OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fourth Series (1887-92)
by Henry Steel Olcott
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING
ON a sunny day in July there came to me on a visit, which made it seem all the sunnier, my dear friend Prince Harisinhji, of Bhaunagar State. He has given me so many proofs of affection during the past twenty-odd years that I feel almost as sure of him as of myself, and I think that if I should die, I should have no more sincere mourner. His loyalty of heart and simplicity of nature are in vivid contrast with the characters of most Indian princes whom I have met, and I often wish that his fellow-graduates of the Rajkumar College reflected as much credit as he upon that educational institution. On the day after his arrival Messrs. Keightley and Edge left me for work in the plains, and a week later the Prince himself was most unwillingly compelled to return to his home, as the Karbhari (Minister) of a Rajput State had arranged a marriage between his young prince and Harisinhji’s daughter. This left me alone, with ample time to do my literary work.
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 467
Among Ceylon Buddhists the burning question at that time was the necessity for adopting measures for defeating a bold stroke of legislation in the missionary interest which forbade the giving of grants-in-aid to any school that might be opened within a quarter of a mile of any existing registered school. On the face of it this seemed innocent enough, as the prohibition would work to the advantage of any Buddhist school that might first occupy a desirable village. But, in point of fact, while the Buddhists were somnolently indifferent to the education of their children, the missionaries quietly pre-empted all the most desirable localities at the chief centres of population; so that the Buddhists would—if this iniquitous Act were passed—be compelled to choose between sending their children to Christian schools, or opening and supporting their own schools without a penny of Government aid. Considering that the greater part of the Government revenue in Ceylon is derived from taxation of Buddhists, the injustice of the proposed Buddhist Boycotting Bill is evident. This was the more apparent since at that time there were only twenty-five Buddhist schools registered, as against above a thousand of other denominations. Of course the missionaries, having command of capital, and also having the foresight given by experience, profited to the fullest extent by the apathy of the Buddhists. The latter did not suspect the nature and extent of the plot until they were rudely shaken out of their sloth by my public appeals and denunciations. Things have mended a good deal since that
468 OLD DIARY LEAVES
time, and our 25 schools have increased to more than 200; but we still have great difficulties to overcome, among them the chief being the lack of working capital as things go now, any sum required for emergent work has to be collected by subscription, and, naturally enough, these constant demands are somewhat onerous. Yet, all the same, the Sinhalese people have shown a most commendable generosity and unflagging interest in the progress of our revival movement.
A rather dramatic event occurred at Darjeeling in the month of July in the meeting of H. Dharmapala, as agent of the Chief Priest of Ceylon, with important representatives of the Tibetan and Cis-Himâlayan Lamas, who had gathered together at Darjeeling at that time. Miss Henrietta Müller contributed to the Theosophist for August (1892) an interesting account, from which, in view of their picturesque and historical interest, I make the following extracts:
“Mr. Dharmapala had been commissioned by the chief Buddhist monks of Ceylon to convey to the Lamas of Tibet some relics of Buddha and a few leaves from the sacred Bo-tree (Ficus religiosa), now growing at Buddha-Gaya—the place sacred to millions of Buddhists—and also a Buddhist flag.
“A curious coincidence has arisen in connection with this flag. It was found that the Buddhists of Ceylon had no sacred flag except that used by Buddhists of other countries. It was only in 1885 that Colonel Olcott, in consultation with the Chief Priests, designed this flag, in accordance with the instructions contained
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 469
in the Buddhist sacred books. It consists of five vertical bars, colored blue, yellow, crimson, white, and scarlet, and terminated by a final bar, combining all the colors in the same order. This design was pronounced by the Lamas at the meeting to be almost identical with the flag of the Grand Lama of Tibet.” [Miss Müller is in error in saying that I devised the Buddhist flag; the credit for this goes to the members of the Colombo T. S. Of course I was consulted after the colors were chosen, and all I did was to prescribe the shape in which the flag should be made.—H.S.O.]
