“Truly divine incarnation, or the avatar doctrine, constituted the grandest mystery of every old religious system!”
(H. P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 154, Entry for “Incarnations”)
“. . . the doctrine about Avatara. The subject is a profound one and touches one of the most jealously guarded secrets of Brahma-Vidya. . . . We see the wisdom of the ancients in drawing the veil of secrecy on these high subjects; for, when sacred things are bandied about light-heartedly, spiritual degradation is the result.”
(Bhavani Shankar, “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita”)
“The incomplete statements herein given are fragments of what is contained in certain secret volumes, but it is not lawful to divulge the details.”
(HPB, “The Doctrine of Avataras”)
“The closer the union between the mortal reflection MAN and his celestial PROTOTYPE, the less dangerous the external conditions and subsequent reincarnations – which neither Buddhas nor Christs can escape.”
(HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 639)
~ * ~
The mystery of the Avatars is closely interrelated with the mystery about Buddha. Some well known figures, who many people think of as Avatars – whether correctly or not – include Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and so on. We ought to state from the start that the Theosophical explanations about this highly sacred and mysterious subject are not simple. One cannot expect something so metaphysically complex and deep to be either simple or straightforward by ordinary standards. It may challenge us, it may require effort in order to understand, but if we’re serious about Theosophy, that effort, thought, focus, reflection, will be well worth it.
Avatars (literally “Descended Ones”) are not the same as Those we speak of as Bodhisattvas, Nirmanakayas, Mahatmas, Adepts, or Masters of Wisdom, nor Their chelas or disciples. Nor are Avatars necessarily the same as Buddhas. If all these are rarities in the Kali Yuga, an Avatar is even more so and is something quite different from what many of us may have thought.
To comprehend the esoteric explanations about Avatars, we must first gain a clear understanding of what is really meant by the “Seven Rays” and how the monad (the “core essence”) of every human being originates within, and belongs to, one or another of those Seven Rays. Almost everything said about the Seven Rays in later Theosophical and New Age teachings is contrary to what H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters of Wisdom have explained.
Ultimately, the whole of manifestation originates from the Universal Monad, which is simply another name for the First Logos, the Unmanifested Logos, the First Cause which issues forth from the Causeless Cause (the Absolute Divine Principle) when the Universe comes into being.
This Universal Monad is the Point within the Circle in esoteric symbolism, which Point is the same as the Pythagorean Monas, the first and highest point of the Pythagorean Triangle. H. P. Blavatsky calls it “the real, esoteric LOGOS.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 614)
On the same page it is somewhat sternly but justifiably stated: “Those unable to seize the difference between the monad – the Universal Unit – and the Monads or the manifested Unity, as also between the ever-hidden and the revealed LOGOS or the Word, ought never to meddle in philosophy, let alone the Esoteric Sciences.”
It is hoped that from the passages quoted below the difference can now be seized more easily.
What is the Human Monad? It is a Ray, it is a Spark, an individualisation of or from the Universal Monad, the latter being emphasised to be a Principle, Energy, and Force, rather than any type of Being, Entity, or “Divine Personality” (see Understanding The Logos).
But the Human Monad does not get here directly, by taking a gigantic leap from the First Logos down to the cycles of human incarnation on planet Earth.
“The Secret Doctrine” explains:
“Atma (our seventh principle) being identical with the universal Spirit, and man being one with it in his essence, what is then the Monad proper? . . . It is that homogeneous spark which radiates in millions of rays from the primeval “Seven;” . . . the five, or rather seven, Dhyani Buddhas . . . become the creators or the emanators of the monads destined to become human in that cycle; after which they evolve themselves, or, so to say, expand into their own selves as Bodhisattvas or Brahmanas, in heaven and earth, to become at last simple men – “the creators of the world are born here, on earth again and again” – truly. . . . The “Seven Sons of Light” are also called “Stars.” The star under which a human Entity is born, says the Occult teaching, will remain for ever its star, throughout the whole cycle of its incarnations in one Manvantara. But this is not his astrological star. The latter is concerned and connected with the personality, the former with the INDIVIDUALITY. The “Angel” of that Star, or the Dhyani-Buddha will be either the guiding or simply the presiding “Angel,” so to say, in every new rebirth of the monad, which is part of his own essence, though his vehicle, man, may remain for ever ignorant of this fact. . . . There are seven chief groups of such Dhyan Chohans, which groups will be found and recognised in every religion, for they are the primeval SEVEN Rays. Humanity, occultism teaches us, is divided into seven distinct groups and their sub-divisions, mental, spiritual, and physical. . . . This was known to every high Initiate in every age and in every country: “I and my Father are one,” said Jesus (John x. 30). When He is made to say, elsewhere (xx. 17): “I ascend to my Father and your Father,” it meant that which has just been stated. It was simply to show that the group of his disciples and followers attracted to Him belonged to the same Dhyani Buddha, “Star,” or “Father,” again of the same planetary realm and division as He did. . . . It is then the “Seven Sons of Light” – called after their planets and (by the rabble) often identified with them – namely Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Venus, and – presumably for the modern critic, who goes no deeper than the surface of old religions – the Sun and Moon, which are, according to the Occult teachings, our heavenly Parents, or “Father,” synthetically. . . . the visible orbs furnishing our Humanity with its outward and inward characteristics, and their “Regents” or Rectors with our Monads and spiritual faculties.” (Vol. 1, p. 571-575)
“The human Monad in its first beginning is that Spirit, or the Soul of that star (Planet) itself. As our Sun radiates its light and beams on every body in space within the boundaries of its system, so the Regent of every Planet-star, the Parent-monad, shoots out from itself the Monad of every “pilgrim” Soul born under its house within its own group. The Regents are esoterically seven, whether in the Sephiroth, the “Angels of the Presence,” the Rishis, or the Amshaspends.” (“Astrology and Astrolatry” article, posthumously published)
So there are Seven Primeval Monads, the Seven Sons of Light, and each Human Monad is a spark, a radiation, of the essence of one of these Seven Rays. Whichever one of the Seven it is for us, is our divine, celestial, heavenly Prototype, our Star, our Father, our Monadic Parent, our Dhyani Buddha, our own Logos. We are linked with it via whichever one of the Seven Sacred Planets specifically corresponds to it. Related quotes can be found in Our Seven Divine Parents (A Study in Monads, Rays, and Planets).
