The Seven Portals
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
“pâdhyâya, the choice is made, I thirst for Wisdom. Now hast thou rent the veil before the secret Path and taught the greater Yâna. Thy servant here is ready for thy guidance.”
‘Tis well, Śrâvaka. Prepare thyself, for thou wilt have to travel on alone. The Teacher can but point the way. The Path is one for all, the means to reach the goal must vary with the Pilgrims.
Which wilt thou choose, O thou of dauntless heart? The Samtan of “eye Doctrine,” four-fold Dhyâna, or thread thy way through Pâramitâs, six in number, noble gates of virtue leading to Bodhi and to Prajñâ, seventh step of Wisdom?
The rugged Path of four-fold Dhyâna winds on uphill. Thrice great is he who climbs the lofty top.
The Pâramitâ heights are crossed by a still steeper path. Thou hast to fight thy way through portals seven, seven strongholds held by cruel crafty Powers — passions incarnate.
Be of good cheer, Disciple; bear in mind the golden rule. Once thou hast passed the gate Srotâpatti, “he who the stream hath entered”; once thy foot hath pressed the bed of the Nirvânic stream in this or any future life, thou hast but seven other births before thee, O thou of adamantine Will.
Look on. What see’st thou before thine eye, O aspirant to god-like Wisdom?
“The cloak of darkness is upon the deep of matter; within its folds I struggle. Beneath my gaze it deepens, Lord; it is dispelled beneath the waving of thy hand. A shadow moveth, creeping like the stretching serpent coils… It grows, swells out and disappears in darkness.”
It is the shadow of thyself outside the Path, cast on the darkness of thy sins.
“Yea, Lord; I see the PATH; its foot in mire, its summits lost in glorious light Nirvânic. And now I see the ever narrowing Portals on the hard and thorny way to Jñâna.” (Knowledge, Wisdom.)
Thou seest well, Lanoo. These Portals lead the aspirant across the waters on “to the other shore”. Each Portal hath a golden key that openeth its gate; and these keys are: —
1. Dâna, the key of charity and love immortal.
2. Shîla, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
3. Kshânti, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
4. Virâg’, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived.
5. Vîrya, the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial.
6. Dhyâna, whose golden gate once opened leads the Naljor*(*A saint, an adept) toward the realm of Sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.
7. Prajñâ, the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyânis.
Such to the Portals are the golden keys.
Before thou canst approach the last, O weaver of thy freedom, thou hast to master these Pâramitâs of perfection — the virtues transcendental six and ten in number — along the weary Path.
For, O Disciple! Before thou wert made fit to meet thy Teacher face to face, thy MASTER light to light, what wert thou told?
Before thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy body from thy mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things, all things in SELF.
Thou shalt not let thy senses make a playground of thy mind.
Thou shalt not separate thy being from BEING, and the rest, but merge the Ocean in the drop, the drop within the Ocean.
So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother.
Of teachers there are many; the MASTER-SOUL is one, Alaya, the Universal Soul. Live in that MASTER as Its ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they live in It.
Before thou standest on the threshold of the Path; before thou crossest the foremost Gate, thou hast to merge the two into the One and sacrifice the personal to SELF impersonal, and thus destroy the “path” between the two — Antahkarana.
Thou hast to be prepared to answer Dharma, the stern law, whose voice will ask thee at thy first, at thy initial step:
“Hast thou complied with all the rules, O thou of lofty hopes?”
“Hast thou attuned thy heart and mind to the great mind and heart of all mankind? For as the sacred River’s roaring voice whereby all Nature-sounds are echoed back, so must the heart of him ‘who in the stream would enter,’ thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and breathes.”
Disciples may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing Vînâ; mankind, unto its sounding board; the hand that sweeps it to the tuneful breath of the great world-soul. The string that fails to answer ‘neath the Master’s touch in dulcet harmony with all the others, breaks — and is cast away. So the collective minds of Lanoo-Śrâvakas. They have to be attuned to the Upâdhyâya’s mind — one with the Over-Soul — or, break away.
