The Secret of Daiviprakriti – The Light of The Logos

“But the high-souled ones (mahatmas), O son of Pritha, partaking of My divine Nature (daivi prakriti), worship Me with unwavering minds, knowing Me to be the Imperishable Source of all beings.”
~ Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9, Verse 13 ~
(Concord Grove Press edition published by the United Lodge of Theosophists, Santa Barbara)

1. THE TRANS-HIMALAYAN & CIS-HIMALAYAN ESOTERIC STREAMS

Whilst the Eastern Esoteric Philosophy – from which the teachings we call “Theosophy” are derived – is ONE in its origin, aim, and essence, it has two main forms or expressions. In H. P. Blavatsky’s articles “Classification of Principles” and “Re-Classification of Principles,” we learn that these are Trans-Himalayan esotericism and Cis-Himalayan esotericism.

The Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School and Brotherhood takes the esoteric Buddhist approach, deriving particular inspiration from the esoteric Yogacharya (also written Yogachara and Yogācāra) teachings of Aryasanga; not the historically known Aryasanga but an earlier one who was a direct disciple and Arhat of Gautama Buddha himself.

The Cis-Himalayan Esoteric School takes the esoteric Hindu approach and derives particular inspiration from Adi Shankaracharya, the main formulator or codifier of the Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy.

Theosophy explains something important which one will not find in any publicly known form of either Buddhism or Hinduism, namely that Shankaracharya was in fact the first reincarnation of the inner being of Gautama Buddha after his life as Buddha and that this was over 2,500 years ago, a mere 51 years after Gautama’s death. Although Wikipedia and most academic sources nowadays place Shankaracharya in the 8th century A.D., almost all of the mathams or monasteries which he founded are in agreement with Theosophy that he really lived 2,500 years ago.

Adi Shankaracharya, as portrayed in a famous Indian cinema film in 1983, the first film to be made entirely in the Sanskrit language.

Theosophy agrees with the followers of Shankaracharya, however, that “Shankara was an Avatara in the full sense of the term.” (HPB, “The Mystery of Buddha”) In the special mode of incarnation known as an Avatar – a divine descent, truly – the highermost part of the being is one of the Seven Rays of the Logos (or Universal Spirit) whilst a highly advanced Bodhisattva/Nirmanakaya (a great Adept who has renounced the eternal bliss of Nirvana in order to remain with and help humanity) steps in to be the Ego or inner individuality connecting the Divine Ray to an earthly body and persona. It was Gautama who filled that intermediary role in the incarnation of Shankaracharya. As for the latter being an Avatar, HPB writes, “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.” (“The Mystery of Buddha” article)

Damodar K. Mavalankar, a chela (disciple) of the Mahatma K.H. and who was eventually called by the Masters to go and live and study directly with them in the Trans-Himalayan regions, explained the difference and complementarity between these twin esoteric approaches in an article titled “Metaphysical Basis of Esoteric Buddhism”:

“What is therefore meant by the Adwaitee Philosophy being identical with the Arhat Doctrine, is that the final goal or the ultimate possibility of both is the same. The synthetical process is one, for it deals only with eternal verities, the Abstract Truth, the noumenal. And these two philosophies are put forth together [i.e. in Theosophy], for in their analytical methods they proceed on parallel lines, one proceeding from the subjective and the other from the objective standpoint, to meet ultimately or rather converge together in one point or centre. As such, each is the complement of the other and neither can be said to be complete in itself. It should be distinctly remembered here that the Adwaitee Doctrine does not date from Shankaracharya, nor does the Arhat Philosophy owe its origin to Gautama Buddha. They were but the latest expounders of these two systems which have existed from time immemorial as they must. Some natures can better comprehend the truth from a subjective standpoint, while others must proceed from the objective. These two systems are therefore as old as Occultism itself, while the later phases of the Esoteric Doctrine are but another aspect of either of these two, the details being modified according to the comprehensive faculties of the people addressed, as also the other surrounding circumstances. . . . Thus one may say that Buddhism is rational Vedantism, while Vedantism is transcendental Buddhism.”

Similarly, in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 637, HPB states:

“The “heel of Achilles” of orthodox Brahmanism [i.e. orthodox Hinduism, with its controlling priests] is the Adwaita philosophy, whose followers are called by the pious “Buddhists in disguise”; as that of orthodox Buddhism is Northern mysticism, as represented by the disciples of the philosophies of Aryasanga (the Yogacharya School) and Mahayana, who are twitted in their turn by their correligionists as “Vedantins in disguise.” The esoteric philosophy of both these can be but one if carefully analysed and compared, as Gautama Buddha and Shankaracharya are most closely connected, if one believes tradition and certain esoteric teachings. Thus every difference between the two will be found one of form rather than of substance.”

Naturally, the terminology and language used by the two is also different. Although the book “The Secret Doctrine” presents the esoteric teachings as per the Trans-Himalayan School, to which HPB belonged – and belongs – it uses primarily the language and terms of the Cis-Himalayan School, simply because Tibetan words, not to mention those of the Senzar “mystery language,” would have been completely unfamiliar and confusing to the Theosophists and esotericists of that day . . . and still would be today. Who among us today can claim to be familiar with more than perhaps five or ten Tibetan words, let alone know how to correctly pronounce them? Thus in a footnote on p. 34 of the second volume of “The Secret Doctrine” we read, as an example, that “The term Pitris is used by us in these Slokas [i.e. translations of verses from the Stanzas of the Secret Book of Dzyan] to facilitate their comprehension, but it is not so used in the original Stanzas, where they have distinct appellations of their own.”

“Trans-Himalayan” and “Cis-Himalayan” are not the real names of the Schools but are merely geographical designations, the former meaning “beyond the Himalayas” or “the other side of the Himalayas” (which Tibet and the Trans-Himalayan region – such as Ladakh, Lahaul, Spiti – is, from the perspective of those in mainland India) and the latter “this side of the Himalayas,” again from the perspective of India.

Although spoken of as two schools and two esoteric philosophies, the fact that they are one in origin, aim, and essence, means that some of those advanced Initiates who we call “The Masters” are teachers and gurus in both and have disciples belonging to both. In a letter addressed to members of the Theosophical Society in London in the 1880s, the Master K.H. explained that “the true esoteric doctrine [is] identical in substance though differing in terms; all aiming at the same grand object, but no two agreeing seemingly in the details of procedure. It is an every day occurrence to find students belonging to different schools of occult thought sitting side by side at the feet of the same Guru. Upasika (Madam B.) and Subba Row, though pupils of the same Master [i.e. of the Master M.], have not followed the same Philosophy – the one is Buddhist and the other an Adwaitee.”

Eventually, a Theosophical aspirant to chelaship or discipleship works out or finds out for themselves which of these two streams of the Masters’ School they belong to. One cannot guess but one’s natural inclinations and attractions, carried over from former lives of spiritual pursuit, will often give quite a reliable idea in this regard. It is only as one approaches accepted chelaship that one makes a definite discovery and regains contact with certain past connections along these lines.

2. WHAT IS THE LOGOS?

We mention all of the above only as an introduction to the actual subject of this article: Daiviprakriti.

This Sanskrit term, found – albeit relatively rarely – in Hinduism, was first introduced to Theosophists in T. Subba Row’s “Notes on The Bhagavad Gita.” From there it found its way into “The Secret Doctrine,” in which H. P. Blavatsky quotes numerous times from Subba Row’s work and also sheds a little further light on what the term means and represents. Daiviprakriti was then occasionally mentioned elsewhere by HPB. Subba Row also mentioned Daiviprakriti in other writings and it, along with its various synonyms, forms in a very striking way the main theme and key word of “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” (first published in 1923 and 1928) by Bhavani Shankar, the last surviving Indian chela of the Masters from the Theosophical Society of HPB’s era and who in the 1930s aligned himself with the United Lodge of Theosophists after B. P. Wadia established it in India.

“The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” by Bhavani Shankar. It consists of edited transcripts of talks Bhavani Shankar gave in Calcutta and Madras, India, in 1914 and 1925. Both its editions (Popular Prakashan and Concord Grove Press) are unfortunately now out of print. It forms the main inspiration and source for this article.

Daiviprakriti is, said Subba Row, Bhavani Shankar, and HPB, “The Light of the Logos.” But what does that actually mean?

Students of Theosophy who come across references to Daiviprakriti may understandably have wondered whether it is just another name for Mulaprakriti, i.e. Primordial Root-Substance. But it is not. Since Daiviprakriti is described as the Light of the Logos, we may also wonder whether it is just a synonym for the Logos itself or whether it is a name for the First Logos (Unmanifested Logos), Second Logos (Semi-Manifested Logos), or Third Logos (Manifested Logos). In fact it is neither, although it is of course closely related to all three. And although occasionally it is spoken of as if exactly synonymous with Fohat, the cosmic electricity, there is a subtle distinction between them. It also appears that the Tibetan and Trans-Himalayan view of Fohat (which is a Tibetan term, as has been shown here) differs in various descriptive details and attributes from the Cis-Himalayan or Indian Daiviprakriti, as will be observed later.

Let us first define the Logos. The Logos is in reality “The One Logos,” as HPB expresses it in “The Secret Doctrine,” but it manifests in three successive stages or degrees. Simply put, the Logos is the objective expression of the subjective and abstract Absolute, or the Word coming forth out of the Silence in order to produce, sustain, and eventually dissolve and regenerate, the Universe. Of course, the Logos is still subjective to us, unless we are Initiates who can directly perceive or observe it, but in comparison with the static infinitude of the Absolute, the Logos is dynamic, active, and objective.

Bhavani Shankar, who is known to have been an advanced chela of the Master K.H., explains simply and clearly what the Logos is: “Parambrahma [i.e. the Absolute, Parabrahm, Parabrahman, or simply Brahman] . . . Any positive definition of this principle is impossible, and whatever description of it can be attempted is only by means of a negative definition. It is unknowable . . . and only becomes knowable when manifesting itself as the Logos or Ishwara [i.e. literally “The Lord” in Sanskrit and the most frequent term for “God” in Hinduism; scriptures such as the Upanishads present a distinction yet interrelation between Brahman – the Absolute – and Ishwara, which Theosophists would call the Universal Logos]; so it is possible to know something about its manifestations. When Evolution commences, it becomes active, and at the time of cosmic activity, there starts from it what might be called a centre of Conscious Energy. This is the word made manifest, Ishwara or Sabda Brahma.” (“The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” p. 59, Popular Prakashan edition)

T. Subba Row, from whom Bhavani Shankar derived much inspiration, explained it like this in his “Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 18-20 (Theosophical University Press edition):

“Now this Parabrahmam [i.e. the Absolute Divine Principle] which exists before all things in the cosmos is the one essence from which starts into existence a centre of energy . . . the Logos. This Logos may be called in the language of old writers either Eswara [i.e. Ishwara] or Pratyagatma or Sabda Brahmam. It is called the Verbum or the Word by the Christians, . . . It is called Avalokiteswara by the Buddhists; at any rate, Avalokiteswara in one sense is the Logos in general, though no doubt in the Chinese doctrine there are also other ideas with which it is associated. In almost every doctrine they have formulated the existence of a centre of spiritual energy which is unborn and eternal, and which exists in a latent condition in the bosom of Parabrahmam at the time of pralaya, and starts as a centre of conscious energy at the time of cosmic activity. . . . In its inmost nature it is not unknowable as Parabrahmam, but it is an object of the highest knowledge that man is capable of acquiring. . . . It is not material or physical in its constitution . . . it is not different in substance, as it were, or in essence, from Parabrahmam, and yet at the same time it is different from it in having an individualized existence. . . . It is the one source of all energy in the cosmos, and the basis of all branches of knowledge, and what is more, it is, as it were, the tree of life, because the chaitanyam [i.e. consciousness] which animates the whole cosmos springs from it.  . . . the one source of energy and power existing in the cosmos, which we have named the Logos, and which is the one existing representative of the power and wisdom of Parabrahmam.”

Theosophy makes clear that the Logos is not an anthropomorphic or human-like Being. Nonetheless, the Logos is Being rather than purely unconditioned “Be-ness,” the latter being a term used by HPB to try to express the ultimately inexpressible Absolute.

Jewish Kabbalah likens the Logos to a “Central Spiritual Sun,” a synonym for the Logos often used in Theosophical literature. This symbolism may now help us to form an initial conception of Daiviprakriti too, which is called the Light of the Logos. With regard to the physical sun in the sky, there is the sun itself and there is its light, i.e. sunlight. We cannot separate the two and neither can exist without the other. And yet they are not both exactly or identically the same thing. One (the sun) is “the thing itself,” while the other (the sun’s light) is the energy, the power, the force, the life, the radiance, of “the thing itself.”

3. THE COSMIC MASCULINE & THE COSMIC FEMININE

One can easily get the impression from the Theosophical literature that the Logos is something profoundly impersonal, abstract, incomprehensible, and transcending all distinctions of “masculine” or “feminine” or polarities. And although it’s true that the Logos is not – and cannot philosophically be – a personal entity or anthropomorphic being, such a notion almost makes the Logos seem cold, static, and lifeless, whereas the very opposite is true. But if we think only of the Logos and forget, or leave out, its Light, it is inevitable that our conception and perception of the Logos becomes distant, cold, unfeeling, and also predominantly intellectual or theoretical. The two cannot and must not be separated, if we wish to know and approach Truth and Divine Wisdom, and Bhavani Shankar emphasises this more frequently and strongly than anyone.

This then leads us to the “secret” of what Daiviprakriti actually is: the Shakti of Ishwara (the Logos). The Logos and the Light of the Logos are the Purusha and Prakriti, the divine masculine and divine feminine two-in-one Presence and Power that originates, sustains, and enlivens this Universe and everything in it.

A version of the famous pictorial symbol of the Ardhanarishwara, also written Ardhanarishvara and Ardhanareeshwara, meaning “The Lord who is half-woman.” The Ardhnarishwara usually depicts the two-in-one universal Presence and Power in the form of Shiva and Shakti (often Parvati) but some versions, such as the above, use the images of Krishna and Radha. Although anthropomorphic in appearance, it is perhaps the only or at least most memorable way to portray this principle.

If we understand this correctly, we see that the Logos and Light of the Logos are in fact “He” and “She,” provided that we don’t anthropomorphise this in an unphilosophical manner. But to think or speak of both Ishwara and Daiviprakriti as “it” obscures the whole matter and is perhaps why the majority of Theosophists are still seemingly uncertain as to what Daiviprakriti actually is. The very term “Daivi Prakriti” is linguistically feminine throughout and whenever you see Sanskrit terms such as “Prakriti,” “Shakti,” “Maya,” “Devi” etc., in whatever context, these are all linguistically feminine, arising from the fact that what they are really pointing to (and ultimately they are all synonymous with Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos) is of a feminine nature, not masculine (Ishwara, on the other hand, is a masculine term) and not neuter. Ishwara and His Light can thus also be spoken of as Ishwara–Ishwari. This explanation of Daiviprakriti is not, however, merely a theory or personal opinion of the writer of this article, but is the esoteric teaching on the subject, as will be shown undeniably very shortly.

