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The Voice of the Silence – Glossary – A

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The Voice of the Silence

 <The Voice of the Silence



Abhijñā (Sk.) B.

From abhi and the root jñā: to recognize, to perceive. The word denotes paranormal powers (cf.: Siddhi) acquired through the application of the fourfold Dhyāna. See T.G. (Abhijñā). In Buddhism they are the five or six transcendental powers, faculties, or “superknowledges” attained on reaching Buddhahood. Gautama Buddha is said to have acquired the six Abhijñās on the night he attained enlightenment. In all forms of Buddhism those powers or “super-knowledges” are variously classified, but generally divided into “mundane” (laukika) and “supra-mundane” (lokottara). The first five are generally enumerated as: 1) Divyachakṣus (divine eye; deva-sight) instantaneous perception of whatever one wills to see; 2) Divya-śrotra (divine ear; deva-hearing) instantaneous comprehension of all sounds on every plane; 3) Ṛddhisakṣatkriyā, power of becoming visibly manifest at will, intuitive perception; 4) Pūrvanivāsa jñāna (power to know former existences) also called Pūrvanivāsānusmṛti jñāna (recollection of former existences); and 5) Parachitta jñāna (knowledge of others’ thoughts) understanding of their minds and hearts. Among this first series, apart from those mentioned in the Voice, like deva-hearing, deva-sight and the capacity to freely move in the air (as a khechara i.e. “sky-walker”) – which is but one of the powers to cross all physical obstacles (from dense matter to blazing fire) and to walk on water – more intimate forms of knowledge are reckoned, as the possibility to penetrate other people’s thoughts and feelings, to discover the hidden mechanism of karma, and to gain a complete vision of one’s many past lives.

Apart from those five (relatively) lower ṛddhis (Pāli: Iddhis), the sixth one, the supramundane, marks the ‘extinction of all impurities and impediments” (Āśravākṣaya abhijñā), bringing the certainty of final emancipation for the arhat. Āśravākṣaya (stream-mastery, pain destruction), means destruction of all ignorance and the entering of the stream of supernal knowledge. While the abhijñās may be acquired in the process of achieving spiritual progress, the Buddha frowned upon any attempt to develop such powers; and if they should manifest spontaneously,  any display of them must be avoided.

Adept – Th. [I 32, 33, II 2, III 20, 28, 32, 34] In the Latin language of the alchemists, Adeptus: one who has accomplished or obtained the Magnum Opus (the Stone of the Wise). In Occultism the term indicates one who has reached the stage of initiation, a Master in the science of Esoteric Philosophy. (T. G.).

Ādi-Buddha (Sk.) B., Th. [I 4, II 4]

“Primeval Buddha” or the Supreme Buddha. The supreme being above all other Buddhas, the One Unknown. In theosophical writings, the highest aspect or sub-entity of the supreme Wondrous Being of our universe, existing in the most exalted dharmakāya state. Ādi-Buddha is the individualized monadic focus of Ādi-buddhi, primordial cosmic wisdom or intelligence, eternal and unconditional, the presence of which is expressed in the spiritual chain ranging from the Dhyāni-Buddhas down to the incarnated spiritual Masters. “The Eternal Light” (T.G.). See Vajradhara (Cf. with S.D. I, 571).

Ādi-Budha (Sk.) B., Th. [I 4]

[from ādi first + budh wisdom] Primordial Wisdom; the first or nameless Deity (S.D. I, xix, 54n; 2:48).

Ahakāra (Sk.) H.[III 14]

Consciousness of the “I” as the individual identity which gives rise to the feeling of “I” (or the lower ego) in the incarnated personality (or lower ego), which is conscious of itself as a unique and lasting being compared with the rest of the world. Hence the “sense of separateness” (cf. Light on the Path)1 and the illusory belief in the personality (Sakkāya-ditthi).

Ajñāna (Sk.) H. [I 21]

Nescience, the absence of wisdom as a result of the many illusions maintained about the world of appearances and the non-perception of the Spiritual World.

