Why should it be supposed that devachan is a monotonous condition only because some one moment of earthly sensation is indefinitely perpetuated — stretched, so to say, throughout aeons? It is not, it cannot be so. . . .
Then — how can you think that "but one moment of earthly sensation only is selected for perpetuation?" Very true, that "moment" lasts from the first to last; but then it lasts but as the key-note of the whole harmony, a definite tone of appreciable pitch, around which cluster and develop in progressive variations of melody and as endless variations on a theme, all the aspirations, desires, hopes, dreams, which, in connection with that particular "moment" had ever crossed the dreamer's brain during his lifetime, without having ever found their realization on earth, and which he now finds fully realized in all their vividness in devachan, without ever suspecting that all that blissful reality is but the progeny begotten by his own fancy, the effects of the mental causes produced by himself. That particular one moment which will be most intense and uppermost in the thoughts of his dying brain at the time of dissolution will of course regulate all the other "moments." — The Mahatma Letters, pp. 191-2
One of nature's laws is that an entity cannot continue the same forever; for it is by exchanging the imperfect for the ever more perfect that we grow; and death is just such a change. The child must die in order to become a man, and the man must die frequently in order to become a god. There are many wonderful things around us of which we are cognizant all the time, and yet they are so commonplace that we do not draw the necessary deductions from them. Except the seed die, the plant cannot come into being. Except the man die, he cannot experience those postmortem conditions of thought and consciousness which belong to his inner being, to the celestial spirit which he is in his essence.
Death is the most familiar thing in nature, yet it is the most feared because the least understood. We have all entered life by the gateway of birth, and because it is behind us we do not fear birth. But we look with apprehension toward that day when we shall go through the solemn change of death and be free.
After death we are going to be exactly as we have made ourselves during life. If we have lived a decent life, we shall be a decent entity after death; and if we have lived like a beast, we are then going to be a beastly entity, and will have to take what is coming to us. We are neither going to be saved from the consequences of our past life, nor are we going to be eternally damned. There is no heaven, there is no hell, in the old theological sense. But there are postmortem states of many kinds, almost infinitely numerous; and because of nature's harmonious procedures no human being could ever die and be drawn to a condition or place in which he is unfitted to be. No miracles will be wrought for us at our death. No unnatural things, whether good or bad, are going to happen to us; nothing can occur outside of the unerring laws of the universe. A man goes to the particular lokas or talas in the interior worlds which during his life on earth he has fitted himself temporarily to inhabit. He makes for himself his own post-mortem destiny: good, bad, or indifferent.
When the second death supervenes, there is release from bondage for the intermediate nature of man, and the spirit-soul returns to its native realms, with the intermediate nature resting within it while undergoing a process of spiritual recuperation, of assimilation and mental digesting of the lessons learned in the life just lived. As the physical body rebuilds its energies during sleep, so the intermediate nature of man likewise has its own 'sleep' or devachan after each incarnation. Because the states of the consciousness of excarnate entities are many and various, the devachan may be considered as a hierarchical 'ladder' running downwards from the most spiritual to the least spiritual states, and imperceptibly remerging into the highest or most ethereal realms of the kama-loka.
Death is a casting off of limitations and fetters, a dropping of body after body, each one being more ethereal than the last. The more spiritual portion of the reincarnating ego frees itself of the ethereal bodies of man's inner constitution and, entering into its divine parent, the heart of the monadic essence, pursues its peregrinations through the sacred planets, finally passing the portals of the sun into realms and spheres of unspeakable glory.
As to the divine spark itself, it really is always free, even during life, except for its connection with the various vehicles through which it works. It is the central illuminating fire at the very core of man's spiritual essence, and simply sends its splendor down through enshrouding veil after veil until the tip of that descending ray touches the physical brain, giving it light and life.
The devachan, as a series of states of consciousness, is not in any sense a loka, or particular world or sphere. It is in the same category as the still sublimer states of consciousness called nirvana, and in the opposite direction as the avichi, which is also a series of conditions of consciousness of the beings therein. We can imagine a ladder or continuity of states of consciousness of which every rung is one such; and we can divide this ladder into three distinct parts. The highest is the nirvana, which, since there are many types of nirvanis, we may divide into seven or even twelve rungs or conditions. The second part we may call the devachan, in its turn divisible into its series of states of consciousness. (1) Underneath this last come the seven or twelve conditions of consciousness of avichi.
These three parts of the all-inclusive ladder of consciousnesses blend into each other, so that the lowest condition of the nirvana merges into the highest of the devachan; and, similarly, the lowest devachanic state passes insensibly into the highest condition of consciousness in the kama-loka; and again the lowest of the kama-lokic states of consciousness blends into the highest of the avichi. Now the inclusion of the kama-loka with the states of consciousness of the series should not be misunderstood to mean that it is not also a series of lokas. (2) I am speaking here of the beings in the kama-loka, whose states of consciousness, as a class, form the link between the avichi-conditions and the superior consciousnesses in the devachan into which the kama-lokic entities pass when their consciousness is no longer held in the kama-loka.
Devachan is a period of spiritual and loftily intellectual flowering of immaterial energies which could find no adequate self-expression during life. These energies produce their effect on the fabric of character of the dreaming entity which experiences and thus assimilates and digests them. In fact, these spiritual and intellectual expansions of consciousness mold and modify the character of the excarnate ego even more than does the life on earth. In these respects the latter, therefore, can be viewed as a 'world of causes,' while the devachan is a 'world of effects.'
The devachanic condition for the average human being who has lived a creditably aspiring and moral life, is one of inexpressible spiritual and mental beauty and peace. Every high aspiration and unfulfilled desire to do good find their opportunity for expression in his consciousness, so that his devachan is filled with a glorification of all the noblest that he had hoped to do on earth — involving almost infinite variations on the fundamental thought-themes as the creative faculties of the ego work upon them.
Is there progress for the ego in devachan? It depends upon the meaning we attach to the word. If we think of it as a process of gradual assimilation and digestion of all that the entity has experienced and gathered into its consciousness during life on earth, then it can be said that there is 'progress' in the devachanic states. (3) But if by progress is meant the progress evolving of faculty and its use, and that the devachan is a sphere of originating spiritual causes which impel the entity then or later to further evolution, then there is none.
The reason why some spheres have been called spheres of causes, and others spheres of effects, is because of the difference between actions of will and thought inaugurated by a sevenfold entity, such as a fully incarnated man, and the dreaming state of a devachani which is but a threefold being — consisting of the upper duad plus the aroma or spiritual flowering, mentally and psychically speaking, of the man that was. It takes a complete septenary entity to become a real causer of effects in his own world which, in so far as the entity is concerned, is the sphere of causes. The same rule applies to beings of any and all planes, and to any locality, visible or invisible, in the cosmos. Wherever a septenary or duodenary entity acts or lives, that sphere for him is his world of causes, and when his term of imbodiment is over, his rest period becomes his world of effects.