“Fix thy Soul’s gaze upon the star whose ray thou art, the flaming star that shines within the lightless depths of ever-being, the boundless fields of the Unknown.” (“The Voice of the Silence” p. 31, original 1889 edition, translated by HPB from the Book of the Golden Precepts)
Once this is understood, at least as a conceptualisation, we are able to grasp and appreciate more clearly the true esoteric doctrine about Avatars:
“In ancient Symbolism it was always the SUN (though the Spiritual, not the visible, Sun was meant), that was supposed to send forth the chief Saviours and Avatars. Hence the connecting link between the Buddhas, the Avatars, and so many other incarnations of the highest SEVEN.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 638)
“When mortals shall have become sufficiently spiritualised, there will be no more need of forcing them into a correct comprehension of ancient Wisdom. Men will know then, that there never yet was a great World-reformer, whose name has passed into our generation, who (a) was not a direct emanation of the LOGOS (under whatever name known to us), i.e., an essential incarnation of one of “the seven,” of the “divine Spirit who is sevenfold”; and (b) who had not appeared before, during the past Cycles. . . . Zoroaster . . . Krishna and Buddha . . . Osiris . . . Thoth-Hermes . . . Jesus . . . The esoteric doctrine explains it by saying that each of these (as many others) had first appeared on earth as one of the seven powers of the LOGOS, individualized as a God or “Angel” (messenger); then, mixed with matter, they had re-appeared in turn as great sages and instructors who “taught the Fifth Race,” after having instructed the two preceding races, had ruled during the Divine Dynasties, and had finally sacrificed themselves, to be reborn under various circumstances for the good of mankind, and for its salvation at certain critical periods; until in their last incarnations they had become truly only “the parts of a part” on earth, though de facto the One Supreme in Nature. This is the metaphysics of Theogony.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 358-359)
From the highest perspective, all Avatars (literally “Descended Ones”) are Avatars of one and the same Principle or Energising Force, arising within the Logos; a Principle which in Hindu terminology would be called “Maha Vishnu,” which in Hinduism is synonymous with “Vishnu” and “Narayana.” In her posthumously published “The Doctrine of Avataras” HPB explains:
“The Buddhists have always stoutly denied that their BUDDHA was, as alleged by the Brahmans, an Avatara of Vishnu in the same sense as a man is an incarnation of his Karmic ancestor.
“They deny it partly, perhaps, because the esoteric meaning of the term “Maha Vishnu” is not known to them in its full, impersonal, and general meaning. There is a mysterious Principle in Nature called “Maha Vishnu,” which is not the God of that name, but a principle which contains Bija, the seed of Avatarism or, in other words, is the potency and cause of such divine incarnations. All the World-Saviours, the Bodhisattvas and the Avataras, are the trees of salvation grown out from the one seed, the Bija or “Maha Vishnu.” Whether it be called Adi-Buddha (Primeval Wisdom) or Maha Vishnu, it is all the same.
“It is found, as is now shown, even in the exoteric, distorted interpretations of the Vedas – of the Rig Veda, the oldest, the most trustworthy of all the four – this root and seed of all future Initiate-Saviours being called in it the Visvakarma, the “Father” Principle, “beyond the comprehension of mortals;” . . . that power, which the Hindus call the Bija, the “one seed,” or Maha Vishnu – a power, not the God – or that mysterious Principle that contains in Itself the Seed of Avatarism. [Note: this paragraph is quoted from “Facts Underlying Adept Biographies.”]
“Understood esoterically, Vishnu is both Saguna and Nirguna (with and without attributes). In the first aspect, Vishnu is the object of exoteric worship and devotion; in the second, as Nirguna, he is the culmination of the totality of spiritual wisdom in the Universe – Nirvana, in short – and has as worshippers all philosophical minds. In this esoteric sense the Lord BUDDHA was an incarnation of Maha Vishnu.”
