Students of religion or spirituality often have the question in their mind, "What is the fastest way to enlightenment?"  Readers of spiritual books, or followers of Buddhism or Hinduism, often encounter this question being posed to a teacher.

The nature of the question reveals many things about the person who asks it.  But the most direct answer that can be given is that the fastest way to enlightenment is by the daily, hourly, moment to moment application of the fourth paramita, the fourth "conscious attitude."  That attitude is called "Heroic Action."  Sometimes it is translated as "diligence" or "endeavor."

We have chosen to use the phrase "heroic action" because it most accurately brings into the mind of the listener the type of quality that we are describing.  If you hear the word "diligence," it can be easy to confuse that with "busyness."  When we grow up or are being educated, we often hear that we need to be diligent students, so we develop this idea about diligence in our mind that it is something that we do not want to do, because when we are students, we do not want to study.  And often times when we study religion or a spiritual path, we bring those same mental concepts with us that we had when we were younger.  So we hear about "diligence," and we immediately feel, "Oh, no.  I do not want to do that.  I want it to be easy."

And this is often the tone that you hear behind that question, "What is the fastest way to enlightenment?"  The actual question being asked is, "What is the easiest way?"  That is usually what the actual question is, even if they do not use those explicit words.  And if we have that question in our mind-"what is the easiest way"-we need to look closely at why we are asking that.

Conscious action, or heroic action, is the fourth "conscious attitude," the fourth paramita.  When we look back on the perfections or conscious attitudes we have already discussed, we see that the very first one, the intention, is usually called "generosity."  And in Gnosis we call this "conscious love," or "cognizant love."  Generosity sets up the aspiration, the intention, to benefit others.  And once that intention has arisen, which is the aspiration to develop Bodhicitta, the awakening mind, we then need to learn how to nullify the opposing factors, which are within us.  And that is why the second perfection is called "self-discipline," "ethics," or "morality."  These are the conscious attitudes whereby we control our own mind, we control ourselves, so that that inspiration, that aspiration to benefit others, can actually manifest.

And then the third force is the endurance to withstand the obstacles, the sufferings, the difficulties.  Those three set energy in motion.  When those three conscious attitudes are in balance with each other, they set in motion forces within us, within our consciousness, and those forces then need to be directed.  And this is why the fourth paramita is called "heroic action."

This is why this is such an important paramita in the development of Bodhicitta.  The first three paramitas develop the aspiration and protect it.  They develop the intention, and then they shield it.  So we have generosity first, and then we have self-discipline and endurance to protect that initial embryo.  But as of yet, it has not been able to act, because the first three conscious attitudes are just the armor; they are just the initial impulse that shield it, give it the opportunity to grow.  The growth of Bodhicitta does not really begin until Heroic Action, the fourth paramita, begins to come into play.

Therefore, it can be stated that all the previous paramitas are important, but cannot lead to liberation on their own.  The only one that can really bring the Essence, the consciousness, into its full development is Heroic Action: endeavor, diligence, work.

When you look at these perfections as they relate to the Bhumis, or the levels of development of a Bodhisattva, this fourth Bhumi is called "Radiant."  And it is called Radiant because it is from Heroic Action that all the virtues of the soul emerge, like rays of light from the sun.  And there is no accident in the use of the term Radiant as a metaphor of the sun's light.  This is a very cause-based, causal term-it has causes, it has reasons behind it.

In simplified terms, we could say that another way to define this paramita-diligence, endeavor, heroic action-is simply the joy to do good.  It is having an enthusiasm to do good things, to do the right thing.  And that root enthusiasm becomes full-fledged Bodhisattva action when the soul is developed, when the Bodhisattva is incarnated, when those virtues of the soul are actually manifesting themselves; then, the joy to do good becomes a way of life.

The Psyche and the Tree of Life

kabbalah the tree of lifeTo understand this a little deeper, we need to look at the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah.   The top three spheres of the Tree of Life are called the Supernal Triangle, or the Solar LogosLogos means "word."  This, in its synthesis, is the Cosmic Christ itself.  These three express as that light of Christ.

Just below that triangle is another triangle, which is a reflection of the one above it.  If we say that this second triangle is our real Being, our real inner nature, then we would say that the one above it is the Being of our Being, the root of our own Being.  So you see, there are levels to the consciousness.

The second triangle is composed of three spheres, and just like any trinity, in its complete development, these three are one, but this is not the state in us yet.  To actually bring those three together as one signifies Self-realization to a certain level-not complete, because there is work to do beyond that.  But it does signify a major accomplishment in the path towards liberation.

The three components of this triangle make up what we call our own Being.  The topmost, the uppermost, in Hebrew is called Chesed, and in Sanskrit is called Atman.  This is our own Inner Spirit, what in Christian terms is often called our own individual Father.  He is the root of our true self.  He is not a self in the sense of an old man on a throne.  He is well beyond that.  He is a form of intelligence, but as spirit, as wind, as breath.

He in himself, we can say, is our Inner Elohim, in a synthetic way.  To go deeper, He is really the child of our Inner Elohim, but as a part of that we can say He is that Elohim.  He has two souls , or two parts, through which He acts in the world.  The one that is closest to Him is the next sphere, called Geburah in Hebrew.  This is the fifth sphere counting downwards from the top.

Geburah is also called the Divine Soul, the Spiritual Soul, the Divine Consciousness.   In mythology, Geburah is often symbolized as a beautiful woman, a virtuous woman, a woman of chastity.   In Dante's Divine Comedy, she is Beatrice, the woman of virtue who inspires Dante in all of his sufferings and endeavors.  She is the one who gives him the strength of will to continue through his difficulties.  She is also Helen of Troy; she is Guinevere; she is the beautiful woman of chastity who inspires her warrior knight, and the warrior knight is the following sphere, Tiphereth.

The warrior knight is the Human Soul, or the human consciousness.   That which we are is more or less a particle descended from this junction in the Tree of Life.  What we have as free consciousness, what we know of as conscience, is really an embryo, or a particle, a spark from the Human Soul, from Tiphereth.  But that spark is also very closely related with Geburah, because that is also a root of consciousness.

These two spheres, Geburah and Tiphereth, are sources of conscience, conscious knowledge, conscious understanding, which, generally speaking, we ignore in ourselves.  And this is because our own mind, our ego, has become so loud, so powerful, that it drowns out the voice of our conscience.

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So these three spheres, in Sanskrit, are called: the first one is Atman, which is related to Chesed; the second one, Geburah, in Sanskrit is called Buddhi; the third, Tiphereth, is called ManasBuddhi, in Sanskrit, means "intelligence" or "intellect."  This is not intellect in the way we think of intellect.  This is an abstract form of mind, something more intuitive.  It is not a form of reasoning in the way we think of reasoning.  Manas means "mind."  Tiphereth is also related to mind, but also abstract, not concrete.  It is a form of mind that is not stuck in materialistic processes.

