March 15, 2006

Theosophy drew upon both Buddhism and Vedanta

An Introduction to Ascended Master Teachings with Comparisons to Vedanta
(part 1 of 3; 1/2/3/next) By David Tame India's 'Other' Masters and Gurus
The advent of new dispensations or new approaches to the spiritual Path is a phenomenon well-known to Hindus over time. New light has been shed upon Vedanta regularly, every few centuries. Major new directions in Vedanta have blossomed, or new expositions, such as through Patanjali, Chaitanya, and others. In more recent times, a little over a century ago, Sri Ramakrishna introduced a new paradigm of spiritual approaches, such as all-encompassing non-exclusivity of beliefs, and much more. Likewise his disciple, Vivekananda, was instrumental in facilitating a spiritual renaissance among some of the West by introducing Vedanta there. Devotees of great figures such as these are keenly aware, then, of the importance to the world of the introduction of radically new spiritual ideas, paradigms, and dispensations. The Ascended Masters' Teachings may be viewed in such a light.
This relatively new tradition incorporates a stream of philosophy and practices that, whilst holding to the time-honoured moral guidelines and mystical precepts of any worthy spiritual Path, are also as detailed and as experientially scientific as Vedanta. Indeed, they are comparable to Vedanta in many ways, yet at the same time chart intriguing new territories. In the opinion of many, the particularly new aspects of belief, practice, and personal spiritual experience of these Teachings present a genuinely new paradigm of the spiritual life for both East and West. Since attempts to use precise synonyms between the two traditions can be misleading, with a few exceptions I shall therefore sketch an outline of this tradition in its own terminology.
The First Teachings of the Masters, and Neo-Vedanta: Sri Ramakrishna liked to quote the Bengali saying, "As many faiths, so many paths." This is similar to the Vedic dictum: "Truth is One. Sages call it by different names." To those possessed of some familiarity with both the Ascended Master Teachings and the Vedas, it is evident time and time again that the same - or very similar - Truth is being spoken of by each tradition, even at times when the subject is quite detailed and technical. It may be that this similarity is not recognised as frequently as it might be simply due to the different terminology used. Hence the idea of briefly introducing the Ascended Masters to those who may be of a Hindu background.
The Ascended Masters began Their more overt, public service among humanity in 1875, with the founding of the Theosophical Society. Theosophy was never Buddhist or Hindu per se, but drew upon both Buddhism and Vedanta for the sake of their rich lexicons of spiritual terminology, capable of describing Cosmic Law to a Western world that until then had been broadly ignorant of such matters of deeper spirituality. Theosophy was outwardly founded by Westerners, but was actually prompted and inspired from behind the scenes by Eastern Adepts, and soon came to be based near Madras, India.
In retrospect it can now be seen that this was in general a time of great spiritual ferment and renaissance. Sri Aurobindo's spiritual life and teachings stem from around this time. Ramakrishna lived from 1836 to 1886, but only gathered his disciples around him and had a wider impact upon the Hindu world in the final years of his life. The impact of Ramakrishna's life became all the greater after his mahasamadhi, when the disciples formed an Order in his name and began their own work.
This initiated what is sometimes called neo-Vedanta, touching upon such elements as the aforesaid openness to other faiths, as well as a greater openness in general to the various diverse paths of Vedanta itself, the various yogas, and other streams of spirituality within India. Patriarchal Hinduism was challenged with the exoneration of the female. The monastic Ramakrishna Order was also relatively new in India in its emphasis upon action and charitable work, as opposed to what had at times tended to become a rather too inward-looking, self-oriented form of the spiritual life within India.
The latter quarter of the nineteenth century, then, and leading into the early 1900s, saw the beginning of several streams of change and of renaissance of the spiritual life for both East and West. These may be viewed as a foundation and background for the comparatively very different spiritual world we live in today, with the East's neo-Vedanta and the West's increased interest in mysticism and the true living of religion, as well as the Ascended Master movements.
For those interested in the causes behind effects, or in esoteric history, it truly is noteworthy that the fifty years from 1875 to around 1925 saw not only the coming of Theosophy but also of such change and renewal within Hindu religion and society as the mission of Ramakrishna, the birth of Baha'i, and the work of Sri Aurobindo and others. This partly resulted from the presence in India of the British and of the Empire, which led to a co-mingling of ideas and an East-West interaction that was to profoundly change the spiritual possibilities and philosophical thinking of both cultures. But the Brotherhood of Ascended Masters was also an impelling force behind the renewals.
It was within such a time of positive spiritual ferment that the Ascended Masters were able to begin Their own first organisations, such as the Theosophical Society. But this spiritual stream has moved on since then, many more divine truths being released to the world, even for the very first time. The Teachings of the Ascended Masters, which were much more easily brought forth during the 1875-1925 period of extremely positive spiritual East-West interaction, are again destined to return to India, adding once more to the mystical treasures already long associated with that land.

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