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Isis Unveiled on Buddhism

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Isis Unveiled on Buddhism1

Says Buddha …

“Whoever is unacquainted with my law,” says Buddha, “and dies in that state, must return to the earth till he becomes a perfect Śramana. To achieve this object, he must destroy within himself the trinity of Māyā.2 He must extinguish his passions, unite and identify himself with the law (the teaching of the secret doctrine), and comprehend the religion of annihilation.

Here, annihilation refers but to matter, that of the visible as well as of the invisible body; for the astral soul (périsprit) is still matter, however sublimated. The same book says that what Fo (Buddha) meant to say was, that “the primitive substance is eternal and unchangeable. Its highest revelation is the pure, luminous ether, the boundless infinite space, not a void resulting from the absence of forms, but, on the contrary, the foundation of all forms, and anterior to them. But the very presence of forms denotes it to be the creation of Māyā, and all her works are as nothing before the uncreated being, SPIRIT, in whose profound and sacred repose all motion must cease forever.”

Thus annihilation means, with the Buddhistical philosophy, only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be; for everything that bears a shape was created, and thus must sooner or later perish, i.e., change that shape; therefore, as something temporary, though seeming to be permanent, it is but an illusion, Māyā; for, as eternity has neither beginning nor end, the more or less prolonged duration of some particular form passes, as it were, like an instantaneous flash of lightning. Before we have the time to realize that we have seen it, it is gone and passed away for ever; hence, even our astral bodies, pure ether, are but illusions of matter, so long as they retain their terrestrial outline. The latter changes, says the Buddhist, according to the merits or demerits of the person during his lifetime, and this is metempsychosis. When the spiritual entity breaks loose for ever from every particle of matter, then only it enters upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvāṇa. He exists in spirit, in nothing; as a form, a shape, a semblance, he is completely annihilated, and thus will die no more, for spirit alone is no Māyā, but the only REALITY in an illusionary universe of ever-passing forms.

It is upon this Buddhist doctrine that the Pythagoreans grounded the principal tenets of their philosophy. “Can that spirit, which gives life and motion, and partakes of the nature of light, be reduced to non-entity?” they ask. “Can that sensitive spirit in brutes which exercises memory, one of the rational faculties, die, and become nothing?” And Whitelock Bulstrode, in his able defence of Pythagoras, expounds this doctrine by adding: “If you say, they (the brutes) breathe their spirits into the air, and there vanish, that is all I contend for. The air, indeed, is the proper place to receive them, being, according to Laertius, full of souls; and, according to Epicurus, full of atoms, the principles of all things; for even this place wherein we walk and birds fly has so much of a spiritual nature, that it is invisible, and, therefore, may well be the receiver of forms, since the forms of all bodies are so; we can only see and hear its effects; the air itself is too fine, and above the capacity of the age. What then is the ether in the region above, and what are the influences or forms that descend from thence?” The spirits of creatures, the Pythagoreans hold, who are emanations of the most sublimated portions of ether, emanations, BREATHS, but not forms. Ether is incorruptible, all philosophers agree in that; and what is incorruptible is so far from being annihilated when it gets rid of the form, that it lays a good claim to IMMORTALITY. “But what is that which has no body, no form; which is imponderable, invisible and indivisible; that which exists and yet is not? ask the Buddhists. “It is Nirvāṇa,” is the answer. It is NOTHING, not a region, but rather a state. When once Nirvāṇa is reached, man is exempt from the effects of the “four truths”; for an effect can only be produced through a certain cause, and every cause is annihilated in this state.

These “four truths” are the foundation of the whole Buddhist doctrine of Nirvāṇa. They are, says the book of Prajñā Pāramitā3 1. The existence of pain. 2. The production of pain. 3. The annihilation of pain. 4. The way to the annihilation of pain. What is the source of pain? — Existence. Birth existing, decrepitude and death ensue; for wherever there is a form, there is a cause for pain and suffering. Spirit alone has no form, and therefore cannot be said to exist. Whenever man (the ethereal, inner man) reaches that point when he becomes utterly spiritual, hence, formless, he has reached a state of perfect bliss. MAN as an objective being becomes annihilated, but the spiritual entity with its subjective life, will live for ever, for spirit is incorruptible and immortal.