But just before we do that, it is necessary to point out that a few so-called scholars and academic researchers in today’s Theosophical world have asserted in confident – if not perhaps conceited – tones that no such term as “Daiviprakriti” actually exists and that it therefore must have been either an invention of HPB and T. Subba Row or a mistaken term used by them in ignorance. One such scholar has also informed Theosophists that the Sanskrit term “Mulaprakriti,” which is used frequently by HPB and Subba Row and said by them to be a technical term used in the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism, is in fact never used at all in Vedanta or by any Vedantins and that thus they are again mistaken. It would not be out of place here to mention that these individuals are themselves mistaken on both grounds. There are plenty of Hindus who are familiar with the term “Daiviprakriti.” Most write it as “Daivi Prakriti” and some as “Daivim Prakritim.” The virtually identical term “Devi Prakriti” is also familiar to many Hindus. Any student of Sanskrit ought to know that the term is found in the Bhagavad Gita, in the thirteenth verse of the ninth chapter. HPB’s, Subba Row’s, and other Theosophists’ only “mistake” was to write “Daiviprakriti” as one single word instead of two. But as there are Hindus who also write it as one word, this can barely be considered a mistake, let alone a justification for saying that the word does not exist. Such prominent figures of 20th century Hinduism as Sri Aurobindo and Swami Sivananda spoke of Daivi Prakriti and the latter frequently referred to Mulaprakriti also, despite being an adherent of Advaita Vedanta who, according to the self-proclaimed Theosophical scholars, “never use this word.”

Since the term “Daivi Prakriti” is found in the Bhagavad Gita, it is not surprising that it is Subba Row’s and Bhavani Shankar’s lectures about the Gita which place such an emphasis or attach such an importance to it. That ninth chapter or discourse is titled in Sanskrit “Rajavidya Rajaguhya Yoga” which literally means “The Yoga of the Royal Knowledge and the Royal Mystery” or “The Yoga of the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery” or “The Yoga of the Sovereign Science and the Sovereign Secret.”

Its usage in that Gita verse appears so simple and unassuming that barely anyone would ever suspect the depth of esoteric significance, meaning, and import which it holds. But as H. P. Blavatsky said of the Bhagavad Gita: “The work is pre-eminently occult or esoteric. . . . the Gita is a record of the ancient teachings during the Mystery of Initiation.” (See The Theosophy of The Bhagavad Gita) The literal or surface meaning of the book is not its truest, most real, or originally intended meaning and interpretation. This is true for all genuinely esoteric texts from the great Teachers and Sages of ancient times.

To illustrate our point, take a look at how the verse is rendered by HPB’s closest colleague William Judge, by Swami Sivananda, and also by Raghavan Iyer in the Concord Grove Press 1987 edition of the Bhagavad Gita:

WQJ: “But those great of soul, partaking of the godlike nature, knowing me to be the imperishable principle of all things, worship me, diverted to nothing else.”

Sivananda: “But the great souls, O Arjuna, partaking of My divine nature, worship Me with a single mind (with the mind devoted to nothing else), knowing Me as the imperishable source of beings.”

Iyer: “But the high-souled ones (mahatmas), O son of Pritha, partaking of My divine Nature (daivi prakriti), worship Me with unwavering minds, knowing Me to be the Imperishable Source of all beings.”

Daiviprakriti is what has there been translated as “the godlike nature” and “My divine nature.” Although only a slight difference in meaning, “divine Nature” is the more literally accurate English equivalent of Daivi Prakriti. But as we’ll now discover, it means so much more than such a verse as the above can ever suggest to the mind of the exoteric follower of religion or the casual reader.

4. DAIVIPRAKRITI IN THE BHAGAVAD GITA

The above quote (from Chapter 9, verse 13) is the one and only place where the specific term “daivi prakriti” (“My divine Nature”) appears in the whole of the Bhagavad Gita. But T. Subba Row and Bhavani Shankar also point us to what Chapter 7 of the Gita says regarding Krishna’s mention of “My superior nature.”

Chapter 7 (Vijnana Yoga – literally “The Yoga of Discriminative Wisdom” or “The Yoga of Spiritual Discernment”)

v. 3. “Among thousands of men, scarcely one strives for perfection, and among those so striving and even succeeding, scarcely one knows me truly as I am.

v. 4. “Earth, water, fire, wind, aether (kha), mind (manas), intellect (buddhi) and egoism (ahankara) – these are the eightfold divisions of My nature (prakriti).

v. 5. “This is the inferior; but know thou as distinct My superior nature, the life-principle (jivabhuta) by which, O mighty-armed, this entire universe is upheld.

v. 6. “Know these two to be the source of all beings. I am the origin of the whole universe and also of its dissolution.”

That was from the Concord Grove Press edition; Swami Sivananda translates the latter half of verse 5 as “My higher Prakriti (Nature), the very life-element, by which this world is upheld.”

Although it’s true that much of what Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita can be read as him speaking as, or representing, Atman, our Higher Self, the One Divine Self in all, there are numerous occasions where he is clearly speaking more specifically as the Logos and this is one of them. As an actual Avatar of the Logos and an historical figure of roughly 5,000 years ago, Krishna could truly speak to his disciple Arjuna in the first person (“I, Me, Mine” etc.) about even the highest cosmic processes, since for the life span of an Avatar the Logos is given human voice and personal embodiment, a truly divine and immeasurably sacred occurrence.

Subba Row and Bhavani Shankar assert that the “superior Nature” or “higher Prakriti” of the fifth verse is none other than Daiviprakriti. They mention that if one breaks down the Sanskrit wording of that verse, it can be seen that Krishna calls his eightfold “inferior” Nature “aparaprakriti”and his single “superior” Nature “paraprakriti,” which literally means just that: “Superior Nature/Prakriti” or “Supreme Nature/Prakriti.” Interestingly, Swami Sivananda also states that the paraprakriti of that verse is Daiviprakriti. In quoting and referring to Sivananda, we are not attempting to suggest or imply that he was part of the Masters’ School, since alongside his promotion of Advaita Vedanta (his main adherence) he also ardently promoted Hatha Yoga and pranayama – which the Mahatmas repeatedly made clear They are not in favour of and consider harmful as well as unnecessary – and seemed to endorse just about every Hindu idea and view imaginable, no matter how mutually contradictory, often making it impossible to know what he genuinely thought or believed about anything. Nonetheless, his translation of the Bhagavad Gita is one of the very best available and is very faithful throughout to the original Sanskrit text, which cannot be said about the majority of English Gita translations. Some of his statements and ways of expressing things are also powerful, memorable, and sublime. As regards these verses of Chapter 7 of the Gita, he has written:

“The Sakti [Note: This should always be pronounced “Shakti” even when written without the “h,” just as “Siva” should always be pronounced “Shiva.”] of Siva works in two different ways. Mula Prakriti and Daivi Prakriti. Mula Prakriti is Apara Prakriti from which the elements and other visible objects and the Antahkarana are evolved. Para Prakriti [i.e. which he has just equated with Daivi Prakriti two sentences ago] is Chaitanya Sakti [i.e. Chit-Shakti, which Sri Aurobindo often renders as “Consciousness-Force”] which  converts the Apara Prakriti and gives name and form to it. Apara Prakriti [i.e. Mulaprakriti] is Avidya and Para Prakriti [i.e. Daiviprakriti, Chit-Shakti] is Vidya.” (from “Lord Siva and His Worship”)

An old painting of Krishna instructing Arjuna.

A disciple of Sivananda called Swami Krishnananda later wrote the following: “The higher power referred to in the Bhagavadgita as para prakriti is the Devi Shakti, and the lower prakriti is what we see with our eyes – the five elements and everything that is constituted of them.” (from “The Inner Meaning of the Devi Mahatmya”)

Actually that is not quite accurate, since it is not possible to see Manas, Buddhi, or Ahankara, with our eyes, and nor are the five elements listed in that fourth verse referring particularly to what we know of as the phenomena of physical fire, physical water, etc. but more to the noumenal element itself, i.e. the pancha mahabhutas, which are metaphysical forces and tattvas (a tattva is an element-force out of which the manifested Universe is built) but we provide that quote mainly because it shows the equating of the para prakriti or the Logos’s “Superior Nature” with “Devi Shakti,” literally the “Goddess-Force” or “Goddess-Power” or “Goddess-Energy” which we will now see increasingly is an entirely apt term for what Daiviprakriti is . . . provided, as always, that we do not anthropomorphise to the extent of thinking that Daiviprakriti is literally a great cosmic “woman” who looks and acts like a human. However, there is an element of truth even in that notion, as we’ll see later from T. Subba Row.

In the preface to “Sri Saundarya Lahari: The Descent” by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati, we read that “The nine nights [of Navaratri, a major Hindu festival particularly sacred to Shaktas, i.e. worshippers of the Divine as female/feminine] represent the eight apara prakriti, which are the five tattvas, mind, buddhi and ahamkara, the symbols of darkness, and the one para prakriti, the symbol of illumination.”

Bhavani Shankar comments on those particular Gita verses twice in “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita.” First he explains:

“There is another Prakriti (VII-5) which is superior and which supports and sustains the whole universe. It is called the Mahachaitanya of the whole Cosmos. It is the one great power that guides the whole Course of Evolution, leading Nature towards its goal. It is the source of light, of various modes of consciousness, and of life manifested in every kind of organism that we know of in Nature.

“When Evolution begins, Ishwara [i.e. the Logos] wakes up, so to say, with the image or conception of what is to be in the Cosmos, which Daiviprakriti or His [i.e. Ishwara’s] Light catches and impresses on Cosmic matter which is already manifested. This Light may, therefore, be said to be a kind of link between objective matter and the subjective thought of Ishwara. While Mulaprakriti is the cause of bondage, Daiviprakriti is the cause of illumination. It is also symbolised as Gayatri in our Hindu Philosophy. It represents the life-aspect, while Mulaprakriti represents the form-aspect in Cosmos.” (p. 61-62)

So Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos, is the cause of illumination and is symbolised as Gayatri. In Hinduism, Gayatri is not only the famous and much celebrated Gayatri Mantra found in the Rig Veda but is also viewed as Gayatri Devi, a Goddess or Shakti, the Divine Mother of the Universe. The wording of the Gayatri Mantra is much shorter and simpler than any of the three different versions of it found in ULT (United Lodge of Theosophists) literature, namely in William Judge’s article “A Commentary on The Gayatri,” the children’s book “The Eternal Verities,” and Raghavan Iyer’s “The Jewel in The Lotus.” Although these each give a beautiful and inspiring rendition of it, not one of them can be considered faithful to what the actual Gayatri Mantra actually says, for each adds numerous things that are nowhere to be found in the original. While there is technically nothing wrong with that, it is perhaps unfortunate that none of them explains or specifies that it is not a literal or textually faithful translation.

The Gayatri Mantra: “We meditate on the glorious light of the true divine Sun. May that light nourish our minds and illumine our understanding.”

Let us notice the wording: “the glorious light of the true divine Sun.” In other words, “the Light of the Logos.”

Later, on p. 73-74, Shankar continues: “Now you find in the 7th discourse reference is made by Bhagavan [i.e. literally, “Blessed One,” “Divine,” or “Lord,” a common Hindu term being used here for Krishna] to two kinds of Prakriti, one inferior, divided eight-fold, and the other Superior Prakriti, the very life by which the Universe is upheld (VII-4-5), and that “these are the womb of all creatures, I (the Ishwara) the source and the dissolution of the whole universe” (VII-6). In human life these refer or correspond to the Kshetra and Kshetrajna respectively. . . . Evolution begins from Ishwara, while Karma, the law of cause and effect, from Mulaprakriti.”

Chapter 13 of the Gita is called in Sanskrit “Kshetra Kshetrajna Vibhaga Yoga,” meaning “The Yoga of Discrimination of the Field and the Knower of the Field” or “The Yoga of the Distinction between the Field and the Knower of the Field.” Ksetra is the “field” and Kshetrajna the “knower of the field.” The relation of this to the dual Prakriti of Chapter 7 is particularly important and significant:

Ch. 13, v. 1. “This body, O Kaunteya, is spoken of as the field (kshetra); one who knows it is the knower of the field (kshetrajna). So say those who know.

v 2. “Know Me also as the Knower (kshetrajna) in all fields, O Son of Bharata. The discrimination of the kshetra and the kshetrajna is that which is deemed to be knowledge by me.”

Krishna goes on to define the kshetra in words that match the description of his “inferior Prakriti” in Chapter 7 and proceeds to say, in v. 26, “Whatsoever entity is born, whether motionless or moving about, know this to have come into being through the union of the soil (kshetra) and the Sower (kshetrajna) . . .”

Bhavani Shankar renders this verse in a way that emphasises that both Kshetra and Kshetrajna are Prakritis, as per Chapter 7, verses 4-5. “Bhagavan says: “Know that all beings (unmoving or moving), have come from the union of My two Prakritis.” What are these two Prakritis which are under His control?” (p. 61) He then begins the explanation that we quoted a little earlier, that the “inferior” or form-oriented Prakriti is, in its origin, Mulaprakriti, whilst the “superior” or life-oriented, consciousness-oriented, evolution-guiding Prakriti is Daiviprakriti, the Light of Ishwara. Part of what makes this so important and significant is that it provides and endorses a perspective that even the inner Knower or consciousness is still a Prakriti. Not merely the form-side but both the form-side and consciousness-side of – and in – the manifested Universe are Prakriti, i.e. the feminine, the Shakti, the Devi, the Mother. That Chapter 13 is occasionally also called “Prakriti Purusha Viveka Yoga,” i.e. “The Yoga of Discrimination between Matter and Spirit” or “The Yoga of Discrimination between Nature and the Spirit/Soul which informs it.” If both Kshetra and Kshetrajna are Prakriti and thus Purusha is itself Prakriti, the title of the chapter becomes “The Yoga of Discrimination between the Lower Prakriti and the Higher Prakriti (Daiviprakriti).”

We ought to add that it is not only Bhavani Shankar who directly states that Kshetra corresponds to the Apara Prakriti (Mulaprakriti) and Kshetrajna to the Para Prakriti (Daiviprakriti). T. Subba Row does also but so does the non-Theosophical Swami Sivananda.

“To divinise the perfected nature we have to call in the divine Power or Shakti to replace our limited human energy so that this may be shaped into the image of and filled with the force of a greater infinite energy, daivi prakriti, bhagavati shakti.” (Sri Aurobindo, “The Synthesis of Yoga” Vol. 2)

5. THE LIGHT SHED ON DAIVIPRAKRITI BY BHAVANI SHANKAR & T. SUBBA ROW

Also in Chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

v. 14. “Verily, this divine maya of mine constituted of the three gunas is difficult to surmount. . . .”

v. 25. “Veiled by My yogamaya, I am not visible to all; thus deluded world knows Me not as the Unborn (aja) and the Indestructible (avyaya).”

