FOOTNOTES TO “BUDDHIST DOCTRINE OF THE WESTERN HEAVEN”
[Lucifer, Vol. II, No. 8, April, 1888, pp. 108-117]
[The well-known scholar, Rev. Joseph Edkins, D.D., contributes a long essay in which he discusses with much learning the ideas prevalent among the Buddhists concerning the future state of man and the hope of an after-life. He attempts to trace the origin of these beliefs. A number of footnotes have been appended by H. P. B. to various expressions of Dr. Edkins which appear below within square brackets.]
[union with Buddha . . . attained by the loss of personality] The loss of the false or temporary personality by its transformation into the ABSOLUTE “Ego.”
[many prefer to meditate on the Paradise of Amitabha, the Buddha of a world situated in the West . . . . as the home they may attain this hope exists among the Buddhists. And it is a curious question whether it was occasioned by Persian or by Christian influence, or . . . was entirely self-originated.]
Most undeniably the idea was originated by neither of the above-named influences, no more than the knowledge of the Zodiac, astronomy or architecture was ever originated in India “by the Greek influence,” agreeably with Dr. Weber’s and Professor Max Müller’s favourite hobbies. This “hope” is based on knowledge, on the secret esoteric doctrines preached by Gautama Buddha, and flashes of which are still found even in the semi-exoteric tenets of the schools of Mahayana, Aryasangha and others.
[Buddhist works began to be translated into Chinese about the year 67 A.D.] Buddhist works may have appeared in China not earlier than 67 A.D.; but there are as good proofs and evidence, from Chinese and Tibetan History as much as from Buddhist records, that the tenets of Gautama reached China as early as the year 683 of the Tzin era (436 B.C.). Of course in this instance we accept Buddhist chronology, not the fanciful annals of the Western Orientalists, who base their chronological and historical computations on the so-called “Vikramaditya era,” while ignorant to this day of the date when Vikramaditya really lived.
[Belief in the magical powers of the Buddhists had much to do with the spread of their religion, and not less influential was the superstitious regard for the sacred books . . .]
No more, we say, than the “miracles” of the New Testament had to do with the spread of the Christian religion. Then why should any fair-minded person, even if a missionary, denounce the reverence of Buddhists for their sacred books as “a superstitious regard,” while enforcing the same “superstitious regard” for the Bible, under the penalty, moreover, of eternal damnation?
[Akshobya, the companion Buddha to Amitabha and ruler of the Eastern Universe . . . . these two Buddhas are mentioned together. They were . . . contemporaneous in origin.]
That origin must be archaic indeed, since both the names are found in the Book of Dzyan, classed with the Dhyan-Chohans (Pitris), the “Fathers of man,” who answer to the seven Elohim.
[Parthian Jews . . . returned from keeping the Pentecost at Jerusalem to their own country, and carried with them Christian convictions] It would be more correct, perhaps, to say “Gnostic,” instead of “Christian” convictions. The Jews could be Gnostics without renouncing Judaism.
[world of punishment (Naraka), which to the Buddhists are prisons, fiery hot, or icy cold, where every kind of torture is used] Which, however, are all metaphorical expressions, whenever used. Buddhists have never believed in their philosophy in any Hell as a locality. Avitchi is a state and a condition, and the tortures therein are all mental.
[forgiveness of injuries, contentment, pity are very Christian] They are “Christian” only because Christianity has accepted them. All these virtues were taught and practised by Buddha 600 years B.C.; as other Chinese and Indian good men and adepts accepted and taught them to the multitudes thousands of years B.B., or before Buddha. Why call them “Christian,” since they are universal?
[the Vedanta philosophy finds the origin of transmigration and other evils in God who is the cause of virtue and
vice] The Vedanta philosophy finds nothing of the kind, nor does it teach of a God (least of all with a capital G). But there is a sect of Vedantins, the Visishtadwaita, who, refusing to accept dualism, have, nolens volens, to place the origin of all evil as of all good in Parabrahman. But Parabrahman is not “God” in the Christian sense, at any rate in the Vedanta philosophy.
[Buddhism . . . being atheistic] Atheistic, inasmuch as it very reasonably rejects the idea of any personal anthropomorphous god. Its secret philosophy, however, explains the causes of rebirths or “transmigration.”
[retribution follows all actions by unseen fate compelling it] This “unseen fate” is KARMA.
[producing and strengthening faith] Buddha preached against blind faith and enforced knowledge and reason.
[concerning the alleged influence exercized by Christians upon Eastern beliefs, etc.] It would be far more correct to say that it is the early Christians, or the Gnostics rather, who were influenced by Buddhist doctrines, than the reverse. All these ideas of Devachan, etc., were inculcated by Buddhism from the first. No foreign influence there, surely. It cannot be proved historically, that the “Apostle Peter” had preached the gospel in Parthia, not even that the blessed “Apostle,” whose relics are shown at Goa, went there at all. But it is an historical fact, that a century before the Christian era, Buddhist monks crowded into Syria and Babylon, and that Buddhasp (Bodhisattva), the so-called Chaldean, was the founder of Sabism or baptism. And Renan, in his Vie de Jesus, says, that [it was] “the religion of multiplied baptisms, the scion of the still existent sect, named the ‘Christians of St. John’ or Mendaeans, whom the Arabs call el-mogtasila or ‘Baptists.’ The Aramean verb seba, origin of the name Sabian, is a synonym
[regarding Babylonian astrologers and diviners residing at Indian seaports and being at the courts of Rajahs, bringing with them Babylonian and Egyptian doctrines]
* [Pages 102-03, in 65th ed., Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1923.—Comp.]
There is one little impediment, however, in the way of such a “Weberian” theory. There is no historical evidence that the “Chaldean astrologers and diviners” were ever at the courts of Indian Rajahs before the days of Alexander. But it is a perfectly established historical fact, as pointed out by Colonel Vans Kennedy, that it was, on the contrary, Babylonia which was once the seat of the Sanskrit language and of Brahmanical influence.*
* [The actual passage from the works of Col. Vans Kennedy which H. P. B. has in mind is not definitely known, but the idea itself is very clearly expressed on pp. 199-201 of his Researches into the Origin and Affinities of the principal Languages of Asia and Europe. London, 1828. 4to. Vide Bio-Bibliogr. Index, s.v. KENNEDY, for other works by this scholar.—Compiler.]