The following articles are reproduced from the July 2012 Newsletter to members.
Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
The Asala Festival
Bishop C. W. Leadbeater wrote in The Masters And The Path, which
was first published in 1925, the following account of the Asala Festival.
“Besides the great Wesak Festival there is one other occasion in each
year when the members of the Brotherhood all meet together officially. The
meeting in this case is usually held in the private house of the Lord Maitreya,
situated also in the Himalayas, but on the southern instead of the northern
slopes. On this occasion no pilgrims on the physical plane are present, but all
astral visitors who know of the celebration are welcome to attend it. It is held
on the full moon day of the month of Asala, (in Sanskrit Asâdha), usually
corresponding to the English July.
This is the anniversary of the delivery by the Lord Buddha of His first
announcement of the great discovery—the sermon which He preached to his five
disciples, commonly known as the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta, which has
been poetically translated by Rhys Davids as “The Setting in Motion of the Royal
Chariot Wheels of the Kingdom of Righteousness”. It is often more briefly
described in Buddhist books as “The Turning of the Wheel of the Law”. It
explains for the first time the Four Noble Truths and the Noble
Eightfold Path, expounding the great middle way of the Buddha—the life of
perfect righteousness in the world, which lies midway between the extravagances
of asceticism on the one hand and the carelessness of mere worldly life on the
In His love for His great predecessor the Lord Maitreya has ordained that,
whenever the anniversary of that first preaching comes round, the same sermon
shall be recited once more in the presence of the assembled Brotherhood; and He
usually adds to it a simple address of His own, expounding and applying it.
The recitation of the sermon commences at the moment of full moon, and the
reading and the address are usually over in about half an hour. The Lord
Maitreya generally takes His place upon the marble seat which is set at the edge
of a raised terrace in the lovely garden just in front of His house. The
greatest of the Officials sit close about Him, while the rest of the Brotherhood
is grouped in the garden a few feet below. On this occasion, as on the other,
there is often an opportunity for pleasant converse, and kindly greetings and
benedictions are distributed by the Masters among Their pupils and those who
aspire to be Their pupils.
It may be useful to give some account of the ceremony, and of what is usually
said at these Festivals, though it is, of course, utterly impossible to
reproduce the wonder and the beauty and the eloquence of the words of the Lord
Maitreya on such occasions. The account which follows does not attempt to report
any single discourse; it is a combination of, I fear, very imperfectly
remembered fragments, some of which have already appeared elsewhere; but it will
give to those who have not previously heard of it some idea of the line
That great sermon is wonderfully simple, and its points are repeated over and
over again. There was no shorthand in those days, so that it might be taken down
and read by every one afterwards; His disciples had to remember His words by the
impression made on them at the time. So He made them simple, and He repeated
them again and again like a refrain, so that the people might be sure of them.
One may readily see in reading it that it is constructed for this special
purpose—that it may be easily remembered. Its points are arranged categorically,
so that when it has once been heard each point reminds one of the next, as
though it were a kind of mnemonic, and to the Buddhist each of these separate
and easily remembered words suggests a whole body of related ideas, so that the
sermon, short and simple as it is, contains an explanation and a rule of life.
One might well think that all that can be said about the sermon has been said
already many times over; yet the Lord, with His wonderful eloquence and the way
in which He puts it, makes it every year seem something new, and each person
feels its message as though it were specially addressed to himself. On that
occasion, as in the original preaching, the Pentecostal miracle repeats itself.
The Lord speaks in the original sonorous Pâli, but every one present hears Him
“in his own tongue wherein he was born,” as is said in the Acts of the
In addition to the account by C. W. Leadbeater we also have the
testimonial of Geoffrey Hodson (1886-1983), a renowned theosophist and
clairvoyant and also a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church, regarding the
Asala Festival. In his occult diary, his wife Sandra Hodson wrote on July 7,
1976, “Geoffrey recorded to me verbally that on one or more occasions he
remembered, on awakening, an out-of-the-body experience following the Asala
Festival, of attendance at the home and garden of the Lord Maitreya. Geoffrey
stated, “As far as my memory goes, not only Adepts, but a considerable number of
aspirants to Adeptship—devotees of the Lord Buddha, the Lord Maitreya, and the
Masters of the Wisdom—were also present and listened to the discourse. Most of
them, in physically influenced memory, were floating in their subtle bodies, as
it were, in the air above the Lord’s garden on the southern slopes of the
For those who
would like to observe the Asala Festival this year, you may
wish to take note that the time of full moon is around 10:40 p.m.
