Dhyana, the Perfection of Meditation
Today our lecture is going to cover the topic of meditation. As we have moved through the discussion of various qualities of consciousness (of so-called Paramitas in Sanskrit), we today arrive at the fifth. So, to remind you, to set the context for this very important Paramita, we will quickly review the ones that lead up to this.
The first Perfection (Paramita) is usually called generosity or charity, and, in its essence, generosity is the aspiration to develop Bodhichitta. And, as you recall, Bodhichitta means "awakening mind," or "mind of wisdom," or even "wisdom heart."
The Bodhichitta is composed of two elements:
- Compassion or conscious love, and
- The realization of emptiness, the understanding of emptiness.
The second Paramita is related to ethics, discipline.
The third is forbearance or patience.
The fourth is zeal or diligence or activity.
The fifth is usually called concentration or meditation, but for this one I want to refer to Sanskrit term, which is Dhyana, the Sanskrit word.
The sixth Paramita, or the ultimate conclusion of the development of all these consciousness attitudes, is Prajna.
You will hear a lot of variations of how to pronounce this word: `praЗ-na (`prazh-na), `pra-na, `pra-h-na. There is some disagreement how that "j" and "n" sound is made, but commonly it is 'nya'. This relates well to sounds that are not common in English, but are common in other Asian languages.
Prajna is usually translated as "Wisdom." And of course, we have to indicate that "Wisdom" in Hebrew is Chokmah, and as you know, Chokmah is the Christ.
If you studied Buddhism, then you have undoubtedly encountered the basic postulate of Buddhism which says that enlightenment arrives because of combination of two things: method and wisdom.
Method is the practical means, the actual steps, the actual work that any person has to perform in order to arrive at enlightenment or liberation - freedom. Method is comprised of the first five Perfections or Paramitas. Wisdom is the sixth. So, enlightenment and liberation comes about because of method and wisdom.
Dhyana - Meditation is the highest aspect of Method. In other words, physical action, charity performing seva or service, Karma Yoga, doing selfless acts like giving the charities or donations, or doing other types of activities - all of these things are inferior to meditation.
Let me repeat: the four lectures that we have given up till now about the Paramitas have encompassed a wide range of conscious attitudes and conscious activities: generosity, donations, giving charity, methods of self-discipline, methods of developing patience, and methods of activity through diligence - all of those are inferior to meditation.
In fact, all of those endeavors, those conscious attitudes, find their expression ultimately through Dhyana, through meditation. In other words, in order to know how to truly be generous (the first paramita), to embody Bodhichitta and really become Bodhisattva, you need discipline of yourself to control forces that oppose generosity. And that is our ego: pride, anger, lust, gluttony, envy, etc. We need self-discipline (the second paramita), to control the mind. But that self-discipline is not enough, because when those elements arise in the mind they create conflicts, problems, suffering difficulties - Karma. That is why we need patience; we need the third paramita. We need enough endurance to withstand those ordeals, but even that is not enough. Even withstanding those ordeals we can be sitting still and just holding the pain, holding the suffering - that does not really transform the situation.
"Gnosis is lived in action," says Samael Aun Weor in The Revolution of the Dialectic. That is why we need the fourth paramita, which is diligence, effort, action, activity. But even that is not enough, because to know how to act is very difficult when we are trapped inside the ego. When we are trapped inside of our own wrong sense of self, the mistaken view that we have about who we are, about what our identity is, then we have the tendency to behave in the wrong way, to create Karma, to create suffering. The only way to separate from the ego is through meditation (the fifth paramita), through Method. That separation is called Samadhi in Sanskrit. Samadhi is the state of consciousness in which the free consciousness (the Buddha nature, the essence) is extracted from the ego. It is no longer conditioned by desire, and while in that state the consciousness can perceive clearly, can perceive the true nature of existence. That true principle is Prajna - Wisdom. Of course, we arrive to that in levels, by stages, by work.
So these Paramitas fit together in a very important structure and it is essential for us to understand that.
A good symbol and embodiment of that teaching is in the way that Tara, the Divine Mother, is usually represented in Tibetan art. Tara is the Goddess, the Divine Mother, and her name means 'She Who Saves' or 'The Savioress.' Tara was born or manifested from the tears of the Cosmic Christ. The story goes that when the Cosmic Christ was observing the sufferings of all the beings in the realms below, which are all the realms on the Tree of Life, he showed so much compassion that he shed tears, and from those tear sprung Tara, the Goddess of Compassion.
She is the Mother of all Buddhas, and what that means is that it is from this root compassion (Bodhichitta) that every Buddha emerges. Every Buddha that has come to be, that is coming to be now, and that will arise in the future is born from Tara - Compassion.
She is typically pictured seated, and her left leg is folded like in a meditation posture, while her right leg is extended out, as if she is going to leap into Action to protect her children. She is a mother and she loves her children; and we are all her children in development.
The left leg, which is folded, symbolizes Prajna - Wisdom, and it is wisdom that arises from meditation, which is why the leg is folded there; it is something that arises from practice. The extended leg is method, action. Both of these elements, method and action, method and wisdom, are born from Bodhichitta, from (1) loving-kindness, and (2) comprehension of the Absolute.
So, meditation, this Fifth Perfection or conscious attitude, is essential. This is why meditation is constantly reinforced and discussed in our tradition. That is why we always point to meditation; we always indicate meditation.
The tradition that we are studying in these lectures we call Gnosis, and, as you know, Gnosis is a Greek word which means 'knowledge'. But this wisdom is not unique to one time or place. It is extremely ancient and has a presence in many places on this planet and beyond. The particular teachings that we study in this day an age, in this time, are those related to Samael Aun Weor.
Samael Aun Weor is a great Lama; he is a great master who taught his wisdom according to the needs of this time and place. So his teaching is very sophisticated, very potent, because we need that. All of the elements that he taught are important.
Being a Bodhisattva - an entity of conscious intelligence that understands the nature of suffering, but particularly in this time and place - he taught specific elements necessary for us to comprehend in order to conquer suffering. Therefore, there is nothing useless in his teaching; there is nothing for us to disregard. The entirety of the teaching is important. It is very important for you as the students to grasp this.
Often times when we study the books of this tradition, we find things that are hard for us to grasp, that we do not understand. So, we tend to skip those things, disregard them, and, unfortunately, this is also the case with certain schools or instructors in this tradition, to neglect to teach aspects of the teaching that are critical.
In particular, I want to talk about Wisdom, Emptiness, Prajna. Prajna is the comprehension of the Absolute. We are going to talk in detail about that in next lecture. But if you look at the books of Samael Aun Weor, you will discover he discusses the nature of the Absolute, of Emptiness, in all his books, and in some of the books he begins there. For example, the book Cosmic Teachings of a Lama starts with the discussion of the Absolute, and that indicates its importance: the understanding of the entire book rests in the understanding of that first chapter, to comprehend the nature of Shunyata, Emptiness, Prajna.
As a side note, we can discover that within his teachings all of the schools are synthesized, all of the three vehicles that we have discussed (Hinayana, Mahayana, Tantrayana); those are all synthesized in his teaching, nothing is left out. It may not be explicit, but teachings are there, and this is because his teaching encompasses the entire Path, not just one part or another.
When we talk about meditation, we are talking about the cultivation of a particular kind of conscious attitude. The word meditation is really misused in the West. When the teachings from Asia began to arrive into Western world, the people who were involved with translating that knowledge and bringing that knowledge to the Western mind used this word 'meditation' in place of a whole variety of words from Tibetan on Sanskrit. So, because of that, Western students who have adopted concepts of Yoga or Buddhism or Hinduism have in their mind "meditation" in a very imprecise way. There is not a clear understanding among Westerners, even Gnostics, that we need to analyze the actual terminology and experience it. We have to arrive at our own experience of the differences between all the terms states of consciousness because our very development is dependant on it; our own liberation depends upon us understanding our own consciousness.
In Buddhism, the teachings of the Buddha present meditation as having two fundamental aspects. The first aspect is called Shamatha in Sanskrit. Shamatha simply means "calm abiding" or "mental peace," and Shamatha refers to a series of states of psychological equilibrium, within which attention can be focused without distraction. This is a state of concentrated, directed attention. The other aspect or the other half, is called Vipashyana, and Vipashyana means "special insight." You can also call this "comprehension." So, these two components are meditation itself. Looked at in another way, you can say that Shamatha is the ability to observe something serenely. You can also call it Pratyahara. Vipashyana would be the ability to analyze the object of meditation.
So, first you have to have a capacity to observe something serenely, without being distracted - that is Shamatha. Once you have that ability to concentrate and observe something, then you can analyze it in order to understand it, and that is Vipashyana. These are two different things and there are different practices taught in the Tibetan schools, in the Mahayana schools, related to these two aspects.
But why are these important to us? We all hear that meditation is important; we know that it is important. But do we realize it is important, are we cognizant, conscious of its importance?
