Svabhavat

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Svābhāvat is a term used by H. P. Blavatsky in her writings, although it is not found in Sanskrit as a noun in the way she uses it, but as svabhāva.

Spelling of the word

H. P. Blavatsky explains the meaning of the term Svābhāvat as follows:

The name comes from Subhâva and is composed of three words--su, good, perfect, fair, handsome; sva, self; and bhâva being, or state of being.[1]

However, she added a final "t" that is not found in Sanskrit for a noun. The origin of Mme. Blavatsky's spelling was explained by David Reigle as follows:

After standing for more than 120 years, the problem of the word svābhāvat was solved by Daniel Caldwell, and he did this without knowing Sanskrit. Ironically, it had entered The Secret Doctrine because of HPB not knowing Sanskrit. As Daniel found (on Oct. 13, 2009), HPB had copied svābhāvat from F. Max Muller, who had used it as declined in the ablative case: svabhāvāt. The word itself, undeclined, is svabhāva. This is obviously what HPB intended, especially in its seven occurrences in the stanzas that she published from the Book of Dzyan.[2]

General description

Svabhāva was defined by Mme. Blavatsky in her early writings as "the Eternal and the uncreated Self-existing Substance which produces all; while everything which is of its essence produces itself out of its own nature".[3] She defines it similarly in The Secret Doctrine:

The Svabhavat of the Buddhist philosopher, the eternal cause and effect, omnipresent yet abstract, the self-existent plastic Essence and the root of all things, viewed in the same dual light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects.[4]

Although she repeats that Svabhāva, "in the highest aspect" is the Universal Spirit (Svayambhu)[5], more frequently she defines it as a concrete aspect of Mulaprakriti:

Svâbhâvat, the “Plastic Essence” that fills the Universe, is the root of all things. Svâbhâvat is, so to say, the Buddhistic concrete aspect of the abstraction called in Hindu philosophy Mulaprakriti. It is the body of the Soul, and that which Ether would be to Akasa, the latter being the informing principle of the former.[6]
Svabhâvat (Sk.). Explained by the Orientalists as “plastic substance”, which is an inadequate definition. Svabhâvat is the world substance and stuff, or rather that which is behind it-the spirit and essence of substance.[7]

In these quotes Blavatsky shows three levels of the same principle becoming more and more concrete, as follows: i) Mulaprakriti, ii) Svabhāva, and iii) world substance.

In Mahatma Letter No. 65, Master KH explains that this principle can exist in both a passive and an active condition:

You will have first of all to view the eternal Essence, the Swabavat not as a compound element you call spirit-matter, but as the one element for which the English has no name. It is both passive and active, pure Spirit Essence in its absoluteness, and repose, pure matter in its finite and conditioned state.[8]

H. P. Blavatsky makes a reference supporting this:

The Svabhâvikas, or philosophers of the oldest school of Buddhism (which still exists in Nepaul), speculate only upon the active condition of this “Essence,” which they call Svâbhâvat, and deem it foolish to theorise upon the abstract and “unknowable” power in its passive condition.[9]
At the first flutter of renascent life, Svâbhâvat, "the mutable radiance of the Immutable Darkness unconscious in Eternity," passes, at every new rebirth of Kosmos, from an inactive state into one of intense activity; that it differentiates, and then begins its work through that differentiation.[10]

We should not think of Svābhāvat as inert or unconscious substance, because at this level consciousness and matter are not yet separated:

Everyone knows that Buddhism does not recognize either one god or many gods. Yet the Arhat, for whom every atom of dust is as much replete with Svabhavat (plastic substance, eternal and intelligent, though impersonal) as he himself, and who strives to assimilate that Svabhavat by identifying himself with the All, in order to attain Nirvâna, must travel the same painful road of renunciation, of good works and of altruism, and must lead the same saintly life, though less egotistical in its motive, as the beatified Christian.[11]
In Stanza III.12 it is Svābhāvat who sends Fohat "to harden the atoms".[12]

There is a reference that interprets Svābhāvat as the manifestation of the universal Akasha on our earth:

Everything has come out of Akâsa (or Svâbhâvat on our earth) in obedience to a law of motion inherent in it, and after a certain existence passes away.[13]

This corresponds with another passage where Mme Blavatsky identifies Svābhāvat with the Anima Mundi.[14] In a similar vein, in Mahatma Letter No 65 Master KH identifying "Swabavat" with the "one element", writes:

We recognise but one element in Nature (whether spiritual or physical) outside which there can be no Nature since it is Nature itself, and which as the Akasa pervades our solar system, every atom being part of itself, pervades throughout space and is space in fact.[15]

Father-Mother

H. P. Blavatsky asserts that from an occult point of view it is the "father-mother on the mystic plane".[16]

From it all nature proceeds and into it all returns at the end of the life-cycles. In Esotericism it is called “Father-Mother”. It is the plastic essence of matter.[17]

Stanza III.10 talks about the Father-Mother spinning the web of the universe out of the "two substances made in one, which is Svābhāvat".[18]

See also

Online resources

Articles

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 314.
  2. Svābhāvat, svabhāvāt, and svabhāva at The Book of Dzyan
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 266.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 46.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 52.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 61.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 314.
  8. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 65 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 165.
  9. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 3.
  10. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 635.
  11. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 127.
  12. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 85.
  13. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 635-636.
  14. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. I (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 293.
  15. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 65 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 168.
  16. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 98, fn.
  17. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 314.
  18. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 83.