Copyright © 1974 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
There are, assuredly, two forms of Brahma: the formed and the formless. Now, that which is the formed is unreal; that which is the formless is real, is Brahma, is light.
That light is the same as the sun. — Maitri-Upanishad, VI, 3
In theosophy as well as in the Adwaita-Vedanta, Parabrahman and its cosmic veil mulaprakriti — two sides or elements of the one fundamental conception — often signify the boundless expanse of both space and time beyond the Brahman and its veil pradhana of our own universe. Now it is erroneous to consider Parabrahman as an entity, however vast or sublime, for an entity of any magnitude is de facto limited, and Parabrahman means 'beyond' Brahman, and Brahman is the Absolute, the hierarch of a universe, in other words, the highest divine-spiritual entity of a universe or cosmos. Thus, Parabrahman is no entity; it is Infinitude, THAT, the incomprehensible All, which with its shoreless fields is beyond the reach of either human or divine consciousness.
Absolute is a relative term. It is the philosophic One, the cosmic Originant: from the One come the Two; from the Two the Triad; from the Triad the cosmic Quaternary, which again through emanational evolution breaks up into the manifested multiplicity of differentiation. The philosophic One, therefore, is the cosmic Absolute; but it is not the mystic Zero, representing Infinitude. Consequently the Zero contains, because it is Infinitude, an infinite number of cosmic Ones, otherwise cosmic monads, and the multitudes of minor monads which are derivatives of any such cosmic One. There are no Absolutes in the sense of Infinitudes.
Every being or thing, no matter how vast, is relative — related to something else and to all else. Every Absolute is the hierarch of its own hierarchy, the One from which all subsequent differentiations thereafter emanate to the limit of that hierarchy. Each such Absolute is a cosmic jivanmukta, signifying an entity which has reached a condition of relatively perfect liberation — the moksha or mukti of Brahmanism and the Latin word absolutum, both meaning set free, free from servitude to all the lower planes because master or originant thereof. Thus the Absolute is the highest divinity or Silent Watcher of the Hierarchy of Compassion which forms the light side of a universe or cosmic hierarchy.
There is an enormous difference between the cosmic jivanmukta, which is an Absolute, a cosmic 'freed one' — and THAT. If we miscall Infinity the Absolute, we immediately create a mental picture of a finite Being, however high. It is impossible philosophically to predicate absoluteness of Infinity. Infinity is neither absolute nor nonabsolute; absolute is an adjective, connoting certain logical attributes, and therefore implying limitation. Of Infinitude no such attributes can be predicated; it is neither conscious nor unconscious, because these and all other similar human attributes belong to manifested and therefore noninfinite beings and things.
The misuse of the word Absolute arose out of the Christian psychology of a personal God, an infinite Person, which European philosophers could not shake off. They pursued a logical train of thinking arising in a proper conception; but the term they used is wrong. A person cannot be infinite: this is a contradiction in terms. Although there can be an absolute person, the summit of a hierarchy, this hierarch is only one of an infinite number of other hierarchs; but the Infinite, without number, attribute, qualification or form, is nonabsolute. This strikes at the roots of old theological and philosophical superstitions. Although H.P.B. frequently employed the word Absolute in its ordinary and mistaken significance, she was keenly aware of its proper grammatical and logical use. In her Theosophical Glossary, under the term 'Absoluteness' she writes:
When predicated of the UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE, it denotes an abstract noun, which is more correct and logical than to apply the adjective "absolute" to that which has neither attributes nor limitations, nor can IT have any.
As to mulaprakriti: this is a Sanskrit compound containing mula, root, and prakriti, nature; therefore signifying elemental or originant nature. It is the other side of Parabrahman, but more particularly the root-matter of every hierarchical system.
A universe is both; in its essence it is mulaprakriti as well as Parabrahman because it is formed of hosts of individual monads. The heart of a monad is boundless Space; and boundless Space has two aspects, life or energy, and substance or form. You cannot separate the one from the other.
Life or energy is what we may call Parabrahman; the substance side or vehicular side is mulaprakriti. Wipe out mulaprakriti, if it were possible, which it is not, and you would have pure consciousness, pure energy; and that again is not possible, because energy and matter are two sides of the same thing as are force and substance. Electricity, for example, is both energic and substantial; consciousness is both energy and substance.
Our body is fundamentally mulaprakriti, root-substance, fundamental essence, manifesting in form. So is everything else — a star, a bit of wood, a stone, a beast, a bit of thistledown floating in the air. Its essence is mulaprakriti; and out in the abysmal spaces is mulaprakriti, but also Parabrahman.
In these two words, Parabrahman and mulaprakriti, we get a conception entirely different from the Occidental vague mental abstraction of an Infinite signifying but a negation — nonfinite. All that the human consciousness is able to postulate is that Parabrahman is exactly what we see around us — as far as our physical senses can translate it to us — but limitlessly so. Parabrahman, therefore, is not an entity; as a term it is a descriptive adjective turned into a noun, and means simply beyond Brahman. "As above, so below" — and there is no essential difference between the above and the below. Every atom has its home in a molecule; every molecule has its home in a cell; every cell in a body; every body in a greater body; the greater body, in this case our earth, has its habitat in the solar ether; the solar system has its home in the galaxy; the galaxy in the universe; the universe has its home in a vaster universe; and so on, ad infinitum. And that ad infinitum is our way of saying Parabrahman — with this profound and radical difference, however, that the root-idea is the inner, invisible, spiritual worlds, which Western thought almost universally ignores.
