Chapter 6:

The Stanzas of Zen

There are at least three main indicators of the truth of the proposition that the essence of the Secret Doctrine is human transformation. One of these is to be found in the text itself of the Secret Doctrine. A second may be deduced from the explicit connection that HPB makes between the Voice of the Silence and the Stanzas of Dzyan, the latter being the foundation text for the Secret Doctrine. A third indicator comes from the recently discovered fact that the Stanzas are either culled from, or are the source for, the Kalachakra Tantra--the most highly regarded esoteric teaching of Tibet. Each of these indicators will be explored in turn in this and the next two chapters, and then the question of connections with Krishnamurti will be briefly examined in the final chapter.

The Stanzas of Dzyan

The meaning of the word "Dzyan" is provided by HPB and her teachers in the Secret Doctrine. She refers to the "Book of Dzyan--from the Sanskrit word 'Dhyan' (mystic meditation)."1 Why not call it simply "meditation" and let it go at that? In a short footnote at the very beginning of the Secret Doctrine, it is stated that "Dan, in modern Chinese and Tibetan phonetics Ch'an, is the general term for the esoteric schools and their literature," and that the related word Janna was defined in the old texts as "a second inner birth."2 In other words, what the authors of the Secret Doctrine mean by "meditation," and what the Stanzas of Dzyan are about, is human transformation, which takes place mystically, not as the result of a practice or of the acceptance of certain ideas.

A way of referring to this main source of all theosophical teaching that would be perhaps more meaningful to an audience of a hundred years later, would be The Stanzas of Zen, as Dzyan, according to Blavatsky, is a synonym of the Japanese "Zen." In the Theosophical Glossary, for instance, she offers for "Dzyan" the alternate spellings "Dzyn" and "Dzen."3 Unfortunately, the original intention behind Zen seems to have been largely lost: Zen has been identified in the minds of many as a method for obtaining enlightenment; but methods and systems are mechanical, time-bound, and therefore are not transformative.

The Stanzas of Dzyan can then be seen as being primarily a book of koans (to appropriately borrow a term from Zen) about the nature of the life of transformation. Koans are intended not either to educate or to still the mind. They hopefully provoke the ruminative chaos that might help accelerate the brain's thoroughly giving up on itself. Thereby is created the space for the mystical mind to manifest in that true state of meditation of primary interest to all of the world's perennial schools.

Space and sunyatta

The early stanzas, particularly, deal with the question of "Space." From the psychological perspective, "Space," as it is discussed in the Secret Doctrine, refers to sunya or sunyatta. This is the state of awareness that happens when what normally passes for "living" is surrendered to the uninterrupted flow of that which is truly original. This vital living is empty of conceptual content, empty of expectations, empty of identifications; in one word, it is sunya.

There is a danger implicit in interpreting the "Space" of the Stanzas as if it were exclusively a metaphysical concept to be "understood" and discussed in more or less intellectual terms. Such discussions tend to strengthen the me--ever ready for new "adventures" in its own expansion, which is what these intellectual excursions always are. Yet that is what has been done almost exclusively in Secret Doctrine studies. In that milieu, the term has come to have a meaning along the more or less Biblical lines of "In the beginning, there was Space."

It is not too difficult to recognize how such a metaphysically-oriented study of the Secret Doctrine's "Space" may possibly be intellectually exciting to some. Yet, in spite of the enchanting attraction of such a story-telling approach, the fact is that it has very little to do with the life of transformation. Nor does it seem to have much to do with true understanding of the perennial teaching, which according to HPB and her teachers comes from a source other than the intellect.

According to the Voice of the Silence, understanding of the inner doctrine comes only to those actually involved in the life of transformation.4 Therefore (this fundamental source proposes), a real understanding of what is meant in the Stanzas by "Space" is likely to be found only in the act of transformation. The actual state of awareness (or state of being) that takes place when there is no attachment to any of the things of the conditioned mind makes it possible to understand directly the workings of the universe, partly because it implies a cleaning of all conditioning.

There is obviously a radical difference between being in that state of awareness, and holding onto ideas about attachment. Therefore, it is only in that transformed state, unencumbered by any of the unquestioned prejudices of one's past, that it would be possible to really understand anything of significance. It is probably precisely because the inner teachings can only take place in the context of that state of transformation--something that would only happen in the aloneness of one's being--that they are referred to as "the Doctrine of the Heart."


1 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, op. cit., vol. 5, p. 389.

2 Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 44.

3 H.P. Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary, London: The Theosophical Publishing Society, 1892, p. 107.

4 Transformation is the subject of the whole book. See, for instance, Blavatsky, Voice of the Silence, op. cit., fragments 4, 5, 19, 32, 33, 51, 56, 63 and 64.

The Secret Doctrine | Victorian Theosophy | Victorian Zen | The Mystery Language | Seven Keys
The Stanzas of Zen | The Voice of the Silence | The Kalachakra Tantra | Krishnamurti and Transformation

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