Theosophy

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Will
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Re: Theosophy

Post by Will » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:55 pm

SarathW wrote:Sri Lankan Buddhist pay lot of respect for Colonel Olcott for his contribution to reviving Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f ... 9685&hilit
In addition to the link Sarath posted, here is an article from a Sri Lanka paper about early contacts of Theosophy via Olcott & Blavatsky:

http://archives.sundayobserver.lk/2013/05/12/mon06.asp
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Will
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Re: Theosophy

Post by Will » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:57 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Will - That already exists. You can see it from the Board Index..."Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?"

Metta,
Paul. :)
Thanks Paul, seems clear enough - 'What can Theravada learn from other etc.'
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Theosophy

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:29 pm

SDC wrote:
Santi253 wrote:
SDC wrote: However, proselytizing and/or vilification aside from that purpose will not be tolerated.
Madame Blavatsky's own writings, as quoted, reveal her racist and anti-semitic tendencies, and it's well-known within the Theosophical community, as quoted, that Leadbeater molested children. I'm sorry if citing these facts constitutes vilification.
Then use the report function if you think this is a problem and in violation of the ToS.
If, as per your own earlier post, the whole thread is a general discussion of Theosophy, then citing its bad aspects is as legitimate as citing its good aspects. And the 'report' function isn't appropriate, unless the whole thread is 'reported' for promulgating teachings with such a murky history - and closed down.

:namaste:
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Re: Theosophy

Post by SDC » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:41 pm

Kim OHara wrote:If, as per your own earlier post, the whole thread is a general discussion of Theosophy, then citing its bad aspects is as legitimate as citing its good aspects.
Indeed it is, Kim, as long as it does not drift into vilification. That is why a general note was posted instead of any formal warnings handed out.

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Re: Theosophy

Post by Santi253 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:57 pm

Kim OHara wrote: If, as per your own earlier post, the whole thread is a general discussion of Theosophy, then citing its bad aspects is as legitimate as citing its good aspects. And the 'report' function isn't appropriate, unless the whole thread is 'reported' for promulgating teachings with such a murky history - and closed down.
Thank you for pointing this out.

If Theosophy is discussed from an academic, critical perspective, then people can have at it and it wouldn't bother me at all. If the purpose is to promote Blavatsky and Leadbeater as somehow beneficial to Buddhism, then that's not good.

I would never trash a genuine Theosophist for their sincerely held religious beliefs. That doesn't mean Theosophy's appropriation of Buddhist terms and concepts was a good thing.

Before converting to Buddhism, I was involved in the Unity church movement, which was partially based on the writings of Madame Blavatsky. I used to highly regard her as a spiritual teacher.
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Re: Theosophy

Post by Santi253 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:07 am

It's also worth noting that Madame Blavatsky claimed to understand the Buddha's teachings better than the Buddha himself:
Blavatsky elsewhere uses the term “budhism” (which she also terms “bodhism,” “deeper understanding”) for this teaching and she clearly makes a distinction between “Buddhism’ and “Esoteric Budhism.”

She equates the latter with “the ancient Wisdom-Religion” and states that it is not “the religious system preached by Gautama Buddha.” But elsewhere she fails to make this distinction, so it is not absolutely clear what she means by the term “Esoteric Buddhism.”

In any event, whatever it is called, she is unequivocal in stating (idem.), “There is an esoteric doctrine, a soul-ennobling philosophy, behind the outward body of ecclesiastical Buddhism,” even though this idea is not accepted by most Buddhists and is explicitly denied in the Theravada Tripitaka texts.
http://theosophy.ph/encyclo/index.php?t ... ,_Esoteric
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Re: Theosophy

Post by SDC » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:10 am

Santi253 wrote:If the purpose is to promote Blavatsky and Leadbeater as somehow beneficial to Buddhism, then that's not good.
Then stand up and debate them rather than requesting the thread be locked. Or just leave the thread. No one told you that you have to like every thread on the forum.

Enough of the meta-discussion, everyone. Any further issues can be taken to PMs.

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Re: Theosophy

Post by Santi253 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:11 am

SDC wrote:Or just leave the thread. No one told you that you have to like every thread on the forum.
Okay. I'm sorry for dishonoring you.
Last edited by Santi253 on Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Theosophy

Post by Will » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:12 am

One of my hopes in starting this thread is that a generous spirit of gratitude might manifest from Theravadins posting here.
Col. Olcott would have been a happy man to hear that what he was doing for the Buddhists had been appreciated by the leading Buddhist laymen at the time. Col. Olcott came to the island at a time when the Christian Missionaries had already made a tremendous progress in converting local Buddhists who then comprised nearly 90 percent of the island's population.

