Sources of the Gems: The list of sources of the aphorisms used in Gems from the East, by H.P. Blavatsky

Pavel Malakhov – Russia

Theosophy Gems 2

The book Gems from the East was published in 1890 in London and New York1 . Since then it has been republished many times and has been translated into many languages. The book has a subtitle “A Birthday Book of Precepts and Axioms,” or as pointed on the second subtitle, “Theosophical Birthday-Book...,” and by reading it we get proof that it is really Theosophical, for it contains the wisdom of different nations and ages.

It is interesting that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (HPB) used the word “gem” (not “pearl” for example), because it also has another meaning of “engraved gemstone” – a peace of human artwork which saves the ideas of authors for centuries.

Mr. Walter R. Old (the editor of the first edition) wrote in the preface that the given aphorisms were “culled chiefly from Oriental writings,” and as we read them, learning their profound meaning, we eventually come to the questions: “What is the source of such a wisdom?”; and “Where can I read more of this to gain a deeper understanding?”; Well, maybe not everybody, but some people come to these questions. So did I.

I attempted to answer these questions through long-term research via the Internet – that “Astral Light” of nowadays, which gives us the required information if we can ask it correctly, and if we are patient enough to skip all the junk images and words flooding cyber-space, keeping the focus on our goal (now we can understand the methods and difficulties of HPB better). During my research I found most of the aphorisms and determined their origin. Some citations are more accurate than others, but nevertheless, they are a good starting place for future investigation.

Some sources could not be traced to the root. For example, one quote is cited as being from the Upanishads, but I could not find it in the available texts. Some aphorisms were found in Lucifer and The Path magazines as translations without pointing to the origin, and some were found in later publications, so the sources for some of HPB’s quotes remains unknown.

HPB often used several translations of the same text. She widely used The Sacred Books of the East (SBE)– the prolific series of fifty volumes which has translations of key sacred texts including: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Islam. The series was edited by the famous linguist and scholar of comparative religion, Max Müller, who is also well known by scholars of The Secret Doctrine. SBE was published by Oxford University Press during 1879—1910 years, but as we know HPB would take material for her works right from manuscripts without waiting for the final published version and exact quotations prove this (considering further editors’ minor corrections).

Some of the aphorisms were included in The Golden Rules of Buddhism (compiled by H.S.Olcott, Adyar, 1887) and were taken from this source instead of the original.

The following 37 sources, listed in the below bibliography, are in the order that they appear in the book. In some cases it was possible to find the source but the name of the translator is unknown. Such items are marked by star (*). There are also some places in the text where it appears HPB gave her own interpretation on known proverbs, and I have marked these sections with a number sign (#). For all other sources short descriptions are provided; those were taken mostly from Wikipedia, and from the book or magazine they were initially published in.

1. THE LIGHT OF ASIA, by Edwin Arnold, London (1879)

Epigraphs for the book and also for March and September .

The full title of the book is The Light of Asia or the Great Renunciation: being the life and teaching of Gautama prince of India and founder of Buddhism (as told in verse by an Indian Buddhist). The author states in preface: “In the following Poem [sic?] I have sought, by the medium of an imaginary Buddhist votary, to depict the life and character and indicate the philosophy of that noble hero and reformer, Prince Gautama of India, the founder of Buddhism”. The book is translated into many languages and was published many times. For this poem the author was honored with the Order of White Elephant by the prince of Siam (Thailand).

2. THE SECRET OF DEATH, by Edwin Arnold, Boston and London (1885)

Epigraphs for January , April , July and November .

This poetic translation from Sanskrit of Katha Upanishad (sanskrit: कठोपनिषद् ) is one of the mukhya (primary) Upanishads, embedded in the last short eight sections of the Kaṭha school of the Yajurveda. It is also known as Kāṭhaka Upanishad, and is listed as number 3 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. It is among the most widely studied Upanishads. Katha Upanishad was translated into Persian in the 17th century, copies of this version were then translated into Latin and distributed in Europe. It is most likely to be the first Upanishad the Europeans could read.