Everything exists in something else greater than itself, and contains hosts of beings inferior to itself. When H. P. Blavatsky called Parabrahman Space, she did not mean emptiness, but used it in much the same way as she used Duration. Just as Duration is filled with time, moments, time-instants, so Space is filled with manifested monads, and with Absolutes which are monads of a far advanced type containing armies and hosts of evolving inferior monads.
This is all that Parabrahman means, and mulaprakriti is but its other side — the side of expansion and change. We can say that Parabrahman is the consciousness side and mulaprakriti the space side. Parabrahman is not a kind of god. It is simply Space. Like the word infinite, it is a purely generalizing term, a confession that here the human consciousness stops. The term Boundless is likewise a verbal counter. This very Boundless is filled full of finite, bounded beings and things. We use these terms which are pure abstractions as if they were concrete realities, and create thoughts about them, and thereby cheat ourselves.
Everything — even what we call THAT — is contained in something greater. But the word THAT is nevertheless sufficient to include the entire range of this conception. A galaxy is a cosmic cell; and what are called island universes are other cosmic cells; and these cosmic cells are bathed in the intergalactic ether and are united into some ultracosmic, incomprehensible Being. So too the cells of a human body, although under the microscope appearing separate from each other, are united to form that body which in turn lives in a world.
As an interesting scientific expression of the same thought, I quote two passages from Consider the Heavens (1935), by the well-known American astronomer, Dr. Forest Ray Moulton:
The essential units of which we are composed are molecules and chains of molecules. Our life processes are expressed in terms of their properties, our thoughts are conditioned by their interactions. But perhaps in the infinite series of cosmic units there are others which play the role of molecules in living organisms. Sub-electrons of the hundredth order may be the molecules, so to speak, of conscious beings which live through a million generations in what to us is a second of time. And super-galaxies of the hundredth order may similarly be the molecules of conscious beings whose life cycles consume unimaginable intervals of time. At any rate, it would be unjustifiable for us in our ignorance to assume that only on our level out of the infinite possibilities is there life. — p. 300
Let us, therefore, once more assume the existence of intelligent beings whose constituent elements — whose atoms, so to speak — are galaxies or super-galaxies of stars. Their life cycles are measured in millions of billions of years, for such periods of time are required for important transformations of super-galaxies of the higher orders, which are for these beings only the cells in their bodies or the corpuscles of the blood which circulates in their veins. When they breathe there are exhaled from their nostrils torrents of super-galaxies; when their heart beats, the galaxies of a billion light-years are in convulsions. For these beings the galaxies which we know are only electrons or photons whose gravitational expansions and contractions and whose oscillations in form are expressed vaguely in wave packets. To their gross sense organs such minute physical units as galaxies have no accurately definable locations or motions, though these entities persist and possess a quantitative property. For them the galaxies are the primary elementary units in a chaos out of which by statistical averages a considerable degree of order emerges in the super-galaxies. — p. 330
Summarizing then, Parabrahman and mulaprakriti simply mean boundless Space with all its indwelling hosts of beings. At any one particular point of it a logos may be springing into manifestation from its pralaya, here, there, or anywhere: millions of these logoi may contemporaneously be bursting forth into new manvantaras, and other millions may be passing into their respective pralayas.
Cosmic evolution and its beginning has been generally described in ancient cosmogonies as: "In the beginning was THAT"; and this beginning did not mean an absolute commencement of all Infinitude, which is absurd, but one of any beginnings of a system in boundless Duration. At its commencement of time the logos springs forth, the logos meaning one of these innumerable monadic points in THAT; and from this one logos is evolved forth a hierarchy — whether it be a cosmic hierarchy or a solar system, a human being or an atom. And these logoic points are numberless, every mathematical point in space being a potential logos.
Within and surrounding all such manifestations of cosmic logoi or universes, there is that mystery of mysteries which in their reverence the archaic sages rarely ever spoke of otherwise than by allusion, and which the Vedic rishis in ancient India called TAT. This is the Nameless, as much beyond the intuition of the highest gods in all manifested universes, as it is beyond the understanding of man. It is frontierless Infinitude, beginningless and endless Duration, and the utterly incomprehensible boundless Life which for ever is.
O Brahman, this earth and other things of the universe have for their substratum the mind, and do not exist at any period apart from the mind. Almost all persons in this world, walking in the path of this universe of dreams, delusion and egoism, look upon it as real and enjoy it. It is only in Chitta (the flitting mind) that the universe rests. . . . Truly marvelous are the effects or manifestations of the mind, like the analogy of a crow and the palmyra fruits. Thus do diverse persons view the one dream (of the universe) in various ways. With one sport, many boys divert themselves in different ways. — Laghu-Yoga-Vasishtha, V, 5
Maya or illusion is not delusion in the popular use of the word, as signifying something which does not exist. The illusion around and within us is 'real' in the sense that it actually exists; our maya or illusion arising from the fact that we do not see, and often willfully refuse to see, things as they are and thus fall under the deluding play of our own bewildered inner faculties. For example, the extremist of any kind, however sincere he may be, is entangled in the webwork of his own misunderstandings.