It is clear that the human consciousness, having the range of a sevenfold constitution, is thereby working in a wider sphere than when it is restricted to the dreaming illusion of the human monad asleep in its devachan. In other words, when living on earth — although we are in the maya of incarnated existence — we have the chance of coming in touch with our spiritual and manasic creative self. As septenary entities we can, if we so will, throw off the maya and function in any part of our constitution as a causing, intellectually awakened, complete being. On the other hand, the devachani is a threefold entity only; and whereas most of the devachanic experiences are mayavi, to the dreaming ego they are perfect illusions and therefore have the appearance of reality, so that he revels in the notion that he is achieving wonderful results.
In fact, the devachanic dreams are incomparably more real than anything that our imperfect physical senses can report to us, because the human ego experiencing them is living in the realms of pure thought and spiritual consciousness, where relatively nothing dims the dreaming cognition of the fulfillment of its noblest ideals and aspirations. From this it follows that the devachan is not an objective sphere, but is in each and every case an individual condition of consciousness, always exactly correspondential to the dominating flow of the man's consciousness during his imbodied life.
Thus, the reimbodying ego in the devachan will follow in its consciousness those particular trains of spiritual and intellectual thought and feeling which were most dominant but had the least chance of fulfillment in the life just ended. But as the devachanic states are conditions of rest and bliss without the slightest possibility of suffering or misery, all the 'dreams' of the ego are of the loftiest and most ecstatically beautiful kind possible to the innate energies of the then active consciousness.
One of the greatest illusions held by the majority of mankind today is the notion that when those whom we love die, we have lost contact with them; and even many who believe that they will meet their loved ones again in a future life on earth, labor under the same illusion. Now it is most emphatically not true that the spirit can ever return after death in order to communicate with the living in any manner whatsoever. Outside of the positive cruelty both to the deceased and to the ones left behind, and quite outside of the extraordinarily materialistic atmosphere of this idea, it should be apparent that a disimbodied spirit cannot at any time nor in any circumstance 'descend' to earth. For after death, and after the various processes of casting off the pranic sheaths in the kama-loka, the human ego rises into its devachanic repose, and thereafter it is unapproachable by anything save what is of its own character or lofty spiritual type. It is in just this last phrase that lies the reason why we need never think that we lose all spiritual communion with those whom we have loved; for the higher parts of our being can at any moment by means of vibrational sympathy conjoin its vibrations with those of the devachani, and thus temporarily become at one with it. As H.P.B. writes in The Key to Theosophy (p. 150):
We are with those whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them now, than when they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the Devachanee, as some may imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not merely the blossom of a human heart, but has its roots in eternity.
I may add that if indeed there be a truly spiritual love, there need not ever be any striving to commune with the one who has passed on, for such impersonal love will quite automatically rise to the devachani, and will give the inner conviction to the one on earth that the link is not broken.
The devachani is protected by nature's own laws. Nothing of earth can reach it, for the akasic veil which the devachanic entity has woven around itself, like the cocoon of the yet unborn butterfly, shields it against the intrusion of anything whatsoever beneath its own heights of consciousness. It is spiritual love only which can rise to inner communion with those who have preceded us; no love which has aught of the personal or selfish in it can ever reach the devachanic states. However, it is my earnest belief that it is incomparably better not even to attempt to enter into communion with the devachani, because the love of very few of us is of so pure and holy a character as to be fit, or even able, to ascend to that high level of impersonality.
The devachani is under the guardianship of spiritual entities, nature's own masters, and no human, however high his degree, would ever intrude; and, indeed, the higher the degree the less would be the impulse to trespass upon the holy mystery of the devachan.
There are no clocks, no timepieces in devachan. . . . though the whole Cosmos is a gigantic chronometer in one sense. Nor do we, mortals, — ici bas meme — take much, if any, cognizance of time during periods of happiness and bliss, and find them ever too short; a fact that does not in the least prevent us from enjoying that happiness all the same — when it does come. Have you ever given a thought to this little possibility that, perhaps, it is because their cup of bliss is full to its brim, that the "devachanee" loses "all sense of the lapse of time"; and that it is something that those who land in Avitchi do not, though as much as the devachanee, the Avitchee has no cognizance of time — i.e., of our earthly calculations of periods of time? I may also remind you in this connection that time is something created entirely by ourselves; . . . Finite similes are unfit to express the abstract and the infinite; nor can the objective ever mirror the subjective. To realize the bliss in devachan, or the woes in Avitchi, you have to assimilate them — as we do. — The Mahatma Letters, pp. 193-4
There is a law in occultism, based entirely on the operations of nature, that the human entity does not normally reincarnate under one hundred times the number of years lived on earth. The average life span at the present time is said to be some fifteen years, but this is only a statistical average, and there are of course millions of people who live to be much older than that, and their devachanic period will thus be correspondingly longer. Yet every ego's devachan is individual to itself, both as regards character and time-length. Some human beings are in the devachan far longer than 1500 years, whereas others of strongly materialistic bent and attributes have a devachan of possibly only a few hundred years. (4)
It may seem to be a waste of time to spend so many years in the devachan; but, as a matter of fact, there are hundreds of thousands of human beings around us who are in a semi-devachanic state, so full of daydreamings that we speak of them as being impractical, dreamy, visionary, etc. The cause of this condition lies in the desire of the sleeping seeds of character to return to earth, a desire awaking prematurely in the devachan as seeds of impulse, of thought and of passion, thereby shortening the devachanic term before it has reached its full karmic end. Faint dreams of the glory that was experienced thus remain with the reincarnating ego; and to the degree to which the brain-mind consciousness is affected by these memories, is the entity still in devachan. This condition is not good, for such men are not fully awake and their partial devachanic state prevents the reincarnating ego from being alert to its opportunities to grow and expand while on earth. We should shake off the tendency to dream our life away, by being spiritually and mentally active, and being so with a will, and by aspiring to be ever nobler. The mere study of books, while valuable in its way, will not do it. It is the spiritual nature which should be cultivated under all conditions, even in the intricate affairs of human existence.
There are likewise individuals living on earth, although vastly fewer in number, who are really in one of the higher states of avichi — who are, as it were, haunted by continuously recurring 'dreams' of misery and horror. And, by contrast, there are sublime human beings who even while in the body are in one or more of the lower planes of the nirvana; but these are very rare.
