The Secret Doctrine vol. 1, Stanza I.4
(a) There are seven “Paths” or “Ways” to the bliss of Non-Exist-
* Nippang in China; Neibban in Burmah; or Moksha in India.
(b) The twelve Nidanas or causes of being. Each is the effect of its antecedent cause, and a cause, in its turn, to its successor; the sum total of the Nidanas being based on the four truths, a doctrine especially characteristic of the Hinayana System.* They belong to the theory of the stream of catenated law which produces merit and demerit, and finally brings Karma into full sway. It is based upon the great truth that re-incarnation is to be dreaded, as existence in this world only entails upon man suffering, misery and pain; Death itself being unable to deliver man from it, since death is merely the door through which he passes to another life on earth after a little rest on its threshold — Devachan. The Hinayana System, or School of the “Little Vehicle,” is of very ancient growth; while the Mahayana is of a later period, having originated after the death of Buddha. Yet the tenets of the latter are as old as the hills that have contained such schools from time immemorial, and the Hinayana and Mahayana Schools (the latter, that of the “Great Vehicle”) both teach the same doctrine in reality. Yana, or Vehicle (in Sanskrit, Vahan) is a mystic expression, both “vehicles” inculcating that man may escape the sufferings of rebirths and even the false bliss of Devachan, by obtaining Wisdom and Knowledge, which alone can dispel the Fruits of Illusion and Ignorance.
Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of streaks and daubs of colour, while an educated eye sees instantly a face or a landscape. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest Dhyan-Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised are therefore as real to him as himself. Whatever reality things possess must be looked for in them
* See Wassilief on Buddhism, pp. 97-950.
before or after they have passed like a flash through the material world; but we cannot cognise any such existence directly, so long as we have sense-instruments which bring only material existence into the field of our consciousness. Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality;” but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya.