The Path – May 1893

THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY — William Q. Judge

AS RELATED TO BRAHMANISM AND BUDDHISM

The subjoined circular has been sent by me to as many Brahmins as I could reach. I have purposely used the words "Brahmins of India" in the title because I hold to the view of the Vedas and the ancient laws that the Brahmin is not merely he who is born of a Brahmin father. In America lack of accurate knowledge respecting Indian religions causes a good deal of misapprehension about Brahmanism and Buddhism, as very many think Buddhism to be India's religion, whereas in fact it is not, but, on the contrary, the prevailing form of belief in India is Brahmanism. This necessary distinction should be remembered and false notions upon the subject dissipated as much as possible. Buddhism does not prevail in India, but in countries outside it, such as Burma, Japan, Ceylon, and others. The misconception by so many Americans about the true home of Buddhism if not corrected may tend to cause the Brahmins to suppose that the T. S. here spreads abroad the wrong notion; and no form of religion should be preferred in the T. S. above another. — W. Q. J.

TO THE BRAHMINS OF INDIA.

144 Madison Ave, New York, April 5, 1893,

MY FRIENDS: —

In the English Theosophical magazine, Lucifer, for the month of February, 1893, is an admirable article by Rai B. K. Laheri of Ludhiana, Punjab, in which he asks his fellow Theosophists to remember that no religious form of belief should be prominently brought forward or disparaged by members of the Theosophical Society, and his words appeared at the very time I was contemplating a fraternal letter to you to show you that that Society is not engaged in any attempt to bring forward the Buddhist religion. I was the pupil and intimate friend of H. P. Blavatsky who founded the Theosophical Society; I took part with her in its first organization; I was conversant with her sleepless devotion and untiring zeal in the work she wanted that Society to do, which was to follow out the plan laid down for it by some of your own Indian Rishees, the Mahatmas who were her Gurus; I was told by her in the very beginning of that work that her object as directed by her Guru was to bring to the attention of the West the great truths of philosophy contained in the old books and thought of India; I know that her first friends in the work in your country, even before she left this one, were Indians, Brahmins, sons of Aryavarta: hence my sensitiveness to any misapprehension by you of its purposes or of its supporters can be easily understood by you. I am not a Christian nor a member of any religious body; as I was born out of India in this incarnation I could not be a Brahmin under your present laws; but if I am anything I am a follower of and believer in the Vedas; I have therefore a peculiarly deep interest in the philosophic and religious literature of the Indian Aryans, am in strong sympathy with its convictions and spiritual quality, and have in all ways, but especially for the last seven years in my own magazine, the Path, labored constantly to bring its treasures to the attention of students in this Western World.

Having, then, this triple devotion, — to the teaching of Indian sages, the ideals of the Messenger of your own Rishees, and the welfare of the Theosophical Society, it will be evident to you why the evil so strongly felt by my honored Brahmin co-worker, Bro. Laheri, and by myself should lead me, as an individual and as Vice-President of the T. S., to address as many of you as these words can reach. The evil is this: that a suspicion is spreading through the Brahmin community that the Theosophical Society is losing its impartial character as the equal friend to all religions and is becoming distinctly Buddhistic in its sympathies and affiliations. And the evil is not a mere mistake as to fact: it is evolving the practical consequences that interest in the Society diminishes among its natural friends in Brahminism, that they hesitate to enter its membership or cooperate in its work, and that they withhold the aid without which the priceless treasures of their literature, so indispensable to the efforts we Theosophists are making to throw light upon the great problems of existence now agitating the Western mind, and thus unite East and West, cannot be used in the spiritual mission the ancient Rishees have approved. In brief, Brahmins will not sustain the Theosophical Society if they believe it a Buddhistic propaganda; nor can they be expected to. No more could Christians, Mahommedans, or Parsees.

Although, as I am unreservedly convinced, this evil is due to misapprehension, it must none the less have had some cause to originate it. I believe this cause to have been threefold. First, the name Esoteric Buddhism given to one of our books. This book, as many of you know, was the first important attempt to bring the truths of real Indian spiritual philosophy to the knowledge of Europe and America. But it was not Buddhism. It was first named Fragments of Occult Truth, and might just as properly have been published with the title Esoteric Brahmanism. Its enormous circulation and influence, both on a constant increase, show the readiness of the Western mind for just this teaching. But its title, adopted from lack of a more accurate term at the time, has naturally led many to suppose it an exposition of mere Buddhism, although its author, Mr. Sinnett, has been at pains to explain the contrary and Madame Blavatsky has also pointed out the mistake.

