THE SEVENTH PRINCIPLE
The whole difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic philosophies was that the former was a kind of Rationalistic Vedantism, while the latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism.
This juxtaposition and contrast of Buddhist philosophy as rationalistic Vedantism with Vedantic philosophy as transcendental Buddhism arises because of the different ways each attempts to represent the seventh principle in the cosmos and man, the very highest reality. In Vedanta and in Buddhism it is vital to recognize an unconditional reality which cannot possibly be characterized in any terms applicable to conditioned worlds of either subjectivity or objectivity. That is, absolute Reality cannot be described in terms of the states of mind of beings who experience subjectivity on the planes of differentiated matter. Nor can the Absolute be characterized in terms of properties and relations that may be predicated of moving objects in ever changing relationships on more or less differentiated planes of matter.
If both philosophies are agreed upon this, the critical difference between them has to do not merely with the use of terms, but with the idea of consciousness or awareness. In Vedanta the seventh principle is the Jivatman. On its own highest plane, it is a pure, unconscious and universal spirit. Jivatman must be seen as a pure subject independent of all possible experiences that may come to it when embodied in a world of subjects and objects. This is important in Vedanta because it provides for the possibility of a self or knower capable of apprehending, uniting with and becoming one with the Absolute. In Vedanta it is crucial to recognize that subjectivity in its highest sense – quite independent of any notions of incarnated or even disembodied existence – belongs to the highest reality. Therefore, it is also possible in Vedanta to think in terms of Brahman as giving rise to Ishvara or Brahma. Sometimes this is put in terms of a distinction between nirguna and saguna Brahman, that is, Brahman without attributes, but appearing as with attributes.
It must not be thought that the name "Brahman" is identical . . . with Brahma or Iswara – the personal God. The Upanishads – the Vedanta Scriptures – mention no such God, and one would vainly seek in them any allusions to a conscious deity. The Brahmam, or Parabrahm, the ABSOLUTE of the Vedantins, is neuter and unconscious, and has no connection with the masculine Brahma of the Hindu Triad, or Trimurti. Some Orientalists rightly believe the name derived from the verb "Brih", to grow or increase, and to be, in this sense, the universal expansive force of nature, the vivifying and spiritual principle, or power, spread throughout the universe and which in its collectivity is the one Absoluteness, the one Life and the only Reality.
Vedantins who use this language are still aware that the highest deity imaginable within a scheme of manifestation is itself, in the ultimate sense, merely an appearance or a portion of the Real existing in relation to time and space during a vast period of manifestation. The conception of Brahma or Ishvara has meaning in reference to an assemblage of worlds and beings, but it is basically rooted in nothing other than Parabrahm. Hence, the distinction between Parabrahm and Ishvara is relevant to time and what is called creation. It is a distinction helpful in understanding the gestation of a world of differentiated and conditioned existence out of an unconditioned reality.
Buddhist thought, on the other hand, is concerned that all limitation or anthropomorphic conceptions be avoided. One should not only dispense with any notion of Deity independent of or outside the world of phenomenal existence, but one should not deify consciousness, though absolute and infinite.
This concern with the temptation to anthropomorphize absolute consciousness the moment one begins to speak of it is reflected not only in the contrast between Buddhism and Vedanta, but also within Buddhism itself. It appears in the difference between the Madhyamika school and the Yogachara school. In the latter one finds the idea of alayavijnana, a storehouse of collective consciousness. This idea is unacceptable to the Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna, where no reality is attributed to anything in any degree except in relation to the One. In pointing to these distinctions, H.P. Blavatsky was not merely making philosophic points about different schools, but was conveying and intimating the profound Teachings of what she called the Arahat secret doctrine. In this doctrine there is ultimately only One Element, and that element – if it is to be characterized at all in the language of consciousness – is unconscious. It is not unconscious in the sense that one might ordinarily attribute to a sleeping person or to a rock, for this sense of the term "unconscious" is relative to limited states of consciousness in a world of differentiation. To speak of the One Element as unconscious is to imply its total transcendence of all differentiation and manifestation. As she explained:
Another way of saying this is that the one primordial element is totally inert or passive, without any relationship to anything outside itself. At the same time, it is absolute, indestructible and eternal, being independent of everything in the universe and, indeed, independent of the universe itself. It is independent of everything that arises in space and time, and therefore independent of worlds and manvantaras. It transcends even the distinction between manvantara and pralaya, and its being is independent of the existence of a god or gods or the entire plenitude and panoply of forces at work in the cosmos. Hence, it is appropriate to symbolize this one ultimate element as Space. In Gupta Vidya Space is one of the foremost means of representing and seeking understanding of the Absolute. This is not space in any relational sense, but Absolute Abstract Space, which exists eternally and transcends all distinctions between the manifest and the unmanifest. Because it is beyond manvantaras and pralayas, it is equivalent to Eternal Duration. One cannot even begin to think upon this one Absolute Abstract Space, boundless and universal, without also thinking about Eternal Duration. In turn, both of these are related to Eternal Motion.
