Theosophical University Press Online Edition
The Principles of a Buddha's Constitution
The Arc of Descent and the Arc of Ascent
Symbolism in the Story of Jesus
Opportunity in Kali-Yuga
I should first like to make a few remarks about the principles of a Buddha's constitution. I wonder whether you really understand just what condition or state the principles of a Manushya-Buddha are in. We human beings at the present time are in the Fourth Round and in the Fifth Root-Race thereof, which means that we are actively functioning from the psychological standpoint in the kama-manasic parts of our constitution. When we shall have learned to function in the manasic parts, we shall then be Fifth Rounders; or, referring to the majority of the human race, we shall enter the Fifth Round. Identically so when our self-consciousness shall begin to function in the buddhi within us: we shall then be Buddhas. This will not come till the Sixth Round. But as Gautama the Buddha, although living in this Fourth Round, had already so far evolved that he was self-conscious and living in his sixth principle, or in his buddhi, he was called a Sixth Rounder or a Manushya, Human, Buddha. But mark you this: When an entity such as a man in his present Fourth-Round evolutionary degree, succeeds in living in the buddhi within him, he then has entered nirvana. Nirvana has different planes or degrees, just as the devachan has, or the kama-loka has, or as earth-life has. But when a man has learned to function and to live in the buddhi of his constitution, he is then a Buddha, and his higher principles have entered into perfect rest and peace — nirvana.
But what becomes of the inferior portions of his constitution? They still exist, because, ex hypothesi, he is still a man, they still are, they still live on, because these inferior portions of his constitution are composed of monads, just as the higher parts are. These inferior monads of the Buddha's constitution are learning, growing, evolving entities, beings. So then, in the case of a Buddha, while his highest parts have entered the nirvana, which means attained celestial Buddhahood, the buddhi-manasic parts, the Bodhisattva within the Buddha, still lives; and after the Buddha lays aside his physical body, or the Bodhisattva within him lays aside his physical body and physically dies, for that birth the Bodhisattva lives on as a Nirmanakaya; and it is this Bodhisattva-part of the Buddha, whose highest principles are in the nirvana, which furnishes the psychological apparatus needed to imbody the divine ray from the divinity and produce an Avatara, as happened in the case of Sankaracharya or Jesus or Lao-Tse and others.
Remember also that the Avataras have no past karman, will have no future karman because they cannot live again. They never lived before, they are a product of magic — a self-conscious living compound produced by the confluence or congruence of three different currents of consciousness: the divine ray from above, the Buddha's psychological apparatus, and a bringing together of the lower elements which in ordinary course would have produced a physical human being — of the average type perhaps, perhaps somewhat higher.
So then, a Buddha means that the highest parts of him are in the nirvana; that the higher intermediate or truly highest human parts of him are buddhi-manasic, and this part lives on as a Teacher, as a Bodhisattva-Nirmanakaya, as a Savior of men. Then there is the physical body with its vital-astral apparatus which finally dies.
There are two questions which I have been asked and which I should like to answer tonight. The first is: Coming down the Shadowy Arc we fall into matter; our glorious spiritual wings are clipped. As we rise out of matter on the Arc of Ascent, our pinions become strong again; we fly, as it were, into the aether. The Arc of Descent is condensing; the Arc of Ascent is the opposite, etherealizing. Does this mean that as we come down the Arc of Descent we do things and are almost compelled by the forces around us to do them which on the Ascending Arc we would call evil, wicked? In other words, is selfishness on the Downward Arc what Nature calls for, or is it not?
The other question is: What is there in man which makes him sin, which brings into being what we humans call evil-doing, selfishness?
To the first question I would answer that I think The Voice of the Silence sums up the whole thing beautifully: Work with Nature, that is, with the stream of evolution, in whichever direction it may be flowing, which means the will and vitality of the Gods; and Nature will make obeisance unto thee and call thee Master. As soon as we attempt to swim against the current, in adversum flumen, we set ourselves against the current of Nature's unfolding or infolding evolutionary progress, run counter to her 'laws,' so called, which is her will, and therefore become sorcerers. I think it is all summed up in the extract from The Voice of the Silence: Work with Nature; do her will, and Nature will make obeisance.
But before leaving this thought, I beg of you not to misunderstand it. When a Theosophist, and particularly an Esotericist, speaks of 'Nature,' he does not mean physical nature alone, nor astral nature. He is not thinking so much of the lower parts of the vast congeries of lives which form the Universe; he means all these, but in particular his attention is fastened upon the Cosmic Logos, the divine Cosmic Guide and impersonalized Spiritual Light of the World. Hence, even on the Downward Arc, though our bodies and lower parts in working with Nature aid in condensation and concretion, nevertheless even in such case 'working with Nature' signifies equally an even more absolute following of and self-identification with the impersonal, utterly unselfish laws of Cosmic Harmony. Thus, therefore, even on the Downward Arc, selfishness and egoism are as wrong as they would be if practised at the present time when we are beginning the climbing of the Ascending Arc.