January : 1.

Some of the text from Gems from the East was added to in the editing by HPB, herself. These citations are attributed to her.


January : 2a, 3*, 15b, 16b. April : 19. May : 22. June : epigraphb, 3. September : 1, 3, 4.

The Bhagavad Gita” (Sanskrit: भगवद्गीता , "Song of the Lord") is a 700-verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata (chapters 25 - 42 of the 6th book of Mahabharata). Even though Mahabharata is considered as smriti (authorless derivative secondary work), “The Bhagavad Gita” is often called “Gita Upanishad” which makes it close to Śruti (body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism). This book is of great influence on Eastern and Western mind. In 17th century it was translated into Persian and the first English version was made by Charles Wilkins in 1795. By 1982 there were translations in seventy-five languages, including 273 in English according to Callewaert & Hemraj's count.

HPB has used two translations:

a) The Bhagavadgîtâ with the Sanatsugâtîya and the Anugîtâ, translated by Kâshinâth

Trimbak Telang, “The Sacred Books Of The East”, volume 8, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1882

b) “The Bhagavad Gita,” translated by Edwin Arnold in poetry, 1885


January : 4-8.

The “Sutta Nipata” (literally, "Suttas falling down") is a Buddhist scripture, a sutta (collection of aphorisms) in the Khuddaka Nikaya (one of the "three baskets" that compose the Pali Tipitaka), part of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Some scholars believe that it describes the oldest of all Buddhist practices.

HPB used the translation from Pâli by V. Fausböll, The Sacred Books of the East, v.10, Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 1881.


January : 10-13. February : 18-20, 22-24. March : 4, 5, 8, 10, 20, 21, 31. April : 17, 18.

May : 6-10, 13.

After poetical translation of chapter 1 by Edwin Arnold in Lucifer (v.4, № 24, 1889, pp.452-454) there is a good article by High Priest H. Sumangala about this book. From that article we learn that “Dhammapada” means “Verses of the Law” or “Portions of the Law” and that:

There is at present no satisfactory English translation of the Dhammapada, for even that of Professor Max Müller contains many inaccuracies. I do not for a moment wish to depreciate Professor Max Müller's undoubted scholarship in Sanskrit, but I consider that when he has attempted through his knowledge of Sanskrit to translate Pali literature, he has frequently been unsuccessful. Unless one studies the commentary (Atthakatha) it is quite impossible fully to comprehend and enjoy the beauty of the ancient texts.”

Another part of the article gives a good description of the book from the Chinese preface:

The verses called Dhamapada are selections from all Sutras. These are the words of BUDDHA Himself, spoken as occasion suggested, not at anyone time, but at various times, and the cause and end of their being spoken is also related in the different Sutras. After BUDDHA left the world, Ananda collected a certain number of volumes, in each of which the words of BUDDHA are quoted, whether the Sutra be large or small, with this introductory phrase: - 'Thus I have heard'. It was from these works that the Shamans (monks) in after years copied out the various Gathas, some of four lines, some of six lines, and attached to each set a title according to the subject therein explained. But all these verses without exception are taken from some one or other of the accepted Scriptures, and therefore they are called 'Law-verses' or Scripture extracts, because they are found in the canon.”

HPB used the translation from Pâli by F. Max Müller, The Sacred Books of the East, v.10, Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 1881, under subtitle: “A collection of verses being one of the canonical books of the Buddhists”.

7. PENSÉES(Thoughts), by Blaise Pascal (1657-8)

January : 17*.

Pascal's most influential theological work. This work was not completed before his death and was referred to posthumously as the Pensées (Thoughts). It was to have been a sustained and coherent examination and defense of the Christian faith, with the original title Apologie de la religion Chrétienne (Defense of the Christian Religion). The first version of the numerous scraps of paper found after his death appeared in print as a book in 1669 titled Pensées de M. Pascal sur la religion, et sur quelques autres sujets (Thoughts of M. Pascal on Religion, and on Some Other Subjects) and soon thereafter became a classic. Pascal's Pensées is widely considered to be a masterpiece and a landmark in French prose.

