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Response to Rich

Jan 15, 1999 02:32 AM
by Richard Taylor

In a message dated 1/14/99 9:35:25 PM, you wrote:

<<Probably the single most important teaching in all Buddhism is emptiness,
and this HPB never discusses. .  I will probably get flames for this, but it
is my opinion after years of comparison work, and I would challenge anyone who
disagrees to do more than just vent their spleen and show sources.>>

No flame here, Jerry.  If what you say is true, it would very deeply concern
me, since that teaching is so fundamental to mysticism generally, especially
Buddhism.  But I wonder if HPB does teach this subject, without using the
Sanskrit word "sunyata" or "emptiness/voidness."  There are places in the SD
(Dallas will surely jump in here, and Paul probably as well) that HPB mentions
Space as the highest abstract representation of reality.  Her "homogeneous
element" may also be a parallel to Buddhist emptiness, though granted in a
more positive vein than most Buddhists would state it.  Some Tibetans identify
reality as "rigpa," an untranslateable term, I fear, but meaning something
like "ultimate, ordinary nature."  And rigpa is said by Tibetans to have "one
flavor," no matter what way in which one perceives it.  Reminds me of HPB's
"one essence."

There is also a curious Meditation Diagram that all serious students of HPB
should have.  (If any list members don't have it, do email me privately your
mailing address, and I'll send off a photocopy.)  This meditation diagram,
something I believe her Inner Group received, has one begin by conceiving
UNITY, "Expansion in space and infinite in time."  This also seems to me the
functional equivalent of Buddhist emptiness, though again more positively
phrased than most Madhyamaka Buddhists (like Tsong Kha Pa) would tolerate.

So there are hints that HPB is teaching emptiness, though not as the Buddhists
would have it.  Again, I think HPB was not *merely* a Buddhist, though all
Theosophists should be aware that HPB was IN FACT a Buddhist, in the
completely literal and symbolic senses.

HPB took Buddhist pansil (preliminary vows) in public in Sri Lanka upon
arrival, 1880 I believe, and she was called by her Master "upasaka," which is
a technical Buddhist term meaning "lay disciple."  The Mahachohan in His
letter states that Buddhism is the religion nearest the esoteric teaching, and
HPB, herself, calls her inner students "Lanoos" in the beginning of the Voice.
(Lanoo is the Tibetan for chela, "pledged disciple."  It is --solely-- a
Tibetan Buddhist term.)  So those who would distance HPB from Buddhism are
simply, truly, ignorant.

On the other hand, I would not try to entrap HPB in Buddhism.  She states that
the esoteric teachings might be identified by some onlookers with "Yogacharya
[Buddhism]", but in fact they were "not quite" the same.  While I think list
members are quite silly in referring to Vajrayana Buddhism as "exoteric" (as
if HPB's teachings are "esoteric" when they are published in black and white
???), I think it is correct to state that HPB taught more than the Buddhists
do, and she taught it differently.  At present, I think that's all any of us
can say for sure.


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