And now for the second question. What is it in man that makes him sin? What part of man is it which sins? Is it his body? Obviously not, because his body is a mere slave, a tool, to the indwelling mind. Thus, a dead body does not sin, sticks and stones do not sin. Is it man's spirit? Obviously not, because ex hypothesi it is stainless, sinless, of the essence of divinity. Likewise it is not the Linga-sarira, nor the mere life-forces, because the latter are mere vital currents driven by will, guided by mind. You will then say it is the Kama in man which makes him sin — his desires, his passions. Is it? I tell you, No. That which sins in man is his intelligence. Sin lies in choice, in action. It is the right-hand path or the left. It is the choice wherein lies the sin or evil-doing.
Take a child; a child before it has learned to discriminate between right and wrong does not sin, no matter what it does; it is intellectually unconscious, it is ignorant. A beast does not sin, it has not the power of human choice. The power of choice is slowly developing because the manasic power is likewise slowly coming into action, but the beast's power of choice compared with human choice is insignificant. Therefore we say the beast cannot sin. Man sins because he chooses wrongly, because he chooses to misuse the powers within.
Now then, the beings descending the Shadowy Arc did not sin until mind came to them. Mind brought vision, vision became choice. When they could see, then they could choose. In a night that is absolutely dark and you cannot see the bifurcation of the way, you do not choose because there is naught to choose between. But once the light comes and you see the way bifurcating to the right and to the left, you choose. That is the idea.
Sin lies in wrong choice, sin lies in the misuse of the mind; and this is precisely why the Fourth Root-Race fell. It was not because it was the Fourth Root-Race when Kama was most strongly developed or evolved that brought about the terrific consequences, nor the tremendous power driven by evil choice. The evil lay in the wrong choice and the wrong use of mind. Man sinned in his mind, in his imaginations, in his thinking, in his choosings. There is an old Latin proverb, accepted from early times among Christians: Ubi voluntas est, peccatum est; ubi voluntas non est, peccatum abest. Where the will is (that is, the choice is) sin is; where there is no will (that is, no choice) sin is absent. A completely insane man does not sin no matter what he does, because the choice is not there.
So then, selfishness arises from the wrong choosing of our pathways in life, and the application to these wrong uses, of our powers in the mind. To misuse our powers, that is where sin lies.
On the Downward Arc as soon as the Sons of Mind inflamed with light the unconscious "men" of the time, then they could sin and began to sin. But as they were still comparatively ethereal and unevolved their choices were weak, vacillating, without much power behind Kama; the driving power was not yet fully brought forth until the Fourth Root-Race was in full flower, and mind could choose and act forcibly. That is why in the Fifth Round the great Time of Choice will come when mind will be fully developed; and in that Fifth Round to come to the right-hand path will go those who will attain Buddhahood at the end of the cosmic manvantara, the chain-manvantara; and to the left will go those who cannot "make the grade."
Now is the time, begin now. You will have need, I warn you, of all your latent and stored up spiritual power. Do not think, "Oh, this one time I can get away with it, this is the last time." Take yourself in hand. It is what you choose which makes your act good or evil. Oh, I do hope you understand this, Companions. I wanted to bring out this, for in future years you will find it immensely important, important to remember in your discussion with others, important to remember its application to your own individual lives. Never fear to make your choice, if all the world is against you and you feel you are right — stand; but do not hesitate to change if all the world is against your change and you feel the change is right — change, and your action will be full of virtue, sinless. The ever-present need is to see and to make your choice according to your best vision and highest ethical instinct.
May I venture to call your attention to one fact? The difficulties that have been found in interpreting the story of Jesus, of his incarnation, of his life, and of his death, arose from the fact that the would-be explainers attempt to explain unnatural and impossible things. Modern critical research has of course shown this very clearly; but a great many human hearts, devoted to their religious beliefs, find it difficult to accept the pronouncements of modern critical research and are always rejoiced when these modern critical researchers are proved to be or to have been wrong.
As a matter of fact, the entire story of Jesus, later called the Christos, as outlined in the New Testament, is a Mystery-tale; a series of mystical legends, woven around the life of a man who did live — a great and noble man, a true Sage and Seer, an Avatara in fact; but these mystical legends in no sense corresponded to the actual events in the physical existence of this Sage. This Mystery-tale, you will understand, please, to mean a setting forth in dramatic form of certain very important events which took place in Initiation chambers or crypts, and the parables included in this Mystery-tale also referred very definitely, if briefly, to certain of the fundamental teachings given to the neophytes at such times.
