The Limitations of Csoma de Koros and Western Tibetan Buddhist Scholars
The limitations of Alexander Csoma de Koros (also see The Hungarian Bodhisattva) and scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth-century. To be complementary to a piece on the sources of the Book of Dzyan and Kiu-te. Does Dr. Alexander Berzin know of “A Few Misconceptions Corrected” —
“One of the greatest, and, withal, the most serious objection to the correctness and reliability of the whole work will be the preliminary Stanzas: “How can the statements contained in them be verified?” True, if a great portion of the Sanskrit, Chinese, and Mongolian works quoted in the present volumes are known to some Orientalists, the chief work — that one from which the Stanzas are given — is not in the possession of European Libraries. The Book of Dzyan (or “Dzan”) is utterly unknown to our Philologists, or at any rate was never heard of by them under its present name. This is, of course, a great drawback to those who follow the methods of research prescribed by official Science; but to the students of Occultism, and to every genuine Occultist, this will be of little moment. The main body of the Doctrines given is found scattered throughout hundreds and thousands of Sanskrit MSS., some already translated — disfigured in their interpretations, as usual, — others still awaiting their turn. Every scholar, therefore, has an opportunity of verifying the statements herein made, and of checking most of the quotations. A few new facts (new to the profane Orientalist, only) and passages quoted from the Commentaries will be found difficult to trace. Several of the teachings, also, have hitherto been transmitted orally: yet even those are in every instance hinted at in the almost countless volumes of Brahminical, Chinese and Tibetan temple-literature.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, xxii-xxiii.)
Blavatsky explains, there is a limitation to the Orientalists:
“Of all the existing religious Philosophies, Buddhism is the least understood. The Lassens, Webers, Wassilyev, the Burnoufs and Juliens, and even such “eye-witnesses” of Tibetan Buddhism as Csoma de Körös and the Schlagintweits, have hitherto only added perplexity to confusion.” (Helen P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 14, pp. 433)
“…many Buddhist sects have fallen into mere dogmatism and ritualism. Like every other Esoteric, half-suppressed teaching, the words of the Buddha convey a double meaning, and every sect has gradually come to claim to be the only one knowing the correct meaning, and thus to assume supremacy over the rest. Schism has crept in, and has fastened, like a hideous cancer, on the fair body of early Buddhism.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 14, pp. 434)
H.P. Blavatsky has been said to truly have an intimate knowledge with the doctrine of the Mahayana. She has been accused in the past, of palming her knowledge off of Csoma de Körös’s Kangyur translations and Schlagintweit for the Stanzas, for which not a single proof has been brought forth. It is ever so casually mentioned, which we can only trace to a statement of the researcher leaving no source.
Unless, she’s an idiot —
Why critique and mention the scholars,
she supposedly plagiarised from?
Helena P. Blavatsky “A Few More Misconceptions Corrected” (Collected Writings, Vol. 14, pp. 433-435)
“Of all the existing religious Philosophies, Buddhism is the least understood. The Lassens, Webers, Wassilyev, the Burnoufs and Juliens, and even such “eye-witnesses” of Tibetan Buddhism as Csoma de Körös and the Schlagintweits, have hitherto only added perplexity to confusion. None of these has ever received his information from a genuine Gelugpa source: all have judged Buddhism from the bits of knowledge picked up at Tibetan frontier lamaseries, in countries thickly populated by Bhutanese and Lepchas, Böns, and red-capped Dugpas, along the line of the Himâlayas. Hundreds of volumes purchased from Buriats, Shamans, and Chinese Buddhists, have been read and translated, glossed and misinterpreted according to invariable custom. Esoteric Schools would cease to be worthy of their name were their literature and doctrines to become the property of even their profane co-religionists—still less of the Western public. This is simple common sense and logic. Nevertheless this is a fact which our Orientalists have ever refused to recognize: hence they have gone on, gravely discussing the relative merits and absurdities of idols, “soothsaying tables,” and “magical figures of Phurbu” on the “square tortoise.” None of these have anything to do with the real philosophical Buddhism of the Gelugpa, or even of the most educated among the Sakyapa and Kadampa sects. All such “plates” and sacrificial tables, Chinsreg magical circles, etc., were avowedly got from Sikkim, Bhutan, and Eastern Tibet, from Böns and Dugpas. Nevertheless, these are given as characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism! It would be as fair to judge the unread Philosophy of Bishop Berkeley after studying Christianity in the clown-worship of Neapolitan lazzaroni, dancing a mystic jig before the idol of St. Pip, or carrying the ex-voto in wax of the phallus of SS. Cosmo and Domiano, at Tsernie.