The ordinary man, could he escape the devachan by some work of magic, would probably return to earth a semi-idiot, because his intermediate nature would be so tired and his energy so depleted, that he would be very much like one who has gone without sleep for so long that he is in a condition of physical exhaustion and mental stupor. Nevertheless, every neophyte whose spiritual yearning is to give himself to the grand labors of the Hierarchy of Compassion, is helped in every way possible to evolve quickly, so that his devachan becomes less and less with each incarnation; and finally he reaches the point where the devachan is not really necessary — except for brief periods. Yet even the most advanced must have at least a temporary surcease and oblivion for psychological and mental recuperation; the time comes when the inner constitution can stand no more strain. (5)
Devachan is strictly the mathematical resultant of one's spiritual state at the moment of death. The more spiritual the man, up to a certain point, the longer his devachan; the more materialistic he is, the shorter it is. There is a way, however, by which the devachan can indeed be greatly shortened: the way of dedication, of renunciation of the self in the cause of the Buddhas of Compassion. The choice is ours — if we are evolved enough to exercise that choice with the strength of will to make it effectual. Even the making of that choice will shorten the devachanic period. (6)
Another reason why the devachanic periods are so long to us is that man is an imbodied ray from the spiritual monad, which monad must have its full time for the purposes of the postmortem peregrinations; and these can take place only when its link through the egoic ray with earth (or with other worlds or globes) has been broken, thus freeing it for adventures in other spheres. These reincarnations of ours are very, very far from being the 'whole show' — and we should note here that the periods of both manifestation and rest of a globe of a planetary chain are of equal duration. The key to this mystery lies in the fact that the human ego is a monad or spiritual being in its own spheres where its larger destiny is, and contacts these lower realms of matter only on the occasions of incarnation by a projection of an egoic ray which makes the 'man' we know. (7)
It is quite understandable that active normal human beings almost instinctively resent the idea of passing nearly one hundred times as long in the sleeping-dreaming devachanic state as in the self-conscious cognition and activity of imbodied life. Yet the devachani is not 'lazing' its time away, because the releasing of the human monad from the bonds of earth life gives it — the real man — the time and opportunity to perform its most needed and inevitable peregrinations of destiny.
The life of the earth-man, being but a phase of the human monad's manvantaric existence, is not a standard of comparison; nor is it the most important basis from which the human monad's peregrinations take their beginning. The exact reverse is the case, for the human monad's ray, which produces the earth-man, is but the occasional projection of consciousness from the human monad, whose sphere of activity is not only our planetary chain, but also, because of its link with the spiritual monad, the solar system. Hence its ray's repetitive imbodiments on earth are but phases of the cycle of peregrination, its far larger span of life being in and on the invisible globes of our chain.
Nature in the long run makes no great mistakes, and the time spent in the devachan is in each case equated by nature's invariable laws to the needs and spiritual and intellectual health and stability of the evolving ego. Hence it is philosophically inaccurate to regard as overlong or unnecessary the length of time passed by the ego in devachan. Such lengthy time periods are absolutely required by the human monad, not only for its peregrinations, but for the assimilation of the devachanic entity's past experiences as an imbodied man.
For the devachani there is no realization of the passing of time as the earth-man experiences it. To us here, our sense of time is very strong, because of the continuous succession of events which in our consciousness mark off and produce our conception of time periods, such as our days and nights and the seasons, as well as the phases of human thought and feeling in which the consciousness of the projected ray is sunken and bound psychologically. But in the devachan all these things vanish as exterior impacts upon us. It is very much like what happens to a man who has a deep sleep; whether he is in the strongly dreaming consciousness of the swapna, or in the dreamless sleep of the sushupti, he has no sense whatsoever of the passage of exterior time, so that when he awakens he is scarcely able to say whether he has slept two or eight hours. Even more so is it with the devachani. For him, time is no more, except in the dreaming sense of the succession of images of thought and blissful imaginings which infill his consciousness. In the higher and highest realms of the devachan even the unutterably beautiful visionings fade into something loftier still, which to our imbodied human consciousness is 'unconsciousness' — or the true sushupti.
Of course, in the far distant future, when the human race shall have evolved so high spiritually and intellectually that it will have passed beyond the need of the devachan, these rest periods will no longer occur. The monad will probably simply step from one then ethereal earth-body into another with scarcely a break in self-consciousness.
We have already mentioned the four general states in which the human consciousness can be. First, jagrat, the waking consciousness; then swapna, the sleep with dreams; and the reason we do not remember our dreams better is because they are often too ethereal and too intense for the brain to hold the record thereof after we awake. It is not because they are too faint. Again, when a man sleeps and is utterly unconscious, this condition is sushupti. It is a consciousness so keen, so spiritual, with reaches so vast, that the poor limited brain — its physical substance as well as the astral substance of the brain-mind — cannot hold or record it.
The fourth and highest state which we as humans can attain is turiya-samadhi, and this is virtually the consciousness of the divine within us. If the sushupti state is so powerful that our brain cannot recall it, a thousand times more may this be said of the turiya condition. It is somewhat like our feeble brain trying to cognize the consciousness of the hierarch of our solar universe. All these states of consciousness can be, and in extremely rare cases are, experienced by men even when imbodied on earth.
Now when a man dies, he passes from the jagrat into the swapna so far as his astral body is concerned. His human soul is unconscious in sushupti; but the spirit within him, which has gone to its parent source until recalled to earth again, is in turiya-samadhi. In future ages when we shall be demigods on earth, adumbrations of this divine consciousness will be familiar to all of us. We then shall understand because we shall know. Even today, where is the man who cannot have some inkling of the sublime? Every normal human being, if he so train himself, can raise his consciousness, his real self, and center it in the higher part of his being; and then, when he speaks, his word is truth and carries conviction.
He would say: "Verily as far as extends this Akasa, so far is the akasa within the heart. Within this akasa are contained both heaven and earth, both fire (agni) and air (vayu), both sun and moon, both lightning and the stars, as well as whatever here is and is not — all this world is contained in that (akasa)."
He would say: "That does not become decrepit with old age, nor with death is it slain. That is truly the abode of Brahman (Brahmapura) — in it are contained all wishes. It is the Self (atman), free from evil, ageless, deathless, sorrowless, hungerless, thirstless, whose desire is truth, whose resolve is truth." — Chhandogya-Upanishad, VIII, i, 3, 5
Every one of the seven manifest globes of our planetary chain has its own characteristic kama-loka or astral atmosphere surrounding it. When the imbodied beings of a life-wave on a globe die, the accumulated attractions brought about by imbodiment have to be cast off in the kama-loka of that globe. Obviously the lower the globe in the planetary chain, the grosser and coarser is its kama-loka; and the higher it is, the more ethereal is its astral world.
Hence, when a human being dies, he has his second death in the earth's kama-loka, i.e. in the earth's aura, during which process the human monad, rapidly or slowly according to the individual, drops first the grossest, and finally the least gross life-atoms and the corresponding attractions which keep it in the astral kama-loka. The culmination of this purgatorial cleansing or gestation (8) is the second death, which means that the human monad has arrived at the point of casting off the last vestiges of its astral clothing, or what remains of its kama-rupa. From this moment it begins to glide into the devachanic condition.
As the radiance, which is the efflux from the reimbodying ego, ascends towards its Father in Heaven, the spiritual monad, it passes through different spheres of being in the interior worlds. In each of these it pauses for a varying period of time, in order to shed the life-atoms which are native to that sphere and are of too substantial a character to be gathered into this radiance, so that it may journey farther to still loftier and more spiritual spheres.
This passage of the peregrinating monad up the ascending arc of our planetary chain continues until globe G is reached. (Similarly, the monad passes through globes A, B, and C on the descending arc on its return to a new incarnation on our earth globe.) In each globe it has at least one imbodiment before it goes on: a birth, a maturity, a death. The superior globes on the ascending arc are very much higher than our globe D, both in spiritual status and in the types of entities living there, so that the very beasts on globes F and G, and almost so on globe E, are far higher than men are on this earth. (9)
Some human entities do not fully enter into their devachanic state until they have left globe G. Others slip into the devachan after the temporary sojourn on globe E or possibly globe F, while still others enter their devachan more or less completely even before reaching globe E. These several kinds of entrances into the devachan exemplify different grades in perfection of the gestation period undergone by the disincarnate entities. Thus individual cases vary greatly, but for the large majority of human beings the devachanic sleep begins after the second death in the earth's kama-loka, as the monad enters the sphere of the next globe; and this sleep grows steadily deeper and more ecstatic, until finally the entity has become utterly oblivious of anything except its devachanic dreams.