The first English translation was made in 1688 by John Walker. It is not clear which version HPB used for her writings.

8. MAXIMS, by François VI de La Rochefoucauld (1678)

January : 18*.

Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims (Réflexions ou Sentences et Maximes Morales) is a collection of aphorisms written by this famous French nobleman between 1665 and 1678.

Nearly all the great French critics of the 19th century wrote to some extent about La Rochefoucauld. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche greatly admired La Rochefoucauld and was influenced not only by his ethics, but also by his style. La Rochefoucauld's Maximes was published five times during his lifetime (starting from 1665) and every new edition included expounded upon text by the author. The translation HPB has used is yet unknown.

9. LOCKSLEY HALL, by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1835)

January : 21.

This poem written by Alfred Tennyson in 1835 was published in his 1842 volume of Poems. It narrates the emotions of a rejected suitor come to his childhood home, the fictional Locksley Hall.

According to Tennyson, the poem represents "young life, its good side, its deficiencies, and its yearnings". Tennyson's son Hallam recalled that his father said the poem was inspired by Sir William Jones’ prose translation of the Arabic Mu'allaqat (a group of seven long Arabic poems that are considered the best work of the pre-Islamic era. The name means “The Suspended Odes” or “The Hanging Poems”).

10. THE GULISTAN (Rose Garden of Paradise),by Musle-Huddeen Sheik Saadi оf Shiraz (1258)

January : 22-27. February : 1, 3, 4.

The Gulistan (Persian: گلستان ‎‎ Golestȃn "The Rose Garden of Paradise") is a landmark of Persian literature, perhaps its single most influential work of prose. Written in 1258 CE, it is one of two major works of the Persian poet Sa'di, who is considered one of the greatest medieval Persian poets. It is also one of his most popular books and has proved deeply influential in the West as well as the East. The Gulistan is a collection of poems and stories, just as a rose-garden is a collection of roses. It is widely quoted as a source of wisdom.

HPB most likely used the translation by Francis Gladwin (Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1865). In preface to this edition R.W. Emerson wrote:

The poet stands in strict relation to his people: he has the over-dose of their nationality. We did not know them, until they declared their taste by their enthusiastic welcome of his genius. Foreign criticism might easily neglect him, unless their applauses showed the high historic importance of his powers. In these songs and elegies breaks into light the national mind of the Persians and Arabians.”

11. IN MEMORIAM A.H.H., by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1849)

Epigraphs for February and December .

It is a requiem for the poet's beloved Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in Vienna in 1833. It contains some of Tennyson's most accomplished lyrical works and is an unusually sustained exercise in lyric verse. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest poems of the 19th century. The original title of the poem was The Way of the Soul.

12. A PRACTICAL GRAMMAR OF THE TURKISH LANGUAGE, by Dr. Charles Wells, London (1880)

February : 5-7#-9, 16, 17. July : 30, 31. August : 2, 27-31. September : 2, 6, 7, 17, 18.

This is the first large educational work on Turkish in the English language. It is enriched with quotations from Turkish authors and Turkish proverbs. Dr. Charles Wells pointed to the meaning of this book unveiling his intentions for such a work:

It is almost superfluous for me to enlarge on the vital importance of all Englishmen who proceed to the East, in connection with the reforms in the Ottoman Empire which England has urged on the Porte, being acquainted with Turkish. It is self-evident, as without a proper knowledge of the language of the country their services will be of little or no avail. Ignorance of the vernacular on the part of European officials has been a fruitful source of troubles and misunderstandings in the East; and this evil will never cease until encouragement is given to those who devote themselves to this most arduous study.”

13. LUCIFER, monthly magazine London, Kelly & Co., Printers

February : 10. June : 2-14, 16-18, 21, 24-30. July : 1-29. August : 4-26.

September : 10-13, 15, 16, 19-30. October : 1.

