Beginning in the prehistoric period, Dr. Kargupta discusses the origins and development of this occult knowledge. He specifically focuses on the history of the Bhrgu Samhita and its contents throughout four major historical periods of India, from the advent of its apocryphal author in prehistory and legend to the final compilation of this body of literature in the twelfth century.
This work is indeed an insightful guide to those interested in miracles and mysticism in Buddhism, as well as to those curious about the extensive scope of the predictive arts and science in India's past eras. It significantly notes Buddha's own personal interest in, discussion of, and experiences with sibylline lore as a storehouse of supernatural knowledge, as well as explaining the Bodhisattva's ambivalent relationship with a subject that offered both practical utility and potential spiritual dangers to its regular practitioners.
Dr. Satadal Kargupta was born in Kolkata, India. Before he shifted his sights to academia, he was most noted for being the inter-school boxing champion and a leader of the local football team. He passed his M.A. (India), Ph. D. (India), Ph. D. (Arizona), and D. Lit. (India). Pursuing his postgraduate studies at Calcutta University, he completed Chinese lessons under Dr. Prabodh Chandra Bagchi and Prof. Fa Chou and studied Tibetan under Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Vidhusechar Sastri. He also assisted Dr. B. M. Barua on the elder doctor's cultural mission to Sri Lanka.
He was admitted as a corporate member of American Oriental Society and is a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and is a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the International Biographical Center (Cambridge), and the Theosophical Society. He has been honoured as a Sahitya Bhushan (Sinthee Vaishnav Sammilani, Kolkata), Jyotisha-Martanda (Astrologica Research Project, Kolkata), Jyotisha-Ratna (Bally Pandit Samaj, Howrah), Jyotisha-Samrat (Bangiya Pandit Sabha, Tarakeswer). Dr. Kargupta has been awarded the ISCLO prize for research in Vedic Jyotisha (U. P.) and a prize from the Critics' Circle of India for his astro-dermatoglyphic studies (New Delhi). His biographical references are included in the International Book of Honor (U. S. A), Who's Who in the Commonwealth (Cambridge U.K.), Men of Achievements (IBA, England) , Dictionary of International Biography, Palmistry International (Melbourne, Australia), and Jyotish Sandesh Astrological Directory (Chandigarh, India).
He has served as an editor of Samadhan Weekly (Hooghly), Traveller's Air Guide (Kolkata), and Puspanjali (Kolkata). He has been a visiting guest lecturer at Ramakrishna Mission International Cultural Center (Golpark, Kolkata), The Asiatic Society (Kolkata), Mount St. Mary's College (Los Angeles), Glendale Community College (California), Pasadena City College (California), and Ananda Ashrama (La Crescenta, California), as well as discussing the ancient methods of astrology on talk shows on Rogers TV (Anaheim, California) and Santa Monica Cable (Los Angeles). He has traveled extensively throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Dr. Kargupta has over ninety papers to his credit, Published in a wide variety of magazines and international journals over the last fifty years.
I am happy that the Asiatic Society, Kolkata, has in its own published treasures the scholastic and highly intellectual book entitled 'Mystical Buddhism from a Sibylline Perspective’ authored by Dr. Satadal Kargupta. This book, treated from a totally new viewpoint, will certainly reaffirm that the Society has been always publishing learned research works on various fields of Indology. Dr. Kargupta has pursued in this work the study of certain mystical elements of Buddhism that had not yet been exhaustively explored by experts in this special field of investigation. I, on behalf of the Asiatic Society, humbly seek apology to the learned author and others concerned for the delay in the publication of this book, which has been delayed for a considerable time because of some technical reasons not under our direct control. However, the book has at last come to light and scholars in Buddhistic studies are undoubtedly to be benefited by this work on the history and characteristics of the occult practices followed by the Buddhists in India and outside.