In “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita,” Bhavani Shankar explains:

“This Yoga Maya is His Light, Daiviprakriti, behind which is Bhagavan unperceived.” (p. 62)

“Bhagavan . . . through the instrumentality of His light, His Yogamaya, He incarnates Himself.” (p. 29)

“At the fourth initiation he [i.e. the initiate whose four stages of initiation, as per the esoteric Hindu or Cis-Himalayan esoteric system, had been outlined a little earlier in the book] had become a Jivanmukta who has triumphed over all matter, one who has liberated himself from all bonds of Samsara. He had then fully entered the divine light, the veil of Ishwara, the veil of light through which Ishwara manifests Himself to the highest spiritual perception of a human being. . . . The light is, as it were, a cloak or a mask with which Ishwara is enabled to make His appearance. But Ishwara, the real centre of light, is not visible even to the highest spiritual perception of man.” (p. 27)

But that is not all. We now approach a closer comprehension and perception of what Daiviprakriti really is, for Bhavani Shankar tells us that at the second initiation, the Kundalini (Kundalini Shakti) within the disciple’s body “now rises from the heart into the head and there brings into full functioning all the spiritual centres in the brain which up to now it was vivifying, and it passes on to what Shri Shankaracharya calls the Dhi-guha, the cave of the intellect, the space between the brows, and there electrifies Buddhi into a dynamic power resulting in spiritual clairvoyance. It then merges in the great Goddess seated in the centre of the full-blown Sahasrara (thousand-petalled lotus). And through these higher spiritual centres the initiate subdues and controls the lower Chakras. According to Hindu books of Yoga, there is in the brain the Sahasrara Chakram. “It is an unopened bud in the ordinary mortal and just as the lotus opens its petals and expands in all its bloom and beauty when the sun rises above the horizon and sheds his rays on the flower, so does the Sahasraram of the neophyte open and expand when Ishwara begins to pour His life into its centre. When fully expanded, it becomes the glorious seat of the Devi (Daivi-prakriti), and sitting on this flower the great Goddess pours out the waters of life and grace for the gratification and regeneration of the human soul.”” (p. 17-18)

One of three known photographs of Bhavani Shankar (1859-1936). This one is on display at the United Lodge of Theosophists in Bangalore, India. His name was actually Bhavanishankar Mullapoorcar. The Master K.H. described him as “stronger and fitter in many a way more than Damodar or even our mutual “female” friend [i.e. HPB] . . . Bhavani Shanker has seen me in my own physical body and he can point out the way to others.” Shankar once wrote in a letter: “I was alone in Berabanki, near Lucknow, Oudh. H.P.B. was in Bombay, when I received a letter from the ‘Master K.H.’ bidding me go and see him in Kashmir. I recognised the Master’s writing. . . . I went to Kashmir, and I saw the Master in his physical body.” Shankar’s friendship and esoteric connection with B. P. Wadia has been referred to here.

And at the third initiation: “He now sees that the end and consummation of all knowledge, austerities and sacrifices is the Great Goddess, the divine light of Ishwara, at Whose Feet he now offers his individuality purified and ennobled by the virtuous Karma of a series of incarnations.” (p. 23)

So here we see this chela of the Mahatma K.H. showing us that (1) Daiviprakriti is indeed the Devi, literally meaning “Goddess” in Sanskrit and always synonymous with terms such as Shakti, Prakriti, Maya, (2) It is quite correct to think of and refer to Daiviprakriti as “the Great Goddess,” this being simply an English translation of the well established Sanskrit term “Mahadevi,” (3) She, Daiviprakriti, is directly connected with grace (and is indeed the dispenser of it), something which will be explored more later on, (4) The Sahasrara Chakra, commonly called the Crown Chakra, is directly associated with, and becomes the seat of, “the Devi (Daivi-prakriti) . . . the great Goddess . . . sitting on this flower . . .”

There is only one known Hindu system which prominently speaks of Devi being seated on the Sahasrara Chakra and that is the tantric system of Sri Vidya. Later we will dispel the concerns that many Theosophists might have upon seeing any mention of tantra by showing from H. P. Blavatsky’s own explanations that there is such a thing as “white tantra” and that the sexual tantra of black magic is only one side of tantra. Sri Vidya has always been considered only as a form of “white” or “right-hand” tantra and, significantly, it is closely associated with Adi Shankaracharya and Advaita Vedanta.

Sri Vidya often uses the names Rajarajeshwari and Lalita Tripura Sundari for the Devi. “Rajarajeshwari” can be translated as either “The Royal and Highest Goddess” (“Eshwari” is the same as “Ishwari,” the feminine form of “Ishwara”) or “The Female Lord of even the King of Kings.” “Lalita” means “she who plays,” “playful,” or “charming,” and relates to the word “Lila.” It is a commonly held Hindu view that the Universe is a type of Lila, a “Divine Play” or a play or game of the Divine. “Tripura Sundari” means “Beauty of the Three Worlds” or, more exactly, “Beautiful Woman or Female Beauty of the Three Worlds.” It is often rendered as “Beautiful Goddess of the Three Worlds.” The “three worlds” in question are the three main planes of existence referred to in Hinduism: Bhur, Bhuvar, Svarga, or the terrestrial, the astral, and the celestial, and also all the many other groups of three found throughout Hindu philosophy. The Lalita Sahasranama (“The Thousand Names of Lalita”) is one of the Sri Vidya texts which refers, according to those who interpret and comment upon it, to Devi’s seat being in the Sahasrara Chakra at the crown of the head. “Sundari” is derived from the word “Saundarya” and one of the other principal Sri Vidya texts is the Saundarya Lahari, written by Adi Shankaracharya himself. We will come onto this soon.

T. Subba Row commented at some length in a series of articles on the book “The Idyll of the White Lotus,” a highly symbolical esoteric novel written by Mabel Collins (at one time an influential Theosophist) under the inspiration of one of the Adepts of the Masters’ Fraternity. In those comments on Collins’ story, Subba Row sheds some further light on what we have just read:

“I must draw the reader’s attention to the real meaning of the Lotus tank in the Garden. Sahasrara Chakra in the brain is often spoken of as a lotus tank in the Hindu mystical books. . . . Padma, the White Lotus, is said to have a thousand petals, as has the mysterious Sahasrara of the Yogis. It is an unopened bud in the ordinary mortal, and just as a lotus opens its petals, and expands in all its bloom and beauty when the sun rises above the horizon and sheds his rays on the flower, so does the Sahasrara of the neophyte open and expand when the Logos begins to pour its light into its centre. When fully expanded it becomes the glorious seat of the Lady of the Lotus . . . and sitting on this flower the great goddess pours out the waters of life and grace for the gratification and the regeneration of the human soul. [Note: Notice how Bhavani Shankar’s words we quoted earlier were a close paraphrase of these last two sentences. “The Lady of the Lotus” refers to a mysterious and highly important character in the novel and who Subba Row says represents Daiviprakriti.] . . . Sensa [i.e. the main protagonist of the story, a neophyte or esoteric candidate] has descended one step from the spiritual plane when he loses sight of the sublime lotus flower and its glorious goddess and begins to be amused by the frolicsome little girl. . . . The opening mind of [Sensa] is aptly compared to a little girl playing with Sensa. . . . The assurance and the advice given by the Lady of the White Lotus to Sensa in the holy of holies marks the great turning point in the history of his career. He has perceived the light of the Divine Wisdom and has brought himself within the pale of its influence. This light of the Logos, which is represented in the story as the fair goddess of the sacred flower of Egypt, is the bond of union and brotherhood which maintains the chain of spiritual intercourse and sympathy running through the long succession of the great hierophants of Egypt, and extending to all the great adepts of this world who derive their influx of spiritual life from the same source. It [i.e. the Light of the Logos, Daiviprakriti] is the Holy Ghost that keeps up the apostolic succession or Guruparampara as the Hindus call it. It is this spiritual light which is transmitted from guru to disciple when the time of real initiation comes. The so-called “transfer of life” is no other than the transmission of this light. And further, the Holy Ghost, which is, as it were, the veil or the body of the Logos and hence its flesh and blood, is the basis of the holy communion. Every fraternity of adepts has this bond of union; and time and space cannot tear it asunder. Even when there is an apparent break in the succession on the physical plane, a neophyte following the sacred law and aspiring towards a higher life, will not be in want of guidance and advice when the proper time arrives, though the last guru may have died several thousands of years before he was born. . . . Sensa perceives the hierophants who preceded him and into whose fraternity he has entered. The guru is always ready when the disciple is ready. The initiation preceding the final struggle for liberty from the bondage of matter is pretty plainly described. . . . ‘The veil of Isis’ is removed, and Sensa discovers that within the bosom of the Lady of the White Lotus, his real Saviour lay concealed. The light of the Logos enters his soul and he is made to pas through the ‘baptism by Divine Fire.’ He hears the final directions given by his Queen and recognizes the duty cast upon his shoulders.” (“T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 2, p. 401-408)

Subba Row would later explain that not only “the glorious goddess” of the lotus flower spoken of in “The Idyll of the White Lotus” represents Daiviprakriti but the “little girl” in the story does too: “The little girl (Idyll of the White Lotus) is superior to Karana Sharira [i.e. the causal body, the highest and most spiritual of the three shariras or upadhis or “soul vehicles” in the human constitution as per the Vedantic system] and is Daiviprakriti. . . . Daiviprakriti is compared to a girl . . . Then the Lady of the Lotus is Daiviprakriti. . . . As a rule Daiviprakriti appears as a woman, as when you are illuminated.” (“Esoteric Teachings,” “T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 2, p. 427-429)

This should all now confirm what we said near the start of this article: “This then leads us to the “secret” of what Daiviprakriti actually is: the Shakti of Ishwara (the Logos). The Logos and the Light of the Logos are . . . the divine masculine and divine feminine two-in-one Presence and Power that originates, sustains, and enlivens this Universe and everything in it. If we understand this correctly, we see that the Logos and Light of the Logos are in fact “He” and “She,” provided that we don’t anthropomorphise this in an unphilosophical manner. But to think or speak of both Ishwara and Daiviprakriti as “it” obscures the whole matter and is perhaps why the majority of Theosophists are still seemingly uncertain as to what Daiviprakriti actually is. The very term “Daivi Prakriti” is linguistically feminine throughout and whenever you see Sanskrit terms such as “Prakriti,” “Shakti,” “Maya,” “Devi” etc., in whatever context, these are all linguistically feminine, arising from the fact that what they are really pointing to (and ultimately they are all synonymous with Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos) is of a feminine nature, not masculine (Ishwara, on the other hand, is a masculine term) and not neuter.”

Some might wonder why we are making such a big deal of this or emphasising it so much. It is because this important truth has been ignored – or simply gone unnoticed – among Theosophists for so long and also because this conception brings the whole subject of the Universe and Evolution (ours and that of the cosmos) to life in a way that just thinking of “a single, neuter, genderless, abstract, distant Logos” does not. Of course, Daiviprakriti is not a “woman” but, says T. Subba Row, it – or rather, She – “appears as a woman” when one becomes illuminated, simply due to the fact that She is the Devi, the Divine Feminine Energy, the Light and Life of the Logos.

“The Goddess, the Devi, who is most excellent in the work of creation, is known as the Devi Prakriti,” says the Brahma Vaivarta Purana scripture.

“By some however this Daiviprakriti is looked upon as a thing to be shunned, a force that must be controlled. It is on the other hand a beneficent energy, by taking advantage of which a man may reach its centre and its source.”

“All karma, or impulse to do karma, emanates from Mulaprakriti and its vikarams, and not from the Logos, or the light that emanates from the Logos. You must look upon this light . . . as a kind of energy eternally beneficent in its nature, as stated in the “Idyll of the White Lotus.” . . . this light is the one instrument by which we may attain to union with the Logos, which is the source of salvation. This light is the foundation of the better side of human nature, and of all those tendencies of action, which generally lead to liberation from the bonds of avidya. . . . the Mulaprakriti . . . must not be confounded with the Daiviprakriti, which is the light of the Logos. Conceive Mulaprakriti as avidya, and Daiviprakriti, the light of the Logos, as vidya.” (T. Subba Row, “Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 82, 70, 71-72)

Nevertheless, “Namaskarams [i.e. “Namaste” greetings of reverent salutation] are to be made to both (Mulaprakriti and Daiviprakriti). Prakriti as such cannot be destroyed; what is destroyed is Avidya that she causes. . . . Mulaprakriti as such is eternal, but when she becomes differentiated, she gives rise to Avidya.” (Bhavani Shankar, “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” p. 82, 91)

Subba Row translates Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9, Verse 13 (the one Gita verse that mentions Daiviprakriti specifically by name, which we shared several translations of earlier) as “The Mahatmas devoted to Daiviprakriti, and knowing me as the imperishable cause of all beings, worship me with their minds concentrated on me.”

T. Subba Row, full name Tallapragada Subba Row (1856-1890) was an influential Indian Theosophist and a close colleague of H. P. Blavatsky until towards the end of his tragically short life. As the Mahatmas asserted, he was a disciple of the Master M., as also was HPB, but Subba Row followed the esoteric Hindu path while HPB followed that of the real esoteric Buddhism.

Here are some more of Bhavani Shankar’s words from “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita.” The last of these quotes is a close paraphrasing by him of Subba Row’s words which we saw earlier:

“The only Mukti [i.e. liberation, emancipation], worth striving for, is the mergence of the individual self into Ishwara through the light of Ishwara.” (p. 7)

“The One life is the Light of Ishwara.” (p. 35)

“But still there is the idea of self and not-self, which is the root-ignorance, and unless this is dispelled by the Light of Ishwara, the seed of Karma is not burnt out.” (p. 42)

“. . . in Kenopanishad [i.e. the Kena Upanishad] . . . the mysterious appearance of Parashakti (Daiviprakriti) in Swarga is thus referred to.” (p. 99)

“As a result of this renunciation and freedom from attachment, the mind becomes pure. You must then concentrate and fix the mind and meditate upon Bhagavan in the form of a manifested deity. Just as you catch the rays of the sun’s light through a lens and focus them so as to burn a piece of cotton, even so through such a form you can receive the Light of Ishwara and burn up all the desires of the heart.” (p. 105)

“. . . flowers . . . when offered to Bhagavan, become magnetised by the Light of Ishwara.” (p. 106)

“. . . he will reach its source which is the Logos, through the Divine Light (Daiviprakriti) and, from the standpoint of the Logos, try to reach Parabrahma, . . .” (p. 109)

“He becomes fit for receiving illumination through the Light of Ishwara, with the help of the Guru. . . . the Light of Ishwara . . . can be imparted by Jivanmuktas forming the hierarchy of adepts who awaken in the disciple the divine vision (spiritual clairvoyance) and transmit to him the Light of the Logos. They form the Guruparampara, the highest of whom is described thus:

Dakshinamuti Stotra 12.
”Ah! the wonder under the Banyan tree, there sits the Guru Deva, a youth, the disciples, elders; the teaching is silence, and the disciples’ doubts are dispelled.” [Note: For the full Dakshinamurti Stotram or “Hymn to Dakshinamurti” the Adi-Guru or Maha-Guru, by Adi Shankaracharya, click here.]