Ākāśa (Sk.) H., [I 35]

All pervading space; subtle essence (the fifth element) which fills the whole universe (cf. Bhagavad-Gītā XIII, 32). It is often identified with Ether, but this is only an inferior manifestation of Ākāśa. The rudiment of Ākāśa is sound (Sk.: Śabda) referring to the idea of Verbum, Word, or Logos, or also to the divine resonance that continually pervades and supports the life of the whole Cosmos. From the viewpoint of energy or spiritual vibration, Ākāśa is the indispensable agent for every magical performance or mystical experience. In one sense this universal power expresses itself as Kuṇḍaliṇī, the “occult electricity, the alkahest of the alchemists, or the universal solvent” (T.G.). In Hinduism Ākāśa is also used in order to indicate the secret space of the heart.

Akara (Sk.) H. [Fragment 1]

Indestructible, unchangeable. It is the name given to the Self (or Puruṣa), not manifested, and unchangeable, which is considered as the “Lord” (Īśvara) of the universe and lives in the heart of each being (cf. Bhagavad-Gītā XV, 17-18, and Muaka Upaniad II, 1,1,2.). To reach this Akṣara means the realization of omniscience (Bhagavad-Gītā XV, 19). This word also refers to the mystical syllable AUṀ.

Ālaya (Sk.) B., Th. [III 8]

Literally: receptacle or shelter. H.B.P. uses it in the sense of Universal Soul, World Soul or Over-Soul. Eternal and unchangeable in her ultimate essence, this “Great Soul” becomes “the basis for each visible and invisible thing” and “mirrors herself in each object of the Universe”, “as the moon in clear and tranquil water” (cf. S.D. I, 47 et.seq.). As “Mother of the World” or “Universal Mother” Ālaya in its mystic significance comes close to Ākāśa. As basis or root of all things, Ālaya is also similar to the root-substance (Mūlaprakṛti) of the Kosmos (T.G.). For every human being Ālaya represents the spiritual pole of his inner life, the Master, pre-eminently, which finally will form, in an effective manner, “the Self of an advanced Adept” (S.D. I, 49).

Amitābha (Sk.) B. [III 26] Literally: infinite light. This name is often connected with Amitāyus (“eternal life-span”, i.e. “without limit”) in order to indicate a Buddha who is very popular in northern Buddhism and who reigns over a legendary paradise, Sukhāvatī (= the happy place) in Sanskrit, Devachan in Tibetan language. The very merciful Buddha Amitābha, immensely honored by the people, is an anthropomorphism of “the original conception of the ideal of an impersonal divine light” (T.G.), and the paradise of Amitābha is not a place but a sphere of the experience of consciousness, cf. S.D. I, 108, where Amitābha is the Dhyāni-Buddha manifested in the Buddha Gautama, his inner “God.”

Amta (Sk.) H. [Fragment 2]

Not-death, immortality. At the same time the elixer of life rendering immortality.

Anāgāmin (Sk.) B. [III 6]

“The one who will not return” into the world of senses and desire. The third stage of the Fourfold Path which leads to liberation of all bonds.

Anāhata Śabda(Sk.) H. [I 35]

“A sound (Śabda) not beaten, “not produced by percussion.” This inner experience of sound awareness is often stated in the mystic writings (see āneśvarī VI, 274), but it must be transcended. This term (just as the related expression Anāhata Nāda) also relates to the sound AUṀ. The name Anāhata moreover means the Chakra (or occult source) of the heart activated through Kuṇḍaliṇī, during meditation of the disciple.

Antaḥkāraṇa(Sk.) H., Th. [III 9]

In Hinduism: “The inner organ”, the seat of the human psyche with the mental qualities (Manas, Buddhi) and Ahaṁkāra. For Theosophy it is in one sense the bridge which during life is formed between the higher Ego and the incarnated personality. It serves as a means of communication between higher and lower Manas (active in terrestrial man) and permits the expression of the Voice of intuition in the human soul and the absorption of the impressions and thoughts of a noble and universal kind into the sphere of the permanent higher Ego capable of assimilation by the immortal Entity (T.G.). Raising his consciousness towards the divine essence, the disciple attempts to remove the distance between himself and it (thus symbolically “destroying” the bridge of Antaḥkāraṇa through the effect of this union). This should not be confused with the dramatic break of this vital bond between the personality and its profound Ego which occurs with the totally depraved man.

Arahatta (Pāli) B.

The state or condition of arahant. Arrahattamagga is the “path of Arahatta” leading to this realization. See Arhat.

