Hodgson’s Schools of Nepalese Buddhism Identified with Particular Reference to the Swābhāvikas


The school of the Nepalese Swābhāvikas described in Brian Hodgson’s pioneering essays on Buddhism in Nepal is of some significance in the thought-world of the early Theosophical Society. H.P. Blavatsky had described herself as a Swābhāvika, “a Buddhist Pantheist, if anything at all.”[1] Further, she described her guru M as “a Buddhist, but not of the dogmatic Church, but belongs to the Svabhavikas, the so-called Nepal Atheists.”[2] Another member of the same fraternity, K.H., had recommended the study of the doctrines of this school to his correspondent A.O. Hume: “Study the laws and doctrines of the Nepaulese Swabhavikas, the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India, and you will find them the most learned as the most scientifically logical wranglers in the world. Their plastic invisible eternal omnipresent and unconscious Swabhavat is Force or Motion ever generating its electricity which is life.”[3] So the identity of this school is of some interest to students of Theosophy.

H.P.B. wrote about this school in Isis Unveiled and presented her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine as in one sense a commentary on and explication of a passage in the former work about the Swābhāvikas.[4] In the Theosophical interpretation of the swabhāva doctrine, swabhāva or “Swabhavat” is “the one homogenous divine Substance-Principle.” It is the “one element” that is “Spirit or Force at its negative, Matter at its positive pole.” These two poles correspond to the principles “puruṣa” and “prakṛti” to be found in the Sāṁkhya philosophy.[5] It is also “the dual movement of the one element remaining what it is while growing into something else. Since it is ‘ever present’ and ‘inexhaustible,’ Swabhavat… is endlessly ‘running’ and ‘moving.’ For this reason, Master K.H. called Swabhavat more than merely a force; it was the ‘infinite life’ of Ādi-Buddha throughout his ‘universally diffused essence.’”[6] Swabhavat “in the highest aspect” is called “swayambhū,” which translated from the Sanskrit means “the self-existent” or “self-manifested.”[7] So the identity of the Swābhāvika school and its doctrines as found in Hodgson’s writings is of some interest to students of Theosophy.


In addition to the Swābhāvikas, Hodgson also wrote about three other schools: the Aiśwarikas, Kārmikas, and Yātnikas. Unfortunately for followers of the Theosophical teachings, who understand H.P.B. to be a genuine emissary of genuine Mahatmas, it is now well-accepted among specialists thanks to the research of David Gellner that there are no schools of Buddhism, Nepalese or otherwise, that bear these names. That being the case, Gellner pronounced the issue a “blind alley.”[8] The late Nepalese researcher Harihar Raj Joshi, on the other hand, had a different intuition; rather than being a “blind alley,” it is perhaps a case of “the blind man and the elephant.”[9] A “new chapter” could be written by carefully parsing, analyzing, and researching what Hodgson wrote and what his informant, Pandit Amṛtānanda Vajrācārya, actually said to him.[10] What follows is that new chapter.

It must be conceded upfront that Gellner’s primary conclusion is indisputable; there are indeed no Buddhist schools that go under these monikers. After pioneering French scholar of Buddhism Eugène Burnouf had observed that the canonical “four schools” of Indian Buddhism were actually Vaibhāṣika, Sautrāntika, Yogācāra, and Madhyamaka,[11] Hodgson was compelled to considerably clarify the nature of his own four schools for the readers of his collected Essays. “My Bauddha pandit,” he writes, “assigned these titles to the Extract made from his Sástras, and always used them in his discussions with me. Hence I erroneously presumed them to be derived from the Sástras, and preferable to Mádyámika, &c., which he did not use, and which, though the scriptural denominations, were postponed to those here used on his authority as being less diagnostic. In making the extracts we ought to reach the leading doctrines, and therein I think we succeeded.” What are the “leading doctrines” that these titles are “diagnostic” to? Hodgson writes that these doctrines concern “the origin of the world, the nature of a first cause, and the nature and destiny of the soul.”[12] In other words, they primarily concern cosmology. This is further verified in Hodgson’s papers where the four schools are actually called the four types of worlds or world-systems (caturvidhasamsāra).[13] But where did the names of these diagnostic cosmogonies or “schools” come from?

Hodgson reproduces one of these discussions with Amṛtānanda on cosmology and it is here that we discover the origin of the school titles. He asks, “Is matter an independent existence, or derived from God?” In his answer, Amṛtānanda largely paraphrases a segment of Aśvagoṣa’s epic poem, the Buddhacarita, in which emissaries of the Buddha’s father, who had been sent with the purpose of persuading the future Buddha to return to his princely duties, present various theories as to whether the body and the world (samsāra or “sansára” in Hogson’s rendering) derive from intrinsic nature or swabhāva (“Swábhávaka”), God or Īśvara i.e. “Lord” (“Aiswarika”), or karma (“Kármika”).[14]

Concerning this Gellner writes, “The religious positions the minister is describing are in fact non-Buddhist doctrines which Sarvārthasidda (the future Buddha) rejects as inadequate.”[15] While the future Buddha was obviously not persuaded by this line of argumentation he did not, as Gellner asserts, reject these cosmological theories out of hand either. Rather, he refused to pronounce on them, having not yet obtained enlightenment on these issues. “As for this disputed question of existence and non-existence in this universe, no decision is possible for me on the strength of another’s words. I will arrive at the truth for myself by asceticism and quietude and will accept what is determined accordingly in this manner.”[16] This statement of the future Buddha will serve as Amṛtānanda's justification for the use of these titles; at the end of his reply to Hodgson’s query on matter and God, Amṛtānanda loosely paraphrases it as follows: “Some persons say that Sansára is Swábhávaka, some that it is Kármika, and some that it is Aiśwarika and Atmaka; for myself, I can tell you nothing of these matters. Do you address your meditations to the Buddha; and when you have attained Bodhijnána, you will know the truth yourselves.”[17]

Amṛtānanda was quite aware that these doctrines in their original signification were non-Buddhist, however. This comes across very clearly in his own 1830 recension of the Buddhacarita. The Sanskrit Buddhacarita had lost its original concluding cantos and Amṛtānanda wrote four new ones to finish the work. In one of these cantos, the now fully enlightened Buddha actually does refute the doctrines given by his father’s minister in their non-Buddhist sense.[18] So there is no question of a misunderstanding, contra Gellner. Rather, these non-Buddhist cosmogonies appear to serve a heuristic function for Amṛtānanda, as they have close parallels to cosmogonies represented in Buddhist scriptures he was aware of.

We get a more detailed look at these cosmogonies in a later essay wherein Hodgson attempts to prove the accuracy of his description of the Buddhist schools via direct quotations from scriptures provided to him by Amṛtānanda. The success of that endeavor is of a mixed character since, as Burnouf noticed in going over his references in the Sanskrit manuscripts provided to him by Hodgson, some of these texts do not contain what Hodgson says they contain. Burnouf attributes this to title transposition, something that Hodgson had already complained of. That something like this must have occurred is ironically demonstrated by the fact that the copy of Candrakīrti’s Prasannapadā that Burnouf himself quotes from is also under an incorrect title.[19] Further, many of Hodgson’s citations belong to “a set of massive compilations of didactic stories associated with the performance of lay vows called Garland (mālā) texts” which are in fact medieval Newar Sanskrit compositions rather than Indian originals.[20] The incorrectly titled texts among the citations probably also belong to this genre. So although we are unable to accurately trace all of these citations they are still illustrative of these cosmogonies as understood in Newar Buddhism and among them are scattered various unsigned “comments” that most likely emanate from Amṛtānanda himself and members of his scriptorium, including his brother Sundarānanda,[21] that are extremely illuminating.

The Swābhāvika doctrine presented in the Buddhacarita is that of the ancient materialistic and atheistic Cārvāka school.[22] They held that the elements of which the world is composed "are earth, water, fire, and air” and that these “elements move through original impulse," or swabhāva.[23] This is paralleled in a comment on a Buddhist “Swábhávika” scripture in which an account is given of the world arising from the elements out of ākāśa (space or ether) in the descending order of air, fire, water, and earth. From earth comes Mount Sumeru “with its own substance of gold” (qualified elsewhere as a “wheel of gold”) and from Mount Sumeru “all the various kinds of trees and vegetables; and from them all the variety of colors, shapes, flavors, and fragrances, in leaves, flowers, and the fruits.”[24] The world revolves out of being into ākāśa in reverse order. “Such is the Swábhávika Sansára; which Sansára (universe) constantly revolves between Pravritti and Nirvritti, like a potter’s wheel.”[25]

This generation of the world from the great material elements (“mahābhūta”) is recognizably an aspect of the classical Buddhist account, to be found in both the Abhidharma and Kālacakra (“Wheel of Time”) systems, in which “world systems come into being from subtle particles of earth, water, fire, and wind, which are the basis for the initial formation of the universe, together with the collective karma of sentient beings.”[26] The last element of this account, the collective karma of sentient beings, is essentially the Kārmika cosmogony of the world arising from universal avidyā which leads to the saṃskāras and the rest of the karmic chain of dependent origination.[27] In the Abhidharma account, this collective karma takes the form of a primal wind which brings about the manifestation of the elements.[28] Thus the Swābhāvika and Kārmika cosmogonies are actually isolates of the classical cosmogony that is more or less accepted by all traditional Buddhist schools.

The "theistic" Aiśwarika account, on the other hand, is clearly the Vajrayāna Tantric understanding that “the engine of existence is not karma, but the gnosis of” the Ādi-Buddha[29] and the Five Tathāgatas or “Dhyāni Buddhas.” Giuseppe Tucci writes that Ādi-Buddha as such is “specially proper to the Kālacakra system… But it is a principal common to all Tantras of the higher class… that beyond the pentad [of Tathāgatas], conditioning it, transcending it, and nevertheless mysteriously permeating it, there is a Buddha, earlier than the apparent multiplicity, an indiscriminate Buddhahood, the reason and the source of all apparent things. This Buddha… has several names according to the different schools.”[30] Amṛtānanda declares that the “names of Adi-Buddha are innumerable” and lists many of them to Hodgson.[31] 


Tantra is esoteric, but in Newar Buddhism much of the esoteric has found a place in the exoteric public religion. Already the importance of the primordial Buddha belief in exoteric Newar Buddhism had been noted by Dr. Francis Buchanan during his enquires in Nepal in the company of Captain Knox in 1802-1803. He wrote that the Buddhists of Nepal profess “a supreme being called Sambu, or Swayambhu, from whom have proceeded many Buddhs, or Intelligences.”[32] Hodgson, while acknowledging the linkage between the Aiśwarika system and Tantra, also emphasizes that Ādi-Buddha is not only to be found in Tantric writings.[33] The "Vajrayāna backbone" of Newar Buddhism shows itself in the exoteric Mahāyāna “Garland” texts.[34] Hodgson points to two texts among this genre, the Swayaṃbhu Purāṇa and the metrical Guṇakāraṇḍavyūha, as giving “the least obscure enunciation” of the Aiśwarika doctrine.[35] In the later text, Ādi-Buddha is given the title “maheśvara,” i.e. “great Īśvara.”[36] “Īśvara” and “great Īśvara” are titles that are typically bestowed on Hindu deities such as Viṣṇu and Śiva[37] and Gellner himself, in his standard work on Newar Buddhism, writes that this text has “an account of the creation of the world by Ādibuddha” that “clearly parallels the role of Viṣṇu in Hinduism.”[38] B. Allan Wallace has also drawn attention to the correspondences between the primordial Buddha cosmogony and the very philosophically sophisticated theistic cosmogonies in non-Buddhist traditions such as Vedānta and neo-Platonic Christianity.[39] So it is not so absurd for Amṛtānanda and Hodgson to present a "theistic" Buddhist cosmogony based on Īśvara.


This comparison can only be taken so far, however, since Buddhism has ever refuted the literalistic belief in a supreme personality who fashions the world in the same way a potter might, such as we find in the Hebrew Bible. But as Puṇḍarīka notes in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra (a text known to the Newar Buddhists), there is a need to give teachings that appeal to the predispositions of audiences who are habituated to theism as they would otherwise be "shut out from the path to omniscience" due to their wrong beliefs.[40] Thus the need for something like the Aiśwarika teaching. In line with the non-literal nature of this "great Lord," the Aiśwarikas understand Ādi-Buddha and the “Dhyáni Buddhas” to be “quiescent” and uninvolved in “the active work of creation and rule.”[41] It is denied that Ādi-Buddha exercises “providence and dominion.”[42] Indeed, Hodgson finds this lack of “providence and dominion” to be the “great defect” of all of his “schools.”[43] A further distinguishing feature of the Ādi-Buddha system which Hodgson found quite disagreeable is that Ādi-Buddha is not a distinct entity from “the world with all it containeth.” Ādi-Buddha is in fact the monistic non-dual reality behind all pluralistic phenomena. “Adi-Buddha, though he comprehends all living things, is yet one. He is the soul, and they are but the limbs and outward members, of this monad. Such is nirvritti, which, being deeply studied, is found to be unity,” according to Amṛtānanda.[44] As the supreme “soul” or “monad,” Ādi-Buddha is the nature of mind. Thus H.P.B. writes that the “true Buddhist, recognizing no ‘personal god,’ nor any ‘Father’ and ‘Creator of Heaven and Earth,’ still believes in an absolute consciousness, ‘Adi-Buddhi.’”[45]

The Yātnika doctrine, which Hodgson presents as something of an adjunct to the Aiśwarika doctrine,[46] is more obscure. Yatna means effort and could not be said to be a word of much doctrinal significance in any school of Buddhism but it is to be found in the same section of the Buddhacarita that the other school titles derive from. Hodgson defines yatna as “intellect, intellectual force, and resource.” This dovetails with what was noted above, that Ādi-Buddha is “absolute consciousness,” and in a “comment” on one of Hodgson’s Yātnika scripture selections, a cosmogony in terms of Īśvara (or Ādi-Buddha) producing five jñānas and five Dhyāni Buddhas by means of yatna is given.[47] Amṛtānanda says elsewhere that Ādi-Buddha is “merely light”[48] and a scriptural citation from the Guṇakāraṇḍavyūha is given that describes Ādi-Buddha as “stainless” and “revealed in the form of flame or light.”[49] In this text Ādi-Buddha is called “swayambhū,” which translated means “self-manifested” (as noted earlier in our explication of the Theosophical teaching), and the Sanskrit word used for “form of flame or light” is “jyotirūpa.”[50] Ādi-Buddha reappears again in the Swayaṃbhu Purāṇa[51] as a primordial self-manifesting form of flame or light. The Sanskrit word used for the light of this “jyotirūpa” is "prabhāsvara,"[52] commonly rendered as “luminosity” or “clear light.” This clear light is the ultimate nature of mind or consciousness.[53] Consciousness and light are intimately linked as they share the same “quality of illumination."[54]

Ian Sinclair notes that the creation accounts in both the Guṇakāraṇḍavyūha and the Swayaṃbhu Purāṇa share a special cosmogenic terminology (“Ādi-Buddha,” “swayambhū,” and “possessed of the triguna”) that originates in the Kālacakra Tantra and its corpus of related literature.[55] “Prabhāsvara” is an integral feature of the classic Vajrayāna cosmogony that is to be found in the Kālacakra Tantra and numerous other Tantras and their commentaries. In this cosmogony, the stainless prabhāsvara in concert with the energy-winds that are its steed creates the phenomenal universe. These energy-winds may be identified with the collective karmic winds of the standard Abhidharma account.[56] As a Vajrācārya, or recognized Vajrayāna master and lineage holder, Amṛtānanda was quite knowledgeable about these matters; he had even composed Vajrayāna literature himself.[57] So it seems that in the prabhāsvara cosmogony we have the origin of the Yātnika system.

Burnouf had noted of these schools that “the same texts serve as the foundation for all the doctrines; only the explication of these texts marks their naturalist, theist, moral, or intellectual tendency.”[58] In line with this observation, what we earlier noted of the Swābhāvika and Kārmika accounts holds true of the other cosmogonies. None of them really contradict each other but are in fact complementary; Ādi-Buddha is prabhāsvara who rides the karmic winds, which stir up the elements. And as regards the “the nature and destiny of the soul” all alike teach “metempsychosis and absorption,” as Hodgson notes.[59] But for all that, these cosmogonies do not often all appear together as a unified account and are distinct in emphasis. Nor would all Buddhists find every element acceptable, particularly as it concerns Ādi-Buddha.

The identification of the school titles with cosmogonies is only a necessary preliminary endeavor, however, for we are not dealing only with cosmogonies. Hodgson has a great deal more to say about the Swābhāvikas in particular and gets into issues of ontology, metaphysics, and epistemology, such as we would expect to find in a doctrinal school. Burnouf had written that to “determine up to which point the four sects enumerated by Mr. Hodgson are included in those mentioned by the Abhidharmakośa [the canonical Indo-Tibetan four], or to show that there are quite different sects who later shared the heritage of primitive beliefs, is a task for which we need new assistance.”[60] Despite the advance of over 150 years of Buddhist scholarship since the time of Hodgson and Burnouf, very few have taken up this request for assistance save Gellner, who pronounced negatively on both alternatives and effectively settled the question for many. New assistance can be given and a much more positive conclusion reached, however. By correlating the material on Swābhāvika epistemology and metaphysics given by Hodgson with this more recent scholarship, identifications can be made with canonical schools and made definitively.

It must first be noted that Hodgson actually writes of two different Swābhāvika schools; there are the primitive simple Swābhāvikas and the Prājñika Swābhāvikas. This distinction is highly revealing and crucial for our endeavor. The Swābhāvikas simpliciter believe that matter is divisible into various “powers” and that these powers always exist, whether in pravṛtti or nivṛtti. The Prājñikas, however, “unitize the powers” in nivṛtti and “make that unit, deity”[61] which is “their proper modality.”[62] Whereas the Prājñikas “unitize the active and intelligent powers of nature” the Swābhāvikas simpliciter “do not unitize them.”[63] What we have then is a pluralistic ontology on the one hand and a monistic or non-dual ontology on the other; these ontologies are diagnostic to Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna respectively.[64] Hodgson also indicates that he doubts that phenomena are illusory and “unreal” for the Swābhāvikas simpliciter as they are for the Prājñikas.[65] This, too, is diagnostic of the difference between Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna.[66] So we will have to look within these two subdivisions of Buddhism to find our two subdivisions of the Swābhāvikas.

