Errors and their importance
Jan 21, 1999 12:55 PM
by Richard Taylor
In a message dated 1/21/99 4:17:52 PM, Jerry wrote:
<<>> [Leon] Finding errors that do not refer directly to theosophical ideas
also be nit picking. >>
Or it could show that no one, not even HPB, is perfect.>>
Despite Dallas' vow to defend HPB from any and all criticism, I intend to
once more why "errors" in our Theosophical texts are important, revealing, and
need to be corrected by ourselves, the modern custodians of this wisdom.
again, this raises the question of who made these errors, HPB, her Teachers,
or their students?
Example #412 from Rich (seemingly!)
THE THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY, p. 98, entry "Devachan."
The entry reads:
"DEVACHAN (Sk.) The "dwelling of the gods." A state intermediate between
earth-lives, into which the Ego (Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the Trinity made One)
enters, after its separation from Kama Rupa, and the disintegration of the
lower principles on earth."
Now, one reason why scholars, and thus the public, largely scoff at Theosophy
and its teachings, is because we make such ridiculous mistakes, which seem to
indicate we know NOTHING about Asia, and thus, we shouldn't be given a second
thought. The entry above contains very serious errors, which then prompt
learned people to ignore the very valuable teaching.
The errors are these: Devachan is demonstrably a TIBETAN word, a very common
Tibetan word, with no relationship to Sanskrit except that the Tibetans are
translating a totally different word from Sanskrit. Whoever claims that this
word Devachan is Sanskrit, doesn't know a word of Tibetan. (If that's HPB,
then it is clear she didn't know any Tibetan.) Here's some "Proof" for those
who find it hard to trust me.
>From the TIBETAN-ENGLISH DICTIONARY, p. 670, authored by a personal friend and
colleague of HPB in India last century, Sarat Chandra Das. I have only
transliterated the Tibetan and Sanskrit into English letters.
"bDe-wa-chan (Skt: Sukhavati) Dewachan, the paradise of the Northern Buddhists
which is said to be situated in the west and presided over by Buddha
Amitabha.… [the Tibetan Buddhist scripture] BDE-WA-CHAN-gyi-sheng-bkor-pa
(Skt: Sukhavativyuha) [literally] "the plan or design of the Sukhavati" is a
work describing this heaven as being full of teraces, lotos-lakes, and players
of music, together with swans, cuckoos and peacocks. The Tibetan version
given in the Kah-gyur is longer than the Sanskrit text which Cowell, under the
title of "the smaller Sukhavati-vyuha" has translated for Max Muller's SACRED
BOOKS OF THE EAST. The whole work is one of the latest Mahayana productinos,
probably as late as the 5th century A.D. …"
This is about as much PRIMARY evidence as one can get, namely -- an actual
Tibetan Scripture, of enormous importance to Buddhism and used daily by lamas
and laypeople alike, whose Tibetan title is --- "The Description of DEVACHAN."
There is nothing Sanskrit about the word devachan, but it is a Tibetan
translation of the Sanskrit word Sukhavati, which means literally "abode of
the pure." This is primary evidence. Anyone who would like a photocopy of
the actual Tibetan scripture, please email me, and I will copy the first page
of it from the Tibetan Canon (housed in UC Berkeley's library).
Further, our Theosophical Glossary is horrendously incorrect in translating
Devachan as "the dwelling of the gods." First, it mistakes the Sanskrit word
"deva" with the Tibetan word "bDe-wa" (which means "happy"). Then, in further
error, the translator [HPB? WQJ? GRS Mead?] probably mistakes the Tibetan
"-chan" (which means "belongong to, related to, possessed of") with the
Sanskrit "sthan" (meaning "land, place, area"). The mistake may seem minor,
but linguistically it is hideous and totally, totally wrong. It shows a
complete lack of BOTH Tibetan and Sanskrit. And yet the teaching of Devachan
is absolutely central to Theosophical teachings on death and reincarnation, as
well as karmic recompense.
However, it is quite obvious that all this wrangling over linguistics is
necessarily "Eye Doctrine" (don't even bother to point this out, Dallas and
Paul). However, because Theosophists have so messed-up the Eye Doctrine,
then childishly claim all HPB's works are above criticism, we live with this
kind of idiocy for 100 years, and wail how the academics have spurned
Theosophy. It is largely our own fault, for being both so under-educated
so damn stubborn.
However, it is also true that any spiritual reader would ignore the botched
language job, and try to understand the "Heart Doctrine" of reincarnation.
HPB has added something significantly different to the teaching of Devachan
than the Buddhists did -- she did not attribute this state to some kind of
other-world paradise run by the Buddha Amitabha (and HPB has her teachings on
this figure as well). No, rather, HPB states that this Devachan is the future
of all half-way decent folks. Devachan is an occult resting stop between
lives, a place of assimilation, retention of spiritual learning, etc.
Devachan is also the direct result of the "second death" of the astral remains
soon after phyiscal death.
So we have here a central, occult teaching which HPB importantly gives, but
couched in the Glossary, as elsewhere, in horrendous mistakes of language.
And however much I may write about it on this list, the publishers of the
Glossary will refuse to change such "mistakes" (no doubt I've not given enough
"proof") and so we continue to embarrass ourselves to the public, and claim
our teachings are superior to all others. What a laugh, if it weren't so
This is but one example among scores, probably even hundreds, and not just
from the Glossary.
Of course my opinion is clear, or should be: if we want the Heart Doctrine to
be taken seriously, the least we can do is clean up our act with the Eye
Doctrine. Why would anyone who reads Sanskrit or Tibetan give our works
another look, when we are so woefully ignorant and then perpetuate our
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