July 2014 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the July 2014 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.”
Commencement of Study Class on The Voice of the Silence
We will be commencing our Study Class on The Voice of the Silence on 15 July 2014. This year is the 125th Anniversary of the publication of this last book written by Madame H. P. Blavatsky.
This book was first published in September 1889. The Preface to the book by HPB is reproduced hereinafter.
The following pages are derived from The Book of the Golden Precepts, one of the works put into the hands of mystic students in the East. The knowledge of them is obligatory in that school, the teachings of which are accepted by many Theosophists. Therefore, as I know many of these Precepts by heart, the work of translating has been relatively an easy task for me.
It is well known that, in India, the methods of psychic development differ with the Gurus (teachers or masters), not only because of their belonging to different schools of philosophy, of which there are six (In Hinduism), but because every Guru has his own system, which he generally keeps very secret. But beyond the Himālayas the method in the Esoteric Schools does not differ, unless the Guru is simply a Lama, but little more learned than those he teaches.
The work from which I here translate forms part of the same series as that from which the “Stanzas” of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which The Secret Doctrine is based. Together with the great mystic work called Paramārtha, which, the legend of Nāgārjuna tells us, was delivered to the great Arhat by the Nāgas or “Serpents” (in truth a name given to the ancient Initiates), the “Book of the Golden Precepts” claims the same origin. Yet its maxims and ideas, however noble and original, are often found under different forms in Sanskrit works, such as the Jńāneshvarī (Dnyaneshwari – the Jńāneshvarī, as now known, is written in Marāthi and consists of the Bhagavadgitā and commentary thereon by Jńāneshvar), that superb mystic treatise in which Krishna describes to Arjuna in glowing colours the condition of a fully illumined Yogī; and again in certain Upanishads. This is but natural, since most, if not all, of the greatest Arhats, the first followers of Gautama Buddha were Hindus and Āryans, not Mongolians, especially those who emigrated into Tibet. The works left by Āryasanga alone are very numerous.
The original Precepts are engraved on thin oblong squares; copies very often on discs. These discs, or plates, are generally preserved on the altars of the temples attached to centres where the so-called “contemplative” or Mahāyāna (Yogāchārya) schools are established. They are written variously, sometimes in Tibetan but mostly in ideographs. The sacerdotal language (Senzar), besides having an alphabet of its own, may be rendered in several modes of writing in cypher characters, which partake more of the nature of ideographs than of syllables. Another method (lug, in Tibetan) is to use the numerals and colours, each of which corresponds to a letter of the Tibetan alphabet (thirty simple and seventy-four compound letters) thus forming a complete cryptographic alphabet. When the ideographs are used there is a definite mode of reading the text; as in this case the symbols and signs used in astrology, namely the twelve zodiacal animals and the seven primary colours, each a triplet in shade, i.e. the light, the primary, and the dark—stand for the thirty-three letters of the simple alphabet, for words and sentences. For in this method, the twelve “animals” five times repeated and coupled with the five elements and the seven colours, furnish a whole alphabet composed of sixty sacred letters and twelve signs. A sign placed at the beginning of the text determines whether the reader has to spell it according to the Indian mode, when every word is simply a Sanskrit adaptation, or according to the Chinese principle of reading the ideographs. The easiest way however, is that which allows the reader to use no special, or any language he likes, as the signs and symbols were, like the Arabian numerals or figures, common and international property among initiated mystics and their followers. The same peculiarity is characteristic of one of the Chinese modes of writing, which can be read with equal facility by any one acquainted with the character: for instance, a Japanese can read it in his own language as readily as a Chinaman in his.
The Book of the Golden Precepts—some of which are pre-Buddhistic while others belong to a later date—contains about ninety distinct little treatises. Of these I learnt thirty-nine by heart, years ago. To translate the rest, I should have to resort to notes scattered among a too large number of papers and memoranda collected for the last twenty years and never put in order, to make of it by any means an easy task. Nor could they be all translated and given to a world too selfish and too much attached to objects of sense to be in any way prepared to receive such exalted ethics in the right spirit. For, unless a man perseveres seriously in the pursuit of self-knowledge, he will never lend a willing ear to advice of this nature.
And yet such ethics fill volumes upon volumes in Eastern literature, especially in the Upanishads. “Kill out all desire of life,” says Krishna to Arjuna. That desire lingers only in the body, the vehicle of the embodied Self, not in the SELF which is “eternal, indestructible, which kills not nor is it killed” (Katha Upanishad). “Kill out sensation,” teaches Sūtta Nipāta; “look alike on pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat.” Again, “Seek shelter in the eternal alone” (ibid). “Destroy the sense of separateness,” repeats Krishna under every form. “The Mind (Manas) which follows the rambling senses, makes the Soul (Buddhi) as helpless as the boat which the wind leads astray upon the waters” (Bhagavadgitā II. 70).
Therefore it has been thought better to make a judicious selection only from those treatises which will best suit the few real mystics in the Theosophical Society, and which are sure to answer their needs. It is only these who will appreciate these words of Krishna-Christos, the Higher Self:
“Sages do not grieve for the living nor the dead. Never did I not exist, nor you, nor these rulers of men; nor will any one of us ever hereafter cease to be.” (Bhagavadgitā II. 27).
In this translation, I have done my best to preserve the poetical beauty of language and imagery which characterise the original. How far this effort has been successful is for the reader to judge.”
H. P. B.