Before proceeding with our identifications it will also be useful to get a better understanding of Hogson’s conception of matter since he identifies the Swābhāvikas as a materialist school. This has been a source of understandable confusion for many commentators since Buddhism is not particularly concerned with matter as such, and certainly does not give it the kind of emphasis that Hodgson does. Already Burnouf had written that with the enumeration of the basic elements “the Buddhists can dispense with speaking of matter, an abstract notion of which I do not believe they have occupied themselves.”[67]


First, it must be pointed out that Hodgson uses “nature” or “system of nature” as a synonym for matter in many instances.[68] Further, he writes that the various “forces” or powers of matter are both “intellectual and physical.”[69] Annotating one of his Swābhāvika commentators, who declared ākāśa or space to be “omnipresent, and essentially intellectual,” Hodgson writes that “it is worthy of note, that amidst these primal principles, intelligence has admission. It is therefore affirmed to be a necessary ens, or eternal portion of the system of nature, though separated from self-consciousness or personality.”[70] So when Hodgson writes of “matter” he means primarily to contrast these doctrines with “immateriality” by which he designates God and/or pure idealism; in other words, the supernatural.[71] All the powers and “energies” that are extrinsic to the system of nature in theistic cosmogonies are intrinsic for the Swābhāvikas.[72]


So Hodgson's "matter" is something quite different from the standard Victorian-era conception of matter and is consistent with a non-theistic Buddhist understanding of the natural universe which incorporates both the physical and mental. David Kalupahana notes that while Buddhism is not materialistic, it is naturalistic and appeals to natural causal explanations even of “supernatural” phenomena.[73] As well, both mind and matter are explained in terms of “processes of experience rather than any kind of material-stuff or mind-stuff.”[74] Burnouf had realized much the same thing. He writes that in Buddhism “the distinction between mind and matter is almost completely lacking, that is to say, in order to express myself in a manner more in accordance with Buddhist ideas, [...] the distinction is lacking between the phenomena that fall under the senses, and those which escape them and which intelligence conceives. Indeed… for the greatest number of Buddhists, who believe only in the testimony of direct observation, all phenomena, whether material or immaterial, are essentially homogenous; they are not fundamentally different from one another. Material, they are called external; intellectual, they are named internal; it is a simple difference of location…” It is in this sense, too, that Burnouf indicates he understands Hodgson’s talk of Buddhist materialism.[75]

Now the classical Buddhist cosmogony given as that of the Swābhāvikas is very crucial for our search; behind this cosmogony in its original formulation stands the Abhidharma and behind the Abhidharma is a Hīnayāna scholasticism that is highly concerned with metaphysical and epistemological issues. For the physical and intellectual “powers” of nature that Hodgson speaks of and the “essentially homogenous” material and immaterial phenomena of Burnouf are the individual dharmas or elements of existence to be found in the Abhidharma literature, among which are the great elements which generate the world. Hodgson writes that the “powers” of matter are symbolized by various letters[76] and when we turn to the scriptural citations given to illustrate the Swābhāvika school we find that these powers designated by various letters are the same primary material elements.[77] Hodgson also gives out the epistemological theory of dharmas in terms of the six cognitive senses or indriyas and six objects or āyatanas (also called simply the twelve āyatanas) as a doctrine of the Swābhāvikas;[78] these are designated the "internal seats" and "external seats," respectively,[79] as Burnouf alluded to above in his discussion of the natural "phenomena" of Buddhism. Hodgson writes that in the Swābhāvika understanding, the forms of the sense objects are ephemeral in manifestation (or pravṛtti) qua forms but eternal and transcendental in the state of nivṛtti. Elsewhere Hodgson gives the great elements a correspondence with the twelve āyatanas.[80]

In arguing with those who denied the influence of karma, the Buddha had said in a scripture of the canon of Northern Buddhism that “everything exists” (sarvāstitva). When pressed further on the matter of what the “everything” that existed was, he defined it as the twelve āyatanas. The six sensory objects of the twelve are further subdivided so that a vast quantity of dharmas are encompassed. In fact “everything” is encompassed by the twelve āyatanas; “everything” and the āyatanas are synonymous. A school of Hīnayāna Buddhism would take the declaration that “everything exists” literally and derive their name from it.[81] This was the Sarvāstivāda (also known as Vaibhāṣika) school, once “the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India.” They were also the most influential codifiers of Abhidharma in Northern Buddhism; among the texts that Hodgson passed along to Burnouf was Yaśomitra’s sub-commentary on Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya, an auto-commentary on his compilation of Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma, which is an extremely crucial text for the transmission of these teachings.[82] So Amṛtānanda would doubtless have been quite familiar with the Sarvāstivāda doctrines.

The pluralistic philosophy of this school is a good match for the Swābhāvikas simpliciter. Indeed, they have been described as a “svabhāvavāda” by a modern commentator.[83] The Sarvāstivādins posited that the swabhāvas of the dharmas existed in the three times (past, present, and future). This, however, applies only to the swabhāva as such and not to its manifestation, or lakṣaṇa, which is only a momentary point-instant; the continuous series of these momentary flashings constitute motion. Even when a dharma has fallen out of manifestation and is taken up into Nirvāṇa (or nivṛtti) the swabhāva of the dharma remains; its true nature is mysterious and transcendental.[84] Thus, these transcendental swabhāvas exist forever, just as do the swabhāvas of the Swābhāvikas simpliciter which exist through “an eternal revolution of entity and non-entity.”[85]

The manifestation of the dharmas constitutes duḥkha (“suffering” or “commotion” in Stcherbatsky’s rendering). Through the refinement of the dharma prajñā, the manifestation of consciousness and sensory input comes to an end and this constitutes Nirvāṇa.[86] Commenting on the attainment of the Swābhāvika Nirvāṇa, Hodgson notes along these lines that “Plotinus contended that the most perfect worship of the Deity consisted in a certain mysterious self-annihilation or total extinction of all our faculties.”[87] For the Sarvāstivāda, Nirvāṇa is not a pure nothing as it has a swabhāva. It is “sometimes, especially in popular literature, characterized as bliss, but this bliss consists in the cessation of unrest (duḥkha). Bliss is a feeling, and in the absolute there neither is a feeling, nor conception, nor volition, nor even consciousness.”[88] Likewise, Hodgson writes that there was some dispute as to the nature of Nirvāṇa among the Swābhāvikas simpliciter as to whether it had a more positive content or a purely negative one, although even if the content was purely of an annihilative nature it would still be a supreme good as it is the ceasing of suffering.[89]

The Sarvāstivāda may at one time have been able to lay claim to the title of “the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India,” and their swabhāvas are certainly “plastic,” “eternal,” and, absent manifestation, “invisible” and “unconscious.” They are not, however, an omnipresent singular swabhāva, as in Mahatma K.H.’s description of the Swābhāvika philosophy, for Theosophy is a non-dual worldview. Turning to the Prājñika Swābhāvikas, we meet with a much closer match.

The Prājñika school “seems to have considered matter as the sole entity, to have ascribed to it all the attributes of deity, and to have assigned to it two modalities; one termed nirvritti, and the other pravritti.”[90] These two modes, Hodgson informs us, correspond to the categories of abstract and concrete. To the concrete belong all the “powers” of nature or dharmas. This is the realm of “action, multiplicity, change, pain” and it is “the contingent mode.” The abstract is the “proper modality” in which these powers exist in “unity, immutability, rest, bliss.”[91] This “proper modality” is “the great secret (Súnyatá) of nature”[92] and “man’s summum bonum,” which is not “a vague and doubtful association to the state of Nirvritti; but a specific and certain absorption into Prajná, the sum of all the powers, active and intellectual, of the universe.”[93]

What is this śūnyatā or emptiness? According to Hodgson, “in the transcendental sense of the Buddhists, it signifies… the modus existendi of all things in the state of quiescence and abstraction from phenomenal being” since Buddhists “deem… all phænomena to be as purely illusory as do the Vedantists.” In this state the “energy of nature… is considered to be void of all those qualities which necessarily imply perishableness, and, which is the same thing, of all those qualities which are cognizable or distinguishable, and hence the energy in that state is typed by pure space.”[94] Clarifying this further in a handwritten annotation in a copy of his Essays, Hodgson writes that “Herbert Spencer’s Unknowable is the nearest equivalent of the Buddhist nirvana and sunyata.”[95] Spencer’s “Unknowable” is famously an Absolute non-conceptual noumenon that stands behind the relative.[96] So for Hodgson śūnyatā entails the illusoriness and unreality of all phenomena and a state of monistic Absoluteness on the ultimate level which is void or empty of everything phenomenal. It is “eternally, unchangeably, and essentially one.” This proper modality is “symbolized by the Yoni, and personified as a female divinity Adi-Prajná and Adi-Dharmá.”[97]

This “female divinity Adi-Prajná” of the Prājñika system is the goddess Prajñāpāramitā, or Perfection of Wisdom, the Buddhist equivalent of the Gnostic Sophia[98] and a representative of the ancient mother goddess archetype.[99] She has a vast class of literature and Hodgson quotes some of it in his scriptural citations for the Swābhāvika school and for the concept of “Adi-Dharmá.”[100] Most prominent among these is the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, or Prajñāpāramitā in 8,000 Lines, which is the original scripture of the Prajñāpāramitā class and one of the navadharma (the nine holiest scriptures in Newar Buddhism).[101] “This is a work of philosophy rather than religion, and its spirit is skeptical to the very verge of pyrrhonism,” writes Hodgson.[102]

