We have been told that Prince Siddhartha, son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya, born in the ancient city of Kapila, was initiated into the archaic Wisdom by the great Teachers of the Snowy Mountains; that he ran so well as to outstrip his predecessors, attaining to a height of spiritual illumination and power rarely reached even by the greatest Masters; and that he determined, so far as was possible within the limits of pledged silence, to reveal the path of immortality to all who were willing to enter it, without regard to boundaries of race or restrictions of birth. So there were, among his immediate disciples, men and women of all castes, or of none; and his Arhats, in later generations, obeying the same principle of spiritual generosity, carried his teaching of the Path to nations outside India, to the East and West and North and South, thus establishing a universal brotherhood of seekers of the Light.

If Siddhartha the Compassionate, attaining to full illumination and recognized as the Buddha, held the steadfast purpose to let the light from the back of the heavens shine into all receptive hearts, we should expect to find in his teachings some unveiling, perhaps, of the hidden life of Masters, members of the great Lodge of Immortals; an unveiling which yet leaves a veil, so that the heedless and light-minded will pass it by, discerning nothing, or seeing the surface only; so that those alone who hold the clue of immortal aspiration will find the way to the hidden meaning.

Perhaps we are justified in thinking that, in one or more of the Suttas recording the Buddha’s teaching, there is such an unveiling, which nevertheless retains a veil; the realities are put on record, yet in a form that may be taken for a parable, or a fairy story with a conventional moral.

These Suttas would appear to belong to a period rather late in the Buddha’s public life, after he had been teaching through a long series of years, sowing the seeds of knowledge with a generous hand, up and down the broad central valley of the Ganges among many tribes, in many cities; a period so prolonged that a number of those who had heard and loved and followed him had already completed their earthly pilgrimage and had entered realms unseen by the eyes of men.

And it would seem that the Buddha, seeking to kindle the faith and fervour of his younger followers, and to bring to them a firmer realization of spiritual law and spiritual realms, had fallen into the habit of describing to them the attainment of one or another of his disciples, relating that such and such a level of spiritual light and life had been won by them, that they had entered one or another of the ascending spiritual worlds, and that destiny would thereafter open to them certain further opportunities.

At such a time, then, toward the close of his outward mission, the Master was dwelling at Nadika, where there was a hall built of brick, surrounded by many dwellings for his disciples; he had been telling his disciples, concerning those who had already completed their span of life and had gone forth to the higher worlds, that such a one had ascended to one world, such a one had ascended to another world; he had spoken of followers of his, among the people of Kasi and Kosala, of the Kurus and Panchalas and many others in the valley of the Ganges. He had spoken also of the people of Nadika, saying that more than fifty of them had broken the fetters of the lower nature, and, going forth from this world, had been reborn without parents in one of the spiritual worlds; more than ninety, of lesser attainment, had broken three of the fetters of the lower nature, wearing through the veils of passion and sin and delusion, so that at their first return to this world they would make an end of misery; more than five hundred had entered the river that flows to the ocean of immortality. And those of Nadika who heard this declaration of the Master rejoiced, with joy and gladness born in their hearts.

The noble Ananda also heard, and, hearing, pondered within his heart, thinking that there were also many disciples, followers of the Master, belonging to the land of Magadha; disciples who had followed the Buddha for many years, full of joy and faith in the Master, full of joy and faith in the Law of Righteousness, full of joy and faith in the Order, disciples who had completed their span of life and had gone forth to higher worlds; and that concerning these people of Magadha the Master had made no declaration. Yet such a declaration would bring peace to the hearts of many in Magadha, so that they would go forward rejoicing, in the good way. There was also Seniya Bimbasara, ruler of Magadha, righteous, a righteous king, beloved alike of Brahmans and householders, of the townsfolk and of all the people who united in speaking his praises; he had fulfilled his span of years and had gone forth, leaving a fair renown behind him. King Bimbasara also had been full of faith and joy in the Buddha, full of faith and joy in the Law of Righteousness, full of faith and joy in the Order. Yet concerning this righteous king the Master had made no declaration, though such a declaration would bring peace to the hearts of many in Magadha, so that they would go forward rejoicing, in the good way. Was it not among the people of Magadha that the Master had attained to Buddhahood? But if concerning his followers from among the people of Magadha, who had fulfilled their span of years and had gone forth, the Master made no declaration, the disciples of Magadha would be heavy hearted. How, then, should the Master not make a declaration regarding a matter because of which the disciples of Magadha were heavy hearted?