Geburah, the fifth sphere in the Tree of Life, is called Geburah for a reason.  This word means "severity" or "justice."  This sphere is closely related with Karma: cause and effect.  Justice or severity, or you can even say "ferocity."  But how interesting is it that these qualities, justice and severity, are related with this beautiful maiden, the Divine Consciousness?   Because in our mind, these two seem contradictory.  But this is why we have these symbols-to help us arrive at the actual meaning.

When you consider the mythology of the knight, the warrior who goes into the battlefield to fight, we remember the western tradition of the troubadours, of chivalry, of knighthood.  When the knight would go into battle, his inspiration would be his lady.  He would do it for honor, for respect, in order to serve his lady, to protect her.  His cause for fighting would be his virtuous woman who was waiting for him in his home, or in his castle, or back where he comes from.  This is all symbolic, symbolic of the nature of our own consciousness, which is descended into the battlefield.  We need to learn to fight on behalf of our lady who is inside, to have the diligence, the heroic action, in order to protect her, to fight for her-our own consciousness, our own Divine Soul.

Interestingly, in the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life that we look at here with its ten spheres, is really a simplified tree.  It condenses a much more elaborate structure.  In truth, there are four worlds, not just this presentation here, but you could say there are four trees.  And in the world of Atziluth, the World of Emanations, which is a very elevated realm, this sphere of Geburah has the name of God of Elohim Gibor.

Remember I mentioned that our own Inner Being is an ElohimElohim is Hebrew and is a compound term-it is a term that refers firstly to "Gods and Goddesses."  El is Hebrew for God, Eloah means Goddess, and Elohim is plural, so Gods and Goddesses is one meaning.  Another meaning is Elohim-God and Goddess, father-mother, male-female.

Elohim Gibor-Gibor, of course, is another Hebrew word.  Gibor means "mighty warrior," "hero."  This word Gibor also has some other very interesting meanings-it is also a rune from the Nordic language.  The rune is the swastika called Gibor.  This is the rune of action, the rune of strength.

So Elohim Gibor can be translated as, "the strength, the might, of the Gods and Goddesses," or "the strength, the might, of our own Inner God, our own inner hero."

When we remember the image of the Divine Consciousness, this virtuous lady who waits in the castle, the castle symbolizes our own soul .  The virtuous woman is this Divine Consciousness, the embodiment of all the virtues.  And when all the ancient poets and troubadours composed their verses singing of the beauties and virtues of their divine lady, they were singing of the Divine Soul, this aspect of our own consciousness which has this purity and great virtue.  Yet, let us be clear about something: it is not passive.

When we have the image in our mind of the warrior who goes out to fight, we tend to put all the glory on him for his courage to go into battle.  But he could not do it without his lady.  He would not have the courage, the strength, the reason to face the dangers of battle if he did not have a lady to protect.  Think about that.  If you, yourself, have a true love, and enemies are coming, you would do anything in your power to protect that love, to protect her, to protect him, the one that you love-your spouse.

In this analogy, of course, the enemies are our own egos.  They are our pride, our anger, our lust.  The warrior is our Human Soul, our Essence, the Buddha nature, who has to fight.  The lady is our Divine Consciousness, the root of virtue.  She inspires her knight through the power of her virtue, through the might of her virtuous strength.

This is not just an idea.  It is not just a beautiful image.  This is something that can be experienced.  The power of conscious love is immeasurable-the power that resides within true, conscious love.

Astrological Influences

Another interesting and important correspondence here is the way the planetary influences affect these three spheres.  Tiphereth, the Human Soul, is influenced by Venus, which of course is the Goddess of Love, and the planet of chastity.   Tiphereth is also influenced by the sun, and the sun is the force that regulates, that balances the other planets.  Geburah is also influenced by the sun-they share this influence.  The sun, of course, is the source of light.  Remember, this Bhumi is called Radiant.

So Tiphereth and Geburah not only have a close relationship in the Tree of Life, but they also have a close relationship astrologically because of the influence of the sun and how it regulates forces, balances forces.

Geburah, in addition to being influenced by the sun, is also influenced by Mars, as is Chesed, Atman.  Both have Mars as an influence.  Mars, of course, is the planet of War, Aries, the warrior, the fighter.  But as its primary virtue, Mars delivers unto us the conscious value of love.

The warrior, Mars, or Aries, the God of War, when that energy is polarized negatively, is hate or anger.  And that force is what we generally think of when we think of war-hate or anger.  But the true nature of Mars is love.  It is only when it is polarized negatively that it becomes hate.  But when it is pure, the force of Mars is a force of love.

And that force of Mars influences Geburah and Chesed.  These two spheres are the root of our own Self-really, the root of love-that we can find in us as soul and spirit.  But this is conscious love, and this is the love of the warrior-that inspiration that the warrior has which drives him to battle.  So in the heart of Tiphereth, we have Geburah and Chesed, which is the love, the cognizant love, which drives him.  And this is the paramita of Heroic Action.

These things are important to understand because in the work of the Bodhisattva, each of these spheres has to be worked with consciously, directly.  There are great integrations that occur inside the psyche, related to these spheres.

The Strength of Conscious Love

heraklesThe quality of heroic action, which is inspired by a natural cognizant value, can be seen in anyone if they bring it, if they use it, or if the circumstances provoke it.  As an example, we often hear stories of people performing heroic deeds in an impulse.  For example, we hear about someone becomes trapped underneath a car, and another person impulsively runs over and picks up the car.  This has happened numerous times and is documented.  On their own, in other circumstances, that person could never lift the car, but their concern for the suffering person is so strong that it empowers them with strength they did not know they had, which they otherwise could not access.

That strength is the strength of Geburah, the cognizant love, the force of the warrior, the force of Mars, which empowers the individual to perform heroic action.  This is just a crude example, which can arise because of circumstantial impact, but in a Bodhisattva, that force has to be made prominent, continuous, always active from moment to moment, guiding each action, guiding each decision.

We can see in examples like that how, when there is a great tragedy or a great disaster, some people go mad; they start to act crazy.  But some become inspired with a great heroic courage to help others.  And what you are seeing in the difference between the two is will-qualities of the soul modified by will.

So Geburah is the might, the strength, which resides in the soul , which gives inspiration to the warrior.  And this strength has to be brought out by the Bodhisattva, utilized.  The only way to do that is to awaken consciousness.   Of course, the process to awaken consciousness is a process of transmutation and a process of meditation.

But in synthesis, this love that Geburah gives is the joy to do good things for the benefit of others, to help others.  This is why Samael Aun Weor said in The Pistis Sophia Unveiled:

The whole of this work is performed based on conscious efforts and voluntary sufferings.

And why we find in Santideva's book, the Bodhicharyavatara:

"For as long as space remains, and for as long as wandering beings remain, may I, too, remain for that long, dispelling the sufferings of wandering beings."

This intention is a reflection of this kind of enthusiastic diligence for heroic action.  Really what it demonstrates, what it embodies, is conscious responsibility.  This word ‘responsibility' also sometimes brings up negative connotations in us because we think, "Oh, this is like taking out the trash, or paying the bills," which are things we do not like to do.

