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The Doctrinal Position of the Wisdom Tradition: Great Madhyamaka by David Reigle

David Reigle

It has now become possible to identify the specific school or tradition of Buddhism in Tibet that represents the doctrinal position of the Wisdom Tradition known today as Theosophy. Itis the “Great Madhyamaka” or “Great Middle Way” (in Tibetan, dbu ma chen po) school or tradition. This tradition, preserved for the last millennium in Tibet, has only become known to us in recent years.

Theosophy is said to represent a secret Wisdom Tradition that was once universal. But knowledge of its very existence long ago disappeared from public consciousness. It became hidden, or more colloquially, went “underground.” In recent centuries,it is supposed to have been preserved by a secret brotherhood located in Tibet. From two members of this brotherhood, H. P.Blavatsky learned of the existence of this Wisdom Tradition. Under their instruction, she made its existence known to the world and brought out some of its teachings. She called these teachings Theosophy. They were greeted with much skepticism when they came out in the late 1800s, as would be expected of any allegedly secret teachings. Theosophy never claimed to Tibetan Buddhism; but many, among its critics and supporters alike, thought that its teachings should be found therein.

The teachings found in Tibet are those of Mahåyåna or Northern Buddhism. They are usually thought of in terms of wisdom and compassion. Wisdom is the teaching of emptiness(≈ünyatå), coming in the lineage of the bodhisattva Manjusrî through the teacher Någårjuna in the school or tradition called Madhyamaka, the “Middle Way.” The teaching of compassion (karuñå), comes in the lineage of the bodhisattva Maitreya through the teacher Asanga in the school or tradition called Yogåcåra, “Practice of Yoga,” where yoga means meditation.


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The foregoing article was written by David Reigle, and presentedas part of the program, “Theosophy’s Tibetan Connection,” at theAnnual Meeting of the Texas Federation of the Theosophical Societyin America, San Antonio, April 18-20, 2008.