“It was arranged that a procession bearing these relics should pass through the town, starting from Lhasa-Villa, the residence of Pandit Sarat Chandra Das, C.I.E., the renowned Tibetan traveller and scholar, to the residence of Rajah Tondub Paljor.
“The procession, in starting, was headed by the Tibetan band, which was playing the Tibetan air ‘Gya-gar-Dor-je-dan’ (‘Flourish Buddha-Gaya’). It was followed by the flag-bearer on horseback, in the Sikkim military uniform, bearing the above-mentioned sacred flag. Next came the Venerable Lama, Sherab-gya-tcho (the Ocean of Learning), head of the Goom Monastery, carrying the casket of relics; after him came Mr. H. Dharmapala, riding on a dark bay horse, dressed in the orange-colored garment of the order of Upâsakas. After him came Pandit Sarat Chandra Das, also riding; he was followed by a number of Lamas on horseback and dressed in their characteristic robes—the loose cloth coat with wide sleeves, silken
470 OLD DIARY LEAVES
sash, and the remarkable high pointed ‘red cap’ of their school.
“The procession wended its way through the narrow winding roads of Darjeeling, collecting great crowds as it went. In the middle of the town the procession was met by a party of Lamas, representatives of the Darjeeling Monastery; they were accompanied by the temple band, comprising cymbals, hautboys, and horns. At the gate of the Rajah’s residence the procession was met by the two chief Lamas of Sikkim, who conducted it to the meeting-room; this had been decorated with Tibetan silks and hangings and painted tapestries, illustrating scenes from the sacred books.
“In front of the low table, and occupying the chief position in the room as the head of the meeting, sat the young Prince, son of the Rajah of Sikkim. He was a healthy-looking boy of 13 years of age, with features of marked Mongolian type, and of sallow complexion; his expression and his manner throughout the meeting was solemn, grave, and dignified. He is being especially educated by Lamas brought from Tibet for the purpose, and prepared by them for the high position he is to fill as the Hierarch of Sikkim of the Red Cap Order.
“Rajah Tondub, President of the Darjeeling Maha-Bodhi Society, sat on his left, and instructed the boy in the method of proceedings. On the arrival of the procession, the casket of relics was handed by the old Lama to the Rajah, who conveyed it to the young Prince.
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 471
“The principal Lamas sat on the right and the Chiefs on the left of the Prince. At the table, facing the Prince, sat Mr. H. Dharmapala, Pandit Sarat Chandra Das, Srinath Chatterjee, and myself. The proceedings of the meeting were conducted by Lama Ugyen Gya-tcho, Secretary of the Society, a man of great intelligence and frank, open countenance, with a commanding figure and genial, pleasant manners. He was the companion of Sarat Chandra Das during both his expeditions into Tibet. Among the chiefs above mentioned was the Dewan Phurbu, President of the Sikkim Council; among the priests I noticed the Head Lama of Pema Yongche, the chief State Monastery in Sikkim. In the first place the Secretary introduced the leading members of the procession to the Prince, at the same time explaining the character of the relics. Some introductory remarks were then made by Pandit Sarat Chandra, whose formal address to the meeting, written in Tibetan, was read by the Secretary; speeches were made, too, in the Tibetan language by Lama Sherab Gya-tcho, who gave a résumé of the rise, progress, and downfall of Buddhism in India, and its extension in Tibet and Ceylon; he congratulated his countrymen assembled on the arrival of this important Buddhist mission from Ceylon. He reminded his hearers that this was the first public meeting for the extension of Buddhism ever held by the people of Tibet and Ceylon, all friendly communication on religious matters having been entirely interrupted between the two countries for at least eight or
472 OLD DIARY LEAVES
nine hundred years. He was followed by the Lama of Pemayangtche, who emphasised the importance of the occasion, enlarged upon the character of the mission, and showed what great blessings might be expected to ensue from it, more especially to Sikkim. Mr. Dharmapala then followed.
