The Theosophical Forum – January 1938

ORIENTAL STUDIES: I — Judith Tyberg

The Sacred Texts of the Gupta-Vidya: Where are they?

When we consider the vast treasure-of age-old truths that may be found in the ancient Oriental literature which has come down to us, we realize that there must have once been an esoteric fount of Truth open to a great number of the ancient peoples. If the Upanishads, "the mirror of eternal Wisdom," (S. D., II, 484) are exoteric works, there must have been some teaching of a still deeper and more esoteric nature given to the ancients. The question is often raised: Were there still more mystic writings known to the ancients? Some learned writers and students of ancient scriptures insist that there must have been "fragments of a primeval revelation, granted to the ancestors of the whole race of mankind . . . preserved in the temples of Greece and Italy." Eastern Initiates and Pandits have also proclaimed from time to time that their most sacred writings are not known to the West.

What has H. P. Blavatsky to say on this subject? As usual we find something helpful in her Secret Doctrine, this time in her Introductory (p. xxx):

While a prominent Cinghalese priest assured the writer [H. P. B.] that it was well known that the most important Buddhist tracts belonging to the sacred canon were stored away in countries and places inaccessible to the European pundits, the late Swami Dayanand Sarasvati, the greatest Sanskritist of his day in India, assured some members of the Theosophical Society of the same fact with regard to ancient Brahmanical works. When told that Professor Max Muller had declared to the audiences of his "Lectures" that the theory . . . "that there was a primeval preternatural revelation granted to the fathers of the human race, finds but few supporters at present," — the holy and learned man laughed. His answer was suggestive. "If Mr. Moksh Mooler," as he pronounced the name, "were a Brahmin, and came with me, I might take him to a gupta cave (a secret crypt) near Okhee Math, in the Himalayas, where he would soon find out that what crossed the Kalapani (the black waters of the ocean) from India to Europe were only the bits of rejected copies of some passages from our sacred books. There was a "primeval revelation," and it still exists; nor will it ever be lost to the world, but will reappear; though the Mlechchhas will of course have to wait."

Of all the writings of old India that have come down to us, the Upanishads contain the most mystical and Theosophical teachings. H. P. Blavatsky says that it is in the Upanishads and the Vedanta that we have to look for the best corroboration of the occult teachings. She also tells us that the mystical doctrine of the Upanishads is "the only Veda of all thoughtful Hindus in the present day." (Five Years of Theosophy, p. 192)

Yet even these writings of the Upanishad have reached us in a despoiled condition. Why are they thus demolished? Who has done it? The following passage by H. P. Blavatsky (S. D., I, 269-272) gives answer.

After stating that what is given in The Secret Doctrine can be found in full nowhere else, she says:

It is not taught in any of the six Indian schools of philosophy, for it pertains to their synthesis — the seventh, which is the Occult doctrine. It is not traced on any crumbling papyrus of Egypt, nor is it any longer graven on Assyrian tile or granite wall. The Books of the Vedanta (the last word of human knowledge) give out but the metaphysical aspect of this world-Cosmogony; and their priceless thesaurus, the UpanishadsUpa-ni-shad being a compound word meaning "the conquest of ignorance by the revelation of secret, spiritual knowledge" — require now the additional possession of a Master-key to enable the student to get at their full meaning. The reason for this I venture to state here as I learned it from a Master.