This fact alone has immense moral import, for it teaches us to be kindly towards others, recognizing our own weaknesses of understanding, and also our strong biases and tendencies to see things as through a glass darkly. The scientist of one hundred years ago who had what are now proved to be wrong ideas about the physical universe, and who was quite fanatical in thinking that he had attained truth, was under the maya of his time as well as a maya brought about by his own imperfect vision. Just so the religionist, who held the theological teachings which the greater knowledge of our day has shown to be false or only partially true, was laboring under a similar maya. The materialist who said that there was naught of man but an animate mechanism was as much under the sway of illusion as was the religionist who thought that at the Day of Judgment "rattling bones together fly from every quarter of the sky," as the once highly respected Dr. Watts sang.
We weave, perhaps with utmost mental and emotional conviction, many kinds of illusory webs of thought and feeling, and for a while we are convinced that we are right, only to learn later, when experience has taught us more, that we were but slaves of the maya of our own false imaginings. Some of the scientific theories propagated so earnestly today are as mayavi as anything that could be adduced from the annals of history; but as long as these illusions last, whether they be scientific, philosophical or theological, or of any other kind, they are relatively real for those who hold them.
The doctrine of maya is taught in one or another form by virtually every one of the great religious and philosophical schools of ancient and modern Hindustan, and it is especially noticeable in the Adwaita-Vedanta. It is likewise a characteristic of Buddhism — more marked today in the Northern Schools of the Mahayana than in the Southern Buddhism of the Hinayana. (1)
The word maya is derived from the verbal root ma, to measure out, to set metes and bounds to; and by extension signifies limitation, transient character, and whatever is nonenduring. Thus we see here pretty much the same distinction which is often drawn in certain European philosophical schools between that which is, otherwise the Real, and that which merely ex-ists, or that which presents a phenomenal appearance. It is a short step from these general ideas to a realization that whatever is phenomenal and hence transitory is deceptive, and as such has no ever-enduring reality. From this thought has grown the common idea in Hindu philosophical systems, inclusive of Buddhism, that whatever is illusory is in some strange manner magical, because presenting a false appearance which deceives both sense and mind.
Consider man himself: he is essentially a divine-spiritual monad peregrinating through all the phenomenal and therefore illusory worlds and spheres of manifested existence; this divine-spiritual monad is itself everlasting because it is a droplet of the cosmic logos, of the cosmic spirit, the Reality for all within our universe. Yet all the different parts of the human constitution in which this monad clothes itself are, because of their more or less impermanent nature, illusions by comparison with the divine monad itself. It would be ludicrous to speak of man as having no real being and no actual existence, for he most emphatically has; but it is only his different monads which are the droplets of eternity, and all the rest of him is the 'magic' wrought in time and space by karma combining to produce all the phenomenal aspects of his constitution.
While the maya of the lower portion of any being or thing, whether we speak of a galaxy or of man, definitely exists and produces whatever is, it is clear that all the multifarious varieties which surround us are not absolutely nonexistent, nor are they in an absolute sense different and separate from the Reality behind. If this were so, we should be at once inventing an inexplicable duality between the fundamental Reality and the manifested illusion, and there would be no possibility of explaining how the phenomenal flows forth from the noumenal or the Real. According to this wrong theory the two would be utterly disjunct, and the phenomenal without links of origin in the Reality. Thus, philosophically speaking, even maya or mahamaya is a function of Reality — its veil — emanating forth from Reality itself and ultimately destined to rejoin the Real.
Now let us touch upon an aspect of the doctrine of maya which is usually slurred over in the exoteric philosophical systems. All manifested entities, worlds and planes, may in a profoundly true sense be considered as the visions or dreams produced in and by the cosmic mind or cosmic spirit, when the periods of universal manvantara begin.
In the case of man, the incarnation of the spiritual ego is a relative 'death' for that ego; and similarly the ending of the imbodiment in the worlds of matter is a reawakening of the spiritual ego to a wider range of self-consciousness in and on its own planes and worlds. In identical fashion, and following always the master key of analogy, what we call manvantara is a death of the cosmic spirit — is, in a paradoxical sense, a sort of devachan or even a kama-loka of the cosmic spirit or mind; and it is only when manvantara ends and pralaya begins that these dreams and visions of the cosmic spirit fade away, and its vast consciousness awakens once more to the full reality of its own sublime Selfhood.
From this we may draw two conclusions: (a) that devachan, while nearer Reality when compared with the illusion of earth life, is nevertheless more a maya than are the self-conscious and cause-producing experiences of this earth; for the devachanic dreams, however beautiful and spiritual they may be, are, after all, dreams; and (b) it is only in the nirvana, in which condition all maya has been 'blown out,' that the spiritual monad tastes of Reality and is freed of its illusory dreaming which is none other than the vast experiences brought about by the peregrinations in manifested existence. And just so is it with the universe and its mahamaya.
We thus see that all the manifested worlds are phenomenally real, because they exist as an illusory, and therefore magical, activity of the cosmic mind, and because essential Reality is their background and source. It is important to grasp this point, because to look upon maya as meaning the absolute nonbeing of the phenomenal is to wander wide from the true teaching. The phenomenal is illusory and yet based upon Reality, because flowing forth from it.
This is the reason that the doctrine of maya has so easily acquired the meaning of magical illusion or the working of a magic power in nature. In several passages of the archaic Hindu philosophical books, certain cosmic divinities, such as Varuna or Indra, are clothed with magical powers of 'deception,' which passages point directly to the phenomenal universe itself as the product of the intelligent fancy of the cosmic imagination, dreaming forth the universe and all in it.