Thus do the “Brothers of the Shadow” — the murderers of their Souls, the dread Dad-Dugpa clan.
Hast thou attuned thy being to Humanity’s great pain, O candidate for light?
Thou hast? … Thou mayest enter. Yet, ere thou settest foot upon the dreary Path of sorrow, ’tis well thou should’st first learn the pitfalls on thy way.
Armed with the key of Charity, of love and tender mercy, thou art secure before the gate of Dâna, the gate that standeth at the entrance of the path.
Behold, O happy Pilgrim! The portal that faceth thee is high and wide, seems easy of access. The road that leads therethrough is straight and smooth and green. ‘Tis like a sunny glade in the dark forest depths, a spot on earth mirrored from Amitâbha’s paradise. There, nightingales of hope and birds of radiant plumage sing perched in green bowers, chanting success to fearless Pilgrims. They sing of Bodhisattvas’ virtues five, the fivefold source of Bodhi power, and of the seven steps in Knowledge.
Pass on! For thou hast brought the key; thou art secure.
And to the second gate the way is verdant too. But it is steep and winds up hill; yea, to its rocky top. Grey mists will over-hang its rough and stony height, and all be dark beyond. As on he goes, the song of hope soundeth more feeble in the pilgrim’s heart. The thrill of doubt is now upon him; his step less steady grows.
Beware of this, O candidate! Beware of fear that spreadeth, like the black and soundless wings of midnight bat, between the moonlight of thy Soul and thy great goal that loometh in the distance far away.
Fear, O disciple, kills the will and stays all action. If lacking in the Śîla virtue, — the pilgrim trips, and Karmic pebbles bruise his feet along the rocky path.
Be of sure foot, O candidate. In Kshânti’s* (*Kshânti, “patience,” vide supra the enumeration of the golden keys.) essence bathe thy Soul; for now thou dost approach the portal of that name, the gate of fortitude and patience.
Close not thine eyes, nor lose thy sight of Dorje; Mâra’s arrows ever smite the man who has not reached Virâga* (*Ibid.).
Beware of trembling. ‘Neath the breath of fear the key of Kshânti rusty grows: the rusty key refuseth to unlock.
The more thou dost advance, the more thy feet pitfalls will meet. The path that leadeth on, is lighted by one fire — the light of daring, burning in the heart. The more one dares, the more he shall obtain. The more he fears, the more that light shall pale — and that alone can guide. For as the lingering sunbeam, that on the top of some tall mountain shines, is followed by black night when out it fades, so is heart-light. When out it goes, a dark and threatening shade will fall from thine own heart upon the path, and root thy feet in terror to the spot.
Beware, disciple, of that lethal shade. No light that shines from Spirit can dispel the darkness of the nether Soul, unless all selfish thought has fled therefrom, and that the pilgrim saith: “I have renounced this passing frame; I have destroyed the cause: the shadows cast can, as effects, no longer be.”
For now the last great fight, the final war between the Higher and the Lower Self, hath taken place. Behold, the very battlefield is now engulphed in the great war, and is no more.
But once that thou hast passed the gate of Kshânti, step the third is taken. Thy body is thy slave. Now, for the fourth prepare, the Portal of temptations which do ensnare the inner man.
Ere thou canst near that goal, before thine hand is lifted to upraise the fourth gate’s latch, thou must have mustered all the mental changes in thy Self and slain the army of the thought sensations that, subtle and insidious, creep unasked within the Soul’s bright shrine.
If thou would’st not be slain by them, then must thou harmless make thy own creations, the children of thy thoughts, unseen, impalpable, that swarm round humankind, the progeny and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils. Thou hast to study the voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the seeming void. O fearless Aspirant, look deep within the well of thine own heart, and answer. Knowest thou of Self the powers, O thou perceiver of external shadows?
If thou dost not — then art thou lost.