With regard to the character of the imbodiments which the peregrinating monad undergoes on globes E, F, and G of the ascending arc, and those that the monad returning to incarnation has to make on the three manifest globes of the descending arc, A, B, C, the question may well be asked: are these imbodiments those of different egos that the spiritual monad has emanated from itself, or are they actually imbodiments, however temporary, of the human monad? (10)
Now it will be impossible to grasp the true teaching in this connection if our ideas are too heavily crystallized around the notion that there is but one monad within the human constitution, when in fact it is built up of several monads in different degrees of evolutionary unfolding. We are here dealing with the subtle and flowing nature of consciousness: with the monad as a center of consciousness, rather than as a being 'occupying space' much as this apple occupies space on the desk before me.
When the human monad begins its devachan in the kama-loka of earth, it falls asleep in the bosom of the spiritual monad, and is carried thus in its parent monad up through the globes of the ascending arc before it finally leaves our chain to make its peregrinations through the different planetary chains on the outer round. In order to do this, it obviously must pass through these globes, for each is a station on its outward peregrination, and it can omit none. Just as a traveler on a train is unaware of the stations passed through at night while he is asleep, but will be conscious when awake that he speeds by some stations and stops at others, just so on the various globes through which the spiritual monad passes, the human monad resting within it will either have a relative awakening — although always very slight — or none at all, every case depending upon its karma.
But we should not press the analogy too far. What actually happens is that those monadic qualities of consciousness, which will become relatively fully awake on the different globes when the general life-wave reaches them — these qualities (and not the full consciousness of the devachanic monad) are temporarily aroused into an illusory consciousness when such globes are passed through. These extrusions of qualities of consciousness are projected like thought-rays, and take temporary imbodiments on these globes which awaken them by their attractive pull. Such imbodiment is, of course, very imperfect and in a sense illusory, for the reason that the life-wave to which we belong is at present on earth and not on these higher globes.
Even in ordinary life we can find an illustration of the same partial functioning of consciousness; for it is not uncommon for a man to perform his duties or to be involved in his thoughts, and yet at the same time find his attention attracted to some other event or object; and, in a more or less evanescent fashion, a thought-ray is projected from his otherwise occupied mind, encompasses the event and very soon is again withdrawn into the man's consciousness. Or a man who is half-asleep is for the time living in two aspects of his consciousness: partly in the jagrat condition, partly in the swapna; and he is vaguely conscious of being in both states.
Nothing that has been said should be misconstrued to mean that the devachanic bliss of the main part of the consciousness of the human monad is disturbed or interrupted. It is only a thought-ray, so to speak, which is attracted forth by this or that globe and, after such evanescent projection, is indrawn again into the devachanic consciousness. All the after-death states are really functions of consciousness.
During the time when the human ego is sleeping within its parent monad, as the latter passes through the ascending arc of the planetary chain, the cognizing intelligence of the average human entity does not perceive or feel what is going on around it to any appreciable degree. Hence, there can be no bringing back of the fruitage of experiences on the other globes of the chain. The human monad as a whole is virtually unconscious of the fleeting imbodiments of a portion of its consciousness on the globes passed through. It is almost an automatic occurrence so far as the human monad is concerned; and when I speak of the human monad, I am referring to the lower part of the reincarnating ego.
From this rule of unconscious experiences on the other globes we should except the sixth rounders, and also, in degrees depending upon the respective individuals, those who are on their way to becoming fifth and sixth rounders. This exception applies likewise to those who succeed in passing the gateway of initiation; for, if one can do that, he will be a living jivanmukta, though for the time existing as a man. During the course of these initiations, the inner self of the initiant not only will wing its way to the other globes of our planetary chain, where he will gain firsthand experience by living there for the time being and by actually being a part of these globes, but he will also go out to the other planets and to the sun along the magnetic pathways of the universe.
In studying these teachings we should constantly endeavor to keep the processes of our thought and consciousness fluid, thus avoiding the danger of mental crystallization, or the perilous self-satisfaction of believing that there is 'not very much more to learn.' This feeling arises in the astral-material brain-mind, which dearly loves to pigeonhole facts — although, admittedly, having one's ideas in order is very necessary. The attempt to keep the mind fluid, while often making us uncomfortable, puts the brain-mind in its proper place and makes it a flexible servant instead of a rigid taskmaster.
No Entity, whether angelic or human, can reach the state of Nirvana, or of absolute purity, except through aeons of suffering and the knowledge of EVIL as well as of good, as otherwise the latter remains incomprehensible. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 81
There are certain analogies between nirvana and devachan: both are states of the consciousnesses which experience them, and neither is a locality or a place. If we look upon the manifold conditions in which consciousnesses may find themselves as a sort of hierarchical series, then we may say that the highest portions of the devachan blend into the lowest grades of the nirvana. The main difference between them can be stated in a few words: the devachan is more or less an illusion, whereas nirvana, being closer to the fundamental reality of cosmic life, is relatively Real and thus by just so much no truly mayavi series of conditions.
When a monad has freed itself from its sheaths of consciousness, it becomes monadically conscious, i.e. fully self-conscious with its own inherent or native consciousness, and then, because it is in its essence a divine-spiritual entity, it is in a nirvana. All the enshrouding veils or garments have been 'blown out' or discarded, leaving the essential spiritual fire unveiled and free — a jivanmukta, a freed monad.
Now it is only the most highly evolved monads which are jivanmuktas or full-blown divinities; and any monad which has not reached this state of moksha or mukti is more or less clothed with the sheaths of thought and feeling produced from the substance of its auric egg. As human beings, we are enveloped by the veil of our human selfhood; in other words, we are not yet jivanmuktas, not yet living in the sublime consciousness of our monadic essence and therefore can have only fugitive intuitions of nirvana. The sole exceptions are those grand human beings like the buddhas or the bodhisattvas, who have evolved so far along the evolutionary pathway that at times they can rise up into the purely spiritual parts of their constitution and therein — at least temporarily — enjoy one or another of the nirvanic degrees of self-conscious being.
There are different grades of nirvana; there is one so high that it blends imperceptibly with the condition of the cosmic hierarch of our universe, while the lower states of nirvana are quite frequently attained by very mystically inclined men who have undergone spiritual training. (11) They usually cannot remain in the nirvanic state for long. Yet this ability shows a high degree of evolutionary advancement, for even the inferior stages of nirvana are exceedingly lofty. Entering nirvana means leaving all interest in the world of men and the passing out of human into divine existence.