This is well exemplified in the following extract from the Yoga-Vasishtha-Ramayana (ch. xii):
During the reign of the great sleep of Maha-pralaya, Brahm alone remains as Endless Space and Peace Supreme. And when It wakes again at the end thereof in the form of Chit (consciousness), It thinks unto Itself, "I am a speck of Light," even as thou imaginest thyself of any form thou pleasest during dreams. That speck of Light again assumes unto Itself Extension, "I am large." That mass, false in reality, becomes the Brahmanda. Within that Brahmanda, Brahm thinks again: "I am Brahma," and Brahma forthwith becomes the Ruler of a vast mental empire which is this world. In that first creation, consciousness took many forms; and the root forms that consciousness assumed in that Beginning — they persist unchangeably throughout the Kalpa. That is the Destiny which is the Nature and the Law of Things, while that primal consciousness shall last. It makes what are our Space and Time and basic elements, It makes them what they are out of Asat. That Destiny has also fixed the spans of human life, varying in various Yugas with variations in the grades of sin and merit.
The same thought is imbodied in several passages in the Puranas and Upanishads, in the Rig-Veda, and similarly in the Bhagavad-Gita. (2)
We human beings are integral parts of the cosmic whole; and partaking as we do of all its characteristics and qualities, we follow the laws and functions of the universe of which we are offsprings. This is the reason why we are not only subject to maya, but have THAT within us as our divine-spiritual nature, allowing us through evolutionary growth ultimately to become self-cognizant of the Real.
The glamor of the magic of maya surrounds us on all sides; yet nonillusion, otherwise the cosmic noumenon, or the heart of Sunyata, is our own inmost; and it is just this inmost which is alluded to by H.P.B. when she speaks of Alaya (3) as "the Universal Soul or Atman" — that which is nonphenomenal because it never dissolves away into illusion. Even our scientific researchers have come to suspect that physical matter is in itself illusory — "mostly holes." What we call physical matter is not substance per se, but only productions or manifestations of some underlying reality, compared with which our universe is sunya, empty.
Some of the Mahayana writings enumerate eighteen ways of describing emptiness or Sunyata, (4) the whole purpose being to show the unreality or emptiness of everything in universal nature except the originating Reality. These are really a series of philosophical paradoxes, reminding one somewhat of the Greek school of Heraclitus, who was called "the Obscure" because of his intellectual subtlety in the stating of paradoxes showing both the pro and the con of philosophical principles.
It is constantly pointed out by Buddhist commentators that all the implications of the idea of emptiness can be grasped only through prajna, or buddhic intuitive apprehension. Emptiness is not a speculative notion to be fitted into any category of logical thinking. It remains unattainable and unthinkable, for it is ultimate Reality, utterly beyond the confines of the world of manifestations. Hence it has become synonymous with the idea of Suchness (tathata). Emptiness and Suchness may be said to be the Mahayana perception of Reality. They are not to be conceptually reconstructed, but intuitively realized.
Turning again to the cosmic intelligence 'dreaming forth' the universe, we should remember that the Absolute, otherwise the cosmic mind, does not project itself totally as maya, but only in the manner of 'dreaming' — that is, it does not totally become the phenomenal universe. This would be as incorrect as to suppose that the spiritual monad in man descends wholly into the human body at incarnation. Rather, it projects from itself a ray which, just because it is a portion and not the spiritual monad in its fullness, is a relative maya when compared with its parent.
Throughout the ages man's genius has evolved various theories, philosophical, scientific, and religious, as to how the universe came into being. The differences, however, were mainly in the manner of presentation, for all the great minds of the past enunciated the same wisdom-doctrine, the same theosophy, which was originally taught to the first self-conscious human beings on this earth by manasaputric entities from other planes. But as the ages rolled by, the primary meanings of these cosmic philosophies were lost sight of and only the mere words remained; and thus different schools of thought grew up, each following the more or less purely exoteric interpretation of the original religio-philosophical system to which it was attached.
For instance, some of the thinkers of ancient India taught the Arambha doctrine, that the universe was created by some supreme intelligence out of material of a cosmic character previously existing in space. This school conceived of the universe as being formed by some vast individual divinity, and therefore as having had a 'beginning,' the essential meaning of the Sanskrit word Arambha. The Christian scheme went still farther along the same line, and formed an entirely unphilosophical thought-structure of things in which an infinite personal God created the universe out of nothing. This was simply the Arambha idea gone to seed. Yet those Hindu thinkers were right in the sense that every universe has its periodic beginnings and endings, although it was certainly not 'created' as the outer product of the will and intelligence of a supreme mind which acted in a supposedly irresponsible manner. The fact is that each universe is simply the karma or reproduction of its former self — a former universe thus preceding its own reimbodiment — and this repetitively through timeless duration, although progressive improvement is everywhere at work through the process of evolutionary growth.
Another school taught the doctrine of Parinama, which supposed the universe — any universe — to be emanated by a supreme cosmic intelligence from mind and substance flowing forth into manifestation from within itself. This particular idea of emanation is thus far in accord with the esoteric tradition which, however, adds this point of high importance: that this supreme cosmic intelligence is but one of an infinity of other such intelligences, and does not exist alone and unique in frontierless space. (Cf. The Mahatma Letters, p. 73)
A third school, the Vivarta, sets forth as the substance of its doctrine that the universe is emanated from the divine as a change or modification of itself, and therefore as an impermanent, and hence a mayavi, production. Here again we are in agreement with certain elements of their teachings. But the fault of this school seems to be that it avers that a portion of the divine essence actually does become an illusion, instead of recognizing that, while the manifested universe is indeed a temporary cosmic illusion, it is only relatively so because based on the substratum of Reality.