Thus the noble Ananda pondered with himself in secret; then rising when the night was ending with the coming of the dawn, he went to the dwelling of the Master, and, reverently saluting the Master, he seated himself at a little distance from him. Thus seated near the Master, the noble Ananda spoke to the Master of what was in his heart: the Master had made declarations concerning many disciples belonging to many tribes, disciples who had fulfilled their span of years and had gone forth, saying that one had gone to one spiritual realm and another to another; that those would return no more, that these, returning once, would make an end of misery; and, hearing this, peace had come to the hearts of many belonging to these tribes, and they had gone forward rejoicing, in the good way. Concerning the people of Nadika also, among whom they were even then dwelling, the Master had made a like declaration, bringing peace to the hearts of many. But with regard to the disciples of Magadha, in whose land the Master had attained to Buddhahood, no declaration had been made, nor had the Master said anything of King Bimbasara, righteous, a righteous king, who had been full of faith and joy in the Buddha, full of faith and joy in the Law of Righteousness, full of faith and joy in the Order, and who, having fulfilled his span of years, had gone forth from this world. Because of this, because the Master had made no declaration, the people of Magadha were heavy of heart. Thus the noble Ananda spoke of the matters he had pondered in secret, and having told these things to the Master face to face, rising from his seat, reverently saluting the Master and keeping his right side turned toward the Master, he departed.

Not long after the departure of the noble Ananda, when the day was coming toward noon, the Master, taking the saffron scarf which he wore across his shoulder, and taking also his mendicant bowl, went forth to the town of Nadika to receive an offering of food. Then, after the noonday meal, returning to his dwelling and washing the dust from his feet, he entered the brick hall and seated himself on the seat that had been prepared for him. Seated thus, he pondered concerning the disciples of the land of Magadha, with his whole consciousness intent upon the matter, determining within himself to seek and perceive the way they had taken, and what was their condition in the great beyond. Seeking thus, the Master perceived the way that had been taken by the disciples of Magadha who had gone forth, and what was their condition in the great beyond. Then, when evening was come, the Master rose from his meditation and, departing from the brick hall, returned to his own dwelling.

At that time the noble Ananda, going to the Master’s dwelling, reverently saluting him, seated himself at a little distance from him. Beholding the Master, the noble Ananda said:

“Master, thy appearance is serene and joyful! The face of my Master shines, as it were, in the serenity of all his powers! Today the Master’s heart is full of peace!”

“Regarding what thou saidest to me, Ananda, concerning the disciples of the land of Magadha, after I had gone to Nadika to receive food, and had returned, I entered the brick hall and, seating myself, intended my whole consciousness upon the matter, determined to seek and perceive the way that these disciples had taken, and what was their condition in the great beyond. Seeking thus, I perceived the way that they had taken, and what their condition was in the great beyond.”

The Buddha then entered upon the relation already alluded to, as being, perhaps, a revelation of the Lodge of Masters, in the form of a parable, or even a fairy story. The Buddha continued thus to Ananda:

“Thereupon, Ananda, a denizen of the spiritual world caused these words to be heard by me, while remaining invisible: ‘Leader-of-men am I, Master! Leader-of-men am I, Welcome One!’ Hast thou, Ananda, up to this time heard such a name as this, Leader-of-men?”

“I have not hitherto heard, Sire, such a name as Leader-of-men; nevertheless, hearing it, I marvel, so that my hair stands on end. And I think, Sire, that no lesser denizen of the spiritual world could bear such a name as this, Leader-of -men!”

“Immediately, Ananda, after he had caused these words to be heard, this denizen of the spiritual world, assuming a material form, became visible before me, face to face, and spoke thus: ‘Bimbasara am I, Master! Bimbasara am I, Welcome One! This is the seventh time now that I have been born into the presence of the Maharaja Vessavana. Going forth from life, ceasing to be a ruler of men, I am a ruler of those who are more than men, in the divine realm. Seven and seven lives do I know, fourteen lives, my dwellings in times gone by. Long time already do I know that I have passed beyond the state of bondage; I shall return to birth but once again.’

“Wonderful indeed, marvelous indeed, is this saying of the noble Leader-of-men: ‘Long time already do I know that I have passed beyond the state of bondage,’ sayest thou; ‘I shall return to birth but once again,’ sayest thou. What is the cause of this excellent attainment?”

