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Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 03:17:56 -0800 (PST)
Author: Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Emptiness, sunnyata and the Absolute of Blavatsky

Hi all,

We have been discussing (on theos-l) emptiness, the all, space and illusion
in various ways. There has been some discussion on what HPB's thoughts on
this were. I think the following quotes are relevant.

Katinka

-- Secret Doctrine 1, p. 130

... in occult metaphysics there are, properly speaking, two "ones" - the
One on the unreachable plane of Absolute-ness and Infinity, on which no
speculation is possible, and the Second "One" on the plane of Emanations.
The former can neither emanate nor be divided, as it is eternal, absolute,
and immutable. The Second, being, so to speak, the reflection of the first
One (for it is the Logos, or Isvara, in the Universe of Illusion), can do
all this.
--
H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, III, p. 423

The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either subjective or objective
reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha declares that there is
neither Creator nor an ABSOLUTE Being. Buddhist rationalism was ever too
alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute
consciousness, as in the words of Flint - "wherever there is consciousness
there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism." The
ONE LIFE is either "MUKTA" (absolute and unconditioned) and can have no
relation to anything or to any one; or it is "BADDHA" (bound and
conditioned), and then it cannot be called the ABSOLUTE; the limitation,
moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as the first to account
for all the evil in this world. Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on
cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and
uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to translate), of an element (the word being
used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else
in the universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which
ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether
there is a universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of
Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and
this is SPACE, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and
natural Law, the basis (as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which
take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akasa-Prakriti, guided by the
unconscious regular pulsations of Sakti - the breath or power of a
conscious deity, the theists would say - the eternal energy of an eternal,
unconscious Law, say the Buddhists. Space then, or Fan Bar-Nang
(Maha-Sunyata) or, as it is called by Lao-Tze, the "Emptiness" is the
nature of the Buddhist Absolute.
-- The first letter of K.H. to A.O. Hume, p. 32 combined chronology for use
with the Mahatma Letters and The letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett

Cosmic energy is something eternal and incessant, matter is
indestructible, and there stand the scientific facts. Doubt them and you
are an ignoramus; deny them, a dangerous lunatic, a bigot; pretend to
improve upon the theories - an impertinent charlatan. And yet even these
scientific facts never suggested any proof to the world of experimenters,
that nature consciously prefers that matter should be indestructible under
organic rather than inorganic forms; and that she works slowly but
incessantly towards the realisation of this object - the evolution of
conscious life out of inert material. Hence their ignorance about the
scattering and concretion of cosmic energy in its metaphysical aspects;
their division about Darwin's theories; their uncertainty about the degree
of conscious life in separate elements; and, as a necessity, the scornful
rejection of every phenomenon outside their own stated conditions and the
very idea of worlds of semi-intelligent if not intellectual forces at work
in hidden corners of nature.
--
Coll. Wr. Vol. III, p.63

True pantheists do not say that everything is God -"... "but that God is
in everything and the whole in God.
--
Secret Doctrine 1, pp 277,78 from 'Two books of the stanza's of Dzyan'

what is called "unconscious nature" is in reality an aggregate of forces
manipulated by semi-intelligent beings (elementals) guided by High
Planetary Spirits (Dhyani Chohans), whose collective aggregate forms the
manifested verbum of the unmanifested Logos, and constitutes at one and
the same time the mind of the Universe and its immutable law.
--
Secret Doctrine 1, pp 15 from 'Two books of the stanza's of Dzyan'

The one reality, the Absolute is the field of absolute consciousness,
i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence,
and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol. But once that we
pass in thought from this (to us) absolute negation, duality supervenes in
contrast of spirit (or consciousness) and matter, subject and object.

... it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as
"I am I", a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the universal
mind at a certain stage of complexity.

... The 'manifested universe', therefore, is pervaded by duality, which is
as it were the very essence of its existence as 'manifestation'. But just
as the opposite poles of subject and object, spirit and matter, are but
aspects of the one unity in which they are synthesised, so, in the
manifested universe, there is 'that' which links spirit to matter, subject
to object.

This something, at present unknown to Western speculation, is called by
the occultists Fohat.
--
Coll. Wr. XI, p. 277-78

God ... Is Nothing , without name and without qualities; it is for this
reason that it is called Ain-Soph, for the word Ain means nothing.

