An investigation of the many flaws and errors to be found in sacred texts, such as the Lotus Sutra
Eastern philosophy and mysticism became popular in the West during the last century and remain so today. This, as we saw in our investigation of Tibetan Buddhism, is something of a mixed blessing. The perceived adaptability of Buddhism is often cited as its greatest virtue, but is it? Any teaching which has to be 'adapted' to accommodate itself to different cultures and times cannot be complete in itself. A Teaching either is, or is not true, or complete, this must be obvious to all thinking seekers. We pointed out in the aforementioned investigation that Buddhism as it is known and taught today bares little resemblance to the teachings of Gautama Buddha. We find this in every form of religion, philosophy and spiritual teaching. The Founder knows what he is saying, having all wisdom, inspired from on high, for within his inner Self there glows a great Light, a Light which contains as well as attracts true Wisdom. He is a torch-bearer, with the torch ablaze in his hands. But when he returns whence he came, lo! the torch is extinguished again, and darkness reigns instead of that divine Light. There may be an afterglow; but that is not the Light. Only the true Messenger has this Light; the rest have a glimmer of it.
This is why we find so many flaws and errors in sacred texts. Whether the following extract from chapter five of the Lotus Sutra—also known as the 'Lotus of the True Law,' one of the most famous Mahayana Buddhist texts—falls into this category we shall see when we come to analyse it. You can find the English translation we have used at the Internet Sacred Text Archive where it is listed as 'The Lotus of the Good Law', as originally published in volume XXI of the Sacred Books of the East in 1884. Our afterword compliments this investigation with a short story that illustrates how, even with the best of intentions, inferior teachers lead themselves and their pupils astray.
The Lotus Sutra
"I am the Tathagata, O ye gods and men! the Arhat, the perfectly enlightened one: having reached the shore myself, I carry others to the shore; being free, I make free; being comforted, I comfort; being perfectly at rest, I lead others to rest. By my perfect wisdom I know both this world and the next, such as they really are. I am all-knowing, all-seeing. Come to me, ye gods and men! Hear the law. I am he who indicates the path; who shows the path, as knowing the path, being acquainted with the path.
"I shall refresh all beings whose bodies are withered, who are clogged to the triple world. I shall bring to felicity those that are pining away with toils, give them pleasure and final rest. Hearken to me, ye hosts of gods and men; approach to behold me: I am the Tathagata, the Lord, who has no superior, who appears in this world to save. To thousands of kotis of living beings I preach a pure and simple law that has but one scope, to wit, deliverance and rest. I preach with ever the same voice, constantly taking enlightenment as my text. For this is equal for all; no partiality is in it, neither hatred nor affection. I am inexorable, bear no love nor hatred towards anyone, and proclaim the law to all creatures, to the one as well as the other.
"I re-create the whole world like a cloud shedding its water without distinction; I have the same feelings for respectable people as for the low; for moral persons as for the immoral; for the depraved as for those who observe the rules of good conduct; for those who hold sectarian views and unsound tenets as for those whose views are sound and correct. I preach the law to the inferior in mental culture as well as to persons of superior understanding and extraordinary faculties; inaccessible to weariness, I spread in season the rain of the law."
Analysis of the text
Very impressive—is it not? As we said in our introduction the Lotus Sutra is one of the most famous texts of Buddhism. But is the extract we have quoted correct? The Avatar speaks in an entirely impersonal manner, and, as he says himself: he feels neither hatred nor affection for any one, though he brings refreshment, felicity and pleasure. He claims to possess perfect wisdom and be all-knowing and all-seeing; attributes we would associate exclusively with the Father of All. He says he is inexorable, that he feels the same towards moral as well as immoral people. What sort of an Avatar is this? Yet, millions have believed every word of this teaching, and still do, and, no doubt, will continue to do so; for the aggressive manner, the boasting, and the indifference to the feelings of others is the kind of thing to which people bow their silly heads, because they are impressed by and submit to 'authority' in spite of our modern 'democratic' notions of 'equality' which would have us believe that Jack is as good as his master!
