March 2016 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the March 2016 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
2016 Study Class on Viveka-Chūdāmani
We are pleased to inform members that the President has selected the book Viveka-Chūdāmani or Crest-Jewel of Wisdom of Śrī Śankarāchārya for the 2016 Study Class. This would be the first time we are conducting a study class on this book.
Viveka-Chūdāmani is an important original work of Śrī Śankarāchārya, one of the greatest sages of Ancient India, on Vedanta (Occult Science) running to 581 Slokas (verses) in Sanskrit. Endowed with lofty and sharp intellect, he wrote many incisive commentaries on great standard works of Hindu philosophy. But they are beyond the reach of those who have not attained a high proficiency in Sanskrit and other collateral philosophical disciplines. Here in Viveka-Chūdāmani he distils the quintessence of what he taught, that is, the non-dual Vedanta or Advaita Vedānta in easy Sanskrit verses whose sublimity of content is matched only by their lyrical beauty. Each verse is presented with a free-running English translation. Viveka-Chūdāmani was translated for The Theosophist (Vols. VII, 1885-86 and Vol. IX, 1887-88) by Mohini M. Chatterji, one of the early members of the Theosophical Society, as “Crest-Jewel of Wisdom”.
1 – 49 October 1885, pg. 65-68
50 -105 January 1886, pg. 253-258
106 – 150 March 1886, pg. 385-390
151 – 190 July 1886, pg. 661-665
191 – 299 August 1886, 724-732
301 – 450 October 1887, pg. 23-35
452 – 512 November 1887, pg. 124-128
513 - 583 December 1887, pg. 158-162
This is the first known translation of Viveka-Chūdāmani into English. It was later published (in 1932) as a book of the same title.
Of Śrī Śankarāchārya, the greatest Vedāntic teacher of India, H.P.B. writes in the Secret Doctrine (Vol. I, p. 271):
Śrī Śankarāchārya, the greatest Initiate living in the historical ages, wrote many a Bhāshya on the Upanishads. But his original treatises, as there are reasons to suppose, have not yet fallen into the hands of the Philistines, for they are too jealously preserved in his maths (monasteries, mathams). And there are still weightier reasons to believe that the priceless Bhāshyas (Commentaries) on the esoteric doctrine of the Brahmins, by their greatest expounder, will remain for ages yet a dead letter to most of the Hindus, except the Smārtava Brahmins. This sect, founded by Śankarāchārya, (which is still very powerful in Southern India) is now almost the only one to produce students who have preserved sufficient knowledge to comprehend the dead letter of the Bhāshyas. The reason of this is that they alone, I am informed, have occasionally real Initiates at their head in their mathams, as for instance, in the “Sringa-giri,” in the Western Ghauts of Mysore.
On the other hand, there is no sect in that desperately exclusive caste of the Brahmins, more exclusive than is the Smārtava; and the reticence of its followers to say what they may know of the Occult sciences and the esoteric doctrine, is only equalled by their pride and learnings.
Śrī Śankarāchārya was an exponent and commentator of the three basic presentations of Vedanta viz. Brahma-sutras, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita; and one who revived Sanātana Dharma (Ancient Wisdom-Religion). He is revered in the Hindu tradition as a descendant of Sanātana, the third associate of Sanat-Kumāra who arrived on the Earth globe from that of Venus taking upon himself a sacred vow to remain here till the last of the human-souls is redeemed or liberated. Thus, the Occult Science came to be known as Sanātana-Vidya of Aryavarta. He was the disciple of Govinda Yati, a name according to immemorial custom, assumed by Patanjali at the time of his Initiation into the Monastic Order.
Few realize how lofty a Being is being alluded to here. The occult tradition talks of him as the incarnation of one of the four Kumāras—Sanat Kumāra, Sananda, Sanaka, and Sanātana. These august Beings have been called the “Lords of the Flame” and the “Children of the Fire-mist”, and They have produced a wonderful effect upon our evolution. They are also referred to as the King and His three pupils. The King, of course, refers to the current Lord of World, Sanat Kumāra. We are told that there are three Lords of the World in a World Period and that our current Lord of the World is the third for this World Period and His three pupils will be the Lords of the World for the next World Period, i.e. the next globe.
According to Tibetan and Indian Initiates, Śrī Śankarāchārya was born in 510 B.C. 51 years and 2 months after the Lord Buddha’s entrance into Nirvana, in a south Indian state now known as Kerala. After his work was accomplished, Śrī Śankarāchārya retired to a cave in the Himâlayas, permitting none of his disciples to follow him, and disappeared therein forever from the sight of the profane. To know more about Śrī Śankarāchārya and his interrelation with the Lord Buddha, you may wish to read The Mystery of Buddha (H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Volume XIV, pp. 388-399).
Śrī Śankarāchārya details Discrimination and Dispassion (Viveka and Vairagya ) as the two wings of a Human-soul-bird. Viveka, meaning Discrimination, is the first step on the Path leading to Wisdom; the first step is also the last step. The import of the Teaching can be epitomized thus: Human being has 3 distinct stages in the course of Spiritual Journey, viz. Individualization, Growing into Aspiration to Divinity and Attaining the Association of The Great Ones. It provides an opportunity to an aspirant in treading the Path of Holiness; in carefully understanding the nature of the Individual Soul, Supreme or Universal Soul and the Proper Preparation needed for Ultimate Realization.
