Blavatsky and Buddhism

Chapter Two: Blavatsky and 'Esoteric Buddhism'



What then are we to make of Blavatsky? She was not like her colonialist, materialist, and missionary peers. As an avowed Buddhist, HPB claimed to be in touch with the living tradition, and she saw the Buddha and the lamas who upheld his tradition in Tibet as the pinnacle of human possibility, and not as the 'niggers' and 'fakirs' her European peers perceived. For this, she was an object of Christian spite and scholarly scorn.
Despite her appropriations from Western works on Buddhism (and even despite her acknowledgement that not infrequently she personally composed letters ascribed to Mahatmas),(61) there is enough evidence, gathered carefully and methodically, to demonstrate that Blavatsky had access to Tibetan Buddhist sources which no other Westerner during her time had. Her works are by no means merely strings of plagiarisms, but rather very cogent arguments, supplemented by masses of data, that her readers should believe Buddhist claims that there is a perennial philosophy, in the possession of Adepts, which explains the origins of the world and leads to salvation from it.

Thus far has the diachronic comparative method taken us. The next chapters will study Blavatsky and Buddhism in a more thematic way, comparing and contrasting the teachings of Theosophy to modern translations of Buddhist works and current studies in the field of Buddhist scholarship. Chapter Three examines the concept of the Absolute in both Blavatsky's writings and in several schools of Mahåyåna Buddhism, while Chapter Four compares the creation story given by Blavatsky's "Stanzas of Dzyan" (see Appendix II) with the cosmogenesis outlined in the Kålachakra Tantra and related systems.



(61) See Appendix III, where a signed and sworn letter by Blavatsky testifies to this.

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