The Book of the Golden Precepts

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The Book of the Golden Precepts is, according to H. P. Blavatsky, a very old book that remains unknown by scholars and the general public. She says this is "... one of the works put into the hands of mystic students in the East". It is composed by a collection of treatises of Buddhist and pre-Buddhist origin. The Voice of the Silence is a translation of three of these treatises. The original source for Light on the Path is also said to be one of these. Finally, the Book of Dzyan and The Book of Golden Precepts are said to belong to the same "series".

According to Mme. Blavatsky the knowledge of these treatises is obligatory:

The knowledge of them is obligatory in that school, the teachings of which are accepted by many Theosophists. Therefore, as I know many of these Precepts by heart, the work of translating has been relatively an easy task for me.[1]
She claims she learned thirty-nine of these treatises by heart.[2]

Physical description

H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

The original Precepts are engraved on thin oblong squares; copies very often on discs. These discs, or plates, are generally preserved on the altars of the temples attached to centres where the so-called "contemplative" or Mahayana (Yogacharya) schools are established.[3]

According to her, there are different copies written in different languages and systems:

They are written variously, sometimes in Tibetan but mostly in ideographs. The sacerdotal language (Senzar), besides an alphabet of its own, may be rendered in several modes of writing in cypher characters, which partake more of the nature of ideographs than of syllables. Another method (lug, in Tibetan) is to use the numerals and colours, each of which corresponds to a letter of the Tibetan alphabet (thirty simple and seventy-four compound letters) thus forming a complete cryptographic alphabet. When the ideographs are used there is a definite mode of reading the text; as in this case the symbols and signs used in astrology, namely the twelve zodiacal animals and the seven primary colours, each a triplet in shade, i.e. the light, the primary, and the dark — stand for the thirty-three letters of the simple alphabet, for words and sentences. For in this method, the twelve "animals" five times repeated and coupled with the five elements and the seven colours, furnish a whole alphabet composed of sixty sacred letters and twelve signs. A sign placed at the beginning of the text determines whether the reader has to spell it according to the Indian mode, when every word is simply a Sanskrit adaptation, or according to the Chinese principle of reading the ideographs. The easiest way however, is that which allows the reader to use no special, or any language he likes, as the signs and symbols were, like the Arabian numerals or figures, common and international property among initiated mystics and their followers.[4]

Content

Regarding its content, Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

The Book of the Golden Precepts — some of which are pre-Buddhistic while others belong to a later date — contains about ninety distinct little treatises.[5]
The work from which I here translate forms part of the same series as that from which the "Stanzas" of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which the Secret Doctrine is based. Together with the great mystic work called Paramartha, which, the legend of Nagarjuna tells us, was delivered to the great Arhat by the Nagas or "Serpents" (in truth a name given to the ancient Initiates), the "Book of the Golden Precepts" claims the same origin.[6]

Talking about treatises published in The Voice of the Silence, in a letter to Dr. J. D. Buck, she wrote:

I have translated them (from memory, for I knew 39 of them by heart) and people say it is as good, and some others-better-than the Light on the Path. The latter comes from the same old book, only put in a more modern language.[7]

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), v.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), ix.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), vii.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), vii-ix.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), ix.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), vi.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), 19a.