But this, she continues, “is from the philosophical and purely spiritual standpoint. From the plane of illusion, however, as one would say, or from the terrestrial standpoint, those initiated know that He was a direct incarnation of one of the primeval “Seven Sons of Light” who are to be found in every Theogony – the Dhyan Chohans whose mission it is, from one eternity (aeon) to the other, to watch over the spiritual welfare of the regions under their care.
“Thus, all the Avataras are one and the same: the Sons of their “Father,” in a direct descent and line, the “Father,” or one of the seven Flames becoming, for the time being, the Son, and these two being one – in Eternity.
“There is a great mystery in such incarnations and they are outside and beyond the cycle of general re-births.
“Rebirths may be divided into three classes: the divine incarnations called Avataras; those of Adepts who give up Nirvana for the sake of helping on humanity – the Nirmanakayas; and the natural succession of rebirths for all – the common law.
“The Avatara is an appearance, one which may be termed a special illusion within the natural illusion that reigns on the planes under the sway of that power, Maya; the Adept is re-born consciously, at his will and pleasure; the units of the common herd unconsciously follow the great law of dual evolution.
“What is an Avatara? for the term before being used ought to be well understood. It is a descent of the manifested Deity – whether under the specific name of Shiva, Vishnu, or Adi-Buddha – into an illusive form of individuality, an appearance which to men on this illusive plane is objective, but it is not so in sober fact. That illusive form having neither past nor future, because it had neither previous incarnation nor will have subsequent rebirths, has naught to do with Karma, which has therefore no hold on it.”
That last paragraph is particularly interesting and important. In saying that the physical plane appearance or form of an incarnated Avatar is in actuality not genuinely “objective,” does HPB mean that the Avatar’s physical body is not really physical after all but only appears so to the uninitiated? Or she could just be making the point that all physical bodies are not technically “objective” due to the fact that what we tend to call “physical matter” is fundamentally vibrational and energetic.
Either way, she does not elaborate on this but she does on the other point, namely that the incarnated Avatar has no past, no future, no previous incarnation, no future incarnation, no Karma. But how can this be so?
“An Avatara . . . as already stated, is an illusive appearance, Karmaless, and having never before incarnated . . . An Avatara is a descent of a God into an illusive form . . . There is a great mystery in such incarnations and they are outside and beyond the cycle of general re-births. Rebirths may be divided into three classes: the divine incarnations called Avataras; those of Adepts who give up Nirvana for the sake of helping on humanity – the Nirmanakayas; and the natural succession of rebirths for all – the common law. . . . The theory of rebirth must be set forth by Occultists, and then applied to special cases. The right comprehension of this psychic fact is based upon a correct view of that group of celestial Beings who are universally called the seven Primeval Gods or Angels – our Dhyan Chohans – the “Seven Primeval Rays” or Powers, adopted later on by the Christian Religion as the “Seven Angels of the Presence.”
“The reader may now be able to obtain a clearer comprehension of the whole thing. He will also see what is meant by the “Watchers,” there being one placed as the Guardian or Regent over each of the seven divisions or regions of the earth, according to old traditions, as there is one to watch over and guide every one of the fourteen worlds or Lokas.
“But it is not with any of these [i.e. the “Watchers”] that we are at present concerned, but with the “Seven Breaths,” so-called, that furnish man with his immortal Monad in his cyclic pilgrimage.
“The Commentary on the Book of Dzyan says:
“Descending on his region first as Lord of Glory, the Flame (or Breath), having called into conscious being the highest of the Emanations of that special region, ascends from it again to Its primeval seat, whence It watches over and guides Its countless Beams (Monads). It chooses as Its Avataras only those who had the Seven Virtues in them in their previous incarnation. As for the rest, It overshadows each with one of Its countless beams. . . . Yet even the “beam” is a part of the Lord of Lords.”
If any of that seems unclear, please re-read carefully the “Secret Doctrine” quotes in the first part of this present article and it should begin to make more sense.
Each one of the Seven Sons of Light or Seven Rays or Seven Dhyani Buddhas – or whatever other suitable name we may wish to call them – from “Its primeval seat . . . watches over and guides Its countless Beams” on Earth, i.e. those particular Human Monads which have emanated from that particular One of the Seven.
An Avatar is an incarnation of One of the Seven and when that happens the “vehicle” It chooses is always one of those Monads which belongs to IT and which is of ITS own Essence.
“Let us suppose that a person during his cycle of incarnations is thus selected for special purposes – the vessel being sufficiently clean – by his personal God, the Fountain-head (on the plane of the manifested) of his Monad, who thus becomes his in-dweller. That God, his own prototype or “Father in Heaven,” is, in one sense, not only the image in which he, the spiritual man, is made, but in the case we are considering, it is that spiritual, individual Ego himself. This is a case of permanent, life-long Theophania.