In the foundational path, the Shravakayana, students learn how to meditate in order to comprehend the nature of the teachings and the nature of Karma. In the foundational levels of the teaching, the student is primarily learning how their own ego creates their own suffering, and we know that when we start to really analyze our own experience, that our own suffering is self-produced. This has to be arrived at consciously, not just having the idea and accepting it because it sounds right - you have to experience this, you have to become conscious of it, to see it yourself.
When you have that conscious observation repeatedly, you continue to deepen your understanding of how you produce your own suffering. From that arises the spontaneous recognition that you must do something with yourself to change suffering. You cannot change your circumstances, because that will not change anything. Our external circumstances merely reflect what is inside of us, what is our state of consciousness, and this is what Samael Aun Weor points out throughout his books. What is outside of us is merely a reflection of what is inside. So, if we want to change our circumstances, we change what is inside. The outside will naturally change. This is a law; this is how nature works. So, in that way we learn that we need to meditate in order to comprehend the nature of our own self, the nature of our experience. That process is encompassed in those three factors that we are discussing.
The first one is to cease the activity that is harmful - Death, to restrain harmful action - and you cannot do that unless you are aware of where the harmful action is arising in yourself. You cannot restrain your anger unless you understand your anger, unless you see it, and you know how it works.
Once those qualities (the negative qualities) are restrained, then you need to know what to do with them, because we cannot just suppress things - we have to understand what to do with them, and that is the second step of Birth - to adopt virtuous action. But how do you do that? How do you know what is right to do?
If we are so swallowed up by suffering and pain and ignorance, by pride, by lust, we have to meditate; we have to separate the consciousness from that harmful element. This has two aspects. We separate from that harmful element because we know it is harmful; we experience the results of it. It is painful, so we separate from that. This is part of the need for meditation. In that separation or Samadhi, we can observe that harmful element from a place of serenity, of peace, and this is what Shamatha refers to.
The Tibetan version of this word Shamatha is shi-ne. Shi-ne means "dwelling in peace." Shi-ne is calm abiding, the silence of the mind, stability of consciousness. This is the sort of flexibility and stability that consciousness has whereby distractions, discursive emotions, or any kind of sensory input cannot upset our concentration. We can remain fixed and observing the cause of suffering, first to recognize how that cause of suffering has arisen, how it produced the suffering, how it functions, so we can stop feeding it and stop supporting it, and also secondly, how to behave in the right way, because that ego, that aggregate in the mind, traps consciousness within it; the trapped consciousness has the information of how to behave properly. The elements we need in order to realize ourselves are hidden, buried inside of that discursive element, and it can only be extracted when we separate ourselves from it.
Put another way, if you are in the cage, you cannot see the cage, so it is necessary to get out temporarily in order to see that cage and understand it. By understanding how the cage is made, we can see its weak points and begin to work on them so we can get out. And in that way you can start to understand.
Meditation has two aspects: we comprehend the ego, we comprehend the virtue. And it is in that balance that you really start to understand the nature of wisdom, the nature of the Middle Path.
So, if we are trying to develop virtues, we are trying to adopt virtuous action and in turn realize the third factor, which is to serve others. We cannot do that with mere concentration. Shamatha (Shi-ne) by itself cannot free the ego, cannot destroy the ego, cannot free the consciousness. The only way to do that is to have insight, comprehension, wisdom, and that we arrive at through Vipashyana.
So, let us back up one little step, so you can see the structure. Shamatha is going to be primarily related to the Fifth Paramita - Dhyana, Meditation. Vipashyana (insight) will be primarily related with Sixth Paramita - Prajna, Wisdom. So, today's lecture is mostly concerned with how to set up the basis for meditation, which is Shamatha. Today we are focusing on how we build a foundation to stabilize the mind and, once the mind becomes stable and consciousness is focused and directed, then we can begin to find wisdom through Vipashyana, which is related to that Sixth Paramita or Prajna.
If you studied meditation before, then you would have heard about two forms of meditation: absorption meditation and analytical meditation. Shamatha is absorption meditation, while Vipashyana is analytical meditation. Gnosis teaches both. We find both aspects of meditation are taught in Gnostic Tradition, but these terms are not used.
The way Samael Aun Weor taught is very synthetic, very direct, very to the point. In many cases, he discards the terminology and structures altogether, and gives an extremely practical, refined instruction, and this is because he knows our minds are already so complicated and confused that he is trying to provide to use tools which will cut through the mind. We have to use them! Unfortunately, most western students, particularly English-speaking students, are so intellectual, so habituated to being in the intellect, they will not actually practice something until they feel they have a good intellectual grasp of it. This is a unique characteristic of North Americans. You do not find this characteristic as much in people from the Southern parts of this continent, such as Mexico and below, South America. You do not find that intellectualism as prevalent. So, people that are not so intellectual will be more willing to practice something, to try something before they have to be so intellectual about it. So, in these classes we are trying to assist you to give you a little more of intellectual grasp so you can relate this teaching and understand it in relation to other traditions and understand the roots of this tradition.
When I mention that Samael Aun Weor is a great Lama, what I am expressing to you is that in the contents of all of the writings in all of the teachings of Gnosis, you will find all of the teachings of Buddhism, but synthesized; in some way, you can say hidden. The beauty of that is that if you study Buddhism, then you are familiar with the terms and structures and how things work. And when you study the writings of Samael Aun Weor, you will immediately recognize that it is the same tradition. But if you do not have that benefit of comprehensive education in Buddhism, you might miss it. So let me give you some examples of how that teaching is hidden here. The reason I am giving you this is that you see that I am not just "pulling rabbits out of the hat." The teachings that I am offering to you today, from my experience, from the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, and from the teachings of Maitreya, are all in agreement. There may be some Gnostic students who have not heard Gnosis presented from this angle, so that is why I want to demonstrate to you that these so-called "Buddhist" teachings are contained within the books of Samael Aun Weor.
Let us start with an example.
The highest teachings related to Shamatha, or to development of a stable, penetrating, discriminating awareness, are broken up into different schools in Tibetan Buddhism. There are two primary schools that teach meditation in Tibetan Buddhism. The first one I will discuss is called Mahamudra. This is a Sanskrit word. 'Maha' means 'great', or 'enormous', or 'deep', and 'Mudra' means 'seal" (as in stamp) - a seal, the certification of something authentic. So, this term 'Mahamudra' mean 'Great Seal'. This teaching of Mahamudra is a teaching of absorption meditation- it is a method to unite the Five Paramitas and develop equanimity of consciousness in order to reach Prajna.
In Tibetan, Mahamudra is called Chagya Chenpo. This method of Mahamudra is taught primarily in the Kagyu School, which is the school founded and propagated by Marpa, Naropa, Milarepa, Gampopa - these are all great Masters of Tibetan Buddhism. The teachers of this method include Maitreya, Asanga, Atisha, Nagarjuna and more. Most of these instructors and teachers have been discussed by Samael Aun Weor and recommended. The same teaching is also found in the Gelug and Sakya schools, and of course the Gelug School is related with Dalai Lama.
Related to this, in a sort of hidden way, the Master Samael Aun Weor wrote
The doctrine of the heart is called the seal of the truth, or the "true seal." - The Zodiacal Course
Seal in Sanskrit is Mudra; True Seal is Mahamudra. So, the Master Samael Aun Weor, without stating the Sanskrit word, is stating the Doctrine of the Heart that we need is contained in Mahamudra. And in that same book, in the beginning of the book, he differentiates between the Heart Doctrine and the Eye Doctrine. The Eye Doctrine is all the intellectual theories that people have, beliefs. The Heart Doctrine is work with the consciousness to realize the nature of the truth, the Dharma. So, here we have the Master saying the Doctrine of the Heart is also called the Seal of the Truth or the True Seal - in other words, Mahamudra.
Mahamudra is taught in those particular schools of Tibetan Buddhism that I mentioned, but there is a complementary teachings which is nearly identical, which is taught in the Nyingma School, and in Tibetan this school is called Dzogchen. Dzogchen is just shortened version of words Dzogpa Chenpo in Tibetan, and this means 'great perfection'. And what we are studying in this course, but Perfections, the Paramitas. So, Dzogchen relates to the Great Paramita, the Great Perfection, and this is, of course, the union of Shamatha and Vipashyana - comprehension of the emptiness through Bodhichitta. Related to this, the Dalai Lama said:
According to the Nyingma tradition, Dzogchen is the most profound of all the vehicles leading to enlightenment... but unless the practitioner has the capacity to understand the teachings properly, mistaken views can easily develop... Without a deep intellectual and experiential foundation...[it] can easily lead to confusion.
He is pointing out we need both experiential understanding and intellectual understanding. Without that, it is easy to become confused, and we find that in Gnosis it is the same. Students of Gnosis become easily confused because the teaching is so potent, so powerful, it requires a great deal of understanding, both from study and from practice.
Padmasambhava said of Dzogchen that,
It is the secret, unexcelled cycle of the Supreme Vehicle of Tantra, the true essence of the definitive meaning, the Short Path pertaining Buddhahood in one life - the Direct Path.