Ārayaka (Sk.) H. [II 14]

From Araya: a remote place, desert or forest (to where the hermits retreat). Āraṇyaka describes a) a hermit of the forests, and b) a collection of philosophical and religious commentaries (cf. Bhadārayaka Upaniad).

Ardhamātrā (Sk.) H. [I 10]

Half (Ardha) of a prosodic measure (Mātrā), especially of a short syllable. In an article (Theos., Nov. 1889, p. 121), Ardhamātrā is identified with “the sound ending the pronunciation of the syllable AUṀ.”


See Arhat

Arhat (Sk.) B. [ [II 10, 11, 22, 30, III 32, 34]

Pāli: Arahant; Singhalese: Rahat; Chinese: Lohan. Literally: “meritorious” (not to be confounded with Ārya, “noble”). In Hīnayāna Buddhism: he who has reached the fourth state of the Fourfold Path; freed of the chains of desire he has reached the level of Nirvāṇa. The name is often given to dignitaries of Buddhism. The Arhat (of Hīnayāna) is sometimes opposite to the Bodhisattva (of Mahāyāna) who refuses the fruits of Nirvāṇā, but H.P.B. does not make this distinction. She sometimes refers to Arhat as “one initiated in the esoteric mysteries” (T.G.). Anyhow, the Arhat has great supernatural powers.

Ārya (Sk.) H., B. [III 6*]

An adjective which means noble, honest, and, regarded socially, an “Āryan” of India. In Buddhism the Pāli term Ariya (also: Ayira and Ayya) appears frequently to express the excellence of a thing or an individual, e.g. the ariyapuggala is a “noble being,” attentive to the “Four Noble Truths” (Ariyasacca) who walks along the fourfold “Noble Path” (Ariyamagga).

Āryāsagha (Sk.) B.

Pāli: Āriyasangha. A word meaning a) the community of the “Noble Ones,” the whole of the members of the Saṅgha, and b) the founder of the Yogāchāra-School. In the Theosophical Glossary, H.P.B. describes Āryāsaṅgha as an “Arhat, a direct disciple of Gautama the Buddha” who long preceded Christianity. His writings were never published or, at least that of which has been spread later on had more or less been mixed with Śivaism and Tantrism. Therefore one should not confuse “this ante-Christian Adept, founder of an esoteric school” of pure Buddhism (cf. S.D. I, 49fn:*), with another figure of the same name (see the Orientalists of the time of H.P.B.), who seemed to have been living much later. Today the generally acknowledged founder of the Yogāchāra School is Asaṅga (also known as Āryasaṅga). He was the brother of Vasubandhu, another Buddhist master (4th century CE).

Asat (Sk.) H. [Fragment 1]

Non-being, non-existing, indicates a) that which is not Sat (“being in essence,” “Be-ness”), thus: appearance, illusion, error (the basis of the subordinate material world) and b) in the compound word Sat-Asat, the incomprehensible nothingness which, too, is the essence of being (referring to the Absolute), the two terms forming the “alpha en omega of the Eastern Esotericism” (S.D. II, 449). The word Asat can also indicate Mūlaprakṛti, the undifferentiated substance (S.D. II, 597 fn:*).

Ascetic [II 23]

(From the Greek word askein: to make more flexible through exercise, as athletes do with their body). A person completely devoting himself to the practice of spiritual teachings.

Astral – Th. [I 18]

Literally: consisting of the ethereal, self-luminous nature of the stars. But in Theosophy the term “astral” is used for the luminous matter which is one step less coarse than physical matter. The astral substance corresponds with a state of differentiation and densification of the Original Substance (Mūlaprakṛti) preceding the coarse, physical matter. The astral world is the invisible plane nearest to ours, where all forms of living beings have their origin and evolution. The astral body or the astral double is the ethereal counterpart of the human body (and of all other beings): it is the basis of the cohesion and the vital dynamism of the physical organism. But at the same time it is within this astral field – the required intermediary between the physical and spiritual – that all energies and pictures of the psychic life of man (as well as of the planet), unfold. One must be cautious not to confuse the astral double with the astral soul (or the astral self, or again the personal self), referring to the psychic personality of man which is considered to be a living astral entity full of terrestrial thoughts fed by passions and desires (Sk.: Kāma). The astral sphere (which lays itself out in several planes) is pre-eminently the lunar world filtering to a certain extend the sunlight of the Spirit, but also reflects the terrestrial effluvia. The energetic substance penetrating this sphere is the Astral Light. Its upper part (connected with Ākāśa) is almost divine, but its lower parts, contaminated by the psychic emanations of the earth, are dangerous and even demoniacal. Éliphas Lévi has called it the great astral serpent. Hence the warning is given to the disciple who could never penetrate it without danger. The Astral Light is also the seat of the great living memory of Nature.