But when we talk about conscious responsibility, we need to break this term down.  "Response," naturally, is how we respond.  Response-ability: ability is, of course, the ability to do so.  Conscious responsibility is the ability to consciously respond, to respond with consciousness.   This is our responsibility.  We all have that.  Unfortunately, we do not use it.  We tend to ignore our ability to respond, and this is because of our own suffering; it is because of the ego.

But when we really look sincerely at ourselves, we see a little contradiction here.  We tend to go through life looking for the easy answers, the easy ways to do things, to look for pleasure, or comfort, or security.  And we expend enormous amounts of energy and effort towards trying to acquire this idea of security, or safety, or comfort.  And if you reflect in your own life, how many hours you have worked, how many days you have worked, how much effort you have made to try to acquire something to satisfy your idea of comfort or security, you will see you have spent pretty much your whole life.  Pretty much your entire existence thus far has been spent towards trying to acquire this so-called security, or so-called comfort or happiness.  But have you acquired it?  Has all of that effort actually brought you true happiness?

If you reflect on your lifetime, in meditation, and discover the moments when you were truly happy, you will find very interesting qualities in those moments-firstly, the lack of "I."  True happiness does not have a sense of "I."  Our moments of true happiness, instead, have a quality of love, a quality of natural being.

We can look to examples when we were children, moments that could otherwise be perfectly ordinary, in which we experienced great happiness, but not as a sense of "I" or as a sense of getting something that we really wanted, but as a sense of being-maybe a memory of just being in the yard, or being sitting on the grass, or playing with a sibling or friend-just the sense of natural enjoyment.

What we find in those moments is that our relationship to time is different.  Notice in your life, the moments when you have really been happy, you forget time.  Time seems to go at a different speed.  But in the moments when we are really suffering, time is unbearable, time seems to drag.  And this is because time is relative.  This is something that Einstein taught.  Time is relative to our state of consciousness.

When we are really happy, time is not a factor.  It seems to go faster, but in reality, if you look back at the moments of childhood, time actually seemed to go very slow.  Do you remember that?  When you were a kid?  How the days stretched and stretched?  Summer seemed endless, until you got to the end and you had to go back to school.  But at least in the midst of it, that happiness, there is a quality of consciousness which was different.  And now when you get older, time is going faster and faster.  And the older you become, the more concrete your mind becomes, the more entrenched your habits become, the more identified we become, the faster time goes.

So there is a little bit of a contradictory element.  Do you see what I am describing?  When we are going through life mechanically, time seems to be going very fast.  And when we are really identified with a particular moment of suffering, it seems to be endless, like when we are in pain.  If you get hurt, if you are injured, it seems to last for a long time.  But then when you get out of that moment, and you get back to your normal life, time speeds.

What we can draw from this is that our experience of time is relative to our state of consciousness.   When we are really present, when we are really being, time stops.  Time ceases to be an issue.  This is important because when we consider this work, we tend to think that it is too much, the path to awaken is too much, especially when we study Kabbalah.   It seems overwhelming, too complicated, too difficult.  But if we shift our attitude, our conscious attitude, it does not need to be experienced in that way.  We can experience the work with enthusiasm.

The quality, the ability to do that, of course comes from Geburah, this inspiration of love.  Our experiences of suffering, our experiences of dejection, of defeatism, arise because we become identified with an "I", with an ego, with a desire.  But if we, instead, take inspiration from our Divine Consciousness, become inspired by love, our love for others, our love for our own Divine Mother, time is no longer an issue.  We can be in the moment, enduring any suffering, and working in the right way.

In this Divine Soul is where we find all the intelligence, the wisdom of our Being.  It is stated in certain scriptures that Buddhi is like a vase within which a light burns.  That light is AtmanBuddhi is the container, the soul , that expresses it.

So all of the intelligence, all of the wisdom, of our own Inner Being is within Geburah.  And that is within us.  What more do we need?  We have forgotten it.  But through the application of this type of work, through meditation, through transmutation, we can restore our connection with that force, that intelligence.  But to do so we have to deal with the obstacles.

Laziness

The obstacle that stands in our way is ourselves.  What keeps us from being diligent, from having enthusiasm to take action in a heroic way, is our own mind, our own ego.  And the primary definition of this aspect of ourselves is laziness.  We tend to say this word, laziness.  But do not think that laziness is just lying on the couch.  Laziness has many faces.

If we read in Santideva's Bodhicharyavatara, he says,

"What is joyful perseverance [this paramita]?  It is zestful vigor for being constructive.  Its opposing factors are explained as lethargy-clinging to what is negative or petty-and being discouraged, or disparaging oneself."

These are all forms of laziness, the laziness of the consciousness, lazy consciousness.

Lethargy

So the first one, he says, is lethargy.  Obviously, we mean lethargy of the consciousness, not just the physical body.  We could be very busy physically and be very lazy as a consciousness.   And many of us, maybe most of us, are exactly that: very busy physically, with very active lives, running here and there all the time, but our consciousness is completely asleep.  Yes, many of us are just workaholics.  We work and work and work.  This is not diligence.  This is obstinacy.

Diligence as a conscious virtue is the diligence of the consciousness to be active, to be present, to be watchful, to be cognizant of every moment.  This is real diligence.  And that is a heroic action, because our ego is huge, and presents a lot of resistance.

This lethargy of the consciousness manifests itself in the way we postpone our spiritual work.  We postpone meditation.   We postpone study of our spiritual pursuit.  We postpone our efforts to do the practices.  "Well, I am too busy this week, so next week I will start meditating."  Or, "I am too busy right now," or, "I have too many things going on," or, "My mind is too active; I cannot do it right now; maybe later.  Maybe I will work a few months, save some money, and then I will go and meditate."  This is all lethargy, laziness.  As they say in some schools, this is the "disease of tomorrow."  "I will do it tomorrow.  Tomorrow I will do it, definitely."  This is a disease.

We have many excuses, many justifications for our lethargy.  We say, "Well, I need to make some money first.  I need to have some savings before I can really be spiritual.  I need to have some money in the bank.  I need to have a house.  Or I need to have a spouse.  I cannot really work until I have a spouse."  These are excuses, justifications for laziness.

Some of us have the fear that if we become very serious about our spiritual work, we will become poor; we will not have money; our job will fall apart; we will be alone and without clothes and without food.  We have this concept.  And who brought that concept to us but the ego?

You know well if you have studied Christianity that Jesus spoke about this very clearly, numerous times.  For example, "Do not put your treasures in the earth, but in heaven," is one example.  Another one is the talk he gave about the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.  They do not have to worry for anything-God gives them everything.  And how much more precious are we to God?  So naturally God will give us whatever we need-the basics of what we need, not want.

The vast majority of the things that we have in our mind as needs are just desires, just wants.  "I need that.  I need new shoes.  I need new clothes.  I need a new couch."  These are not needs.  These are desires.  What you need is a safe place to live, food to eat, a way to stay warm.  What do you really need beyond that?  Truly need?

The Master Padmasambhava made a very direct statement about this.  He said,

"It is impossible that you will suffer from want of food or clothing.  The people who claim to lack food or clothes for dharma practice, who have no time for spiritual practice, and say that they have no leisure for such things, are shamelessly fooling themselves."