“It is the Light of the Logos (Daiviprakriti) which keeps up the Guruparampara; for it is the spiritual light that is transmitted from Guru to the disciple when the time for real initiation comes. It is the bond of union and brotherhood which maintains and preserves the chain of spiritual intercourse through all the Great Jivanmuktas of the world, and to enter into any such brotherhood, one should bring oneself within the influence of that spiritual Light of the Logos.” (p. 113)

The Sanskrit word “Jiva” literally means “life” or “living one” or “living entity.” In Theosophy it is applied to at least three different parts or components of our being, namely Prana (the life energy or vital force which flows through our astral body and keeps our physical body alive), the reincarnating soul or Ego, the Manasaputra, and the monad (the conjunction of Atma-Buddhi, the highermost part of our being). But it is primarily as a synonym of Prana that it is used in Theosophical literature and among Theosophists. William Q. Judge advises in “The Ocean of Theosophy” that it not be so used, as that could give rise to confusion, seeing as “Jiva” is capable of so many different meanings or applications. In Hindu philosophy, “Jiva” has just one consistent meaning and that is as the term for the soul, the permanent individuality, the part of us which reincarnates and goes from body to body, life to life, and also undergoes a period of heavenly rest in between. It is the Jiva which thinks, acts, creates Karma, experiences the effects of Karma, and evolves. Most Hindus define the Jiva as “the living soul” or “embodied soul.”

T. Subba Row says that “what constitutes the Jiva is the light of the Logos, which is Chaitanyam [i.e. literally “consciousness”], and which, becoming differentiated, forms the individual Ego in combination with the Karanopadhi [i.e. the Karana Sharira or causal body].” (“Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 102)

Similarly, Bhavani Shankar says, “The Light of Ishwara permeates every kind of organism, and is manifested in every one of the Upadhis as the real ego of man.” (p. 75) And “The consciousness manifested in every Upadhi is traceable to the Light of the Logos.” (p. 109)

Jiva is obviously not the same as Atma/Atman, although they are related. “For Atman or the “Higher Self” is really Brahman, the ABSOLUTE, and indistinguishable from it,” says HPB on p. 174 of “The Key to Theosophy.” In saying this, she is agreeing entirely with the teaching of the Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta as to what our Atman or true and real Self is, for this is exactly what they also repeatedly affirm. Brahman or Parabrahm or Parabrahman etc., being the Absolute and Infinite, transcends even the Logos (Ishwara) and thus also the Light of the Logos (Daiviprakriti). In T. Subba Row’s writings, he also speaks of Atman in this way. It is therefore surprising and thought provoking to see these statements in “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” by Bhavani Shankar:

“The Light of Ishwara is the Turiya Avastha [i.e. the state of pure consciousness beyond waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep], or the fourth state. It is the Atma.” (p. 76)

“The fourth (Turiya Chaittanya, the fourth life-wave) is Daiviprakriti, which is the real Atma.” (p. 76)

“Atman, which is the Supreme Intelligence (Chaitanya) and the All-resplendent Light of Ishwara.” (p. 86)

“. . . one’s real self which is the Light of Ishwara.” (p. 113)

“When a philosopher having realised his individuality surrenders that individuality to Bhagavan and thus develops devotion to Him, then he in course of time attains the life beyond individuality, realising that the Light of Ishwara is the One Life, the One Transcendent Self; and thus attains Wisdom, Jnana.” (p. 32)

“. . . the transcendent self, the fount of all reality (the light of Ishwara).” (p. 6)

“This is true Wisdom by which all beings from Brahmā, the Creator, down to the tiniest blade of grass, as Shri Shankaracharya puts it in his commentary on this sloka, are seen in one’s real Self which is the Light of Ishwara, the One Life, and which is also Ishwara Himself. Thus does he realise his identity with Brahman, the Self which, expressing itself from Brahmā down to the tiniest blade of grass, remains transcendent.” (p. 51)

It is somewhat unclear what Bhavani Shankar actually means by such statements, especially as the last one just quoted does bring in Brahman as the transcendent Self but only after having designated Daiviprakriti (the Light of the Logos) as the real Self or Atman, also called “the transcendent self” and “the One Transcendent Self” in two of those other quotes. Metaphysically, philosophically, and logically, the innermost essence and essential core of every being and even of every atom in manifestation must be Brahman, the Absolute, the Infinite. How can it be otherwise, if the Absolute and Infinite is truly absolute and infinite and the ultimate and primal Source of all? Hence the Mahavakyas (Great Sayings, Great Statements, Supreme Utterances) of the Upanishads include such phrases as “The Self (Atman) is Brahman,” “That thou art, i.e. you are That,” and declare that everyone can truly affirm “I am Brahman” for this is the universal truth of all.

Shankar nowhere denies this but he does introduce the new idea (or at least new to us) that Atman can also be said to be Daiviprakriti, which he elsewhere in the book called the Devi, the Great Goddess. We say “new to us” because this teaching is actually found in Sri Vidya, the system of pure or white tantra which we mentioned earlier (and will mention again in just a moment) and which is associated and connected with Adi Shankaracharya and Advaita Vedanta. Certain Sri Vidya texts, partly translated by Sir John Woodroffe, state that “One’s Atma is Devi Lalita, Whose body is the universe.” And the Tripura Rahasya, another Sri Vidya text, says, “The Power called Tripura is Pure Consciousness. It is beyond speech, senses and mind. She, the Parameshvari exists as Atma in everything.” The Bahvricha Upanishad says, “She alone is Atman. . . . So here is the Maha Tripura Sundari who assumes all forms. You and I and all the world and all divinities and all besides are the Maha Tripura Sundari.” And the Brahmanda Purana contains a section called the Lalita Mahatmya (“The Greatness of Lalita”) which includes the words, “She alone is supreme Atman. She alone is the greatest destination. She alone is the greatest holy place of pilgrimage. She alone is the great fruit and result.”

Perhaps Subba Row provided a clue to it when remarking that although Parabrahm obviously transcends and precedes the Logos, it is also the case that “Parabrahmam radiates from the Logos, and manifests itself as the light and energy of the Logos.” (“Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 21)

6. THE SAUNDARYA LAHARI (“WAVES OF BEAUTY”) OF ADI SHANKARACHARYA

Some may still not be convinced that what we are saying about Daiviprakriti is correct and may think that this link with Sri Vidya tantra and its Lalita Tripura Sundari is just a clutching at nebulous straws or a misguided interest in Shaktism. It is, however, confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt in this big clue that both Bhavani Shankar and T. Subba Row give us:

The typical way in which Lalita Tripura Sundari (synonymous with Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos, as proven in this section) is portrayed in religious artwork by the followers of Sri Vidya. The painting is highly symbolic and includes at the bottom the Sri Yantra or Sri Chakra, which is shown clearly and in full later in this section.

“Shri Shankaracharya in his “Soundaryalahari” addressing this light says, “Thou art the body of Shambhu.” (Shankar, “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” p. 27)

Daiviprakriti . . . this light is the veil of the Logos . . . If the Logos were to manifest itself, even to the highest spiritual perception of a human being, it would only be able to do so clothed in this light which forms its body. See what Sankaracharya says in his Soundaryalahari. Addressing the light he says: – “You are the body of Sambhu.”” (Subba Row, “Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 76)

Sambhu or rather Shambhu is one of the many names of Shiva. Virtually all forms of Hindu tantra view or refer to the Logos as Shiva, hence the now well known phrase “Shiva and Shakti.”

There is no actual difference between Shiva and Vishnu, however, and Bhavani Shankar uses the name of Shiva interchangeably with that of Krishna or Vishnu, as did Adi Shankaracharya, who taught that the wise person sees no essential difference or distinction between Hara (Shiva) and Hari (Vishnu). In fact, Krishna himself in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10, verse 23) asserts himself to be Shankara, another well known name and synonym of Shiva.

Nevertheless, the name and identity of Shiva has always been associated with the more esoteric side of spiritual pursuits, studies, and practices, perhaps because, as H. P. Blavatsky confirms in “The Secret Doctrine,” “Siva is pre-eminently and chiefly an ascetic, the patron of all Yogis and Adepts . . . Rudra Siva, the great Yogi, the forefather of all the Adepts – in Esotericism one of the greatest Kings of the Divine Dynasties. Called “the Earliest” and the “Last,” he is the patron of the Third [i.e. Lemurian], Fourth [i.e. Atlantean], and the Fifth [i.e. ours, the Aryan or Indo-Caucasian] Root-Races.” (Vol. 2, p. 282, 502)

But the main point here is that Subba Row and Bhavani Shankar directly reveal that the Saundarya Lahari – the well known hymn of devotion by Adi Shankaracharya to the Devi or Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari (Rajarajeshwari) and which is one of the central Sri Vidya texts – is addressed to Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos. In other words, Lalita or Tripura Sundari etc. is synonymous with Daiviprakriti.

“Saundarya Lahari” literally means “The Waves of Beauty” or “The Ocean of Beauty.” Its first part is known as “Ananda Lahari,” literally “The Waves of Bliss” or “The Ocean of Bliss.” HPB describes it as “a beautiful poem written by Sankaracharya, a hymn to Parvati, very mystical and occult.” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 21, Entry for “Ananda-Lahari”) Parvati is one of the numerous names for the Shakti or divine Energy of Shiva and is the main name in Hinduism for Shiva’s Shakti, just as the main name for that of Brahmā’s is Saraswati and that of Vishnu’s is Lakshmi. “The Secret Doctrine” says that they are all one, as we’ll see later.

The Saundarya Lahari has been described as a worship and exposition of the Mother, Shakti, Devi, Goddess, the Force or Power, particularly as the Shakti of Shiva. Descriptions and instructions regarding the Sri Yantra (Sri Chakra) are contained in it, as well as regarding mantras, Kundalini, and so on. The text shows how true Advaita Vedanta crosses over and interlaps with pure Shaktism of pure (white) Tantra. Some say that Shankaracharya was initiated into Sri Vidya, while others believe he was the originator of it. Verse 97 of the Saundarya Lahari’s 100 verses is perhaps the most revealing for our present purposes, if we remember that it is referring to Daiviprakriti:

“O Parashakti, who is one with Parabrahman, though some call you Saraswati, the wife of Brahmā, or call you Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, or Parvati, the wife of Shiva, I know you as the fourth: Maha Maya, who gives life and sustenance to the whole Universe.”

To those who do not know or appreciate the deeper meanings and significance of the Saundarya Lahari, most of it reads, however, like a rather sensual (albeit not sexual) love poem to an anthropomorphic goddess figure. Theosophists who might read it and be unaware of what HPB, Subba Row, and Bhavani Shankar, have said about it, could be forgiven if they were to conclude that it is an example of the wrong type of tantra. But knowing what such leading and respected Theosophists say about it, we ought to take a more mature and truly Theosophical perspective about it. To take issue with the surface-level wording and imagery of the Saundarya Lahari would be comparable to taking issue with the Linga or Lingam, also known as the Shiva Linga. For example, a literal, physiological, exoteric interpretation or understanding of what the Linga represents is entirely false and is criticised by HPB, who speaks of it as being inherently a highly sacred and pure mystic symbol. To view it in a human and phallic light and to thus automatically associate it with degraded spiritual practices of sexual magic or sexual tantra is the exact opposite of the Theosophical approach. For just one of many examples confirming this from HPB, see her “Theosophical Glossary” entry for “Linga” on p. 189. When explaining the language and imagery of the Stanzas from the Secret Book of Dzyan, HPB emphasises that we should not mistake the word for the thing, nor should we mistake the image for the thing. In genuine esotericism, the words and images are all intended to point our higher mental faculties and intuitive perceptions towards something which in reality is beyond words and incapable of depiction.

Subba Row’s writings refer to this highly occult text of Shankaracharya on other occasions, such as in Part 5 of his reply to the Swami of Almora, where he says, “Purusha can act only through Prakriti. In support of these views I may refer him to Shankaracharya’s Saundaryalahari,” (“T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 1, p. 172) and also in his article “Places of Pilgrimage in India” he quotes approvingly “a Student of Occult Science” who had written to him, “Kashi is called the goddess who embodies consciousness and bliss, and is the same as the Shakti or power to whom the sacred verses of Shankaracharya – Anandalahari – are addressed. The great teacher says that if Shiva is not united to Shakti he cannot produce even a flutter of well-being. Shakti is adorable of Hari [i.e. Vishnu], Hara [i.e. Shiva], and Virinchi [i.e. Brahmā].” (“T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 2, p. 358)

We mentioned that the Saundarya Lahari, like Sri Vidya in general, refers to the Sri Yantra, also known as the Sri Chakra. This is pictured below. “Sri Yantra” means “most revered diagram” or “sacred diagram” and “Sri Chakra” means “most revered circle” or “most sacred wheel.”

The Sri Yantra or Sri Chakra diagram or geometrical symbol, described by the Master K.H. as the “mystery of Mysteries” and “a geometrical synthesis of the whole occult doctrine.” It belongs to the Sri Vidya system of Hindu tantra and was installed by Adi Shankaracharya in virtually all the monasteries and temples which he established and consecrated. The particular colours can vary; we have chosen this image not for the colours so much as the fact that unlike many others it includes the all-important dot or point (bindu) in the centre.

In its three-dimensional, pyramidal form, it is called the Sri Meru. The sacred mountain known as Mount Meru figures frequently in Hindu scriptures and is also referred to many times by HPB, including in “The Secret Doctrine.” But she does not directly or clearly say what Meru really refers to or represents. It is hinted at though that it may be the same as Shambhala, the “land of the gods” or rather that mysterious location somewhere on this Earth, in the area of central Asia, which forms the chief centre of the entire worldwide great Brotherhood of Masters, Adepts, and Initiates, and which is presided over by the highest Being on our planet, a direct incarnation of the Logos, the Nameless One, the Maha-Guru or the Adi-Guru, Dakshinamurti (Shiva), of Shankaracharya’s Dakshinamurti Stotram. One may compare the Sri Chakra of esoteric Hinduism with the Kalachakra mandala of Tibetan Buddhism, “the circle of the wheel of time” or “time’s circle.” Although not identical, they are quite similar (though the Sri Chakra is simpler or clearer in appearance) and may well be intended to symbolically represent or depict the same thing. The Kalachakra also has a close and mystical connection with Shambhala. But there is more to both these symbols than that.

As was shown in the article The REAL Esoteric Buddhism, the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood and Esoteric School is extremely closely related to the secret Kalachakra system and teachings. But the Cis-Himalayan Esoteric School’s Sri Chakra or Sri Yantra is also highly regarded by the Trans-Himalayan Masters, some of whom, as was said at the start, are also the Gurus of Cis-Himalayan initiates and chelas. The Mahatma K.H., writing to A. P. Sinnett, called it “the Sri-antara [Note: This was an alternative spelling of “Sri Yantra” sometimes used in Victorian times before standardised English spellings of Sanskrit terms were adopted.] of the archaic Aryan Temple, the “mystery of Mysteries,” a geometrical synthesis of the whole occult doctrine. . . . The chela who can explain this sign from every one of its aspects – is virtually an adept.”