A comprehensive understanding of the Text becomes possible, to an aspirant in the modern age, by enriching him/herself with the theosophical philosophy. This philosophy asserts that practices of Viveka and Vairagya lead one to the Path Proper, forming a bridge between Humanity and Divinity
The importance of this work of Śrī Śankarāchārya to theosophists is that it identifies the qualities the aspirant needs to acquire to embark on the Path of Holiness. In addition to a discussion of these qualities, of the need for the aspirant to have a qualified teacher, and of the necessity for daily meditation, Viveka-Chūdāmani outlines the basic metaphysical doctrine of Advaita Vedānta.’
The Study Class will probably commence in July/August 2016 and is strictly for members only. Members will soon receive an invitation to attend the Study Class and the facility to order the textbook, Viveka-Chūdāmani.
Clairvoyant Diagnosis of Disease
The phenomenon of clairvoyance or supernormal cognition in man has presented itself continuously throughout the whole range of human history. Geoffrey Hodson was one of the renowned seers in the twentieth century who devoted seventy years of his life to service for the Theosophical Society. He has used his clairvoyance to aid research in various fields, such as scientific research as well as to help humanity understand more about the occult causes of health and disease. This talk focuses on six cases which he studied in detail, using his varied psychic abilities. They give us deeper insights into the occult causes of tumours, dementia, subnormal mentality, sleeping sickness, dipsomania or alcoholism and last but not least, that affliction which is so widespread today - cancer. The after-death life of one of the cases was studied, giving us a glimpse into the nature of that life for one who was physically handicapped when alive.
Come on Saturday, 5 March 2016, at 5 p.m. to listen to our Hon. Secretary Lily Chong’s talk on this interesting subject. However, please take note that this talk is restricted strictly to members only.
An Overview of The Mahatma Letters
One of the greatest sources of theosophical teachings comes from the writings of the Masters of the Wisdom. Earnest students will know that Madame H. P. Blavatsky served as the amanuensis of the Masters when she wrote her great book Isis Unveiled in 1877 and later her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine in 1888. Furthermore, a significant amount of direct teachings is found in the private letters the Masters wrote to early members of the Theosophical Society. Indeed, one of the greatest phenomena in the history of The Theosophical Society is the Mahatma Letters. It is not just the phenomenal ways in which the letters were received but the omniscience and encyclopedic knowledge of the Mahatmas that are remarkable.
In the formative years of the TS, some early members were blessed to receive direct communications from the Masters of the Wisdom. The first letter was received in 1870 and the last known letter in 1900. More than 300 letters from seven Mahatmas were received by various members of the TS, mostly in the period 1875 to 1886. These do not count the letters that were not published or kept private by the recipients. The principal recipient was Mr. A. P. Sinnett. The letters cover wide ranging subjects including those of personal counsel and instructions. Most invaluable for students are the esoteric teachings given to A. P. Sinnett and A. O. Hume.
Earnest students all over world have studied the Mahatma Letters closely and are greatly inspired by the writings. Most of the Mahatma Letters were published in three books, namely, The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett and Letters from The Masters of the Wisdom, First and Second Series. These three books collectively contain 303 letters from the Masters. Of these, three letters to C. W. Leadbeater were separately published with commentaries by C. Jinarājadāsa in The “K.H.” Letters to C. W. Leadbeater. In February 2013, Daniel Caldwell published Mrs. Holloway and the Mahatmas, containing 12 previously unpublished letters from the private collection of Mrs. Holloway. We may never know how many letters were written by the Masters that have remained unpublished.
From the teachings contained in the letters received, Mr. A. P. Sinnett wrote two books, The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism. While the former testifies to the existence of the Mahatmas and the invisible worlds around us, the latter gives to the world the esoteric philosophy expounded by the Masters of the Wisdom. These two books, in turn, attracted to the Theosophical Society some of the most prominent members of the Society including C. W. Leadbeater.
Earnest students have greatly benefitted from the publication of the Mahatma Letters. Yet, they might not have been published at all. Indeed, publication was expressly forbidden by the Master K. H., the author of most of the letters. A. P. Sinnett was permitted to quote some letters in The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism. He respected the Masters’ instruction and prohibition. Nevertheless, after his death, his legatee Miss Maud Hoffman decided to make the letters public and chose Mr. A. Trevor Barker as editor. Though Mr. Barker knew of the prohibition of the Mahatma K. H. concerning the publication in full of the correspondence, nevertheless he published all the letters in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in 1923.
For obvious reasons, many members of the Theosophical Society around the world have engaged themselves in the study of the Mahatma Letters, rediscovering the gems of Wisdom contained therein. Many studied privately while others gathered in groups like what we have done to benefit from the synergy of group study. We first conducted the Mahatma Letters Study Class over 52 weeks in 1999/2000. The Mahatma Letters Study Class was reprised ten years later in 2009 taking 88 weeks to complete this time round.
Chong Sanne who conducted both the 1999 and 2009 Study Classes will give members an overview of the Mahatma Letters on 19 March at 5 p.m. Those who have not attended the Mahatma Letters Study Class will find the overview useful and may conceivably inspire them to study the Mahatma Letters.