These three schools may be compared with science, philosophy, religion. The Arambha with the scientific outlook; the Parinama with the philosophical vision; and the Vivarta with the religious manner of visioning truth. (5)
To recapitulate: the Arambha is that view of the origins of things which, qualified as being scientific, envisions the universe as proceeding forth as a 'new' production of already pre-existent cosmic intelligence and pre-existent 'points' of individuality, what we would call monads rather than atoms. Although such a newly produced universe is recognized as being the karmic resultant of a preceding universe, the former 'self' of the present, nevertheless emphasis is laid upon beginnings, upon the universe as a 'new' production, much as scientists construe the universe to be.
The Parinama, while having many points of contact with the Arambha, lays emphasis upon the coming forth of the universe as a production by powers and entities and substances unrolling from within, and thus bringing the universe into existence by a kind of emanational or evolutional conversion or unfolding.
The Vivarta system penetrates still more deeply into the cosmic mystery and fixes its attention upon the unending duration of the divine essence, which it considers as producing appearances (6) of itself through modifications of itself, or portions thereof, brought about by emanational evolution from within, these modifications being the cosmic mahamaya. Hence the entire objective universe, visible and invisible, is considered to be illusory because merely a collective modification, or series of modifications, of the productive divine essence, which last always remains itself, yet produces appearances of itself through objectivization by unfolding procession or emanational evolution.
These three schools still exist with greater or less variation in India, and their ideas have found currency elsewhere in the world. While they do have elements of truth in them, they seem to presuppose a 'creative' Supreme Intelligence which as an Individual works in a more or less human manner as a Creator or Former; all three are too anthropomorphic.
The theosophic view is to consider boundless Space as containing within its frontierless fields, and in every infinitesimal mathematical point thereof, inherent creative and formative life and substance; so that while in one part of the Boundless, visible and invisible, a universe may be coming into being, in another part another universe may be reaching its manvantaric end and preparing for its cosmic pralaya. Thus Infinitude is wrongly conceived when it is supposed at any time to be an active, creative, agent which emanates universes from within itself, for this implies willing and formative — therefore limited — action. The truth being that each such universe, as a spacial unit, although existing through eternity in the Boundless, nevertheless brings itself forth into manifestation because of inherent seeds of active individuality. This process of universes appearing and disappearing and coming into being because of their own innate individual life and consciousness and energy is one side of the doctrine of swabhava (7) — characteristic self-production.
All such entities or beings — whether a universe or a life-atom peregrinating anywhere — are surrounded and pervaded by the encompassing mind, consciousness, substance and force of the limitless ALL. As H.P.B. expressed it: ". . . the incognizable Cause does not put forth evolution, whether consciously or unconsciously, but only exhibits periodically different aspects of itself to the perception of finite Minds." (The Secret Doctrine, II, 487)
The point here is that the "incognizable Cause" is not an individual in the sense of being a creator, but is the vast illimitable cosmic ocean from which all arises, in which all forever is, and into which all entities finally return for their respective periods of rest and recuperation. It would be totally wrong to imagine boundless Infinitude as an individual heaving and rolling with waves of evolving life. All such notions of cosmic processes are finite, however colossal our human imaginations may take them to be. Infinity, Eternity, the Incognizable, cannot be said to evolve, because only finite things evolve, for evolution is a finite process. Evolution is but another way of expressing the operation of karma, i.e. the working out of karma and evolution are practically identical.
In the consciousness of beings of dhyani-chohanic grade human evolution here on earth is a pure maya, and in the consciousness of still more sublime entities, as far beyond the dhyani-chohans as they are beyond us, even the dhyani-chohanic evolution is a pure maya. Nevertheless, evolution exists in the worlds of matter where maya is supreme — for matter and maya are substantially the same in meaning. Here evolution is supreme because karma is supreme, and hence evolution is a very real thing to us. It exists but is NOT.
When any entity or being awakens into manifestation, the process commences in every case by the beginning of emanation from within the hitherto 'sleeping' divine entity. This word emanation is from the Latin and signifies flowing out from, much as thought flows out from the mind, or as a river flows out from its originating spring. Emanation is continuously in process throughout the entire life term of any manifesting entity, great or small; and indeed every evolutionary advance is a growth achieved because of the emanating or flowing forth of powers, attributes, and faculties from the entity's inner being.
We may think of emanation and evolution as being almost if not exactly identical. In fact they are merely two manners of viewing the same process, whether cosmic or infinitesimal. Evolution signifies unfolding and thus releasing what is already pre-existent as unmanifested power and faculty within the entity. When emanation on any plane begins, at the same instant evolution likewise commences. Otherwise stated, once a quality or faculty begins to flow forth from the essence of the monad, from that instant it likewise begins to unfold its swabhava or characteristic attributes. Now the exact opposite of evolution is involution: the rolling up or gathering in of whatever had previously been unrolled. Involution, therefore, is also the opposite procedure to emanation.