We humans have our blissful postmortem rest periods in one or another of the grades of the devachanic scale of consciousness; yet, however much superior the devachani's consciousness may be to that of the imbodied human, it is nevertheless a mayavi state, because the devachanic consciousness is not essentially monadic. Indeed, the heavy maya of our merely human state of consciousness still exists when we die and enter the devachan; but even while we are incarnated, our atma-buddhi and higher manasic parts are in nirvana when we consider the consciousness that these parts of our constitution enjoy on their own respective planes. Thus it is that even an imbodied man of highly evolved character can, at least temporarily, enter into the nirvana by raising and placing his percipient consciousness in the Buddha-like and Christ-like parts of his being.
When we remember that the universe is divisible into a virtually endless series of interlocking and interacting hierarchies from the divine down to the physical plane, we see that entities, who belong to and therefore live in hierarchical systems far higher than our own, will have devachans and nirvanas incomparably superior to our devachanic and nirvanic systems. What to us is nirvana would be to beings living on a higher scale merely a sort of devachan. Thus the scale of values rises steadily along the major hierarchical scheme of the universe, so that when we shall leave in the course of the macrocosmic ages our own hierarchy and enter into a higher one, we shall then have devachans and nirvanas incomparably more glorious than ours now are.
Nevertheless, for us human beings, and for all others like us who are inhabitants of our hierarchical system of the universe, the nirvana that lies before us is in very truth, to us, and to them, the Reality. This is so because when we shall have attained this nirvana, we shall then have reached the summit of our hierarchical system and be living in its atma-buddhic ranges of consciousness.
It is a fundamental teaching in Mahayana Buddhism (12) that the realization of nirvana (13) can never be attained by the mere intellect as such, because the intellect of man dissects and analyzes things, and establishes something it can take hold of; it then sees that "something" as if coming into existential being and vanishing. But nirvana cannot be conceived of as having any tangible form; it neither comes into existence nor ceases to exist. To attain nirvana — which is, according to Mahayana phraseology, a state of emptiness (Sunyata) inherent in the very nature of things and also a state of self-realization obtained through the exercise of supreme wisdom — there must take place a 'revulsion' within the deepest recesses of consciousness, within the higher manas, itself a treasure house in which are stored the akasic records of man's entire intellectual and spiritual experiences.
The Mahayanist considers the notions of being and non-being as one of the greatest impediments to the realization of nirvana, and stresses the fact that when nirvana is attained and the 'revulsion' has taken place, the condition then achieved is utterly devoid of all predicates, of all pairs of opposites. So long as dualism is adhered to, so long as nirvana is intellectually considered as essentially the opposite of samsara (the cycle of births and deaths) or as the annihilation of the world of senses, there is no true nirvana. The latter is beyond and above all relativity, blending in itself the conceptions of being and non-being, and transcending both.
The nirvana of man has its direct analogical application to that of a planetary chain when, at the end of its manvantara, it goes out of manifested existence into its pralaya, which merely means that its higher element-principles — or those of any of its globes — enter into the appropriate nirvanic condition. So at the death of human beings, the manasic portions enter into the mayavi states of the devachan, while the still higher or highest parts of the human constitution are at the same time evolving and acting on their own planes; however, in their own highest consciousness-portions, so to speak, they are in their nirvana — having conscious experience in the unveiled Reality of the hierarchy to which each such monad belongs.
Thus the human or manasic part is in its devachan; the spiritual ego is pursuing its peregrinations on the outer round through the sacred chains; but the highest portion or monadic essence of the spiritual monad is, as always, in nirvana. Even a man imbodied on earth has the highest portions of his constitution, the atmic essence of his being, in a nirvanic state. Hence our consciousness during incarnation on earth, however real it may seem to us to be, is actually heavily illusory when contrasted with the unveiled and intensely active consciousness of the nirvana.
. . . if we admit the existence of a higher or permanent Ego in us — which Ego must not be confused with what we call the "Higher Self," we can comprehend that what we often regard as dreams, generally accepted as idle fancies, are, in truth, stray pages torn out from the life and experiences of the inner man, and the dim recollection of which at the moment of awakening becomes more or less distorted by our physical memory. The latter catches mechanically a few impressions of the thoughts, facts witnessed, and deeds performed by the inner man during its hours of complete freedom. For our Ego lives its own separate life within its prison of clay whenever it becomes free from the trammels of matter, i.e., during the sleep of the physical man. This Ego it is which is the actor, the real man, the true human self. But the physical man cannot feel or be conscious during dreams; for the personality, the outer man, with its brain and thinking apparatus, are paralyzed more or less completely. — Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, p. 50
Sleep and death are brothers, according to the old Greek proverb. However, they are not merely brothers, born of the same fabric of human consciousness, but are in all verity one, identical. Death is a perfect sleep, with its interim awakenings of a kind, such as in the devachan, and a full human awakening in the succeeding reincarnation. Sleep is an imperfect fulfillment of death, nature's prophecy of the future death. Nightly we sleep, and therefore nightly we partially die. Indeed, one may go still farther and say that sleep and death and all the various processes and realizations of initiation are but different phases or operations of consciousness, varied forms of the same fundamental thing. Sleep is largely an automatic functioning of the human consciousness; death is the same, but in immensely greater degree, and is a necessary habit of the consciousness in order that it may gain for the psychological part of the constitution a resting and an assimilation of experience.
Initiation is a kind of temporary 'death' of all the lower man, a 'sleep' of the lower psychological nature, and a magical awakening to an intense awareness of the higher psychological part upon which is then radiating the inner light of the man's monadic consciousness. Thus it is that initiation comprises both sleep and death and uses these functions of consciousness in order to free the 'inner man' for the marvelous experience on inner planes that initiation brings about.
Anyone who has stood at the bedside of one who is dying must have been strongly impressed with the extraordinary similitude between the coming of death and going to sleep. The sole distinction between death and sleep is one of degree. Precisely as in death, the consciousness during sleep becomes, following upon a brief period of complete unconsciousness, the seat or active focus of forms of inner mental activity which we call dreams.
In sleep, the psychological or personal part of man is non-manifesting through the physical brain; in point of fact, it is this absence, this temporary disjunction of the intermediate nature which is the efficient cause of sleep. The body sleeps because the personal man is no longer there. When we go to sleep at night, we slip into a state of complete unconsciousness only because we have not yet learned during the daytime to become self-conscious in the higher parts of us.
As a rule, the physical body is guarded during sleep by an akasic veil — a condensation of the substance of the auric egg itself, naturally thrown forth from the body as it sinks into repose — which usually prevents hurt. This is well exemplified in the case of sleepwalkers. There are other contributing agencies likewise, one of which is seen in the interesting fact that most animate beings do not touch with intent to injure a body which is quiescent. And even 'inanimate' nature is so constructed that there seems to be a corresponding response in it of peace and quiet. Still other factors are involved here, but the main one is the veil or wall of akasa surrounding the sleeping body which, however, is effective only in proportion as the life is pure.
The vital thread of life and consciousness still vibrates in even the physical brain of a man during sleep, producing dreams, some that delight him and others that harass and perplex him. The thread of radiance remains unbroken, so that the ego, which has left the lower mind and the body behind and is soaring out into the spaces, is able to return along this luminous thread linking the monad to the astral-vital brain of the sleeping body. When a man dies, it is exactly like falling into a very deep sleep, utter, sweet unconsciousness, except that the vital cord is snapped and then, instantaneously, like the sounding of a soft golden note, the soul is free.
