Bengali Brahmachari, who had only a short time previous to our meeting returned from Tibet . . . gave most unexpectedly, in the presence of a number of respectable witnesses, the following account:
“On the 15th day of the Bengali month of Asar last (1882), being the twelfth day of the waxing moon, he met some Tibetans, called the Koothumpas, and their guru in a field near Taklakhar, a place about a day’s journey from the Lake of Mansasarowara. The guru and most of his disciples, who were called gylungs, wore sleeveless coats over undergarments of red. The complexion of the guru was very fair, and his hair, which was not parted but combed back, streamed down his shoulders. . . .
“Before he parted company with the Koothumpas and their guru, the Brahmachari found that they were going to attend a festival held on the banks of the Lake of Manasarowara, and that thence they intended to proceed to the Kailas mountains.”
(2) Several people having reported clairvoyantly perceiving the Master K.H. as an elderly looking man, a response in the April 1884 “Theosophist” from Damodar K. Mavalankar, another young Indian man and chela of that Master, stated:
“We know of only one MAHATMA bearing the name of my venerated GURU DEVA who holds a well-known public office in Tibet, under the TESHU LAMA [i.e. the Panchen Lama, whose main base was Tashilhunpo Monastery at Shigatse]. . . . And this personage, my BELOVED MASTER, is, as I have described Him, resembling the portrait in Mr. Sinnett’s possession, and does not look old. Perhaps the clairvoyants are confounding the sect of Khadampas with the Kauthumpas? . . . The latter, the Kauthumpas, are the disciples of my MASTER. . . .
“My friend and brother of Simla should not lose sight of the fact that while others claim to have seen my Master clairvoyantly, I say that I saw Him in the North personally, in his living, not his astral body. . . . Imagination and expectancy are, with various other things, apt to mislead beginners in the Science of Clairvoyance.” (reproduced in “Damodar and The Pioneers of The Theosophical Movement” by Sven Eek, p. 340-341)
Notice Damodar here specifically explaining that it is a mistake to think that the Kadampas and Kuthoompas are the same, for they are not, but rather two different groups, despite the apparent similarity (to Westerners at least) of name.
The above reference to the Master K.H. holding “a well-known public office in Tibet” is corroborated by Col. Olcott in his “Old Diary Leaves” where he states that this Adept – although not Tibetan himself – served as “Master of Ceremonies” at Tashilhunpo, it having been also reported to Richard Hodgson, compiler of the SPR Report, that he was “relic-bearer to the Teschu-Lama.” Teschu Lama, Teshu Lama, and Tashi Lama, are various phonetic versions of an alternative title of the Panchen Lama of Tashilhunpo Monastery.
(3) The Master K.H. himself, in a letter to Mohini, explained, “the name is written Kuthoompa (disciples of Kut-hoomi) tho’ pronounced Kethoomba.”
Perhaps some Theosophists will still be inclined, after having read all this, to maintain that even the Master K.H. himself and his own chelas did not know what they were talking about and were too incompetent to correctly state and affirm their own name and identity…just because they cannot find any mention of Kuthumpas/Koothumpas/Kuthoompas/Koothoompas outside of Theosophical books.
Sadly it would not surprise us, seeing as some of these scholars are the same people who have asserted that (1) there is no such word as “Chohan,” therefore HPB and the Masters must have either made it up or been remarkably ignorant, (2) the same for “Fohat,” (3) the same for “Daiviprakriti,” (4) the term “Parabrahm” is not used by Hindus but is a relic of Victorian era Orientalism, …all of which points we have shown in articles on this website to be mistaken.
Incidentally, in a book titled “The Blazing Dragon of Wisdom,” its author Jeanine Miller published the assumption that “Kuthumpa may be sku-drung-pa.” The latter Tibetan term means “secretary, page, attendant of a great man, private secretary to a high official.” Interesting but just another unfounded speculation and assertion that the Masters and Their disciples do not know what they are talking about. This is all the more surprising when such people harbour a wish to become chelas in some way of those selfsame Masters!
Things have certainly changed dramatically in Tibet since the middle of the twentieth century. As said in our article The Great Tsong Kha-pa:
“In the 1950’s, Tibet was brutally invaded, violently massacred, and forcefully occupied by the Chinese, who still occupy it to this day. There is now no longer a country called Tibet on our maps. It has been mockingly renamed “The Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.” A staggering 95% of all the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet have been destroyed by the Chinese and over 1,000,000 Tibetans killed – for no valid reason at all – by their cruel oppressors.
“The current Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was abducted by the Chinese in 1995, when he was just a young child, and has not been seen or heard from since. In the worst kind of insult, however, the Chinese have produced a “Panchen Lama” of their own, the son of hardline communists, who travels the world talking about how wonderful the Chinese government is.
“The fact that this has even been allowed to happen, and that there is no Panchen Lama in the world today (it is feared by many that the abducted one has been murdered) surely does not bode well for humanity at large, if we give credence to what the Masters and HPB say about the great esoteric importance and role of the Panchen Lama, who they speak of as being spiritually higher in position than the Dalai Lama.
“Many Theosophists are unaware that amongst the many letters received from Masters by various individuals during HPB’s time is a brief letter or note from the Panchen Lama himself. It has been transcribed in the book “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett.”
“Tashilhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama at Shigatse – a place of such importance to the Masters and to HPB – has now been turned into a tourist attraction by the Chinese. Where are the Masters? Some of them were once based near Shigatse, or were at least frequent visitors from their main base in the Trans-Himalayan region near Ladakh and Lahaul . . .”
Thankfully the Trans-Himalayan region, sometimes known as “Little Tibet,” has not been subject to Chinese invasion or destruction, seeing as it is officially and technically part of Northern India rather than Tibet proper, although very much Tibetan in style, custom, religion, and way of life. And it is in the Trans-Himalayan region that the Esoteric Brotherhood, known in Theosophical literature by that geographical designation, has its main base. More can be read in this regard in Damodar and The Hall of Initiation.
Despite changes that have occurred in that part of the world, the Kuthumpas (who do not comprise the entirety of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, for the latter consists of numerous Master-Teachers in addition to the Mahatma K.H.) known of in the 1880s carry on to this day. If those whose approach to such subjects consists of dry academic speculation were to meet certain people they would come to realise many things, not least of all about HPB and William Q. Judge. Were they to encounter a modern day Kuthumpa Lama, for example, whether in Ladakh or in Europe, they might find the answers to many of their questions. But names such as Lama Jean Paris, not being traceable on the internet, will be dismissed as fictitious. Meanwhile, the work goes on.
B. P. Wadia (see The Occult Life of B. P. Wadia) once wrote:
“Between the student and the Golden Wisdom of the Masters which he is seeking there exists a gulf – the abyss of separation. He has to find that Antahkarana-Bridge on which silently, secretly, faithfully, some may be building, building, building – who knows?”