H.P. Blavatsky and Col. Olcott as Buddhists

May 25th 1880 Blavatsky and Olcott 'took pansil'

Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, Volume 2, p. 166,67,68, 69

[Among theosophists it is well known that H.P. Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott took pansil, or the five Buddhist precepts in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) while there on their first visit. What follows are direct quotes from Olcott's Old Diary Leaves:]

[p. 166 on what giving/ taking pansil means] ' "gave pansil", i.e. intoned the five precepts and the Three Refuges, in the Pali Language'

[p. 167-168] 'On 25th May, H.P.B. and I "took pansil" from the venerable Bulatgama, at a temple of the Ramanya Nikaya, whose name at the moment escapes me, and were formally acknowledged as Buddhists. A great arch of greenery, bearing the words: "Welcome to the members of the Theosophical Society," had been erected within the compound of the Vihara. We had previously declared ourselves Buddhists longe before, in America, both privately and publicly, so that this was but a formal confirmation of our previous professions. H.P.B. knelt before the huge statue of the Buddha, and kept her company. We had a good deal of trouble catching the Pali words that we were to repeat after the old monk, and I don't know how we should have got on if a friend had not taken his place just behind us and whispered them seriatim. A great crowd was present and made the responses just after us, a dead silence being preserved while we were struggling through the unfamiliar sentences. When we had finished the last of the Silas, and offered flowers in the customary way, there came a mighty shout to make one's nerves tingle, and the people could not settle themselves down to silence for some minutes, to hear the brief discourse which, at the Chief Priest's request, I delivered.'

...[p. 168-69 'to be a regular Buddhist is one thing, and to be a debased modern Buddhist sectarian quite another. Speaking for her [H.P. Blavatsky] as well as myself, I can say that if Buddhism contained a single dogma that we were compelled to accept, we would not have taken the pansil nor remained Buddhists ten minutes. Our Buddhism was that of the Master-Adept Gautama Buddha, which was identically the Wisdom Religion of the Aryan Upanishads, and the soul of all the ancient world-faiths. Our Buddhism was, in a word, a philosophy, not a creed.