The ‘Book of Dzyan’ in The Secret Doctrine

“There exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book – so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence. The most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning – the Siphra Dzeniouta – was compiled from it, and that at a time when the former was already considered in the light of a literary relic.” (Isis Unveiled, Vol. 1., pg. 1.)

“Dan, now become in modern Chinese and Tibetan phonetics ch’an, is the general term for the esoteric schools, and their literature. In the old books, the word Janna is defined as “to reform one’s self by meditation and knowledge,” a second inner birth. Hence Dzan, Djan phonetically, the “Book of Dzyan.” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1., pg. xx., fn.)

The “Book of Dzyan” is the book, which Helena P. Blavatsky based her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine (1888) upon; and is the subject of interest for theosophists and a few researchers. The title of the Book of Dzyan is generic for Book of Wisdom, or ‘Book of Knowledge,’ and are described by Blavatsky as forming the first volume of the secret pre-edited commentaries on the “Books of Kiu-te,” in Tibetan rgyud-sde, the Tibetan Buddhist Tantras. The first of these tantras is the Kālachakra-tantra, and researchers David and Nancy Reigle demonstrate, that we find concepts corresponding in the Vimalaprabhā commentary first published in the original Sanskrit (3 volumes) in 1986-1994; in the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga, among other concepts and doctrinal positions originally thought the fancy of Blavatsky’s imagination.

Research clearly demonstrates, that Helena Blavatsky did indeed have access to inaccessible texts, not available til long after her time; much not til decades ago, being made available and translated.

Scholars disbelieved and scoffed at H.P.B., but she knew it was to be expected.

“This first installment of the esoteric doctrines is based upon Stanzas, which are the records of a people unknown to ethnology; it is claimed that they are written in a tongue absent from the nomenclature of languages and dialects with which philology is acquainted; they are said to emanate from a source (Occultism) repudiated by science; and, finally, they are offered through an agency, incessantly discredited before the world by all those who hate unwelcome truths, or have some special hobby of their own to defend. Therefore, the rejection of these teachings may be expected, and must be accepted beforehand. No one styling himself a “scholar,” in whatever department of exact science, will be permitted to regard these teachings seriously.” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1., pg. xxxvii.)

The esoteric doctrine is said to antedate the Védic scriptures:

“The ‘very old Book’ is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah Dzeniouta but even the Sepher Jezirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-king, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purânas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) race …” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pg. xliii.)

As Blavatsky predicted:

“For in the twentieth century of our era scholars will begin to recognize that the Secret Doctrine has neither been invented nor exaggerated, but, on the contrary, simply outlined; and finally, that its teachings antedate the Vedas.” (The Secret Doctrine, 1888, vol. 1, p. xxxvii)

David Reigle believes his work in bringing attention through the circumstantial evidences for the legitimacy of the book and its teachings, could lead to the discovery of a Tibetan or Sanskrit manuscript of the Book of Dzyan. Blavatsky claimed in the SD that she had seen a manuscript when she was in Tibet:

The Book of Dzyan (or “Dzan”) is utterly unknown to our Philologists, or at any rate was never heard of by them under its present name. This is, of course, a great drawback to those who follow the methods of research prescribed by official Science; but to the students of Occultism, and to every genuine Occultist, this will be of little moment.

Here was the last clue given by Blavatsky:

The Book of Dzyan—from the Sanskrit word “Dhyâna” (mystic meditation)—is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas, in the library of any monastery; and also fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers.

Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed “The Popularised Version” of the Secret Doctrine, full of myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of Commentaries, on the other hand—with their translations, annotations, and an ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic folio, the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World—contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences. These, it appears, are kept secret and apart, in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse. The Books of Kiu-te are comparatively modern, having been edited within the last millennium, whereas, the earliest volumes of the Commentaries are of untold antiquity, some fragments of the original cylinders having been preserved. With the exception that they explain and correct some of the too fabulous, and to every appearance, grossly-exaggerated accounts in the Books of Kiu-te—properly so called—the Commentaries have little to do with these.

Identification remained difficult, until 1981, in Nancy and David Reigle’s research:

The problem of the identification of the books of Kiu-te was largely due to the phonetic transcription of the name, “Kiu-te,” which when rendered in its unphonetic transliteration would be “rGyud-sde.” (David Reigle, “What Are the Books of Kiu-te?,” High Country Theosophist 9.2, Feb. 1994)

We want to examine this Book of Dzyan further, and produce commentary on it.


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