The chief editors of the magazine at this time were HPB and Mable Collins (in HPB’s absence). Some aphorisms in the magazine combined under common title without reference to the origin and sometimes even without the name of translator. Some of them were traced down to their origin, but some may belong to HPB which require the further research.

Collection titles are:

no title: № 1, pp.7, 14, 155; № 2, p.122, 155; № 13, p.44,

From the Note Book of an Unpopular Philosopher” by H.P.Blavatsky, № 1, p.80

Self-knowledge”, № 2, p.89

Will and Desire”, № 2, p.96

Desire Made Pure”, № 2, p.133

Eastern Proverbs”, № 22, p.279

Golden Sentences of Democritus”, № 4 p.310; № 6

Pythagoric Sentences of Demophilus”, № 3, p.215

Similitudes of Demophilus”, № 4, p.310

Indian Proverbs”, № 10, pp.306, 340; № 11, p.409; № 12, p.433, № 13, p.78

Book of Friendly Instruction”, № 13, p.88

Epictetus, №16, p.300

Chinese Aphorism”, № 17, p.398; № 18, p.455

Moral Precepts” (Translated from an Egyptian Papyrus in the Louvre), № 21, p. 225

Oriental Gleanings”, № 23, pp.379-382


February : 28. March : 1-3, 6, 7, 12, 13, 15. April : 1, 3, 4. May : 24, 25, 27, 28.

October : 19, 20, 22-31. November : 1-6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18-26, 28, 30.

This book is considered to be a testamentary precept of Hosheng to his son Tehmuras. Hosheng was the second shāh (Persian king) of the Peshdádián dynasty (10 000 – 7 500 B.C.).

HPB most likely used a translation of Abu ‘Ali Maskuyeh’s (an Arab writer of the tenth century), which was published under the title, “The Javidan Khirad; or the Proverbial Philosophy of Ancient Persia,” by E. H. Palmer in The Student and Intellectual Observer of Science, Literature and Art, vol.2, London, 1869, p.174

There was another source though in addition to Javidan Khirad which HPB would use: Ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian Morals, by Dhunjibhoy Jamsetjee Medhora (a Parsi Theosophist of Bombay). She gave it the following comments:

“…an excellent treatise replete with the highest moral teachings, in English and Gujerati, and will acquaint the student better than many volumes with the ethics of the ancient Iranians.”


March : 9, 11. April : 13, 16. May : 5, 12, 14, 15.

The Udānavarga is an early Buddhist collection of topically organized chapters (Sanskrit: varga) of aphoristic verses or "utterances" (Sanskrit: udāna) attributed to the Buddha and his disciples. While not part of the Pali Canon, the Udānavarga has many chapter titles, verses and an overall format similar to those found in the Pali Canon's Dhammapada and Udāna.

HPB used the translatioin by W. Woodville Rockhill, London, Trübner & Co., Ludgate Hill, 1883 under the full title: Udānavarga: A Collection of Verses from the Buddhist Canon. Compiled by Dharmatrâta. Being the Northern Buddhist version of Dhammapada. Translated from the Tibetan of the Bkah-hgyur. With notes and extracts from the commentary of Pradjnâvarman.


March : 23*.

The Mangala Sutta (Sanskrit: mahāmaṅgalasūtra "महामङ्गलसूत्र ", Tibetan: "བཀྲ་ཤིས་ཆེན་པོའི་མདོ། ") is a discourse (Pali Canon) of the Buddha on the subject of 'blessings' (mangala, also translated as 'good omen' or 'auspices' or 'good fortune'). In this discourse, the Buddha describes 'blessings' that are wholesome personal pursuits or attainments, identified in a progressive manner from the mundane to the ultimate spiritual goal. In Sri Lanka this is known as Maha Mangala Sutta and this sutta considered to be part of Maha Pirith.

This discourse is recorded in Theravada Buddhism's Pali Canon's Khuddaka Nikaya in two places: in the Khuddakapāṭha, and in the Sutta Nipāta. In the latter source, the discourse is called the Mahāmangala Sutta. It is also traditionally included in books of 'protection' (paritta). It is also found in the Tibetan Canon, in the Kangyur (བཀའ་འགྱུར། ).