It does not get more direct than that.  And this is because he knows, as Jesus knows, that when you take the spiritual path seriously, your Being, your God, will give you everything you need.  Your Being, your God, your Divine Mother, will never abandon you, because they need you to work.  They need the Human Soul, the warrior, to fight.

No king would send his warrior into battle without the things that he needs to fight.  The king needs the warrior to win, so the king will provide everything that fighter needs in order to win.  We are the fighter.  We are that warrior.  And we should have faith in our King who is inside of us.

So when our king gives us the weapons, the armaments, we should not look at them and say, "I really wanted a better one.  Can I just get a better sword?  Can I just get a better horse?  Do I have to fight in this battlefield?  Can't I go fight in that one?  It is much prettier over there."  These obstinate attitudes impede our progress.  If you want to really know the fastest way to enlightenment, conquer yourself, your wants, your so-called "needs."

We also have other excuses like this.  A famous one is that our family will not understand; our family will oppose us; our family will reject us, will criticize us, will be hurt if we do what is right, if we take our spiritual path, if we perform a given action, conscious action.  And because we have this excuse, this craving to be accepted by our family, these illusions about what our family wants or thinks, we persist in wrong actions.  But it demonstrates the justifications that our mind will use to keep us from doing what is right.

There are many people who commit crimes and have these kinds of excuses: to try to protect their family, or to try to protect their wealth, to try to look good, because they will be embarrassed if they have to do a certain thing.  So we have those same justifications, unique to our own circumstances.  But we have to be careful to clarify in our own mind when we are justifying ourselves, when are just afraid to do what is right because of what people might think, or because of our own fears about how we are perceived, or how we will feel.

Distractions

The second aspect of laziness that Santideva points out is distractions.  He calls it "clinging to what is negative or petty."  Really, this is the craving we have to do things that have nothing to do with spirituality, nothing to do with the good of others; distractions; habitual tendencies; for example, this idea that we need to have a certain amount of money in the bank, and then we will be spiritual.  "Well, first I need to build up enough money for retirement.  Then I can meditate and be serious."  This is a harmful way of thinking, because you do not know when your moment of death will arrive.

And actually, Samael Aun Weor gave a very clear example of this, of a man he knew who was very interested in Gnosis, but kept postponing his practice because he wanted to develop his property; he wanted to buy a certain amount of land before he died.  Of course, he got sick and was dying, and lost his opportunity for practice, and told Samael Aun Weor that he regretted it very much to have been caught in that foolish idea of trying to accomplish something material first.  This is why Jesus said, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven."

We have many cravings, many desires, which push us to pursue futile habits; futile-useless, things that are a waste of time.  We have many excuses for these types of activities.  A very good example for these days is all the distractions that we love to surround ourselves with.  Many of us become very distracted by all our family activities.  "Oh, I need to go and support the family and be there for the family."  We become very involved in a lot of futile, useless activities; going here, going there; doing this, doing that.  For what?  Or, we work so much that we get tired, and when we come home we want to watch TV "to relax," we want to watch TV "to just be."

But be clear about something: when you are in front of the TV, you are not being; you are asleep.  "To be" is a state of conscious activity, and when we watch television, we fall asleep as a consciousness.   We become identified.  This is not a spiritual practice.

So we become identified with TV, with movies, with books, with magazines.  Some of us become addicted to travel, going and trying all kinds of restaurants, or going to clubs, or going to parties.  All these distractions, which we justify as something that we need to help us relax, or to give us ordeals, but really we are justifying our addiction to distractions.

Some people are addicted to video games, some to movies, some to tv shows.

Some people are addicted to shopping-not because they need something, but because they are addicted to the sensations of shopping, the way it makes them feel.  So instead of accumulating dharma, instead of accumulating good actions for ourselves and others, we are accumulating sensations, the sensations that we get from TV, from movies, from parties.

This is why in the traditional setting, practitioners were always required to abandon all of these worldly activities, like parties, even music sometimes, even family.  They were required to abandon those things because they are distractions from practice, and they cause us to lose time, to waste time.

Master Samael indicated many times that what we really need is to be simple, to have a simple life.  We really do not need many things.  We in the Western countries have an overwhelming abundance of things.  And yet we have the arrogance, the gluttony, to want more.

What we do not realize is in most countries of the world, families eat meat once a week.  The rest of the week they eat a grain, like rice, and some vegetables, maybe some bread, because they are impoverished, because they cannot afford it.  And most of them sustain themselves that way very well.  But we in the west want to have meat at every meal.

We are very picky about what we eat.  If a meal is not prepared in a certain way, or if it has onions in it, or if it has spinach on it, we will not touch it.  This is gluttony, pride, arrogance, and it is an obstacle for us.  It is really a form of laziness.  It is a lack of endurance.  It is a lack of acceptance.

When we cannot accept something, it is because of pride, because of arrogance.  We are too proud to live simply.  We want a bigger house.  We want more things.  We want to travel.  We want to be a big shot.

This is actually what the addiction of shopping is rooted in.  Observe yourself when you go shopping, and notice the feelings that you want to experience.  You want to feel like people are jealous of you, envious of you.  When we buy something, we want the clerk or other shoppers to be impressed with us. "Oh, they have got a lot of money.  Look at what they are buying.  Wow!  I wish I could be like him!"  We want to feel that.  We want to feel like we have the power to buy and acquire anything we want.  Of course, the result of this desire is that we accumulate a lot of possessions we do not use, and a lot of debt that we cannot pay.

So these are all distractions.  The cause of this is that we have not realized the futility of these types of behaviors, and we have not realized the complications and problems they bring to us.  If we were serious, and started to really analyze our desires, to analyze why we keep buying things that we do not need-we buy stuff and we put it in the corner; we buy something else and we put it in the corner; we buy something else and we put it in the corner-we have not analyzed yet.

We need to analyze that.  Why do we keep doing it?  Why do we keep having the desire to watch our television shows, or to watch our movies?  What is the impulse that drives that desire?  What will it bring?  This is important for us to analyze, to think carefully, to meditate, and look at, what will these activities bring?  What will the result be?

Defeatism

The third distraction, or the third form of laziness, is defeatism.  This also has many faces.  Defeatism basically is the idea, or the feeling that we have of, "How could I do it?  How could I become liberated?  How could I become a Buddha?  How could I even meditate?  It is too hard.  How can I learn Kabbalah?   It is too complicated."  And so we give up.

Many students give up before they even start, because the ego of defeatism is so strong.  We want it to be easy.  And this is especially prevalent in Western culture.  If we cannot get it today, then we do not even want it.  Do you notice that?

A good way to see it is when we go to buy something, when we go shopping, if we cannot get it that day, then we do not even want it.  Forget it.  We do not want to wait.  And it is true of our spiritual practice.  If we cannot meditate today and have Samadhi today, we are not even going to bother to try.