“’None other than the teaching of the Master! None other than the teaching of the Welcome One! From what time I came to the Master, becoming his disciple, from that time have I known that I have passed beyond the state of bondage, and that I shall return to birth but once again. And now, Sire, I have been sent by the Maharaja Vessavana to the Maharaja Virulhaka on a certain matter, and passing on my way I saw the Master seated in the brick hall, pondering over the disciples of the land of Magadha, intending his whole consciousness upon the matter, determined to know what way these disciples had taken, and what was their condition in the great beyond. It so befell, Sire, that in the assembly of the Maharaja Vessavana I had heard and learned this very thing, face to face. Therefore, I bethought me that I would show and declare this matter to the Master. Seeing the question in the Master’s mind, and knowing the answer, for these two reasons I have come to show the matter to the Master! In days past, Sire, in days that are past, at the time of the sacred festival, all the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three were assembled in the Hall of Righteousness and were seated together; mighty was the divine assembly when they were all assembled together, with the Four Maharajas seated in the four directions. In the East was the Maharaja Dhatarattha, seated facing the West, before the Radiant Ones. In the South was the Maharaja Virulhaka, seated facing the North, before the Radiant Ones. In the West was the Maharaja Virupakka, seated facing the East, before the Radiant Ones. In the North was the Maharaja Vessavana, seated facing the South, before the Radiant Ones. When, Sire, all the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three were assembled in the Hall of Righteousness, and were seated, mighty was the divine assembly; the Four Maharajas were seated in the four directions, and we were seated behind them. And those Radiant Ones, Sire, who had served in the service of the Eternal under the Master, they who had come but recently to the Thirty-three, outshone the other Radiant Ones in beauty and in glory. Because of this, indeed, the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three rejoiced and exulted and were glad in heart, saying: “The ranks of the Divine are filled, the ranks of the powers of Evil are diminished!”

“’Thereupon, Sire, Indra, Chief of the Radiant Ones, beholding the great rejoicing of the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, joyfully uttered these sentences:

“’“The Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three with their Chief rejoice, paying homage to the Tathagata and to the righteousness of the Law of Righteousness. Beholding new Radiant Ones, rich in beauty and in glory, who have come hither after serving in the service of the Eternal under the Welcome One, these outshine the others in their beauty and their glory, disciples of him who is Mighty in Wisdom, come among us. Seeing this, the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three with their Chief rejoice, paying homage to the Tathagata and the righteousness of the Law of Righteousness.”

“’Thereupon, Sire, the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, rejoicing with still greater joy, exulted and were glad in heart, saying: “The ranks of the Divine are filled, the ranks of the powers of Evil are diminished.”’”

We may pause for a moment to consider the meaning of the Thirty-three. It would seem that each of the Four Maharajas, representing the four manifested spiritual rays, presides over seven degrees of Radiant Ones, so that we have four times seven, with the Four Maharajas and Indra, the Chief, added, making in all thirty-three. The significance of Sanatkumara, in the passages which follow, is suggested in one of the great Upanishads. He who was Bimbasara thus continues:

“’So, Sire, when the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, assembled in the Hall of Righteousness, had fully considered the purpose for which they had assembled and had taken counsel concerning it, when the Four Maharajas had duly recorded what had been considered and decided, when the Four Maharajas had completed the record, they remained each in his own place.

“’As they remained thus, Sire, radiant, serene in heart, there was born in the northern region a splendour of light, a bright shining became manifest surpassing even the radiant glory of the Radiant Ones. Thereupon Indra, the Chief of the Radiant Ones announced, “Venerable ones, according as these signs reveal, when this splendour of light is born and the bright shining is manifested, Brahma will be manifested, for these are the precedent signs for the manifestation of Brahma, the birth of the splendour and the shining of the light.”

“’The Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, seated each on his seat, spoke thus, “We shall know the splendour and what will proceed from it, we shall see face to face!” The Four Maharajas also, each seated on his seat, spoke thus, “We shall know the splendour and what will proceed from it, we shall see face to face!” Hearing this, the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three concentrated, full of serenity, responded, “We shall know the splendour and what will proceed from it, we shall see face to face!”