Pyrrhonism, the “skepticism” propagated by Pyrrho in ancient Greece, is an apt comparison with the view of the Prajñāpāramitā, and one that was also made by Edward Conze, the preeminent authority on this class of scriptures.[103] The Prajñāpāramitā is noted for deconstructing every aspect of conventional reality, which is declared to be empty. What is infrequently noted by modern commentators amidst all the deconstruction, however, is that the description of conventional reality in terms of the dharmas is regarded by the Prajñāpāramitā literature as superior to the naive view of the average person who accepts entities such as a permanent self which is actually just composed of dharmas (the five skandhas in this case). Distinguishing the dharmas, getting them “into view,” is a necessary step to achieving real insight on the spiritual path.[104] According to the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, if an entity is not a dharma it does not exist.[105]

The Prajñāpāramitā also follows the Sarvāstivādins in asserting that these dharmas have a swabhāva. It is denied, however, that all the dharmas have their own unique swabhāva for “there are not two essential natures of dharmas, but just one single is the essential nature of all dharmas.”[106] From the perspective of conventional phenomenal existence, this single essential nature is a lack of essential nature. From the ultimate perspective, however, dharmas are “by their nature perfectly pure,” in the words of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā.[107] This perfectly pure final swabhāva of the dharmas is “that which looks only to itself, and not to anything outside. It is what we call the ‘Absolute,’ compared with which all separate dharmas are parabhāva (relative). The mark (lakṣaṇa) of that own-being is that it is not contingent, not conditioned, not related to anything other than itself.” This swabhāva which is Absolute is emptiness or śūnyatā.[108] It is described in one Prajñāpāramitā scripture as “the unbroken unity of all dharmas.” This emptiness can also be described as monism “since all multiplicity is relegated to a lower plane and denied ultimate validity.”[109]

Nāgārjuna is traditionally said to have retrieved the Prajñāpāramitā scriptures from the realm of the Nāgas[110] and it is his Madhyamaka (“Middle Way”) school that is held to provide their definitive exegesis. This Mahāyāna school would go on to displace the Sarvāstivāda as “the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India” and become the mainstream and dominant understanding of the Tibetan inheritors of Indian Buddhism. In the Madhyamaka “system of nature,” the Sarvāstivāda doctrine of momentary point-instants is fully taken on-board. In this understanding, causation “is kinetic. What exists is always acting, always moving; it is an illusion that a thing exists placidly, that it exists without acting; what does not act, does not exist; action is motion, this motion itself is causation.”[111] In Nāgārjuna’s philosophy, it is also the case that matter (the four great elements or mahābhūta) and mind (vijñāna) are dependently originated and mutually supportive; neither has primacy and neither can manifest without the other.[112] The ultimate nature of both is the dharmadhātu, the Absolute reality, the “basic element” which is “held to be the basis of all dharmas.”[113] A Prajñāpāramitā scripture says of the dharmadhātu: “The Dharma-element would be upset (vikopita), if there were any other Dharma outside it. But no other dharma can be apprehended outside it. If one could be apprehended, there would be an upsetting of the Dharma-element.”[114] With the dharmadhātu, there is a clear echo of the Theosophical “one element” with two poles that is always “running” and “moving.”

For Nāgārjuna, realization of the dharmadhātu is identical with Nirvāṇa and this Nirvāṇa is not a “doubtful” entity as in the Sarvāstivāda teachings; rather it is the “sum of all the powers, active and intellectual, of the universe.”[115] For as Jaideva Singh, summarizing Stcherbatsky, writes, “Nāgārjuna gives a new orientation to Nirvāṇa. The Vaibhāṣika maintained that Nirvāṇa was something real (dharma) in which consciousness and life were extinct for ever: the Sautrāntika believed that it was the simple cessation of the world process. In both cases, something real was assumed to exist before Nirvāṇa and to disappear afterwards. This made Nirvāṇa a product of causes (saṁskṛta). Nāgārjuna asserted that there was not a shade of difference between the Absolute and the Phenomenal, between Nirvāṇa and Śaṁsāra. The universe viewed as a whole is the Absolute, viewed as a process, it is the phenomenal.”[116] Nirvāṇa is called variously tathātā (Suchness), tattva (Reality), or Prajñāpāramitā and “Prajñāpāramitā as non-dual Intuition is the Absolute.”[117]

This in any case is the once dominant academic understanding of Madhyamaka as an Absolutism. It has lately fallen out of fashion and given way to an interpretation of the Madhyamaka ultimate truth as being a semantic conventionalism that eschews anything particularly mystical, metaphysical, or transcendental; the ultimate truth is a mere conventional truth. The “semantic interpretation” probably tells us more about the concerns of certain modern western academics than it does about Nāgārjuna. For our present purposes of identification, however, it is not necessary to refute this view’s claim to be the correct interpretation of Nāgārjuna. It is only necessary to point out that the "Absolutist" or monistic interpretation is also the interpretation of a great many traditional Buddhist schools and scholars of past ages and the present.[118]


In sum then the Prājñika Swābhāvikas may be identified with the Madhyamaka school. But which Madhyamaka school? The two best known sub-schools of Madhyamaka are Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika.[119] They are typically understood in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism to teach a transcendent non-conceptual ultimate reality with “a form that transcends all manifoldness” to be realized directly by āryas in meditative equipoise through non-dual gnosis (jñāna), which is something totally other than mundane consciousness (vijñāna).[120] This ultimate and Absolute śūnyatā or swabhāva transcends manifoldness and all conventional words and concepts so completely that it is regarded as self-empty; the dharmadhātu is “empty” of the four extremes of existence, non-existence, both, and neither.[121] This is the famed “emptiness of emptiness.”[122] “The Absolute is Śūnya as it is utterly devoid of the conceptual distinctions of ‘is’ and ‘not-is’, free from all subjectivity (nirvikalpa, niṣprapañca).”[123]

There is another Madhyamaka school, however, with a very distinctive presentation of the Absolute noumenon. This is the Great Madhyamaka, which is asserted to be the original understanding of Nāgārjuna prior to the split into Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika. This school, like Theosophy, integrates the terminology of Yogācāra (the epistemological, meditation-based school of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu) and Madhyamaka, as well as Vajrayāna doctrines (particularly those of the Kālacakra Tantra), into a unified whole. It is asserted that the primary authorities of both Yogācāra and Madhyamaka actually belonged to one single school and taught the same doctrine of other-emptiness.[124]


This teaching was expounded most prominently by the Lama Dölpopa and his Jonang sect.[125] Although Dölpopa agreed that consciousness and its objects are equally unestablished[126] and that the primordial jñāna realized in meditative equipoise transcends the manifoldness of the four extremes,[127] he taught that in post-meditation and in the context of conventional discourse the Absolute is to be regarded as not empty of itself but rather empty of everything other than itself; it is “other” than all conventional dichotomies or dualistic fabrications, "beyond the inner and outer, the internal and external."[128] It is an other-emptiness, not a self-emptiness, and it has a swabhāva that is truly established and truly existent.[129]

In contrast to the Prāsaṅgikas, the Great Madhyamaka presents the relationship between the Absolute swabhāva and the phenomenal world, the “pervader” and “pervaded,”[130] as a hierarchical relationship much like the relationship between Brahman and māyā in Advaita Vedānta; it is an “appearance-reality distinction.” The Absolute appears as samsāra to the unenlightened although it is not so in reality. Thus, the Absolute is necessary for samsāra to exist but it is not the case that samsāra is necessary for the Absolute to exist, because samsāra is contingent and unreal in and of itself. Samsāra is a mere superimposition and the Absolute can do very well without it, as it is empty of the unreal.[131] The “appearance-reality distinction” of the Great Madhyamaka is paralleled in Hodgson’s distinction between the illusory “contingent” and Absolute “proper” modes of swabhāva.[132] This “partless pervader” of Dölpopa, the truly established swabhāva, is also in essence identical with the “Swabhavat” of K.H.[133]

Ironically, we will have to turn to the “theistic” Vajrayāna Aiswarika doctrine to really nail down the true identity of the Madhyamaka doctrine of the “atheistic” Nepalese Swābhāvikas, for Newar Buddhism is of a Vajrayāna character and the “Vajrayana doctrine of Nepal is usually based on Madhyamika as well as Yogacara doctrines,”[134] like the teachings of Great Madhyamaka. Hodgson notes that even the Swābhāvikas have an Ādi-Buddha[135] and one of his Swābhāvika scriptural citations asserts that in relation to the illusory phenomenal universe, swabhāva and Īśvara (or Ādi-Buddha) are “essentially one, differing only in name.”[136] In addition, the five “Dhyāni Buddhas” which Hodgson associates especially with the Aiśwarika system belong just as much to the Swābhāvika system, if not more so, as Burnouf perceptively observed.[137] So the difference between these two systems is truly semantic.