Furthermore, as the Initiatory Cycle in the case of individual men simply copied the grand term of cosmic existence, therefore likewise does the Christian New Testament in its symbolic allegory and imagery, in addition to being a covered and undisclosed tale of the Initiation-Crypt, likewise set forth the imbodiment of the Cosmic Spirit in material existence.
I will allude to one Mystery-fact here in illustration of the point. It is stated in the words of the story of Jesus that he came riding towards and into Jerusalem on an ass and the foal of an ass; and thereafter came upon him his life-work in the earthly Jerusalem — material existence; leading, as the legend sets it forth, to his arrest, his trial before the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, and to his death.
I would like to tell you that in the Oriental Mystical Cycle of the Hither East, of what is now called Asia Minor, the planet Saturn was frequently mystically called an 'ass,' or rather the ass represented that planet in mystical symbology. And in equivalent mystical symbology the 'foal of the ass' was this Earth, because the ancient seers said that this physical globe Earth was under the direct formative influence of the planet Saturn.
When you recollect also, that the cyclical peregrinations of the Monad take place strictly according to law and order in the Solar System, and according to routes running from one planet to another; when you recollect also that the earthly Jerusalem according to the Jewish symbology was this Earth, as the heavenly Jerusalem according to the Christian symbology, was the existence in spiritual spheres and the goal of human evolutionary attainment, you may begin to have a clearer idea of what I am briefly and in part trying to tell you.
The spiritual soul rides into 'Jerusalem' — material existence — on an ass, meaning Saturn, and a foal of an ass, meaning this Earth; and the Monad, the Christ-spirit, descending into matter thus, is crucified on the cross of matter — that is to say is betrayed and crucified, following the Platonic imagery of the ancients.
I leave this extremely mystical thought with you, because if your minds are alert and if you have profited by the instructions that have been communicated to you, this thought will give you an instance of the intricate manner in which a part at least of the Christian Scriptures have been written. The one thing that you should be always on guard against is to read any single line of these Christian Scriptures as recounting an actual historical physical event. Every main thought or idea in the Christian Scriptures is allegorical, and refers directly to the cycle of initiation and to some of the teachings given during the initiation-ceremonies.
Jesus lived. Whatever name he may have had, the individual known as Jesus was an actual man, a great Sage. He did indeed live. He was, furthermore, an Avatara. He died, or rather he disappeared; and around his personal individuality or individual person, there was collected, there clustered, there were gathered together, events in the Initiatory Cycle of the Hither East which were expressed under the garments of the legends that the Occidental world now has in what it calls the Christian New Testament. In other words, the personality of Jesus the Avatara was used as the type-figure around which were built up initiatory events expressed in mystical and allegorical form: and this literary material was finally whittled down into what are now called the Books of the Christian New Testament. Finally, Jesus was not physically crucified, and furthermore he did not die an ordinary physical death.
We live in a very interesting age, Companions, a time when history is in the making. I do not think that in the recorded annals that are open to us at the present time there has ever been an epoch when serious-minded students of the Ancient Wisdom, which we call Theosophy, have the opportunities that now we have. It is precisely the stress and the strain which are opening our hearts and tearing the veils away from our minds. It is the same thought that our Masters have told us applies to kali-yuga, the Iron Age, a hard, rigid age where everything moves intensely and intensively and where everything is difficult; but precisely the age in which spiritual and intellectual advancement can be made most quickly. There actually have been ages in the past when chelas or students have longed for conditions to be more difficult than they were, to give them the chance to advance faster.
In the Golden Age, which it is beautiful to dream about, in the so-called Age of Saturn, in the age of man's innocence, everything moved smoothly and beautifully and all surrounding being co-operated to make everything beautiful and pleasant; and there is something in our hearts that yearns to return to it; but it is not what the chela longs for. He longs for opportunity; he longs to climb; he longs to test what is in him, to grow from within.
Isn't it a strange paradox that the hardest, cruelest, of all the yugas is precisely the one in which the quickest advancement can be gained? I think there is a world of wisdom in this thought; and I speak of it tonight because only a few days ago I received a most pathetic communication from one of "Ours" who wanted to know if there was not something good in the kali-yuga: if mankind had to go under without hope. Why it is the very time when the chances are the most frequent for progress! It is the opportunity-time.
The sacrament of the Eucharist was originally a teaching of primitive Christianity about the way by which the human soul could achieve spiritual oneness with the Christ within — a ray, as it were, from the Cosmic Christ — thereby becoming a god-man when this union or yoga was complete.