It is not this immutable and absolute Principle, which is only the
potentiality of being, from which the gods, or active principles of the
manifested world, emanate. As the absolute has no relation to the
conditioned and the limited, and could not possibly have any, that from
which the emanations proceed is the "God that speaks" of Basilides, i.e.,
the logos which Philo calls "the second God" and the Creator of forms.
"The second God is the Wisdom of the One God" (Quaestion. et Solut., Book
II, 62). "But this logos, this 'Wisdom' is an emanation nevertheless?"
will be the objection. "And to make anything emanate from Nothing is an
absurdity!" Not at all. First, this "nothing" is so because it is the
absolute, consequently the All. Then this "second God" is no more an
emanation than the shadow our body casts on a white wall is an emanation
of that body. In any case, the God is not the effect of a cause or of a
premeditated act, or a deliberate and conscious will. It is merely the
periodical effect of an immutable and eternal law, beyond time and space,
of which the logos or creative intelligence is the shadow or reflection.
--
Esoteric Writings, T. Subba Row, p. 482, fn.

[We] think of "spirit" as of something formless and entirely beyond the
ken of our sensual perceptions, and, therefore, not to be considered apart
from, or independently of, corporeal existence. Universal Existence and
the One Life, as we call it, conceived of, and apart from any physical
organisation, becomes vital essence, an energy of force; and none of these
we believe can be considered as a distinct entity, a substance, or, as
having a being or even a form separate from matter.
--
Esoteric Writings, T. Subba Row, p. 482, fn.

Every true Advaitin and Eastern Occultist ... would [say] that "matter
alone is a substance, in which thinking, knowing, doubting, and a power of
moving, are inherent, whether as a latent or active potentiality - and
whether that matter is in a differentiated, or an undifferentiated state."

Thus, in our humble opinion, the something, or rather the no-thing, called
Spirit, has by itself, no form or forms in either progressive or
stationary "states of development"
...
Can a void be annihilated? And what is pure, absolute , spirit but the
"void" of the ancient Greek philosophers?
...
In the light we, Occultists, regard matter, we are materialists. But it
does not at all stand to reason that, because of that, we should be, at
the same time, "corporealists," denying in any sense or way the reality of
the so-called spiritual existence, or of any being or beings, living on
another plane of life, in higher and far more perfect worlds than ours,
having their being in states of which no untrained mind can have the
smallest conception.
...
According to the doctrines of the Arhat philosophy there are seven states
of matter, the 7th state being the sum total, the condition or aspect of
Mulaprakriti.
...
Undifferentiated cosmic matter or Mulaprakriti, as it is called in Hindu
books is uncreated and eternal.
...
In every objective phenomenon perceived, either in the present plane of
consciousness or in any other plane requiring the exercise of spiritual
faculties, there is but change of cosmic matter from one form to another.

=====
-Those who observe, learn, a whole life long.
-Wie observeert, leert , een heel leven lang.
=====
my own homepage:
http://www.geocities.com/katinka_hesselink/


Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001
Author: Gerald Schueler
Subject: RE: Emptiness, sunnyata and the Absolute of Blavatsky

<<We have been discussing (on theos-l) emtiness, the all, space and illusion
in various ways. There has been some discussion on what HPB's thoughts on
this were. I think the following quotes are relevant.
Katinka>>

Some are, and I will try to point out some of the illogic she uses.

<<Secret Doctrine 1, p. 130
... in occult metaphysics there are, properly speaking, two "ones" - the One
on the unreachable plane of Absolute-ness and Infinity, on which no
speculation is possible, and the Second "One" on the plane of Emanations.
The former can neither emanate nor be divided, as it is eternal, absolute,
and immutable. The Second, being, so to speak, the reflection of the first
One (for it is the Logos, or Isvara, in the Universe of Illusion), can do
all this.<<

Here her first One is the Divine Monad, and the second One is its
ray. Note that she defines the first One as "can neither emanate"
and then defines the second One as its "reflection" which is
totally illogical and inconsistant. How can there logically
be a reflection of something that cannot reflect? The teaching
of Logos or Isvara as Creator is Hindu, not Buddhist.


<<H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, III, p. 423
The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either subjective or objective
reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha declares that there is
neither Creator nor an ABSOLUTE Being. Buddhist rationalism was ever too
alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness,
as in the words of Flint - "wherever there is consciousness there is
relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism." >>
This is correct.

>>[cont.]The ONE LIFE is either "MUKTA" (absolute and unconditioned) and
can have no relation to anything or to any one; or it is "BADDHA" (bound and
conditioned), and then it cannot be called the ABSOLUTE; >>

No. The Dzogchen view is that both absolute and conditioned have to be
transcended. Tzongkapa also agrees that these two extreme positions need a
middle way approach. In exoteric Buddhism, the
conditioned is samsara and the absolute is nirvana, as two polar
opposites, and it is this that HPB is referring to above.