Asura (Sk.) H. [I 22)

Here used as “Not-God” (Tib. Lhamayin): demon, the enemy of the gods, the meaning given to the term Asura after it had become distorted. (The original meaning was “Breath of God” and indicated high spiritual beings or the Supreme Spirit of the Universe).

Ātma(n) (Sk.) H. [I 4, 9, 24, 28, III 8]

This word signifies the idea of self (in its various possible meanings), but first of all the idea of the Supreme Self which is in essence one with Brahma(n), the Impersonal Absolute. In man it is the divine and permanent pole pre-eminently, the Higher Self, which in reality radiates its light upon all beings. The sense of a self (Ātma), or a fundamental identity, can also be conferred to the terrestrial personality, but for exoteric Buddhism declaring the non-existence of such a Self, (the teaching of Anātman) it is a morally perverted illusion. The Bhagavad-Gītā (VI, 5) teaches that the lower self has to be elevated by the (higher) Self through the discipline of yoga and meditation. For Theosophy the Higher Ego is the individualized focus of that universal consciousness, which is bathed in the light of Ātma.

Ātmajñānin (Sk.) H. [I 9]

He who knows himself. In Vedānta: he who has the knowledge of Ātma, divine and universal.

Attavāda (Pāli) B. [I 8]

The teaching which states that there is a permanent personal self or “I.”

AUṀ(Sk.) H., B. [I 10, 12]

Pre-eminently the holy syllable formed by three letters which reminds of every trinity which merges itself into a unity (see ¿ūkya Upaniad and the articles of W.Q. Judge, published in “Theosophical Articles,” Vol.1, The Theosophy Company, Los Angles, 1980, p. 559).

Avalokiteśvara (Sk.) B., Th. [I 4]

A word interpreted in different ways: “The Lord who looks from on high,” “He who hears the sounds (or the cries) of the world,” etc. He is the most popular deity of northern Buddhism (the holy patron of Tibet, Chenrezi). As a living representation of the compassion and spiritual wisdom of Amitābha, this great Dhyāni Bodhisattva is figured as one who holds a blue lotus, hence his name Padmapāṇi. For Theosophy, all that is said about him refers to the Logos in connection with the Kosmos and man (T.G.). Literally Avalokiteśvara means: “The Lord who is seen”: in a particular sense “The Higher SELF, as seen by the (human) self,” the Ātman, or the seventh principle merged within the universal, perceived by the divine soul of the human being (Buddhi, the sixth principle). On a higher level Avalokiteśvara refers to the seventh Universal Principle, the Logos perceived through Buddhi or the Universal Soul, as the synthesis of the seven Dhyāni-Buddhas (S.D. I, 180-110, 470-3). In general it is the one and universal Spirit, omnipresent, manifested in the temple of the macrocosms and the microcosms. H.P.B. also identifies Padmapāṇi with the Ego or higher Manas in man (T.G.). The mystic formula “Oṁ mani padme huṁ” (which evokes the “jewel in the lotus”) has in view to directly invoke this divine presence of the Logos within the sanctuary of the heart (T.G.).

Avīchi (Sk.) B. [III 35]

Tib: Myalba. Literally: without waves, without interruption. Hellish state. Exoterically: Avīchi-niraya (Pāli) is one of the great nether worlds described in realistic colors in the Pāli canon.

Avidyā (Sk.) H., B. [Fragment 1]

Ignorance in the sense of not-knowing, not-recognizing the true nature of things. Hence in Vedānta: the illusion (personified as Māyā); in Buddhism it is the delusion, the absence of discrimination, which forms the basis of the causal chain of suffering and the cycle of reincarnations, or Saṁsāra.

  1. Collins, Mabel: Light on the Path  Theosophical University Press, Pasadena CA, 1997, p.3. []