The entire manifested universe is, when compared with the divine, a mahamaya, produced by emanational evolution. However, to us finite beings, ourselves a maya by contrast with the ineffable divine, evolution and emanation and all their works are real enough because our perceiving minds are themselves the products of these mayavi processes. The esoteric philosophy may be said to teach an objective idealism: that the universe and all its manifestations and works are 'real' for those involved in it; but are maya when contrasted with the utter and unlimited Reality from which the universe originally sprang forth as a cosmic monad, and into which, aeons hence, it will again return.
"Vanity of vanities; all is vanity," said the preacher in Ecclesiastes. The Hebrew word here translated as 'vanity' is hebel, which in general corresponds with the Sanskrit word maya. (This is also the name of one of the 'sons' of Adam — Abel, the female 'brother' of Cain. Hebel or habel, meaning to be impermanent, to fade away; hence whatever is non-enduring, illusory.) This shows that the doctrine of illusion is not solely Hindu but is a part of the common philosophical and religious heritage of the human race.
As H. P. Blavatsky says in one of her letters: "We are a Maya in one sense all of us; but we are realities in our own sight, in space and time and so long as it lasts on our plane." (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 253) This is a profound truth, because maya to maya seems real enough; and although in our inmost essence we are divine and therefore integral parts of the cosmic Reality, yet in our manifested personalities we are distinctly mayavi because impermanent and transitory and because we are imperfect. Herein lies the key not only to a correct understanding as to how maya affects us, but also how we may find the pathway by which we may free ourselves from maya and thus be at one with the Real and 'see' Truth per se.
The god within us, the immortal monadic spark of the cosmic fiery essence of utter Reality, is the source of all our truth and reality. The closer we become it and manifest its transcendent wisdom and power in our lives, the more closely do we approach its Reality. In this way we progressively free ourselves from the magical enchantment of the illusion in which we live, and which affects us because of the various imperfections of our sheaths of consciousness — our various 'personalities.'
As so truly stated in The Secret Doctrine (I, 145-6):
. . . according to our teaching which regards this phenomenal Universe as a great Illusion, the nearer a body is to the UNKNOWN SUBSTANCE, the more it approaches reality, as being removed the farther from this world of Maya.
Hence the cause of human suffering is not in maya itself, but in our own imperfections, and often deliberate mischoices to sink ourselves ever more deeply into the swirling waves of the illusory ocean of manifested existence. It is our willful perversities of thought and emotion, of appetitive instinct and attachment to things of sense, as well as our as yet not fully evolved intelligence, which prevent us from rising out of these waves of illusion into the clear and everlasting sunlight of the atmosphere of the god within us.
We are under the sway of mayas of many kinds: "Ye suffer from yourselves. None else compels" — as Sir Edwin Arnold puts it in his beautiful poem The Light of Asia. We are under the sway of maya on the intellectual and psychological plane, and have forgotten our divine origin. We dream heavy dreams of matter because we are immersed in the illusions of imbodied existence, our brain-mentality being perhaps the greatest example of human maya and thus the greatest sinner in us.
We may free ourselves from maya in all its vast ranges by ever striving to cultivate the atmic, the buddhic and the higher manasic faculties within us, slowly rising to these superior planes of our constitution and living in and on them, which we can do even while imbodied. The first step is to be convinced in every part of our being that the heart or core of each one of us is a ray of the boundless Reality. As H.P.B. wrote:
. . . the miner knows what the gold will look like when extracted from the quartz, whereas the common mortal can form no conception of the reality of things separated from the Maya which veils them, and in which they are hidden. Alone the Initiate, rich with the lore acquired by numberless generations of his predecessors, directs the "Eye of Dangma" toward the essence of things in which no Maya can have any influence. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 45
This Eye of Dangma, as the Tibetans call the Eye of Siva, is but another term for the interior spiritual organ of vision of the Buddha within us or, as mystical Christians would phrase it, of the immanent Christos. Indeed, it is precisely when some great human individual, through many lives of consciously striving towards the god within him, has become at one with the Christos or Buddha within him, that he then himself becomes this Buddha or Christos imbodied.
The only difference — albeit a most important and sublime one — between a Buddha and the ordinary man is that a Buddha has become self-consciously united with, and indeed the very imbodiment of, the dhyani-buddha within him, otherwise the buddhi-manas of his own constitution. When this union of the initiate with the atman-buddhi-manas or spiritual monad is more or less complete, then the Eye of Dangma functions in relatively full power and splendor, and such a man, who really then is a Buddha or a Christ, has virtual omniscience and omnipotence as regards all beings and things of the hierarchy to which he belongs.
In the far distant ages of the future, at the end of the seventh round of our present planetary chain, all those who will then have successfully made the goal will have become dhyani-chohans. Of course, this culmination of human greatness at the end of the seventh round is not the end of all possible evolution for human monads, for future ages will carry the evolving monads to still greater heights of spiritual and intellectual achievement. Even then, there will be maya, but maya on a far more spiritual plane, which in turn will be transcended as the monads advance ever higher and higher on their everlasting pilgrimage. Thus it is that the different oceans of maya, each being a series of cosmic planes, will be transcended one after the other, in the endless journey towards that ever unattainable Reality which we call Parabrahman.