<<[cont.]the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful
as the first to account for all the evil in this world.<<

A Buddhist would never be reduced to using a deity to account for either
good or evil, which are said to exist only in the minds of human beings.

<<[cont.] Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one
absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to
translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term)
absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; a something ever
present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether
there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a universe or no universe;
existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as
during the periods of Manvantara: and this is SPACE, the field for the
operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as our
correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal
intercorrelations of Akasa-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular
pulsations of Sakti - the breath or power of a conscious deity, the theists
would say - the eternal energy of an eternal,
unconscious Law, say the Buddhists.<<

First of all, the "Arahat" is a title given to a Theravadin, not
to a Mahayanist. Akasa-Prakriti and Sakti are Hindu, as are yugas
and maha-yugas. The idea of One Absolute is an extreme position,
at odds with its opposite - nihilism. Nagarjuna and Tzongkapa
taught that both of these extreme positions (alias existence
and non-existence) are false views.

<< Space then, or Fan Bar-Nang (Maha-Sunyata) or, as it is called by
Lao-Tze, the "Emptiness" is the nature of the Buddhist Absolute.<<

The equation Maha-sunyata=Space is pure Blavatsky. I like the
term maha-sunyata simply because it implies the non-absoluteness
of sunyata, which most folks mistakenly equate with reality.
Tzongkapa would take exception to the term "Buddhist Absolute"
which he taught did not exist. I suppose that Blavatsky here
means Buddhist Absolute as a synonym for nirvana, and I would
agree that nirvana=sunyata in an objective sense (i.e., with
the emptiness of phenomena, but certainly not with the emptiness
of persons).

<<The first letter of K.H. to A.O. Hume, p. 32 combined chronology for use
with the Mahatma Letters and The letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett
Cosmic energy is something eternal and incessant, matter is
indestructible, and there stand the scientific facts.>>

Matter per se is only indestructible insofar as matter = energy.
The notion of indestructible atoms has been overthrown. We
don't even know whether quarks are indestructible, but probably
not. It is very unclear exactly what KH really means here but
if he means matter in the sense of "partless particles" then
he is wrong (as Tzongkapa could have told him).

<< Doubt them and you are an ignoramus; deny them, a dangerous lunatic, a
bigot; pretend to improve upon the theories - an impertinent charlatan. And
yet even these scientific facts never suggested any proof to the world of
experimenters, that nature consciously prefers that matter should be
indestructible under organic rather than inorganic forms;>>

Koot Hoomi's view of science seems to be on a par with his view of
religion, and I agree with both views. I don't know what Koot Hoomi
means in the last line. He seems to be saying that nature
as a karmic creator prefers organic over inorganic, although
he doesn't say why but presumably its because that is the
direction taken by evolution. Early Theosophists talked
a lot about life-atoms, and how they were indestructible
and how they disbanded at death and how our karmic-psycho-
magnetic attractions brought them back to us at birth. I
have a real hard time with this idea, and am skeptical
first because I see no reason for it, and second because
I can't see atoms as being all that indestructible. Hindu
and Buddhist teaching seem to agree that the skandhas
return from life to life, and one of these has to do with
the "elements" and so it could be, but I have to take
such a thing on faith.

<<[cont.] and that she works slowly but incessantly towards the realisation
of this object - the evolution of conscious life out of inert material.>>

Here is given the Theosophical reason for life, and one that
I can't help but find downright illogical and like a burr
sticking into my side I don't like it. The evolution of
life out of inert material is pure maya, a fiction that has
no basis in fact. First of all, lets recall that Blavatsky
tells us that all matter is alive and that there is no
inert unconscious or dead matter.

<<[cont.] Hence their ignorance about the scattering and concretion of
cosmic energy in its metaphysical aspects; their division about Darwin's
theories; their uncertainty about the degree of conscious life in separate
elements; and, as a necessity, the scornful rejection of every phenomenon
outside their own stated conditions and the very idea of worlds of
semi-intelligent if not intellectual forces at work in hidden corners of
nature. >>

Here Koot Hoomi is again lambasting scientists. I tend to agree.
Science still seeks to find consciousness as an effect of
matter, but has not done so, and never will do so.

Jerry S.


Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001
Author: "Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re: RE: Emptiness, sunnyata and the Absolute of Blavatsky

Hi Jerry,
For starters, it seems to me quite funny that we seem to have difficulties
with these quotes at quite different points. But that is an aside.

> From: Gerald Schueler >
> ----------------
<<Secret Doctrine 1, p. 130
... in occult metaphysics there are, properly speaking, two "ones" - the
One on the unreachable plane of Absolute-ness and Infinity, on which no
speculation is possible, and the Second "One" on the plane of
Emanations. The former can neither emanate nor be divided, as it is
eternal, absolute, and immutable. The Second, being, so to speak, the
reflection of the first One (for it is the Logos, or Isvara, in the
Universe of Illusion), can do all this.<<

Jerry:
> Here her first One is the Divine Monad, and the second One is its ray.
How come you make the first One the Divine Monad? It seems to me that she
means SPACE, or the nothingness which is, even when/where there is no
something - like matter, or thought or whatever. Using the term
nothingness also because it refers to emptiness. I am still unclear on
whether the two can be equated.
Jerry:
> Note that she defines the first One as "can neither emanate"
> and then defines the second One as its "reflection" which is
> totally illogical and inconsistant. How can there logically
> be a reflection of something that cannot reflect? The teaching
> of Logos or Isvara as Creator is Hindu, not Buddhist.
I tend to think she uses the term reflection with want of a better term.
Anyhow - it is pretty obvious that in SPACE there has been emerging
something. Call this a reflection or an emanation or whatever, but it did
emerge. Isn't that simply what she means?

<<H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, III, p. 423
The Buddhists, on the other hand, deny either subjective or objective
reality even to that one Self-Existence. Buddha declares that there is
neither Creator nor an ABSOLUTE Being. Buddhist rationalism was ever too
alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute
consciousness, as in the words of Flint - "wherever there is consciousness
there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism." >>

Jerry:
> This is correct.
> >>[cont.]The ONE LIFE is either "MUKTA" (absolute and unconditioned)
and can have no relation to anything or to any one; or it is "BADDHA"
(bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called the ABSOLUTE; >>

Jerry:
>>No. The Dzogchen view is that both absolute and conditioned have to be
transcended. Tzongkapa also agrees that these two extreme positions need
a middle way approach. In exoteric Buddhism, the conditioned is samsara
and the absolute is nirvana, as two polar opposites, and it is this that
HPB is referring to above.>>

It seems to me that you are interpreting all this on a more personal level
- instead of a cosmic level. I don't mind, but it does make for a
difficult conversation, because my intuitions function more easily
cosmically than personally. I mean: I cannot talk about nirvana, because I
have not experienced (or even intuited) it. But I'll try.
It seems to me that HPB is talking about that something that is beyond
whatever is created, which is eternal, but also without attributes and
therefore could be called emptiness. In fact, it seems to me that the
seeming difference of opinion between Tsong Kapa and HPB is that HPB calls
emptiness absolute. But when you look at what she means by the term
absolute, it falls back on emptiness.

> <<[cont.]the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as
> powerful as the first to account for all the evil in this world.<<

Jerry:
> A Buddhist would never be reduced to using a deity to account for either
> good or evil, which are said to exist only in the minds of human beings.

Seems to me that HPB isn't either. She is just showing where the logic of
a creator is going.

<<[cont.] Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of
one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so
to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better
term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; a
something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and
will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a universe
or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during
the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this is SPACE, the
field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis
(as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal
intercorrelations of Akasa-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular
pulsations of Sakti - the breath or power of a conscious deity, the
theists would say - the eternal energy of an eternal, unconscious Law, say
the Buddhists.<<

Jerry:
> First of all, the "Arahat" is a title given to a Theravadin, not
> to a Mahayanist. Akasa-Prakriti and Sakti are Hindu, as are yugas
> and maha-yugas.

Well, but whatever terminology she uses - there have to be yugas and
maha-yugas, haven't there? I mean, you do agree with the cyclic view of
things?

Jerry:
> The idea of One Absolute is an extreme position,
> at odds with its opposite - nihilism. Nagarjuna and Tzongkapa
> taught that both of these extreme positions (alias existence
> and non-existence) are false views.