The translation HPB used is yet unknown.

17. THE UPANISHADS, translated by F. Max Müller, Oxford, the Clarendon Press (1884)

March: 24M,25B, 27, 30MB. April : 2K, 7S, 9MB, 10, 11B, 30M.

May : 1S , 3Kh, 19B, 20K, 23K, 24M, 25B, 30MB.

The Upanishads are a collection of texts that contain some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism, some of which are shared with Buddhism and Jainism. The Upanishads are considered by Hindus to contain utterances (śruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (Brahman) and describing the character of and path to human salvation (mokṣa or mukti). The Upanishads are the foundation of Hindu philosophical thought and its diverse traditions. Of the Vedic corpus, they alone are widely known, and the central ideas of the Upanishads are at the spiritual core of Hindus. More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads.

HPB has used the translation by F. Max Müller, “The Sacred Books of the East”, v.15, Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 1884. She took quotes from the following Upanishads: Kaṭha (marked by index K), Maitrâyana Brâhmana (MB), Brihadâranyaka (B), Mundaka (M), Svetâsvatara (S), Khândogya (Kh).


March : 26*.

This is one of the many Dharma-related texts of Hinduism composed in Sanskrit. It is dated to between the 3rd to 5th-century CE, and belongs to the Dharmasastras tradition. The text was composed after the Manu-smriti, but like it and Narada-smriti, the text was composed in shloka (poetic meter) style. The legal theories within the Yajnavalkya Smriti are presented in three books, namely Achara-kanda (customs), Vyavahara-kanda (judicial process) and Prayascitta-kanda (crime and punishment, penance).

The text is the "best composed" and systematic specimen of this genre, with large sections on judicial process theories, one which had greater influence in medieval India's judiciary practice than Manu-smriti. It later became influential in the studies of legal process in ancient and medieval India, during the colonial British India. The text is notable for its differences in legal theories from Manu-smriti, for being more liberal and humane, and for extensive discussions on evidence and judiciousness of legal documents.

The translation HPB used is yet unknown.


March : 28.

The Vishnu Purana is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism, which today probably has more adherents than any other. It is one of the canonical Puranas, a branch of post-Vedic sacred literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the creation of the current universe to its destruction. The chronology describes periods as long as a hundred trillion (1014) years. It includes extensive sections on the genealogy of the legendary kings, heroes and demigods of ancient India, including those from the epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There are fascinating descriptions of ancient Hindu cosmology and geography. Of general interest is a collection of stories about the boyhood adventures of Krishna and Rama, whom the Vaishnavas believe to be avatars of Vishnu. There are also references to Buddhism and Jainism, which help establish the date of composition of the work.

HPB most likely used the translation by Horace Hayman Wilson, 1840

20. THE PATH, monthly magazine

March : 29. April : 26-28. June : 15JN, 19JN, 20JN.

The chief editor of the magazine was W.Q.Judge, one of the closest associates of HPB and co-founder of the Theosophical Society. In the same way as the periodical Lucifer,The Path also used untitled and unsigned aphorisms on its pages. Some quotes are taken from the articles by Jasper Niemand (marked by index JN).


April : 6*.

In this sutta the young brahmins, Vāsettha and Bhāradvāja, fell to discussing one day, as to what makes a true brahmin. Bhāradvāja maintained that it was pure descent from seven generations of ancestors, with neither break nor blemish in the lineage, whereas Vāsettha contended that virtue and moral behaviour made a true brahmin. As neither could convince the other, they agreed to refer the matter to the Buddha, who said it was not birth but deeds which made the true brahmin. Many of the verses are included in the Brāhmana Vagga of the Dhammapada.


April : 8.

The Lotus Sūtra (Sanskrit: Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra, means literally, “Sutra on the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma”) is one of the most popular and influential Mahayana sutras and the basis on which the Tiantai, Tendai, Cheontae, and Nichiren schools of Buddhism were established. For many East Asian Buddhists, the Lotus Sūtra contains the ultimate and complete teaching of the Buddha and the reciting of the text is believed to be very auspicious.