Other religions speak about the Buddha within, and the cosmic Buddha, not meaning Gautama, the Hindu teacher, but a Cosmic Buddha of which Gautama was a ray, as Jesus the Avatara was a ray of what the Christians call the cosmic Christ.
In a very short time, due to a number of converging causes, this beautiful and really holy Christian teaching of how to achieve this yoga or union became lost in the Christian Church, and was replaced by a ceremonial. In other words they substituted a ceremony, a ritual, a rite, to replace the occult esoteric teaching which had been forgotten except by the very few. These very few were attempting to hold back, as it were, or to restrain, the complete loss of the wonder out of the bosom of the Christian Church and from Christian thought. Many of them were originally pagans who were attracted to the new Theosophical Society — as earliest Christianity was — because they felt it had a new dispensation of spiritual power in it; and they took the Eucharist out of the ceremonies of the Mysteries of Dionysus. The Dionysiacs, the Dionysian Mysteries, had a communion in which the priests and the congregation together partook of the blood and of the flesh of their divinity Dionysus. The blood was wine, the flesh was the cereal, bread if you wish, or wheat.
Now the Christians took this over because they knew something of the inner meaning of this Dionysian symbol; and that is the origin of what the Christians even today, carrying on a tradition but forgetting the original verities, call the holiest mystery in the Christian Church — as it originally was.
Why, even today we can say that the most sacred teaching we Theosophists have, our most sacred mystery, our most occult effort, is so to live and think and study and be trained, that the individual man may become at one with the divine. We are on the upward arc, so that now we can bring about this union — some individuals more than others. When the union is complete you have what we call a Buddha or a Christ. When the union is less complete, you have a Mahatman or one of the greatest chelas. When the union is still less complete, you have some of the great men of human history, mostly in the philosophic and religious lines: great thinkers and teachers such as Pythagoras, and Plato, and Empedocles and other sages from Egypt and Syria and in the Druidic lands of Germany and France and Britain; or again in Persia. Then on a still lower scale you have those men who have caught the gleams of the vision sublime and have been so enraptured by the picture of that glimpse that their whole life thereafter becomes consecrate to the glory. These are chelas and the great men of the human race. We can all become such, more or less.
Here is a final thought about this: When the Dionysiacs spoke of drinking the blood of their god in the wine and taking the flesh into themselves through the cereal, the wheat or the bread, they never intended it in the literal way in which it is now accepted in the old-fashioned orthodox Christianity. They intended it in a mystical sense which I will now proceed to explain. The blood of the god, in the ancient countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea always meant the cosmic vitality, what we call Jiva, the life, the Divine Life. Thus the blood, but the word was used as is found even in the Mosaic books of the Jews: "in the blood is the life." The blood became the symbol for the life of the Christ, the Christ's life, the Christ's vitality, the divine vitality in individual man which transformed him and raised him so as to become one with the Christ or with the Buddha. In that sense, by training, by effort, by yearning, by study, the neophyte raised his own life to aspire upward, to become universal, to become one with the universal life. And they called this union, or yoga, 'communion': the man thereafter communed with the cosmic spirit. "I and my Father are one," said Jesus.
And the bread, the cereal, wheat, in ancient times always had the symbolic meaning of intellect, intellectual power. Here is where you get a very interesting side-line for those who are technical Theosophical students. The ancients said that wheat was originally brought to this earth from the planet Venus. Now the planet Venus in the common scheme represents what we humans in the human constitution call the higher manas, in which the Christ in us, or the Buddha in us, works. The vine, said the Ancient Greeks and Latins, originally came from the planet Jupiter. The planet Jupiter, they said, is that which controls our vitality, or anima, or Jiva, our life. And Jiva is a direct efflux from Atman.
These many and converging and correlated lines of ancient Mediterranean thought the earliest Christians seized hold of and put together and welded fast into a lovely and marvelous teaching of union; and then later when the truth became lost, they collected the Dionysian thoughts, changed them slightly, gave them new names, and you have the Christian communion as a ceremonial rite in the Church, commemorating the process by which the sincere Christians, or one 'infilled with the Christos' becomes at one with the divine.
This very word 'Christian' originally meant one who is filled with Christ, one who had evoked the Christ in himself by that union, that yoga, the communion, the very thought I am trying to bring forth. Originally Christians were not called Christians. They did not dare call themselves by the title of their great Avatara. It would be exactly as if we were to call ourselves Buddhas, if Buddha were our teacher. Christians originally called themselves Chrestoi, a Greek word which meant 'worthy ones,' or as we would phrase it today, students, learners, disciples of the Christ; and the Christians themselves tell us that they were first called Christians at Antioch in Syria; and heaven knows when that was! It may not have been until the third or fourth century.