The REAL Esoteric Buddhism

The Dorje or Vajra. “Literally, “diamond club” or sceptre. In mystical Buddhism, the magic sceptre of Priest-Initiates, exorcists and adepts – the symbol of the possession of Siddhis or superhuman powers. The possessors of this wand are called Vajrapani.” (HPB, “Theosophical Glossary” p. 359)

Students of the original teachings of Theosophy – i.e. those of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge – are aware that Tsong-Kha-Pa, the founder of the Gelugpa school or sect of Tibetan Buddhism is held in extremely high regard.

To briefly summarise: his life (1357-1419) was in some way a reincarnation of Gautama Buddha himself, who was reborn in Tibet in order to try to rescue his own religion (i.e. Buddhism) from the many degradations into which it had fallen in that land. Part of this work involved, as HPB expresses it, “[putting] a forcible stop thereto by a timely revolution and the exile of 40,000 sham monks and Lamas from the country.” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 305, Entry for “Son-kha-pa”)

In 1409 the Gelugpas were officially established, whose use of yellow hats rather than red distinguishes them visually from the Lamas and monks of the other schools, whilst also containing significant spiritual symbolism.

Alongside the outer establishment of the Gelugpas, it is said that he was also founder “of the mystic Brotherhood connected with its chiefs” and “the secret School near Tji-gad-je [i.e. Shigatse], attached to the private retreat of the Teshu Lama”; “Teshu” and “Tashi” being alternative and in fact very rarely used names for the Panchen Lama.

It is also held in Theosophy that it was none other than Tsong-Kha-Pa who instituted the Masters’ endeavours to further enlighten the world during the closing quarter of each century. HPB, in her “Tsong-Kha-Pa – Lohans in China” article says, “Among the commandments of Tsong-Kha-pa there is one that enjoins the Rahats (Arhats) to make an attempt to enlighten the world, including the “white barbarians,” every century, at a certain specified period of the cycle.” The modern Theosophical Movement is thus seen as an expression of the work and impulse generated by this great being. It is indicated in a few places that the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood of Masters – which historically pre-dates Tsong-Kha-Pa – holds him in special reverence.

Yet, in spite of Tsong-Kha-Pa’s work and efforts –

“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.”

HPB wrote those words in 1887, in an article titled “Misconceptions,” and how right she was. At the start of “The Secret Doctrine” she stated:

“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.” (from the Introductory in Vol. 1, p. xxi)

In “Reincarnations in Tibet” she says:

“The popular Lamaism, when compared with the real esoteric, or Arahat [i.e. Arhat] Buddhism of Tibet, offers a contrast as great as the snow trodden along a road in the valley, to the pure and undefiled mass which glitters on the top of a high mountain peak. . . . As Father Desideri has it in one of his very few correct remarks about the lamas of Tibet, “though many may know how to read their mysterious books, not one can explain them” – an observation by-the-bye, which might be applied with as much justice to the Christian as to the Tibetan clergy.”

In a letter, she once commented that most – although certainly not all – of the Gelugpa Lamas, despite belonging to the Order established 600 years ago by Tsong-Kha-Pa, are “ignorant fools” and even seeing and interacting with the Masters would not realise or recognise who and what they actually are.

As said by HPB, there is a real Esoteric Buddhism. Theosophy repeatedly maintains that Gautama Buddha did have an esoteric teaching and that his esoteric system is today preserved in its original purity, in secrecy – for now at least – by a particular Trans-Himalayan esoteric School or Brotherhood. Those spoken of as “The Masters” most directly involved with HPB and the founding of the modern Theosophical Movement are described as being initiated Adepts of that School.

They refer to Themselves as Buddhists and HPB too described herself as a Buddhist.

But despite the Buddhism of HPB and her Teachers, They were careful to maintain that the teachings they were presenting to the world under the name of “Theosophy” belong not to any particular religion or philosophy, Buddhism included, but are a partial presentation of the one Esoteric Teaching or “Secret Doctrine” which underlies all the world’s religions and which also transcends and pre-dates them all. The motto of the Movement is “There is no Religion higher than Truth.”

The real Esoteric Buddhism is not any of the various publicly known systems which call themselves or are regarded as “Esoteric Buddhism” and that includes Tibetan Buddhism’s Vajrayana system.