In this connection, Theosophical researcher Don Shepherd has shown that the Swayaṃbhunāth stūpa dedicated to Ādi-Buddha and the five celestial Buddhas, the most sacred religious site of the Newar Buddhists, symbolically embodies the Other-Emptiness Vajrayāna doctrine. This self-same “Swābhāvika” doctrine of “a ‘basic element’ of ‘five self-arisen pristine wisdoms’ that dwelt ‘pervasively in all the stable and the moving’ as the ‘great life of all living beings’” is to be found in the writings of Great Madhyamaka masters and Swayaṃbhunāth itself has been intertwined with the promulgation of this doctrine from the time of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu down to the 19th century.[138] The findings of this researcher may be further strengthened by examining connections between some overlooked passages in Hodgson’s Essays, the Theosophical swabhāva doctrine, the Jonang Great Madhyamaka teaching, and the Kālacakra Tantra. The Kālacakra Tantra is central to the Jonang tradition and, as we have seen, very important in the formation of the Newar Buddhist Garland literature. It is also very important for Theosophy and profoundly linked to the Stanzas of Dzyan, as David Reigle has shown.[139]

A passage cited by Hodgson as being from the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā to illustrate the Swābhāvika doctrine is rendered by him as follows: “All things are governed or perfected by Swabháva; I too am governed by Swabháva.” The purport of this does indeed occur in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, although not in the precise form presented by Hodgson. Hodgson's pasage is in fact a common mantra to be found in the sādhanas of many Vajrayāna traditions, however. As derived from the Kālacakra sādhana, it reads in Sanskrit, “Oṃ svabhāvaśuddhāh sarvadharmāh svabhāvaśuddho ‘ham,” which David Reigle renders as, “oṃ; Naturally pure are all things, naturally pure am I.” In the Vajrayāna this fundamental purity of nature is understood to refer to the absolute point of view, rather than the relative. Although Hodgson’s translation is certainly not the most accurate, he also understands the governing swabhāva to be the abstract noumenal swabhāva.[140] So there is semantic agreement.

Related to this fundamentally pure final nature, there is also the fourth body of the Buddha, which is identical with the fundamental noumenal nature of things. Although in most presentations there are only three bodies, the Kālacakra Tantra and a few others posit four. The Kālacakra Tantra dubs this the “Śuddhakāya” or “Pure Body.” The Vimalaprabhā commentary introduces the “Essence Body” or “Svabhāvikakāya of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā)” as being equivalent. This body may also be called the Prajñāpāramitākāya.[141] The resemblances to the Nepalese Prājñika Swābhāvika doctrine should be evident. David Reigle has also demonstrated that the fourth body appears to be implied in the Stanzas of Dzyan which are the basis for The Secret Doctrine.[142]

At this point it will be necessary to pull together a few threads dispersed throughout this essay. Earlier, it was pointed out that the Swābhāvika cosmogony was essentially the classical Buddhist cosmogony found in both the Abhidharma and Kālacakra systems. While the cosmogony has the same core in both presentations, the version laid out by Hodgson’s anonymous commentator is clearly the Kālacakra version. In the presentation in Hodgson’s essays, Mount Sumeru is round like a wheel. This is diagnostic of the Kālacakra version; in Abhidharma, Sumeru is square.[143] Hodgson’s commentator also speaks about the world revolving out of being and the elements dissolving into one another. This occurs in reverse order as compared with the order in which the elements evolved to create the universe.[144] This is, again, a feature of the Kālacakra Tantra; the Abhidharma account is very different.[145]

Most significant for our purposes is the role of space or ākāśa. The Dalai Lama writes that the “Kalachakra system presents space not as a total nothingness, but as a medium of ‘empty particles’ or ‘space particles,’ which are thought of as extremely subtle ‘material’ particles. This space element is the basis for the evolution and dissolution of the four elements, which are generated from it and absorbed back into it.”​[146] In the Kālacakra system, sometimes “emptiness is… said to be similar to space, since it is indestructible and without parts, indivisible, omnipresent, and all-pervading; at other times, it is identified with space directly.”[147] The space element (ākāśa-dhatu) is the basis on which the “form of emptiness” (śūnyatā-rupa), or “emptiness endowed with all aspects,” arises. This “emptiness is inseparable from space”[148] and is “a sentient emptiness (ajadā-śūnyatā) with a cognitive dimension as opposed to an inert void.” It is “a positive ground of emptiness.”[149] Douglas Duckworth writes that with “the Jonang tradition, other-emptiness in Madhyamaka reflects directly the pregnant (fullness of) emptiness in the Kalācakratantra.”[150]

This is paralleled in what is said by Hodgson’s anonymous commentator. The commentator writes of the evolution of the four elements out of the “self-supported” ākāśa, which is śūnyatā, and (as noted previously in our discussion of Swābhāvika “materialism”) declares ākāśa to be “omnipresent, and essentially intellectual.” He also writes that ākāśa “is Swábhávika, because it is established, governed, perfected (suddha), by its own force or nature.” This parallels the Tantric swabhāva mantra and the fourth body, the Swabhāvikakāya. The commentator also identifies this ākāśa or śūnyatā as Ātman[151] and this is also an appellation applied to the Absolute by the Jonang tradition,[152] the Kālacakra Tantra,[153] and Theosophy. Incidentally, it would also appear from this that the equation of emptiness with space that was common in Victorian era scholarship on Buddhism and which is reflected in some Theosophical writings derives from the Kālacakra tradition via the influence of Hodgson’s essays. Hodgson writes that “by tracing the connextion (sic) of Súnyatá with Akása, and through it, with the palpable elements, in the evolution and revolution of Pravritti, it may be plainly seen, that Súnyatá is the ubi and the modus of primal entity in the last and highest state of abstraction from all articular modifications such as our senses and understanding are cognizant of.”[154]

There are yet more points of convergence from another angle. Earlier it was noted that Theosophy includes the Sāṁkhya teaching of “puruṣa” and “prakṛti” in its understanding of “Swabhavat.” Although this teaching is non-Buddhist in origin and often refuted by Buddhist writers, it does reflect in a way the conventional duality of experience acknowledged even in Buddhism. The Kālacakra Tantra, however, more fully appreciates the value of these Sāṁkhya teachings and appropriates them as its own, although reinterpreted in a thoroughly Buddhist manner.[155] Notable in this regard, the Jonang teachings have been (negatively) compared to those of the Sāṁkhya by native Tibetan commentators[156] and Gavin Kilty notes that this charge of being crypto-Sāṁkhya is ironically one “that had been leveled against the Kālacakra tantra itself by its Indian and Tibetan opponents.”[157] The influence of Sāṁkhya as mediated by the Kālacakra Tantra and its commentarial tradition can also be seen in Newar Buddhism; the Garland literature uses the phrase “possessed of the triguna,” which derives from this tradition. The triguna or three gunas has been understood by “some Indian Kālacakra commentators” and “most Newar Buddhists” (including Amṛtānanda in his discussions with Hodgson) as referring “to the well-known three sattva-rajas-tamas categories of the Sāṁkhyas,” which are aspects of prakṛti.[158]

In the Essays, Amṛtānanda speaks of sentient beings possessing a “soul” or “jīva,”[159] which is an extremely Hindu sounding teaching. Jīva is found as a gloss on the Ālaya-vijñāna (or store-house consciousness, a Yogācāra teaching) in the Vimalaprabhā, however,[160] and it is also known in Theosophy.[161] According to Amṛtānanda, this jīva is “a particle of the essence of Adi-Buddha.”[162] Elsewhere, Amṛtānanda asserts that Ādi-Buddha, who encompasses the phenomenal universe in non-dual unity and is the only true monad, is the sustainer of samsāra and if he “averts his face” from it, samsāra would be “annihilated” and only Ādi-Buddha would remain.[163] As it is the nature of an illusion to disappear when investigated, so it may also be said that those who have realized the identity of their jīva with Ādi-Buddha or swabhāva have indeed averted their face from samsāra and “annihilated” it, as they have returned to their “proper modality.” So swabhāva (the pervader) can do well enough without the unreal illusory world of phenomena (the pervaded) but phenomena can’t do without swabhāva. What we have then is a hierarchical “appearance-reality distinction.” In other words, swabhāva is other-empty and we may identify the Nepalese Swābhāvikas with the Great Madhyamaka tradition.


[1] John Algeo, comp., The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Quest Book, 2003), 370.

[2] Algeo, comp., Letters, 353. The Mahatma M is often understood as a Buddhist and this is not without reason; there are many statements of this important historical figure that lend support to such an interpretation. He certainly was a kind of “Buddhist” with a profound devotion to the Lord Buddha, as all Mahatmas must have. However, HPB clarified his precise doctrinal affiliation in a letter to Henry Steel Olcott of November 25th, 1885 and partially published in The Theosophist of February 1908, Vol. XXIX. She wrote, “Master is a thorough-going Vedantin and Adwaitee as good as S.R. [Subba Row] and Mah K.H. a true Esoterist of the Buddhist school—as men they may differ in the way of putting it; as Mahatmas—they agree” (Don Shepherd, personal communication, February 17, 2022). So H.P.B. can’t be claiming a literal organizational affiliation to the Swābhāvika school for herself or the Mahatmas. Rather, it is a close similarity of doctrine; she writes in an unpublished letter of January 1882 that the “adepts of Tibet do not belong to the Nepâl Agnostics—if so you call them, though I fancied their belief in Swabavât and its potentialities & knowledge of its actual possibilities would hardly merit that name. Our Brothers are Spiritualists in the noble sense of the word; they are occultists or Lha-pa (believers in invisible beings) and teach a philosophy which approximates Vedantism, but is superior to it in not personifying that Eternal Principle whose alternate conditions of activity and passivity are indicated in the successive evolution & dispersion of the objective universe” (John W. Fergus, “Research: Svabhavat in the Writings of H.P. Blavatsky,” Universal Theosophy, February, 2020, updated August 4, 2021, https://www.universaltheosophy.com/jwf/hpb-svabhavat/).

[3] A.T. Barker, comp., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. & K.H. 2nd Ed (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 2021) 140.

[4] H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine Vol. 1 (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 2019), 3-4.

[5] David Reigle, “Sāṁkhya and the Wisdom-Religion,” Studies in the Wisdom Tradition (Cotopaxi: Eastern School Press, 2015), 18-26.