According to the Esoteric Axioms of Gupta Vidya, there is an intimate connection between Eternal Motion and individuated consciousness:
Eternal Motion linked to Absolute Abstract Space and Duration generates the possibility of conceiving a consciousness which is indistinguishable from unconsciousness, but which is characterizable as Absolute Consciousness. From this originates the entire realm of differentiated and individuated consciousness, the world of subjects and objects on seven different planes.
That which is ascribed here to Ishvara and to svara in Hindu metaphysics would be ascribed by Buddhists to the One Law or, in Tibetan terms, Fohat, which is itself the aspect of pulsation of that One Law. These differences of terminology reflect not only differences of language but also of conceptualization bearing upon the spiritual exercises in both systems. At the same time, when one understands philosophically and at the core what is crucial to each system, there is no fundamental difference between them. The difference lies in modes of characterizing the Absolute. In the one case – the Vedanta – the characterization is in terms of spirit and consciousness, while in the case of Buddhism it is in terms of space. The conception of Absolute Abstract Space is represented in Buddhist language by maha shunyata. This teaching may be found, for example, in the Mantra of Voidness, one of the great short sutras of Mahayana Buddhist literature and the basis of a remarkable commentary by the Tibetan lama Geshe Rabten. He succeeded in conveying something of the transcendental and all-encompassing quality of Voidness, speaking of it in terms analogous to the Alkahest, the universal solvent of alchemical tradition.
This purifying property of space is a recurrent theme throughout the literature of Gupta Vidya. It suggests that if one really knew how to persist and to progress far enough and long enough through deep meditation in understanding the supreme absolute Void, one could totally transform one's consciousness. This means voiding all objects and subjects, everything that one knows in reference to limited periods of time, voiding all worlds and all conceptions of all possible worlds. To do this would be to rise to a level of apprehension of Voidness which is incommunicable. It can only be experienced in the deepest states of meditation.
The practice of meditation upon Voidness is crucial in Tibetan Buddhist theurgy to generating the Buddha vesture. The higher and deeper one goes into Absolute Voidness and the longer one can stay there in deep meditation, the more one will be able to come out of meditation with a total detachment and capacity to transcend this world with all its distortions, changes, illusions and delusions. One can gain an independence of everything pertaining to mayavic life as a seemingly separate individual subject in a world of discrete objects. But more than that, one will be able, through that deep meditation on universal Voidness, to gestate or generate, at a profound level and with a deep intensity of concentration, a matrix of forces simply not accessible or available on any lower plane or through any other means.
All of this was understood and practised during the golden age of Vedic religion. That which Buddhism ascribes to the realization of Voidness is ascribed in the Hindu scheme to the realization of Brahman. There is also a direct correlation between the release of subtle energies through inward realization of the four bodies of Brahma, and the Buddhist teachings of the accessibility of fundamental cosmic generative forces through meditation connected with Fohat. Speaking in the symbolism of Hindu mysticism, H.P. Blavatsky pointed to the significance of the concept of soma in Vedic practices which seek to draw upon the energies of the highest Pitris.
Whether this profound Teaching is put in terms of spirit and universal consciousness, in terms of Space and the Void, or indeed in any other mystical terms, what is crucial in understanding the Teaching is to avoid any fixity or rigidity arising through the limitations of one's mind. In whatever terms, the universal expansive force is in its collectivity the One Absoluteness, the One Life and the One Reality central to the entire Teaching of Gupta Vidya. This fusion of Absoluteness, the One Life and the One Reality is central to the doctrine of perfectibility. Those who are able to fuse these conceptions in consciousness through meditation are capable of growing into higher states of apprehension of supersensuous matter. They are also enabled to use that knowledge to produce great results in the world by the power of kriyashakti. This same Teaching is implicit within the conception of the Trimurti, a most magnificent symbol of the manifested universe. When one goes beyond all possible concepts of matter, one transcends the Trimurti, merging back into the one Supreme Reality. One becomes capable of realizing the powers and instrumentalities of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Within the Vedanta this sublime level of spiritual realization is elucidated through specific teachings concerning different types of existence.
