Do the Rishis Exist?
Theosophist, March, 1883
Letter to the editor by A Hindu Theosophist | Note by H.P.B.
Following the example of the Parsi Gentleman whose letter you published in the Theosophist of January 1882, I am induced to inquire if there are Hindu Mahatmas among the Himalayan BROTHERS. By the term Hindu, I mean a believer in Vedas and the Gods they describe. If there are none, will any Brother of the 1st Section1 be so kind as to enlighten the Hindu Community in general and the Hindu Theosophists in particular whether any Hindu Rishis of old still exist in flesh and blood? The adept Himalayan BROTHERS having explored the unseen universe must necessarily know the Rishis if they exist now. Tradition says that particularly the following seven are immortal, at least for the present kalpa.
Ashwathama, Bali, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhisana, Kripa, Parasuram.
A HINDU THEOSOPHIST.
Editor’s Note: In reply to the first question we are happy to inform our correspondent that there are Mahatmas among the Himalayan Brothers who are Hindus—i.e., born of Hindu and Brahmin parents and who recognize the esoteric meaning of the Vedas and the Upanishads. They agree with Krishna, Buddha, Suka, Gaudapada, and Sankaracharya in considering that the Karma kanda of the Vedas is of no importance whatsoever so far as man’s spiritual progress is concerned. Our questioner will do well to remember in this connection Krishna’s celebrated advice to Arjuna. “The subject-matter of the Vedas is related to the three Gunas; oh Arjuna, divest thyself of these gunas.” Sankaracharya’s uncompromising attitude towards Purvamimansa is too well known to require any special mention here.
Although the Himalayan Brothers admit the esoteric meaning of the Vedas and the Upanishads, they refuse to recognize as Gods, the powers and other spiritual entities mentioned in the Vedas. The language used in the Vedas is allegorical and this fact has been fully recognized by some of the greatest Indian Philosophers. Our correspondent will have to prove that the Vedas really “describe Gods” as they exist, before he can fairly ask us to declare whether our Masters believe in such gods. We very much doubt if our correspondent is really prepared to contend seriously that Agni has four horns, three legs, two heads, five hands and seven tongues as he is stated to possess in the Vedas; or that Indra committed adultery with Gautama’s wife We beg to refer our learned correspondent to Kulluka-Bhatta’s explanation of the latter myth (and it is a mere myth in his opinion) and Patanjali’s remarks on the profound esoteric significance of the four horns of Agni, in support of our assertion that the Vedas do not in reality describe any gods as our questioner has supposed.
In reply to the second question we are not prepared to say that “any Hindu Rishis of old still exist in flesh and blood” although we have our own reasons to believe that some of the great Hindu Adepts of ancient times have been and are reincarnating themselves occasionally in Tibet and Tartary; nor is it at all easy for us to understand how it can ever reasonably be expected that our Himalayan Brothers should discover Hindu Rishis “in flesh and blood” in their explorations in the “Unseen Universe,” since astral bodies are not usually made up of those earthly materials.
The tradition alluded to by our correspondent is not literally true; then, what connection is there between the seven personages named and the Hindu Rishis? Though we are not called upon to give an explanation of the tradition in question from our own standpoint, we shall give a few hints which may enable our readers to ascertain its real significance from what is contained in Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Asvathama has gained an immortality of infamy.
Parasurama’s cruelty made him immortal but he is not supposed to live in flesh and blood now; he is generally stated to have some sort of existence in fire though not necessarily in what a Christian would call “hell.”
Bali is not an individual properly speaking. The principle denoted by the name will be known when the esoteric meaning of Thrivikrama Avatar is better comprehended.
Vyasa is immortal in his incarnations. Let our respected Brother count how many Vyasas there have been from first to last.
Hanuman was neither a human being nor a monkey: it is one of the powers of the 7th principle of man (Rama).
Vibhisana. Not a Rakshasa really but the personification of Sattvaguna which is immortal.
Kripa’s association with Aswathama will explain the nature of his immortality.
1. No chela need answer this, except the editor, A.H.T.