I am delighted to write a foreword to Dr. Satadal Kargupta's magnum opus, Mystical Buddhism From A Sibylline Perspective. Its manifold references and explanations of Buddhist occult words, rare terms, sorcerous rituals, and remedial measures against adverse fortune, as well as its discussions of the history, philosophy, and religious ideals of the Buddha have made this book a veritable encyclopedia of supernatural expressions in Buddhism. It sets new standards both in the extent of its coverage and the clarity of its presentation as it presents an in- depth treatment of the sibylline lore which found its way into Buddhism and Buddhist literature. To make the topics interesting, informative and illuminating, the author utilized practical examples from a wide range of different disciplines and academic fields. His efforts and laborious research acumen are impressive.
This work provides an apparent awareness of the differences of beliefs that have spread through the intellectuals, common readers, and students of critical aptitude and casual inquest. Buddhism stresses that the goal of life, as we wend our way through a world containing all forms of suffering and bondage, is to pursue the good deeds and spiritual life that will bring the wayfarer closer to realizing absolute truth. Between this realm of supreme awareness and the world of suffering lie a panoply of temptations, compounded and enriched by experiences which could be considered mystical and supernatural.
Between the seventh and fifteenth centuries in Buddhist India, these supernatural phenomena were so widespread and popularly esteemed that they radiated outwards with Buddhism as it spread beyond the borders of India. These supernatural elements were not confined to the literature of Buddhism alone, but also arose in cave paintings, bas-reliefs, and other iconographic media in such lands as China, Thailand, the Malay peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and parts of Southeast Asia. For instance, Sou-Shen-Chi (In Search of the Supernatural; known in China as Chih-Kuai), translated into English by Kenneth J. DeWoskin and J. I. Crump. Jr., contains innumerable supernatural anecdotes. Likewise, the photographic exhibits of iconographic reliefs and sculptures in the article “Treasures from Southeast Asia," by Bonnie Brereton, demonstrate supernatural expressions in cosmological figures and in episodes from the life of the Buddha (see LSA Magazine, produced by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. vol. 19, no. 2: Spring 1996).
The Buddha referred to "Tiracchana Vijja," or what Dr. Kargupta characterizes as "sibylline lore," as a storehouse of experiences and temptations that further involved a person in the affairs of this world; it was said to deter one from spiritually progressing and attaining emancipation.
Dr. Kargupta has endeavoured to place the theological contributions of the Buddha in the context of the Master's know lege of the allure of the "low arts." He implicitly asserts that the interplay and juxtaposition of these two opposing concepts led to Buddhism having an apparent mystical strain running through it at a profound level.
The Buddha always warned that when serious adepts of the occult shipwrecked themselves upon the hidden rock of "low arts" in the sea of endless knowledge, it was due to the non-realisation of the duality of truth; viz., the truth of appearances and the unconditional truth. While the former is relative or conventional, the latter is absolute or transcendental. The state of these two truths is best understood through the expression of T. H. Huxley in his Collected Essays (1881): "Those who refuse to go beyond fact rarely go as far ... " Since the early eighteenth century, a revolutionary change in conventional truth has been established by the startling advances in empirical science, explaining various phenomena in the world and seemingly expunging clouds of "superstition" and "magic" from mankind's horizon. As a result, people today seldom believe in the mysterious and the supernatural. To refute such skepticism regarding sibylline phenomena, Dr. Lyall Watson has raised the justification that the "greatest barrier to scientific acceptance of anything unusual remains its elusiveness" (Beyond Supernature, 1988 edition, p. 2). Science is only one of the tentative means to reaching an understanding of the "occult." Very recently, Dr. Murray Gell-Mann, physicist at the California Institute of Technology and a Nobel laureate, admitted in his lecture "Quantum Mechanics and Flapdoodle" that "there may be supernatural phenomena that could one day lead to profound changes in the fundamental laws of science" (Daily Star- News, Pasadena, California dated May 16, 1996, p. A1).