HPB:
<< Space then, or Fan Bar-Nang (Maha-Sunyata) or, as it is called by
Lao-Tze, the "Emptiness" is the nature of the Buddhist Absolute.<<

Jerry:
>> The equation Maha-sunyata = Space is pure Blavatsky. I like the
term maha-sunyata simply because it implies the non-absoluteness
of sunyata, which most folks mistakenly equate with reality.
Tzongkapa would take exception to the term "Buddhist Absolute"
which he taught did not exist. I suppose that Blavatsky here
means Buddhist Absolute as a synonym for nirvana, and I would
agree that nirvana = sunyata in an objective sense (i.e., with
the emptiness of phenomena, but certainly not with the emptiness
of persons).>>

I would say she means what she says: that emptiness is the only absolute
that the Buddhists would recognise. And well, it seems to me that it
perhaps depends on what you mean by absolute. Since emptiness is something
that is always there, in that sense it can be called absolute, can't it?
In fact it seems to me (but I don't know if I've grasped/intuited etc. the
term emptiness yet) that all the things that keep being said about
emptiness make it a sort of absolute.

<<The first letter of K.H. to A.O. Hume, p. 32 combined chronology for
use with the Mahatma Letters and The letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P.
Sinnett Cosmic energy is something eternal and incessant, matter is
indestructible, and there stand the scientific facts.>>

Jerry:
> Matter per se is only indestructible insofar as matter = energy.
> The notion of indestructible atoms has been overthrown. We
> don't even know whether quarks are indestructible, but probably
> not. It is very unclear exactly what KH really means here but
> if he means matter in the sense of "partless particles" then
> he is wrong (as Tzongkapa could have told him).

agreed.

Koot Hoomi:
<< Doubt them and you are an ignoramus; deny them, a dangerous lunatic,
a bigot; pretend to improve upon the theories - an impertinent charlatan.
And yet even these scientific facts never suggested any proof to the world
of experimenters, that nature consciously prefers that matter should be
indestructible under organic rather than inorganic forms;>>

Jerry:
>> KH's view of science seems to be on a par with his view of religion,
and I agree with both views. I don't know what KH means in the last line.
He seems to be saying that nature as a karmic creator prefers organic over
inorganic, although he doesn't say why but pressumably its because that is
the direction taken by evolution. Early Theosophists talked a lot about
life-atoms, and how they were indestructible and how they disbanded at
death and how our karmic-psycho-magnetic attractions brought them back to
us at birth. I have a real hard time with this idea, and am sceptical
first because I see no reason for it, and second because I can't see atoms
as being all that indestructible. Hindu and Buddhist teaching seem to
agree that the skandhas return from life to life, and one of these has to
do with the "elements" and so it could be, but I have to take such a thing
on faith.>>

This is precisely the way I understand that ES-teaching. Of skandhas
returning from life to life. Also, atoms are not all that indestructible,
I agree, but well, that does not mean that they cannot (or do not) last a
long time. This teaching seems to agree with my intuitions quite nicely.

<<[cont.] and that she works slowly but incessantly towards the
realization of this object - the evolution of conscious life out of inert
material.>>

Jerry:
> Here is given the Theosophical reason for life, and one that
> I can't help but find downright illogical and like a burr
> sticking into my side I don't like it. The evolution of
> life out of inert material is pure maya, a fiction that has
> no basis in fact.

Of course it is maya. Everything is maya. Doesn't mean that within maya
there is not a direction towards more consciousness. Though I have to
agree that my mind has trouble seeing how that works in the long run.
Seems to me that at some point a return to less consciousness is
inevitable. In view of the cycles, also (whether called maha-yuga or yuga
or whatever).

Jerry:
> First of all, lets recall that Blavatsky tells us that all matter is
alive and that there is no inert unconscious or dead matter. >

agreed, but well, there are clearly degrees of consciousness. Seems to me
that the idea here is that consciousness develops itself towards more
consciousness, through matter.

Like this discussion, by the way - has me meditating very empty space,
which gives quite a feeling of freedom.

Katinka Hesselink


Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001
Author: "Gerald Schueler"
Subject: RE: RE: Emptiness, sunnyata and the Absolute of Blavatsky

>>How come you make the first One the Divine Monad? It seems to me that she
means SPACE, or the nothingness which is, even when/where there is no
something - like matter, or thought or whatever. Using the term nothingness
also because it refers to emptiness. I am still unclear on whether the two
can be equated.<<

