Should Theosophists Get Involved With Tibetan Buddhism?

Theosophy and Tibetan Buddhism

“The field of exoteric and official Buddhism of the Churches of both North and South, those of Tibet and Ceylon, is covered once more with parasitic weeds.”
(H. P. Blavatsky, “Misconceptions” article)

“How the pristine purity of these grand revelations was dealt with may be seen in studying some of the so-called “esoteric” Buddhist schools of antiquity in their modern garb, not only in China and other Buddhist countries in general, but even in not a few schools in Thibet, left to the care of uninitiated Lamas and Mongolian innovators.”
(HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xxi)

“Since the reform produced by Tsong-ka-pa, many abuses have again crept into the theocracy of the land.”
(HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 185, Entry for “Lama”)

“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.”
(HPB, “A Few More Misconceptions Corrected” article)

As anyone who has studied both the writings and teachings of H. P. Blavatsky and letters written by her Adept Teachers of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood to A. P. Sinnett and A. O. Hume will have unmistakably seen and noticed, the Masters (i.e. those most directly behind and involved with the modern Theosophical Movement) and their Brotherhood and Esoteric School have a definite and close connection with both Tibet and Buddhism.

HPB and the Trans-Himalayan Masters distinctly asserted that they themselves were Buddhists and devoted followers of Gautama Buddha and the esoteric teachings, doctrines, and philosophy which he imparted in secret to his chosen Arhats.

One may thus sometimes find the Masters and their Teaching referred to in the original Theosophical literature as “the Arhat Esoteric School” and “the Arhat Esoteric Philosophy.”

This quite naturally sometimes leads students of Theosophy to begin to look into the complex, colourful, and confusing world of Tibetan Buddhism and to wonder how and where Theosophy links and connects together with it. Some Theosophists have even become actively involved with the practice and promotion of Tibetan Buddhism, perhaps naively believing that this somehow automatically brings them closer to the Masters or aids the Masters’ work in the world.

Let us look at a few important facts:

The Mahayana Buddhism of Tibet has two aspects to it: the Sutra teachings and the Tantra teachings, which are also known respectively as the Paramitayana and the Vajrayana. The Sutrayana is also referred to as the Bodhisattvayana and the Vajrayana is also called Mantrayana.

It’s often said by Tibetan Buddhists that the spiritual aspirant must become properly developed and established in the Bodhisattva Ideal and the Bodhisattva Path of developing Bodhichitta (the selfless aspiration to live to benefit and help all living beings) and perpetually practising the Paramitas (the “glorious virtues” or “transcendental perfections”) before entering upon training and practice in Vajrayana, literally meaning the “Diamond Way.”

In general Tibetan Buddhism, the term “Esoteric Buddhism” equates specifically to the Vajrayana teachings and practices. That Vajrayana is the only “Esoteric Buddhism” known to or mentioned by Tibetan Buddhists today.

All the schools or sects of Tibetan Buddhism, from the Gelugpa through to the Nyingmapa, have their own system of Vajrayana. And all of them, including even the Gelugpas, include specific elements and practices of sexual tantra, which according to HPB and the Masters is the very worst type of black magic. It certainly has nothing to do with genuine Buddhism or with Buddha himself.

Some Theosophists find it hard to believe that the Gelugpa school, founded by Tsong-Kha-Pa who is considered so important in Theosophy, teaches sexual tantric practices but this is a fact which anyone can prove for themselves, although it doesn’t mean that Tsong-Kha-Pa himself taught or endorsed such things when founding the Gelugpas – literally “Models of Virtue” or “Virtuous Ones” – in the 14th century. Anyone can research for themselves and find, from many sources – especially Gelugpa sources themselves – that “sexual tantra = highest spiritual practice” is the teaching and opinion of the Gelugpas and that it has been this way for hundreds of years now.

The writings of the present Dalai Lama and of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (founder of the New Kadampa Tradition) should probably be considered as the most authoritative contemporary books for learning and understanding what are the standard and traditional Gelugpa teachings – regardless of the fact that these two lamas represent opposing “streams” within the Gelugpa world – and they make no secret of the sexual side of it and indeed openly endorse it, albeit advising practitioners to refrain from sexual tantra until they have reached a certain stage of inner development and received the necessary “empowerments” from a Guru Lama.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book “Essence of Vajrayana” is possibly the most clear and concise book available in English today on the Gelugpa Vajrayana teachings. The very essence and nature of almost all its contents is distinctly antithetical to the essence and nature of Theosophy. It would undoubtedly be black magic – and “pseudo-Buddhism” – to follow and apply such teachings. Amongst other things we would be wise to compare the constant emphasis on Dakinis in Vajrayana Buddhism (including the many mantras and rituals designed to invoke them, as well as the aspiration to engage in sexual tantra with them) with what HPB says about Dakinis:

Dakini (Sk.). Female demons, vampires and blood-drinkers (asra-pas). In the Puranas they attend upon the goddess Kali and feed on human flesh. A species of evil “Elementals”.” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 95, Entry for “Dakini”)