What happens to a man during sleep is an adumbration of what will happen to him at death. The personal ego goes into oblivion and its consciousness is withdrawn into the spiritual part where it rests and has temporary peace. During sleep, certain parts of man's inner constitution wing their way into the spaces of the solar system. The migration of course is very short; sometimes like a lightning flash, where one has slept only a few moments. But time to pure consciousness does not exist; time pertains to material existence. Some men go to the moon when they sleep, some to their parent planet, others to the sun. And another part of the constitution flashes forth and back to its parent star. Certain other men visit the elemental world, go to the center of our own globe, for instance.
During sleep and after death, each individual goes to those places which he has earned for himself by his thought and his aspirations, or lack of them; in other words, it is all a matter of synchronous vibration — a man goes to his natural home, whether high or low. The cause of such peregrinations inheres fundamentally in the psychomagnetic attractions to these different localities in the solar systems, which are 'stations' along the devious routes of the circulations of the cosmos; and since the consciousness is accustomed to these routes through long ages of habit, each of the various parts of the human constitution follows its own particular direction in these circulations.
There is not only a close analogy, but an identity — both of process and of fact — between the dreams had during sleep and those of the after-death state. Dreams depend upon two main factors: (a) the mechanism of the psychic consciousness, and (b) the two kinds of forces impinging upon this mechanism, which control the direction and guide the operations of the psychic consciousness of the dreamer. Of these forces, the first kind is the solar, lunar, and planetary influences under which an individual is born; and the second is the automatic reaction to the events and experiences that had occurred during the waking state.
The astrological influences under which an individual is born are the conjoined action of all the solar, lunar, and planetary powers in the solar system; but in every case certain powers predominate because of their swabhava — this swabhava coalescing with the man's own swabhava because of identity of origin; and it is this identity of origin or of powers which causes these forces or influences to act most strongly upon him. Therefore, while all human beings have dreams which are more or less alike, everyone has dreams of his or her own characteristically unique type.
To phrase the matter in other words, every man is more particularly the offspring or under the influence of one of the twelve logoic forces of the solar system. Now as each such solar logos finds its own especial focus of action in one of the twelve sacred planets, we see how the planetary as well as the solar influences come into play in the psychic consciousness of the sleeping man. Also, as all human beings have a 'lunar body,' i.e. a 'lunar layer' in their auric egg, the moon likewise plays upon the mind of the sleeper; indeed, in most cases the lunar influences are by far the most powerful upon the sleeping man.
When asked what dreams were, H.P.B. answered that it depended upon the meaning attached to the term:
You may "dream," or, as we say, sleep visions, awake or asleep. If the Astral Light is collected in a cup or metal vessel by will-power, and the eyes fixed on some point in it with a strong will to see, a waking vision or "dream" is the result, if the person is at all sensitive. The reflections in the Astral Light are seen better with closed eyes, and, in sleep, still more distinctly. From a lucid state, vision becomes translucid; from normal organic consciousness it rises to a transcendental state of consciousness. . . .
There are many kinds of dreams, as we all know. Leaving the "digestion dream" aside, there are brain dreams and memory dreams, mechanical and conscious visions. Dreams of warning and premonition require the active co-operation of the inner Ego. They are also often due to the conscious or unconscious co-operation of the brains of two living persons, or of their two Egos. . . .
[That which dreams is] generally the physical brain of the personal Ego, the seat of memory, radiating and throwing off sparks like the dying embers of a fire. The memory of the Sleeper is like an Aeolian seven-stringed harp; and his state of mind may be compared to the wind that sweeps over the chords. — Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, pp. 58-9
The nature of a man's dreams is determined almost wholly — yet by no means entirely — by his waking life. The little child, for example, has no positive dreams of any kind; its experiences are still too trifling. Its mind, even its brain, are not yet set or fully formed; nevertheless on occasion it will have frightening dreams, but these are usually caused by automatic psychologic reactions in the child's sleeping brain to some disturbance that it has experienced when awake.
Most of us have dreams which are neither very delightful nor very terrifying, but which often are mixed — inchoate and confused. The reason is obvious, for our dreams are but reflections of our waking hours. Sometimes our mind is bent to the things of the spirit and the ways of beauty and harmony, and at other times gives way to thoughts of a completely opposite character, which at night (or after death in the kama-loka) return to us in our dreams.
It is thought that makes all dreams. The evil man, one who is so selfish, and whose imagination and feelings are so restricted and imprisoned that a kindly impulse seldom if ever enters his consciousness, feels the unfailing reaction: when he dreams, which is frequently, he is in an emotional and mental hell. His thoughts haunt his brain like avenging ghosts, and afflict his dreaming consciousness. Contrariwise, the man who yearns to help his fellows, is impersonal, of lofty thinking, very rarely has evil dreams; if he dreams at all, he has dreams that the gods might envy.
The above equally applies not only to the dreams of the devachani but also to those of the kama-rupa in the kama-loka. The cause is the same: mental deposits or thought impulses arising during the life of a man, and so affecting his mental structure that they automatically begin to act upon his consciousness. Thus thought and feeling not only make character throughout the evolving ages, but likewise bring happiness and peace or the nightmares of the kama-loka.
Dreams of any kind are the earth-side of a man's character coming into pictorial action again in the mind, and therefore are 'effects' and not 'causes'; and this is why the devachan is called the sphere of effects and our earth-existence, wherein originate the causative life-impulses, the sphere of causes (cf. The Mahatma Letters, pp. 47-8).
This does not mean that earth-life is the only sphere of causes; the statement refers only to incarnated human beings, and the effects produced after death by their thoughts and feelings and actions while imbodied. Thus, neither in the devachan nor when a man is dreaming at night does he originate any positive or inventive courses of action, although it is occasionally true that the dreams of a man, by reaction on the mind, may consciously or unconsciously somewhat influence the thoughts of the waking man.
There is a certain danger, however, in putting too much importance upon the matter of dreams and their interpretations. Occasionally dreams are prophetic, but to a large extent they 'come true' because they are the foreshadowings of the automatic working of consciousness, i.e. of what the consciousness itself, because of its biases and tendencies, will bring to pass in the future. Therefore, it could very plausibly be argued that if an observer of a dreaming man were quasi-omniscient, he would be able to discern in all the dreams of the man what his future would be. But it is obvious that there are very few such perfect soothsayers or dream-interpreters!
Truly prophetic dreams do not occur in the devachan, but can do so during sleep because they arise in the stored knowledge of the reincarnating ego, which latter attempts to impress the sleeping brain with a 'radiation' of prophetic foresight. This does happen upon very rare occasions, but one should examine such dreams very suspiciously and not automatically look upon them as guides in life. In general, it is far better to ignore one's dreams, for very few people indeed are sufficiently awakened inwardly to know whether a dream is of a prophetic character or one which is merely an ordinary psychic reaction of the usually erratic and confused brain-mind. (14)
If a man can — and will — study his consciousness during the day as well as the reactions upon his percipient mind to the various impacts of the daily events, he will have a master key to knowing precisely what will happen to him, as a center of consciousness, both during sleep and after death. If he desire to know how he will feel or what he will cognize at the moment of death, let him grip his consciousness with his will and study the actual processes of his falling asleep — if he can! No man, however, at that precise instant knows that he is lapsing into sleep. For a time he seems to himself to be thinking, and the more intensely he thinks the farther is sleep from him — and then he is off, he is asleep! Instant unconsciousness supervenes at the critical juncture, and it may or may not be succeeded by dreams.