Second, the well-known membership in the Buddhist Church of Col. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society, and his earnest efforts to unite the two schools of Buddhism, as well as to popularize their teaching and to restore the temple at Buddha-Gaya. And yet you must remember that Col. Olcott was himself invested by Brahmin authorities with the Brahminical thread, the highest possible evidence of confidence in his character, and that he has recently lectured with enthusiasm on the essential unity of the inner teachings of Buddha with your own religion. Nor should any of us forget that any personal predilections for his own faith are as much the right of the President as of any private member of the Society; and that the very Constitution of that Society, the Constitution he himself was active in shaping, forbids the identification of the Society by any officer or member with his personal beliefs in either politics or religion. Those of you who know Col. Olcott must be aware how utterly he would repudiate any wish, or even willingness, to thus abuse his official station.

Third, the incautious remarks of Buddhist members of the Society. No doubt such have at times been made, and in the warmth of personal zeal or in momentary forgetfulness of the scrupulous impartiality a true Theosophist owes to all other lovers of truth, our Buddhist friends have occasionally used comparisons which were unwise. Yet even here we need remembrance that absolute fidelity to the highest ideal, ceaseless prudence in speech and pen, total faultlessness as to tact and wisdom, are not vouchsafed to any body of religionists or to any individual of them: In this, as in other departments of human conduct, there will be lapses of discretion, and it would be unfair to refuse to an inconsistent F. T. S. the allowance we concede to an inconsistent citizen or ^an inconsistent moralist. Certainly it would be unfair to antagonize the Society because some of its members proved defective in its spirit.

It is my conviction, then, that the suspicion which has thus interfered with the Society's work and impaired your own interest in it has no real basis. And I think you will share it if you recall such additional facts as these: — the explicit statements of the Society in its Constitution; the absolutely unsectarian spirit and proclamations of its great Head, Madame Blavatsky; the total freedom from sectarian affiliation exhibited in the actual conduct of the Society; the whole-souled devotion to its mission of many, both in East and West, who are not Buddhists in belief; the eager effort by many after all the light and truth your invaluable literature contains; the unqualified welcome given by Western Theosophists to such of your co-believers as they have been privileged to meet in their own lands. And possibly you may give weight to the unreserved assurance from myself, who have been close to Madame Blavatsky from the first and in constant conference and cooperation with her, an active worker in the Society and familiar with its history and genius, that it has not been, is not, and is most unlikely to become the organ of any sect or faith, the thing essential to its operations, nay, even to its existence, being the most absolute catholicity of thought and sympathy and respect. And I may go further, assuring you also that no one would more immediately, sternly, uncompromisingly, ceaselessly resist the contrary policy than would I. I use these words in their fullest significance.

And so the purpose of this letter is to invite a revival of your confidence in the Theosophical Society. In many of you it has never declined. Where it has done so I would restore it. In my own country and in Europe the interest in the work of the Theosophical Society and in Indian philosophy and thought has had an expansion in the last few years which is simply amazing. I can hardly give you adequate idea of the change in the press, in public sentiment, in private study. The Society itself is growing steadily. In America we have seventy-three Branches and shall have seventy-five before this reaches you. Only one is really moribund. This means an increasing zeal for Oriental truth. More expositions of Eastern philosophy are demanded. The three editions I myself published of the Bhagavad-Gita have been exhausted, and a fourth is just coming out. Ancient Aryan ideas and views of life are permeating the land and moulding the convictions of its people. We need help to increase and fix them. Much of this can come only from yourselves and others in India. By your own identification with the Society you can strengthen it for its local work, aiding it to dissolve the barriers between religions and sects and to enliven fraternal feeling through all, assisting in the attempt to uplift higher ideals among your countrymen. And if you cannot join the Society, you can help it by countenancing its work. On our behalf you can transmit those valued treatises which throw light on the great problems of destiny which concern us and you alike, and can thus take part in the truly philanthropic work of giving truth to those who need and ask it. We who are, with you, fellow-seekers after light and aspirants after progress know the joy of sharing our treasures with the sincere, and we invite you to give us more towards such sharing. Like you we are workers in the Rishees' cause, and we seek the most efficient aids in that work. If you do not give this aid or if you continue to rest under the wrong impression I have spoken of above, you will interfere with a work that is for the direct benefit of India and of your religion. For our work is meant also to bring the attention of the West to the philosophical and religious truths of the Sacred Books of India, to the end that India may be helped to lift itself up once more to spiritual heights of power and thus in its turn benefit the whole race of man. It is only by teaching the West the soul-satisfying philosophy of the ancient Aryans that we can lead them on as parts of the human family, and as, indeed, perhaps the very nations where some of you may be drawn by Karma to incarnation in some future life. By having a wrong impression of the work of the Society you will be led to speak against it and to throw your powerful influence in the scale opposite to it, and thus very materially hold it back.

I invite you to communicate freely with me in answer to this letter, and to give the letter itself the widest circulation possible among Brahmins. I shall arrange for its translation into a native tongue. And so with respect and sympathy and fraternal spirit, and with the hope that these words may avail to correct an error which has distressed and alarmed me, I am

Your friend, however distant,

WILLIAM Q. JUDGE


The Path

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