For, on Path fourth, the lightest breeze of passion or desire will stir the steady light upon the pure white walls of Soul. The smallest wave of longing or regret for Mâyâ’s gifts illusive, along Antahkarana — the path that lies between thy Spirit and thy self, the highway of sensations, the rude arousers of Ahankâra — a thought as fleeting as the lightning flash will make thee thy three prizes forfeit — the prizes thou hast won.
For know, that the ETERNAL knows no change.
“The eight dire miseries forsake for evermore. If not, to wisdom, sure, thou can’st not come, nor yet to liberation,” saith the great Lord, the Tathâgata of perfection, “he who has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors.”.
Stern and exacting is the virtue of Virâga. If thou its path would’st master, thou must keep thy mind and thy perceptions far freer than before from killing action.
Thou hast to saturate thyself with pure Alaya, become as one with Nature’s Soul-Thought. At one with it thou art invincible; in separation, thou becomest the playground of Samvriti, origin of all the world’s delusions.
All is impermanent in man except the pure bright essence of Alaya. Man is its crystal ray; a beam of light immaculate within, a form of clay material upon the lower surface. That beam is thy life-guide and thy true Self, the Watcher and the silent Thinker, the victim of thy lower Self. Thy Soul cannot be hurt but through thy erring body; control and master both, and thou art safe when crossing to the nearing “Gate of Balance.”
Be of good cheer, O daring pilgrim “to the other shore.” Heed not the whisperings of Mâra’s hosts; wave off the tempters, those ill-natured Sprites, the jealous Lhamayin in endless space.
Hold firm! Thou nearest now the middle portal, the gate of Woe, with its ten thousand snares.
Have mastery o’er thy thoughts, O striver for perfection, if thou would’st cross its threshold.
Have mastery o’er thy Soul, O seeker after truths undying, if thou would’st reach the goal.
Thy Soul-gaze centre on the One Pure Light, the Light that is free from affection, and use thy golden Key…
The dreary task is done, thy labour well-nigh o’er. The wide abyss that gaped to swallow thee is almost spanned…
Thou hast now crossed the moat that circles round the gate of human passions. Thou hast now conquered Mâra and his furious host.
Thou hast removed pollution from thine heart and bled it from impure desire. But, O thou glorious combatant, thy task is not yet done. Build high, Lanoo, the wall that shall hedge in the Holy Isle,* (*The Higher Ego, or Thinking Self.) the dam that will protect thy mind from pride and satisfaction at thoughts of the great feat achieved.
A sense of pride would mar the work. Aye, build it strong, lest the fierce rush of battling waves, that mount and beat its shore from out the great World Mâyâ’s Ocean, swallow up the pilgrim and the isle — yea, even when the victory’s achieved.
Thine “Isle” is the deer, thy thoughts the hounds that weary and pursue his progress to the stream of Life. Woe to the deer that is o’ertaken by the barking fiends before he reach the Vale of Refuge — Jñâna Mârga, “path of pure knowledge” named.
Ere thou canst settle in Jñâna Mârga and call it thine, thy Soul has to become as the ripe mango fruit: as soft and sweet as its bright golden pulp for others’ woes, as hard as that fruit’s stone for thine own throes and sorrows, O Conqueror of Weal and Woe.
Make hard thy Soul against the snares of Self; deserve for it the name of “Diamond-Soul.”.
For, as the diamond buried deep within the throbbing heart of earth can never mirror back the earthly lights; so are thy mind and Soul; plunged in Jñâna Mârga, these must mirror nought of Mâyâ’s realm illusive.
When thou hast reached that state, the Portals that thou hast to conquer on the Path fling open wide their gates to let thee pass, and Nature’s strongest mights possess no power to stay thy course. Thou wilt be master of the sevenfold Path: but not till then, O candidate for trials passing speech.
Till then, a task far harder still awaits thee: thou hast to feel thyself ALL-THOUGHT, and yet exile all thoughts from out thy Soul.
Thou hast to reach that fixity of mind in which no breeze, however strong, can waft an earthly thought within. Thus purified, the shrine must of all action, sound, or earthly light be void; e’en as the butterfly, o’ertaken by the frost, falls lifeless at the threshold — so must all earthly thoughts fall dead before the fane.