It is by the spirit of the teachings of both Buddha and Pythagoras, that we can so easily recognize the identity of their doctrines. The all-pervading, universal soul, the Anima Mundi, is Nirvāṇa; and Buddha, as a generic name, is the anthropomorphized monad of Pythagoras. When resting in Nirvāṇa, the final bliss, Buddha is the silent monad, dwelling in darkness and silence; he is also the formless Brahm, the sublime but unknowable Deity, which pervades invisibly the whole universe. Whenever it is manifested, desiring to impress itself upon humanity in a shape intelligent to our intellect, whether we call it an avatāra4 are given the 550 incarnations or metempsychoses of Buddha. They narrate how he has appeared in every form of animal life, and animated every sentient being on earth, from infinitesimal insect to the bird, the beast, and finally man, the microcosmic image of God on earth. Must this be taken literally; is it intended as a description of the actual transformations and existence of one and the same individual immortal, divine spirit, which by turns has animated every kind of sentient being? Ought we not rather to understand, with Buddhist metaphysicians, that though the individual human spirits are numberless, collectively they are one, as every drop of water drawn out of the ocean, metaphorically speaking, may have an individual existence and still be one with the rest of the drops going to form that ocean; for each human spirit is a scintilla of the one all-pervading light? That this divine spirit animates the flower, the particle of granite on the mountain side, the lion, the man? Egyptian Hierophants, like the Brahmans, and the Buddhists of the East, and some Greek philosophers, maintained originally that the same spirit that animates the particle of dust, lurking latent in it, animates man, manifesting itself in him in its highest state of activity. The doctrine, also, of a gradual refusion of the human soul into the essence of the primeval parent spirit, was universal at one time. But this doctrine never implied annihilation of the higher spiritual ego — only the dispersion of the external forms of man, after his terrestrial death, as well as during his abode on earth. Who is better fitted to impart to us the mysteries of after-death, so erroneously thought impenetrable, than those men who having, through self-discipline and purity of life and purpose, succeeded in uniting themselves with their “God,” were afforded some glimpses, however imperfect, of the great truth.5] times during his life, and complains of having attained to it but twice, himself.)) And these seers tell us strange stories about the variety of forms assumed by disembodied astral souls; forms of which each one is a spiritual though concrete reflection of the abstract state of the mind, and thoughts of the once living man.

To accuse Buddhistical philosophy of rejecting a Supreme Being — God, and the soul’s immortality, of atheism, in short, on the ground that according to their doctrines, Nirvāṇa means annihilation, and Svabhavat is NOT a person, but nothing, is simply absurd. The En (or Ayin) of the Jewish En-Soph, also means nihil or nothing, that which is not (quo ad nos); but no one has ever ventured to twit the Jews with atheism. In both cases the real meaning of the term nothing carries with it the idea that God is not a thing, not a concrete or visible Being to which a name expressive of any object known to us on earth may be applied with propriety.

  1. H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, (1888), pp. 289-292. []
  2. Illusion; matter in its triple manifestation in the earthly, and the astral or fontal soul, or the body, and the Platonian dual soul, the rational and the irrational one. []
  3. “Perfection of Wisdom.” []
  4. a celestial being [who descends] in order to overshadow and illuminate a human being An avatāra is someone who has a combination of three elements in his being: an inspiring divinity; a highly evolved intermediate nature or soul, [a bodhisattva –Ed.] which is loaned to him and is the channel of that inspiring divinity; and thirdly, a pure, clean, physical body” (Occult Glossary), or a King Messiah, or a permutation of Divine Spirit, Logos, Christos, it is all one and the same thing. In each case it is “the Father,” who is in the Son, and the Son in “the Father.” The immortal spirit overshadows the mortal man. It enters into him, and pervading his whole being, makes of him a god, who descends into his earthly tabernacle. Every man may become a Buddha, says the doctrine. And so throughout the interminable series of ages we find now and then men who more or less succeed in uniting themselves “with God,” as the expression goes, with their own spirit, as we ought to translate. The Buddhists call such men Arhat. An Arhat is next to a Buddha, and none is equal to him either in infused science, or miraculous powers. Certain fakirs demonstrate the theory well in practice, as Jacolliot has proved.

    Even the so-called fabulous narratives of certain Buddhistical books, when stripped of their allegorical meaning, are found to be the secret doctrines taught by Pythagoras. In the Pāli Books called the Jātakas ((The stories of the former lives of the Buddha, allegedly told by the Buddha himself []

  5. Porphyry gives the credit to Plotinus his master, of having been united with “God” [four ((The original has ‘six’, but this is a mistake by HPB []