“But with the Fourth Race [i.e. the Atlanteans] we reach the purely human period. Those who were hitherto semi-divine Beings, self-imprisoned in bodies which were human only in appearance, became physiologically changed and took unto themselves wives who were entirely human and fair to look at, but in whom lowermore material, though sidereal, beings had incarnated. These beings in female forms (Lilith is the prototype of these in the Jewish traditions) are called in the esoteric accounts “Khado” (Dakini, in Sanskrit). Allegorical legends call the chief of these Liliths, Sangye Khado (Buddha Dakini, in Sanskrit); all are credited with the art of “walking in the air,” and the greatest kindness to mortals; but no mind – only animal instinct.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 285)

This was part of HPB’s commentary on Stanza 10 (given the title “The History of the Fourth Race”) on human evolution or Anthropogenesis, which she translated from the Book of Dzyan as saying in part: “THEN THE THIRD AND FOURTH (races) BECAME TALL WITH PRIDE. WE ARE THE KINGS, WE ARE THE GODS. THEY TOOK WIVES FAIR TO LOOK AT. WIVES FROM THE “MINDLESS,” THE NARROW-HEADED. THEY BRED MONSTERS, WICKED DEMONS, MALE AND FEMALE. ALSO KHADO (Dakini) WITH LITTLE MINDS. THEY BUILT TEMPLES FOR HUMAN BODY. MALE AND FEMALE THEY WORSHIPPED. THEN THE THIRD EYE ACTED NO LONGER.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 271)

But there is a real “Diamond Way,” a true Vajrayana, and “The Voice of the Silence” – translated by HPB from “The Book of the Golden Precepts” – indicates to us the path and practice of this. Interestingly, both the Dalai Lama and a previous Panchen Lama have endorsed “The Voice of The Silence” as an authentic Buddhist text, even though many Buddhism experts tend to dismiss it as fake. It’s no coincidence that “The Voice of the Silence” is filled with “Vajra-” references and diamond words. And it’s made clear throughout that book and the rest of HPB’s teachings that the real Buddhism – that which the Masters recognise and adhere to – is that of the secret and esoteric Yogacharya School of “pure Buddhism.”

What’s often referred to as the “Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School” is in fact the Esoteric Yogacharya School, which has its geographical base and centre in the Trans-Himalayan region. This has been explored in greater detail in the article The REAL Esoteric Buddhism. In “The Theosophical Glossary” – which contains quite a lot of Yogacharya references – HPB says that the Spiritual Chief of the Yogacharya School is known as the Vajracharya, “the Supreme Master of the Vajra” or diamond. She also states there that “the real nature” of many terms and concepts found in Tibetan Buddhism “is known only to, and explained by, the highest Initiates of the Yogacharya School.”

We will not find any proper or definite links between popular Vajrayana Buddhism and Theosophy. The real link is with the Esoteric Yogacharya School, founded by the original Aryasanga who had been a direct disciple and Arhat of Gautama Buddha around 2,600 years ago, and which is not the same as the exoteric and the only publicly known Yogacharya or Yogācāra School established in the 4th century A.D./C.E. by an individual who HPB calls “the pseudo-Aryasangha” but who Buddhists and the world at large consider the Aryasanga or Asanga. There are however quite a few similarities and commonalities between the two Yogacharya Schools.

And she says that “none of the genuine Yogacharya books have ever been made public or marketable” . . . nor will they ever.

In “A Few More Misconceptions Corrected,” she writes, “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.” The fact that members of the general public and even academics, scholars, and researchers, cannot find any clear or firm trace or evidence of the existence of an esoteric school is never sound proof of its non-existence.

The teachings of our Trans-Himalayan Teachers about the after-death states and processes are themselves entirely and significantly different from, and contradictory to, the Tibetan Buddhist teachings on that subject, yet they are so much more logical, reasonable, plausible, and philosophically sound. One can study a comparison between the two in Theosophy and The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

And what of the Kalachakra system and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, which are said to be closely linked with the mysterious land of Shambhala and which are so increasingly heard of and referred to nowadays?

It seems that the real Kalachakra system and teachings are closely connected with the Masters and Initiates of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood and Esoteric School and vice versa.

In “The Mystery of Buddha,” which was initially intended to be published as part of “The Secret Doctrine,” HPB specifically states and explains that “What is given here is taken from the secret portions of Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra, in Sanskrit, or the “Wheel of Time,” or duration).”

Again, she talks about the Kalachakra, called “Dus Kyi Khorlo” in Tibetan, saying:

“. . . the “Dus-kyi Khorlo,” or Tibetan Mysticism. A system as old as man, known in India and practised before Europe had become a continent, “was first known,” we are told, only nine or ten centuries ago. The text of its books in its present form may have “originated” even later, for there are numerous such texts that have been tampered with by sects to suit the fancies of each. But who has read the original book on Dus-Kyi Khorlo, re-written by Tsong-Kha-pa, with his Commentaries? . . . this grand Reformer burnt every book on Sorcery on which he could lay his hands in 1387 . . . he has left a whole library of his own works – not a tenth part of which has ever been made known.”