Now, to understand this, we need to grasp that Dzogchen means the 'Great Perfection', and, as I was explaining, that teaching is embodied in the symbol of the Divine Mother - Tara, who with the position of Her body represents the aspects that we need to comprehend through our experience. Related to this, Master Samael wrote in Revolutionary Psychology:
Our own particular, individual, Cosmic Mother possesses wisdom, love and power, absolute perfection exist within her.
'Absolute Perfection' is 'Dzogchen.'
Thus, these teachings are the 'wisdom-heart knowledge' of our own Inner Buddha, of our own Inner Divine Mother.
So, let us get to the point here.
The fifth paramita is called Dhyana. The term Dhyana has a very long and rich history; this is a Sanskrit word. In the Pali language, which is another ancient language of India, this word is said "Jhana." In Chinese, this word is said "Ch'an"; in Japanese, it is said "Zen." So, each of these traditions teaches the same idea, but with a different methodology, according to a different psychology.
Dhyana, which is Sanskrit, is common in Hinduism. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali teach Dhyana; it is the fifth stage of Yoga Patanjali, the fifth stage of Raja Yoga, which is a Royal Yogic Path of Meditation, the comprehensive path that unites all the Yogas, and is taught by Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita.
Dhyana is this Fifth Paramita of Buddhism, which is meditation, concentration, Shamatha.
In the Pali language, it is Jhana - this is related to the Foundational Path, to the Shravakayana Teaching, the introductory-level teachings, and in that context Jhana is just related to the forms of concentration, because the Shravakayana teachings do not address bodhichitta in its full form.
In Chinese, Dhyana is Ch'an. Ch'an comes from Dhyana, and the root of that teaching is from Bodhidharma, a student of Buddha who brought Buddhism to China and there founded the particular psychology of meditation, a particular way of understanding and comprehending the mind, which is called Ch'an Buddhism. That teaching moved on from China into Japan and became known as Zen.
Gnosis contains them all. In our Gnostic Teachings, we have practices that relate to the practices of developing meditation or Dhyana, related to each of the level of the schools. You will find very basic preliminary concentration practices which would be related to Jhana (or preliminary concentration). We also have teachings that are more closely related with Mahayana, which are a little more sophisticated and bring in more comprehension of compassion. We also have teachings related to Tantrayana, to developing Dhyana - meditation, meditative stability - in relation to the Secret Path. So, all those teachings are encompassed here.
What we need to grasp at this moment is something very critical. These teachings, the different ways of approaching meditation, approaching the comprehension and understanding of using the attention - these are not all going to the same place. Each teaching is different; each provides different elements for the development of the student, but in accordance with their own goal and potential reach. So while they are all similar, they are not the same. While they all teach about meditation, they do not all lead to the same experience or end result.
In the beginning lectures of this course, we talked about these three paths and the differences between them. The Master Samael Aun Weor taught meditation in a very synthetic, advanced way. You will find in his teachings elements of all the schools: elements that relate to the Foundational Path, elements that relate to the Mahayana Path, and elements that relate to the Tantrayana Path. And this is because we all have different needs; we all have different things that we need to develop. We already have certain capacities developed, and we need to acquire other ones. So, there are different practices taught, but they are not all the same, not equivalent with each other.
Concentration practices that correspond to the Shravakayana, or the Foundational Path, will not take you to the same place as a meditation practice related to Tantrayana or Mahayana; it cannot. We, who are lost in the darkness, cannot necessarily see the difference, but there is a difference. We need to understand this clearly when we experiment with these practices, but especially when we teach them. We have to be very clear about the purpose of each practice and what it can produce.
A very crude way of understanding the differences would be to imagine that you have just realized that you are in a middle of a big war. You have just grasped that death is at the moment of descending upon you, because there is a battle raging all around you. This is actually the case. We are ninety-seven percent trapped in the ego. This means we have a three percent capacity left to escape - if we use it. If we do not use it, we are lost. We will be absorbed in that battle, crushed. That is a terrifying situation to find yourself in. If you can imagine all of a sudden finding yourself in the worst, hottest war zone, with extreme acts of violence and suffering all around you, you are going to want to get out. You may also feel a lot of concern for the other people that are trapped there - that is Bodhichitta. Some people do not care, they just want to get out - that is Shravakayana, that Foundational Path. The concern to do something for others is Mahayana; you want to help them, but first you have to be able to get out yourself. The complete renunciation of yourself to help others is Tantrayana - that is the Bodhisattva Path.
Now, finding yourself in this situation you will see, luckily for you, there are a few ways out. The easiest one for you to grasp and learn - to get on and use - is a donkey! There is a donkey that you can get on and ride, and escape the war. That donkey is the Foundational Path. It is a very useful animal, very helpful, but it is slow. You can only go so fast and you can only go so far.
You also see there is a car; a car is faster. It is a little more dangerous and it requires more elements. It is a more complicated device, a more complicated vehicle, more sophisticated, requires training - that is Mahayana.
But, you also see a jet-airplane. Obviously, it is much faster, much more complicated, much more sophisticated (and dangerous), but it will take you out of there right away, and it will also give you the ability to wage war and save others.
Now, if we extend this analogy a little bit and we say that the only way to get out of this war is to go up a very big mountain, how far on that mountain is the donkey going to get, especially if the conditions are very rough or steep? Not very far, especially if there is no food. The car as well can only go so far, but the jet can go over the top and beyond. This is a difference (in a very crude analogy) between these different schools and between the practices that correspond to each school. This is important for us to understand because the goal is absolute liberation, not partial. If we acquire partial liberation, we still remain in danger, we still remain threatened, and with the possibility of falling back into lower realms, into suffering. We need to go very far beyond in order to fully escape the dangers. For this, we have to understand what these teachings have in their roots.
Dhyana and Jhana are both related to a Sanskrit word "jna." "Jna," in Sanskrit, means "to know"; the same as "Gnosis" - "to know". But mere knowledge of something only reaches a point of a relative degree of development, because there is knowledge that is beyond. In other words, there are two truths: conventional and ultimate. What we experience now is conventional truth, but we are trapped in suffering. We need ultimate truth, absolute truth, which is Prajna. If you put "pra" in front of the "jna" - "pra" means "before" - the Sixth Paramita is Prajna, which is related to the Absolute, to the Emptiness, to Wisdom, to that which is "before knowledge" - primordial, root wisdom, Shunyata (Sunyata), the unmanifest. That is where we find absolute, ultimate liberation. Only Bodhisattvas can reach that, only Tantrayana can reach it. Shravakayana teachings cannot; foundational-level teachings do not comprehend the emptiness. Therefore, if we are studying these teachings, we have to grasp this essential point. Bodhichitta is union of compassion and emptiness. Therefore, we need to balance our comprehension of the two. Bodhichitta is the hallmark of the Mahayana and Tantrayana. Mahayana is the gateway to the Direct Path. It is the door of entry to reaching the Absolute. No one else can reach that except the Bodhisattva.
In one of the old Sutras, it says (the Sutra is called Mahayana-prasada-prabhavana-sutra), it says:
Understand, O noble son, that the faith the Bodhisattvas have in the Mahayana teachings and whatever they have attained through them originates from the essence of the completely undistracted mind (dhyana / shi-ne) and from contemplation on the true reality (prajna / emptiness).
In other words, Bodhisattvas must work with both Dhyana (stable meditation, discriminating awareness) and Prajna (comprehension of the Absolute).
Why is this important? There are teachers, including Gnostic instructors, who do not understand the nature of Shamatha, the nature of undistracted focused mind. And they will teach as has been taught in many mistaken schools throughout history, not just Gnosis, but widely prevalent in Buddhism, in Hinduism, in many other traditions - they will teach this: that quietude, concentration, consists of not thinking of anything at all, and that the mind just rests in a state of dullness - this is wrong!
In the books of Samael Aun Weor, we find that Master often states, 'Put your mind in silence.' 'Put your mind in a blank state.' 'Empty your mind of thoughts.' He will say these things. This is a very profound statement; this is not an easy thing to do. It is a mistake to skip that and try to practice what else he describes if you cannot first acquire mental stability and calm. But the point is that Shamatha means a state of mind that is bright and clear and focused and calm and stable; peaceful, but very bright, with no dullness, nothing vague: the consciousness is awake. This is a state of awakened consciousness.
Various mistaken teachings also say that while you are in this sort of mental blankness, that you examine your mind, you find that nothing is there, and that "nothingness" is the nature of emptiness - and this is also wrong! Yet, it sounds like the same thing that we are teaching here, does it not? We do state that we have to put the mind in the state of emptiness, analyze the nature of that mind, and find that there is nothing there, that there is no real self. This is a very subtle thing to grasp. There is a very imoprtant difference between the right understanding of this and the wrong understanding. The difference is in awakened consciousness. Awake! And that can only be known by experiencing it.