It is quite true that the primitive Srâvakas (listeners or hearers) and the Sramanas (the “thought-restrainers” and the “pure”) have degenerated, and that many Buddhist sects have fallen into mere dogmatism and ritualism. Like every other Esoteric, half-suppressed teaching, the words of the Buddha convey a double meaning, and every sect has gradually come to claim to be the only one knowing the correct meaning, and thus to assume supremacy over the rest. Schism has crept in, and has fastened, like a hideous cancer, on the fair body of early Buddhism. Nâgârjuna’s Mahâyâna (“Great Vehicle”) School was opposed by the Hînayâna (or “Little Vehicle”) System, and even the Yogacharyâ of Aryâsanga became disfigured by the yearly pilgrimage from India to the shores of Mansarovara, of hosts of vagabonds with matted locks who play at being Yogins and Fakirs, preferring this to work. An affected detestation of the world, and the tedious and useless practice of the counting of inhalations and exhalations as a means to produce absolute tranquillity of mind or meditation, have brought this school within the region of Hatha-Yoga, and have made it heir to the Brâhmanical Tîrthikas. And though its Srotâpatti, its Sakridâgâmin, Anâgâmin, and Arhats,† bear the same names in almost every school, yet the doctrines of each differ greatly, and none of these is likely to gain real Abhijñas (the supernatural abnormal five powers).
One of the chief mistakes of the Orientalists when judging on “internal(?) evidence,” as they express it, was that they assumed that the Pratyeka-Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the “Perfect” Buddhas were a later development of Buddhism.
† The Srotâpatti is one who has attained the first Path of comprehension in the real and the unreal; the Sakridâgâmin is the candidate for one of the higher Initiations: “one who is to receive birth once more”; the Anâgâmin is he who has attained the “third Path,” or literally, “he who will not be reborn again” unless he so wishes it, having the option of being reborn in any of the “worlds of the Gods,” or of remaining in Devachan, or of choosing an earthly body with a philanthropic object. An Arhat is one who has reached the highest Path; he may merge into Nirvâna at will, while here on earth.
For on these three chief degrees are based the seven and twelve degrees of the Hierarchy of Adeptship. The first are those who have attained the Bodhi (wisdom) of the Buddhas, but do not become Teachers. The human Bodhisattvas are candidates, so to say, for perfect Buddhaship (in Kalpas to come), and with the option of using their powers now if need be. “Perfect” Buddhas are simply “perfect” Initiates. All these are men, and not disembodied Beings, as is given out in the Hînayâna exoteric books. Their correct character may be found only in the secret volumes of Lugrub or Nâgârjuna, the founder of the Mahâyâna system, who is said to have been initiated by the Nâgas (fabulous “Serpents,” the veiled name for an Initiate or Mahatma). The fabled report found in Chinese records that Nâgârjuna considered his doctrine to be in opposition to that of Gautama Buddha, until he discovered from the Nâgas that it was precisely the doctrine that had been secretly taught by Sâkyamuni Himself, is an allegory, and is based upon the reconciliation between the old Brâhmanical secret Schools in the Himâlayas and Gautama’s Esoteric teachings, both parties having at first objected to the rival schools of the other. The former, the parent of all others, had been established beyond the Himâlayas for ages before the appearance of Sâkyamuni. Gautama was a pupil of this; and it was with them, those Indian Sages, that He had learned the truths of the Sunyata, the emptiness and impermanence of every terrestrial, evanescent thing, and the mysteries of Prajña-Pâramitâ, or “knowledge across the River,” which finally lands the “Perfect One” in the regions of the One Reality. But His Arhats were not Himself. Some of them were ambitious, and they modified certain teachings after the great councils, and it is on account of these “heretics” that the Mother-School at first refused to allow them to blend their schools, when persecution began driving away the Esoteric Brotherhood from India. But when finally most of them submitted to the guidance and control of the chief Âśramas, then the Yogacharyâ of Âryâsanga was merged into the oldest Lodge. For it is there from time immemorial that has lain concealed the final hope and light of the world, the salvation of mankind. Many are the names of that School and land, the name of the latter being now regarded by the Orientalists as the mythic name of a fabulous country.”