. Aside from this work's thought-provoking originality, its language and interpretations are detailed, clear, and supported by a wealth of evidence. It consists of fourteen chapters and an additional three sections as appendices. In the introductory chapter, the author lays the groundwork by explaining the words "sibyl" and "sibylline." He has stated that these ancient sibyls were well-versed in occult lore, including astrology, palmistry, alchemy and witchcraft. The second and third chapters delineate the history and philosophy of sibylline lore from Vedic times down to the period of the Buddha's life on earth. Chapter Four discusses various celestial personalities found in or adapted for the Buddhist tradition, as well as the appropriate legends concerning their mystical powers and abilities.
Chapters Five through Seven mark a shift from historia to encyclopaedia, containing explanations of more than one hundred and forty-eight aspects of sibylline-lore mentioned by the Buddha, including the science of astrology. In Chapter Eight, Dr. Kargupta has diligently drawn the horoscopic chart of the Buddha and attempted to ascertain the birth date of the Master from the planetary positions in his horoscope; he has then related his own astrological interpretations of the chart to the episodes of the Master's life as recorded in Buddhist literature. Chapters Nine and Ten are devoted to a short study of the Yogadhysya, an integral text of the Bhrgu Samhita, which is itself a huge collection of sibylline literature that flourished in Buddhist India. Chapter Eleven is a novel study of Buddha's law of causality and its relation to the twelve signs of the zodiac. Chapter Twelve deals with Buddhistic sixty-year cycles and their connection with t'ie sixty-year cycle of the Bhrgu Samhita. Chapter Thirteen gives the author's survey report of assorted manuscripts and published works of the Bhrgu Samhita which he has encountered in his research. Chapter Fourteen encapsulates and summarizes the findings of the preceding chapters.
In the appendices, Dr. Kargupta has briefly discussed the Kulakundalini of Tantra and its influence on the Buddha, who, according to Dr. Kargupta, had a "Mega- Brain" which granted him the capacity for an eidetic visual, auditory and olfactory memory. Each chapter provides information that is fascinating and captivating in itself, and which is innovative to the field of Buddhist studies, but I find the key achievement of this exhaustive work to be its depiction of anecdotes elucidating the supernatural side of the Buddha and the Buddhist notion of celestial beings. Indeed, the author of this book has with his diligence been able to honor the inviting statement T. W. Rhys Davids made nearly a century ago. This work of Dr. Kargupta is, I believe, a faithful answer to the expectation bequeathed by one of the Western world's most eminent authorities in Buddhist studies.
The Latin word sibylla is a counterpart of the Greek siobella, which means "one who is counseled by a god or an oracular vision." The French equivalents of the word are sibylle, divineuse, and sorciere. In English the synonyms of "sibyl" are "fortune-teller", "soothsayer", "diviner", "prophetess", "sorceress", "occultist", "augur", "mystic", and many others.
The Romans in ancient days believed that the earliest known sibyl was a certain woman who used to divine under the inspiration of a deity.' It is believed that the earliest sibyl was a prophetess who probably lived in Asia Minor about the seventh century B.C. The episodes about her are of varied nature; in subsequent times, approximately in the fourth century B.C., she was multiplied into about a dozen soothsayers living in various parts of the ancient world. Aristophanes and Plato of Greece have referred to the sibyl-woman as the first prophetess to make prophecies in hexameters." To the Buddhists of Tibet, as Waddell has seen, the sibylline oracle is a living and highly popular institution, as she was to the ancient Greeks and Romans.' Similar to the sibyl-women of the ancient Greco-Roman period who prophesied in hexameters, "the Buddhists of Tibet use hexagonal dice bearing altogether six letters", one on each side of the die, for divining the successive regions and states of an individual's rebirths.