Quietude of the mind, silence of the mind, has two features that must be present. The first one is mental stability and flexibility. That means that the mind should be very calm, our attention very bright, very clear, very awake. The second aspect is clarity of perception. There is nothing vague there. Things are absolutely clear. If you close your eyes now and you see darkness and your mind is vague and buffering you with thoughts and feelings and sensations and memories - this is not quietude. Even if the mind becomes somewhat quiet and you feel a sense of peace, if you do not have clarity of perception with your eyes closed - meaning you perceive clearly what your mind is doing - then you do not have mental quietude. There are states of consciousness that seem similar, but that nonetheless are dull, not sharp.
Yet, not even this is enough. (Developing mental quietude is something we are going to come to in a few minutes to discuss in more detail.) But, it is not enough; we must develop Bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is not just compassion. Many of us have that idea that Bodhichitta is just compassion, but it is not. Bodhichitta is compassion united with the comprehension of emptiness. That is very important always to remember that.
There is a Lama who said:
If you do not have bodhichitta, no matter what meditations you do in the hope of achieving buddhahood - be they on mahamudra or dzogchen, the middle way, or the generation and completion stages etc - they will not get you one bit closer to buddhahood. And as if this were not enough, you will not even enter the gateway of the Mahayana. Thus, everybody must concentrate on the development of bodhichitta. The buddhas have perceived things for many aeons with the primal wisdom of their omniscience, but they have not seen any better method or any other gateway to the path.
And we find this same thing expressed throughout the teachings of Samael Aun Weor. If you read and study Revolutionary Psychology (I do not mean just read it, I mean study it), read a passage and meditate, reflect, go slowly, really digest the contents of the book. You will see the whole book is teaching of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. It is a teaching that emphasizes the need to serenely analyze the mind and comprehend its true nature, which is empty. That comprehension must be performed in conjunction with compassion, concern for others, and he states that explicitly.
I am making these points and building this foundation for your understanding for a reason. Gnosis is new in English. This particular teaching has only recently come into English because it is very challenging, very demanding. Unfortunately, some students want to find easier methods. They read and study the teachings of Samael Aun Weor and become inspired, and become dedicated, but because they do not fully practice the teachings, they want easier methods and then they hear, well, this is related to Buddhism, so let me go and study some Buddhism and bring those practices in. They do that without realizing that sometimes they bring in teachings and beliefs from forms of Buddhism or different schools but they do not understand how these teachings, beliefs and practices function or fit into the three schools as a whole.
For example, Master Samael teaches a lot of Zen, and comments often about the benefits of Zen practices, so there are Gnostic instructors who study Zen very devotedly. Zen teachings are very good; they have a lot of tools, but they do not have all of them. Zen is a teaching that has been in existence for many hundreds of years and has many beneficial things, but it is not the whole teaching. And it fits into Mahayana teachings if it is properly practiced, but in the West it is usually not. In the West, Zen has become devoid of much of its true esoteric content; thus, it has degenerated into a Shravakayana teaching in many places. It no longer has, in many places, its true full content; it has been stripped just like other religions. It has been adulterated. And this is because many of the students and teachers and practitioners of Zen have not comprehended their own traditions and thus have removed those things that they do not understand.
The same thing is happening in Gnosis. Teachers and students do not understand, so they do not investigate, they leave them out; thus, they adulterate. Worse, they bring in other teachings, and add them to Gnosis and they adulterate Gnosis. Samael Aun Weor addressed this specifically in The Pistis Sophia Unveiled. Adultery includes adulterating the knowledge - this is a grave act, very significant.
When we study a teaching, when we study a practice we need to fully investigate: Where does this practice come from? Where can this practice take you? Now, we are studying Gnosis which is a teaching of Samael Aun Weor. It is beholden of the students to investigate Samael Aun Weor, to not simply take the teachings at face value, but to investigate them, to practice them, to know by faith (meaning: experience) where these teachings come from.
Your very soul depends upon it. Your happiness or suffering depends upon it. The health of your psyche depends upon it. You cannot take things at face value; you have to know for yourself - by your experience - what is valuable and true, and what is not. There are many useful and important teachings in the world, many things that can help us, and all of us have different needs. We may need to bring in elements from our own tradition, the tradition within our soul. That may not be so explicitly addressed in Gnosis, but we need to do that with a lot of prudence and examinations - where those teachings come from and who is giving them. What type of realizations has the teacher acquired? You cannot find that out by asking someone and you cannot find that out on the Internet. That comes out through your own internal investigation and that is very difficult to come by when you are a beginning student. You have to be very prudent. This is why in traditional Guru Yoga it is always advised for the students to take three to five years to investigate and get to know personally any teacher before you take that person as your teacher. We do not do that now; we just easily assume, we adopt, we begin to use it, and proclaim ourselves followers, not realizing what we get ourselves into.
We need to be prudent, but we also need to work. Now, this reminds us of certain situations that have arisen in the Gnostic tradition that created problems, that have unfortunately caused students to become mislead - very sad. Certain instructors and students of Gnosis, in their good intentions, have brought other teachings and taught them as a part of Gnosis, but they are not! And they have done this and still do this with the intention to help, but without fully investigating the sources, or the roots, and the ultimate possible reach of these additional teachings. In other words, in many cases instructors will teach that which they themselves have not fully investigated experientially.
We have, for example, students and teachers who have sought out practices of meditation because they believe and feel that the way meditation is taught in the tradition of Samael Aun Weor is somehow lacking. Truthfully, what we can say is that teachings are not lacking, they are very demanding. Yes. That is because these times are very demanding; we need strong action, strong practice. But, these schools and instructors have brought in teachings, for example, such as one related to the Jhanas - this is from Pali and is from a Shravakayana teaching. There is a particular teaching related to Jhanas of learning how to enter into and advance to certain stages of concentration: but students have adopted this approach without understanding that its reach is limited. A Shravakayana teaching does not include a comprehension of emptiness. Therefore, it is not a part of the Bodhisattva Path; it can only reach so far.
We have also examples of people bringing in psychological teachings because they do not understand the psychology of Gnosis; they want something easier. We have a teaching that is popular in pop-psychology now called "the Enneagram." The Enneagram is not Gnosis; it has nothing to do with Gnosis. If you look at it, you will see that people who propagate and teach this "Enneagram" doctrine are not people who propagate and teach the path of the Bodhisattva. They do not even teach White Tantrism. They are people who are making money. This is not part of Tantrayana. It sounds similar, in the same way as the practice I described to you before, that of "putting mind in the blank"; it sounds very similar, so it has a kind of seductive power, and it makes it sound like a key that will make your work easier, but it is not. It is a delusion, and if you seriously study the actual teachings of Tantrayana and the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, the illusion will be dispelled; you will see that the Enneagram theory is a deception.
Another example are people who (students and teachers), who study even advanced teachings like Mahamudra or Dzogchen, and then learn to imitate the flavor of those teachings and talk like those teachings, and posit questions and answers in a flavor similar to those teachings. But those people have no realization of their own, they merely imitate.
This happens in all schools . This has been a problem in Tibetan Buddhism for centuries; people will act like Lamas, pose as Yogis, but have no real realization of their own. Sadly, it is easy for people to fool themselves, and easy for them to fool others. This is very unfortunate things because people (particularly, people who pose in this way) put themselves in a position as if they have great understanding, and they begin to give advice. But they give advice without having any experience, conscious experience, and in this context what we are talking about is experiential comprehension of the Absolute. There are people who present themselves as great Bodhisattvas, as great Yogis, and they will talk all about very elevated, very sophisticated-sounding teachings, but have no real comprehension, no direct experience of Prajna. And for a student, it is very difficult to identify someone who has real understanding from someone who is a liar.
This is somewhat like those people who go around and pose as doctors or lawyers or policemen, and for a common person, we cannot tell, because we do not have the education to know if they really know what they are talking about or not. We see uniform (the appearance) and assume they must be the real thing. So, if we go back to our former example of the different vehicles, we who are simple people cannot tell if somebody is really a jet pilot or not, because they can dress like a jet pilot, they can talk the lingo, they can act sort of mysterious and different, so we think, 'They must be a pilot because they sure look like it.' But, they are not! The only one who can tell is a real pilot. And it is the same among the Yogis, and Mystics, and Lamas, and Kabbalists, naturally. The only ones who can really tell who are real are the real ones, because they have the experience. They have the direct knowledge, they have the real Gnosis, the real Jna.
So, as students, we need to be very prudent. We need to study things and apply them, and practice them and understand where they come from. Then, when we have experience, we can easily see who is who.
In all these three cases that I outlined for you there is a little bit of advice you can use to help you determine: Does a practice fit on , or not? Does it really lead where I need to go? And this is the statement that was made by a Lama many centuries ago about Dzogchen. He said:
By gaining experiences in Dzogchen, these virtuous experiences arise: The realization of impermanence and of reducing the range of the mind (in terms of the mind being all over the place), from the depth of the heart, loving kindness and compassion without cessation, and pure perception and devotion without partiality.
Therefore, if we see a person who claims to be a practitioner of high teachings, but they are cruel, insensitive, they lie, they are not honest, then we can see quite clearly that they have no understanding. If they are selfish, greedy, then we can see it. Someone who has genuine experience of Dzogchen, of Prajna, of Wisdom, will have a great deal of Bodhichitta, because that experience of Prajna can only come from Bodhichitta. And Bodhichitta, remember, is the union of compassion and understanding of emptiness.
