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Theosophy and High Tantra

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According to tradition, the Kālachakra Tantra as well as the Prajnāparamitā was taught by the Buddha himself. The Kālachakra tantra was first taught to the king of Shambhala. Quoting from Jeffrey Hopkins who translates from the Dalai Lama: “According to traditional, sacred history, on the fifteenth day of the third month, a year after his enlightenment1. Śākyamuni Buddha appeared at Vulture Peak [a hill in Bihar, North-India] in the attire of a monk, setting forth the Perfection of Wisdom (= Prajnāparamitā) Sutra in One Hundred Thousand Stanzas, and simultanuously he appeared at Banyakataka in South India [near presentday Chennai] as [the deity] Kālachakra, setting forth the Kālachakra Tantra. … The tantra was expounded at the request of King Suchandra … from Shambhala. … The tantra was preached inside a huge many leveled monument” The king returned to Shambhala and maintained Kālachakra during six successive kings, the eighth king preaching it to a wider public of 35 million seers – thus says the text – but only in Shambhala. This however was the greater Kālachakra tantra, which for us today is lost [or not accessible? – Ed.] and only the Laghu or condensed Kālachakra [1047 stanzas, composed by one of the later kings of Shambhala] is available today. Still later hundreds of commentaries where written on the Kālachakra tantra. Through Atiṣa and his Kadampa lineage the Kālachakra tantra reached Tsong-khapa, and he wrote several short works on several aspects of it. One of his chelas wrote a four volume commentary on the Condensed Kālachakra Tantra.

Though Theosophists speak with the greatest respect about Shambhala – the spiritual center of the world, and also about Tsong-kha-pa, Theosophists are not Vajrayanists. Though H.P. Blavatsky gave great importance to Tsong-kha-pa as reformer of the inner, esoteric school, she was not a Gelugpa in the sense of belonging to the outer sect founded by him. She must have belonged to the larger order of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion – to which no doubt Tsong-kha-pa also belonged, but which is independent of any sectarianism. She did not propagate or even mention any of the Vajrayana practices, and when she referred to esoteric Buddhism (a term wisely mutated by her into esoteric Budhism (= Wisdom-ism) she wished to reveal that true esotericism does exist, has always existed independent of any particular school or religion, and will always exist – and which will be reveled to rare individuals and humanity step by step throughout ages to come. ‘Methods’ of whatever kind other than those inherent in our Nature are but off-springs (which can be useful for some and at times) of the true path, which is natural. For this, mental study and natural intuitive development as the result of study and practice of daily life are the only tools. When the time for any individual or for humanity as a whole has come, compassionate teachers will guide us according to our self-nature. The order of compassion always awaits candidates to strengthen their ranks when such knock on the gate by means of the Silence of their inner nature.

The Kālachakra and other High Tantras come to us in symbolic form. These are depicted in circular figures called maṇḍalas, but should be imagined as three dimensional. Kālachakra has five levels – the highest being pristine consciousness. The initiate enters in his guided visions the four doors of the maṇḍalas and this experience is repeated many times to further his inner development. It is all symbolic and of the highest purity and the pupil can reach to the higher levels onlt when his character is stainless. In Theosophy the number of levels would be seven – which indicates that the extant Kālachakra is not complete.

Some of the symbols described in tantra have been misinterpreted – not only in the western world. By definition, symbols link the student or meditator to a larger world of inner truths within himself, of which the outer symbols are but an external reflection. Especially apparently sexual symbolism – as indeed practiced literally in debased forms of exoteric tantra in India and elsewhere – has given rise to confusion. We see in tantric pictures of the highest kind, such as Kālachakra, the deity (which ultimately is the yogi/pupil himself) in sexual embracement with a femal partner, and by some this is exoterically explained as the use of sexual energies of the subtlest nature which manifest during organism to carry the subtle and pure mind towards enlightenment. In the earlier stages of the tantric path the chela ‘gazes’ at the female consort, later comes eye contact, touching and finally total unification. The two however have little to do with male and female bodies, but always symbolize the unification of wisdom and compassion, the unification of Heart and Mind. Of course the ‘gazing’ etc. signifies the first recognition of and the approach towards of Spiritual Truth, to finally become non-dualistically One with it.2. To quote from one of the most prominent Theosophical authors, Gottfried de Purucker3:

“Whereas in the old religions and philosophies the God within has always been called a Divinity or God – masculine; the Consort, the Buddhi [spiritual awakening or intuition] of the Ātman, has always been looked upon as feminine. … It does not mean woman, it means that part of our natures to which and in which the god within works. Our own individual Buddhi is that which gives us intuition and insight and sensitiveness and delicacy and the ability in quick response to feel the suffering, the sorrow of others. It is the god within which does this, but it is what in common language we call the feminine side of us which receives it, the sensitized part of us, and carries the thought to the place where dwelleth the Ātman. It has naught to do with physical woman or physical man.”

It is unthinkable that the sexual union as depicted has to be interpreted physically, because even the most subtle physical and astral prāṇas or energies can never carry more than physical or astral mind. The true spiritual realms have long left behind the levels of the physical, astral and the energies belonging to them. The higher mind is beyond form and has nothing to do with the mechanisms of the lower bodies.

In Theosophy – at least the occult side of it – too demands absolute purity and compassion. Worldly attachment is naturally left behind when one understands the evanescent illusionary nature of our perceptions and conceptualities of it. Whereas tantra works with visualizations and imaginations which still belong to the realm of forms, Theosophical students usually work in their abstract minds, and the more subtle the aspects of Theosophy one studies, the more subtle the mind becomes, the more truly divine one becomes. Compassion can be practiced and refined in a million ways in daily life, materially – perhaps the worst field of suffering of all – psychologically, and spiritually, and this is the training itself; and better is to work in the field of causes than in that of results – which could have been prevented. Thus gods are born.


– Rudi Jansma

  1. Interestingly with the Buddha’s enlightenment can be meant his reaching of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya when he was in his thirties – which according to the Dalai Lama can not be meant because the Kālachakra tantra contains the fulfillment of his whole life – or his passing away. According to Theosophy his ‘passing away’ was the leaving from his physical body when the Buddha’s higher aspect became dharmakāya. But he left behind his bodhisattva-part who taught, until the hundredth year in his physical body. Without his physical body, he continued to be active as nirmaāya or sambhogakāya,  It is thus possible that he indeed gave these teachings after his death. []
  2. In Theosophical literature it is mentioned that the Sun, for example, is round because his heart and mind are one. In humans they are separate but interacting, one or the other taking the lead. []
  3. From Studies in Occult Philosophy (printed p. 363)[The nature of the Buddhic Principle] []