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"Even if one is the most sinful of all sinners, one shall yet cross over the ocean of sin by the raft of Self-knowledge alone.

"As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes; similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all bonds of karma to ashes..." - Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 4:36-37

In this tradition, which we call “gnosis,” we study all the religions of the world, because every religion, every mystical tradition, comes from the same root, which was the experience of its founder. 

Any genuine religion, mystical tradition, or type of spirituality is an attempt to communicate something of value and importance, which is that there is a purpose to life that one can experience for oneself. 

The main traditions that we study here are Hinduism, Judaism, and the reform of those religions which came later, which are Buddhism and Christianity. We study all religions, but these are the four main ones we are interested in.

four main religions

Two Old Religions and Their Reforms

There are people all over the world that study the religion that they grew up with, or the religion that they became attracted to during their life. All of those traditions are very beautiful and have a great deal of knowledge that they express to humanity. But unfortunately, people do not see religions for what they truly are. Over many centuries, religions have become a mere belief, something that people follow, respect, study and believe in, but rarely experience. It is very rare, sadly, to find anyone who has true experience of what the religions are teaching. Yet, that is their purpose: to guide us to experience what they teach.

In this tradition, the experience of religion is our primary goal. Our primary interest is learning the practical value of each religion. This is part of the reason we study all religions, and part of the reason we focus more on these four. 

If we consider this for a moment, when we think of any type of knowledge, any type of information that we may want to acquire, usually it is all based on what someone has said, or has affirmed. The question then is: can we also confirm what has been said, or do we merely accept it or reject it? Pure science demands that we be able to confirm it in our experience. And we too demand this: gnosis is not just religion, it is also science, philosophy, and art. As science, we must experiment, investigate, and discover through our experience what is true.

Now in the case of these four traditions Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity, all of them in their essence teach exactly the same thing. On the surface they can appear different, but in their heart they are exactly the same. They are attempting to convey the experience of a higher way of living, something that cannot be communicated in words. Each religion is like the expression of a person who has gone to another country and come back, and said, “I went here and I went there, and I saw this place and I ate this food and I had these great experiences, and it was wonderful, and the food tasted like this, and they served this type of meal, and I really enjoyed it, and you should experience the same thing.” We hear all that and we get excited, and we believe that must be a great place to go. We have never been there, yet we believe. Religions are exactly like that. But merely believing is not enough. We need to go to the “place” that was described, and experience it for ourselves in order to really know what that religion is about. 

So, merely believing in a religion is like believing that India is a great country, but having never gone there. We may believe it is like this or that, we may love it, we may talk about it, we may have lots of books about it and clothes from there and listen to music from there, and burn their incense and eat their food. But if we have never been there, the truth is that we have no idea what the real experience of India is, whereas someone who has been there knows. Moreover, there is a difference from someone who visited briefly and someone who lived there for many years. There is a big difference amongst these examples; that difference is what we call gnosis. It is to have actual knowledge. That word gnosis means knowledge from experience. 

All these religions, these traditions that I am pointing at, have tried to express the experience of what reality is, and they have each expressed it in their own words and using their own symbols and descriptions, but they are each describing the same thing, which is the nature of reality. Every religion originally attempted to point us towards what is real, not in terms of a belief, not in terms of something that we should simply accept, but in terms of something that is experienceable, something that can be known personally. These two illustrations represent symbolic ways of illustrating the experience that religions point towards. 

kalachakra kabbalah

Kalachakra and Kabbalah

This image on the left is an image from Buddhism of Kalachakra; it shows different dimensions, levels of existence, through which beings experience. The image on the right is the exact same idea, but from the western world; it is called kabbalah, the tree of life, and shows many dimensions, many worlds through which beings have experience. 

In both of these cases, these symbols are an attempt to convey to us that our physical and material existence is only a fraction of what exists. Sadly, most people when they study these types of teachings either believe it or do not believe it, which means they do not really understand that the purpose of these images is to be maps: these symbols show us there is more to being alive and there is more to existence than just the material world — there is much more, but we do not perceive it. We need gnosis in order to understand that.