In the view of the Trans-Himalayan Occultists, the real Esoteric Buddhism is the most perfect expression of that one Esoteric Teaching but it is made clear that it was not Their intention to turn Theosophists or the world at large into followers or adherents of the religion of Buddhism.

The Yogacharya (also written “Yogachara” and “Yogācāra”) School of Mahayana Buddhism is now defunct. Scholars and academics trace the Yogacharya School back to Aryasangha, an Indian Mahayana Buddhist Master who they say lived around 1,500 years ago, and also his half-brother Vasubandhu. In “The Theosophical Glossary” entries for “Aryasangha” (p. 32) and “Yogacharya” (p. 381) however, HPB says that there were two Aryasanghas; the one who lived 1,500 years ago she calls “the pseudo-Aryasangha,” who tried to pass himself off as being the original one, who had lived 1,000 years before and who had been an Arhat and a direct disciple of Gautama Buddha. She says that there are thus two Yogacharya schools.

The real Yogacharya school has always been entirely secret and esoteric and was founded by the original Aryasangha to perpetuate the actual esoteric teachings and secret philosophy of Buddha himself, which he had taught solely to a select group of his Arhats.

The reader may recall that sometimes the Masters and their Teaching are referred to in the original Theosophical literature as “the Arhat Esoteric School” and “the Arhat Esoteric Philosophy.” In this context the term “Arhat” is a synonym for an Adept-Bodhisattva, quite different from its usage in standard Buddhist terminology, whether Mahayana or Theravada.

Owing to persecution from the Hindu Brahmins, this school eventually moved its base to the Trans-Himalayan region, writes HPB in “A Few More Misconceptions Corrected.” Then, she says, “the Yogacharya of Aryasanga was merged into the oldest Lodge. For it is there from time immemorial that has lain concealed the final hope and light of the world, the salvation of mankind.”

The later Yogacharya school of approx. 5th century A.D. is the only one which is known of by the world at large. The existence of an earlier Yogacharya school would be denied by all because there’s no discernible evidence available of its existence or its teachings. But why would there be and how could there be, if it’s entirely esoteric and if its teachings and practices are imparted to disciples only under a severe pledge of secrecy and after a lengthy period of testing and probation?

“The early Yogacharya school of pure Buddhism . . . is neither northern nor southern [i.e. neither Mahayana nor Theravada], but absolutely esoteric. . . . none of the genuine Yogacharya books (the Narjol chodpa) have ever been made public or marketable.”

To some, this statement from “The Theosophical Glossary” proves a source of frustration. “Surely after 2,500 years or so there would be some definite solid evidence available to the world of the existence of this supposed Esoteric Yogacharya School,” they say. Not so. This is not how genuine Esoteric Schools work. Even if every Buddhist in the whole of Tibet and India were, hypothetically speaking, to say that they have never heard of such a School of Buddhism, this would mean nothing, for “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”)

This latter point is often overlooked by critics who point out that in books such as “The Secret Doctrine” there are some teachings and concepts attributed to esoteric Buddhist sources but which do not match up with any known form of Buddhism. This is only to be expected, if they are from a truly esoteric source.

Dr G. P. Malalasekera, founding president of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, wrote in the entry for “Blavatsky” in his “Encyclopedia of Buddhism”: “Her familiarity with Tibetan Buddhism as well as with esoteric Buddhist practices seems to be beyond doubt.”

The world renowned Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki said of “The Voice of the Silence,” “Here is the real Mahayana Buddhism.” In another article, one can see how a previous Panchen Lama of Tibet appreciated and endorsed that book and how his secretary affirmed “that what is embodied in it comprises a part of the teachings of the Esoteric School. . . . Madame Blavatsky had a profound knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, and the doctrines she promulgated were those of many great teachers.”

HPB writes that the later Yogacharya school has some similarities in its teachings with the original one but they are mixed up with various sorts of erroneous notions and false practices. Although a few aspects of Yogacharya thought exist in some parts of Tibetan Buddhism today in diluted form, it’s now extinct and defunct in terms of being a living and active school of philosophy, like the extinct Sankhya philosophy in Hinduism.