“Let us bear in mind that this is neither Avatarism, as it is understood in Brahmanical philosophy, nor is the man thus selected a Jivanmukta or Nirvani, but that it is a wholly exceptional case in the realm of Mysticism. The man may or may not have been an Adept in his previous lives; he is so far, and simply, an extremely pure and spiritual individual – or one who was all that in his preceding birth, if the vessel thus selected is that of a newly-born infant.”
As for the Avatar being Karmaless, this is explained by HPB further on, in “The Mystery of Buddha”:
“Such “Sons of Light,” or Dhyani-Buddhas, are the Dharmakayas of preceding Manvantaras, who have closed their cycles of incarnation in the ordinary sense and who, being thus Karmaless, have long ago dropped their individual Rupas, and have become identified with the first Principle. Hence the necessity of a sacrificial Nirmanakaya, ready to suffer for the misdeeds or mistakes of the new body in its earth-pilgrimage, without any future reward on the plane of progression and rebirth, since there are no rebirths for him in the ordinary sense.”
This statement may seem even more confusing, however, since it brings in “the necessity of a sacrificial Nirmanakaya” when an Avataric descent takes place, the Nirmanakaya itself being distinct from the potentially non-Adept “personality vessel” just referred to. This diagram which we have produced may possibly help to clarify things, as might the example given of Adi Shankaracharya, the founder or codifier of the Advaita Vedanta form of Hinduism, in “The Mystery of Buddha”:
“The mystery of Buddha . . . Gautama . . . fifty odd years after his death “the great Teacher” having refused full Dharmakaya and Nirvana, was pleased, for purposes of Karma and philanthropy to be reborn. For Him death had been no death, . . . The shock of death was broken, and like many other Adepts, He threw off the mortal coil and left it to be burnt, and its ashes to serve as relics, and began interplanetary life, clothed in His subtle body. He was reborn as Shankara, the greatest Vedantic teacher of India, . . . Was Shankaracharya Gautama the Buddha, then, under a new personal form? It may perhaps only puzzle the reader the more if he be told that there was the “astral” Gautama inside the outward Shankara, whose higher principle, or Atman, was, nevertheless, his own divine prototype – the “Son of Light,” indeed – the heavenly, mind-born son of Aditi. . . .
“From time to time He, the “astral” Gautama, associates Himself, in some most mysterious – to us quite incomprehensible – manner, with Avataras and great saints, and works through them. And several such are named. Thus it is averred that Gautama Buddha was reincarnated in Shankaracharya . . . Gautama’s “Astral” Ego – or rather his Bodhisattva – may have been associated in some mysterious way with Shankaracharya. Yes, it was perhaps the Ego, Gautama, under a new and better adapted casket – that of a Brahman of Southern India. . . .
“Shankara was an Avatara in the full sense of the term. According to Sayanacharya, the great commentator on the Vedas, he is to be held as an Avatara, or direct incarnation of Shiva – the Logos, the Seventh Principle in Nature – Himself. In the Secret Doctrine Shri Shankaracharya is regarded as the abode – for the thirty-two years of his mortal life – of a Flame, the highest of the manifested Spiritual Beings, one of the Primordial Seven Rays.”
As we saw just a moment ago, the Seven Rays or Sons of Light or Dhyani Buddhas are so extremely elevated, refined, and divine, that They are Egoless and Karmaless. In some unimaginably distant cycle of evolution countless aeons ago They must have passed through an equivalent of the human stage (since this is a necessity, according to Theosophy) and had an individual Reincarnating Ego and accrued Karma. But that was then and this is now.
They “have become identified with the first Principle” and hence although They can descend as an Avataric incarnation They require for the duration of that incarnation an Ego, an “I,” a spiritual individuality, through which Their divine power and influence can flow through to this plane. This is why HPB says “hence the necessity of a sacrificial Nirmanakaya.”
The Nirmanakayas, also known as Bodhisattvas, are high and initiated Adepts, part of the Great Lodge or Brotherhood which guides and watches over the spiritual evolution and advancement of humanity. They have chosen to renounce Nirvana in order to remain with humanity to help, guide, and teach it. Some are almost always physically incarnated – such as those who Theosophists call “The Masters” and Mahatmas – whilst others may spend much of their time helping from other planes. More can be read in The Two Paths, Nirvana, Parinirvana, and Eternity, Masters of Wisdom: Outwardly Mortal, Inwardly Immortal, and The Greatest Doctrine of Esoteric Philosophy.
“The esoteric school teaches that Gautama Buddha with several of his Arhats is such a Nirmanakaya, higher than whom, on account of the great renunciation and sacrifice to mankind there is none known,” explains HPB in a comment on p. 97 of “The Voice of the Silence.”
On the rare occasion of an Avataric incarnation, it is a Nirmanakaya who “steps in” to serve as the intermediary entity between the Dhyani Buddha and the personal self and body that has been chosen. It could thus be described as a threefold or three-way operation.
There are of course many Nirmanakayas/Bodhisattvas but Gautama Buddha is, according to the Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School or Esoteric Yogacharya School, the highest. Similarly, the publicly known Yogacharya texts refer to him as “The Supreme Nirmanakaya.”