Truly, meditation is beautifully taught in Gnosis, very practical, very synthetic, but our mind does not get it because we do not practice. We do not have enough diligence, enough zeal, enough patience, enough self-discipline, enough generosity - we do not have Bodhichitta.
When we develop Bodhichitta and we begin to study the books of Samael Aun Weor, the practices come naturally. They will come naturally because your own Inner Being will help you and give you the guidance you need. If you really want to understand Gnosis, to understand meditation in Gnosis, study these books: Revolutionary Psychology, Great Rebellion, and Revolution of the Dialectic. When I say "study," I am not saying "just read them." I am saying: meditate on them. Read a little bit, and meditate a lot. Practice them every day, moment to moment. Put them to work in yourself. When you do that, you are incorporating elements in your consciousness which will bring more comprehension, more understanding, and your own meditation practice will develop naturally and beautifully. This is the great, hidden treasure contained in these books.
It is a great gift of God that these three books are so comprehensible by beginners and that is why we have beginners who often cite Great Rebellion, Revolutionary Psychology as their favorite books. As it happens, these are the most advanced books of the tradition, Revolution of the Dialectic particularly. They are the most advanced because, if you look at the Master's teachings, he said all his writings were written on an ascending scale. What are the last books he wrote? Revolutionary Psychology, Great Rebellion, Revolution of the Dialectic, and others like The Pistis Sophia Unveiled. They are not the easiest books; they are not the beginning notes of the scale. The Perfect Matrimony is, The Zodiacal Course, The Major Mysteries - these books are very important as early notes, but people do not think that they are foundational books because they seem so advanced. But we need to consider this. We start step by step. The first steps are The Perfect Matrimony - that is the basis of this teaching. You cannot get Gnosis if you only study Revolutionary Psychology, you cannot! That book only works in context of having a foundation of having studied The Perfect Matrimony, so you start there. You work through the scale.
In order to do that, you have to know what the consciousness is. You have to understand what it is you are trying to awaken and develop. The consciousness is the root of perception. It is that perceiving element that is within us, which is there before sensation, before thoughts, before feelings. Observe yourself right now very closely. Do not think about it, just watch. Watch what happens.
[LOUD NOISE - THUD/CLAP]
What did your mind do when that sound came to you?
Were you able to see all the stages of that process?
What was the first thing you noticed? Was it the thought, '"What is that?" Actually, that thought is the last thing that happened.
Did you notice all the things that happened before that thought arose?
What about the emotion? There is an emotional reaction, right? Surprise, shock. Maybe fear? That comes before the thought.
But there were other things before that. The sound arrived to your senses through your motor-instinctive-sexual brain, but something happened before, too.
The sound arrived to your consciousness. That understanding is critical, to learn to see that. That is the basis of Shamatha: sharp, focused, clear perception without distraction.
Have you ever seen lightning at night? The lightning strikes, but then the sky is illuminated for a moment before it passes. And then it becomes dark again. Did you ever notice that? The same things happen in the mind. If you imagine the mind as a body of water, we, as the Buddha Nature, the Essence, are there on top of that water. And all the impressions of life are striking the water, being absorbed by our mind, but they create waves because we are not receiving those impressions contentedly; thus, the mind is chaotic.
When we learn how to receive those impressions consciously, to watch them arising, to watch them strike the water, the water absorbs the impression and there is no wave. That is mental quietude - Shamatha! But that does not arise through evolution; it does not arrive through any trick. There is no secret teaching or unique thread that will teach that to you like that; you can only teach yourself, by paying attention from moment to moment, by learning how to exercise your consciousness and transform impressions. To do it well, to arrive quickly at real understanding of this, there are certain prerequisites. If we apply these prerequisites, we set up conditions which are conducive to the arising of this understanding. If we do not have these conditions, we become much more difficult to understand this.
The Nine Stages of Concentration
These prerequisites are taught by Maitreya Buddha, and they are very simple:
The first one is having a good, conducive place to meditate. We need a peaceful atmosphere. So, in our home, we should find a space where we can meditate, where it is quiet, where we do not have a lot of distractions, or any distractions if possible, and we can isolate ourselves for brief periods of time in order to meditate serenely. This is especially important when we are beginning our practice, when the mind is very chaotic and is easily distracted. Later on, we can develop the ability to meditate even in a chaotic environment and not be disturbed. But as a beginner, do not start out by trying to meditate in a train station; you will just frustrate yourself. Start where you are, in a cultivated environment that supports your practice.
The second prerequisite is having few wants. We are always being distracted by wants and desires, like wanting to move, wanting a better place to live, wanting a better body, wanting more money, wanting a better job, wanting a better spouse - anything like that will interfere with your practice. We need to be simple in our needs and desires, and not let the mind be absorbed into all kinds of distracting desires.
The third one is being content, accepting what we have if it is acceptable. If you are in prison, then you are in prison - you need to accept it. But if you live in a house where there is loud music being played all the time, you should probably move. So, change those things that you can in order to develop an environment that supports your practice. Being content has a lot to do with material things. You know, wanting a better chair to meditate in. This not necessary all the time, sometimes it is just a desire. It also has to do with being content with our level of being, in the sense that we should not act like something we are not. Do not act like you are a great Yogi or great meditator if you are not. Become one by being it, and then you do not have to act like it. So, being content means being practical, dealing with the reality of things.
The fourth is to completely abandon the demands of the society. This is really important. It is easy to become caught up in all the demands of society and it will totally distract us from practice. Family places enormous demands upon us, and we have to have discipline and will to define ourselves and protect our spiritual development. Friends can also be a huge obstacle, or our social position, or our career, etc. But this prerequisite also relates to our spiritual friends. Sometimes, we turn our religion or our teachings into a sort of society that has a lot of demands, so we may be part of the school that always is having social activities, going here, going there - we should not be a victim or feel obligated to do these things. These are demands of society, even if they are within a religion or a school.
The fifth is having pure ethics. You will not be able to meditate if you are still drinking alcohol, if you are doing drugs, if you are stealing, if you are committing adultery, if you are fornicating - your meditation practice will go nowhere. All of these activities disrupt the mind. They produce vibrations in the mind that will prevent it from being calm. This is why ethics are so important; we need to stop harmful actions, so that those energies will stop upsetting the mind and it will start to calm. Mental and emotional habits also interfere with our practice. You might have the habit of imagining lustful images; this will totally interfere with your meditation practice and can prevent you from having a silent mind, even if the habit is only active, for example, during the day, separate from the time you practice meditation. The effects will still be there.
The sixth is to completely abandon conceptual thought. This one is hard, especially for a beginner, because we are still trying to grasp the concepts of the teaching. This is related partly to having desires. For example, having desires for experiences of meditation - we have to abandon that desire. We have the longing and that is what inspires us to practice, but when that longing becomes a desire, it poisons our practice. We have to be careful. Also, the desire to memorize Gnosis can also become a problem; we can become too intellectual. We have to balance our practice and our study. Over-conceptualizing the teaching can ruin our practice.
So, once we establish these basic prerequisites, what we are doing is creating the conditions within which our mind can start to settle. But the mind will settle in direct correspondence with our self-observation. There is a direct relationship. If we set up all these environmental and behavioral factors but we do not self-observe, we will still not meditate well. Meditation is an extension of self-observation. Self-observation is the process whereby we direct attention moment-to-moment, all day, watching our own mind. Meditation is the same thing, we just close our eyes.
Once we start our practice, we start our actual meditation, there are certain obstacles that we need to deal with repeatedly until we actually acquire mental stability. We do not have time today to go into detail into these, but in synthesis, they are: laziness, forgetting the instructions, excitement or dullness. There is some information about these obstacles in the Meditation Course.
Our our calm abiding practice is a practice in which we sit, we relax, and close our eyes. To relax means to relax all three brains; we relax our whole physical body. And, there is a guided practice that can help us learn how to do that, on the Gnostic Radio site. This is quite thorough and long. Once you learn how it works, it is very simple. You can shorten it according to your need.
It is very important with every practice of meditation to relax first. If you do not, there will be residual tension that you are not aware of, that will interrupt your practice and you will just become frustrated and stop. It is good to set up the foundation first. Relax! Relax your whole physical body, then relax your emotional brain, and relax your intellectual brain. This sets up the conditions that we need in order to practice well.
At this point, we close our eyes and we begin to focus on an object. There are many different kinds of objects that we can adopt for a practice. In the lower schools, like Foundational Path, yogis will take even a stick or a rock, and just work to concentrate the mind on that. But since Gnosis is more concerned with Mahayana and Tantrayana, we prefer to take something that will have more profound benefits. So, if you feel very inspired by a particular Buddha, Master, or an Angel, that should be your focus of meditation in order to develop your concentration. You can focus on Jesus, Buddha, Master Samael, and close your eyes and imagine. This is why we have sacred images or Tanghkas, paintings or sculptures - it is to give us something that we can observe physically, study it in detail physically with our physical eyes - then we close our eyes and imagine it. That imagination combined with concentration is what opens up the door of meditation to us. But again, this is a preliminary practice; there are many varieties of this kind of practice, I am just giving you one example.