She states in the preface to “The Voice of the Silence” that The Book of the Golden Precepts, from which it comes, is a Yogacharya text, which would explain, amongst other things, why it uses the exclusively Yogacharya term “Alaya” and affirms various levels of Self within the human being including a higher, eternal, divine SELF. In her article “Old Philosophers and Modern Critics” she expressly states that the Stanzas of Dzyan – on which “The Secret Doctrine” is based – belong to “the Esoteric Yogacharyas.” The phrase “Occult students of the Aryasanga School” is also used in “The Secret Doctrine” and one can find much praise and numerous glowing references to Aryasangha and the Yogacharyas throughout her writings, particularly “The Theosophical Glossary” which makes some statements which imply the highest esoteric knowledge and powers as belonging to the Initiates of the Yogacharya School. This must mean the secret esoteric Yogacharya School of the original Aryasangha, since there is no other extant Yogacharya school.

“Chagpa-Thog-med is the Tibetan name of Aryasanga, the founder

Painting which is said to be of Aryasangha, also often just called Asanga.

of the Yogacharya or Naljorchodpa School. This Sage and Initiate is said [i.e. in Mahayana Buddhist tradition] to have been taught “Wisdom” by Maitreya Buddha Himself, the Buddha of the Sixth Race [i.e. the Root Race or “world-epoch” which in many thousands of years from now will follow our present one], at Tushita (a celestial region presided over by Him), and as having received from Him the five books of Champai-chos-nga [i.e. the “Five Books of Maitreya” as they are better known, one of the best known of which is the Uttara Tantra also called Ratnagotravibhaga; another one, the Mahayana Sutralamkara, is quoted from within the Book of the Golden Precepts, as seen on p. 70 of “The Voice of the Silence,” meanwhile HPB tells Sinnett on p. 195 of her letters to him that she has translated from the Secret Book of Dzyan and the Secret Book of Maitreya Buddha when writing “The Secret Doctrine”]. The Secret Doctrine teaches, however, that he came from Dejung, or Shambhala, called the “source of happiness” (“wisdom-acquired”) and declared by some Orientalists to be a “fabulous” place.” (HPB, “The “Doctrine of the Eye” & The “Doctrine of the Heart”” article)

The following profound quotation, attributed to the original Aryasanga and apparently translated from an unknown esoteric Buddhist source, has appeared several times over the years in publications of the United Lodge of Theosophists, including “Theosophy” magazine, some of Robert Crosbie’s letters in “The Friendly Philosopher,” and “Studies in The Secret Doctrine” (in the article “Unity: The Mother of All Virtues,” Book II, p. 39) by B. P. Wadia:

“That which is neither Spirit nor Matter, neither Light nor Darkness, but is verily the container and root of these, that thou art. The Root projects at every Dawn its shadow on ITSELF, and that shadow thou callest Light and Life, O poor dead form! (This) Life-Light streameth downward through the stairway of the seven worlds, the stairs, of which each step becomes denser and darker. It is of this seven-times-seven scale that thou art the faithful climber and mirror, O little man! Thou art this, but thou knowest it not.”

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 due to the Dalai Lama’s regular holding of mass public Kalachakra initiations, also known as Kalachakra empowerments?

The publicly known Kalachakra Tantra system includes elements of black tantra, sexual included. But 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. They were also historically considered the speciality of the Panchen Lama of Tashilhumpo Monastery, Shigatse.

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, in “A Few More Misconceptions Corrected,” 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 [i.e. by the Orientalists and academics], 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.”

Saying that the Kalachakra is “a system as old as man” seems equivalent to saying that the real Gupta Vidya or Secret Doctrine is the real Kalachakra.

And in “The Voice of the Silence,” in the section titled “The Two Paths” (p. 29, original 1889 edition), the question is asked: “Wouldst 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 follows the Path presented in “The Voice of the Silence” is thus on his or her way to becoming a true Kalachakra Yogi.

And interestingly enough, researchers have 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 most likely 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) original basis of the publicly known Kalachakra teachings. This should not come as a surprise, seeing as HPB herself specifically states “What is given here is taken from the secret portions of Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra).”