What exactly is "the nothingness which is?" There is no such
thing. There is neither an absolute nor a nothingness. Why?
Because these are both extreme views, and the truth lies in
between them (actually, it transcends them both). What the
heck is SPACE???? Does capitalization make it different
from normal space? If so, in what way. And space-time only
exists within our 7-plane solar system. The One has to
be outside this solar system and thus beyond space and time.
Many, if not most, early translators translated sunyata as
nothingness (Guenther comes to mind). This is wrong. The
new translation used by just about everyone is emptiness
and emptiness=nothingness does NOT hold because
nothingness is simply the opposite extreme view of
absolute. The opposite of emptiness/sunyata is svabhava
or "swabhavat" "the cosmic reservoir of Being" according
to de Purucker. Purucker also says "The northern Buddhists
call Swabhavat by a more mystical term, Adi-Buddhi -
"Primeval Buddhi." Actually, I have never seen Buddhists
use the term buddhi for anything, but the idea taught
by Purucker is that svabhava is a great and wonderful
"world-substance or stuff." Tibtetans would shake their
head in wonder over such a view - they consider svabhava
to be equivalent to Mara, the cause of ignorance and
this whole samsara business. In short, and this goes
along with Tzongkapa, emptiness is the lack of inherent
existence, not nothingness, which is simply a false view.
Today science tells us that there is no such thing as
empty space, and matter per se is just a form of energy,
and matter and space come into existence together, and
space is filled with virtual particles, and so on...

<<I tend to think she uses the term reflection with want of a better term.
Anyhow - it is pretty obvious that in SPACE there has been emerging
something. Call this a reflection or an emanation or whatever, but it did
emerge. Isn't that simply what she means?<<

The whole business of reflection and emerging and emanation
and so on are all human mental rational attempts to explain
how the One becomes the Many. They are all models that we
use to try to understand a phenomenon that is beyond our
understanding.

--

<<It seems to me that you are interpreting all this on a more personal
level - instead of a cosmic level. I don't mind, but it does make for a
difficult conversation, because my intuitions function more easily
cosmically than personally. <<

If so, then maybe you are not viewing yourself properly. Try to
see the First One as being yourself. In point of fact, to say
that the First One is our monad versus the First One is some
kind of cosmic something (and where is "cosmos" without space
and time???) is quibbling over words. Personal and cosmic
have no meaning outside our solar system of space-time. I
think one of the real problems with Theosophists is that
when they think of "outside the solar system" they use
"inside the solar system" terminolgy, which really doesn't
apply, and this reduces the "outside the solar system"
to something equivalent to "insided the solar system" which
it is not.

>>I mean: I cannot talk about nirvana, because I have not experienced (or
even intuited) it. But I'll try. It seems to me that HPB is talking about
that something that is beyond whatever is created, which is eternal, but
also without attributes and therefore could be called emptiness. In fact, it seems to me that the seeming difference of opinion between Tsong Kapa and HPB is that HPB calls
emptiness absolute. But when you look at what she means by the term
absolute, it falls back on emptiness.<<

Tzongkap warns us NOT to call emptiness an absolute. This warning
comes directly down from Nagajuna who gave it first. And the
warning is very very applicable to Theosophists, who are taking
things like Self and Ego and atma-buddhi as being real. The
Tibetan teaching is that everything in our 7-plane solar system
(i.e., samsara and nirvana, and the three realms of desire,
form and formless) is empty of inherent existence. Theosophists
all tend to see samsara (the lower 4 planes) as lacking
inherent existence, but give inherent existence to the upper
three planes of atma. This is a wrong view.

<<Seems to me that HPB isn't either. She is just showing where the logic of a creator is going. <<

I agree, but I am not sure that many Theosophists would agree
with us.

<<Well, but whatever terminology she uses - there have to be yugas and
maha-yugas, haven't there? I mean, you do agree with the cyclic view of
things? >>

Agreed, yes. I just think that the Hindu view, which most
Theosophists have adopted, is terribly detailed to the
point of being silly. It is a mental-logical attempt to
explain how cyclic existence procedes, but it is a lot
like calculating how many angels can fit onto the head of
a pin - the end result is likely flawed and really doesnt
help us in our daily lives very much.

<<I would say she means what she says: that emptiness is the only absolute
that the Buddhists would recognise. <<

Buddhists do NOT recognize emptiness as an absolute. They
taught that even emptiness is empty (this was from Chandrakirti,
a spiritual son of Nagajuna).

<<And well, it seems to me that it perhaps depends on what you mean by absolute. >>

Abolute is a dualistic term, and only has meaning when compared to relative.

<<Since emptiness is something that is always there, in that sense it can be called absolute, can't it?>>

In the exact same sense we can say that samsara and human
existence is absolute because it is always there. I think that
the teaching of the reincarnating ego, that it exists
through many lifetimes, gives people the false wiew that it
is absolute or eternal. I like Tzongkapa's definition that
anything absolute cannot change over time. Anything
absolute has an independent existence. Anything whose
existence depends on something else, is relative and is
called a dependent-arising. If our Reincarnating Ego
grows or matures because of "learning" via lifetimes of
expression on Earth, then it cannot be absolute. Same
with the monad.