During this type of practice, we learn about our mind, and a very useful graphic that illustrates the stages through which we will pass is presented in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. There is a teaching given by Maitreya Buddha called The Nine Stages of the Development of Shamatha. The image related to it depicts a monk walking up a winding path.
The illustration begins at the bottom right. The monk represents the meditator, the person who is attempting to traverse this path to develop meditative stability. And the reason that it is represented as a monk is to symbolize that we need to renounce worldly interests; we do not have to become monks physically, adopt the robes, take the vows, and shave our heads. But in our mind, we need to do that. We need to renounce worldly concerns and demands. This does not mean that we abandon our families and jobs, no. We need to care for our responsibilities and be good citizens, but we need to renounce wants, desires, and distractions.
Next to the monk, you can see a temple. The temple at the bottom right represents the need for us to hear the teaching, to study the teaching. That is why we have the Gnostic schools, lectures, and the books. This is where we arrive at hearing the doctrine. You will notice in most representations the temple has three levels. These three levels represent the three aspects of the path. This temple also represents our place of practice, both as a meditation hall or a meditation room, and also our body. Truly, our physical body needs to become a temple for meditation; the Bible says that it is already, so we need to develop it, and make it a holy place where we do not commit crimes.
The path winds back and forth precisely because the process of developing concentration is a process of developing equilibrium, the process of learning how to balance back and forth. Mind is always taking us back and forth like a pendulum, and we need to balance.
Right where the monk begins, you see a turbulent river. The turbulent river represents our own mind which is chaotic, turbulent, and crazy. So, in the beginning when we start to practice, it is very difficult to remain focused on the object of concentration, whether that is our ego, an image, or a mantra. Our attention is easily tossed around by our senses, by thoughts, and by the dullness of the mind.
When we start to work with the mind, we see here symbolized that the monk is chasing an elephant and a monkey. The elephant is dark and so is the monkey. The elephant represents the dullness of the mind, the heaviness - the mind is very heavy, stubborn, and we are trying to chase after it. The monkey represents the restless, agitated aspect of the mind. But you see, the monk has in his hand an axe or a hook and a rope - those represent mindfulness and vigilance. And we need to use these two to harness the elephant and the monkey, to control them.
We see at the first curve of the path a big flame, and usually the flame is close to the waters. The flame has many levels and meanings. The most superficial level is that the flame represents the ferocity of our vigilance. We begin to work to develop meditation practice, we have to be extremely vigilant, put a lot of energy and a lot of effort. That is why meditation can feel exhausting, because we have to put much energy into it. The mind is so out of control. And if you look up the path, you see that that fire diminishes. Until about three quarters of the way up, the fire is no longer there and that is because at those levels of concentration the vigilance becomes effortless, becomes natural. But until then, that fire emerges again at the top with the different aspect.
The fire also represents the fires of passion that are very strong in the beginning, but as we transmute more and more, the fires are controlled, and so it becomes easier to manage.
The animals gradually become light as you look upwards along the path, until finally they sit peacefully with the meditator. All of the stages of this process are explained elsewhere on this website (see Stages of Meditative Concentration).
The ninth stage is the cultivation and application of actual Shamatha, actual mental stability, and this is the state in which the mind is one-pointedly concentrated. But, this not Samadhi, this is not Prajna, this is a fundamental or an initial Shamatha. This is not permanent or fully realized concentration. For that, you see additional steps where the monk is on a rainbow path, or rainbow bridge. This is related with higher levels of meditation, higher levels of Shamatha.
But for today, the thing that you need to grasp is this: Our purpose in meditation is to comprehend, to understand the mind; to do that, we do not have to get all the way to the ninth degree of this chart. It would be very useful if one can develop our practice that far, and at a certain point it is necessary. But as beginners, it is sufficient for us to do enough practice till we reach the fourth or fifth stage. In that region, the distinguishing characteristic is this: We do not forget that we are meditating. Let me state it another way, so you will understand. As a beginner, you should practice some form of concentration practice - it can be on an object, visualization, a mantra. Develop concentration, practice this, until you can sit and meditate and not forget that you are meditating. When you reach that stage of being able to concentrate your mind - even if there are discursive thoughts, there are still distractions coming - but you do not forget that you are meditating. At that point, you have reached somewhere in the area of the fourth or fifth degree of Shamatha. At that point, you can then begin to meditate effectively on the ego. Before that, it would be very difficult because you do not have enough mental stability yet so you can easily be distracted.
So, when we teach concentration practices, like meditating on a breath, meditating on an image, this is the essential stage that we should be looking at as instructors and as students. Reach the fourth or fifth degree of mental concentration, and develop the capacity to remember that you are meditating throughout the meditation session.
The purpose of Dhyana is to develop enough stability so we can comprehend. We are in a war. We are at the brink of loosing. Ninety-seven percent of our consciousness is trapped in ego and Karma. We no longer have the time to waste a single day. We need to work effectively and accurately to cultivate enough mental stability so that we can then begin immediately to comprehend the ego, comprehend ourselves.
This is like saying that we are in the middle of a war. We need soldiers to fight immediately! We are losing. There is no time for us to spend training soldiers a lot, especially in things that are somewhat unrelated, or might be unnecessary right now. We need them in the battlefield right now. And, this is your case and my case - we need to learn to meditate right now! We do not have time to spend learning practices that we may or may not need later. We need to develop the practices we need right now! Let us be very practical. So, learn to concentrate, develop Bodhichitta, and develop enough mental stability so that we can comprehend the ego every day.
There are some who, unfortunately, persist in insisting on simple concentration practices for years, like Zen practice, or Jhana practice, and fail to teach the students how to meditate on the ego. And these students are receiving a disservice. The entire purpose of Gnosis is the destruction of the ego, the elimination of Karma, so that suffering can be reduced. We need those practical techniques now! There is no time. Death is coming, Karma is coming, suffering is coming. We need to take big steps. So, we do not need to go hide in woods or go be in a monastery for a long time. We can develop these practices today at home, every day. This is why the Master said that it would be useless to separate ourselves from the world and lock ourselves in a convent or a cavern, because the "I's" are within us; we do not need to go to the woods and meditate on the "I." The "I" is in us. We need to meditate now, where we are.
The basic outline of meditation that Samael Aun Weor teaches has many approaches. Sometimes, he teaches us from the point of view of Yoga, for example Raja Yoga or Patanjali Yoga, or other approaches that break down into certain steps. We also have the way he taught it in relation to imagination, inspiration, and intuition. Each of these approaches are really one; they are synthetic.
The first stage of the three-fold approach of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition begins with Imagination, and that is why I suggest to you to work with developing your capacity to imagine by visualizing a Deity - this is an ancient practice that has many benefits, particularly if you pick an actual, realized Buddha, or Angel, or Master. Not someone that "might" be realized, so you do not know what level of realization they have. You need to pick a very high being, like Buddha, Krishna, Tara, Chenresig, Padmasambhava, Jesus, Moses, one of those types of beings, very elevated. They represent qualities of your own consciousness which are very elevated - that is the kind of help we need.
The imagination practice that Master Samael Aun Weor taught has a lot of versions, but to effectively do any of them you need concentration first. You need to have enough stability of mind to actually imagine something and hold that image clearly in your mind. And, if your mind is chaotic and you keep forgetting you are meditating, then develop concentration first, learn how your mind is working, apply the antidotes that we described setting up the conditions for your practice. Keep practicing.
One clue, or key, to mediation can be found in a way you build a fire. If you have ever seen someone make a fire with sticks, or two flint rocks, if you only strike them together occasionally there is no spark. You have to build up a kind of tension, kind of dynamic energy for the mind to develop that stability. Meditation is the same. You have to persist - constant effort - to keep the consciousness focused and attentive. And in that way, you reduce the impact of the impressions and the mind settles naturally on its own. This is all explained in very beautiful ways in the books that I mentioned earlier.
The actual practice of meditation that we are going towards is a practice of psychoanalysis. The visualization practices are very good and useful; the concentration practices are very good and useful. But in order for us to comprehend Prajna, to comprehend Bodhichitta, to comprehend our Karma, we need to analyze our own mind.
The process to do this is outlined in The Revolution of the Dialectic. There is a little section called "Blue Time or Rest Therapeutics" and this explains in a synthetic way different aspects of one practice. Something that may be hard for beginners to grasp is that Gnosis is not a rigid, limited structure. For example, these nine stages of the development of Shamatha are not permanent places. It is not as if you can meditate for a few weeks and reach, let us say, the second or third degree and you will remain there for the rest of your life. It does not work like that. You will remain there so long as you continue to make effort. If you stop practicing, you will loose that development. The same is true for higher degrees. If you reach the ninth degree of Shamatha and you develop this initial stability of the mind - this is a beautiful thing, but it is not permanent. It is sustained so long as you continue to maintain it by practicing, but if you abandon the practice, you will lose that development.