Death is identical with this process of falling asleep. It matters not at all how we die: whether by age, by disease, or by violence. The instant of death always brings for a period the unutterable peace of perfect unconsciousness, which is like gliding into a beginning, a foretaste as it were, of the devachanic bliss, just as the careful observer will find to be his experience when falling to sleep.
Finally, I venture to call attention once more to the point that the mind will automatically go on functioning along the exact lines of thought which one had preceding either sleep or death. Hence the extreme importance of having one's mind in order and peaceful before going to sleep — or before dying; to refuse entrance to any thoughts of dislike, hatred or evil. As the great Pythagoras taught in the verses attributed to him by his disciple Lysis, which form a part of the so-called Golden Verses of Pythagoras (15):
Admit not sleep to thy drooping eyes,
Ere thou hast well reviewed each one of the day's deeds.
In what was I remiss? What did I do? What duty was not fulfilled?
1. The several degrees of consciousness of the "blessed region" of the devachan are variously described in Oriental philosophical schools, notably in Buddhistic writings under the term sukhavati, meaning 'happy condition.' Although the exoteric descriptions are flowery and quasi-imaginary, they do point to a central core of esoteric truth, that the devachan is rightly divisible into many different states of consciousness.
In this connection, the reader is referred to The Mahatma Letters (pp. 99-100):
The Deva-Chan, or land of "Sukhavati," is allegorically described by our Lord Buddha himself. What he said may be found in the Shan-Mun-yi-Tung. Says Tathagata: —
"Many thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this (ours) there is a region of Bliss called Sukhavati. . . . This region is encircled with seven rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees; this holy abode of Arahats is governed by the Tathagatas (Dhyan Chohans) and is possessed by the Bodhisatwas. It hath seven precious lakes, in the midst of which flow crystaline waters having 'seven and one' properties, or distinctive qualities (the 7 principles emanating from the ONE). This, O, Sariputra is the 'Deva Chan.' Its divine Udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it. Those born in the blessed region are truly felicitous, there are no more griefs or sorrows in that cycle for them. . . . Myriads of Spirits (Lha) resort there for rest and then return to their own regions.* Again, O Sariputra, in that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas. . ."**
*Those who have not ended their earth rings. — K. H.
**Literally, those who will never return — the seventh round men, etc. — K.H. (return to text)
2. The kama-loka is, in fact, a series of sub-lokas, and forms part of the kama-dhatu. The three dhatus in the rising scale, the kama-dhatu, the rupa-dhatu, and the arupa-dhatu, are really a Buddhist way of naming the series of worlds or spheres, visible and invisible, which in the Brahmanical philosophies are called lokas. However, the devachan, being wholly a series of states of consciousness, is not in any sense a loka or dhatu, or a series of actual worlds or spheres. Were there no entities or beings in the devachanic condition of consciousness, there would obviously be no devachan. (return to text)
3. In a very general sense, the devachanic ego may be said to 'evolve,' for though in a state of utter repose, there is an uninterrupted movement of the dreaming consciousness and, consequently, a movement of the particles of the enfolding akasic vehicle — the devachanic veil or garment — really those portions of the auric egg of the reimbodying ego which find their appropriate function in thus clothing the devachanically dreaming ego. (return to text)
4. Certain human beings have made so small a link with their spiritual nature that when death comes nothing has been built up in the life just past to bring the devachanic state into existence. As a result, they sink into a state of utter unconsciousness, in which they remain until the next incarnation which comes very quickly.
Several instances of almost immediate reimbodiment have been reported which, if genuine, would represent those rare and extraordinary cases of apparently normal human beings who, for one karmic reason or another, reincarnate possibly within a year or two after death. Compared with the great multitude of average individuals who undergo both kama-loka as well as devachan between incarnations, they are very few in number. Such are by no means evil or wicked, but are what one might call passive or neutral, spiritually, and, because during life they had not as yet awakened to that characteristically spiritual life which produces the devachanic experience, they pass a short time in the kama-loka and then incarnate again. (return to text)
5. The question has been asked whether a spiritual teacher who is in devachan can enter directly into an adult body, or whether he must first be born in the normal way, and only then make the transfer. When a Messenger enters into devachan, it is usually a very short experience for such a Servant of the Law, and he must leave that state of rest before he can take up his work again on earth. Practically never does a Messenger leave devachan and incarnate immediately in an adult body.
Moreover, it is quite possible for one to enter into devachan and yet not pass through the valley of death as ordinary human beings do. The physical body is gone, it is true; but there is a way by which certain high chelas are helped to get their devachanic rest and still retain enough of the form of the individuality, and of the personality that was, to enter into living adult bodies. Also, there are cases in which neither nirvana nor the devachanic state is experienced, but only a very brief period of blank unconsciousness; and this is made use of to enable a Messenger to recuperate before taking up his duties anew. (return to text)
6. From an unsigned article in The Theosophist, July 1884, p. 242:
Now those, who have studied the occult teachings concerning Devachan and our after-states, will remember that between two incarnations there is a considerable period of subjective existence. The greater the number of such Devachanic periods, the greater is the number of years over which this evolution is extended. The chief aim of the occultist is therefore to so control himself as to be able to control his future states, and thereby gradually shorten the duration of his Devachanic states between his two incarnations. In his progress, there comes a time when, between one physical death and his next re-birth, there is no Devachan but a kind of spiritual sleep, the shock of death having, so to say, stunned him into a state of unconsciousness from which he gradually recovers to find himself reborn, to continue his purpose. The period of this sleep may vary from twenty-five to two hundred years, depending upon the degree of his advancement. But even this period may be said to be a waste of time, and hence all his exertions are directed to shorten its duration so as to gradually come to a point when the passage from one state of existence into another is almost imperceptible. This is his last incarnation, as it were, for the shock of death no more stuns him. (return to text)
7. As an evolving soul, man is more advanced than the earth on which he lives and, therefore, more than the spirit of the earth does he have dreams of beauty, yearnings of selflessness, wonderful intuitions of spiritual and intellectual grandeur which no human life is long enough to bring to fulfillment. Consequently he requires a proportionately longer time of rest to digest and assimilate them; whereas a globe is not so far evolved as is a human monad, but is almost equilibrated on the line between the higher and the lower worlds of matter, making the duration of its imbodiment and disimbodiment of virtually equal length. Or when we speak of manvantara and pralaya, we have in mind the life periods of visible and physical things in which the scales are balanced; in our solar system, for instance, in its manvantara and pralaya, day equals night. (return to text)
