I have only a few major criticisms of BAG’s comments: First, he doesn’t seem to understand Buddhism very well, and is very prejudiced against it.
I have been initiated into three schools of Pure Land Buddhism. I have continued to practice the daily recitation of Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese ‘Other-Power’ Pure Land Buddhist Invocation Mantras, and to observe my Buddhist vows, including the Great Compassion (Bodhisattva) vow of Avalokiteshvara for over 20 years. I have read Pure Land Scriptures in the Sanskrit. The home that I live in has been converted into a temple, with the entire ‘living room’ used for a temple room. ‘My’ home (when I have not been in ashrams), has been a temple for over 30 years. Many of those years I have eaten only one simple ahimsa meal a day, lived (slept too) on the floor with no furniture, and never used chairs. I have spent long periods with a shaved head, and have worn only my simple unsewn robes and cast-off clothing for many years. By vow, I eat no flesh including fish or eggs, do not touch intoxicants of any kind including coffee or colas, I am strictly chaste and have also taken a vow of satya. On my ‘altar’, there are Icons and Prasadam from the countless Buddhist Holy Places I have made pilgrimages to in Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and elsewhere. There is a “FREE TIBET” Tibetan Flag in the very front of the lowest shelf on my ‘altar’. At the end of every day, I transfer all of the ‘merit’ of my day’s tapasya, austerities and sufferings to all beings. The above are all Pure Land Buddhist practices. In addition to my study and life-long PRACTICE of Pure Land Buddhism, I have also studied other Buddhist traditions carefully to ascertain their historical relationship to Pure Land Buddhism and Vaishnavism, which the Pure Land Tradition is very closely related to. Thus I would not say that I am prejudiced against Buddhism. 🙂
Most of his criticisms are bogus, as for example his continuing labeling of atheism where it does not apply.
Sri Lankan Theravadin Buddhism and other forms of Buddhism are atheistic. My criticism of HPB was that she mixed up and merged not only Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhism, but added Advaiti Hindu, Sikh and other things to the mix, and then presented them all in the context of a cosmogenesis appropriated from the Vaishnavas.
Secondly, he seems to think that Blavatsky was a Hinayanist when she was a Mahayanist.
I pointed out that if her ‘Buddhist initiation’ was with Olcott in Sri Lanka (as Theosophical sources indicate) IT WAS HINAYANIST / Theravadin. I repeatedly pointed out that she was teaching the Mahayana doctrine of Bodhisattvas, which she refers to with the term Nirmanyakaya.
No Hinayana Buddhist could have written the Voice of the Silence.
Of course I agree with you, and I never said she was a Theravadin, but rather that she was NOT presenting Theravadin teachings! I was pointing out that if she was initiated into Theravada, she had moved on to a Mahayana perspective. I was describing the evolution of her / the Masters’ thought from her / their first teachings in the East, to her / their later teachings.
I have elsewhere shown that she hinted at many of the teachings of Dzogchen, considered to be the highest teaching of Tibetan Buddhism.
Have you read the Sanskrit sources of Tibetan traditions? If you do not know Sanskrit, I suggest that you read The Cult of Tara (classic text on Tibetan Tara rituals). [Beyer, Stephan, The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet, University of California Press, 1978] This important text gives the Roman transliteration and an OK English translation of the original Sanskrit of the Tibetan Rituals of Holy Mother Tara. If you were familiar with some of the rites / rityas of Vaishnavism and Sanskrit Names of Krishna-Vishnu, then you would immediately recognize these in some of the Buddhist rites of Tara.
And thirdly, he seems to think that everyone should practice Bhakti Yoga and worship God.
Bhakti is LOVING DEVOTION, and yes it is for everyone, and I highly recommend it for even the most dried-up, skeptical and cynical ‘souls’. As for GOD, in Vaishnavism, the ‘worship’ of GOD ESS is not actually recommended. WORSHIP IMPLIES AWE AND REVERANCE OF THE KING-AND-SUBJECT or MASTER-AND-SERVANT RASA / FLAVOR. Such ‘worship’ is not recommended in Vaishnavism as the highest
calling for souls in the RASA Tradition of Bhakti Yoga. Instead the higher RASAS OR FLAVORS OF DIVINE LOVE are intimate FRIENDSHIP, PARENT & CHILD or LOVER & BELOVED relationships. Such spontaneous and intimate relationships are DEVOID of the restrictions of aweful WORSHIP. Without the impediments of awe-full reverence, LOVE CAN DEVELOP AND BE EXPRESSED SPONTANEOUSLY without inhibition. GOD ESS Sri Sri Radha & Krishna are RASA RAJA and RASA RAJANI, the King and Queen (Rex / Regent and Regina) of ALL Flavors of LOVE. They are not demanding groveling worship from anyone, They want Friends and Lovers, whose devotion is devoid of the botherations of awe and reverence! As the ADI / ORIGINAL GIVER AND RECEIVER OF INITMATE LOVE, They Pervade the Spiritual and Material worlds, and reveal Themselves in the Hearts of any who will CHOOSE REAL / HOLY LOVE. What I want for everyone is a life of this LOVE. GOD ESS IS LOVE, and They reign over the domain of the ‘heart’, not as mundane royal despots, but as Parents and Children, Friends and Lovers.