Quoting once more from The Secret Doctrine (I, 638-9):
In ancient Symbolism it was always the SUN (though the Spiritual, not the visible, Sun was meant), that was supposed to send forth the chief Saviours and Avatars. Hence the connecting link between the Buddhas, the Avatars, and so many other incarnations of the highest SEVEN. The closer the approach to one's Prototype, "in Heaven," the better for the mortal whose personality was chosen, by his own personal deity (the seventh principle), as its terrestrial abode. For, with every effort of will toward purification and unity with that "Self-god," one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supersedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-SUN. . . the single units of that humanity proceed one and all from the same source — the central and its shadow, the visible SUN.
The world illusion in which we live is really a most intricate and marvelously fabricated web of natural enchantment, a web woven by hosts of evolving entities surrounding us, by which we are deceived because our own imperfectly developed minds misinterpret the pictures they view. It is maya without and maya within. Nature in her differentiated and manifested aspects is, so to speak, a vast fata morgana, composed of innumerable minor yet similar mirages; nevertheless at the heart of this ever-active web of illusion, constantly in the weaving and thus constantly presenting ever-new aspects of illusion, there is Reality. Just as there is Reality at the core of every individual unit of the innumerable hosts of monads which in their incomprehensibly great masses combine and cooperate to make this enchanting mirage, so there is at the heart of each one of us the essential Real. It is therefore not only our duty, but the first step on the path to Reality, to keep our wandering illusion-creating minds steadily on the Light within us, and gradually, as the ages pass, make this Light the guiding star in our lives.
Section 4, Part 1
Main Table of Contents
1. See the Vajrachchhedika-Sutra ('Diamond Cutter'), one of the most valued and widely studied religio-philosophical writings in Buddhist literature:
By this wisdom shall enlightened disciples be enabled to bring into subjection every inordinate desire! Every species of life, whether hatched from an egg, or formed in a womb, or evolved from spawn, or produced by metamorphosis, with or without form, possessing mental faculties or devoid of them, or both devoid and not devoid, or neither devoid nor not devoid — from these changeful conditions of being, I entreat you to seek release (mieh-tu), in the transcendental concept of Nirvana. Thus, you shall be released from an immeasurable, innumerable, and illimitable world of sentient life; but in reality, there is no world of sentient life to be released from, or sentient beings to be delivered from it. And why, Subhuti? Because should there exist in the minds of Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas such arbitrary concepts of phenomena as an entity, a being, a living self, or a personal ego, they would be unworthy of being called Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas. . . . Wherefore the conclusion is this — that all things possessed of personal or individual characteristics, all arbitrary conceptions and all conditioning factors, are as a dream, a phantom, a bubble, a shadow, as the evanescent dew, as the lightning flash; and they ought to be regarded as such. — Sections 3 and 32
This Sutra is read extensively throughout China, Japan, Tibet, and other Buddhist countries, and stands as high in popular estimation as do the Saddharma-Pundarika ('Lotus of the law of Reality') and the famous Shau-Leng-Yan-Ching (or Surangama-Sutra). The Diamond Cutter Sutra was written originally in Sanskrit, but there is no definite knowledge as to its authorship or the date of its composition. The Sutra forms the Ninth Section of the encyclopedic Mahaprajnaparamita in six hundred fasciculi.
In the process of time it was translated into Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, and Manchu, the Chinese title for it being Chin-kang-ching. The Chinese translation ascribed to Kumarajiva (a native of Kashmir, who labored in China in the interests of Buddhism during the later part of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century A.D., and whose profound scholarship and spiritual attainment caused him to be known as one of the 'four suns' — chatur-suryas — of Buddhism) has been the basis for European translations of this Sutra, such as those of William Gemmel and the Rev. S. Beal. Unfortunately, neither these nor the translation of Max Muller give an adequate idea of the underlying subtleties of Buddhist thought and the esoteric meaning of various technical terms, to which Western scholars have lost the keys.
From the text itself it is fairly obvious that the Sutra was intended especially for those who had already "entered the Path which leads to Nirvana," and who were striving to "attain the plane of Buddhic enlightenment." Besides imbodying a great deal of teaching concerning the practice of the paramitas, the Vajrachchhedika-Sutra has as its main object the elucidation of the doctrine that all objective things, phenomena and ideas, are unreal and illusory, being merely a manifestation of one's own mind; and that even the highest concepts of the Dharma, the Tathagata, and even deliverance itself, are mind-made and therefore 'empty' in the technical sense of this word, because human understanding is not yet liberated, and has not yet become at one with the Buddha within. It teaches a way of life in the light of the profoundly metaphysical doctrine that the only true essence is the essence of mind — what theosophy terms buddhi — behind which there is hidden an ultimate principle of which mind itself is only an aspect.
Some translators, ignorant of the methods of esoteric training and teaching, have asserted that the 'leaves' of the original Sanskrit text of the Sutra must have become displaced at some time or other in the past, as the text is very much confused, and the logical development of the theme cannot be easily traced. In this connection, it is interesting to note and thereby to support the views of some Chinese scholars that the so-called 'logical confusion' can be far better explained by bearing in mind the ancient method of teaching, which consists in first presenting the central teaching, the main outline of the doctrine, and only then filling in the background and the details as thoughts may occur, and with a superb indifference to the vaunted brain-mind methods of 'logical sequence.'
