To Light a Thousand Lamps

A Theosophic Vision

Grace F. Knoche

A Sunrise Library Book

Copyright © 2001 by Theosophical University Press (print and PDF eBook versions also available). Electronic ISBN 978-1-55700-172-6. All rights reserved. This edition may be downloaded free of charge for personal use. Except for brief excerpts, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial or other use in any form without the prior permission of Theosophical University Press. For ease of searching, words are not accented in this version.



Following in the footprints of sages of a hundred past generations, I sow the beautiful seed for thousands of years to come. — I-tsing, 7th-century Chinese Buddhist Scholar

Legendary and written tradition testify to the presence throughout time of a brotherhood of men and women scattered over the face of the globe who resonate with the spiritualizing impulses reaching earth from higher regions. Their recognition of one another is not dependent on outer insignia but on inner communion. Such was the case with I-tsing, translator into Chinese of hundreds of Buddhist Sanskrit texts, and his assistant, Cheng-ku. When they met it was as though they had known each other "from former days," and after becoming conversant with the largeness of their mission Cheng-ku said to I-tsing:

When Virtue wishes to meet Virtue, they unite themselves without any medium, and when the time is about ripe, no one can stay it even if they wanted.
Shall I then sincerely propose to propagate our Tripitaka [the "Three Baskets" or major divisions of the Pali Canon] together with you, and to help you in lighting a thousand lamps? — A Record of The Buddhist Religion as Practised in India and The Malay Archipelago (A.D. 671-695), I-tsing, p. xxxvi.

When virtue meets virtue — how better describe the experience of intuitive recognition? Perhaps this may explain, in part at least, the global awakening now taking place, where thousands of men and women of varying interests and backgrounds, knowingly or unknowingly, are on the same wavelength: they are fired with the urgency to do all in their power to help turn humanity from senseless self-destruction to thoughtful self-regeneration. They labor for the safeguarding of human dignity and self-worth, for the protection of our planet, and for the building of a new type of civilization founded on the brotherhood of all life and the joyous collaboration of peoples and races for the benefit of the whole of humanity.

At the same time, this is a period of great uncertainty, when all that human beings most value is being weighed in the balance. Will we individually and collectively have the insight and courage to make the transformation from egocentricity to a perspective of planetary and solar dimension? In fact, this is already happening in the quiet, like the seed germinating under the snows of winter. So, rather than concentrate on the ugly and poisonous in human relationships, let us celebrate the joy of life. From the wonder of birth to the still beauty of death — both phases of life — all is transformation, change, flux, ebb, and reflux. The outbreathing of divinity brings worlds, humans, atoms, and suns out of the Unknown into visibility, enabling each to express a little more of its potential. The cycle completed, the inbreathing, inrolling, or withdrawal of the life energy follows, the shedding of forms releasing consciousness once again into realms vastly ethereal.

There is never a poison but nature has an antidote. Just as scientific ingenuity has provided us with the means of race suicide, so current efforts to synthesize Western scientific intuitions with Eastern mystical thought are furnishing us with tools for our emancipation — if we have the heart and the will to utilize them for beneficent ends. Take, for instance, the concept that the physical universe is analogous to a hologram, where the three-dimensional image may be projected from any portion of the negative: this is extremely suggestive, especially if applied to the human being as a spiritual intelligence. Moreover, it is a striking parallel to the wisdom-teaching once held worldwide that every life-spark comprehends the whole.

By various metaphors an ancient Buddhist sutra brings the point home that every being and thing partakes of buddha-essence. In one example, it envisions the Primal Buddha (Adi-Buddha) on a thousand-petaled throne, each petal a universe which comprises a hundred million worlds, each of which in turn has its own suns and moons and minor buddhas of the stature of Gautama, who himself is "a minute portion" of the original essence of Buddha. So likewise every particle of dust contains "Buddhas without number." (Avatamsaka-sutra (Flower Garland Sutra, Kegon-sutra in Japan). Cf. Japanese Buddhism by Sir Charles Eliot, pp. 108-10)

Small wonder that people through the ages have venerated gods as races of beings whose obligations toward their earth children — immature gods — impelled them to remain among the young humanities until they were off to a sound start. Their protection will never cease: karmic links of compassion and responsibility were forged in long-ago world cycles of evolution. We too are bound by unbreakable ties with the kingdoms younger than our own, and in like manner by karmic necessity in future cycles will aid them by stimulus and love.

Pursuing the thought further, we intuit something of what the sacrifice of a Gautama or a Jesus means to us today. The Christian dogma of Vicarious Atonement hides a profound esoteric fact: the divine concern that prompts a bodhisattva or christos to imbody on earth is, in very truth, a continuing benediction. This means that humanity is now, as it ever was, the beneficiary of the ongoing altruistic labor, not only of enlightened ones who periodically imbody among us, but also of the acts of love of unnumbered people who, consciously or unconsciously, inspire others to light their own lamp of compassion.

In every age and among every people are born those to whom matters of the mind and spirit are of paramount importance. Almost from birth they seem guided by an inner compass to search out the hidden, causal springs of human existence and learn how they might effectively help ease the burden of human sorrow. Perhaps they are revivifying a quest anciently begun in former lives. Certainly there is a mystic knowledge that speaks to the soul, a boon granted those who qualify by lives of dedication to truth and to humanity's need. Known by many names in different eras, this god-wisdom has been handed down through the millennia as a sacred trust by generations of sages who through initiatory experience have verified the facts of Being. Pivotal in the current awakening was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who inspired all who were receptive to "sow the beautiful seed" of theosophic wisdom far and wide for succeeding generations.

At the onset of a new century and a new millennium, this study is offered in profound gratitude to HPB and what her sacrifice and magnificent philosophy have meant to the world and to the writer. — G.F.K.

The Theosophical Society
International Headquarters
Pasadena, California, USA
July 11, 2001



Every book represents the efforts of many people, and I wish to express my gratitude to each and every member of the editorial and printing staff. More particularly, I thank Eloise Hart for bringing together the initial material, much of it originally having appeared in Sunrise magazine, Sarah Belle Dougherty for her editorial assistance and for the index, Jean B. Crabbendam for checking the index, Elsa-Brita Titchenell for invaluable help in the revision process, Jim and Ina Belderis for checking the quotations, Randell Grubb for his assistance throughout and for assembling the references, and Will Thackara for his valued critique and for supervising the book's production. — G.F.K.


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