July 2012 Newsletter

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 other.

 

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 generally taken.

 

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 Apostles.”

 

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 Himalayan Mountains.”

 

 

The Asala Festival

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

 

 

In the Theosophical Encyclopedia we find the following entry compiled by Bro. Vicente Hao Chin.

 

“The first 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.

 

In 1923, 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 work.

 

In 1925, 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.

 

During the 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.

 

“The first 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”.

 

And in 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”.

 

 

Many would 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.

 

He served 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.

 

He 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 Chinese Lodge.

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