From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.English
Subject: HPB's cosmology: Sikh?
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2000
I have been one of the ones on this list that has argued that HPB's cosmology might be, structurally, a form of Bon Dzog chen (Bon have a monadic "I am" - "aham" - instead of an atman or a clear anatman doctrine) mixed with a rather confused Sufi theosophy about astro-historical cycles.
But given the close association of her with Sikhs, I wonder if this needs modification since the Sikh cosmology is developed out of Vaisnava, Sufi, and Tantric Buddhism (nyingmapa). The second Sikh Guru, after Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, claimed that he was teaching the true Wisdom Bodhism (also, Bhaism or Bhai Sensar) from the esoteric root tradition of Vaisnava Hinduism, Islam, and Tantric Buddhism.
1. According to the scholars Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi, there is a Sikh and western Tantric Buddhist connection. Otherwise, Sikh cosmology is the northern Srivaisnava cosmology with Sufi elements added. The two main Sufi elements are (1) an astro-historical apocalyptic scheme that structures a legendary history of the planet's evolution of races and religions based on the number seven, and (2), the addition to the Srivaisnava cosmology of an intermediate plane above the etheric (pranic, akasic) and below the mental plane which also involved the addition of a subtle body above the pranamayakosa (the vital etheric sheath of the physical body or stula sarira, which has, besides the pranic sheath the lower gross chemical-food sheath or annamayakosa) but below the two sheaths (manomayakosa and vijnanamayakosa or buddhomayakosa) of the subtle body or suksma sarira. This new intermediate realm and body between the etheric and mental that the Sikhs introduced into the Srivaisnava cosmology comes from the Sufi jasad i hurqalyavi or hurqalyi jism. This is the realm of desires, dreams, and imaginations between the physical and intellectual worlds that the Latin alchemists, when translating these Sufi texts, called the celestial or astral body. It is historically conclusive that neither Buddhist nor Hindu cosmologies had an astral body. Their schemes went from the two sheaths (i.e., annamayakosa and pranamayakosa) of the physical body (stula sarira) to the mental (manomayakosa) and buddhic (vijnanamayakosa or buddhomayakosa) sheaths of the subtle body (suksma sarira - then beyond, the final sheath was the anandamayakosa of the causal body or karana sarira). It is the Sikh's who, borrowing from the Sufi's, first introduce an astral body and plane within this Indian scheme long before HPB. And it was they and only they that had the scheme. To this day, neither Buddhists nor Hindus have added an astral body to their scheme.
2. According to early Russian writers and observers of HPB's theosophy, as noted also by P.D.Ouspensky, her cosmology is essentially the northern Srivaisnava cosmology with TWO modifications: the theistic Purushottamo Isvara was eliminated in favor of a more Buddhist kind of absolute and the introduction within the srivaisnava scheme of an astral body. The Russia writers made no connection of this introduction of an astral body in HPB's scheme with the Sikh's. They thought it was a "spiritualist accretion" modifying and/or distorting Buddhist and Hindu teaching.
3. K.Paul Johnson has shown just how intimate and enduring HPB's connection with the Sikhs was.