“Pandit Sarat Chandra Das then spoke, and described the three schools of Buddhism prevailing in Tibet and Ceylon.
“At this stage of the proceedings the young Prince, taking the casket of relics in his hands, raised it to his forehead in a reverential manner; at the same moment the assembled Lamas commenced chanting in very deep bass tones an invocation to the higher influences, consisting of a prayer for their presence and for their aid in the cause. The Lamas were all seated in the position of meditation during this chant, and their hands were folded or inter-locked in front of them in the form of a mudra. During the chant the Secretary placed in the hands of each Lama a small quantity of rice, the purpose of which was to purify, in the same way as, and in the place of, water. Every now and then each Lama would unlock his hands and sprinkle some of the rice over the room. When the chant was finished, the Secretary took the open casket and handed it to every one in the room who desired its benediction.
“The ceremony concluded, Mr. Dharmapala presented one of the relics and a Bo-tree leaf to the Principal of the Sikkim State Monastery, the other
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 473
three being destined for Tibet. These were to be carried by messenger from Darjeeling all the way to Lhasa, and delivered into the hands of the Grand Lama of Tibet.
“Then came the Rajah’s speech. He is a strong-built man, above 50 years of age, with a shrewd, intelligent countenance, at once grave and humorous. He conveyed the thanks of himself and the meeting to Mr. Dharmapala, and expressed his lively appreciation of the important duty which they, in thus meeting together, had been performing, and of the benefits which were likely to accrue therefrom. His speech was well delivered, and was received with evident approval by all present.
“By request, I then conveyed the thanks of the meeting to the Rajah, and expressed the great pleasure I felt at having had an opportunity of being present on such an interesting occasion. The meeting then adjourned.”
It is a pity that, so far as we know, in spite of his undoubtedly good intentions, nothing has come out of Dharmapala’s religious cavalcade.
The resemblance of the Ceylon-invented Buddhist flag to the standard of the Dalai Lama is a very striking fact. It may be remembered that I have said elsewhere that Prince Oukhtomasky told me that the high priest of a Mongolian monastery had told him the same thing. As I am not a believer in chance, I am inclined to think that the Colombo Committee did not choose this particular device without an unsuspected prompting
474 OLD DIARY LEAVES
from those mighty personages who occupy themselves with the interests of the Buddhist religion. Evidently, it was as great a desideratum to have this striking symbol of the religion, as to find a common platform of belief on which all Buddhist nations and sects could unite in brotherly spirit. I have every reason to believe that the Lamas of Tibet entertain a brotherly feeling for all their co-religionists; and that if it were possible to bring the leading men of the Southern Church into a council with them, Buddhist unity would speedily become an established fact. I shall recur to this matter when describing my own interview with the Tibetan Ambassador, who came to Darjeeling and stopped there some months while certain important negotiations were going on between the Chinese and British-Indian authorities. Dharmapala’s Darjeeling affair came to nought through lack of an organised plan for carrying it out into practical results. The more noise and tamasha one makes at the beginning of an enterprise, the greater becomes the mortification to see it come to nought through one’s own mismanagement or incapacity. Earnestness is a very good thing, but to ensure success it must be supplemented by other qualities.