Where she says “we are told” in the above quote, she’s referring to the misguided and inaccurate assertions of the Orientalists and other Western scholars who considered themselves to be experts on these things.

And in “The Voice of the Silence,” in the section titled “The Two Paths” (p. 32, Theosophy Company edition), the question is asked: “Would’st thou become a Yogi of “Time’s Circle”?”

“Time’s Circle,” “Circle of Time,” “Wheel of Time” . . . these are merely English translations of the Sanskrit word “Kalachakra.” The spiritual aspirant who precisely and devotedly follows the Path presented in “The Voice of the Silence” is on his or her way to becoming a true Kalachakra Yogi.

And interestingly enough, an American Tibetologist called David Reigle – author of “Blavatsky’s Secret Books” – has found quite conclusive evidence that the Secret Book of Dzyan (whose archaic stanzas on Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis form the basis of HPB’s master work “The Secret Doctrine”) is likely to be the Mula Kalachakra Tantra, also called the Kalachakra Mulatantra, which is the purely esoteric and now lost (i.e. “lost” to all except the suitably initiated) “root text” or original basis of the publicly known Kalachakra teachings, which have been popularised in recent decades by the present Dalai Lama.

Hence there is no need and very little value for Theosophists to be attempting to find their way into the world of Tibetan Buddhism. Of course, if a very strong Karmic or past life involvement is drawing one powerfully towards it, one should indeed explore that and seek to fulfil one’s dharma or Karmic duty in this incarnation. But this does not appear to be the case for many Theosophists.

We would especially caution women from getting involved in any serious or deep way with Tibetan Buddhism, as there are so many women around the world reporting, ever increasingly, of the awful sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse they have been subjected to by Tibetan Buddhist Lamas (several Gelugpas included) who pressured them into becoming their “tantric consorts” and threatened them with the torments of unspeakable “vajra hells” if they were to refuse, cease, or leave. Although the Dalai Lama has tried to address this privately and diplomatically in various ways, he has yet to publicly and clearly denounce, condemn, or warn against any of this, mainly because it is unfortunately “normal practice” in the Buddhism of Tibet and has been so for long centuries.

Some Theosophists may have read or heard that the Jonang or Jonangpa school of Tibetan Buddhism – which was long mistakenly thought extinct but is now recognised as the fifth school of Tibetan Buddhism (Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, Jonang) – has more in common with the esoteric teachings of the Trans-Himalayan Masters than any other form of Tibetan Buddhism. In some respects it does (particularly in its distinctly Yogacharya-style view of the Absolute and the Divine Self or Buddha-Self in man and all things; a view which rather curiously has always been fiercely opposed by the Gelugpas) but, like all the others, it propounds sexual tantra and various other questionable practices. If one really thinks that one can find or come in contact with the real Trans-Himalayan esoteric stream by following, or practising, any known form of Buddhism – whether Tibetan or any other – one has never really grasped or understood what the esoteric truly is.

An almost entirely unknown group within the Gelugpas is the Kuthumpas, literally “followers of Kuthumi” or Koothoomi. Long believed to have been merely a “theosophical invention,” the Kuthumpas surfaced publicly in the early 2000s, in France and online, but after a few years disappeared again from public view and all public knowledge, with the exception of certain areas of the Trans-Himalayan region such as Ladakh, Lahaul, and Spiti, where their existence has never been a secret, even if not especially well known. Our article Kuthumpas not Kadampas refers to them.

As students and practitioners of Theosophy, we indeed ought to study and try to learn about and understand the teachings and philosophies of all the world’s religions and that includes Tibetan Buddhism. We ought also to endeavour to find what is most universal and Theosophical in all of those. But that does not necessarily equate to getting personally and directly involved with the religious system itself. It’s always advisable to be careful and cautious about that and especially when a religion has as many major problems and issues in it as Tibetan Buddhism.

The motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no Religion higher than Truth.” And Truth has always transcended and pre-dated all religions, even the highest and best.

For further study of these subjects, please see all the articles linked to above, as well as The Dalai Lama, Theosophy & The Gelugpa Tradition.

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One thought on “Should Theosophists Get Involved With Tibetan Buddhism?

  1. While it’s true that there may be sexual content written into existing tantra text, within the actual writings of Psong ka pa, and such as Santideva and those which are referenced by the Dalai Lama and Geoffrey Hopkins, tantra is rightly defined as “continuam” and there no sexual references to be found. This is important because there are practical teachings in such texts by Hopkins (Meditation on Emptiness, for example ), which are most useful to the theosophical student, when read along with The Voice of the Silence. One must study with eyes open and pierce through dogma, white seeing theosophical thought as the basis for all true philosophy.

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