“’When, Sire, Brahma Sanatkumara makes himself manifest to the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, he fashions for himself a visible, objective form, because the form of Brahma, as he is in his proper being, cannot be perceived by the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three through the pathway of the eyes. When Brahma Sanatkumara makes himself manifest to the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three he outshines the other Radiant Ones in beauty and in glory. As a statue of gold outshines a human body even so, verily, when Brahma Sanatkumara becomes manifest to the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, does he outshine the other Radiant Ones in beauty and in glory. When Brahma Sanatkumara makes himself manifest to the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, no one of the Radiant Ones speaks in his presence, nor does any rise from his seat, nor does any offer a seat. All remain silent, with palms pressed together in reverent adoration, thinking thus within themselves, “Whomsoever of the Radiant Ones Brahma Sanatkumara shall wish, he will seat himself beside him.” When Brahma Sanatkumara thus seats himself beside any one of the Radiant Ones, that Radiant One receives a glorious accession of illumination, he receives a glorious accession of joy. As when a warrior King is anointed and invested with sovereignty, he receives a glorious accession of illumination, he receives a glorious accession of joy, even so, when Brahma Sanatkumara seats himself beside any one of the Radiant Ones that Radiant One receives a glorious accession of illumination, he receives a glorious accession of joy.

“’So, Sire, Brahma Sanatkumara, having fashioned for himself a visible objective form, becoming as a Luminous Youth adorned with a fivefold crest, made himself manifest to the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three Rising in the air, he remained seated in the mid-region of space. As, Sire, a mighty man might seat himself upon a bench, or on a seat upon the earth, even so, verily Brahma Sanatkumara, rising in the air, remained seated in the mid-region of space. Beholding the assembly of the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, he addressed to them these sentences:

“’“The Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three rejoice together with their Chief, making obeisance to the Tathagata and to the righteousness of the Law of Righteousness, beholding new Radiant Ones, rich in beauty, rich in glory, who have served in the service of the Eternal under the Welcome One, and have come hither. They outshine the other Radiant Ones in beauty and in glory and in power, coming hither, disciples of him who is Perfect in Wisdom. Beholding this, the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three rejoice with their Chief, making obeisance to the Tathagata and to the righteousness of the Law of Righteousness.”

“’Thus, Sire, did Brahma Sanatkumara speak. As Brahma Sanatkumara spoke thus, his voice had eight qualities: it was clearly enounced, easily understood, in tone delightful, well heard, limpid, concentrated, deep, resounding. While Brahma Sanatkumara addressed the assembly, his voice did not go outside the assembly. Of whatever voice there are these eight qualities, that voice is called a Brahma-voice.

“’Then Brahma Sanatkumara, fashioning for himself thirty-three forms such as are the forms of the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, seating himself on the several seats beside each one of the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, spoke thus:

“’“What think the worthy Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three? So ardently does the Master desire the welfare of mankind, the happiness of mankind, with heart of compassion for the whole world, seeking the fulfilment, the welfare, the happiness of Radiant Ones and men. For they who have taken refuge in the Buddha, who have taken refuge in the Law of Righteousness, who have taken refuge in the Order, they, verily, separated from the body, after death, are born into the company of the Radiant Ones of the sixth and highest realm of Devaloka, or into the company of the Radiant Ones of the fifth realm of Devaloka, or into the company of the Radiant Ones of the fourth realm of Devaloka, or into the company of the Radiant Ones of the third realm of Devaloka, or into the company of the Radiant Ones of the second realm of Devaloka, or into the company of the Radiant Ones of the first realm of Devaloka, while they who attain to a body of lesser excellence, they indeed, put on bodies like those of the heavenly musicians.”

“’To this purpose, Sire, spoke Brahma Sanatkumara. While Brahma Sanatkumara spoke to this purpose, each of the Radiant Ones thought: “He who is seated beside me, he alone, verily is speaking!”

“’Thereafter, Sire, Brahma Sanatkumara gathered himself together into a single form, and, having gathered himself together into a single form, and seating himself beside Indra, the Chief, thus addressed the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three:

“’“What think the worthy Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three? Has not the Master, he who knows, he who sees, the Arhat fully illuminated, well declared and made known the four bases of spiritual power, for the attainment of spiritual power, for the development of spiritual power, for the expansion of spiritual power? What are these four bases? The first basis is ardent desire and aspiration attaining to excellence through concentration and effort; the second is manly courage attaining to excellence through concentration and effort; the third is right imagination attaining to excellence through concentration and effort; the fourth is right insight attaining to excellence through concentration and effort. These four bases of spiritual power have been made known by the Master, he who knows, he who sees, the Arhat fully illuminated, for the attainment of spiritual power, for the development of spiritual power, for the expansion of spiritual power. Whoever, in the times that are past, among those who strive, seekers of the Eternal, have attained in any measure to spiritual power, all these have attained through increasing and abounding in these four bases. Whoever, in the times that are not yet come, among those who strive, seekers of the Eternal, shall attain in any measure to spiritual power, all these shall attain through increasing and abounding in these four bases. Whoever at the present time, among those who strive, seekers of the Eternal, are attaining in any measure to spiritual power, they are attaining through increasing and abounding in these four bases. Do the worthy Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three behold this transcendent form and power of mine?”