The second Annual Convention of the European Section was held at London on the 14th of July, and on the 16th Mr. Mead cabled me that it had been a great success. It is extremely interesting to read the reports of the activities of the year, as they prove, in a most conclusive manner, the earnest zeal which had
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 475
been shown by the Sectional and Branch officers. During the preceding twelve months 16 new lending libraries had been opened in Europe; about 1,000 open meetings had been held in connection with the Lodges; between 200 and 300 lectures had been given in public halls; and the H. P. B. press had printed enough sheets of paper to make, if in one piece, a strip 54 miles long and 1 yard wide; the publications of books and magazines, English and Foreign, amounted to 156. Among the methods of propaganda adopted by the Section was one which reflected the greatest credit upon the astuteness of our colleagues, and one which did more, probably, than any other to give vogue to Theosophical ideas. It was the formation of a group of thirty-three ladies and gentlemen, possessed of the talent for writing, under the management of the Baroness de Pallandt, F.T.S., whose business it was to keep a close watch upon the press, and profit by every attack upon or every friendly word said for us, to have written a short article to the same paper defending or commending us and our views, and giving information as to what books to read, and where they were procurable. The Baroness, for the Committee, subscribed to one or more cutting agencies, which sent in daily all newspaper-cuttings necessary to keep her informed as to the trend of public opinion. She would then apportion them among her thirty-two associates for action. Naturally, most of the notices of us were unfriendly, sometimes even actionable, but, thanks to that instinct of fair play which is peculiar
476 OLD DIARY LEAVES
in a marked degree to the British people, every attack gave us the right of reply, and so worked to the advantage of our Society in the long run. I see, by the Convention report under notice, that this press group “had contributed no less than 2,005 articles and letters to the public press, this being exclusive of hundreds of others from members not in the list of the group.”
The drafting of the Deed of Trust of the Society’s property, to convey it to the Board of Trustees ordered by the last Adyar Convention, and the filing and probate of H. P. B.’s Will, required my presence at Madras, and so I went there on the 16th of August, and returned to “Gulistan” after an absence of three weeks. Besides the above-named documents being attended to, I executed a power of attorney to Judge Paul, of Brisbane, my attorney, giving him full powers to sign all necessary papers and exercise his best judgment in the matter of the transfer of the Hartmann estate to the natural heirs, as agreed between us while I was at Toowoomba. It proved ten times more difficult for me to strip myself of this unwelcome bequest than for my attorneys to arrange for my obtaining possession of it. The heirs themselves were solely to blame for the long delay, as nothing could be done until they should settle their own private disputes over the question whether they should or should not bring an action against the executors for breach of trust. Of course, until that was determined, the executors would not sign a paper or take a step in the premises. The case actually dragged along six
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 477
years and the final closing up of the transaction occurred only a month before my second visit to Brisbane, viz., in 1897. Meanwhile had occurred the great panic in real estate which ruined so many Australian banks, business houses, and private individuals; house and land property values dropped almost to zero; and although I had relinquished to Hartmann’s children even the small one-fifth share which was originally and joyfully conceded to the Society, I am afraid that their family disputes made them lose a large part of the £5,000 at which the estate was valued in 1891.
By the overland mail of 2nd September I received a letter from Monsieur C. Parmelin, of Havre, asking me whether he ought to give the rest of his money to the Society, as he had already given it Fcs.30,000. There was a tone of bitterness in it, I remember, and an indication that some of our people were rather urging him to do this. I strenuously counselled him to do nothing of the sort, and said that I should never consent to his giving another franc until his succession to his mother’s estate, in the course of nature, made him free to dispose of his original inheritance as he might choose without injury to himself.
As J. W. Bouton, the publisher of Isis Unveiled, owed the estate of H. P. B. several hundred dollars for copyright, and as, under her will, this property was now mine, I obtained from the United States Consular Agent at Madras an official certificate on a copy of the will, and sent it to Mr. Judge to collect the money
478 OLD DIARY LEAVES
from Bouton. This he did, and I then gave his Section half of it—some $300—and divided the rest among our different other headquarters. Since that time, although the book has been in constant demand, I have not been able to collect another dollar.
On 21st September I received, at “Gulistan,” a letter from Mr. Judge begging me not to force an inquiry into the bogus letters and the “Lahore brass.” He put it on the ground that, if I should publish the fact that I had had the little brass seal engraved (not at Lahore—that is where his pretended Mahatma letters proved their falsity, for the engraving was done at Delhi), it would reflect discredit upon me. I told him, however, that my part in the transaction was quite innocent, and that I intended to expose any person who had been making dishonest use of the seal.