The “Theosophical Glossary” entry for “Bhadrakalpa” explains that this Buddha, known also as Shakyamuni, Tathagata, and by a myriad of other monikers, is occultly termed “The Fourth Buddha” and “The Fifth Buddha.” He is the “chief Buddha” of the entire Fourth Round and also the “chief Buddha or Reformer” of this present Fifth Root Race within the Fourth Round. Aside from his specific incarnation 2,600 years ago as Gautama the Buddha he “appears also in the seven sub-races [i.e. of this Fifth Race, of which we are still only in the fifth sub-race] as a Bodhisattva.”
This may now make clearer what was quoted above from “The Mystery of Buddha” about the Gautama-Bodhisattva-Nirmanakaya reincarnating in Adi Shankaracharya. Notice the wording: “Gautama Buddha was reincarnated in Shankaracharya” – IN, not AS.
From the same article: “The Bodhisattva remains behind to continue the Buddha’s work upon earth. It is then this Bodhisattva that may have afforded the lower principles in the apparitional body of Shankaracharya, the Avatara.”
“Shankaracharya was reputed to be an Avatara, an assertion the writer implicitly believes in, but which other people are, of course, at liberty to reject. And as such he took the body of a southern Indian, newly-born Brahman baby [Note: The Avatar therefore did not pass through the womb and how could It, in light of what IT actually is?]; that body, for reasons as important as they are mysterious to us, is said to have been animated by Gautama’s astral personal remains. This divine Non-Ego chose as its own Upadhi (physical basis), the ethereal, human Ego of a great Sage in this world of forms, as the fittest vehicle for Spirit to descend into. . . . It is therefore nearer the truth to say – when once we accept such a possibility – that the “astral” Gautama, or the Nirmanakaya, was the Upadhi of Shankaracharya’s spirit, rather than that the latter was a reincarnation of the former. . . . When a Shankaracharya has to be born, naturally every one of the principles in the manifested mortal man must be the purest and finest that exist on earth. Consquently those principles that were once attached to Gautama, who was the direct great predecessor of Shankara, were naturally attracted to him, the economy of Nature forbidding the re-evolution of similar principles from the crude state. . . . Hence the right way of representing the truth would be to say that the various principles, the Bodhisattva, of Gautama Buddha, which did not go to Nirvana, reunited to form the middle principles of Shankaracharya, the earthly Entity.” (bold added)
But it should not be assumed from this that the only times Gautama Buddha “reincarnates” are as part of the descent of an Avatar as in the case just described.
HPB goes on in “The Mystery of Buddha” to strongly insinuate that Yeshua or Jesus, who appeared around 500 years later, was another incarnation, in some sense or other, of this same Great Soul and as a matter of individual Karmic necessity rather than as part of a Karmaless Avataric incarnation. And she states, “The students of Esoteric Philosophy see in the Nazarene Sage a Bodhisattva with the spirit of Buddha Himself in Him.”
In a subsequent article, ““Reincarnations” of Buddha,” the account is continued:
“The Tibetan Lamaseries contain many secret and semi-secret volumes, detailing the lives of great Sages. Many of the statements in them are purposely confused, and in others the reader becomes bewildered, unless a clue be given him, by the use of one name to cover many individuals who follow the same line of teaching. . . . In one of these books . . . It is stated that at the age of thirty-three, Shankaracharya, tired of his mortal body, “put it off” in the cave he had entered, and that the Bodhisattva, that served as his lower personality, was freed “With the burden of a sin upon him which he had not committed.” At the same time it is added: “At whatever age one puts off his outward body by free will, at that age will he be made to die a violent death against his will in his next rebirth.””
Anyone with any familiarity at all with accounts of the reported life of Jesus Christ knows that Jesus is said to have died a violent death at the age of 33. With this in mind, re-read the above paragraph and a light may dawn.
“Now, Karma could have no hold on “Maha Shankara” (as Shankara is called in the secret work), as he had, as Avatara, no Ego of his own, but a Bodhisattva – a willing sacrificial victim. . . . A few centuries later Buddha tried one more incarnation, it is said, in * * * *, and again, fifty years subsequent to the death of this Adept, in one whose name is given as Tiani-Tsang. Does “Tiani-Tsang” stand for Apollonius of Tyana? This is a simple surmise. Some things in the life of that Adept would seem to tally with the hypothesis – others to go against it.”
The asterisks above are as used by HPB, a method used by Initiates to avoid explicitly disclosing or revealing certain details which the Masters still require to be kept secret, but also used as a type of “occult hint” to prompt the intuitive disciples to try to fill in the gaps.
HPB, as a high Initiate, knew exactly whether or not Apollonius was the reincarnation of Jesus, but not being permitted to state it directly and unequivocally she deliberately words it in such a way as to prevent it being taken up with much force by the reader. In this regard, the closing paragraphs of “The Doctrine of Avataras” may be found particularly interesting:
““Let me suffer and bear the sins of all [be reincarnated unto new misery] but let the world be saved!” was said by Gautama BUDDHA: an exclamation the real meaning of which is little understood now by his followers. “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” asks the astral Jesus of Peter. “Till I come” means “till I am reincarnated again” in a physical body.