The publicly known Kalachakra teachings say that the current degeneration in the world will continue until a future Kalki King, who will be named Rudra (one of the names of Shiva in Hinduism) and in some way an incarnation of the Panchen Lama, will “appear to humans all over the world” and “defeat the barbarians” whilst “establishing a worldwide Golden Age.” In some respects this echoes quite closely a prophecy asserted by HPB in her articles “Tibetan Teachings” and “Tsong-Kha-Pa – Lohans in China”:

“It is said that up to the time when Pan-chhen-rin-po-chhe [i.e. Panchen Rimpoche] (the Great Jewel of Wisdom) condescends to be reborn in the land of the P’helings (Westerners), and appearing as the Spiritual Conqueror (Chom-den-da), destroys the errors and ignorance of the age, it will be of little use to try to uproot the misconceptions of P’heling-pa (Europe): her sons will listen to no one.”

Read “The Voice of the Silence,” read “The Secret Doctrine” and its “Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan,” read “The Great Master’s Letter” from the Maha Chohan, the venerable Tibetan chief or head of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, read the remarkable and far too neglected article “Sakya Muni’s Place in History” in the book “Five Years of Theosophy” (this article is, in effect, a lesson in the secrets of Indian, Tibetan, Sri Lankan, and Buddhist history, courtesy of the Adept-Initiates of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood; it is generally attributed to HPB yet is unsigned and its contents and style would suggest that it may well have been written or dictated by one of the Adepts; in its 24 pages it contains no less than thirteen different terms of praise and glorification for Gautama Buddha and is thus far more overtly and unmistakably Buddhist than any of the writings attributed directly to herself), read these and other articles and writings from H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters and you will catch unmistakable glimpses into a vast and intricate system of Esoteric Buddhism whose very existence, let alone doctrine and practice, remains unknown to the world. And this is how it must be for the time being. In the article “Reincarnations of Buddha” HPB speaks of “the “direct followers” of Gautama the Buddha” and, quoting from some unknown and doubtless private source, says that they are “those who are to be denied by His Church for the next cycle.”

There hopefully are still at least a few real Initiates of the Masters’ School amongst the ranks of the Gelugpa monks and Lamas. But those earnest souls who are sincerely seeking the real Esoteric Buddhism of Buddha himself are not likely to find it by searching within the often dark and confusing folds of Tibetan Buddhism. If they try, they may find themselves led very far away from what they are searching for. They will find it, albeit inevitably only a part of it, in the teachings of Theosophy and in particular the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.

There is a letter well known amongst Theosophists, sometimes called “the Prayag Letter,” dictated telepathically from a distance to HPB by her Guru, the Master known by the initial M., and which is addressed to some orthodox Hindu Brahmin Theosophists who wanted to know why the Masters seemed unwilling to come into direct communication with them. It was later published by William Judge in an article titled “A Mahatma’s Message To Some Brahmans” and says in part:

“What have we, the disciples of the Arhats of Esoteric Buddhism and of Sang-gyas [i.e. the Tibetan name for Buddha], to do with the Shasters and orthodox Brahmanism? There are 100 of thousands of Fakirs, Sannyasis, or Sadhus leading the most pure lives and yet being, as they are, on the path of error, never having had an opportunity to meet, see, or even hear of us. Their forefathers have driven the followers of the only true philosophy upon earth away from India, and now it is not for the latter to come to them, but for them to come to us, if they want us.”

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More is explained, particularly about the Panchen Lamas, as well as the Dalai Lamas, in the article The Dalai Lama, Theosophy & The Gelugpa Tradition. You can also visit the ARTICLES page for the list of over 300 articles relating to all aspects of Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement, including more than 20 further articles on the subject of Buddhism. Three which relate closely to this article are Self, Non-Self, Emptiness & Voidness in Buddhism & Theosophy, Alaya – The Universal Soul, and The Great Tsong-Kha-Pa.

“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.”
(H. P. Blavatsky, “The Voice of the Silence” p. 97)

“Not even the [best of the known Esoteric Schools] can give one the wisdom taught in real Naljor-chod-pa [Sanskrit: Yogacharya] . . . The Chagpa-Thog-mad [the Tibetan name of Aryasanga, the founder of the Yogacharya or Naljorchodpa School] have become rare, and the best have retired to Tushita the Blessed [Dejung, or Shambhala].”
(A Tibetan Initiate, quoted by H. P. Blavatsky in “The “Doctrine of the Eye” & The “Doctrine of the Heart””)