Behold it written:
“Ere the gold flame can burn with steady light, the lamp must stand well guarded in a spot free from all wind.”* (*Bhagavadgîtâ.) Exposed to shifting breeze, the jet will flicker and the quivering flame cast shades deceptive, dark and ever-changing, on the Soul’s white shrine.
And then, O thou pursuer of the truth, thy Mind-Soul will become as a mad elephant, that rages in the jungle. Mistaking forest trees for living foes, he perishes in his attempts to kill the ever-shifting shadows dancing on the wall of sunlit rocks.
Beware, lest in the care of Self thy Soul should lose her foothold on the soil of Deva-knowledge.
Beware, lest in forgetting SELF, thy Soul lose o’er its trembling mind control, and forfeit thus the due fruition of its conquests.
Beware of change! For change is thy great foe. This change will fight thee off, and throw thee back, out of the Path thou treadest, deep into viscous swamps of doubt.
Prepare, and be forewarned in time. If thou hast tried and failed, O dauntless fighter, yet lose not courage: fight on and to the charge return again, and yet again.
The fearless warrior, his precious life-blood oozing from his wide and gaping wounds, will still attack the foe, drive him from out his stronghold, vanquish him, ere he himself expires. Act then, all ye who fail and suffer, act like him; and from the stronghold of your Soul, chase all your foes away — ambition, anger, hatred, e’en to the shadow of desire — when even you have failed…
Remember, thou that fightest for man’s liberation, each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time. The holy germs that sprout and grow unseen in the disciple’s soul, their stalks wax strong at each new trial, they bend like reeds but never break, nor can they e’er be lost. But when the hour has struck they blossom forth. . .
But if thou cam’st prepared, then have no fear.
Henceforth thy way is clear right through the Vîrya gate, the fifth one of the Seven Portals. Thou art now on the way that leadeth to the Dhyâna haven, the sixth, the Bodhi Portal.
The Dhyâna gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Prajñâ that radiates from Âtman.
Thou art that vase.
Thou hast estranged thyself from objects of the senses, travelled on the “Path of seeing,” on the “Path of hearing,” and standest in the light of Knowledge. Thou hast now reached Titikshâ state.
O Naljor thou art safe.
Know, Conqueror of Sins, once that a Sowanee hath cross’d the seventh Path, all Nature thrills with joyous awe and feels subdued. The silver star now twinkles out the news to the night-blossoms, the streamlet to the pebbles ripples out the tale; dark ocean-waves will roar it to the rocks surf-bound, scent-laden breezes sing it to the vales, and stately pines mysteriously whisper: “A Master has arisen, a master of the day.”.
He standeth now like a white pillar to the west, upon whose face the rising Sun of thought eternal poureth forth its first most glorious waves. His mind, like a becalmed and boundless ocean, spreadeth out in shoreless space. He holdeth life and death in his strong hand.
Yea, He is mighty. The living power made free in him, that power which is himself, can raise the tabernacle of illusion high above the gods, above great Brahm and Indra. Now he shall surely reach his great reward!
Shall he not use the gifts which it confers for his own rest and bliss, his well-earn’d weal and glory — he, the subduer of the great Delusion?
Nay, O thou candidate for Nature’s hidden lore! If one would follow in the steps of holy Tathâgata, those gifts and powers are not for Self.
Would’st thou thus dam the waters born on Sumeru? Shalt thou divert the stream for thine own sake, or send it back to its prime source along the crests of cycles?
If thou would’st have that stream of hard-earn’d knowledge, of Wisdom heaven-born, remain sweet running waters, thou should’st not leave it to become a stagnant pond.
Know, if of Amitâbha, the “Boundless Age,” thou would’st become co-worker, then must thou shed the light acquired, like to the Bodhisattvas twain, upon the span of all three worlds.
Know that the stream of superhuman knowledge and the Deva-Wisdom thou hast won, must, from thyself, the channel of Alaya, be poured forth into another bed.