“Yet the Christ of the old crucified body could truly say: “I am with my Father and one with Him,” which did not prevent the astral from taking a form again nor John from tarrying indeed till his Master had come; nor hinder John from failing to recognize him when he did come, or from then opposing him. But in the Church that remark generated the absurd idea of the millennium or chiliasm, in its physical sense.
“Since then the “Man of Sorrows” has returned, perchance, more than once, unknown to, and undiscovered by, his blind followers. Since then also, this grand “Son of God” has been incessantly and most cruelly crucified daily and hourly by the Churches founded in his name. But the Apostles, only half-initiated, failed to tarry for their Master, and not recognizing him, spurned him every time he returned.”
HPB then translates a passage from one of the secret volumes she had referred to:
“Born fifty-two years too early as Shramana Gautama, the son of King Zastang; then retiring fifty-seven years too soon as Maha Shankara, who got tired of his outward form. This wilful act aroused and attracted King Karma, who killed the new form of * * * at thirty-three, the age of the body that was put off. [At whatever age one puts off his outward body by free will, at that age will he be made to die in his next incarnation against his will – Commentary.] He died in his next (body) at thirty-two and a little over, and again in his next at eighty – a Maya, and at one hundred, in reality. The Bodhisattva chose Tiani-Tsang, then again the Sugata became Tsong-Kha-pa, who became thus Dezhin-Shegpa [Tathagata – “one who follows in the way and manner of his predecessors”]. The Blessed One could do good to his generation as * * * but none to posterity, and so as Tiani-Tsang he became incarnated only for the “remains” [of his precedent Karma, as we understand it]. The Seven Ways and the Four Truths were once more hidden out of sight. The Merciful One confined since then his attention and fatherly care to the heart of Bodyul, the nursery grounds of the seeds of truth. The blessed “remains” since then have overshadowed and rested in many a holy body of human Bodhisattvas.”
“Bodyul” or “Bod-yul,” by the way, is a name for Tibet. Further indication that Tiani-Tsang was indeed Apollonius of Tyana is found in another posthumously published HPB article, simply titled “Appollonius of Tyana,” and in which it is said:
“Nobody can say where or when Apollonius was born, and everyone is equally ignorant of the date at which, and of the place where he died. Some think he was eighty or ninety years old at the time of his death, others that he was one hundred or even one hundred and seventeen. But, whether he ended his days at Ephesus in the year 96 A.D., as some say, or whether the event took place at Lindus in the temple of Pallas-Athene, or whether again he disappeared from the temple of Dictynna, or whether, as others maintain, he did not die at all, but when a hundred years old renewed his life by Magic, and went on working for the benefit of humanity, no one can tell. The Secret Records alone have noted his birth and subsequent career. But then – “Who hath believed in that report?”
“All that history knows is that Apollonius was the enthusiastic founder of a new school of contemplation. Perhaps less metaphorical and more practical than Jesus, he nevertheless inculcated the same quintessence of spirituality, the same high moral truths. He is accused of having confined them to the higher classes of society instead of doing what Buddha and Jesus did, instead of preaching them to the poor and the afflicted. Of his reasons for acting in such an exclusive way it is impossible to judge at so late a date. But Karmic law seems to be mixed up with it. Born, as we are told, among the aristocracy, it is very likely that he desired to finish the work undone in this particular direction by his predecessor, and sought to offer “peace on earth and good will” to all men, and not alone to the outcast and the criminal. Therefore he associated with the kings and mighty ones of the age.”
Going back to the esoteric commentary, we learn that “No further information is given, least of all are there any details or explanations to be found in the secret volume. All is darkness and mystery in it, for it is evidently written but for those who are already instructed. Several flaming red asterisks are placed instead of names, and the few facts given are abruptly broken off. The key of the riddle is left to the intuition of the disciple, unless the “direct followers” of Gautama the Buddha – “those who are to be denied by His Church for the next cycle” – and of Shankaracharya, are pleased to add more.”
The final information on the subject is in HPB’s words “Buddha’s first reincarnation was produced by Karma – and it led Him higher than ever; the two following were “out of pity” and * * *” and a further translation from the secret volumes: “It was for that, born of pity, that the All-Glorious One had to retire to ______, and then appear [karmically] as Maha Shankara; and out of pity as _______, and again as ________, and again as Tsong Kha-pa.”
The fact of Gautama Buddha having reappeared in Tibet in the Middle Ages as Tsong-Kha-Pa, the establisher of the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism and a secret school connected with it and part of the Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School and Brotherhood, is quite well known amongst students of the original Theosophical teachings.
There are two articles specifically relating to it on this site, The Great Tsong-Kha-Pa and The Dalai Lama, Theosophy & The Gelugpa Tradition.
“Still it is maintained that this Adept of Adepts lives to this day in his spiritual entity as a mysterious, unseen, yet overpowering presence among the Brotherhood of Shamballa, beyond, far beyond, the snowy-capped Himalayas.”