Even if Adi Shankaracharya was possibly the founder of the Sri Vidya system, he was certainly not the inventor or designer of the Sri Yantra/Sri Chakra. Some historians say they have found evidence in India that this symbol of symbols dates back at least 12,000 years. Subba Row called it “the real esoteric Srichakra of the ancient adepts of Aryavarta [i.e. India]” and at another time mentioned “the Great Pyramid of Egypt,” saying that “There is some mysterious connection between the plan on which it was constructed and our Esoteric Srichakra.” (“T. Subba Row Collected Writings” p. 20, 106) The Sri Yantra is familiar in appearance to many associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists, as for over 30 years it has filled the front cover of “Vidya” magazine, published by the Santa Barbara Lodge of the ULT in California, USA.

We can now see that there is much more to Advaita Vedanta and Shankaracharya’s work and message than first meets the eye. There is undeniably a “hidden” side to Advaita Vedanta, one which is much more mystically “alive,” vibrant, and connected with our planet’s evolution and destiny, than the rather bare and blank version of Advaita Vedanta which many, particularly Western adherents, have promulgated. H. P. Blavatsky tells us that every great Initiate or Master who has appeared on the world scene as a Teacher of humanity has had both an exoteric and an esoteric teaching and side to their work. In other words, one main teaching and doctrine for the masses and general public and one much fuller, more detailed, more complex, and more powerful teaching and doctrine for “the few,” whether those few be specially selected disciples or just anyone who is sufficiently inclined to look deeper. Jesus says as much about himself in the Gospels and HPB and Mahayana Buddhism assert the same about Buddha. HPB did not directly confirm this about Shankaracharya and nor have the mathams (monasteries) which the latter founded ever directly said this but it is still clearly apparent. It is also clearly insinuated in “The Secret Doctrine” in passages such as this:

Sri Shankaracharya, the greatest Initiate living in the historical ages, wrote many a Bhashya on the Upanishads. But his original treatises, as there are reasons to suppose, have not yet fallen into the hands of the Philistines [i.e. the general public, whether in India or the rest of the world], for they are too jealously preserved in his maths (monasteries, mathams). And there are still weightier reasons to believe that the priceless Bhashyas (Commentaries) on the esoteric doctrine of the Brahmins, by their greatest expounder, will remain for ages yet a dead letter to most of the Hindus, except the Smartava Brahmins. This sect, founded by Shankaracharya, (which is still very powerful in Southern India) is now almost the only one to produce students who have preserved sufficient knowledge to comprehend the dead letter of the Bhashyas. The reason of this is that they alone, I am informed, have occasionally real Initiates at their head in their mathams, as for instance, in the “Sringa-giri,” [i.e. Sringeri] in the Western Ghauts of Mysore.” (Vol. 1, p. 271-272)

So we can summarise this as: (1) None of Shankaracharya’s complete, original treatises have yet become publicly available or accessible but are preserved in the original Advaita mathams which he founded, (2) Even those that have become public have both a surface-level “dead letter” side and a deeper, more esoteric side to them, but even the majority of Hindus never perceive beyond the “dead letter,” (3) The Shankara mathams occasionally (but not always) have real Initiates or Adepts of the Masters’ School and Brotherhood presiding over them.

T. Subba Row was from the Smarta “sect” mentioned above and had a close connection with the Shankara mathams, including Sringeri.

All this should indicate to us that although the Ajativada (“no birth, no existence”) doctrine that most strongly characterises Advaita Vedanta can indeed be traced largely to some of Shankaracharya’s treatises (and also to some of his Guru’s Guru Gaudapadacharya) it was certainly not his real message.

Perhaps that doctrine – that the Universe literally does not exist but is a literal, actual illusion, and that Ishwara (the Logos) and the Jiva (reincarnating individual soul) are literally illusions too, projections of a collective “dream of ignorance” and that there is thus no-one and nothing in bondage and no-one and nothing to be liberated; the only purpose of being here being to escape forever from this supposedly pointless illusion by fully realising that nothing has any true or meaningful existence other than the Self (Atman) which is Brahman, the Absolute – was merely intended by Shankara to serve as a strong inspiration to the masses to seriously pursue the spiritual life. Or perhaps he did not really teach it like that.

Whatever the case may be, his Saundarya Lahari and numerous other works, along with his close involvement with the Sri Vidya tantra and Sri Yantra, and his recognition of the reality and overwhelming importance of both the Logos (Ishwara) and the Light of the Logos (Shakti, the Tripura Sundari of Shankara’s ardent and deeply mystical devotion), demonstrate to us that the ideas most distinctly characterising Ajativada – and which the famous and enduringly popular Ramana Maharshi did the most to popularise in the 20th century – cannot be considered anything more than the most “surface level” and “dead letter” form of Advaita Vedanta.

Shankaracharya and Sri Aurobindo (whose teachings are very much in harmony with Theosophy on almost every point, including many of the most minor; for more details, see Sri Aurobindo, Raja Yoga, and Theosophy) are therefore actually reconciled after all. Aurobindo criticised Shankara many times for what he (Aurobindo) rightly called the illogical and evolution-denying, progress-denying, and essentially soul-denying theory of Ajativada or Mayavada. But he seems to have ignored or not accepted that the deeper and more mystical side of Shankara’s teaching and philosophy was actually in quite close harmony with Aurobindo’s own, which he called Integral Advaita rather than Advaita Vedanta. But if one rejects Shankara in favour of Aurobindo or rejects Aurobindo in favour of Shankara, one will miss out on something valuable and special.

As it is, most modern Advaitis do not adhere to the Ajativada/Mayavada worldview but instead accept and promulgate a modified form of Advaita which accepts the Universe and the world as actual realities (even if temporary and evanescent when compared to the Absolute Brahman) and accepts the whole of manifestation as having a purpose and a legitimacy. Mahatma Gandhi, S. Radhakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, and Jay Lakhani, were all prominent examples in the 19th but especially 20th and 21st centuries, of this modified – but still largely exoteric – Advaita which is closer to esoteric Truth. They naturally felt little or no affinity for such extreme Ajativada texts as the comparatively recent Advaita Bodha Deepika (“Lamp of Non-Dual Knowledge”) and Kaivalya Navaneeta (“Cream of Liberation”) – both beloved by Ramana Maharshi, incidentally – which urge the aspirant to view the world as vomit and excrement and to free oneself from all manifestation forever by trying to “extinguish” one’s mind, which is purported to be the only thing keeping this illusory Universe in being.

Subba Row was himself critical of what had become of the main publicly known form of Advaita Vedanta. He attributed this largely to an over-acceptance of certain ideas from the older Sankhya philosophy of Hinduism, saying that Advaitis had concluded that “if somehow we could control the action of upadhi [i.e. the body and the more subtle vehicles or components of our constitution], and destroy the maya it had created, the result would be the complete extinction of man’s self and a final layam [i.e. state of dissolution and neutral inactivity, absorption] in this avyaktam or Parabrahmam. It is this doctrine that has spoilt the Adwaiti philosophy of this country, [and] that has brought the Buddhism of Ceylon, Burmah and China to its present deplorable condition, and led so many Vedantic writers to say that Nirvana was in reality a condition of perfect layam or annihilation. . . . The sublime philosophy of Shankaracharya has assumed quite a hideous form at the present day. The philosophy of a good many Adwaitis does not lead to practical conduct. . . . they think . . . that Nirvana is the Nirvana promised by the Sankhya philosophers.” (“Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 73, 126)

Bhavani Shankar expressed the same view – partly in the same words as his much admired Subba Row – but diplomatically refrained from criticising Advaita or Advaitis by name. He instead criticises the Sankhya view, although he was undoubtedly aware that Sankhya as a distinct school of Hindu philosophy is long extinct but that some of its main ideas have been absorbed into other forms of Hinduism. His words which follow thus apply mostly to the standard, traditional, exoteric Advaita Vedanta view and approach:

“. . . the view held by the Sankhya school . . . that in tracing the path towards the goal, if you could control the action of the Upadhi and destroy the Maya it has created, the result would be the complete extinction or annihilation of man’s individuality and its final absorption (laya) in Parambrahma. This view, Lord Shri Krishna says, is wrong, because Ishwara and His Light are here entirely lost sight of.”

Earlier, he had remarked with regret that “There are schools of philosophy which ignore altogether Ishwara and His Light in their speculations and expositions of the Universe and man.” (“The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” p. 63, 30)

“Only when united with Shakti has Shiva power to manifest; but without her, the God cannot even stir.”

“O Father–Mother, this world of ours was created by the compassion of your joint protectorship to the end that, by your mutual help, your joint design may fulfil itself.” (Adi Shankaracharya, Saundarya Lahari, v. 1 and v. 41, Radhakrishnan translation, included on p. 734 of his “The Principal Upanishads”)

In a similar vein, Jnaneshwar or Jnaneshvar (the early medieval Advaita saint and author of the Jnaneshwari or Dnyaneshwari, which HPB called the “king of mystic works”) wrote in his Amrutanubhava:

“I offer obeisance to the God and Goddess, the limitless primal parents of the Universe. They are not entirely the same, nor are they not the same. We cannot say exactly what they are. How sweet is their union! The whole world is too small to contain them, yet they live happily in the smallest particle. These two are the only ones who dwell in this home called the Universe. When the Master of the house sleeps, the Mistress stays awake, and performs the functions of both. When He awakes, the whole house disappears, and nothing at all is left. Two lutes: one note. Two flowers: one fragrance. Two lamps: one light. Two lips: one word. Two eyes: one sight. These two: one Universe. In unity there is little to behold; so She, the Mother of abundance, brought forth the world as play. He takes the role of Witness out of love of watching Her. Through Her, He assumes the form of the Universe; without Her, He is left naked. If night and day were to approach the Sun, both would disappear. In the same way, their duality would vanish if their essential Unity were seen. In fact, the duality of Shiva and Shakti cannot exist in that primal unitive state from which AUM emanates. They are like a stream of knowledge from which a knower cannot drink unless he gives up himself.”

7. IS MAYA SOMETHING BAD OR SOMETHING DIVINE?

One of the Saundarya Lahari verses that we quoted above was Shankaracharya saying:

“O Parashakti, who is one with Parabrahman, though some call you Saraswati, the wife of Brahmā, or call you Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, or Parvati, the wife of Shiva, I know you as the fourth: Maha Maya, who gives life and sustenance to the whole Universe.”

Unfortunately most Hindus and also many Theosophists are accustomed to viewing and speaking of Maya as something “bad” or at least something negative, something detrimental, something that tricks, deludes, traps, ensnares us, and hinders our spiritual growth, at least until we are able to fully overcome it. Perhaps this partly stems, at least in the case of students of Theosophy, from viewing and thinking of Maya as an “it” rather than as a “she” or, rather, She. As we have successively shown, Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos, is the Shakti of Ishwara, and is Herself the great Maya or Illusory Power.

While it is undoubtedly true that one can be deluded and hindered by Maya, that relates to what could be called the lower aspect of Maya or mental Maya. This is Maya as a “perceptive faculty,” to use HPB’s words.

The Universe and the entirety of manifestation is said to be the product of Maya. If Maya per se were something bad or inherently deceptive and deceitful and dangerous, it would mean that this whole Universe and our existence here is all just a dangerous prison that we ought to try to escape from as soon as possible and free ourselves from the clutches of this “demon” who is trying to blind us and hold us here.

But that is not the Theosophical view. The Universe is neither a hellish prison nor a literally non-existent purposeless illusion. The latter idea is, as we have said, the standard and traditional, exoteric Advaita Vedanta view, which paints a picture of Maya as something wholly bad and detrimental. But that approach is foreign to the perspective of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Rig Veda, regarding Maya. And as as we have just shown for a second time, it is also foreign to Sri Vidya, the tantric or more esoteric side of Advaita, in which Maya is in fact revered and honoured, as a facet of the Divine Mother, Devi, Devi Prakriti, Daivi Prakriti, the very Light and Life of the Divine. When we remember that Maya is “She” rather than “it,” we might perhaps come to perceive more clearly the ultimate beneficence of Maya, especially in the sense of the higher Maya which we might call cosmic Maya.

The primary way HPB defines “Maya” in “The Theosophical Glossary” (p. 211) is as “Illusion; the cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence and the perceptions thereof possible.” Theosophically speaking, phenomenal existence and the ability to perceive it and have perceptions of it is an unquestionably good thing, an essential requirement for any evolution of consciousness in whatever kingdom of Nature. A “cosmic power which renders [all this] possible” can therefore only be working for the good of us all.

See how Krishna speaks of Maya in the Bhagavad Gita:

“My own maya” (Chapter 4, verse 6)

“This divine maya of mine” (Chapter 7, verse 14)

“My yogamaya” (Chapter 7, verse 25)

“The Lord of all beings dwelleth in the heart, O Arjuna, causing all creatures to revolve, as if mounted upon a wheel, by the power of maya.” (Chapter 18, verse 61)

William Judge renders “by the power of maya” as “by his [Ishwara’s] magic power” and Sivananda has it as “by His illusive power.”

So Krishna, speaking there as the Logos, repeatedly says that Maya is His, that Maya is divine (“daivi maya” in Sanskrit), and that He uses this power of Maya to power the Universe and everything in it.

HPB once explained, “Maya is the Cause, and at the same time an aspect, of differentiation . . . Maya is everywhere, and in every thing that has a beginning and an end; therefore, every thing is an aspect of that which is eternal, and in that sense, of course Maya itself is an aspect of SAT, or that which is eternally present in the universe, whether during Manvantara or Mahapralaya.” (“Transactions of The Blavatsky Lodge” p. 30-31)

That could thus be said to be a description of cosmic Maya. But then she explains what we could call mental Maya:

“Maya is the perceptive faculty of every Ego which considers itself a Unit separate from, and independent of, the One infinite and eternal SAT, or “be-ness.”” (“Transactions of The Blavatsky Lodge” p. 31)

Aurobindo Ghose, also spelt Ghosh, 1872-1950, better known as Sri Aurobindo. The March 2022 issue of “The Theosophical Movement” magazine published by the United Lodge of Theosophists in India described Aurobindo as “one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the twentieth century.” Although not directly connected with the nominal Theosophical Movement, he stated that he knew the Mahatmas or Masters of Wisdom exist and also wrote “I admit the truths that Theosophy seeks to unveil.” Almost 20 years prior to the establishment of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he wrote privately in a letter: “Once while I was practicing Yoga, He whom the Theosophists call Master K.H. (Kuthumi) came and stood before me and watched my Yoga. I requested him to accept me as his disciple; but he said ‘Your Master is different.’” He also wrote a beautiful and inspiring poem titled “The Mahatmas – KUTHUMI” which can be read in our article here.