As the only true and real existence, Paramarthika is related to svasamvedana – self-analysing consciousness – at the highest cosmic level. In representing the reality of universal self-consciousness in the Absolute, one could ascribe that universal self-consciousness to a principle or one could intuitively see that beings perfected in previous periods of manifestation, who have reached to that plane of universal self-consciousness, collectively embody Paramarthika even in the mahapralaya – the long dark night of non-manifestation.
Compared to that supreme state of universal self-consciousness, the states of vyavaharika and pratibhasika are relatively unreal. Considered in themselves, however, the point of distinguishing between them lies in the difference between penetrating illusions and being able to work through them. On the one hand, there is a capacity to recognize the unreality of the world of appearances, of all lower states of mind, of all perceptions, emotions and desires. All of these are dependent upon and connected with the external world. Yet there is a capacity not only to penetrate these illusions but also to master and appreciate them, a capacity to work in the world of appearances, even though that work, seen from a higher point of view, is itself illusory. All work, however noble and good, is still in time and ultimately has a quality of relativity. It is dependent upon a manifest field and a frame of reference. These are in turn unreal in relation to the eternal night in which the universal self-consciousness of Brahman connected with Paramarthika is to be imagined. While the realization of emptiness of pratibhasika existence is a great attainment, individuals who grasp the significance of vyavaharika, or practical existence, have an advantage over those who have merely seen through the illusory nature of life. Through mastering the modes of manifestation, they are able to work in the world of illusion along the lines of what Buddhists call the Bodhisattva vow. They can recognize more fully and freely the educational aspect of manifestation. It is essential to understand that manifestation is not meaningless just because it is unreal relative to the highest states of consciousness. Even though it is unreal, the recognition of that unreality is part of grasping the meaning of manifested existence. That meaning must be seen from the standpoint of the immortal soul and the spiritual individuality.
Without this basis of identity rooted in the ultimate and transcendental Atman, the ultimate abstract Buddha-nature, there can be no effective participation in the realms of illusion. The world is bound to appear to the unenlightened as a meaningless struggle for existence. Seen from the perspective of the terrace of enlightenment, however, this struggle for existence is a perpetual struggle for adjustment. In it, everything tends to harmonize and equilibrate before it assumes any shape. This is an aspect of what Buddhists call the One Law and Hindu philosophy calls rita. It is also symbolized in the great metaphor of the War in Heaven, which works on all planes. For there to be movement from a more rarefied plane of being to a more differentiated plane, there must be some kind of polarization and eventual equilibrium of contraries. To differentiate is to create a greater contrast and therefore also a greater potential field for polarity, for transformation, for adjustment, change and growth. This works not only in reference to the physical body and physical nature, but also in the astral realm. At a higher level the War in Heaven has immediate reference to the evolution of the intellectual principle in mankind.
The teachings regarding the War in Heaven and the polarization and equilibration of contraries give a metaphysical key necessary for psychological comprehension of the possibility of seeing, affecting and cooperating with this perpetual struggle for adjustment. For example, it is the basis for the adoption at a certain stage in occultism of strict rules, where one does not touch animals or human beings or certain objects, where one avoids certain kinds of activity and certain types of people, all for the purpose of self-magnetization. To create a particular kind of field it is crucial to do only those things which are compatible with that field. Most people are not ready for this, but if a person does come to this stage, certainly those changes in life would have to be made which move the plane of struggle altogether from the visible realm to much subtler and deeper aspects of the psyche and the mind affecting states of consciousness experienced in dream and deep sleep.
To make such a quantum jump from one level of apprehension and perception to a much higher level would involve putting into practice the teachings of Jnana Yoga. Here, within the central arena of the mind, one must renounce former pictures of oneself and the world, accepting for a period of time a painful immersion into the void or abyss which mystics call the dark night of the soul. Without such a baptism and purification, it is not possible to move to a higher level of conceptualization and imagery in relation to reality. This is actually a twofold process, requiring first the self-conscious negation of prior attachments, followed by an infusion from above and within of original creative energies ultimately flowing from the field of universal self-consciousness. In a sense, one must undo that which has been done in order to realize that which precedes all manifestation.