8. The term gestation is used in modern theosophical writings to indicate a period of preparation, during which the entity is undergoing a series of modifications in order to enter into the next karmic condition — whether into another world or sphere, or into a change of consciousness, or both. Thus, gestation can signify either the casting off by the excarnate entity of the sheaths and life-atoms of the grosser types which hold it to the material spheres, this process being a rising from matter-realms into spiritual realms; or it can mean the reverse process: changes of modes of consciousness and the assumption of sheaths of grosser type preparing it to become an imbodied entity in material spheres. For the excarnate human entity, there are two main gestation periods: a) preparatory to its entrance into devachan, i.e. preceding the second death; and b) after leaving devachan, in order to prepare for its new life as an imbodied ego on earth. (return to text)
9. Our human hierarchy finds both its heavens and hells in the globes of the earth chain. The only true hells are the material globes of a chain, whether it be in the higher or lower cosmic planes. For instance, our earth would be a 'hell' for families of monads which are passing through their phases of experience in the higher globes of our chain. (return to text)
10. There are imbodiments of many kinds. 'Imbodiment' does not always mean an encasement of human flesh; there are also fiery, airy, watery, ethereal, as well as spiritual encasements; and the term of such imbodiments may be very short or very long, according to the individual's karma. (return to text)
11. To train the consciousness to enter into the nirvanic state is abnormal in the present period. In fact, the consciousness attained by intense spiritual training, after which one becomes a nirvani, goes far beyond that of the seventh root-race on globe D in this fourth round. Actually, the consciousness of a nirvani is similar to that which will be characteristic of the latter part of the sixth round. (return to text)
12. According to The Lankavatara Sutra, one of nine principal Mahayana texts, nirvana is defined as the "unveiled vision of the suchness of Reality as it is," to somewhat paraphrase the original Sanskrit, nirvanam iti yathabhutarthasthana-darsanam. The unfortunate misunderstanding of Orientalists, to the effect that nirvana means annihilation, need not have arisen at all had they considered with an open mind the following passages:
Further, Mahamati, those who, afraid of sufferings arising from the discrimination of birth-and-death, seek for Nirvana, do not know that birth-and-death and Nirvana are not to be separated the one from the other; and, seeing that all things subject to discrimination have no reality, imagine that Nirvana consists in the future annihilation of the senses and their fields. They are not aware, Mahamati, of the fact that Nirvana is the Alayavijnana where a revulsion takes place by self-realisation. Therefore, Mahamati, those who are stupid talk of the trinity of vehicles and not of the state of Mind-only where there are no images. Therefore, Mahamati, those who do not understand the teachings of the Tathagatas of the past, present, and future, concerning the external world, which is of Mind itself, cling to the notion that there is a world outside what is seen of the Mind and, Mahamati, go on rolling themselves along the wheel of birth-and-death. — Ch. II, xviii, p. 55 (D. T. Suzuki's translation)
When the self-nature and the habit-energy of all the Vijnanas, including the Alaya, Manas, and Manovijnana, from which issues the habit-energy of wrong speculations — when all these go through a revulsion, I and all the Buddhas declare that there is Nirvana, and the way and the self-nature of this Nirvana is emptiness, which is the state of reality.
Further, Mahamati, Nirvana is the realm of self-realisation attained by noble wisdom, which is free from the discrimination of eternality and annihilation, existence and non-existence. How is it not eternality? Because it has cast off the discrimination of individuality and generality, it is not eternality. How about its not being annihilation? It is because all the wise men of the past, present, and future have attained realisation. Therefore, it is not annihilation. — Ch. II, xxxviii, pp. 86-7 (op. cit.) (return to text)
13. The term nirvana (nibbana in Pali) is met with very frequently in the scriptures of the Hinayana Buddhism, but less often in the Mahayana schools where the idea of nirvanic conditions or states is usually expressed by cognate terms such as prajna, sambodhi, dharmakaya, tathata, pratyatmajnana, and others, all of which have their own specific significance. (return to text)
14. Many dreams, again, while not truly prophetic, nevertheless can tell the one who studies his own mental and vital processes something at least, and possibly much, of what his character is. Very often the body, or the passions and feelings, react upon the sleeping brain producing pictures therein, and the one who knows how to read these dreams from careful self-examination, without morbidity, may get useful warnings or reminders that his life and emotions are not just what they should be.
But, as said, it is far wiser to forget dreams of all kinds, unless they be of such immensely vivid character, and so impress us when we are awake, that we have the intuition that we had better hold such dreams in mind. (return to text)
15. The reader is referred to the "Examinations of the Golden Verses" by Fabre d'Olivet (1768-1825), distinguished French linguist and philosopher (cf. Nayan Louise Redfield's English version, 1917), who states:
The ancients had the habit of comparing with gold all that they deemed without defects and pre-eminently beautiful: thus, by the Golden Age they understood, the age of virtues and of happiness; and by the Golden Verses, the verses wherein was concealed the most pure doctrine. They constantly attributed these Verses to Pythagoras, not that they believed that this philosopher had himself composed them, but because they knew that his disciple, whose work they were, had revealed the exact doctrine of his master and had based them all upon maxims issued from his mouth. This disciple, commendable through his learning, and especially through his devotion to the precepts of Pythagoras, was called Lysis. After the death of this philosopher and while his enemies, momentarily triumphant, had raised at Crotona and at Metaponte that terrible persecution which cost the lives of so great a number of Pythagoreans, crushed beneath the debris of their burned school, or constrained to die of hunger in the temple of the Muses, Lysis, happily escaped from these disasters, retired into Greece, where, wishing to spread the sect of Pythagoras, to whose principles calumnies had been attached, he felt it necessary to set up a sort of formulary which would contain the basis of morals and the principal rules of conduct given by this celebrated man. . . . These verses . . . contain the sentiments of Pythagoras and are all that remain to us, really authentic, concerning one of the greatest men of antiquity.
Hierocles, who has transmitted them to us with a long and masterly Commentary, assures us that they do not contain, as one might believe, the sentiment of one in particular, but the doctrine of all the sacred corps of Pythagoreans and the voice of all the assemblies. He adds that there existed a law which prescribed that each one, every morning upon rising and every evening upon retiring, should read these verses as the oracles of the Pythagorean school. One sees, in reality, by many passages from Cicero, Horace, Seneca, and other writers worthy of belief, that this law was still vigorously executed in their time. We know by the testimony of Galen in his treatise on The Understanding and the Cure of the Maladies of the Soul, that he himself read every day, morning and evening, the Verses of Pythagoras; and that, after having read them, he recited them by heart. . . .
If his [Lysis'] name has not been attached to this work, it is because at the epoch when he wrote it, the ancient custom still existed of considering things and not individuals: it was with the doctrine of Pythagoras that one was concerned, and not with the talent of Lysis which had made it known. The disciples of a great man had no other name than his. All their works were attributed to him. This is an observation sufficiently important to make and which explains how Vyasa in India, Hermes in Egypt, Orpheus in Greece, have been the supposed authors of such a multitude of books that the lives of many men would not even suffice to read them.
The Greek text of the quoted verse is as follows:
Med hypnon malakoisin ep ommasi prosdexasthai,
Prin ton hemerivon ergon tris hekaston epelthein.
Pe pareben; ti d epexa; timoi deon ouk etelesthe;
(return to text)