The chapter “The Divine Maya” in “The Life Divine” by Sri Aurobindo presents the distinction between Cosmic Maya and Mental Maya or what Aurobindo refers to several times as “the higher and the lower Maya.”

The Universe is indeed called Maya, admits Aurobindo, but the Universe is nonetheless a beneficent evolutionary impulse which serves the good of all. As HPB’s “Glossary” entry said, Maya is “the cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence and the perceptions thereof possible.” Without phenomenal existence and the ability to perceive it and form perceptions about things, no evolution of soul, no evolution of consciousness, could ever be possible, and that evolution is the very reason why this manifested Universe even exists; this is the teaching of Theosophy as also of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Advaita or Integral Yoga philosophy. So, clearly, Cosmic Maya or the Divine Maya is purely beneficent.

Aurobindo recognises, however, like HPB, that when human beings attach a mistaken importance and significance to that which is limited, transient, and impermanent, when they believe that anything, themselves included, has any existence other than in and as the SELF, this is the lower and mental aspect of Maya. But even that serves a beneficent purpose in the end, for in Aurobindo’s view the whole pattern of universal evolution is to first forget (i.e. the involutionary descent into matter), then remember, and then consciously re-become (i.e. the evolutionary ascent that leads us even beyond mind, to the Higher Manasic or supramental level of consciousness and eventually beyond that) what we truly and really are.

“This distinction between the lower and the higher Maya is the link in thought and in cosmic Fact which the pessimistic and illusionist philosophies miss or neglect.” (Sri Aurobindo, “The Divine Maya,” “The Life Divine” p. 124)

“And still we can recognise at once . . . the original cosmic Maya, not a Maya of Ignorance but a Maya of Knowledge, yet a Power which has made the Ignorance possible, even inevitable. . . . the principle of separation must also be allowed its complete course and arrive at its absolute consequence; this is the inevitable descent, . . . and if the One is born from that by its own greatness, it is still at first concealed by a fragmentary separative existence and consciousness which is ours and in which we have to piece things together to arrive at a whole.” (Sri Aurobindo, “Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya,” “The Life Divine” p. 299)

The following are a few excerpts from Swami Sivananda’s translation of the Devi Mahatmya (literally “The Greatness of The Goddess”) from the Markandeya Purana; these may now make more sense in light of what has been explained so far and also bearing in mind that Vishnu represents the Logos, the Purusha which needs Prakriti in order to have any manifestation or expression:

“. . . the Great Power, the Mahamaya of Vishnu! Due to Her Power all this world is working. Due to Her all are suffering. Due to Her all are happy. There is no wonder in this. Even Jnanis are dragged by this Maya by force, and they are totally deluded. She is the creator of this universe, mobile and immobile. She, being pleased, gives men the eternal salvation in the end. She is the cause of bondage and liberation. She alone is all in all. She rules supreme over all lords! . . . Who is that Devi Maya? . . . She is eternal, the manifestation of the Supreme Power. She is pervading all this. . . . Adimaya, the support of the universe, the Supreme Goddess of the worlds, the Creatress, the Preserver and Destroyer of everything. . . . Save me by waking up the great Vishnu. Thou art Prakriti, with three Gunas. Thou art prosperity. Thou art peace and mercy. Thou art with countless weapons. Thou art beautiful and dreadful. Thou art greater than the greatest, O Devi! Whatever there is here is Thyself. What more can I say? Vishnu would have helped me, He would have saved me, but He is asleep. Kindly wake Him up, . . . Thus praised, the great Maya entered the body of Vishnu from all quarters. She opened His eyes, opened His mind, opened His hands and opened every limb part by part. The great Lord of the worlds stood up with inexpressible grandeur . . .” (from Chapter 1)

“The gods became very much dejected at heart and prayed to Mahamaya who had promised them that She would come to their help whenever they were in trouble and whenever they thought of Her with devotion. Remembering this fact, all the Devas retreated to Himavan [i.e. the Himalayas] and there offered a sincere prayer to the Great Mother, Vishnumaya.

“The Devas said, “Salutations to the blessed Mother Devi, the great Devi; salutations again and again to Prakriti, the auspicious; . . . Prostrations to the dreadful, the eternal, the pure, the effulgent Devi. . . . Prostrations to that Devi who is called Vishnumaya among all creatures. . . . Again and again salutations to Her who is called among all beings as Consciousness, as Intellect, as Sleep, as Hunger, as Shadow, as Power, as Thirst, as Forbearance, . . . the Universal Mother, the Support of all worlds, the blessed Divine Devi . . .” (from Chapter 5)

“The Devi said, “I am alone and single in this world. Who is there other than Me here?” (from Chapter 10)

“. . . the Devas . . . praised Her with these words: “O Devi! O Destroyer of woes! Be pleased. O Mother of all the worlds! O Supreme Controller of the Universe! . . . Thou art the Support of this Universe. Thou, the One, is appearing as this world! . . . Thou art Vishnumaya. Thou art the Cause for bondage and liberation. All Knowledge is Thy form. All women are Thyself, O Mother! All this is filled by Thee alone. Thou art Intelligence in all men. O Narayani! Thou art the giver of Svarga and Moksha. Thou art Time, Space and Causation. O Blessed Refuge of the distressed, O Narayani! Salutations to Thee! O Destroyer of all troubles of the devoted who take refuge in Thee, O Narayani, Salutations to Thee! O Brahmani . . . O Maheshwari . . . O Kaumari . . . Mahashakti . . . O Vaishnavi . . . O Indrani . . . O Lakshmi! O Kali! O Sarasvati! Protect us, O Durga!”

[Compare this with Krishna’s words in Chapter 4 of the Bhagavad Gita about his – i.e. the Logos’s rather than an anthropomorphic Krishna’s – periodical Avataric descents into incarnation on Earth:] “O Devi, wherever there are evil qualities, wherever there are Rakshasas, wherever there are unrighteous forces, there Thou manifest Thyself and destroyest them. . . . Devi said . . . “In this manner whenever there is trouble anywhere, whenever there is cropping up of demons, then and there I shall manifest Myself and bring peace to the earth.”” (from Chapter 11)

“The sage said: Thus I have recounted to you the entire story of the glories of Devi and Her actions. She is Vidya or the Intelligence-Principle of Vishnu-Shakti or Maya and She is the Avidya or the Ignorant principle too, and is above both. . . . Take refuge in that Devi Maya!” (from Chapter 13)

One statement in the above excerpts from the Devi Mahatmya says: “All women are Thyself, O Mother!”

In this regard, H. P. Blavatsky once wrote: “the union of Siva and Sakti . . . Siva is the Logos, the Vach, manifested through the Sakti; and the union of the two produces the phenomenal creation, . . . Now Sakti being a female principle, it is fully manifested through a woman, although, properly speaking, the inner man is neither male, nor female. . . . in a woman is manifested abnormally [i.e. to a degree and in a way not normally found elsewhere in Nature] the occult power represented by Sakti. She is moreover gifted with a wonderfully vivid imagination – stronger than man’s. And as the phenomenal is the realisation or rather the manifestation of the IDEAL, which can be properly and strongly conceived only by a powerful IMAGINATION – a WOMAN-ADEPT can produce high occultists – a race of “Buddhas and Christ” born “without sin.”” (“Theosophical Articles and Notes” p. 123-124)

We will soon see several useful quotes from HPB in “The Secret Doctrine” about Shakti and Daiviprakriti. But first . . .

8. THEOSOPHY’S EXPLANATION OF TANTRA

Earlier in this article we said: “Later we will dispel the concerns that many Theosophists might have upon seeing any mention of tantra by showing from H. P. Blavatsky’s own explanations that there is such a thing as “white tantra” and that the sexual tantra of black magic is only one side of tantra. Sri Vidya has always been considered only as a form of “white” or “right-hand” tantra and, significantly, it is closely associated with Adi Shankaracharya and Advaita Vedanta.” It is also closely associated with, and viewed positively by, T. Subba Row, Bhavani Shankar, and the Masters of Wisdom, as we have now shown.

In another article, The Great Tsong-Kha-Pa, we said, in relation to Tsong-Kha-Pa, the great Tibetan Buddhist reformer and – according to Theosophy – another of Gautama Buddha’s embodiments: ““Tantra” itself is not a bad word and merely means “continuum” or “expansion.” In one sense it can be looked upon as a synonym for practical occultism. Theosophists sometimes speak of the Book or rather Books of Kiu-Te or Khiu-Ti, having seen HPB and the Masters refer to them, but probably very few Theosophists realise that the term “Kiu-Te” (or “rgyud sde” in Wylie transliteration) is simply the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word “Tantra.” The Books of Kiu-Te are therefore literally the Books of Tantra. Tantra is not always something sexual. HPB states that there is such a thing as “white tantra” which is of the nature of white magic, and such a thing as “black tantra” which is the opposite.”

And even if a teaching or system does not call itself tantric, if it deals with all or most of such subjects as (1) the occult constitution of the human being and the cosmos, (2) the correspondences or metaphysical links that exist between the various forces of Nature, (3) parts of the body and their occult correspondences and connections to higher energies or higher planes, (4) the esoteric side of colours, sounds, and sacred words or mantras, (5) Kundalini, (6) chakras, (7) recognition and reverence in one way or another of Shakti or the feminine – then it is the very definition and epitome of what tantra actually is. The introduction into it of selfish motives, sexual practices, and immorality, makes it black tantra. But it can exist perfectly well and happily in its pure form, as white tantra.

Let’s see HPB’s “Theosophical Glossary” entry for “Tantra”:

Tantra (Sk.). Lit., “rule or ritual”. Certain mystical and magical works, whose chief peculiarity is the worship of the female power, personified in Sakti. Devî or Durgâ (Kâlî, Siva’s wife) is the special energy connected with sexual rites and magical powers– the worst form of black magic or sorcery.” (p. 319)

So sexual tantra and sexual magic is the worst form of black magic and is considered sorcery. There is a big difference between what most Westerners think of as sexual tantra and what the sexual tantra of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist tantric practice actually is.  

But “Devi” is actually a generic term (literally “Goddess”) and is applied in Hinduism to all forms and personifications of the Shakti, so we hope Theosophists will do their own research and study and not simply assume that wherever and whenever “Devi” is mentioned anywhere it is automatically referring to “the special energy connected with sexual rites.” 99% of the time it is not – let us remember that HPB has specifically stated that she is not infallible and has also stated that she is not an expert in Hindu philosophy nor its terminology but rather an expert in the Esoteric Philosophy, especially of the Esoteric Buddhist School and Brotherhood – “I have never boasted of any knowledge of Sanskrit, and . . . I never pretended to teach Sanskrit or explain Occultism in that language. I claimed to know the esoteric philosophy of the trans-Himalayan Occultists and no more. . . . learned and (even not very learned) Sanskrit-speaking Brahmins, . . . [know] the value of Sanskrit terms better than I,” she said in “Re-classification of Principles” – and if one blindly assumes that “Devi” is automatically referring to something of the nature of black magic, then even Bhavani Shankar’s “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” will be viewed as a book of black magic, whereas it is nothing of the sort! As we saw earlier, he calls Daiviprakriti the Devi, “the Great Goddess.”

And, at the risk of sounding critical, it must be added that the word “tantra” does not actually literally mean either “rule” or “ritual.” The word literally means “continuum” in the sense of “to expand, to weave, to produce on a loom” etc.

The more prevalent form of the Ardhanarishwara (“The Lord who is half female”) image, showing Shiva and the primary form of his Shakti, Parvati, as the Two-in-One, the Logos and its Light.

Tântrika (Sk.). Ceremonies connected with the above worship. Sakti having a two-fold nature, white and black, good and bad, the Saktas are divided into two classes, the Dakshinâchâris and Vâmâchâris, or the right-hand and the left-hand Saktas, i.e., “white” and “black” magicians. The worship of the latter is most licentious and immoral.” (p. 319)

Noting that there is a dark side to Shakti, some Theosophists – who quite rightly consider black magic as something very serious and to be thoroughly avoided – may conclude that it is thus best to ignore Shakti and leave her well alone. There are a few Theosophists who think this about Shiva also and who consider the very small amount of HPB’s statements regarding the “dark” side of what Shiva represents to be sufficient grounds to stay well away from, or even warn against, any study, discussion, or feeling of reverence for Shiva, thus ignoring that virtually everything she and the Masters said about Shiva was in fact very positive, placing him on an extremely high pedestal, and even directly declaring that “He is a god of the first order, and in his character of Destroyer higher than Vishnu, the Preserver, as he destroys only to regenerate on a higher plane.” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 301, Entry for “Siva” – see also The Real Significance of Shiva)

Of course, no student of Theosophy is under any pressure to accept or believe anything, nor to feel a certain way (if we accept reincarnation, then a particular inherent reverence or attraction towards either Vishnu or Shiva or Shakti is likely to have been carried over in our samskaras, i.e. skandhas), but we are encouraged to be genuinely open-minded and fearless in our pursuit of truth.

From Adi Shankaracharya (“Shankara-Acharya” literally means “Shiva-Teacher”) onwards, Advaitis have always been predominantly Shaivas (i.e. devotees or reverers of Shiva) rather than Vaishnavas (i.e. devotees or reverers of Vishnu). But to repeat something we said earlier: “There is no actual difference between Shiva and Vishnu, however, and Bhavani Shankar uses the name of Shiva interchangeably with that of Krishna or Vishnu, as did Adi Shankaracharya, who taught that the wise person sees no essential difference or distinction between Hara (Shiva) and Hari (Vishnu). In fact, Krishna himself in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10, verse 23) asserts himself to be Shankara, another well known name and synonym of Shiva. Nevertheless, the name and identity of Shiva has always been associated with the more esoteric side of spiritual pursuits, studies, and practices, perhaps because, as H. P. Blavatsky confirms in “The Secret Doctrine,” “Siva is pre-eminently and chiefly an ascetic, the patron of all Yogis and Adepts . . . Rudra Siva, the great Yogi, the forefather of all the Adepts – in Esotericism one of the greatest Kings of the Divine Dynasties. Called “the Earliest” and the “Last,” he is the patron of the Third [i.e. Lemurian], Fourth [i.e. Atlantean], and the Fifth [i.e. ours, the Aryan or Indo-Caucasian] Root-Races.” (Vol. 2, p. 282, 502)

It is worth remembering that Theosophy tells us there is a light and a dark side to everything, to every force and energy in the Universe. That does not just apply to Shakti and/or Shiva. Even in the Bhagavad Gita, as in other Krishna-centred and Vishnu-centred scriptures, it is hinted at and in some cases directly shown that Krishna and Vishnu too have a “darker” side to them that is not really any better or purer than that of Shiva or Shakti, even if it may generally be of a somewhat different character. But naturally, a spiritual aspirant’s focus should be on the lighter, brighter side, the truly spiritual side, of each and all.

And HPB says in the above “Glossary” quote that the Shaktas (or Shakti devotees) of the “right-hand” path are in fact white magicians, practitioners of white magic. “White magic” means good, beneficent, altruistic, selfless use of occult powers and forces and is what the Adepts or Masters of Wisdom practise and apply. If we were to avoid or ignore or fear everything that is known to have a dark side, we would have to avoid even occultism/esotericism itself, in which case none of us would even be reading this today!

