A COMPANION TO:
THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
Editor's Foreword (below)
Muriel Daw - a biography (below)
The Voice of The Silence is one of H.P. Blavatsky's last gifts to us. A Theosophical devotional classic - it concerns the true seeker's inner awakening and development. Herein is the choice between the compassionate path - that of the Bodhisattva - and the path for self alone - that of Nirvana.
Why does it seem desirable to produce a Companion to The Voice of the Silence?
It was H.P.B.’s last gift to us, and her group were the first in the West to treat a Buddhist Scripture with meditation and devotion. Therefore it has both historic and spiritual significance.
However, the phraseology is difficult. In Victorian times it was usual, as a matter of respect, to use Biblical language when translating foreign Scriptures; but nowadays this is never done, even with a Christian Bible, and many of the present generation are totally confused by phrases such as ‘thou mayest.’ An added problem is that some words have changed in meaning or usage during the last century.
Moreover our textbook was written in the poetic form of Victorian England, with many decorative inversions which seem rather alien to modern ears. The richness of ideas in the original language cannot possibly be replaced; nevertheless, even when slightly modernised, we can still accept the text as poetry — Truth which is seen for the first time in the imagination; then as symbol; then as experience in universal archetypes.
Another problem is the gorgeous proliferation of tongues which Madame Blavatsky used. She was greatly gifted and happily interspersed Sanskrit, Påli, Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, Senzar, Latin, which makes our task no easier. In this short text with its footnotes, she uses 247 foreign words or phrases. As very few students approaching this work are likely to be fluent in so many languages, it seems that a glossary could certainly be helpful.
This Companion has been prepared to help overcome some of the problems. It is a de-mystified version of the text for use by students, and is not, of course, to be used instead of the original; simply as a tool to help on the way.
We sympathise deeply with the Tibetans who have had to leave their own country, but with gratitude appreciate the spread of their Teaching, which has been a tremendous gain to the rest of the world. [We are reminded of the fall of Constantinople, when the ideas from its library poured abroad to enrich the Western World.]
Thanks to this lore of previously hidden Tibetan traditions, it has been possible to add some notes which may be of assistance to the student; and even to append a few traditional ideas to further develop the work she left for us over a hundred years ago.
Tekels Park, 1995
MURIEL DAW Biographical information
You may call me a Theosophist-Buddhist or a Buddhist-Theosophist. I answer happily to both. Theosophy gives the overall picture, and Mahayana Buddhism the individual practice. At the age of five I was fortunate enough to discover Theosophy in the Public Library in the shape of a book on Thought Forms by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater. This made far more sense than the ideas put forward in Sunday School, and I eagerly read the other books on the same shelf. Ten years later I discovered in the centre of London a whole library of such books. Wonderful! I Joined the Theosophical Society in 1942.
Then after the war, came further education, and making a living. Having started a bookshop with a friend, it fast grew into a group of shops, a wholesale company, a greeting-card publisher, a printing works, even a department store. At this stage, enough was enough. Surely there was more to life than being Director of a group of Limited Companies. Public Service might be more worthwhile and I became a Borough Councillor, but this, too, was empty of deeper meaning.
Then I discovered the London Buddhist Society, and Christmas Humphreys accepted me as a pupil. He, too, was Buddhist and Theosophist. Now life became meaningful. All spiritual experience arising out of meditation and insight must be digested and passed on in the form of teaching, writing, editing THE MIDDLE WAY, etc. The next years were spent in deepening my spiritual understanding - very hard work. I am especially grateful for the opportunity of visiting some Buddhist countries and teachers with Christmas Humphreys. Then for being allowed by Roshi Soen Nakagawa to have full training for a term in his Zen Monastery at the foot of Mount Fuji. Later I lived in a temple in Kyoto for eighteen months, and Abbot Ogata let me help him 'English' his translation of a Zen Classic from the Chinese; then some sessions in a temple atop the Shingon sacred Mountain - Koya-san: There the Acarya Soeda Ryushun very kindly gave me teaching in the Shingon Mandalas. This is the heart of the same esoteric Buddhist School which spread from Nagarjuna's monastery in Southern India (not so far from Adyar) northwards to Tibet where Madam Blavatsky studied it, and eastwards to China and Japan.
In 1983, I attended a Theosophical Summer School, and the General Secretary, Hugh Gray, invited me to come back and work with the Theosophical Society. I have been invited to give courses in England, Naarden, Krotona, and in Spring 1992 was Director of the School of the Wisdom in Adyar. So - here I am, learning and working as hard as I can. I am grateful to be invited to give this Blavatsky Lecture. I feel in a very privileged position if I can, owing to years of Buddhist training, follow H.P.B.'s work THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE by presenting to the Theosophical Society the extra Four Perfections. May all of us 'would-be' bodhisattvas find many sparkles of insight on the path, and pass on as much as we can.
Muriel Daw, Tekels Park, 1995