According to the Theosophical doctrine of the seven rays (see Earnest Wood’s book) only one ray of our seven human life-wave rays is prepared to practice Bhakti Yoga. So, I wouldn’t expect to ever have more than one-seventh of the population practicing Bhakti Yoga. The other six-sevenths will be more prone to something else.
Well then I guess that the Theosophical doctrine of the seven rays is wrong, and it is certainly NOT a Pure Land Mahayana Buddhist doctrine, because, let me quote the late Venerable Master Hsuan Hua on this subject.
The Holy Name, and the Doctrine of Grace in Chinese Pure Land Buddhism
THE FOLLOWING QUOTATIONS ARE FROM Records of the Life of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Volume One, compiled and translated by American Bhikshuni Heng Yin. This book was published in 1981 by the Dharma Realm Buddhist University Buddhist Text Translation Society, Talmage, California, USA.
“Seek rebirth in Ultimate Bliss with serious intent By putting down defiled thoughts and returning to the pure. The Master delivered the following instruction during a seven-day recitation session in Kiangsi :
“The Dharma-door of reciting the Buddha’s name is also called the Pure Land Dharma-door. By means of this method all can enter the Pure Land, for it receives those of all three dispositions and gathers the intelligent and deluded. Wise people with superior wisdom, average people with ordinary intelligence, and inferior, deluded people—those of all three dispositions need only recite the name and they will be reborn in the Pure Land. Thus it is the convenient means within the convenient means, the short cut among short cuts, and is most suited to beings in the Dharma-ending age.”
NOTE THAT THE DHARMA ENDING AGE IS KALI YUGA. SO HERE WE HAVE THE DIRECT PARALLEL TO THE GAUDIYA VAISHNAVA DOCTRINE OF HARI NAMA INVOCATION / RECITATION BEING THE YUGA DHARMA (AGE = YUGA).
Page 82 continued:
“If one is simply able to recite ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha’, one will certainly be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where, transformationally born from a lotus, one will see the Buddha and awaken to the patience of the uncreated, never again to retreat to the Small Vehicle [HINAYANA], or to the status of a common person. If what I say is not so, I will gladly descend into the hells.
“Yesterday someone asked me, ‘When I recite the Buddha’s name, I have too much idle thinking. How can I stop it?’
“Pay no attention to how much idle thinking you are doing. Just keep reciting the Buddha’s name with all your heart. There is a common saying,
When the clear-water pearl
is thrown in muddy water,
the muddy water turns clear.
When the Buddha’s name
enters the deluded mind,
the deluded mind becomes the Buddha.
“Recitation itself is the cure for idle thinking. Why add a head on top of your head by looking for another method?”
The Pure Land Dharma Door is RECOMMENDED FOR ALL BEINGS IN THE DHARMA ENDING (Kali Yuga) AGE. This is simple INVOCATION OF THE OTHER-POWER OF AMITABHA-LOKESHVARA-HRIH.
Is one-seventh of the population attracted to such simple prayer / invocation of a compassionate Deity or Transcendent Savior? NO! Statistically there are about 1 ½ billion Christians of all kinds including a BILLION Catholics and over ¾ BILLION Vishnu worshipers. China was largely Pure Land Buddhist a hundred years ago, and if the communists ever fall from power, there will be a rebirth of China’s SOUL in its ancient devotional culture of Pure Land Buddhism. How many Chinese today are ‘closet Buddhists’ devoted to Holy Mother KUAN YIN??? Pure Land Buddhism is still alive and well in South Korea and Japan. There are a BILLION Muslims. Any expert on African Tribal Religions will affirm that these are predominantly MONOTHEISTIC AND DEVOTIONAL. So invocation / prayer for the ‘Other Power’ help of GOD or the ADI BUDDHA is clearly not a one-seventh attraction for the beings of the Kali Yuga.
The Dharma Doors exist, like skillful means, to facilitate the salvation (from the Saha World) of all beings of all dispositions. In the Dharma Ending Age, the Dharma Door of PURE LAND PRACTICE is recommended by all authentic MAHAYANA MASTERS.
Many of his criticisms of Theosophy are directed at what I have called Exoteric Theosophy or Shoreline Theosophy, and I too have made the same criticisms.
Yes, I have appreciated your previous comments on this point.