And “Not only a Buddha, a Shankaracharya, or a Jesus can be said to animate several persons at one and the same time, but even the principles of a high Adept may be animating the outward tabernacles of common mortals.”
This further thought-provoking point about the possibility of multiple simultaneous incarnations of such advanced beings is from “The Doctrine of Avataras” and repeats the same principle as the Mahatma K.H. once described to A. P. Sinnett: “The Tchang-chub (an adept who has, by the power of his knowledge and soul enlightenment, become exempt from the curse of UNCONSCIOUS transmigration) – may, at his will and desire, and instead of reincarnating himself only after bodily death, do so, and repeatedly – during his life if he chooses. He holds the power of choosing for himself new bodies – whether on this or any other planet – while in possession of his old form, that he generally preserves for purposes of his own. Read the book of Khiu-tee and you will find in it these laws. She [i.e. HPB] might translate for you some paras, as she knows them by rote. To her you may read the present.” “Jangchub” is the Tibetan equivalent of the Sanskrit word “Bodhisattva.”
We have emphasised elsewhere that HPB always maintained that the details and information and knowledge she was presenting were not the result of her own clairvoyant perceptions or her own intuitions and ideas but rather what she had been taught by her living Adept-Teachers of that Brotherhood with its base in the Trans-Himalayan regions. She specified that all the information we have quoted from above “is taken from the secret portions of Kala Chakra,” i.e. of the Kalachakra books and system. It was not until a century later that Tibetologist researchers concluded that the “Secret Book of Dzyan” on which the two volumes of “The Secret Doctrine” are based is quite possibly the “lost” and now secret and publicly inaccessible Mula (Root) Kalachakra Tantra. The REAL Esoteric Buddhism and The Secret Book of Dzyan articles contain further details in this regard.
HPB concludes her words on these highly sacred subjects with the pertinent observation that “It is not lawful to say any more, for the time has not yet come when nations are prepared to hear the whole truth. The old religions are full of mysteries, and to demonstrate some of them would surely lead to an explosion of hatred, followed, perhaps, by bloodshed and worse.”
Having read all this, the question may naturally arise of whether a new Avatar may now be on the way or may take up incarnation on this Earth in the near future. Some would say that there cannot have been any Avatars at all in the 20th or 21st centuries seeing as HPB asserts “it is not in the Kali yug, our present terrifically materialistic age of Darkness, the “Black Age,” that a new Saviour of Humanity can ever appear” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 470) and says, in one of her articles addressed to the Abbé Roca, “Kali-yuga – the black and evil age . . . during which the world expiates the sins of the three preceding yugas and to whose help no Avatara will come before its close – will last 432,000 years.” (“Theosophy: Some Rare Perspectives” p. 92) Whether we are to take the 432,000 years figure as entirely literal and exact is quite questionable, as can be seen from reading The Seven Yugas, but it is nonetheless clear from Theosophy that we are only just over 5,000 years into it and that it has a very long time still to run.
But one should always check the context surrounding a statement. The context of these two quotes is that the event known as the Coming of the Kalki Avatar, the same as the Coming of the Buddha Maitreya, is being specifically referred to; that event is said by HPB to coincide with the final ending of the Kali Yuga, which cannot and will not end until its appointed time in the far distant future when that great Avatar essentially puts an end to it and frees humanity. She usually describes this as happening at the end of the Sixth Root Race and/or start of the Seventh, though one place vaguely hints at it possibly actually being in the seventh sub-race of our present Fifth Root Race.
So in light of the context just referred to, it may be hasty and rash to declare that those two HPB quotes equate to “No more avatars of any kind at all, until the end of Kali Yuga.” We also know that HPB speaks sometimes of some high Tibetan Lamas as being, in their continually recurring incarnations, Avatars of certain Dhyani Buddhas. Actually, as we have seen, her teaching is that every Avatar is an Avatar (whether partial or complete) of the Logos itself and, more specifically, of one or another of the Seven Rays of the Logos, those Rays being synonymous with the Seven Dhyani Buddhas, so this shows that there is no prohibition or occult reason as to why there cannot be Avatars on the Earth during the present part of the Kali Yuga.
It may sound surprising to some but the late Raghavan Iyer, a prominent but controversial figure in the United Lodge of Theosophists, indicated himself to be both the new Teacher from the Masters’ Brotherhood for the 1975-2000 cycle that had been foretold by HPB, as well as indicating himself to be an Avatar or, more specifically, the Avatar for the Aquarian Age. This can be explored further in What Happened In The 1975-2000 Cycle? Supporters of Iyer might ask – not unreasonably – why HPB uncharacteristically went into so much depth and detail about Avatars and what an Avatar is composed of in terms of their inner constitution, etc. – something she never did in any similar way about the Masters and Adepts, for example – were it not partly as a means of preparation for what was due to happen in the closing quarter of the 20th century.