The process whereby individuals realize universal self-consciousness must itself conform to or be a part of the general process whereby individual consciousness emanates from and returns into Absolute Consciousness or Eternal Motion. Absolute Abstract Motion is beyond all differentiation and manifestation, but considered in its periodic aspect of cosmic motion it is the cause of all subjective and objective differentiations. H.P. Blavatsky explained this in terms of the Hindu idea of svara, citing and commenting on a passage from an occult book:
In other words, the ultimate power of self-consciousness, belonging to ideation and therefore to all vibrations associated with self-conscious thought, is causally prior to all the actual impressions on matter which are manifest as the phenomenal world. All matter has been impressed by derivative intelligences flowing from self-conscious ideation. This is why, in Gupta Vidya, the entire universe of manifested matter cannot be understood except in terms of the existence of self-conscious knowers, creators and builders_the hosts of the Dhyanis. In essence, the power of self-conscious creation and ideation is indestructible. In itself it cannot cease just because changes in the external field have taken place or entered a period of rest. That power is independent of the field within which it creates secondary and tertiary impressions.
To take a simple example, imagine a Sage who moves from one room, where all the objects have been magnetized by him, to another room or cave elsewhere with a different set of objects. Surely he will magnetize them just as much as the objects in his previous room were magnetized. The self-conscious power of ideation is, at this high level, quite independent of the external field in which it produces derivative impressions of various orders. That power is ultimately the One Life, the One Motion or the one universal Breath of Life, which is equated with the substratum of beginningless and endless cosmic motion. There is, then, within self-consciousness a potential level of causation far transcending all known conceptions of causality involving a complexity of factors, parameters and variables within particular fields of differentiated existence.
In the Stanzas of Dzyan this boundless potentiality inherent in svara is connected with the hypostatic descent of the One Ray into the Luminous Egg of Hiranyagarbha, thereby initiating the process of cosmic manifestation. This threefold hypostatic presence within the Golden Egg of Brahma is called "the root that grows in the ocean of life". This is
H.P. Blavatsky distinguished the purely transcendental, absolute and abstract nature of this potentiality from its manifold modes of activity in cosmic manifestation in terms of Paramatman and Jivatman:
Just as the Jivatman is an emanation or projection of the Paramatman – the transcendental supreme soul – so also the Jivatman emanates a breath of life essential to all gestation and growth on the physical, astral and intellectual planes. This is the fundamental formative factor in all the kingdoms of Nature, including not only the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, but the human kingdom as well. Behind this, however, in a deeper sense directly connected to the Paramatman, a breath of the Divine Life is present in the power of self-consciousness.
An intimation of this presence may be glimpsed by considering the etymology of the word Atman, which is ordinarily spoken of as the seventh principle of human nature but which is in reality no discrete principle at all. Svara, the current of the life-wave in the dual process of involution and evolution, is the Spirit within the universal soul, the living basis of the laws of cosmic motion. The term Atman, coming as it does from the root at, carries the idea of Eternal Motion. In turn, the root at is a variant of two other roots: ah, containing the idea of breath, and as, conveying the idea of being. Thus, the eternal motion of Divine Light associated with the Atman is the Divine Life-Breath. It is also the basis of pure noumenal being. These roots have their origin in the sound produced by the breath of all living beings. As the primordial current of life, it is the basis of inspiration and expiration, the beating of the heart, the cycles of the seasons, the vast periods of pralaya and manvantara. This is a tremendous truth to contemplate. It implies that anyone who has gained the power of withdrawing consciousness from the physical and astral bodies, and who has become capable of self-existence in the pure divine sphere of light surrounding every human being, is capable of tapping the higher reaches of noumenal spiritual and mental breathing. Such a Man of Meditation realizes Brahman and the Void beyond all beings, the perpetual motion within the depths of the ocean of Life that endures whether universes exist or not. It is beyond all formulation and characterization, beyond all schools and philosophies. It is the eternal pulsation in the Golden Egg of Hiranyagarbha, the eternal motion of the Atman, the eternal vibration within the divine sphere of Light.
Hermes, December 1986