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Rich on Devachan

Jan 21, 1999 04:34 PM
by Daniel H Caldwell


You're material on Devachan is interesting, especially since Jerry S. several
months ago claimed that HPB had "invented" the word.

Daniel wrote:

> In a message dated 1/21/99 4:17:52 PM, Jerry wrote:
> <<>> [Leon] Finding errors that do not refer directly to theosophical ideas
> could
> 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 show
> once more why "errors" in our Theosophical texts are important, revealing, and
> need to be corrected by ourselves, the modern custodians of this wisdom.  And
> 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 two
> 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 as
> 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, and
> 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 and
> 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
> terribly sad.
> 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
> mistakes?
> Rich

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