Singapore time on Monday, 4 July 2012
Theosophy in China
Theosophical Encyclopedia we find the following entry compiled by
Bro. Vicente Hao Chin.
lodge in China was the Saturn Lodge in Shanghai chartered in 1920, with Mr. H.
P. Shastri as President and Mr. G. F. L. Harrison as Secretary. This was
apparently renamed as Shanghai Lodge, since it is so reported in the annual
report of 1924. In 1922, Sun Lodge was chartered in Shanghai. The theosophical
efforts in China were often pioneered by Westeners who were then living in
various parts of China.
two more lodges were chartered, the Hankow Lodge, in Hankow, and the Hongkong
lodge in Hongkong (headed by M. Manuk). In 1924 Dawn Lodge was formed in
Shanghai headed by Kinson Tsiang. This was composed of young people. In 1925
Blavatsky Lodge was formed also in Shanghai, headed by Dorothy Arnold. This
consisted of Russians who lived in Shanghai, and the dearth of theosophical
books in Russian was a problem to the group. During this time, Arnold also
conducted educational work for children. The Besant School for Girls was opened
in 1925. It was successful, such that by 1928, the student population had grown
to 340. In 1930, it grew to 448, and many had to be refused admission. Miss
Arnold had to resign as Vice President of the Lodge to focus on the school’s
Edith Gray of the American Section visited the Shanghai Lodge and gave lectures
on Karma and Reincarnation, which led to the formation of a Karma and
Reincarnation Legion. They published Far Eastern T.S. Notes which came
out every two months. Translations were made of theosophical books, such as
At the Feet of the Master, Theosophy and The Riddle of Life.
By 1925, theosophical centers were established in Amoy (Xiamen), Swatow
(Shantou), Macao and Hoihow (Haikou), all in southern China. In Macao, a
newspaper controversy on reincarnation arose lasting for an entire month, which
brought reincarnation and theosophy to the attention of the masses. The
newspaper exchange was subsequently printed in book form. In the same year, a
lodge was organized in Tientsin (Tianjin), called the North China Lodge. The
Presidential Agent for China was Mr. M. Manuk in 1928 based in China. Later,
however, the theosophical activity in China was under the Presidential Agency
for East Asia. The lodges were visited by C. Jinarājadāsa in 1937. During that
year, the theosophists also established a Vegetarian Society in Shanghai.
second world war, theosophical activities in Shanghai and Hongkong ceased, and
when the communists took over China in 1949, all theosophical groups ceased to
function except in Hongkong, which was a British colony. The Hongkong lodge
however was only intermittently active, and by the 1990s, there was no longer
any theosophical meetings or activity there.
Theosophical literature in Chinese were mostly written in the old classical
style rather than the modern style or baihua, hence are relatively harder
to read for later generation Chinese.”
Significantly, in A Short History of The Theosophical Society
compiled by Josephine Ransom, we have under the year 1922 the following entry.
Chinese Lodge had been formed, with the great Chinese statesman and ambassador,
Dr. Wu Ting-Fang, as President, but who passed away in June. He was
intensely anxious that Theosophy should take root in his own land, for he wished
the new China to be built up on the basis of brotherhood”.
The Golden Book of The Theosophical Society, edited by C.
Jinarājadāsa, we have the following picture of Dr. Wu Ting-Fang with the
caption “Author of the first Chinese Manual on Theosophy”.
be surprised to know the illustrious background of Dr. Wu Ting-Fang. Dr. Wu
Ting-Fang (伍廷芳) was born in Singapore in 1842. He studied law in England at
University College London, was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn (1876) and
became the first ethnically Chinese barrister in history.
under the Qing Dynasty as Minister to the United States, Spain, and Peru from
1896 to 1902 and from 1907 to 1909. In this role he lectured widely about
Chinese culture and history.
supported the Xinhai Revolution and negotiated on the revolutionaries' behalf in
Shanghai. He served briefly in early 1912 as Minister of Justice for the Nanjing
Provisional Government. He became Minister of Foreign Affairs for the ROC. He
served briefly in 1917 as Acting President of the Republic of China when Dr. Sun
Yat-sen was absent. He passed away on 23 June 1922, the year he formed the first