There is a special interest attached to the Chinese term mieh-tu in the passage quoted above. It stands for deliverance or release; for while mieh has the meaning of disappearance or evanishment, and therefore could easily be misconstrued by Orientalists to signify annihilation, as has been done in the case of the term nirvana, the word tu means 'to cross over in safety' and therefore is related to the term paramita. The Chinese Buddhist appears therefore better prepared to refute, by the very structure of his technical term for deliverance, the erroneous conception regarding nirvana prevalent for so long among Orientalists. (return to text)
2. The following selections will illustrate the thought.
From the Isvara-Gita, which forms a portion of the Kurma-Purana:
All is born from us, verily here (all) is dissolved,
The maya-former, bound by maya, makes manifold forms. — ii, 6
I produce the whole (universe), I continually destroy the universe,
I am possessed of illusion-creating power, yet myself illusory, a divinity united with time. — iii, 22
I am indeed the Destroyer, the Evolver, the Maintainer.
Maya verily is my power, maya the world-deluder.
Verily mine is the supreme power, which is knowledge, thus is it sung,
And I cause that maya to vanish — I who am in the heart of yogins. --iv, 17-18
Of those snares maya verily is the cause, it is said;
Mulaprakriti (Root-substance) — the Unmanifest (Avyakta), that power exists in me. — vii, 30
From the Svetasvatara-Upanishad:
Sacred poetry, sacrifices, ceremonies, ordinances, past, future, and what is declared by the Vedas —
All this the illusion-maker projects out of That, and in it by illusion all else is confined.
One should know that Nature is Illusion, and the Mighty Lord — the Illusion-Producer.
This entire world is pervaded with entities which are parts of Him. — iv, 9-10
From the Rig-Veda:
He matches in form every form; that is his form to be seen. Indra goes in many forms by his magic power (maya); for ten hundred bay steeds are yoked for him. — vi, 47, 18
From the Bhagavad-Gita:
Although (I am) unborn, of imperishable selfhood, although (I am) lord of all beings, yet while abiding in my own natural state, I take birth through the illusion of self (or: I take birth by my own power — atmamayaya). — iv, 6
The Lord of all beings, O Arjuna, stands in the region of the heart, turning all beings (which are as though) mounted on the engine (of the universe) by (his) maya (mystic power). — xviii, 61
For this my divine maya, of the nature of the qualities (gunas), is difficult to transcend. It is they who betake themselves to me, who surmount this maya. — vii, 14 (return to text)
3. Alaya is a Buddhist term used especially in Northern Schools and is virtually identical with the highest akasa, the summit of the anima mundi or cosmic soul. It is a Sanskrit compound formed of the negative particle a, and laya from the verbal root li, signifying to dissolve, to disappear. Alaya should not be confused with alaya-vijnana, frequently found in writings of the Mahayana school. Alaya and alaya are not the same. Alaya can be called mahabuddhi or cosmic buddhi, otherwise the Second Cosmic Logos; whereas alaya means a receptacle, a dwelling, and is often used mystically for a treasure house of wisdom and knowledge. Vijnana signifies discerning thought or reasoning power.
In the human constitution, alaya-vijnana corresponds to the reincarnating ego or higher manas, which is the storehouse of all the intellectual and spiritual experiences garnered by the human ego in each one of its incarnations. It is, therefore, the seat of the accumulated wisdom belonging to man's humanly spiritual nature; and is in one sense both the goal of his future evolution and, at the same time, because of the karmic seeds of destiny which it contains, the producer of reimbodiments. Alaya-vijnana is almost identical with the vijnanamaya-kosa of the Vedanta, literally thought-made sheath, and which is next to the highest or anandamaya-kosa, sheath of conscious bliss, this last corresponding to buddhi; while the atman is the summit of the constitution. (return to text)
4. The eighteen ways of describing the concept of 'emptiness' are (cf. Essays in Zen Buddhism (Third Series) by D. T. Suzuki, pp. 128, 222-8):
5. For those especially interested in the different schools of Hindu philosophy, the following may be helpful. There are actually six schools or darsanas, a Sanskrit word literally meaning vision. These are the Nyaya founded by Gotama; the Vaiseshika founded by Kanada; the Sankhya of Kapila; the Yoga of Patanjali; and the Less and the Greater Vedanta founded by Vyasa. Of the Greater Vedanta the most widely diffused school is the Adwaita, due to the teaching of Sankaracharya. All of them contain truth in no small degree; but again each is but a single branch of the all-unifying master school which, whether recognized or not, is the esoteric philosophy.
These six great systems are logically reducible to three pairs: (a) the Nyaya and Vaiseshika, which one may call the Atomistic school, corresponding with the Arambha; (b) the Sankhya and Yoga, which deal with emanational evolution combined with practice in aspiration and self-training, corresponding with the Parinama; (c) the Less and the Greater Vedanta, which may be called the Idealistic school, corresponding with the Vivarta. (return to text)
6. The technical name for these appearances is nama-rupa — a Sanskrit compound meaning name-form, nama equaling ideas or concepts, and rupa meaning objectivization or images or forms in which these ideas manifest themselves. (return to text)
7. There was at one time a highly philosophical school in Buddhism called the Swabhavika because of the insistence of its teachers that all entitative units or beings anywhere in time and space come into being and vanish because of inherent individual energies within themselves. These energies run the whole gamut of the cosmic Mystery, from the divine through the spiritual, intellectual, psychical, emotional, astral, to the physical. Thus far this school was at one with the esoteric philosophy; but for long centuries past the Swabhavikas have greatly degenerated both in philosophical conception and understanding, so that today their school is virtually one of a disguised materialism. (return to text)