As we saw all too clearly during the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, authority expressed in a forceful manner that contains a powerful message of salvation will win the day with most people. Very few are able to resist the bombastic rhetoric of this self-styled 'Tathagata.' We find exactly the same techniques and methods employed by dictators past and present and not many are able to resist them either. How different these words are to the elevated teachings, the kindliness and patience of Krishna as we may read in The Book of Sa-Heti, or in the Sermon on the Mount attributed to Jesus.
We have quoted these verses from the Lotus Sutra as an extreme example of the wrong beliefs, false teachings and errors mentioned in our introduction, which may lead even the wisest astray. As we read the words of this supposed 'Arhat' we can almost hear Crochet—Iambus' Minister of Propaganda in Dr Michaud's marvellous depiction of the machinations of the satanic court in Symphonie Fantastique chuckling triumphantly in the background, while Even Tenor, the devil's Ambassador, rubs his hands in eager anticipation of the rich harvest of souls these false teachings will net. We still have such 'teachers' among us today, and some of our readers may well have met them; we have—many times.
Of course it is perfectly possible to present these verses suitably edited, in such a way that their message seems perfectly reasonable, if not divine. And therein lies the ever present danger which leads to error, or worse, if one is not fully instructed and ever on his guard against plausibility which is, in fact, false or vicious reasoning. It is not always easy to see the difference. Indifference to whether a man or woman is moral or immoral, virtuous or sinful, good or evil, learned or stupid, is the worst kind of sophism it is possible to imagine. You may think that the errors we have pointed out to you are all very obvious; but pause here for a moment and ask yourself honestly what impression the words we have quoted from the Lotus Sutra made upon you when you first read them.
If the Light is manifesting itself within your Mind at all times, then you would have seen the errors at once; if there was—at the time of first reading—even the slightest shadow present within you (and who is without such shadows at all times?), then the specious manner in which this text is written might have led you to believe, if even for a moment, that it was a truly wonderful Message to mankind, words of the true Messiah, and worthy of respect in every way. Philosophy, as developed through the long and stately series of its distinguished masters, from Pythagoras to Empedocles and Plato, from Plotinus to Hypatia and onwards to the mystics of the Middle Ages, deals with problems beyond the sphere of 'common sense' which cannot be solved by mere intellectual 'reasoning.' Such problems can only be expressed in cryptic, difficult formulae, and by paradox, allegory and myth, especially when one is unsure of the truths and laws of occult science they enshrine. Any attempt to do so intellectually is always negative, and brings no real or actual Light on the subjects under discussion.
Most things can be explained, no matter how profound they are, in simple terms, by approaching the subjects from different angles, and by means of parable and allegory, as we have endeavoured to show in our article on the Mystery Language, as well as others. These were the methods used by such great Teachers as Jesus and Gautama Buddha who knew the fullness of the great laws. But neither used boastful and arrogant expressions, for they knew that this was against the Laws, the Light, the Truth and the Love of God. Attentive readers will have guessed at once that this is one of the reasons why we dissect and analyse such fragments as the Lotus Sutra, and previously discussed Tibetan Buddhism with you. It is not our wish, nor ever has been, to destroy the works of others, many of whom have honestly tried to shed Light on the great questions of Life and Death and the meaning of existence. But we would be remiss in the service we owe to the sanctity of the Divine Truths of God if we failed to point out the many pitfalls, the cul-de-sacs, and the false turnings in such writings, so that they might be avoided and the path to the Light found, to the salvation of all who wish to follow it.
Reason versus Intuition and Inspiration
The best Oriental thinkers have been, and are, as fully aware as the Western philosophers we mentioned earlier that the powers of mere 'reasoning' are not adequate to the problem of grasping and expressing Truth. Thinking is at all times a kind of soundless interior talk. What cannot be formulated in the current words or symbols of the given tradition does not exist in current thinking. It requires a specific creative effort on the part of a bold, fervent mind to break through to that which is not being said or written—to view the concealed truth—and then another effort to bring it back into the field of language by coining a term. Unknown, unnamed, non-existing as it were, and yet existing verily, the truth must be lovingly wooed, found, and carried back through the mind into speech, or writing—where, inevitably it will again be immediately mislaid as a rule; only the very few can retain such truths, found by inspirational thinking, and never lose it again. It is a problem which confronts all of us at one time or another; the best thing to do is to write down immediately what has been given us by means of inspiration and interior revelation, and hold on to it as well as we can. Thus the Inner Knowledge is found, kept, and the Mind's Evolution and Unfoldment has been gained. A hard task, but worth while in every conceivable way.