“’“Verily so, Brahma!”

“’“I also have attained this transcendent form and power through increasing and abounding in these four bases.”’”

Perhaps it would be best to leave this strange and magnificent story without commentary, for intuition to seek its hidden meaning. Yet it may be helpful to bring together certain parallels from The Secret Doctrine.

The fifth Section of Stanza V records that “Fohat takes five strides, and builds a winged wheel at each corner of the square for the Four Holy Ones and their Armies.” Commenting on this, the author tells us that, from a cosmic point of view, Fohat taking “Five Strides” refers here to the five upper planes of Consciousness and Being, the sixth and the seventh (counting downwards) being the astral and the terrestrial, or the two lower planes. These seven would seem to correspond to the six degrees or planes of Devaloka, above the plane of the celestial musicians, making seven in all as recounted by Sanatkumara. The author goes on to explain the Four Winged Wheels at each corner for the Four Holy Ones and their Hosts, telling us that these are the Four Maharajas, or great Kings, of the Dhyan Chohans, the Devas (or Radiant Ones) who preside each over one of the four cardinal points. They are the Regents who rule over the Cosmical Forces of North, South, East and West, Forces having each a distinct Occult property. These Beings are also connected with Karma, as the latter needs physical and material agents to carry out its decrees. This would seem to be the reason why the Buddha, or he who was King Bimbasara, his informant, depicts the Four Maharajas as Recorders, putting on record the decisions of the assembly of the Radiant Ones in the Hall of Righteousness, at the time of the holy festival.

Again, we may find a parallel for the mysterious and majestic Sanatkumara, the brooding Divinity above the assembled Radiant Ones, in a later passage of The Secret Doctrine, in the Commentary on the seventh Section of Stanza VI. There we are told of a Wondrous Being, called the “Initiator,” and after him a group of semi-divine and semi-human Beings. We are further told that the Being referred to is the Tree from which, in subsequent ages, all the great historically known Sages and Hierophants have branched forth. As objective man, he is the mysterious (to the profane—the ever invisible, yet ever present) Personage, about whom legends are rife in the East, especially among the Occultists and the students of the Sacred Science. It is he who changes form, yet remains ever the same. And it is he, again, who holds spiritual sway over the initiated Adepts throughout the whole world. He is the “Narneless One” who has so many names and yet whose names and whose very nature are unknown. He is the “Initiator,” called the “Great Sacrifice.” For, sitting at the Threshold of Light, he looks into it from within the Circle of Darkness, which he will not cross; nor will he quit his post till the last Day of this Life-Cycle.

“Why does the Solitary Watcher remain at his self-chosen post? Why does he sit by the Fountain of Primeval Wisdom, of which he drinks no longer, for he has naught to learn which he does not know—aye, neither on this Earth, nor in its Heaven? Because the lonely, sore-footed Pilgrims, on their journey back to their Home, are never sure, to the last moment, of not losing their way, in this limitless desert of Illusion and Matter called Earth-Life. Because he would fain show the way to that region of freedom and light, from which he is a voluntary exile himself, to every prisoner who has succeeded in liberating himself from the bonds of flesh and illusion. Because, in short, he has sacrificed himself for the sake of Mankind, though but a few elect may profit by the Great Sacrifice. It is under the direct, silent guidance of this Maha-Guru that all other less divine Teachers and Instructors of Mankind became, from the first awakening of human consciousness, the guides of early Humanity.”

One passage more from The Secret Doctrine, which we may compare with the dosing words of the great Sanatkumara: “The Doctrine teaches that, in order to become a divine, fully conscious God—aye, even the highest—the Spiritual Primeval Intelligences must pass through the human stage.” Or, as Sanatkumara says: “I also have attained this transcendent form and power through increasing and abounding in these four bases.” We might well consider how far the four bases are available for ourselves.