The name, "Upanishads," is usually translated "esoteric doctrine." These treatises form part of the Sruti or "revealed knowledge," Revelation, in short, and are generally attached to the Brahmana portion of the Vedas, as their third division. There are over 150 Upanishads enumerated by, and known to, Orientalists, who credit the oldest with being written probably about 600 years b. c; but of genuine texts there does not exist a fifth of the number. The Upanishads are to the Vedas what the Kabala is to the Jewish Bible. They treat of and expound the secret and mystic meaning of the Vedic texts. They speak of the origin of the Universe, the nature of Deity, and of Spirit and Soul, as also of the metaphysical connection of mind and matter. In a few words: They CONTAIN the beginning and the end of all human knowledge, but they have now ceased to REVEAL it, since the day of Buddha. If it were otherwise, the Upanishads could not be called esoteric, since they are now openly attached to the Sacred Brahmanical books, which have, in our present age, become accessible even to the Mlechchhas (out-castes) and the European Orientalists. One thing in them — and this in all the Upanishads — invariably and constantly points to their ancient origin, and proves (a) that they were written, in some of their portions, before the caste system became the tyrannical institution which it still is; and (b) that half of their contents have been eliminated, while some of them were rewritten and abridged. "The great Teachers of the higher Knowledge and the Brahmans are continually represented as going to Kshatriya (military caste) kings to become their pupils." As Cowell pertinently remarks, the Upanishads "breathe an entirely different spirit" (from other Brahmanical writings), "a freedom of thought unknown in any earlier work except in the Rig Veda hymns themselves." The second fact is explained by a tradition recorded in one of the MSS. on Buddha's life. It says that the Upanishads were originally attached to their Brahmanas after the beginning of a reform, which led to the exclusiveness of the present caste system among the Brahmins, a few centuries after the invasion of India by the "twice-born." They were complete in those days, and were used for the instruction of the chelas who were preparing for their initiation.

This lasted so long as the Vedas and the Brahmanas remained in the sole and exclusive keeping of the temple-Brahmins — while no one else had the right to study or even read them outside of the sacred caste. Then came Gautama, the Prince of Kapilavastu. After learning the whole of the Brahmanical wisdom in the Rahasya or the Upanishads, and finding that the teachings differed little, if at all, from those of the "Teachers of Life" inhabiting the snowy ranges of the Himalaya, the Disciple of the Brahmins, feeling indignant because the sacred wisdom was thus withheld from all but the Brahmins, determined to save the whole world by popularizing it. Then it was that the Brahmins, seeing that their sacred knowledge and Occult wisdom was falling into the hands of the "Mlechchhas," abridged the texts of the Upanishads, originally containing thrice the matter of the Vedas and the Brahmanas together, without altering, however, one word of the texts. They simply detached from the MSS. the most important portions containing the last word of the Mystery of Being. The key to the Brahmanical secret code remained henceforth with the initiates alone, and the Brahmins were thus in a position to publicly deny the correctness of Buddha's teaching by appealing to their Upanishads, silenced for ever on the chief questions. Such is the esoteric tradition beyond the Himalayas.

Sri Sankaracharya, the greatest Initiate living in the historical ages, wrote many a Bhashya 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 Bhashyas (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 Smartava Brahmins. This sect, founded by Sankaracharya, (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 Bhashyas. 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 "Sringagiri," 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 Smartava; 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 learning.

Yet in these tattered remnants of the Upanishads there is great inspiration, and an inner experience for those who make their lofty teachings a part of their lives. The truths they contain have inspired many a great mind. Anquetil Duperron, the first European who read the Upanishads and translated them into Latin, said in his introduction:

Here, reader, is the key of India's sanctuary, somewhat rough with rust. Enter, if thou darest, if thou canst, with pure and clean heart, drawing near to the highest being, and merging in it. Let the outer senses rest; awaken the inner. Let thy body be as dead, and sunk in the ocean of wisdom and unwisdom. Know it — after Indian custom — as a divine law, that thou seest nothing but the Eternal; that nothing is, but the Eternal.

The wisdom of the Upanishads is truly the sacred relic of antiquity, and these truths are as old as the divinity of man, older even than our world. It is part of the virtue of these old mystery-teachings that they are quite inexhaustible; every advance in enlightenment gives us a new insight into their meaning. The sooner we make these truths actual in our lives, the sooner will the secret sanctuaries containing even pro founder writings be opened once again. We must open these locked doors ourselves, but first we must earn our way to their divine treasures.

"The Self I cannot know, but I can be that Self."
     — Kena Upanishad


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