[6] Don Shepherd, “Theosophy and the Nepalese Swābhāvikas,” Theosophical History, 19:2 (2018), 62.

[7] Joy Mills, Reflections on an Ageless Wisdom: A Commentary on The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett (Wheaton: Quest Books, 2010), 141-143.

[8] David N. Gellner, “Hodgson’s Blind Alley? On the So-Called Schools of Nepalese Buddhism,” The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 12:1 (1989). Retrieved from www.academia.edu.

[9] Harihar Raj Joshi and Indu Joshi, Harihar-Indu’s Bibliography of Hodgson: A Descriptive Bibliography of Fugitive but Extant Materials But Not On Public Holdings Belonging to Brian Houghton Hodgson Annotated and Corrected by Hodgson Himself (Kathmandu: New Nepal Press, 2002), 28.

[10] Harihar Raj Joshi and Indu Joshi, Pandit Amritananda Shakya (Bandya): The Redactor of Buddhacarita of Asvoghosha (Kathmandu: New Nepal Press, 2003), 16.

[11] Eugène Burnouf, Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism, trans. Katia Buffetrille and Donald S. Lopez Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 417-423.

[12] Brian H. Hodgson, Essays on the Languages, Literature, and Religion of Nepál and Tibet: Together with Further Papers on the Geography, Ethnology, and Commerce of those Countries (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 23.

[13] See the University of Cambridge’s online inventory of Hodgson’s papers (http://catalogue2.socanth.cam.ac.uk:8080/exist/servlet/db/Hodgson/hodgson.xq), particularly 28.8, 29.11, 98.12, and other cross-references.

[14] Hodgson, Essays, 44-45. This list of world-causes is actually an example of a relatively common trope in ancient Indian texts, among which swabhāva frequently figures. See Ramkrishna Bhattacharya, “The First Cause: Rivals of God in Ancient Indian Thought,” Indian Skeptic, 14:8 (2001), 19-23. Retrieved from www.researchgate.net.

[15] Gellner, “Hodgson’s Blind Alley?,” 11.

[16] E.H. Johnston, trans., The Buddhacarita or, Acts of the Buddha Part II (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1936), 138. Retrieved from www.archive.org.

[17] Hodgson, Essays, 45.

[18] See E.B. Cowell, trans., “The Buddha-Karita of Asvagosha,” The Sacred Books of the East Vol. 49, ed. Max Müller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894), x-xi, 175-177. Retrieved from www.archive.org.

[19] Burnouf, Introduction, 19, 154-155.

[20] Will Tuladhar-Douglas, Remaking Buddhism for Medieval Nepal: The Fifteenth-Century Reformation of Newar Buddhism (New York: Routledge, 2014) 42.

[21] Ian Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism Personified: A Conceptual History of the God-maker Avalokiteśvara,” in A.A. Di Castro and David Templeman, ed., Asian Horizons: Giuseppe Tucci’s Buddhist, Indian, Himalayan and Central Asian Studies (Melbourne: Monash University Pubishing, 2015), 456.

[22] David Reigle, “Prehistoric Svabhāvavāda,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), February 26, 2012, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/prehistoric-svabhavavada/.

[23] Wilhelm Halbfass, “Competing Causalities: Karma, Vedic Rituals, and the Natural World,” Tradition and Reflection: Explorations in Indian Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 293.

[24] Hodgson, Essays, 76, 105.

[25] Hodgson, Essays, 74.

[26] Thupten Jinpa, ed., Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics Vol. 1 (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2017), 296.

[27] Hodgson, Essays, 79, 106. Cf. Bhāvaviveka: “Therefore we maintain that avidyā is the ‘God’ that creates the karma of the saṃskāras, and the saṃskāras are the ‘God’ that establishes the world,” qtd. in Perry Schmidt-Leukel, “The Unbridgeable Gulf? Towards a Buddhist-Christian Theology of Creation,” in Perry Schmidt-Leukel ed., Buddhism, Christianity and the Question of Creation: Karmic or Divine? (Burlington: Ashgate, 2006), 125.

[28] David Reigle, “Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Abhidharmakośa,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), November 17, 2013, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/creation-stories-the-cosmogony-account-from-the-abhidharmakosa/.

[29] Douglas Duckworth, Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy of Mind and Nature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 147.

[30] Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls Vol. 1 (Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1949), 236.

[31] Hodgson, Essays, 47.

[32] Charles Allen, The Buddha and the Sahibs (London: John Murray, 2002), 88.

[33] Hodgson, Essays, 112.

[34] Tuladhar-Douglas, Remaking, 11-12, 191.

[35] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[36] "Guṇakāraṇḍavyūhasūtra," GRETIL, July 31, 2020, http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gretil/corpustei/transformations/html/sa_guNakAraNDavyUhasUtra.htm. Cf. Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism,” 442-443.

[37] Alexander Studholme, The Origins of Oṃ Maṇipadme Hūṃ: A Study of the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sutra (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 37-38.

[38] David Gellner, Monk, Householder, and Tantric Priest: Newar Buddhism and its Hierarchy of Ritual (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 129-130. Cf. Studholme, Origins, 45. Gellner protests that the Guṇakāraṇḍavyūha is “just one text, which is rarely invoked, and it is a gross misrepresentation to see Newar Buddhism as a theism whose cardinal tenet is belief in Ādibuddha.” This marginalization of the Guṇakāraṇḍavyūha is not born out in Todd Lewis and Naresh Man Bajracharya’s recent extensive survey “Vajrayāna Traditions in Nepal,” in David B. Gray and Ryan Richard Overbey, ed., Tantric Texts in Transmission and Translation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), where this scripture is cited as one of three texts (another is the Swayambhu Purāṇa) which “remain central to the formation of the Mahāyāna-Vajrayāna Newar Buddhist culture that endures today” (95-97). They further write of the “Newar understanding about the nature of ultimate Buddhahood” and the importance of “the concept of the Ādi Buddha, or dharmakāya Buddha” to this understanding (125). Gellner’s primary concern appears to be to protect Newar Buddhism from the imputation of being non-Buddhist. On those grounds, his denial of Newar Buddhism being a “monotheism” centered on Ādi-Buddha, as found in Oldfield, Landon, and Nepali (“Hodgson’s Blind Alley,” 12), is understandable and reasonable. Regardless, Amṛtānanda’s primary purpose was to present heuristic cosmogonies, as we have seen, and there is ample material on the Ādi-Buddha cosmogony in exoteric and esoteric sources.

[39] B.A. Wallace, “Is Buddhism Really Nontheistic?,” Snow Lion Newsletter, 15:1 (2000), 1, 12-13. Retrieved from www.shambhala.org.

[40] Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism,” 447-448.

[41] Hodgson, Essays, 58. Hodgson writes that the work of creation is “devolved on the Bodhisatwas.” The “Bodhiswatwa” of the “present world” is Padmapāṇi, or Avalokiteśvara (59). On this role of Avalokiteśvara, see Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism.”

[42] Hodgson, Essays, 25.

[43] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[44] Hodgson, Essays, 46.

[45] Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine Vol. 1, 635.

[46] Hodgson, Essays, 26.

[47] Hodgson, Essays, 82.

[48] Hodgson, Essays, 46.

[49] Hodgson, Essays, 83.

[50] "Guṇakāraṇḍavyūhasūtra." Cf. Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism,” 442-443.

[51] Lokesh Chandra, “Concept of the Ādibuddha,” in Ramon N. Pratt, ed., The Pandita and the Siddha: Tibetan Studies in Honor of E. Gene Smith (Dharamshala: AMI Books, 2007), 18. Chandra quotes from Hara Prasad Shastri’s 1900 Sanskrit edition of the Swayaṃbhu Purāṇa, which may be found on Google Books.
[52] "Svayaṃbhupurāṇa," GRETIL, July 31, 2020, http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gretil/corpustei/transformations/html/sa_svayaMbhupurANa.htm. This is a different recension of the text, of which there are many. See Horst Brinkhaus, “The Textual History of the ‘Svayaṃbhupurāṇa’,” in Gerard Toffin, ed., Nepal Past and Present: Proceedings of the France-German Conference Arc-et-Senans, June 1990 (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1993) and Tuladhar-Douglas, Remaking, 46-47. This recension omits Chandra's quoted
stotra regarding Ādi-Buddha but retains the narratively crucial self-manifesting form of light which is identified with the dharmadhātu, an analogous concept.
[53] Min Bahadur Shakya, The Iconography of Nepalese Buddhism (Kathmandu: Handcraft Association of Nepal, 1994), 44. Retrieved from www.buddhanet.net/.

[54] Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (New York: Morgan Road Books, 2005), 125.

[55] Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism,” 444-446.

[56] David Reigle, “Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Buddhist Tantras,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), December 25, 2013, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/creation-stories-the-cosmogony-account-from-the-buddhist-tantras/ and “Prabhāsvara in the Canonical Texts and Cosmogony,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), February 25, 2014, updated June 5, 2015, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/prabhasvara-in-the-canonical-texts-and-in-cosmogony/.

[57] Joshi and Joshi, Pandit Amritananda, 49.

[58] Burnouf, Introduction, 416.

[59] Hodgson, Essays, 24, 26.

[60] Burnouf, Introduction, 422.

[61] Hodgson, Essays, 25.

[62] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[63] Hodgson, Essays, 55.

[64] Cf. Ingmar de Boer, “Svabhāva as Prima Materia (v.4),” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), June 24, 2020, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/svabhava-as-prima-materia-v-4/.