The Dakshinachara and Vamachara which HPB speaks of are not the names of particular sects or schools or groups but are the generic terms or designations “right hand” and “left hand” and relate to the nature and type of tantra that is studied and practised. Certain forms of Hindu tantra are universally recognised as being “right-hand” or white tantra, such as the Sri Vidya tantra with which Adi Shankaracharya and Advaita Vedanta were/are connected. Even that, however, is nowadays sometimes promoted to the public (never by the Advaita mathams or monasteries but rather by individual “guru” figures, often desirous of attracting a personal following etc.) as a way of acquiring wealth and fulfilment of personal desires by occult means, thus degrading a truly sacred esoteric system and turning it into a form of black magic.

Regarding the fact that there is such a thing as white tantra and that it is pure and good, we can also find statements by HPB such as: “Some of the “White” Tantras, especially the one treated upon in the present article [Note: This was in reference to the Mahanirvana Tantra], contain extremely important information for Occultists.” (Footnote to “The Tantras”) And: “As there are both magic (pure psychic science) and sorcery (its impure counterpart) so there are what are known as the “White” and “Black” Tantras. The one is an exposition, very clear and exceedingly valuable, of occultism in its noblest features, the other a devil’s chap-book of wicked instructions to the would-be wizard and sorcerer.” (Note to “A Description of The Tantrik Mystic Rites”)

So let us, as Theosophists, not demonise the word “tantra,” lest we shut ourselves off from esoteric truth through a misguided and fearful closed-mindedness and give a bizarrely puritanical impression of Theosophy to others, particularly Indians and Tibetans as well as the ever-growing number of Westerners who have made themselves more familiar with Indian and Tibetan religious philosophy than are most Theosophists. What we should be focusing on in this regard is the distinction between white and black tantra, which is something most people, especially in the West, are unfortunately currently unaware of.

As for the nature of Durga or Kali mentioned above, we will come onto that in the next section.

9. SHAKTI IN “THE SECRET DOCTRINE”

We will now find in these excerpts from “The Secret Doctrine” by H. P. Blavatsky a confirmation of some of the main points we have been discovering and discussing throughout this article:

“. . . in her correlations, metaphysical and cosmical, she is the “Mother, the Wife and the Daughter” of the Logos. . . . the Sakti or Energy . . . in the Esotericism of the Vedantins, Daiviprakriti, the Light manifested through Eswara [i.e. Ishwara], the Logos . . .” (Vol. 1, p. 136)

“. . . a Virgin . . . represents Sakti or Mahamaya . . . there are six primary forces in Nature (synthesized by the seventh) . . . (1.) PARASAKTI . . . (2.) JNANASAKTI . . . (3.) ITCHASAKTI . . . (4.) KRIYASAKTI . . . (5.) KUNDALINI SAKTI . . . (6.) MANTRIKA-SAKTI . . . The six forces are in their unity represented by the “Daiviprakriti” (the Seventh [i.e. the 7th Shakti, the “Primary” Shakti as HPB puts it, the SHAKTI, in which they are all “synthesized”], the light of the LOGOS) . . . the “Mother” in its Mystical Sense.” (Vol. 1, p. 292-293)

HPB has elsewhere stated that these Shaktis of Daiviprakriti, or the Shaktis originating from and belonging to THE Shakti, are the same as that which “The Secret Doctrine” more frequently calls the Seven Sons of Fohat. Fohat – ’phro-wa (verb form) and spros-pa (noun form) in Tibetan transliteration – is the preferred term in the Trans-Himalayan Esoteric School which, as we saw at the start, has its own distinct Buddhistic terminology and does not generally use the equivalent or comparable Hindu terms. The latter are, however, as we saw clarified by HPB, typically used more often than the former in the Theosophical literature simply due to their being more comprehensible and familiar to Westerners.

Shakti, as we have seen repeatedly throughout the course of this article, is distinctly and undeniably feminine. So it appears that while this is accepted as such in the Cis-Himalayan or Hindu branch of the Eastern Esoteric School of the Masters, the Trans-Himalayan or Buddhist branch prefers – for reasons unknown but perhaps because it is more in keeping with Buddhist culture – to view Shakti and the Shaktis as masculine, to the point of using distinctly male or masculine pronouns.

It is Fohat which the Trans-Himalayan School prefers to use as the term for the Light of the Logos. And if our having referred to Daiviprakriti as She numerous times in the article may have seemed peculiar to some students of Theosophy, surely it is just as justifiable – in light of what we have seen – as HPB and the Master K.H. and Master M. (who repeatedly confirmed in writing that They were the real authors of the book, along with Their “Direct Agent” HPB) often referring to Fohat as He throughout the two volumes of “The Secret Doctrine.” Perhaps when viewed and studied from the Buddhistic perspective, the Light of the Logos appears more as a “He” whereas when viewed and studied from the Hindu perspective, the Light of the Logos appears more as a “She.” At the end of the day, it ultimately does not really matter whether one prefers to think of and refer to this great divine Light and Energy as a masculine Fohat or a feminine Daiviprakriti, provided that one understands clearly and correctly the concept or truth that lies behind the words and names.

“The Secret Doctrine” by H. P. Blavatsky, is the largest and most esoterically detailed book in the Theosophical literature. First published in 1888, it is still in demand today. It has two volumes: “Cosmogenesis” (dealing with the origins, birth, and evolution, of the Universe, the cosmos, and our planet) and “Anthropogenesis” (dealing with the origins, birth, and evolution, of humanity on our Earth).

“Fohat, in his capacity of DIVINE LOVE (Eros), the electric Power of affinity and sympathy, is shown allegorically as trying to bring the pure Spirit, the Ray inseparable from the ONE absolute, into union with the Soul, the two constituting in Man the MONAD, and in Nature the first link between the ever unconditioned and the manifested,” says “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 119. In general (there may be exceptions), one can rephrase such statements, if one wishes, by replacing “Fohat” with “Daiviprakriti” and “his” with “her,” as Bhavani Shankar has done at certain points in “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita.”

“. . . Kwan-Shi-Yin and Kwan-Yin are the two aspects (male and female) of the same principle in Kosmos, Nature and Man, of divine wisdom and intelligence. They are the “Christos-Sophia” of the mystic Gnostics – the Logos and its Sakti.” (Vol. 1, p. 473)

“. . . goats are sacrificed to this day to Durga Kali, who is only the black side of Lakshmi (Venus), [who is] the white side of Sakti . . .” (Vol. 2, p. 579)

Earlier we saw that HPB’s “Theosophical Glossary” entry for “Tantra” referred to Durga or Kali as “the special energy connected with sexual rites and magical powers.” Durga and Kali are not exact synonyms in Hinduism but are considered to be two very closely related aspects of Shakti. But for the majority of Hindus, neither Durga nor Kali are viewed as something evil or dark or sinister. Instead, Durga is considered to represent the fearless “warrior” aspect of the Shakti, which overcomes dark, evil, impure, and unspiritual influences and forces, both within oneself and within the world. Kali is considered to be the personification or embodiment of the full wrath and fury of Durga.

But whilst the way they are typically depicted in religious artwork and iconography may lead some Westerners to look upon them with horror and automatically assume that Durga and Kali symbolise something sinister, malevolent, and harmful, that would – for the most part – be a prejudiced and very uninformed stance to adopt. Her fury or wrath is not considered by her devotees to be directed at either themselves or humanity in general and nor do they live in fear of her or view her as an evil force that has to be placated; just the opposite, in fact. And if this be doubted, we can point to the fact that Adi Shankaracharya himself venerated Durga and Kali and established temple shrines to them – Durga especially – at some of the mathams (monastery complexes) which he founded. These are still in existence today.

But we said “for the most part” as it is indeed a fact that Durga and especially Kali are the forms of Shakti most worshipped and venerated in the worst and most horrific and vile forms of Hindu tantra. No doubt there are degraded astral entities who involve themselves with this and who feed psychically on the energies involved with the dark practices and sacrifices (animal and occasionally even human) connected with it. Many of the tantrikas involved with this view Kali and/or Durga as being herself the supreme Shakti. For Shankaracharya, Durga–Kali was merely an aspect, a facet, of the Universal Shakti-Energy and in itself not something inherently evil or bad or harmful. He also attempted to reform some of the degraded versions of Durga and Kali veneration in some parts of India.

There is a misconception among some non-Hindus that the Kali Yuga (the Iron Age or Age of Darkness in which we are presently living) derives its name from the Goddess Kali but that is not the case. The Kali of Kali Yuga is said, in Hinduism, to be a demon called Kali, who is considered totally unrelated to the Goddess Kali. The demon Kali’s name means “confusion, suffering,” while the Goddess Kali’s name is the female form of Kala, the Sanskrit name for “time.”

And if some from Vaishnava (Vishnu-devoted) backgrounds or inclinations may say, “But see, the dark tantric practices are always connected with either Shiva or Shiva’s shaktis,” we would have to remind them of what HPB repeatedly brings to light about the particular Vaishnava sect known as the Vallabhacharyas, who she calls “a licentious phallic-worshipping community, whose main branch is at Bombay. The object of the worship is the infant Krishna. The Anglo-Indian Government was compelled several times to interfere in order to put a stop to its rites and vile practices, and its governing Maharajah, a kind of High Priest, was more than once imprisoned, and very justly so. It is one of the blackest spots of India.” (Glossary at the end of “The Key to Theosophy” p. 368-369)

So it is best not to bring sectarianism into such discussions but focus on principles instead. As it is, neither Durga nor Kali are featured in Shankaracharya’s devotions to, and descriptions of, Lalita or Lalita Tripura Sundari, also known as Rajarajeshwari, who we showed earlier is – as per T. Subba Row and Bhavani Shankar – exactly the same as Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos.

This “Theosophical Glossary” entry from HPB sheds some valuable light, which may also explain Shankaracharya’s approach to Durga and Kali:

Umâ-Kanyâ (Sk.). Lit., “Virginof Light”; a title ill-befitting its possessor, as it was that of Durgâ Kâli, the goddess or female aspect of Siva. [Note: The main and most popular female aspect of Shiva is actually Parvati, who is always described as the personification of all things good, pure, and light.] Human flesh was offered to her every autumn; and, as Durgâ, she was the patroness of the once murderous Thugs of India, and the special goddess of Tântrika sorcery. But in days of old it was not as it is now. The earliest mention of the title “Umâ-Kanyâ” is found in the Kena-Upanishad; in it the now blood-thirsty Kâlî, was a benevolent goddess, a being of light and goodness, who brings about reconciliation between Brahmâ and the gods. She is Saraswati and she is Vâch. In esoteric symbology, Kâlî is the dual type of the dual soul –the divine and the human, the light and the dark soul of man.” (p. 352)

Sri . . . she is Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, and she is “the bride of Siva” (Gauri) and she is Saraswati . . . the wife of Brahmā, because the three gods and goddesses [i.e. Brahmā, Vishnu, Shiva, and Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati – to give just three of their many names] are one, under three aspects. . . . in the words of Parasara [i.e. considered in Hinduism to be the father of the great Sage Vyasa]: “Hari (or Iswara, “the Lord”) is all that is called male in the Universe; Lakshmi is all that is termed female. There is nothing else than they.”” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 76)

HPB’s quote from Parasara mirrors perfectly the passage we quoted earlier from Jnaneshwar’s Amrutanubhava.

10. DAIVIPRAKRITI IN “THE SECRET DOCTRINE”

Daiviprakriti . . . It is the light of the LOGOS, the direct reflection of the ever Unknowable on the plane of Universal manifestation.” (Vol. 2, p. 38)

“In its Unity, primordial light is the seventh, or highest, principle, Daivi-prakriti, the light of the unmanifested Logos. But in its differentiation it becomes Fohat, or the “Seven Sons.”” (Vol. 1, p. 216)

In “Transactions of The Blavatsky Lodge” p. 38, Daiviprakriti is said to be the light “of all the three logoi,” i.e. of the First or Unmanifested Logos, the Second or Semi-Manifested Logos, and the Third or Manifested Logos . . . all of which are in reality just the three successive stages of differentiation of what HPB also simply calls “The One Logos.” Once we understand what the Light of the Logos is, it stands to reason that Daiviprakriti would accompany Ishwara from beginning to end. We have discussed Fohat, as a Tibetan and masculinised synonym for the Sanskrit and feminine Daiviprakriti, in the previous section.

“. . . “the highest trinity that we are capable of understanding,” which is Mulaprakriti (the veil), the Logos, and the conscious energy “of the latter,” or its power and light [“Called, in the Bhagavat-Gita, Daiviprakriti.”]; or – “matter, force and the Ego, or the one root of self, of which every other kind of self is but a manifestation or a reflection.” . . . It is through this light that everything is created. This ROOT of mental SELF is also the root of physical Self, for this light is the permutation, in our manifested world, of Mulaprakriti, called Aditi in the Vedas. In its third aspect it becomes Vâch, the daughter and the mother of the Logos, . . . In the Rig Veda, Vâch is “mystic speech,” by whom Occult Knowledge and Wisdom are communicated to man, and thus Vâch is said to have “entered the Rishis.” (Vol. 1, p. 429-430)

Regarding Vach, literally “Speech,” “Voice,” or “Word,” the Rig Veda says: “There are four definite levels or degrees of Vach; the uninitiated person perceives only one of these levels; the other three are carefully concealed as secret and known only to the wise.” (Rig Veda 1.164.45) They are known as Para Vach, Pashyanti Vach, Madhyama Vach, and Vaikhari Vach. Pashyanti Vach is said by T. Subba Row to be the Logos, while Madhyama Vach is Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos, and Vaikhari Vach means both the manifested Universe and human vocal speech. Para Vach, or Supreme Vach, Subba Row associates with Parabrahm, the Absolute, but Raghavan Iyer’s explanation that Para Vach represents Mulaprakriti appears more likely from the Theosophical perspective.

11. DIVINE GRACE & ITS RELATION TO SHAKTI (DAIVIPRAKRITI)

In an earlier part of this article, we saw Bhavani Shankar offering this description of something that occurs at the second initiation: “When fully expanded, it [i.e. the Sahasrara Chakra or Crown Chakra] becomes the glorious seat of the Devi (Daivi-prakriti), and sitting on this flower the great Goddess pours out the waters of life and grace for the gratification and regeneration of the human soul.” (“The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” p. 18)

Later, with regard to the fourth initiation which, in the Cis-Himalayan esoteric system or true esoteric Hindu system, makes the disciple a full Adept, he says, “once he has attained to the Light of Ishwara, the Life above individuality, he can cross the neutral barrier, for, now he hears the Song of Life and wakes up through the Grace of Bhagavan on the other side of the Cosmos, a regenerated man, a Jivanmukta.” (p. 33)

As we observed earlier, it appears that She, Daiviprakriti, the Devi, is directly connected with grace and is indeed the dispenser of it.