HPB used the translation by H. Kern, Sacred Books of the East, vol.21, 1884.


April : 12*.

Source is still unknown


April : 14*.

Vasala Sutta (The Discourse on Outcastes) derives from the Buddha's response to a caste-proud Brahmin, who insulted the Buddha, for daring to appear at the site of a fire-ritual he was getting ready to perform.


April : 15. May : 11, 16, 17.

This is one of the most known and admired sutras in East Asia, because it is regarded as the first Indian Buddhist sutra translated into Chinese.

HPB most likely used A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Samuel Beal, London, Trübner & Co., 1871, but it could be that she quoted from Chapters from the Bible of the Ages compiled and edited by G.B.Stebbins, Detroit, Michigan, 1872. Additionally there was another translation at that time in the Journal Of the Royal Asiatic Society, translated by the Reverend S. Beal, London, Harrison and Sons, 1862.


April: 20*.

The Rigveda (Sanskrit: ऋग्वेदṛgveda (praise, shine) and veda (knowledge) is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is one of the four canonical sacred texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas.

27. CATO, by Joseph Addison

May: epigraph.

Based on the events of the last days of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95–46 B.C.), a stoic whose deeds, rhetoric and resistance to the tyranny of Julius Caesar made him an icon of republicanism, virtue, and liberty. Addison's play deals with, among other things, such themes as individual liberty versus government tyranny. The play was a success throughout England as well as in the New World, and Ireland. It continued to grow in popularity, especially in the American colonies, for several generations. Indeed, it was almost certainly a literary inspiration for the American Revolution, being well known to many of the Founding Fathers. In fact, George Washington had it performed for the Continental Army while they were encamped at Valley Forge.
The quote is taken from the part where Cato discourses about eternity and immortal sole right after he read Plato’s
Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates.

28. THE CONDUCT OF LIFE, by R.W.Emerson

May : 18.

The Conduct of Life is a collection of essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson published in 1860 and revised in 1876. In this volume, Emerson sets out to answer "the question of the times….how shall I live?". It is composed of nine essays, each preceded by a poem. These nine essays are largely based on lectures Emerson held throughout the country.
HPB might have used, for example,
The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol.2, London, Bell & Daldy, 1866


May : 21. November : 7-9.

The Anugita contains Krishna's conversation with Arjuna when Krishna decided to return to Dwaraka after restoring to the kingdom of the Pandavas. The main topics discussed are transmigration of souls, means of attaining liberation, description of gunas and ashramas, dharma, and the effects of tapas or austerity.

HPB used the translation by Kâshinâth Trimbak Telang, The Sacred Books Of The East, v.8, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1882, under the full title The Bhagavadgîtâ with the Sanatsugâtîya and the Anugîtâ.

30. THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, by H.P.Blavatsky (1889)

June : 22.

Translated from the ancient Book of the Golden Precepts, which shares a common origin with The Secret Doctrine by HPB, the rules and ethics presented in The Voice of the Silence contrast the two paths of spiritual attainment: the one pursued by those seeking knowledge for their own enlightenment; the other chosen by those whose aspirations are prompted by compassion for all.

31. METAMORPHOSES, by Ovid, 2-8 AD

August : epigraph.

The Metamorphoses (Latin: Metamorphōseōn librī: "Books of Transformations") is a Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso also known as Ovid, considered his magnum opus. Comprising fifteen books and over 250 myths, the poem chronicles the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythic-historical framework. One of the most influential works in Western culture. The first translation into English was made by William Caxton in 1480.
HPB used a translation by John Dryden of Ovid’s
Metamorphoses published in Fables, Ancient and Modern, 1700.


September : 5.

The “Sānatsujātiya” is part of the Mahābhārata, a Hindu epic. In this chapter Sanatsujata (mind-born-son of Brahma) teaches Atma vidya (spiritual knowledge) to King Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
HPB used the translation by Kâshinâth Trimbak Telang,
The Sacred Books Of The East, v.8, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1882, under the full title, “The Bhagavadgîtâ with the Sanatsugâtîya and the Anugîtâ”.