[65] Hodgson, Essays, 104.

[66] Cf. N. Ross Reat, The Śālistamba Sūtra (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998), 11-13.

[67] Burnouf, Introduction, 591.

[68] Hodgson, Essays, 55.

[69] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[70] Hodgson, Essays, 75.

[71] Hodgson, Essays, 24-25, 79, 89.

[72] Hodgson, Essays, 58. This very non-standard understanding of matter is paralleled in K.H.’s usage. See Koot Hoomi Lal Singh, “What Is Matter and What Is Force? (excerpts)” (1882). Retrieved from www.easterntradition.org.

[73] David Kalupahana, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (Honolulu: The University of Hawaii Press, 1975), 42-43.

[74] David Kalupahana, The Principles of Buddhist Psychology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), 15-16.

[75] Burnouf, Introduction, 448-449.

[76] Hodgson, Essays, 55.

[77] Hodgson, Essays, 73.

[78] Hodgson, Essays, 79-81. More specifically, the doctrine is attributed to “one section at least” of the Swābhāvikas and the entirety of the Kārmikas. The “at least” qualification is important in indicating that Hodgson had no information either from Amṛtānanda or his texts indicating that this doctrine was not the property of every section of the Swābhāvikas or indeed of all of his schools. What was not known then to Hodgson is that “the Dharma-theory,” of which the āyatanas form a crucial part, “is common to all schools, and provides the framework within which Buddhist wisdom operates,” as Edward Conze notes in his Buddhist Thought in India (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), 92.

[79] Burnouf, Introduction, 461-462. There is also an internal and external chain of dependent origination. See Reat, Śālistamba Sūtra, 34-74.

[80] Hodgson, Essays, 79-81.

[81] Theodore Stcherbatsky, The Central Conception of Buddhism and the Meaning of the Word “Dharma” (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2018), 4-9.

[82] Burnouf, Introduction, 18, 512.

[83] David Reigle, “A Svabhavika School of Buddhism?,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), March 3, 2012, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/a-svabhavika-school-of-buddhism/.

[84] Stcherbatsky, Central Conception, 37-43, 75.

[85] Hodgson, Essays, 55.

[86] Stcherbatsky, Central Conception, 48-54.

[87] Hodgson, Essays, 24.

[88] Stcherbatsky, Central Conception, 53.

[89] Hodgson, Essays, 24. Notably the Sautrāntikas denied that Nirvāṇa, or any dharma, had any swabhāva at all and was thus a pure annihilation. So Hodgson’s discussion may also have some reference to this dispute.

[90] Hodgson, Essays, 55.

[91] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[92] Hodgson, Essays, 61.

[93] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[94] Hodgson, Essays, 83.

[95] Joshi and Joshi, Harihar-Indu’s Bibliography, 30.

[96] Elijah Jordan, “The Unknowable of Herbert Spencer,” The Philosophical Review, 20:3 (1911). 291-309. Retrieved from www.jstor.org. See Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine Vol. 1, 14-15, 19, 54 and Barker, comp., Mahatma Letters, 159 for Theosophical commentary on this doctrine of Spencer.

[97] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[98] Edward Conze, Buddhism: Its Essence and Development (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959), 142-143 and “Prajñā and Sophia,” Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1967), 207-209.

[99] Edward Conze, “The Development of Prajñāpāramitā Thought,” Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1967), 125.

[100] Prajñāpāramitā as “Ādi-Dharma” and Avalokiteśvara as “Ādi-Saṃgha” form a trinity along with Ādi-Buddha; this trinity corresponds to the mundane Triratna or Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Saṃgha. Tuladhar-Douglas writes that “The Newars have, and appear… to have had for some time, a specific understanding of the three jewels as personified in the Ādibuddha, Prajñāpāramitā, and Avalokiteśvara… The language used in the [Guṇakāraṇḍavyūha] leaves no doubt that there is a deliberate mapping of the ‘mundane’ understanding of the Three Jewels onto the divinized trinity… Indeed, the three jewels, understood and hypostatized as Ādibuddha, Prajñāpāramitā, and Avalokiteśvara, recur throughout the iconography and literature of Newar Buddhism” (Remaking, 48, 188).  Cf. Gellner, Monk, 117, 294. . Shashi Bhushan Dasgupta in his An Introduction to Tantric Buddhism (Berkeley: Shambhala Publications, 1974) notes that this conception of the Triratna is essentially tantric (95-102) and it is also the subject of extremely significant maṇḍalas recommended in the Garland texts and still performed today. Gellner writes that the “terms ‘Ādi-Dharma’ and ‘Ādi-Saṃgha,’ evidently Hodgon’s and Amṛtānda’s inventions, have, quite rightly, been forgotten” (“Hodgson’s Blind Alley?,” 12). While these two terms may have been neologisms, they are not inappropriate ones when considering the significance this trinity has for Newar Buddhism. A Theosophical interpretation of the esoteric meaning of the Triratna is given by Gottfried de Purucker in The Esoteric Tradition 2nd Ed, Vol. 1 (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1973), 91-92. In de Purucker’s presentation, and agreeing with the Newar understanding, “Buddha” is equivalent to “Adi-Buddha.” The Saṃgha is the hierarchy of divine beings emanating from Adi-Buddha and Dharma is the teachings of this divine hierarchy. Avalokiteśvara and Prajñāpāramitā are easily mapped on to this understanding.

[101] The navadharma or navagrantha, the nine books, constitute the dharma maṇḍala, one of the Triratna maṇḍalas alluded to in the previous note. The dharma maṇḍala itself represents Prajñāpāramitā and the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā is placed in the center of the maṇḍala. See Tuladhar-Douglas, Remaking, 95, 144-147.

[102] Hodgson, Essays, 60.

[103] Conze, Buddhism, 140-142 and “Buddhist Philosophy and its European Parallels,” Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1967), 217-220. See H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled Vol. 2 (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1988), 531-532 for her view on Pyrrho, whose philosophy she believes parallels that of the Swābhāvikas.

[104] Edward Conze, “The Ontology of the Prajñāpāramitā,” Philosophy East and West, 3:2 (1953), 118-119. Retrieved from www.jstor.org.

[105] Johannes Bronkhorst, “Reflections on the origins of Mahāyanā,” Séptimo Centenario de los Estudios Orientales en Salamanca (Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2012), 494-495. Retrieved from www.researchgate.net.  Bronkhorst maintains that this scripture (and others of the Prajñāpāramitā class) “is largely built on the scholastic achievements” of the Abhidharma ontologists of Greater Gandhāra, who were perhaps the Sarvāstivādins (p. 493-494). Noteworthy also is that the earliest extant manuscripts of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā are from Greater Gandhāra (p. 492). Further reinforcing this connection, K.L. Dhammajoti, the uncontested modern expert on Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma, writes that the “early Prajñāpāramitā scriptures (e.g. the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprañāpāramitā)… display, from the beginning, an unmistakable familiarity with Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma doctrines. These include (at least, in respect of enumeration, terminology, and broad outline): the contrast between the perfected wisdom (particularly the notion of sarvākārajñatā) and compassion (mahākarunā) of the Buddha and those of the two yānas (pratyekabuddha and śrāvaka); the process of abandoning contaminations, divided into darśanamārga (including the distinctive Sarvāstivādin scheme of the 16 kṣaṇas and the 16 ākāras of the four noble truths) and bhāvanāmārga, the path of cultivation; meditative attainment such as the nine anupūrvavihārasamāpattis; contamination (kleśa) vs habitual residue (vāsanā), and that the Buddha alone was able to completely abandon all kleśas together with the vāsanā; etc.” See K.L. Dhammajoti, “The Contribution of Saṃghabhadra to Our Understanding of Abhidharma Doctrines,” in Bart Dessein and Weijen Teng, ed., Text, History, and Philosophy: Abhidharma across Buddhist Scholastic Traditions (Boston: Brill, 2016), 223-224. Retrieved from www.researchgate.net.

[106] Conze, “Ontology,” 121.

[107] de Boer, “Svabhāva.”

[108] Conze, “Ontology,” 120.

[109] Conze, “Ontology,” 121.

[110] Edward Conze, The Prajñāpāramitā Literature (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2017), 1-2. Cf. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 2015), vi.

[111] Lal Mani Joshi, Studies in the Buddhistic Culture of India During the Seventh and Eighth Centuries A.D. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), 201.

[112] Jan Westerhoff, “Nāgārjuna’s Yogācāra,” in Jay L. Garfield and Jan Westerhoff, ed., Madhyamaka and Yogacara: Allies or Rivals? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 165-183.

[113] Nāgārjuna, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, trans. Karl Brunnhölzl (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2007), 119. The dharmadhātu is also prabhāsvara. See Jacques Mahnich, “Dharmadhâtu = Buddha Nature = Clear Light,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), April 12, 2012, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/dharmadhatu-buddha-nature-clear-light/.

[114] Conze, “Ontology,” 128.

[115] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[116] Theodore Stcherbatsky, The Conception of Buddhist Nirvāṇa (With Sanskrit Text of Madhyamaka-Kārikā), ed. by Jaideva Singh (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2018), 71. c.f. Barker, comp., Mahatma Letters, 515. “The absolute and infinite is composed of the conditioned and finite. Causes are conditioned in their modes of existence and attributes, and as individual aggregates – unconditioned and eternal in their sum or as a collective aggregate.”