This has to do with a certain type of mentality that has been cultivated in our advertising, in our media, which is a very goal-oriented, or satisfaction-oriented, attitude, rather than a process-oriented attitude.  We want to be masters today without having worked for it.  Or we want to be a doctor today without having earned the degree.

We have to shift our attention and realize success in meditation comes from effort, it comes from diligence, it comes from endeavor, from action, from learning.  Liberation comes from the process of learning about oneself.  It is not a pill.

There is no magic pill for Self-realization.  Of course, all the Americans want one, and the Americans are willing to pay for it-lots of money.  This is evidenced by all the books that claim to have the latest great secret about liberation.  Everybody claims to have the secret and they are revealing it for a price.  But the truth is that Liberation cannot be bought or sold.  It has to be earned.  We have to earn it through our moment to moment effort, to be cognizant, and to transform our mind.

Types of Defeatism

There are three types of defeatism that the Master Samael pointed out.  The first one is when we feel handicapped because we do not have an intellectual education.  Some of us think, "Well, Gnosis is too complicated, there are too many words that I do not know.  They use all these words from all these languages and it is too complicated-all this Kabbalah stuff, all this Sanskrit and Hebrew, and I cannot figure it out."  This is a wrong attitude.

What is important for us to remember in this context is exactly what Samael Aun Weor points out.  All the great Masters of the past, Homer, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Quetzalcoatl-none of them went to university.  None of them had the kind of intellectual education that we imagine we should have.  In fact, Samael Aun Weor pointed out quite specifically that of all the people he knew, there were only two who were really well-prepared for Gnosis, and they were both illiterate.

So the concept, or the idea, that we have to be intellectually educated first is false.  What we need is a good heart.  What we need is to awaken the consciousness, to be diligent, to work.  All the education that we need resides within Geburah, the Divine Consciousness, that vase within which is the light of the Being, the intelligence of the Being, our own Inner Master, who can teach us everything we need.

The intellect is not the defining factor.  An intellectual education is useful.  The more we can understand in the intellect, the better.  But if we do have limitations, do not just give up.  Work.  Make effort.  We should not confuse intellectual education with wisdom, or with real knowledge.  Real knowledge, or Gnosis, has nothing to do with the intellect-it is a cognizant value which can be present in any person, whether they are intellectual or not.

The second defeatist attitude is to feel incapable of even beginning to enter into this work, even starting this work, because we feel overwhelmed, we feel incapable.  This arises in us because of two primary egos.  The first is a defeatist ego that we have that, as soon as we want to begin something, the ego says, "Oh, I am going to fail anyway, so I should not even try."  It is an ego that feels that we have always failed in everything, so why should we even try this?

This is especially true of meditation.   We may have tried a couple times to meditate, found that it was difficult, and then we give up.  Then we have this ego that says, "It is too hard.  I cannot do it.  I have tried and I cannot do it."  And then we give up.  This is an ego.  It is an ego that can totally block us from making real effort.  The second one is simple laziness to even do the practices, the simple laziness to just remain mechanical, and just remain self-defeated.

The third form of defeatism is the way we tell ourselves that we do not have the opportunity to do this work, to reach Self-realization; the opportunity is not there for us.  And we have many excuses for this.  "Oh, I have kids.  I have two jobs.  I have to take care of my mother.  I have no money.  I have a disability.  I am sick."  We have many excuses, but they are all excuses.

Any living being, any living creature who has consciousness, can work.  You can be a paraplegic, blind, deaf, and mute, in a hospital bed, and yet, still meditate, because the consciousness is still there.  Remember that.  As difficult as your life becomes, as painful as circumstances become, you have consciousness, therefore you have the capacity to transform.  But you have to will that.  You have to want it.  If you remain with a defeatist attitude, then things will only get worse for you.

What makes the difference here is effort-not theories, not an easy life.  This idea that, "Well, if I can save up enough money, then life will become easier, and then I can meditate"-this is so delusional.  Or the idea that to really be a spiritual person we have to go and live in the woods, we have to go live out in the peaceful countryside-this is also a delusion.

The most opportune circumstances for Self-realization are the most difficult circumstances of life.  An easy life will bring no change.  An easy life will put you into a stupor.  This is why we need to take advantage of our circumstances.  This is why Samael Aun Weor said the painful circumstances of life are the basic requirement for Self-realization.  The Dalai Lama said the same thing.  Padmasambhava said the same thing.  Buddha said the same thing.  So let us abandon the false idea that we need to find an easier, more comfortable, more secure lifestyle.  That is a rhetoric of the ego that wants to put us into a psychological stupor, to put us to sleep.

When we hear about this path, we hear about how much work there is to do in the process of liberating ourselves from suffering.  It is overwhelming.  And the defeatist attitudes easily arise if we are not vigilant of our own mind.

If we hear, for example, someone tells us, "With our science, you can reach Buddhahood in three years," or "With this teaching over here, you can develop your Astral Body in two weeks,"-and let me tell you, there are people saying these things-these statements are lies that excite the ego. We love to hear that there is an easier way, a faster way, because our ego is the one whispering in the back of our minds, "Oh, it would be easier.  Let us go do that.  Much better-you do not need to learn all that Kabbalah stuff, you do not need to do all that meditation.   All you need to do is say this mantra, or say this phrase, or pay this guy some money and he will give you a talisman, or he will give you a scripture to repeat over and over.  Just believe in this, and then you will be liberated in two weeks; in a month; two years."  This is all delusion.

The mind of a Buddha, the mind of an Angel, does not arise by paying money to someone else.  It does not arise easily.  It arises when it has been cleansed, when there are no more impurities in that mind.  Then the Buddha nature naturally shows itself.  So when we hear that, we hear, "Oh, this could take my whole life.  This could take more than this life; it could take several lives."  We become defeated, right there.  But who is it that thinks that way?  It is the ego.

So learn, instead, to turn this around.  Learn to analyze this thought process.  Think about it in this way: meditate.  Meditate on those feelings of defeatism.  I am going to read you a little quote from Santideva that will help you.  He wrote this:

(40) The Sage has chimed, "A strong intention is the root
Of every constructive facet."
And the root of that is constantly having meditated on
The ripening results (of karma):

(41) Pain, foul moods, and assorted forms of fear,
And being parted from what I would like,
Come about from behaving
With negative karmic force.

(42) (Consider this:) by enacting the constructive deeds
That my mind has intended,
Wherever I'm reborn, I'll be honored,
through their positive force,
With an oblation as the karmic result.

(43) But by enacting negative deeds,
Though I wish for happiness,
Wherever I'm reborn, I'll be assaulted,
through their negative karmic force,
By weapons of pain.

In simple terms, every action we perform brings a consequence.  Let us not be worried about whether it takes five years, or forty years, or several lifetimes.  Let us work in the moment now.  Let us forget the concept of time, and instead, realize that our actions of the consciousness now will produce results.  If we utilize our consciousness for the benefit of others, the results will be beneficial for everyone.  That is how liberation arises: by the repeated and consistent performance of heroic deeds-heroic being, in the consciousness- it does not mean you have to go and leap over a tall building.  It means that you heroically control your mind and act from the intention of Bodhicitta, which is to benefit others.