<<In fact it seems to me (but I don't know if I've grasped/intuited etc. the
term emptiness yet) that all the things that keep being said about emptiness
make it a sort of absolute. >>

Exactly, it is sort of an absolute. If we think that
emptiness=absolute, then emptiness must be transcended.
The whole reason for Eastern writers tacking on a "para"
such as para-nirvana is to indicate that these things
are not so absolute as we like to think, and that we
can, and should, go beyond them.

--

<<This is precisely the way I understand that ES-teaching. Of skandhas
returning from life to life. Also, atoms are not all that indestructible, I
agree, but well, that does not mean that they cannot (or do not) last a long
time. This teaching seems to agree with my intuitions quite nicely.>>

Anything that changes over time is NOT eternal, and time itself
is pretty relative. The Ego seems eternal to the ego, but is
very temporary compared to the Monad, and so on.

<<Of course it is maya. Everything is maya. Doesn't mean that within maya
there is not a direction towards more consciousness. Though I have to agree
that my mind has trouble seeing how that works in the long run. Seems to me
that at some point a return to less consciousness is inevitable. In view of
the cycles, also (whether called maha-yuga or yuga or whatever). <<

Exactly. Linear progression gets us into insurmountable
logic problems. At some point we simply have to return to
unconsciousness and start all over again. This makes it
a circle, albeit one that contains spirals but a circle
nonetheless.

Jerry Schueler


Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001
Author: Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re: RE: RE: Emptiness, sunnyata and the Absolute of Blavatsky

Hi Jerry,

Well, you have me confused. But lets see if we can still get somewhere. I
tend to think we agree on more than it seems.

> From: "Gerald Schueler"
> >>How come you make the first One the Divine Monad? It seems to me that she
> means SPACE, or the nothingness which is, even when/where there is no
> something - like matter, or thought or whatever. Using the term nothingness
> also because it refers to emptiness. I am still unclear on whether the
> two can be equated.<<

> What exactly is "the nothingness which is?" There is no such
> thing. There is neither an absolute nor a nothingness. Why?
> Because these are both extreme views, and the truth lies in
> between them (actually, it transcends them both). What the
> heck is SPACE???? Does capitalization make it different
> from normal space? If so, in what way. And space-time only
> exists within our 7-plane solar system. The One has to
> be outside this solar system and thus beyond space and time.
> Many, if not most, early translators translated sunyata as
> nothingness (Guenther comes to mind). This is wrong. The
> new translation used by just about everyone is emptiness
> and emptiness=nothingness does NOT hold because
> nothingness is simply the opposite extreme view of
> absolute.

How can emptiness and nothingness not be the same?
But nothingness is not in my opinion the opposite of the absolute.
But then, I have trouble with the whole term absolute, which is probably
most of your point anyhow.

> In short, and this goes
> along with Tzongkapa, emptiness is the lack of inherent
> existence, not nothingness, which is simply a false view.
> Today science tells us that there is no such thing as
> empty space, and matter per se is just a form of energy,
> and matter and space come into existence together, and
> space is filled with virtual particles, and so on...

No problem with this.

> <<I tend to think she uses the term reflection with want of a better term.
> Anyhow - it is pretty obvious that in SPACE there has been emerging
> something. Call this a reflection or an emanation or whatever, but it did
> emerge. Isn't that simply what she means?<<
> The whole business of reflection and emerging and emanation
> and so on are all human mental rational attempts to explain
> how the One becomes the Many. They are all models that we
> use to try to understand a phenomenon that is beyond our
> understanding.

I totally agree.

> <<It seems to me that you are interpreting all this on a more personal
> level - instead of a cosmic level. I don't mind, but it does make for a
> difficult conversation, because my intuitions function more easily
> cosmically than personally. <<

> If so, then maybe you are not viewing yourself properly. Try to
> see the First One as being yourself. In point of fact, to say
> that the First One is our monad versus the First One is some
> kind of cosmic something (and where is "cosmos" without space
> and time???) is quibbling over words.

Not really. We see things differently - that is obvious. That does not
mean we are quibbling over words. For some reason you have equated the
first one with the monad. And I agree in a sense. But the monad is in my
estimation a bit more spiritual than the first one. The first one is both
spirit and matter, isn't it?