September : 9. December : 5-31.

Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD) wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. The original work has no official title, so Meditations is one of several titles commonly assigned to the collection.
HPB probably used the 1887 publication, under the title,
The Emperour Marcus Antoninus. His conversation with himself, London, 1701.

34. QUEEN MAB,by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1813

October : epigraph.

The full title is Queen Mab; A Philosophical Poem; With Notes. After substantial reworking, a revised edition of a portion of the text was published in 1816 under the title, The Daemon of the World.
The poem is written in the form of a fairy tale that presents a future vision of a utopia on earth. Queen Mab, a fairy, descends in a chariot to a dwelling where Ianthe is sleeping on a couch. Queen Mab detaches Ianthe's spirit or soul from her sleeping body and transports it on a celestial tour to Queen Mab's palace at the edge of the universe.

The theme of the work is the perfectibility of man by moral means.

35. THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD, tractate “Shabbath”

October : 2.

The Talmud (Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד talmūd (instruction, learning), from a root LMD (teach, study) is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism. The Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) consists of documents compiled over the period of Late Antiquity (3rd to 5th centuries).
The complete translation into English was made only in 1952 (
The Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath, by Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman, B.A., Ph.D. under the editorship of Rabbi Dr I. Epstein B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit.) HPB probably used a manuscript with her own translations.

36. THE GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED, by Moses Maimonides (c. 1190)

October : 3, 5, 13. December : 4.

The Guide for the Perplexed (Hebrew: מורה נבוכים ) is one of the three major works of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, primarily known either as Maimonides, in the West. According to Maimonides, he wrote the Guide:

"…to enlighten a religious man who has been trained to believe in the truth of our holy Law, who conscientiously fulfils his moral and religious duties, and at the same time has been successful in his philosophical studies.”

HPB used the first complete English translation by M. Friedländer, 1881.


September : 14. October : 4, 6-12, 14-16, 18.

Manu-smriti, (Sanskrit मनुस्मृति : “Laws of Manu” or “The Remembered Tradition of Manu”), traditionally the most authoritative of the books of the Dharma-shastra (Hindu code of conduct) in India. Manu-smriti is the popular name of the work, which is officially known as Manava-dharma-shastra (The Dharma Text of Manu). It is attributed to the legendary first man and lawgiver, Manu. The received text dates from circa 100 ce. It is an ancient legal text among the many Dharmaśāstras of Hinduism. It was one of the first Sanskrit texts translated during the British rule of India in 1794, by Sir William Jones, and used to formulate the Hindu law by the colonial government.

At the time HPB was writing her Gems there were at least two more translations of Manu-smriti into English. The one that HPB has used was The ordinances of Manu, Trübner & Co., London, 1884and another was The Laws of Manu, translated by George Bühler and published in Sacred Books of the East, v.25, 1886.

That is all for now, for found sources. There are forty-seven unfound items, but the research will keep going on until all the sources are found. There will be more information on each aphorism in the upcoming expanded edition of “Gems from the East”with more precise references to the origin, historical comments and original sayings. The article will be reviewed and much enriched with additional information included in upcoming editions.

If you have any helpful information or useful Internet links, please share them. The final aphorisms with comments will be published in the Theosophy Wiki ( and there is a special page right now at this website with unknown gems ( Please follow the link to see if you can help on finding the origin of listed quotes.

1Gems from the East. A Birthday Book of Precepts and Axioms, compiled by H.P.B. and Illustrated by F.W., London: The Theosophical Publishing Society, New York: Q.W.Judge, 1890.

Text Size

Subscribe to our newsletter

Email address
Confirm your email address

Who's Online

We have 202 guests and no members online

TS-Adyar website banner 150



International Theosophy Conferences Inc.

TS Point Loma/Blavatsky House

Vidya Magazine



If you enjoy reading Theosophy Forward, you could help the magazine by considering a monetary contribution.