As the time was approaching for my promised visit to Calcutta, Akyab, and other parts of Arakan, I returned, October 1st, to Madras to put things in order. Among my literary duties was the sad one of writing an obituary notice of my true and beloved friend, W. Stainton Moses, M.A., the acknowledged leader of the Spiritualists. When I last saw him at Canterbury he was suffering from the sequelæ of influenza, and he told me that he should not be surprised if it should carry him off. His only anxiety was lest he might not live to finish two or three books he had planned out in his mind. I tried my best to persuade him to fly from the horrible winter climate of London, and come and work up his materials into
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 479
books at Adyar—a favorite project that he and Massey and I had discussed for years. But he could not see his way to it, for he had his work cut out for him at the West in the Spiritualist movement, and he said he must die at his post. He was a man to love, respect, and trust; a friend that one could ever count upon in all emergencies. He had a commanding influence among Spiritualists, one due to the elevation of his personal character quite as much as to his ripe scholarship and his thorough acquaintance with the literature and different aspects of psychical science. His views were broad and catholic upon those subjects, and, but for the bigotry of the majority of Spiritualists, he and I would have gone far towards our establishing those friendly relations between our two parties that in reason should subsist. In an earlier chapter I have mentioned the proposal he made me in 1888, that if I would manage to keep H. P. B. in a gentle mood towards Spiritualists, he would use his best influence with the latter to come to a more brotherly understanding with the Theosophists. We agreed to make the trial, and H. P. B. fell in with my wishes: he, on his part, began writing benevolently about us in Light. We used to see each other often that season in London and compare notes. What the sequel was may be read in the following extract from my obituary notice of him: “His very first kind words about us brought him a shoal of protests, charges of treachery, taunts and jibes; no bigoted sectarian church could have been more intolerant. He read me extracts from some
480 OLD DIARY LEAVES
of the letters, printed some in Light, and at last told me, sadly, that he should have to give it up, or he should lose all his influence with his party. It was the knowledge of this fact, corroborated amply by the brutal treatment she had personally received from leading Spiritualists, that helped to make H. P. B.’s later criticisms upon modern Spiritualism so bitter. If all Spiritualists had been as broad-minded as Stainton Moses, and a tenth part as practically versed in Psychology as H. P. B., there would be now a close alliance between them and ourselves, to our mutual advantage.”
In the first volume of these OLD DIARY LEAVES I give a full account of S. M.’s relations with H. P. B. and myself, his partially successful attempt to reach us in his Double; and one of the illustrations in the book shows how H. P. B. revealed to me, in one of the most remarkable pictures ever made, his psychical evolution. It is a thousand pities that we could not have drawn together, in a bond of mutual good understanding, our two great parties, for it would have vastly increased our power to fight Materialism, our common foe.
I mention in the obituary in question that among H. P. B.’s frequent phenomena was her power to cause an oily attar of great fragrance to exude from the palm of her hand. Stainton Moses very frequently had this same exudation, it being sometimes so powerful as to scent the room in which he sat. So, as I was persuaded that he was getting help from our own Masters, I one day, as a matter of curiosity, got
BUDDHIST CEREMONY AT DARJEELING 481
H. P. B. to cause the attar to impregnate a flock of fine cotton-wool, which I did up in silk, sewed in a cover of oil-silk, packed and sealed in a little box, and sent to him. He wrote me back that the perfume was identical with that which was so familiar to him. I do not remember whether I have before now stated the fact that when he and I were together in 1891, and looked over his collection of psychical curios, we opened this package and found the perfume still lingering there, after the lapse of about fourteen years. This transpiration of fragrant odors is frequently observed by sensitives at the time when some one of our leading orators is addressing an audience from the platform; sometimes the intimation of the presence of an inspiring current from the White Lodge towards the speaker comes in the form of a bright light, aureole, or nimbus about the speaker’s person; and sometimes those who have a fair degree of clairvoyant lucidity can see in this divine light the radiant figure of one of the Masters. This is not the dull and vulgar phantasmal image known at spiritualist séances as a materialisation, but a figure of light, the glorious outshining of a perfected human being.