The exception is for those who reach high levels of free, awakened consciousness; at those levels, shamatha is natural. It is effortless. It is only when you get into very advanced degrees of concentration practice of Shamatha that some permanent quality of this capacity will remain with you. And that is related with the creation of the Solar Mental Body. It is also related with the sphere of Geburah, the Divine Soul or Buddhi. The union and interaction of those two is the nature of Shamatha and Vipashyana working together. When those two (Shamatha and Vipashyana) are working together, they can comprehend the emptiness, the Absolute.
So, we need to sustain our practice, we need to have the diligence to persist, to have the zeal to continue. The best source of inspiration to persist in our practice is Bodhichitta. There is no better inspiration than Bodhichitta to recognize and realize the nature of suffering and to dedicate one's practice for the benefit of others. This is not the same thing as Metta Bhavana which is a term that belongs to the Pali Shravakayana tradition. In the teachings that I talked about earlier called the "Jhanas," they do a practice called Metta Bhavana, and this is related to cultivating concern, kindness, and compassion for others. This is a beautiful thing, but it is not Bodhichitta. Metta Bhavana is a practice that helps you cultivate concern and awareness of the suffering of others and the well wishing for the others, but it does not include comprehension of the Absolute; therefore, it is not Bodhichitta.
So, by combining Vipashyana and Shamatha, in other words, strong concentration with with analytical meditation into the nature of an object we are meditating on, we can really activate Imagination - the first stage that Samael Aun Weor teaches, and from there comes the Inspiration, or symbols, images that arise during meditation. From that Inspiration (which is the second degree) comes Intuition. Intuition is the ability to understand - that is Prajna in a very sort of introductory or beginning degree.
But in the same way that these levels of Shamatha are not fixed, permanent residence that we can then just move into and stay there forever, Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition are states of consciousness that we move in and out of according to our development, according to our effort. Just because we have experienced a moment of stable mind, does not mean we are established in a stable mind. Just because we have experienced some moments of conscious imagination with clarity of perception and then we have received a symbol (which is the Inspiration) and then maybe we will understand the symbol - it is all good, but it does not mean we are established in that, it only means we tasted it briefly.
So in all of this description of meditation, the synthesis of what I am expressing to you is this: As you practice, you will have little tastes of experiences, little tastes of more concentration, little tastes of comprehending an ego, or comprehending an image or a Deity, or a teaching: do not make the mistake of thinking that is realization or liberation. Or, that you have suddenly reached some great level and now you are a great Master, and now people should worship you and you have authority to teach all kinds of things - it does not mean that. It means that your practice is showing fruit, so keep it to yourself! Keep practicing! But keep your mouth shut!
If you start talking about all these things, you will build pride in yourself. Not only that, you will build envy and resentment in others, and all of those things will become obstacles for you, very difficult obstacles. The best thing to do is to keep your mouth shut, do not develop any exalted opinions of yourself, and just keep practicing. If you do have experiences, take it like this: "The teachings work." Not that you are a great person, and that you are a great Master and maybe you were some great Master in the past, no! Take it, instead, as: "The teachings are real. This actually works, so let me try harder. Let me put some more energy into it." That is the useful approach, and that is a good quality you can use to develop more Bodhichitta.
The practice of meditation can only be understood by doing it. As many lectures as we can give, as many explanations we can give, they will all remain useless and pointless if you do not actually do the practice. I encourage you to begin today. Do not overcomplicate it; be simple in your approach, but teach yourself how to direct your attention and stabilize your mind. The only one who can do this is you, and you have the tools already. You do not need to go looking in a lot of books, or go to a lot of schools or teachings, or classes, or go find this or that Master. The Master you need is inside of you: your own Inner Being already knows how to meditate. He already knows what you need to know. The problem is that we do not listen to him. We do not appeal to our Divine Mother for help. We, instead, go outside to schools and teachers and books - we need those things, we need the guidance to help our intellect become focused, to help our heart become focused - but the real Master that we need, the real Guru that we need is inside and is found through meditation, through practice.
Questions and Answers
Do you have any questions?
Q: (Question from the audience regarding retrospection)
A: I was planning on talking about that today, but we ran out of time. Retrospection practice is the point of the whole lecture. We need enough concentration to have a stable mind, so that when we retrospect our day and review our behaviors, we no longer become identified with those moments, feelings, and other distractions, so that we can retain our focus and thereafter gain insight (vipashyana) into that experience.
Does that make sense? This is why I presented the lecture in this way.
Retrospection, psychoanalysis, is the heart of Gnosis. Yes, the transmutation is the foundation that bears fruit. Yes, study of Kabbalah is essential. But, those aspects mean nothing if we do not comprehend the "I." The comprehension of our ego is the whole point of all of our studies. It is the work. But all these parts have to work together. If you are only trying to meditate on your ego and you are not studying the Kabbalah and Tantra, you cannot advance. We need to balance the factors: birth, death, sacrifice. And these are embodied in the two trees: Kabbalah and Tantra. They embody birth, death, and sacrifice. So, the retrospection or psychoanalysis is the practice we need to develop.
My point in this lecture is this: If our mind is totally wild and chaotic and we cannot retain focus on our memory of the day, we keep getting distracted; we need to develop concentration first. It is not going to take a year or two if we practice seriously; we can develop enough conscious concentration, directed attention, in a short period of time, relative to our effort, relative to the circumstances that we produce, the causes that we produce.
If we do not produce the causes, there will be no result. If we do not produce that stability of mind through our efforts, we cannot comprehend. And, unfortunately, there are students and teachers who persist in certain practices, but do not ever stabilize the mind first, do not learn how to reach that state that Samael Aun Weor indicates when he says "To put the mind in silence." This means enter into Dhyana, meditative stability. So, if we do not have that capacity, we need to look into the rest of his teachings to see how to do it. And that is what this lecture is about – how to do it.
Question: If we experience Samadhi, is it with the three percent or the full one hundred percent?
A: Well, think about it. If the consciousness is trapped in the ego, how are you going to extract it? We have three percent that we say is still free, three percent more-or-less. We learn to use that three percent by self-observing, self-remembering, meditating, by learning how to direct our attention consciously with will power.
That is how we activate and use that three percent. That three percent can experience something that we can call Samadhi, bit Samadhi has many levels. That is why we study the Tree of Life; that is why we study the Wheel of Life. That is why we study those levels of consciousness and dimensions. There are Samadhis corresponding to those many levels. Sometimes, Samadhi is just with that little three percent. Sometimes, it is with more; sometimes the Being can help us and give us more consciousness than we would normally be able to access. In general though, we experience Samadhi relative to our level of being, meaning: how much ego we have eliminated, how much consciousness we have freed. But, it is hard to say definitively, because we get a lot of help. So, you will have to see that in your own experience – how you might have certain experiences that clearly, with your own development, your own capacity, you could not activate by will – that is because you get help. So, there is a little extra push, little extra energy sometimes.
Some students believe that we have to have a massive Samadhi in order to begin comprehension, and this is not true. As soon as you start to observe yourself and remember yourself, comprehension begins. The very recognition that we are a multiplicity and that we need to self-observe, implies comprehension. To even recognize the need for self-observation shows that you have a certain amount of comprehension already, and that is good - it is essential.
Relative to meditation, you can have comprehension without entering into a profound, ecstatic Samadhi. Simply by observing behaviors, you can understand things about your behaviors. You can sit and observe other people and understand things about them, and that is a certain part of comprehension; but, the more you can separate from your ego, the stronger the comprehension will be. The more you can extract your consciousness from its cage (from the ego), the more your comprehension can penetrate.
Samadhi in itself is produced by the union of Shamatha and Vipashyana, by the union of mental stability and analytical meditation. So, when we have a stable mind and are analyzing our ego, we are analyzing our experience from the day of retrospection, we are unifying Shamatha and Vipassana, and in that union Samadhi can emerge; and that Samadhi can have many levels, many depths, many heights. It does not have to be a super-profound thing; you may just have a Samadhi when you gain a quick vision, a quick insight, some images, or a sound – very simple, but that is Samadhi.
The Master Samael indicated that we need to grasp the deep significance of an ego, and this is relative to Samadhi, the degree of comprehension that we acquire. Meditating on an ego, we may receive a certain image or a memory, or a sound, or a quality that emerges from that in our meditation. And that is, in its essence, a form of Samadhi, because we are retrieving information, we are retrieving understanding.
But when we can penetrate deeper and find the roots, and find the cause of that ego, the cause of that suffering, then we can start to grasp the deep significance of it and that is when that ego can be killed, that is when that ego can die. And that psychological death only can come from comprehension in Samadhi, because it is only in that deep, penetrating awareness or awakened consciousness free of your ego, that we can perceive that depth. So, it is a mistake, to repeat, it is a mistake to say that only with deep comprehension we can work on the ego. No, we can work on the ego now! But to fully eliminate and kill ego – yes, we need to comprehend the ego in order to fully eliminate it.