This gets us into the very difficult field of: how does the difference/
relation between spirit and matter work.

> Personal and cosmic
> have no meaning outside our solar system of space-time. I
> think one of the real problems with Theosophists is that
> when they think of "outside the solar system" they use
> "inside the solar system" terminolgy, which really doesn't
> apply, and this reduces the "outside the solar system"
> to something equivalent to "insided the solar system" which
> it is not.

Well, it's a bit difficult to do otherwise, isn't it?

> >>I mean: I cannot talk about nirvana, because I have not experienced
> (or even intuited) it. But I'll try. It seems to me that HPB is talking
> about that something that is beyond whatever is created, which is eternal, but
> also without attributes and therefore could be called emptiness. In fact, it seems to me
> that the seeming difference of opinion between Tsong Kapa and HPB is that HPB
> calls emptiness absolute. But when you look at what she means by the term
> absolute, it falls back on emptiness.<<
>
> Tzongkap warns us NOT to call emptiness an absolute.

Yes, but this is a bit like the way HPB uses the term eternity: not
eternity but a very long time. The way I meant the above is a bit like
that. Not absolute in the sense of immutable or something, but absolute in
the sense of eternal, always there etc.

> This warning
> comes directly down from Nagajuna who gave it first. And the
> warning is very very applicable to Theosophists, who are taking
> things like Self and Ego and atma-buddhi as being real. The
> Tibetan teaching is that everything in our 7-plane solar system
> (i.e., samsara and nirvana, and the three realms of desire,
> form and formless) is empty of inherent existence. Theosophists
> all tend to see samsara (the lower 4 planes) as lacking
> inherent existence, but give inherent existence to the upper
> three planes of atma. This is a wrong view.

I agree with the second of this. Don't know why you are bringing this into
the discussion.

> <<Seems to me that HPB isn't either. She is just showing where the logic
> of a creator is going. <<
>
> I agree, but I am not sure that many Theosophists would agree
> with us.

They should learn to read. Anyhow, why talk to imaginary theosophists. You
are talking to me, aren't you?

> <<I would say she means what she says: that emptiness is the only
> absolute that the Buddhists would recognise. <<
>
> Buddhists do NOT recognize emptiness as an absolute. They
> taught that even emptiness is empty (this was from Chandrakirti,
> a spiritual son of Nagajuna).

So, it is absolutely empty - no?

> <<And well, it seems to me that it perhaps depends on what you mean by absolute. >>
>
> Abolute is a dualistic term, and only has meaning when
> compared to relative.

Ah. That is not really the way I was looking at it.

> <<Since emptiness is something that is always there, in that sense it
> can be called absolute, can't it?>>
>
> In the exact same sense we can say that samsara and human
> existence is absolute because it is always there. I think that
> the teaching of the reincarnating ego, that it exists
> through many lifetimes, gives people the false wiew that it
> is absolute or eternal. I like Tzongkapa's definition that
> anything absolute cannot change over time. Anything
> absolute has an independent existence. Anything whose
> existence depends on something else, is relative and is
> called a dependent-arising. If our Reincarnating Ego
> grows or matures because of "learning" via lifetimes of
> expression on Earth, then it cannot be absolute. Same
> with the monad.

I kind of agree here. Let me see if I get this now. You are saying that
emptiness is a characteristic of life/creation/whatever more than
something independent of it? And a characteristic may be there eternally,
but it certainly is not *the absolute* whatever that may be.

> <<In fact it seems to me (but I don't know if I've grasped/intuited etc.
> the term emptiness yet) that all the things that keep being said about
> emptiness make it a sort of absolute. >>
>
> Exactly, it is sort of an absolute. If we think that
> emptiness=absolute, then emptiness must be transcended.

I think we were in a terminology difficulty here. I did not mean that
emptiness = absolute, more that absoluteness is a characteristic of
emtiness.

> The whole reason for Eastern writers tacking on a "para"
> such as para-nirvana is to indicate that these things
> are not so absolute as we like to think, and that we
> can, and should, go beyond them.

> <<This is precisely the way I understand that ES-teaching. Of skandhas
> returning from life to life. Also, atoms are not all that
> indestructible, I agree, but well, that does not mean that they cannot (or do not) last a
> long time. This teaching seems to agree with my intuitions quite nicely.>>

> Anything that changes over time is NOT eternal, and time itself
> is pretty relative. The Ego seems eternal to the ego, but is
> very temporary compared to the Monad, and so on.

Did I even suggest anything other than that? Blavatsky's eternal is not eternal anyhow.

Katinka