You can have a very simple, humble life.  "Heroic Action" does not mean you have to teach Gnosis and be in front of a huge crowd.  It does not mean you have to give millions of dollars to support the Dharma.  If you are conscious as a person from moment to moment, you have an impact on everyone.  If you are conscious in yourself, and controlling your ego, you irradiate something different, and that produces Dharma.  When you interact with other people and you are conscious of it, and you are centered in your consciousness, and acting from that point of view of conscious, cognizant love, you impact them, and you produce Dharma, you produce a good result.  These are simple actions, but take great heroism.  The heroism is to fight against our own habitual tendencies, of pride, of fear, of gluttony, et cetera.

It seems very difficult, this work.  And it is.  But everything becomes easier the more we try.  Not too long ago, you were struggling to learn the letters of the alphabet.  It was very difficult.  Or you were struggling to learn how to walk, to ride a bicycle.  But the more you try, gradually it becomes easier.  And now, you do not even think about those things, because you have mastered those skills.

Joy

The same is true of Kabbalah, of meditation, of transmutation, of Alchemy, of dream yoga.  They are very difficult in the beginning, but by repeated effort, by trying, by trying, by trying, gradually we figure it out.  And then it becomes natural.  It becomes just a natural part of our life, just like taking a shower or brushing your teeth, because the capacity to meditate is a capacity of the consciousness.   The capacity to have astral experiences, or dream yoga experiences, is natural to the Buddha nature.  It is natural to the mind.  In fact, happiness is the natural state of the mind-happiness, joy.

This is why sometimes this Paramita is translated as "joyful perseverance"-joyful.  You may observe some spiritual groups who do not have a joyful tone, who have a very sour tone, and there are actually Gnostic groups who have a very sour, bitter taste to how they practice the teaching.  And this is unfortunate, because the true nature of the Buddha nature, the true quality of our Buddha nature, of our Essence, is joy.  If that Buddha nature is really being utilized in self-observation and Self-remembering, if that Buddha nature is really being accessed through meditation, joyfulness is the natural result-spontaneous.  That is not something that we have to cultivate or fake - it is just there.

When the ego is taken out of the way, a joyful quality erupts into view, it emerges, because that is the nature of our free, unconditioned consciousness.   When you see a sour practitioner, or a meditator who has a very bitter flavor about their practice, then they are not accessing Samadhi.  Someone who is really cultivating the science of developing Samadhi is a joyful person, a very happy person, a peaceful person, because those are the qualities of the real, free consciousness.

In that way, you can understand that the more you develop your connection with the consciousness through the repeated moment to moment effort to be aware of yourself, to be conscious, the more that natural joyfulness will arise, the more natural, spontaneous serenity becomes present for you.  And in that context, the work to liberate yourself no longer is a matter of defeatism, it is no longer a matter of "Oh, it is going to take forever," or "Oh, I am not at my goal yet.  I still do not have my astral body."  Those attitudes fall away.  It no longer is the point, because the joyfulness of the Buddha nature has emerged.

And in that context, the craving to have spiritual experiences also falls away.  The craving for Samadhi, or the craving for experiences in the astral plane is different from the longing for it.  The longing to know God, the longing to know the mysteries that lie beyond the physical senses is natural, is important.  We need that.  But that longing can be taken by the ego and turned into craving, into desire.  And then we become obsessed.  The only result that will come from that is defeatism, disappointment.  When we become obsessed with Gnosis, obsessed with having experiences, we will defeat ourselves, because God does not reward the ego.

Beyond Samsara and Nirvana

When we understand this nature of the consciousness- to be happy, to be joyful-we see, then, that Samsara and Nirvana truly are states of mind.  Samsara, in Sanskrit, is the world of suffering, of cyclical existence, where things repeat themselves because of Karma.  It is a state of suffering.  Nirvana is seen as the cessation of suffering, as a state of happiness.  But Samsara and Nirvana are two parts of one thing.  They are two mental states.  The Bodhisattva seeks to transcend them both.  This is something very subtle.

The Bodhisattva does not seek Nirvana.  Only the Nirvani Buddhas do.  Only the Sravakas do.  The Bodhisattva seeks to go beyond Nirvana to a state of absolute equanimity.  It is happiness, it is joy, but it is an inherent joy in the consciousness that is not related to states of Samsara or Nirvana.

Samsara and Nirvana are mental states that dawn from within, and they subside within, the mind.  The Bodhisattva goes beyond these states and reaches a state of Tao, a state of balance that is no longer dependent on these states of mind that change due to circumstances.

This is accomplished through all these Paramitas working in union with each other.  In order for us to have enthusiastic diligence, joyful perseverance, we have to discipline ourselves, we have to have patience, we have to have generosity.

Diligence

So, when we encounter the lethargy of our consciousness, when we catch ourselves being identified, being distracted, persisting in a mechanical, habitual behavior which has no good result for anyone, let us react this way, the way Santideva points it out.  He says,

(72) Therefore, just as I'd swiftly stand up
At the slithering of a snake into my lap,
Likewise, at the slithering in of sleepiness or lethargy,
I shall swiftly repulse it.

Do not be complacent with laziness.  Do not allow it within your mind.  The importance of this is strangely illustrated in a story that the Dalai Lama tells.  He said that the main thing that you need to acquire Buddhahood is courage and determination.  And he gives an example.  He said Maitreya was a Buddha, but before he became a Buddha, he was a practitioner just like any one of us.  And he had developed his Bodhicitta-this quality, the aspiration to serve beings-very early.  He developed it before the Buddha Shakyamuni did.  Sometime later, the Buddha Shakyamuni developed his Bodhicitta and then went on to reach full enlightenment before Maitreya did. So even though Shakyamuni developed his Bodhicitta after Maitreya, he reached full enlightenment first.  Why?  The path is the same.  The requirements of the path are the same.  The difference is that Shakyamuni had more diligence, more joyful perseverance.  He worked harder.  He meditated more.  They both had the Bodhicitta.  So if you really want to know the fastest way to enlightenment, cultivate more diligence.  Eliminate the distractions in your life.  Eliminate the useless activities, and convert those into useful activities.

Confidence

Now, in order to do this, one of the things that we need also in order to overcome defeatism is confidence.  Most of these forms of laziness or defeatism have a quality of shame, or a lack of confidence, which is an egotistical state.  So it is very useful for us to reflect on this aspect.

When we feel defeated, when we feel that we do not have the capacity to do the work, we are forgetting our Being.  We are forgetting our own God, our own Inner Buddha.  We are forgetting our Divine Mother.  We need to remember our Inner Being, to remember our Inner True Self, Atman, Chesed, Geburah, the Divine Soul.  We need to remember where we come from.

Self-confidence, in this sense, has a few aspects as well.  We need to have confidence in our ability to act.  And this is quite simple.  No matter what happens, in the next moment, we will act, we will do something.  Even if we just have a mental state, that mental state produces consequences.  So whether we feel defeatist or not, we are producing results.  So would it not be better for us to have an attitude of hope, rather than an attitude of despair?  Would it not make sense, in the context of Karma, to be more hopeful than despairing?  So abandon despair.  It does not serve any purpose.