Their task had been made easier for the reason that the rulers from 1505, namely, the Portuguese and the Dutch (of the Maritime Provinces) followed by the British who ruled the entire island after 1815 supported their cause wholeheartedly.

History tells us that the Buddhists who refused to be converts were persecuted. Even though the British did not persecute the Buddhists the local people who revolted against the British rule were mercilessly killed e.g. Uva-Wellassa Revolt in 1818 and that of Matale in 1848.

By 1875, the Government cruelty had been subdued. Nevertheless the Buddhist education was at a low ebb. Buddhists who were the recipients of royal patronage prior to 1505 had lost their identity. There was wholesale discrimination against the Buddhists.
One could easily argue that after the Xtian missionaries had nearly stamped out the Dhamma in Ceylon after 500 years of colonial domination, if not for Blavatsky and Olcott, there would be zero Dhamma in Lanka and perhaps other parts of SE Asia. For Olcott travelled all around Asia boosting the Dhamma/Dharma and fighting for the Buddhists natives.

But if what is most important for some of you is doctrinal and intellectual differences, that you cannot learn from the example of those who saved the Dhamma from extinction - pitiable followers of Buddha you be.
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Re: Theosophy

Post by SDC » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:23 am

Santi253 wrote:
SDC wrote:Or just leave the thread. No one told you that you have to like every thread on the forum.
Okay. I'm sorry for dishonoring you.
You don't have to honor, like, respect or even care for me.

We have rules. Try your best to respect them.

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Re: Theosophy

Post by Santi253 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:36 am

When I read Madame Blavatsky's book The Key to Theosophy, I believed it when she claimed to understand the Buddha's teachings better than the Buddha himself. I might have become a Buddhist much sooner if not for my involvement in the new age movement.
Santi253 wrote:It's also worth noting that Madame Blavatsky claimed to understand the Buddha's teachings better than the Buddha himself:
Blavatsky elsewhere uses the term “budhism” (which she also terms “bodhism,” “deeper understanding”) for this teaching and she clearly makes a distinction between “Buddhism’ and “Esoteric Budhism.”

She equates the latter with “the ancient Wisdom-Religion” and states that it is not “the religious system preached by Gautama Buddha.” But elsewhere she fails to make this distinction, so it is not absolutely clear what she means by the term “Esoteric Buddhism.”

In any event, whatever it is called, she is unequivocal in stating (idem.), “There is an esoteric doctrine, a soul-ennobling philosophy, behind the outward body of ecclesiastical Buddhism,” even though this idea is not accepted by most Buddhists and is explicitly denied in the Theravada Tripitaka texts.
http://theosophy.ph/encyclo/index.php?t ... ,_Esoteric
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Re: Theosophy

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:46 am

Will wrote:One of my hopes in starting this thread is that a generous spirit of gratitude might manifest from Theravadins posting here.

One could easily argue that after the Xtian missionaries had nearly stamped out the Dhamma in Ceylon after 500 years of colonial domination, if not for Blavatsky and Olcott, there would be zero Dhamma in Lanka and perhaps other parts of SE Asia. For Olcott travelled all around Asia boosting the Dhamma/Dharma and fighting for the Buddhists natives.

But if what is most important for some of you is doctrinal and intellectual differences, that you cannot learn from the example of those who saved the Dhamma from extinction - pitiable followers of Buddha you be.
Will, I do feel some gratitude for Olcott's good works (although claiming he "saved the Dhamma from extinction" is going way too far) but it is not going to blind me to the faults of an organisation he was closely associated with.
And I'm not too bothered about "doctrinal and intellectual differences". I will talk and work happily with anyone who shares good values - honesty, compassion, transparency, generosity, curiosity, etc - but I don't see those values flourishing in Theosophy. If a good person is a Theosophist, fine; you may even be one such. But it isn't the Theosophy which appeals to me, but the goodness; and I will doubt that the goodness is the result of the Theosophy.

:namaste:
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Re: Theosophy

Post by Santi253 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:07 am

Kim OHara wrote:If a good person is a Theosophist, fine; you may even be one such.
I agree. I have no intent on trashing anyone living today who sincerely believes in Theosophy as their religion. As for whether the original promoters of Theosophy were the right people to appropriate Buddhist terms and concepts is a different matter.
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Re: Theosophy

Post by DNS » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:25 am

Will wrote: One could easily argue that after the Xtian missionaries had nearly stamped out the Dhamma in Ceylon after 500 years of colonial domination, if not for Blavatsky and Olcott, there would be zero Dhamma in Lanka and perhaps other parts of SE Asia. For Olcott travelled all around Asia boosting the Dhamma/Dharma and fighting for the Buddhists natives.
I'm not an expert on Theosophy like Nicholas (Will) but I have always respected and admired their work in propagating the Dhamma in Sri Lanka and Dhammic ideas in general to the West. Blavatsky might not be perfect, but no else is either, except for perhaps a samma-sam-buddha. I think it would do a disservice to focus on perceived negatives, perhaps even a false equivalence when there is so much good in their works.