But even if one believes no Avatar has appeared recently, nor will anytime soon, this does not mean that the Masters and Initiates who are already with us – and who, as we have seen, are not Avatars – are going to disappear. On the contrary, it is said that They will continue to help, guide, and teach humanity, as much as Karma and the Law of Cycles allows. Having read this article, one ought now to be very clear as to the distinction between “Avatars” and “Masters” or “Nirmanakayas.” But it is the case that so much has already been given to the world by the Masters – and by those Avatars who have come – that humanity’s pressing need right now is to study, apply, spread, popularise, and put into action in all avenues of life those teachings. Until then, how can we justifiably expect anything further?
William Q. Judge – HPB’s closest and most trusted colleague and co-founder of the modern Theosophical Movement – describes Gautama Buddha as “the last of the great Avatars.” Not “last” as in “the very last ever” but as in “the latest great Avatar and the last for the time being,” or at least in regard to the end of the 19th century when he wrote that. For some reason, Judge does not mention Shankaracharya (who came after Buddha) as an Avatar, despite him having been – in HPB’s words, which we saw earlier – “the abode – for the thirty-two years of his mortal life – of a Flame, the highest of the manifested Spiritual Beings, one of the Primordial Seven Rays.” Judge does say:
“The Cycle of Avatars includes several smaller ones. The greater are those marked by the appearance of Rama and Krishna among the Hindus, of Menes among the Egyptians, of Zoroaster among the Persians, and of Buddha to the Hindus and other nations of the East. Buddha is the last of the great Avatars and is in a larger cycle than is Jesus of the Jews, for the teachings of the latter are the same as those of Buddha and tinctured with what Buddha had taught to those who instructed Jesus. Another great Avatar is yet to come, corresponding to Buddha and Krishna combined.” (“The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 119-120)
But Buddha was not himself an Avatar in the usual occult sense of the term, as is hopefully apparent from all of the above. HPB clarifies, to the small extent allowed, “It is maintained that Gautama, though an Avatara in one sense, is a true human Jivanmukta, owing his position to his personal merit, and thus more than an Avatara.”
Robert Crosbie, founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, obviously knew these teachings. In one of his letters published in “The Friendly Philosopher” (p. 201-202) he wrote:
“You ask as to the nature and mission of the one called “Jesus.” There is reason to think that the mission of Jesus was a minor one, being in a falling cycle, and that it was not so much to disclose as to cover up the avenues to occult knowledge, so that the following times of the decadence of spirituality should not have dangerous weapons left for selfish, unprincipled and ignorant people to use; hence He accentuated ethics. This does not say that the being known as Jesus was inferior to the one known as Buddha. They might have been the same being, in reality. The statement is that the “missions” or efforts were of a different nature because of the different cycles and peoples. It is and must be necessary for “those who know” to hide away dangerous knowledge at times, as well as to give it out when the time is ripe.”
We also hope it will have become clear now that an Avatar is, technically speaking, the name for a specific and very rare mode of incarnation, rather than a hierarchical title belonging at all times to a particular Being. The term “Avatar” is only applicable to an entity during its specific period of Avataric incarnation on Earth. At any other time, the term or role of “Avatar” would not apply to them. As mentioned at the start, “Avatar” in Sanskrit literally means “Descended One” or “One who has descended from a high place.” And, as we’ve also explained, there is a big difference between Avatars and Mahatmas or Masters of Wisdom. The latter are always with us; the former only rarely.
One of our opening quotes may have initially sounded surprising, in which HPB spoke of “reincarnations – which neither Buddhas nor Christs can escape.” We might imagine that Buddhas and Christs are more entitled and more able than anyone else in the cosmos to escape and avoid further incarnations and embodiments on Earth. So why can They not escape it? The answer is provided at the very end of “The Voice of The Silence,” in the concluding pages of the Fragment titled “The Seven Portals.” Such Great Ones have heard and heeded the voice of “divine COMPASSION” which “speaks and saith: “Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?”
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
NOTE: As “The Doctrine of Avataras,” “The Mystery of Buddha,” and “Reincarnations of Buddha,” on which much of this article is based, were never published by HPB but only several years after her passing, and by someone who already had a history of inappropriately editing and tampering with HPB’s writings (namely Annie Besant, see The “Third Volume” of “The Secret Doctrine”) they therefore should not really be considered as “authoritative” as what HPB herself published during her lifetime. Yet the passages we have quoted, plus the style, seem to us perfectly in harmony with HPB’s other writings, besides which HPB refers to them herself in Vol. 1 of “The Secret Doctrine,” stating that she intends to publish them in a subsequent volume of that same book: “See “A Mystery about Buddha.”” (p. 118); “The real tenet is hinted at in a subsequent Volume, (see “The Mystery about Buddha”), and will be more fully explained in its proper place.” (p. 52); “See, for clearer definition, . . . “Theophania,” “Bodhisatvas and Reincarnation,” (p. 18). They are considered reliable and authentic enough to have been used by the Parent Lodge of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Los Angeles as study texts as well as translated and published by them in Spanish. They were also published by the Santa Barbara ULT in 1987 as a book titled “The Mystery of The Avatar: The Divine Descent.”
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