And with that comes the recognition that we can act.  As limited as we might be, there are actions that we can perform.  As limited as our capacity might be, there are things that we can do.  And as I said, no matter what your station in life, no matter what kind of person you are, or how burdened you are, you have a consciousness.   And the basis of this work is to develop that-to be conscious.  So there are things you can do.

Even if you work twenty-three hours a day, and you have no choice in your schedule or activities, even if you are in prison, even if you are a slave, you have consciousness.   Become cognizant of each moment, and you are working.  Even if you are in bondage, you can develop your consciousness.   So do not allow yourself to feel defeated, or to give up.  Be confident in your own ability to do this.

The image that we need within us of self-confidence is not pride.  Be clear about that.  Pride has a big "I" that wants to be seen and be distinct from others.  The kind of self-confidence we are describing is the image that Shantideva uses, which is a lion, a lion surrounded by hyenas or jackals attacking it.  A lion will fight and have great strength, and that lion is our own consciousness.   The jackals are the egos.

(60) So, when standing amidst a horde of disturbing emotions,
I shall hold my ground (proudly), in a thousand ways,
And not be thrown off by the pack of disturbing emotions,
Like a lion with jackals and such.

So do you see that throughout all of this, that when we talk about enemies, the enemies are always within?-not outside.  The enemy is within.

Perseverance

In this way, we can see that when we abandon defeatism, abandon laziness, we are developing perseverance.  Perseverance has to be carefully managed.  We should not take on too much.  We should be prudent.  When we take on something, we need to take it on with intelligence.  Do not accept a duty or responsibility that you cannot fulfill.

If you decide in yourself to develop more diligence in your practice, it is good if you set a determination to practice, let us say, ten minutes or twenty minutes to meditate.  But when you make that decision, be sure that you can fulfill it.  Do not over-commit.  Because, if you over-commit, you will fail and you will have more defeatism.

The same is true when you take a duty from another person, when someone asks you to do something.  Part of being a successful person in life is taking on jobs that you can actually accomplish.  This is part of what it is to be successful.  Those people who have success in their various fields are the people who do the things that they know they can complete.  And the ones that we call failures are often just people who did not properly measure the job they were taking on.  So they failed.  Then they have this attitude, or this quality of defeatism.  This is not necessary.

When you take on something, measure the resistance.  If someone asks you to perform a job, measure it, and make sure you can actually do it before you say "yes."  And by doing that, taking that simple step, you assure yourself that you can do it, and then when you are done, you have built more confidence.  This applies to everything in life.

(73) Scolding myself on each and every
occasion of a lapse,
I shall contemplate at length,
"How can I act so that never again
Will this happen to me?"

Three Factors

But in synthesis, we can say this: to really learn what heroic action is, learn to apply it in conjunction with the three factors.  Real heroic action arises spontaneously because the consciousness is within us.  So our very first step has to be to remove the obstacles, which is the first factor, of death.  This should be really our priority.  So when we are trying to cultivate our diligence, or heroic action, our first priority is the death of the ego, to comprehend our own mind.

This whole course is about Bodhicitta, about conscious love.  But we cannot act heroically, with Bodhicitta, if within us are the egos which will spoil it.  So our first responsibility is to meditate on the ego, constantly, with great diligence, with great persistence, with great perseverance.

The second one is birth.  Birth, naturally, relates to transmutation, to alchemy, to the process of creating the soul , to creating virtues.  Students who discover Gnosis and study the teaching, many times become enamored of the factor of birth, and put all of their intention and energy into doing a lot of transmutation practice, doing a lot of effort to develop the soul or have experiences.  And this is good, but they will quickly arrive to defeatism, because they are looking for the results of birth, but ignoring death.

Again, this is why I am emphasizing to you: begin with death.  Look to have your results come from death.  Look to measure your Gnostic practice in terms of the death of your "I."  Do not measure your practice based on experiences, on Samadhi, on having awakened experiences in other worlds.  Measure it instead from the point of view of how much you change, as a psychology, as a mind, how much you change your habits and behaviors.

Audience: (indecipherable)

Answer: Exactly.  We need to remove the "I," not build a new "I."

The third factor is sacrifice.  And again, here, we see students who become enamored of this third factor, and who want to be teachers, who want to be renowned instructors, who want to be respected, who want to-even from their heart-give a lot.  But without the factor of death, sacrifice becomes corrupted.  Death needs to be the first factor.

We need to first die as an "I."  And if our efforts are first and foremost centered in the death of the "I," the other factors unfold naturally.  As the "I" is dying, the conscious values just emerge.  This is a matter of course, because each ego that is killed or destroyed, the conscious values that were trapped in it are freed.  And those conscious values naturally perform sacrifice for others-spontaneously, without any artifice, without any fakeness.

So we need to know all three factors.  But let us put more energy into the death of the ego.  That means self-observe, Self-remember, meditate.  Those three encompass the way to develop heroic action.

Let me state it once more so it is very clear.  Heroic action means how we conquer ourselves.  Later, once we have already conquered ourselves, then heroic action becomes action on behalf of others, like the actions of Jesus, or Buddha.

Now, naturally, along the way to that state, we perform sacrifices.  We may do heroic actions for others.  But those actions will be corrupt so long as the ego is there.  This is why I am emphasizing developing a particular point of view when it comes to this particular paramita.  Focus heroic action on oneself, and in that way, spontaneously and naturally, others will be benefited.  And then little by little, we can shift focus until all of our attention becomes sacrifice for others, all of our heroic action becomes sacrifice.

We cannot really help other people until we are free, until we understand how to conquer the ego, we understand how to conquer ourselves, we understand how to meditate.  Then you can really help someone else.  But if you still do not know how to meditate, you still do not know how to eliminate the ego, you still do not know how to conquer your own mind, all you can do is confuse other people, because you remain confused.

Audience: I have a question about Karma.  If you are in a mechanical state where you do everything mechanically, and you commit a crime or you do something, but if you do that in a conscious state, is it more severe Karma as a conscious individual, or a mechanical?

Answer: Okay.  So the question really is, when you perform an action, is the Karma greater if you do that action knowingly?

Audience: Right.  With all of your being, versus doing it as a sleepy individual, and just a motion.

Answer: Right.  The important thing to understand about Karma is that it is a conscious law, not a mechanical law.  For a mechanical law, a good example would be gravity.  Gravity is a mechanical law.  If I pick up something and let go, it will fall, and there is really no way around that, unless we apply other forces to it.

Karma, on the other hand, is managed consciously by intelligences related to Geburah.  And the first manager of that force is Geburah within us, our own Divine Consciousness.   Our own Being is the judge of the law in us.  But beyond that, there are also actual judges of the law.

When we perform an action, there are consequences for that action.  What determines the consequences are the results of that action, not the intention.  If we intend to cause harm, we will pay for that intention, yes, if the results harm.  If we intend to cause harm and we do not, we do not pay so much.  You see?  You still pay.