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Re: Theosophy

Post by Santi253 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:35 am

David N. Snyder wrote: I'm not an expert on Theosophy like Nicholas (Will) but I have always respected and admired their work in propagating the Dhamma in Sri Lanka and Dhammic ideas in general to the West.
If someone falsely claims to receive instructions from an immortalized Tibetan master, while referring to all Jews and Arabs as spiritually degenerate people, and claiming to understand Buddhism (or what Blavatsky called "bodhism") better than the Buddha himself, perhaps that's not the historical individual we'd want to promote Dhammic ideas to the West.

Not to mention the fact that, according to Madame Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, Satan is "the only god" of this planet:
It is “Satan who is the god of our planet and the only god,” and this without any allusive metaphor to its wickedness and depravity. For he is one with the Logos, “the first son, eldest of the gods,” in the order of microcosmic (divine) evolution; Saturn (Satan), astronomically, “is the seventh and last in the order of macrocosmic emanation, being the circumference of the kingdom of which Phoebus (the light of wisdom, also the Sun) is the centre.” The Gnostics were right, then, in calling the Jewish god “an angel of matter,” or he who breathed (conscious) life into Adam, and he whose planet was Saturn.
http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd/sd2-1-13.htm
Someone cannot be an expert on Theosophy while denying that Blavatsky claimed to receive instruction from an immortalized Tibetan master. It's one of the most well-known facts of her life among both her admirers and detractors.
Will wrote: Firstly, HPB's main gurus were Hindus not Tibetans, secondly you know not whereof you speak.
"This state of hers is [H.P.B.'s] intimately connected with her occult training in Tibet, and due to her being sent out alone into the world to gradually prepare the way for others. After nearly a century of fruitless search, our chiefs had to avail themselves of the only opportunity to send out a European body. . . . " The Mahatma Letters, 2nd edition, Letter 26. Italics added.
http://blavatskyarchives.com/latermessengers.htm
In 1870, HPB’s family – then living in Odessa, Ukraine, which was at that time spoken of as being part of Russia – had all but given up hope of ever hearing from her again. In the summer of 1868 she had been summoned to go to Tibet by the Master M. in order to receive indepth tuition and training from the Masters in preparation for her great mission as their Messenger to the world...

HPB didn’t explain the meaning of the various characters but Wesley Needham of the Tibetan collection at Yale University has done so, after analysing those drawn by both HPB and the German woman. The Tibetan letters in the top panel spelt the mantra “Om tram ah hri hum,” while the lower characters were the bija or seed syllable mantras connected with the five Dhyani Buddhas spoken of in Tibetan Buddhism. In her biography of HPB, Sylvia Cranston wrote, “Thus it is confirmed that an unlearned German woman could reproduce in Tibetan seed-syllables a sacred Buddhist mantra of which she had likely no previous knowledge. The catalyst for this remarkable feat and her accompanying visions was, as we have seen, an occult letter reputed to be from one of HPB’s teachers in Tibet.”
https://blavatskytheosophy.com/the-mast ... blavatsky/
I don't mean to be rude or disrespectful, and I'm sorry for giving that impression. I wouldn't be able to readily recite facts about her life and writings, like I am now, unless I was once a follower of Madame Blavatsky's.

For over a year, I belonged to a church that regarded her as a foundational spiritual authority:
The Fillmores became familiar with the efforts of Helena Pertrovna Blavatsky
(1831-1891) and the Theosophists. Blavatskyʼs life reads like a work of fiction. Born to
an aristocratic Russian family she exhibited psychic abilities, traveled throughout the
world and introduced many Eastern religious concepts to America from her office in
New York City. Before the Fillmores began publishing their own books, they were
selling ten Theosophical related books including Blavatskyʼs Isis Unveiled.
13 Two of the
Buddhist related books they sold were published by the Theosophical Society: A
Buddhist Catechism by Henry Steel Ollcot and Esoteric Buddhism by A.P. Sinnett...

Myrtle Fillmore first experimented with mystic practice beginning in 1886 and led
the way for others. The personal experiences of this once ailing housewife and her
entrepreneurial husband were essential, but their mentors and the writings of Emerson
and Blavatsky served as a cornerstone for the Fillmoreʼs path into mysticism.
http://av.unityonline.org/institute/2011Lyceum/Page.pdf
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