But, remember, different egos have different depths; some are shallow and easy; some are deep, very difficult to root out. This is why meditation is so important. We can penetrate our mind relative to the power of our meditation. So, if our meditation is shallow and superficial, that is as far as we can reach in our mind. So, keep developing, keep feeding that development of your consciousness, so that it can become very powerful.
A: Dhyani Bodhisattva is a term that relates to our Innermost. The Master Samael states that when the Logos emanates the Spirit (Horus, Chesed), He is the Innermost – the Dhyani Bodhisattva of the Logos.
When a Logos wants to come into the World, he emanates his Innermost. The Innermost then, together with the Divine Soul, is the Dhyani Bodhisattva of a Logos. - Manual of Practical Magic
Dhyana is the technique that we use to reach the Wisdom of the Innermost. Stated another way, through Dhyana (meditation, concentration), we unite our Willpower with Buddhi (Geburah, Vipashyana, Insight, Consciousness). When those two unite, what is revealed is the Wisdom, the Prajna (Chesed, Atman) - the Dhyana.
So, there is definitely a link.
Any other questions? Yes?
A: This is a very good question.
We have to apply effort in a balanced way, in a prudent way. For example, if you are sitting to meditate and it is becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate, you should take a break. You should not push so hard that you burn yourself out and become disillusioned. So, it is better, in that case, to break up your session into smaller pieces. meditate for ten or fifteen minutes and when you start to notice that frustration and that difficulty become too much, stop. Take a break, take a walk, get some air, maybe go do other things for a while, observing yourself, continuing to remember yourself. And then, come back to your practice and try again.
You want to push to a certain point, we have to discipline the mind, but we (some of us) have the tendency to overdo that, overexert, and we just burn ourselves out - and you see that with a lot of meditators. They think it is all about willpower, that they just need to sit there and suffer – this is wrong. That is a kind of fakirism, which is thinking that through sheer willpower you can force the mind, and this is wrong. You cannot force the mind. What you do is direct attention and allow the mind to settle. If it is too crazy, too chaotic, take may need a break. At other times you simply have to sit through it; to stop will only postpone the breakthrough to silence. There is a balance that we have to find. The balance is discovered by being persistent but not fanatical. We have to make effort in a healthy, intelligent way.
A very good way to approach meditation for beginners is to meditate in short sessions, but often. So, do not think that you have to go home today and meditate one hour or two hours if you are a beginner. This would be harmful. It is better for you to go home and meditate for five or ten minutes and do something else. And then, later on, meditate again five or ten minutes, and do that as many times as you can throughout the day. What you will discover is that this approach not only gives you comprehension of how to meditate, but it strengthens incredibly your efforts to self-observe. You start to develop continuity of practice very rapidly. This is opposed to the person who meditates once a day, let us say late at night, when they are already tired. They try to sit for an hour, they exhaust themselves and they get frustrated and they end up having no inspiration. That person will develop self-observation very slowly, and their meditation practice very slowly. And they will continue to have the obstacle of frustration.
You can practice in short sessions, often. In this way, you can quickly grasp some essential things about how to work with your consciousness. I find it to be a very effective technique, encouraging technique.
Little-by-little, you will discover that you start lengthening your practice spontaneously. Your practice starts to become important to you, and starts to give you something that you need and want. And then, we no longer hear you saying sadly, 'Oh, I have to meditate…' you know, with a sort of despondency. This sort of attitude is harmful but very common.
We need to practice in a way where we feel encouraged, where we feel inspired, as if this is something we need, something we want.
There is a very good analogy. Meditation should be developed in a way of the way we feel about food when we are hungry: we need it. When you are hungry, you need to eat. Meditation is the same; we need that food, but we do not realize it. And if you learn your practice in the right way, if you develop for yourself the right kind of discipline, you can realize that need and start to feed yourself with that practice.
Meditation is the heart and soul of this tradition. To understand Gnosis, to understand the Path of the Bodhisattva, you have to meditate. You will never grasp this teaching if you do not understand how to meditate, if you do not practice; it is simply impossible without it. That is why it is the Fifth Paramita – it is the culmination of the first four Paramitas, which culminate in the Fifth – Meditation, the ultimate expression of Method, and it is through meditation that we reach Wisdom. There is no other door!
There is no other door. There is no book, there is no teacher, no guru; no one can save us. Only our practice of meditation can lead us to its Prajna.
Any other questions?
A: Not necessarily, it depends.
If you have already developed some mental stability, but you became lazy and lost that stability, you have already had some comprehension of how to get to that point. So, you can recover it if you make the effort. You know what I am saying: it is like you have already learned a skill, so reacquiring it is not so difficult.
And this is also true of past existences. Some people in past existences became very good meditators but lost it. So, in this existence they may, by taking on the practice, intuitively understand many things that another person has to struggle with. And this is because they had done it previously. So, it is important when we encounter a person like that, to not become resentful or envious, but instead become inspired. 'If this person is grasping the practice and understanding it, then I can, too, with practice.'
And likewise, if we abandon our practice for some reason, or become lazy, it is really up to us to inspire ourselves again and try again. But this time, be more prudent. If we abandoned the practice before, it is because in some way we were not working in the right way. We did something that was a little harmful to ourselves, so we abandoned it. So, when you start again, it is very good to totally reevaluate the process. Do not assume that the things you did before were all correct. If they had been, you would have not abandoned them, right? So, it is good to revise your understanding and you will find those little things (it could be little, subtle things) that somehow corrupted the practice you had and which caused you to abandon it.
You can change; it is up to you.
Q: Should we self-observe all day even though it takes a lot of energy?
A: Absolutely, yes!
This is why in the graphic of the levels of Shamatha we see a big fire at the bottom. That fire symbolizes how much effort we have to make. We cannot be relaxed and easy-going about our self-observation practice. Unfortunately, some people teach that we should be very “laid back” and lax about our self-observation practice – this is wrong. Nowhere in the teachings does it say that. In fact, the teachings say quite the opposite. Master Samael said it only takes an instant of forgetfulness to fall asleep and so it takes incredible vigilance to remain awake; and that is fire.
In the beginning, self-observation, self-remembering, and meditation are exhausting. If you feel exhausted from that effort, good. It means you are doing it. If you feel very, sort-of, relaxed, lax, and laidback, you need to revise your practice. Self-observation in the beginning takes incredible effort. The more energy you put into it, the more effort you put into it, the more you will understand about it. And, as you see on this chart, eventually it requires less intense effort, because eventually your consciousness learns how to self-observe. And then, it no longer takes so much whipping and prodding. This is why the monk has the hook and the rope. In the beginning, he has to whip and prod the elephant, which is our mind. But, after a while, the elephant becomes tamed. As the mind becomes calm, our self-observation emerges naturally, spontaneous, till eventually it becomes natural. And this is what the Master Samael stated many times. For him, later in his life, self-observation did not take any effort at all, it was spontaneous.
A: There are many practices that you can use in order to cultivate the field of your mind before you meditate to prepare. Mantras are a very good tool. Vocalize a mantra, perform Pranayama, or listen to the classical music very attentively for a brief period. These are all the activities that can help you to relax and sharpen your awareness, and also prepare your psychophysical organism, so that the meditation will become effective.
And it is true if you come home from a crazy day at work and immediately try to meditate, your mind will be very agitated. So, it is better to take a walk, take a bath, listen to some music, vocalize, do some things to relax and help yourself calm down.
Really, a very good time to meditate is first thing in the morning, when you first wake up, because the environment around you is already very calm and your mind will be calm. This is an excellent opportunity to meditate. Even if you only have ten minutes, use it. Take a few minutes to concentrate yourself and relax and use a mantra.
I will teach you a mantra now that is very, very useful, and I am going to teach you another one in the next lecture, which is also very useful. The lecture today is more about developing concentration and stabilizing the mind.
The mantra I will give you is: Om Masi Padme Yum
This is an ancient mantra. This is the heart mantra of Chenresig, who in Tibetan Buddhism symbolizes the Cosmic Christ. This mantra has six syllables, which relate to the Six Paramitas: OM-MA-SI-PAD-ME-HUM (or YUM).
You can use this mantra twenty-four hours a day. Saturate your consciousness with this sound, not from any external source, but from inside. Constantly repeat and sing and chant this mantra with devotion, and energies of the mantra can saturate you with a lot of help. It stimulates many things that will benefit you and help you develop your practice.
If you vocalize the mantra before you do your concentration practice, this is also very useful. You can also take this mantra as your concentration practice. But you have to gauge your own abilities. If you do not have enough concentration to sit and concentrate on a mantra for a while, this may not be so easy. So, gauge that for yourself, but it is a very powerful technique, whether vocalized or repeated internally. But, again, you can use this all day long.
The instructors who teach the lectures and courses are volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds. Each has years of experience teaching and working with the practices and exercises that awaken the consciousness. Since the goal of dharma, yoga, or gnosis is to follow our inner Being, and to focus on divinity not terrestrial personalities, the lecturers remain anonymous, and do not broadcast their names, faces, or personal information. They do not have spiritual titles or names, do not accept followers, and live their lives anonymously like any other person in society.