But what exactly are we to understand by this “divine grace”? As Theosophists, we can be readily excused for assuming that the very notion of grace is untheosophical and superstitious, for is it not usually taken to mean an unmerited, undeserved act of mercy or favour bestowed upon someone by a personal and anthropomorphic God? Theosophy makes clear that everything proceeds according to the Law of Karma (self-created destiny through cause and effect, action and reaction, etc.) and that there is no anthropomorphic God, nor anthropomorphic (human-like) Goddess. In Buddhism, the concept of grace is almost entirely non-existent but in Hinduism it is very prevalent and features even in Adi Shankaracharya’s writings and among the various types of Advaitis or non-dualists in general.

Bhavani Shankar mentions it further: “By self-surrender and renunciation, aided by supreme devotion, the aspirant gets illumination with the help of the Guru and the compassion of Bhagavan, and reaches the goal. In the case of Arjuna, however, Bhagavan was the Guru as well as the Lord. But remember that both are necessary, viz., the Prasad [i.e. grace] of the Guru and Divine Grace, and the one cannot be secured without the other. For, says Yoga Vasishtha: “So long as the compassion of Parameshwara (the great Lord) is not secured by complete devotion, one does not get the real Guru and the true Shastra (Teaching).”” (p. 94)

H. P. Blavatsky rarely ever mentions the term or the concept of grace but when she does it confirms our earlier conclusions:

“. . . in the Kabala . . . Hokhmah and Binah, and his, or rather their Shekinah or synthesizing spirit (grace) . . . Shekinah is no more than Sakti . . .” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 618)

So the Shakti – which we have seen many times now is a synonym for Daiviprakriti, the Devi or Goddess, the Divine Mother, the very Light and Life and Energy and Power of the Logos – is confirmed by HPB to be closely and directly associated with divine grace. Unfortunately for us, she does not elaborate any further on this.

In Vol. 2 of “The Secret Doctrine” she shows on p. 498 says that there is such a thing as “the divine grace” but that it has been materialised or degraded “by means of ritual and ceremonies, or the exoteric worship.” But what exactly this grace is or how it works is not disclosed.

T. Subba Row has briefly mentioned grace, in saying that the influence of the Logos “may be conceived as invisible spiritual grace that descends from heaven, and it is showered down upon humanity, as it were, whenever any great Mahatma unites his soul with the Logos.” (“Notes on The Bhagavad Gita” p. 67)

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks of grace numerous times, usually using the Sanskrit word “prasad.” “Kripa” and “anugraha” are the two other main Sanskrit terms for grace.

“The Lord of all beings dwelleth in the heart . . . Seek refuge in Him alone with thy whole being, O son of Bharata. By His grace thou shalt obtain supreme peace, the eternal abode.” (Ch. 18, v. 61-62)

“Performing all actions always by taking refuge in Me, by My grace (prasada) he attains the eternal indestructible state.” (Ch. 18, v. 56)

“With consciousness fixed in Me, thou shalt overcome all obstacles by My grace.” (Ch. 18, v. 58)

“By My grace to thee, O Arjuna, this transcendent form has been displayed by My divine power . . .” (Ch. 11, v. 47)

In the eleventh chapter, Arjuna says: “Therefore, bowing down and bending low, O God, I seek Thy grace (prasada), O Blessed Lord.” (v. 44)

And at the end of the last chapter of the Gita, Arjuna says: “Destroyed is my delusion, and through Thy grace, O Achyuta, my memory is restored. I stand firm, with doubts gone.” (Ch. 18, v. 73)

Even those who speak frequently of this grace acknowledge that they cannot really define or explain it. But perhaps a partial explanation could be that while it’s true that in the highermost part of our being we are literally one and the same as the Divine Absolute or Brahman/Parabrahman, it is also true that we, as individuals, played no part in causing this Universe – the vast, majestic scene of the evolution of ourselves and every other atom of life – to come into being; we, as individuals, did not produce the Logos, nor the Light of the Logos; we, as individuals, did not set in motion the grand cosmic cycles (although we do influence their effects upon us, through our Karma); we, as individuals, did not arrange life so that, very fortunately for us, within every human being is a soul, a spiritual entity, linked with the one Spirit or Self . . . the list could go on almost endlessly and is still no doubt only a very limited expression of what is meant by “divine grace” but it brings to our attention and focus the fact that although the cultivation of spiritual self-reliance is indeed inculcated very strongly in Theosophy, as in Buddhism, it would be misguided to imagine that this means that on the level of either our personal or individual self we are entirely “self-sufficient” and “can do it all alone.” We are not and although spiritual self-reliance is necessary, we perhaps have to take care that we do not mistake for it a type of pseudo-spiritual egotism which feels and thinks “I am Brahman, therefore I can do everything; I need no help, aid, or support from anyone or anything else; I can reach the goal of enlightenment entirely of my own accord.” Were it not for the Logos and the Light of the Logos sustaining and energising this whole Universe, we could do nothing.

Sri Aurobindo’s colleague Mirra Alfassa, who he considered his equal in all things, and who was known as “The Mother,” said: “In the whole manifestation there is an infinite Grace constantly at work to bring the world out of the misery, the obscurity and the stupidity in which it lies. From all time this Grace has been at work, unremitting in its effort, and how many thousands of years were necessary for this world to awaken to the need for something greater, more true, more beautiful. Everyone can gauge, from the resistance he meets in his own being, the tremendous resistance which the world opposes to the work of the Grace.”

As to how Grace relates to Karma, we are unable to answer that. Theosophy does not say. In Aurobindo’s view, “There are these three powers: (1) the Cosmic Law, of Karma or what else; (2) the Divine Compassion acting on as many as it can reach through the nets of the Law and giving them their chance; and (3) the Divine Grace which acts more incalculably but also more irresistibly than the others.”

At another time he wrote: “Each mind can have its own way of approaching the supreme Truth and there is an entrance for each as well as a thousand ways for the journey to it. It is not necessary to believe in the Grace or to recognise a Godhead different from one’s highest Self – there are ways of Yoga that do not accept these things. . . . There is no reason therefore why X’s realisation of his being should not come in its own way by growth from within, not by the Divine Grace if his mind objects to that description, but let us say by the spontaneous movement of the Self within him. For, as to this “Grace,” we describe it in that way because we feel in the infinite Spirit or Self of existence a Presence or a Being, a Consciousness that determines – that is what we speak of as the Divine, – not a separate Person, but the one Being of whom our individual self is a portion or a vessel. But it is not necessary for everybody to regard it in that way. Supposing it is the impersonal Self of all only, yet the Upanishad says of the Self and its realisation, “This understanding is not to be gained by reasoning nor by tapasya nor by much learning, but whom this Self chooses, to him it reveals its own body.” Well, that is the same thing as what we call the Divine Grace, – it is an action from above or from within independent of mental causes which decides its own movement. We can call it the Divine Grace; we can call it the Self within choosing its own hour and way to manifest to the mental instrument on the surface; we can call it the flowering of the inner being or inner nature into self-realisation and self-knowledge. As something in us approaches it or as it presents itself to us, so the mind sees it. But in reality, it is the same thing and the same process of the being in Nature.”

But he clarified:

“Without the Grace of the Divine nothing can be done, but for the full Grace to manifest the sadhak [i.e. the sadhaka, the practitioner of internal Yoga, one who does sadhana] must make himself ready. If everything depends on the Divine intervention, then man is only a puppet and there is no use of sadhana, and there are no conditions, no law of things – therefore no universe, but only the Divine rolling things about at his pleasure. No doubt in the last resort all can be said to be the Divine cosmic working, but it is through persons, through forces that it works – under the conditions of Nature. Special intervention there can be and is, but all cannot be special intervention.”

“There are three main possibilities for the sadhak [Note: see above definition] – (1) To wait on the Grace and rely on the Divine. (2) To do everything himself like the full Adwaitin and the Buddhist. (3) To take the middle path, go forward by aspiration and rejection etc. helped by the Force.” [Note: We have not given the source attributions for these particular Aurobindo quotes as they are published in so many different places that we would not know which one to give.]

It would seem from what Bhavani Shankar says in his book that what is described above as #3 by Aurobindo best matches the best approach in the spiritual and esoteric life. One could argue that what is being described here as “divine grace” is really just a fancy way of describing how Karmic Law sometimes works. But if that is so, why would HPB not mention Karma at all when briefly referring to divine grace? Ultimately, it must remain a mystery and no-one is in a position to dogmatise about it.

That idea found at times in the Upanishads and mentioned above by Aurobindo, i.e. that the Self or Atman somehow reveals Itself to whom It chooses, is also found in the Devisuktam or Devisukta of the Rig Veda. This hymn is presented as the Shakti or Divine Mother (our Daiviprakriti) speaking and it says in part, from P. Venkata Rao’s translation of the Rig Veda:

v. 3. “I am the sovereign queen (of all Existence), the collectress of treasures, cognizant of (the Supreme Being), the chief object of worship; as such, the gods have put me in many places, abiding in manifold conditions, entering into numerous (forms).

v. 4. “He who eats food (eats) through me; he who sees, who breathes, who hears what is spoken, does so through me; those who are ignorant of me, perish; hearken who is capable of hearing, I tell you that which is deserving of belief.

v. 5. “I verily myself declare this which is approved of by both gods and men; whomsoever I choose, I render him an exalted one, make him a rishi, make him Brahman or make him highly intelligent.

v. 6. . . . “I have pervaded the Heaven and earth.

v. 8. “I verily myself breathe forth like the wind, issuing out form to all the created worlds; beyond the heaven, beyond the world (I exist eternally – beyond space and time) – so vast am I in my greatness.”

It seems the real explanation of this will have to remain a mystery for now. Krishna Prem has written, “This is the mystery of what is termed Grace, kripa, something utterly incalculable and unpredictable, the mystic power that flashes from heart to heart, the final indeterminable power of love.” And Sri Anandamayi Ma once answered a question about grace by saying, “Grace is by its very nature beyond cause or reason. . . . The Supreme Father, Mother, and Friend – verily, God is all of these. Consequently, how can there be a cause or reason for His grace? You are His, and in whatever way He may draw you to Him, it is for the sake of revealing Himself to you. The desire to find Him that awakens in man – who has instilled it into you? Who is it that makes you work for its fulfillment?”

It seems that all this has something to do with what HPB speaks of as “the first conscious, all embracing desire for universal good, love, and for all that lives and feels, needs help and kindness, the first feeling of infinite tender compassion and mercy that arose in the consciousness of the creative ONE FORCE, as soon as it came into life and being as a ray from the ABSOLUTE.” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 170-171, Entry for “Kamadeva”) The “creative ONE FORCE [which is] a ray from the ABSOLUTE” can only be referring to the Logos. And, as we know, the Logos only becomes an active force, energy, and power, through the Light of the Logos, the Logos’s Shakti, Daiviprakriti, the Ishwari to the Ishwara. What we have hopefully shown in this article is that it is a big mistake to suppose or imagine that the Logos (and the Light of the Logos) is something passive, neutral, attributeless, zero-like, and absolutely impersonal, like the Absolute from which It radiates. The “static Divine” and the “dynamic Divine” or the “unmanifested Divine” and “manifested Divine” are ultimately and essentially ONE but they are nevertheless not the same. We should take care not to end up anthropomorphising and humanising the Divine but – to our perceptions – most students of the original Theosophical teachings have gone too far the other way and seem to view and speak of the Logos (and the rarely mentioned Daiviprakriti) as something cold, distant, abstract, lifeless, and unfeeling.

12. GRACE, SURRENDER, AND THE END & CONSUMMATION OF ALL: THE GREAT GODDESS

Grace goes hand in hand with the subject and practice of surrender.

Bhavani Shankar speaks of “the final surrender of the devotee’s self to Bhagavan absolutely and unconditionally. Thus is devotion the potent power that leads to and makes possible the utter self-renunciation and self-surrender which are the only means for receiving spiritual illumination.” (“The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita” p. 11)

He repeats this throughout the book, that true spiritual illumination and growth cannot take place if one does not “surrender.” But what exactly is this surrender? It is not surrendering any aspect of oneself to an organisation or a human being. It is not surrendering one’s faculties of freedom of thought or freedom of action, except in the sense that one is voluntarily choosing to give up one’s right to the wrong type of thought, speech, and action. It is a surrendering of egotism to the Logos and the Light of the Logos. That which is repelled by, or recoils from, the very notion of a complete surrender, is simply our egotism which deludes us into thinking we are absolutely self-sufficient or deludes us into thinking we will “lose” something if we surrender all. It is therefore understood by the great Sages that no-one is capable of truly fully surrendering their whole being to the Divine in one go. It must instead be a very gradual and lengthy process, which starts off small and culminates with what Shankar calls “the final surrender.”

This is one of the main themes of Sri Aurobindo’s little book titled “The Mother,” in which he says:

“There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavour, a fixed and unfailing aspiration that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers. . . . There must be a total and sincere surrender; there must be an exclusive self-opening to the divine Power; there must be a constant and integral choice of the Truth that is descending, a constant and integral rejection of the falsehood of the mental, vital and physical Powers and Appearances that still rule the earth-Nature. The surrender must be total and seize all the parts of the being. . . . There must be in no part of the being, even the most external, anything that makes a reserve, anything that hides behind doubts, confusions and subterfuges, anything that revolts or refuses. If part of the being surrenders, but another part reserves itself, follows its own way or makes its own conditions, then each time that that happens, you are yourself pushing the divine Grace away from you. If behind your devotion and surrender you make a cover for your desires, egoistic demands and vital insistences, if you put these things in place of the true aspiration or mix them with it and try to impose them on the Divine Shakti, then it is idle to invoke the divine Grace to transform you. If you open yourself on one side or in one part to the Truth and on another side are constantly opening the gates to hostile forces, it is vain to expect that the divine Grace will abide with you. You must keep the temple clean if you wish to instal there the living Presence. . . . If you call for the Truth and yet something in you chooses what is false, ignorant and undivine or even simply is unwilling to reject it altogether, then always you will be open to attack and the Grace will recede from you. Detect first what is false or obscure in you and persistently reject it, then alone can you rightly call for the divine Power to transform you. . . .To walk through life armoured against all fear, peril and disaster, only two things are needed, two things that go always together – the Grace of the Divine Mother and on your side an inner state made up of faith, sincerity and surrender.”

On p. 22-23 of “The Doctrine of The Bhagavad Gita,” Bhavani Shankar describes the third and penultimate initiation and says of the aspirant:

“. . . all the rich treasure of knowledge and experience gathered by him with pain and patience through innumerable lives, and of which his Karana-sharira [i.e. causal body] was built, is now gladly sacrificed by him to Adhiyajna [i.e. the underlying base of all sacrifice], and thus is increased the fund of cosmic intelligence working for the uplifting of the race. He now sees that the end and consummation of all knowledge, austerities and sacrifices is the Great Goddess, the divine light of Ishwara, at Whose Feet he now offers his individuality purified and ennobled by the virtuous Karma of a series of incarnations.”

~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~