If we do an action and harm, we pay.  If we do an action and intend harm, we pay.  So you see the intention is sort of irrelevant.  For example, when you park your car on the street out here, and it is a street cleaning day, it does not matter if you intend to do it or not-you will get a ticket or you will get towed.  And the law is like that-the Karmic law is like that.

But it is more conscious than that, because the Law has mercy, but the Law also has severity.  You see these two aspects here, related to Mars?  Geburah is justice, severity.  Chesed is mercy.  These are the two parts of the scale of the Law.  But these are within us.  These are not outside.  These are parts of our own Being.

That is to say, severity and mercy are the two aspects which balance the consequences of the action.  Let me give you an example.  If you perform an action not knowing that it is wrong, you acquire Karma for that.  But if you know the Law, you acquire more Karma than you would have otherwise.  But if you know and you teach the Law, you acquire even more.

Audience: If you know you are teaching it wrong.

Answer: If you teach the Dharma, and you do something against the Dharma, you acquire much more Karma than you would if you were someone who simply knew the Dharma, or someone who did not know it.  You see the scale?

This is why it is so important when we teach, that teaching is not just about giving lectures or talking to students.  It is also about how you live your life.  It is about knowing how to embody the law in your actions, and how you deal with other people-it is a very big responsibility.

And, you know, like we were talking about before, some people just want to be teachers because of pride.  They want to be admired, or different egotistical reasons.  But it is very important to measure the true intentions that we have-very important.

Audience:  Is being in a prosperous country, surrounded by material comfort, actually a form of Karma or ordeal for spiritual aspirants?

Answer: That is an interesting question.  The question is, is being in a prosperous country, or a comfortable place, a kind of ordeal, right?  Or a kind of Karma?

Everything is a result of previous causes.  It is said that when we have material comfort, it is because we have performed Dharmic activities in the past.  And this is because having a relative amount of comfort and security in life gives us the freedom to practice Dharma more.  Whereas if we are impoverished, or sick, or in a place where there is a war, it becomes very difficult to have a mind that is stable enough to meditate.

If you are under threat of death, if at any moment, your house could be blown up, or a gunman could run in and kill everybody, it would be very hard for you to have the serenity necessary to really meditate.  So you can say in that sense, that living in a comfortable environment, or a safe country, is a form of Dharma, is a benefit.  That would by my point of view.

Audience: We got to look for worse situations.

Answer: Our Being gives us what we need.  If our Monad, our Being, is really serious about pushing us into the Path, our Being can modify our Karma, in order to inspire us, to give us circumstances to push us to work.

So we see, for example, certain masters or teachers in the past, who may have had some Dharma, but their Being was pushing them so hard that they kept that Bodhisattva in very difficult circumstances, to push that Bodhisattva to work.  And that could be the case with any one of us.  We may actually have Dharma, but our Being is holding it, keeping it, in order to push us to work.

In certain cases, the Being may say, "Well, let me give my human soul some comfort, so they have a chance to develop a certain part of themselves, a certain aspect."  So really it is individual.

A Being, or a Master, or a Bodhisattva, who is really working in the depths of the mind may actually seek out difficult circumstances, because those circumstances are what they need in order to cultivate themselves further.

Any other questions?

Audience: Speaking about difficult circumstances and working with that, right?  Voluntary suffering, can you expound on that?

Answer: Voluntary suffering.  While the basis of that is to, first of all, learn how to accept our suffering, to accept it, this is a subtle thing, because the point of doing this work is to overcome suffering, which means that we do not accept it.  We want to change it, right?  We do not want to continue existing in a state of suffering.  So when we say voluntary suffering, what does that mean?

What that means is the willingness of a Bodhisattva to take on adversity in order to transform it.  The basis of the Shravakayana ideal, the foundational path, is to conquer suffering for one's own benefit, to come out of suffering.  But the basis of the Mahayana and Tantrayana is to transform suffering, and in turn benefit other people.  So this is what is meant by voluntary suffering.  Our focus is no longer on simply escaping suffering.  It is to transform it, to take advantage of circumstances.

A good example of this would be, we may have a difficult situation in life.  Let us say, for example, we have children.  When you have kids, there are a lot of problems that come with that, a lot of difficulties.  And if you as a parent, take those difficulties with resentment, like, "Why do I have to deal with this, why do I have to deal with this and that and put up with all these problems?"  That will create problems in the family, will create problems for the children, will create problems for you.  But when you accept that "this is my reality, this is my situation," and you accept it consciously, willingly, then you can transform that suffering.  It is no longer as painful.  Then you can, "Well, yes, it is difficult but it is worth it, worth it because I am giving something to these kids, I am providing for them."  So that is a good example.

But for a Bodhisattva, it is another scale beyond that.  Let me give you an example.  One of the qualities of perseverance that Santideva points out is something called "Armor-like Perseverance."  This is a quality, or a value, related to this paramita.  And what "armor-like" means is it is to have this quality of heroic action developed to such a degree that nothing can penetrate it, meaning that a Bodhisattva can descend into the deepest hell, and be there to help other beings, and yet still have absolutely no mental anguish-to have absolute, perfect serenity of mind.

That is armor-like perseverance, because that intention, the diligence, is so strong that the sufferings of Samsara cannot penetrate it.  At the same time, the attractions of Nirvana cannot penetrate it.  This is "armor-like."

Now let us compare that with you and me.  We are here in the city, and little tiny things can totally wipe out our perseverance and our diligence.  We sit to meditate and we get a little pain in our ankle, or there is somebody hammering or playing music next-door, and we become terribly agitated because of the noise.  Or there is a car horn, or somebody is yelling outside-little things can disturb us.  But what about being in the depths of hell, where there is enormous pain and suffering?  Can we be there and be serene?

That capacity arises when we cultivate the quality of voluntary suffering, and this is the ability to accept things as they are and not be disturbed by them, but instead, transform them.

Acceptance in this way is the absence of pride.  When we cannot accept something that is a reality, it is because we have pride.  It is: our pride cannot accept it.  "We are too good.  We deserve better."  Right?  So this is a good opportunity to meditate on pride.

Audience: Is getting rid of your material goods worse than having them and identifying with them?

Answer: Whether you have material things or not is really irrelevant.  What is important is your relationship with them.  When spiritual practitioners of the past were required to renounce their material goods, we have to understand that as a symbolic gesture.  The real renunciation is in the mind.

It is not a question of whether you have a lot of material things or not.  You may renounce them physically, you may get rid of them all physically, but still have the attachment in your mind, thus you have accomplished nothing.  But if you can renounce them in your mind, to no longer have attachment in your psyche to any material things, then whether you have them or not does not matter.

In fact, as a Bodhisattva, it does not matter, because you will take advantage of whatever the circumstances are.  For example, a Bodhisattva who is wealthy will be able to use that wealth solely for the benefit of others, not for themselves.  But a Bodhisattva who is impoverished will use that poverty to benefit others, and not themselves.  So whatever the circumstances, it is irrelevant.  It is about attitude.

 

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