Know, O Naljor, thou of the Secret Path, its pure fresh waters must be used to sweeter make the Ocean’s bitter waves — that mighty sea of sorrow formed of the tears of men.
Alas! when once thou hast become like the fix’d star in highest heaven, that bright celestial orb must shine from out the spatial depths for all — save for itself; give light to all, but take from none.
Alas! when once thou hast become like the pure snow in mountain vales, cold and unfeeling to the touch, warm and protective to the seed that sleepeth deep beneath its bosom — ’tis now that snow which must receive the biting frost, the northern blasts, thus shielding from their sharp and cruel tooth the earth that holds the promised harvest, the harvest that will feed the hungry.
Self-doomed to live through future Kalpas,* (*Cycles of ages.) unthanked and unperceived by man; wedged as a stone with countless other stones which form the “Guardian Wall”, such is thy future if the seventh gate thou passest. Built by the hands of many Masters of Compassion, raised by their tortures, by their blood cemented, it shields mankind, since man is man, protecting it from further and far greater misery and sorrow.
Withal man sees it not, will not perceive it, nor will he heed the word of Wisdom … for he knows it not.
But thou hast heard it, thou knowest all, O thou of eager guileless Soul … and thou must choose. Then hearken yet again.
On Sowan’s Path, O Srotâpatti,* (*Sowan and Srotâpatti are synonymous terms.)
thou art secure. Aye, on that Mârga, (Mârga — “Path.”)
where nought but darkness meets the weary pilgrim, where torn by thorns the hands drip blood, the feet are cut by sharp unyielding flints, and Mâra wields his strongest arms — there lies a great reward immediately beyond.
Calm and unmoved the Pilgrim glideth up the stream that to Nirvâna leads. He knoweth that the more his feet will bleed, the whiter will himself be washed. He knoweth well that after seven short and fleeting births Nirvâna will be his…
Such is the Dhyâna Path, the haven of the Yogi, the blessed goal that Srotâpattis crave.
Not so when he hath crossed and won the Aryahata Path.* (*From the Sanskrit Arhat or Arhan.)
There Kleśa is destroyed for ever, Tanhâ’s roots torn out. But stay, Disciple . . . Yet, one word. Canst thou destroy divine compassion? Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of laws — eternal Harmony, Alaya’s SELF; a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right, and fitness of all things, the law of love eternal.
The more thou dost become at one with it, thy being melted in its BEING, the more thy Soul unites with that which IS, the more thou wilt become Compassion Absolute.
Such is the Ârya Path, Path of the Buddhas of perfection.
Withal, what mean the sacred scrolls which make thee say?
“Om! I believe it is not all the Arhats that get of the Nirvânic Path the sweet fruition.”
“Om! I believe that the Nirvâna-Dharma is entered not by all the Buddhas”*(*Thegpa Chenpoido, “Mahâyâna Sûtra,” Invocations to the Buddhas of Confession,” Part 1., iv.).
“Yea; on the Ârya Path thou art no more Srotâpatti, thou art a Bodhisattva. The stream is cross’d. ‘Tis true thou hast a right to Dharmakâya vesture; but Sambhogakâya is greater than a Nirvânî, and greater still is a Nirmânakâya — the Buddha of Compassion.
Now bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva — Compassion speaks and saith: “Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?”
Now thou hast heard that which was said.
Thou shalt attain the seventh step and cross the gate of final knowledge but only to wed woe — if thou would’st be Tathâgata, follow upon thy predecessor’s steps, remain unselfish till the endless end.
Thou art enlightened — Choose thy way.
Behold, the mellow light that floods the Eastern sky. In signs of praise both heaven and earth unite. And from the four-fold manifested Powers a chant of love ariseth, both from the flaming Fire and flowing Water, and from sweet-smelling Earth and rushing Wind.
Hark! … from the deep unfathomable vortex of that golden light in which the Victor bathes, ALL NATURE’S wordless voice in thousand tones ariseth to proclaim:
Joy unto ye, O men of Myalba.
A Pilgram hath returned back “from the other shore.”
A new Arhan is born…
Peace to all beings.