In Pali literature we have evidence that during Buddha's time or even prior to him, there was the practice of obtaining oracular answers from a girl supposed to be Possessed of a spirit. Such a practice was known as kumariponha There was another class of sibyls in Buddha's time who were called Ksveyyamatta - "drunk with inspired prophecy.” Even prior to Buddha, Patanjali spoke of a class of sibyls who could spontaneously prognosticate upon being prompted by heavenly inspiration (divyasruti),' During Varahamihira's time (sixth century A.D.) these women sibyls were called Iksaniks. "
The mythology of Greece and Rome refers to sibyls as maidens endowed with the occult power of divination. History mentions the names of ten such sibyls, of whom Cumaean, whom Virgil mentions in the sixth book of the Aeneid, is arguably the most famous. Cumaean is credited with the authorship of nine "sibylline books".
There is a legend that Cumaean offered to sell to King Tarquin of Rome these nine sibylline books, which were then carefully preserved in the temple of Jupiter Capitollinus; unfortunately, in 83 B.C., the said temple caught fire and the entire collection of nine sibylline books was burnt into ashes. According to Tacitus, the Senate later sent delegates to different parts of Italy and Greece to collect the scarce duplicates, if any, of the "sibylline Verses”, and at long last, with great effort, about one thousand verses were procured to be preserved in the newly built temple to the same name, Jupiter Capitollinus. This time too, in 408 A.D., Stilicho destroyed the collection with fire. In the contemporary era, another collection of supposed sibylline oracles was composed at the hands of Jews and Christians in Alexandria in-between first century B.C. and sixth century A.D. The collection was published in fourteen sibylline books.
The third book of this collection, which probably dated from the middle of the second century B.C., contained sibylline oracles acknowledging a growing respect for Greek culture and religion; the main object of the composition was to focus Jewish monotheism and Jewish national expectations under the garb of heathen prophecy.'? The revised edition of the sibylline oracles made it clear that the supposed compilers of this edition were a nomad clan who did not belong to the Jewish, Christian or Islamic tradition; they were regarded as heathens, idolaters, irreligious and so-called "uncivilized people" (Gypsies) who plunged into the practice of divination known to the lay people as witchcraft. Their methods of prophecy were so cunningly mysterious that they were admitted into the society of pseudo-intellectuals who were not only purveyors of superstitions and sorcery but were regarded wizards, expert in mystic necromancy. A revised edition of the same was again published by Gelleus in 1689 A.D. This collection of so-called sibylline oracles, which originated in Jewish propaganda and were heavily overlaid with Christian interpolations," was independent and of distinct nature from the Cumaean "sibylline books".
Cumaean the sibyl made predictions on many ancient matters. Virgil in his Aeneid has mentioned the cave of Cumaean; Aeneus sought out the cave of the "oracle of the gods", and it is narrated that the sibyl herself escorted him to the terrifying realm of Hades. Very recently excavators have discovered the famous cave, the very one where the sibyl once made her immortal prophecies. Several mysterious secrets of this woman sibyl have been recovered by excavators in the heart of Mount Curna: in southern Italy there still now remains a series of rock-cut galleries, by-passing which one reaches a large subterranean chamber mysteriously hewn in the living rock. This inner apartment is the holy altar where the sibyl used to live in ancient days; being intoxicated by the fumes billowing out from the sacred tripods, she made prophecies to which people assembled there from all over the world listened with rapt attention and awed reverence."
With the march of time it was noticed that women's monopoly of the sibylline cracked, as their ranks began to widen and include men. Systematic disciplinary laws on the practice of sibylline oracles then started to be enforced. The sibylline practitioners with their reoriented method were then not only known to be soothsayers, prophets, prognosticators, diviners, fortune-tellers, sorcerers, wizards, and witchcraft experts, but were classed equally with the stargazers, astrologers, and palmists. It was at this stage that the word "sibyl" was understood in a broader outlook to mean, roughly, "seer of the future by various ways and methods". The world-famous Cheiro in his Memoires of a Modern Seer makes this confession: "Who can tell if this blend of Christian and Pagan may not in later years have been responsible for my taking up such 'heathen studies' as Astrology, Occultism, and 'all such works of the Devil', as characterized by Henry VIII when he became 'founder of the Church of England."
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