The pre-Socratic Greek thinkers and the Sophists, practically destroyed their native mythological tradition, not realising that in mythology, as we have so often pointed out in our many articles on symbolism, can be found the roots of many of the great occult teachings. These may often be sadly mishandled or even mangled but armed with the keys we have also discussed with you in these articles, it is possible, with experience and patience, to discover what is hidden within them, both the true and the false, and learn to distinguish between them. Sadly, sophists such as Aristotle and those who followed him, preferred to solve the enigmas of the Universe and of man's nature and destiny by means of the logic of the rising natural sciences—such as mathematics, physics, and astronomy, little realizing that these same sciences were already thousands of years old, and understood much better in olden times than they knew them. Under their powerful influence the older mythological symbols degenerated into mere elegant and amusing stories, little better than society gossip about the complicated love-affairs and quarrels of the celestial upper class!
It was very different in India. There mythology never ceased to support and facilitate the expression of philosophic thought. The rich pictorial script of the epic tradition, the features of the divinities whose incarnations and exploits constituted the myth, the symbols of religion, popular as well as esoteric, loaned themselves, again and again, to the purpose of the teachers, becoming the receptacles of their communication. In this way a cooperation of the latest and the oldest, the highest and the lowest, a wonderful friendship of mythology and philosophy was effected which resulted in the whole Indian civilization being imbued with a spiritual meaning. Even today, the folklore and popular mythology of India carry the truths and the teachings of the philosophers to the masses, whether these are real truths or fantasy. But in this symbolic form, the ideas don't have to be watered down to be popularized. The vivid, perfectly appropriate pictorial script preserves the doctrines without the slightest damage to their occult meaning.
Though the doctrines themselves, as they are now known, may be right or wrong, we maintain that it is better to have at least some of the symbolical ideas, no matter how interpreted, than the gross materialism of the West, where Spirit is generally only known by the denial of it. Indian philosophy is basically sceptical of words, and rightly so, for the reason that no two individuals will interpret them in precisely the same way. The Indian philosophers are sceptical of the adequacy of words to render the main topic of philosophical thought in such a manner that it is understood in the way it should be understood; and therefore they are very cautious about trying to put into purely intellectual form the answer to the riddle of the Universe and man's existence. And when we read such works as the Lotus Sutra, and contemplate the illusive appearance of that being who calls himself the Tathagata, the Arhat and the Redeemer, we know that Illusion falls upon us like a huge cloud of non-comprehension, for no Redeemer would at any time address both gods and men in the manner he does in that Sutra. He does not 'make free' as he arrogantly claims, but enslaves those who believe in his illusionary existence and erroneous teaching. And this is the primary reason we have taken the time and trouble to dissect his self proclaimed—but non-existent—'perfect wisdom'!
Truly, as we say at the end of our Afterword, the study of Occult Science is full of traps and pitfalls of all sorts, and not all of them are obvious. Our suggestions for Further reading at the end of the sidebar include another famous text that contains many errors and flaws. Although in this instance they are mainly the result of mistranslation and misinterpretation rather than deliberate obfuscation. That text is the Zend Avesta, or just Avesta as Wikipedia and other contemporary sources insist on calling it in their ignorance, since Avesta means 'Law' while Zend means 'Commentary'. One without the other is about as useful as carriage without a horse. Read our article on the Zend Avesta, as well as the other articles suggested in our Further reading list, for that is the only way to learn the subtle art of discerning truth from falsehood in sacred texts, as well as in philosophical and mystical teachings of all kinds.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 22 November 2020. Updated 18 June 2022.