[117] T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Mādhyamika System (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2020), 228.

[118] See Sonam Thakchoe, The Two Truths Debate: Tsongkhapa and Gorampa on the Middle Way (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2007) for an analysis of the two primary (and opposing) streams of Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka analysis in Tibet. The “monistic and absolutist view” (p. 43) of Gorampa is essentially that of Murti and Stcherbatsky and is paradigmatic for his own Sakya tradition and also very well represented in the Nyingma and Kagyü traditions. The other stream, the Gelugpa tradition that originates with Tsongkhapa, is often presented as non-Absolutist (including by Thakchoe) because the ultimate truth for Tsongkhapa is intimately tied in with conventional truth and totally explicable in that context. But see Yaroslav Komarovski, Tibetan Buddhism and Mystical Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 161-240 for a cogent argument that Gorampa and Tsongkhapa “refer primarily to conflicting descriptions of the similar conceptual conditioning/deconstructive processes leading to the nonconceptual realization of reality” (p. 10).

[119] See H.P. Blavatsky, The Esoteric Writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky: A Synthesis of Science, Philosophy, and Religion (Wheaton: Quest Books, 1980), 336-337 for her perspective on these two schools of Madhyamaka.

[120] Anne Macdonald, “Knowing Nothing: Candrakīrti and Yogic Perception,” Yogic Perception, Meditation and Altered States of Consciousness (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen akademie der Wissenschaften, 2009), 163-164. Retrieved from www.academia.edu. This description, deriving as it does from the preeminent Prāsaṅgika authority Candrakīrti, is agreeable to both Tsongkhapa and Gorampa although they differ as to the epistemology that this entails. See Thakchoe, The Two Truths, 101-131.

[121] Jose Ignacio Cabezon and Geshe Lobsang Dargyay, trans., Freedom from Extremes: Gorampa’s “Distinguishing the Views” and the Polemics of Emptiness, Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006), 214-217. On the ultimate swabhāva in the Prāsaṅgika understanding, see William L. Ames, “The Notion of Svabhāva in the Thought of Candrakīrti,” Journal of Indian Philosophy, 10 (1982), 161-177. Retrieved from http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/wp-content/uploads/Svabh%C4%81va-in-the-Thought-of-Candrak%C4%ABrti.pdf.

[122] See Nāgārjuna, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, trans. Jay Garfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 353, 357 for the opinion of several modern Gelugpa authorities (including the current Dalai Lama) that a presentation such as Gorampa’s, also known as the “no-thesis” view, is valid for ultimate truth as directly realized. On a conventional level, however, the uncompounded suchness (tathātā), or noumenon, is conventionally real but ultimately empty. See Jeffrey Hopkins, Tsong-kha-pa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2008) 331-343.

[123] Murti, Central Philosophy, 142. cf. Cabezon and Dargyay, trans., Freedom, 92-95.

[124] See Karl Brunnhölzl, Prajñāpāramitā, Indian "gzhan stong pas", and the Beginning of Tibetan gzhan stong, Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 74 (Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2011) and David Reigle, “The Three Natures in the Pañcaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), September 7, 2017, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/the-three-natures-in-the-pancasatika-prajnaparamita/ for substantial evidence of an other-empty reading of the Prajñāpāramitā in terms of the Yogācāra three natures from Indian Buddhist sources.

[125] David Reigle, “The Doctrinal Position of the Wisdom Tradition: Great Madhyamaka,” Studies in the Wisdom Tradition (Cotopaxi: Eastern School Press, 2015), 185-231.

[126] Duckworth, Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy, 63-64.

[127] Douglas Duckworth, “Other-Emptiness in the Jonang School: The Theo-Logic of Buddhist Dualism,” Philosophy East and West, 65:2 (2015), 489.

[128] Duckworth, Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy, 79.

[129] David Reigle, “Dolpopa on svabhāva,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), November 29, 2018, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/dolpopa-on-svabhava/.

[130] Duckworth, “Other-Emptiness,” 486.

[131] Duckworth, Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy, 78-80.

[132] Hodgson, Essays, 56.

[133] Shepherd, “Theosophy,” 68-69.

[134] Shakya, Iconography, 77.

[135] Hodgson, Essays, 110.

[136] Hodgson, Essays, 73. This equivalence holds true in Mahatma K.H.’s usage. See Barker, comp., Mahatma Letters, 90, 346. David Reigle has also noted that swabhāva in the cosmogony of the Stanzas of Dzyan has an analogous function to prabhāsvara, which, as we have seen, is itself synonymous with Ādi-Buddha. See Reigle, "Prabhāsvara." Don Shepherd writes, “I personally feel that G de Purucker’s listing of 1) Swabhavat, 2) Adi-buddhi, and 3) Gods in Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy (TUP, p. 404, 1979) corresponds to 1) the immaculate white disk 2) the dull black ground 3) the central point in HPB’s The Secret Doctrine (TUP, 1:1, 2019). And this is why these “things” are interchangeably spoken of in terms of light and darkness in Buddhism. Adi-buddhi is simply the darkened underbelly of Swabhavat, itself being a light but appearing as mere shadow under the brilliance of the immaculate white disk. This is why Adi-Buddha produces the five Dhyani Buddha. From Adi-Buddha as the darkness of Space the central point of manifested light emerges in the various Central Suns of a Universe. At the heart of each Sun of a Solar System is a Dhyani Buddha. Thus, Adi-Buddha produce the Dhyani-Buddhas. The reason Swabhavat is spoken of as Purush-Prakriti is because the central point, as the periodical Kosmos with its manifested dual forces (dual because it is born from shining light and shadow), emerges from the immaculate white disk. Purush-Prakriti, as the 3rd Logos, is identified with Swabhavat, as the 1st Logos, since its point emits a shining ray from the disk itself” (personal communication, February 18, 2022).

[137] Burnouf, Introduction, 152-154.

[138] Shepherd, “Theosophy,” 60-79.

[139] David Reigle, The Books of Kiu-te or The Tibetan Buddhist Tantras: A Preliminary Analysis (San Diego: Wizards Bookshelf, 1983).

[140] de Boer, “Svabhāva.”

[141] Vesna A. Wallace, The Inner Kālacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual (New York: Oxford University Press), 168.

[142] David Reigle, “dharmakāya ceased,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), October 25, 2021, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/dharmakaya-ceased/ and David Reigle, “dharmakāya ceased part 2,” The Book of Dzyan – The Quest for an Original Text of the Book of Dzyan (blog), November 30, 2021, http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/dharmakaya-ceased-part-2/.

[143] Jinpa, ed., Science and Philosophy Vol. 1, 309.

[144] Hodgon, Essays, 74.

[145] Jinpa, ed., Science and Philosophy Vol. 1, 315-316.

[146] H.H. the Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom, 85. This doctrine of primordial molecularity is also a teaching of the Mahatmas. “Cosmic matter can no more be non-molecular than organized matter. 7th principle is molecular as well as the 1st one…” c.f. Barker, comp., Mahatma Letters, 514-515.

[147] Vesna A. Wallace, “Practical Applications of the Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra and Madhyamaka in the Kālacakra Tantric Tradition,” in Steven M. Emmanuel, ed., A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 167.

[148] Vesna A. Wallace, “Why is the Bodiless (aṅanga) Gnostic Body (jñāna-kāya) Considered a Body?,” Journal of Indian Philosophy, 37 (2009), 47-48. Retrieved from academia.edu. Cf. Wallace, The Inner Kālacakratantra, 153.

[149] Duckworth, Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy, 147. c.f. Barker, comp., Mahatma Letters, 509-510. “Everything in the occult Universe which embraces all the primal causes is based upon two principles, Kosmic energy (Fohat or breath of wisdom) and Kosmic ideation.”

[150] Douglas Duckworth, “Tibetan Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna,” in Steven M. Emmanuel, ed., A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 105.

[151] Hodgson, Essays, 75.

[152] Don Shepherd, “Buddhism: Theosophy and an Indeterminant Self,” Theosophy Downunder, 136 (2020), 37. Retrieved from www.theosophydownunder.org.

[153] Wallace, The Inner Kālacakratantra, 155.

[154] Hodgson, Essays, 26.

[155] Wallace, The Inner Kālacakratantra, 35-38. Theosophy differs from the Kālacakra Tantra in including mūlaprakṛti. There may be a parallel, however, given that the Kālacakra Tantra posits a kind of primordial physicality. In any case, it is significant that this Sāṁkhya-based teaching is to be found in both traditions given the significance of this tantra to Theosophy and the fact that this teaching is not mentioned in the extremely cursory Victorian-era secondary sources on Kālacakra.

[156] David Seyfort Ruegg, “The Jo nang pas: A School of Buddhist Ontologists According to the Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Doctrines (Grub mtha’ shel gyi me long),” The Buddhist Philosophy of the Middle: Essays on Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010), 308-309. Giuseppe Tucci, a much more recent commentator, also draws this comparison in his The Religions of Tibet, trans. Geoffrey Samuel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 68.

[157] Khedrup Norsang Gyatso, Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kālacakra Tantra, trans. Gavin Kilty (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004), 15.

[158] Sinclair, “The Creation of Theism,” 445-447. Cf. Wallace, The Inner Kālacakratantra, 36-38.

[159] Hodgson, Essays, 75.

[160] Wallace, The Inner Kālacakratantra, 41.

[161] Joy Mills, Reflections, 163-164.

[162] Hodgson, Essays, 44.

[163] Hodgson, Essays, 46.

Samantha Province
Updated May 2022