  • gnosis: knowledge we gain from our experience

This word gnosis is a Greek word that means knowledge, but it does not mean knowledge in the usual way that we think of knowledge. We usually think of knowledge as something that we learn in a book or something that we study or are told. But really gnosis refers to the kind of knowledge we gain from our experience, something that we have known and that we have proven — what we know is real, we know it is true. We know that in winter it gets cold, we know that in summer it gets hot, we know that if we eat certain kinds of food it affects us in certain kinds of ways. Those are types of gnosis — shallow gnosis, but that is knowledge that we can confirm through our perception. Everything that religion teaches us can also be known through our own perception, if we know how to do it. Ultimately, all religions have attempted to teach us that. But nowadays people do not care, they simply want to believe something, to accept one and reject all the others. This is really to the detriment of humanity. 

The founders of these traditions that I have mentioned did not invent anything; none of them made anything up. Each one of them said in their own way that they were only teaching what was already known. The Buddha said, “I have seen an ancient path, and I am teaching what the ancients taught,” so he did not invent anything new. Krishna said the same thing. Krishna said;

"Whenever there is a decline of Dharma (Righteousness) and a predominance of Adharma (Unrighteousness), O Arjuna, then I manifest Myself. I appear from time to time for protecting the good, for transforming the wicked, and for establishing world order (Dharma)." - Bhagavad-gita 4

Religion is a single ancient teaching that flourishes in many ways, like flowers. Each flower has its own color, its own fragrance. But the beauty of the flower is the same, it is something living. 

That singular path, the one root of all knowledge, is what we are really interested in, not the beliefs, not the theories. We really do not care about beliefs, because they do not change anything; whatever we happen to believe makes no difference. You will observe that in your own life if you really carefully watch your own beliefs: you will find most of the time, you find out that your beliefs were wrong. When you meet someone and you may believe that they are this way and that way, and as the years go by you find out that they are not the way you thought, and you discover new things and you find facts that contradict your beliefs. This is partly why many people leave religions; the religious leader tell them reality is A B C, and you must believe this or you are going to hell. Then the followers find out that A B and C do not add up, they do not really make sense in the terms of the facts of how nature works and how the mind works, how humanity works, so they leave the religion. Or they see their religious leader doing things that contradict what the religious leader has been saying all along, and they leave for that reason. Really, truthfully, if the religious leaders where teaching how to acquire gnosis — personal experience — that problem would not happen. This is why we emphasize it so heavily. 

As an instructor in this tradition, I really do not care what you believe, that is your business, I respect it; you can believe whatever you want. My interest as an instructor is to help you come to know, so that you do not need to have to believe. You can know. 

When you know something, there is no doubt, there is no fear, instead there is confidence — not confidence in an outside group, an outside instructor or a teacher or a movement, but  confidence in yourself. That has a lot of value, and gives you strength that you really need in order to work successfully in any type of religious pursuit. That confidence comes from having knowledge that you yourself have acquired, where you have proven the cause and effect relationship between actions and consequences. This is simply what gnosis is, that is all it is, from the most superficial level to the most profound level, gnosis is that: knowledge of cause and effect. 

The relationship between cause and effect is empirical, absolute. There is no room for belief in that. You may believe that a certain type of food will not hurt you, then you eat it and get sick, because cause and effect is simply a fact, no matter what you believe. The belief does not impact reality, belief is a mental construction. This is also true of religion: beliefs are irellevant, meaningless. What matters is action and the results of action. 

This is why our teacher Samael Aun Weor stated:

“Gnosis is lived upon facts, withers away in abstractions, and is difficult to find even in the noblest of thoughts.” - The Revolution of the Dialectic

All of the students of religion have a lot of thoughts about the religion, about their spirituality, and have many abstract notions, like beliefs. But the only place we can find real knowledge is in facts. This is why we emphasis facts so heavily. So, let us start looking at facts.

Begin Your Enquiry into Facts

What are the facts of our spirituality? How do we get really practical with our spirituality? Obviously, we have to focus on ourselves. Spirituality is really about our relationship with everything else. It is about who we are, and what we are, and what that means. So, what are we? Who are we? This is where we start; we start looking at the facts, really taking things down to the simplest level. But somehow, the simple things are very profound. 

We have a lot of beliefs about ourselves, thoughts about ourselves, and abstract concepts about ourselves, but we do not really know a lot of facts. I do not mean facts like “I was born in such and such a year and my name is this and that,” and “I am from this country and that place and I have these types of experiences.” Those are not facts. Those are memories. Memories are subjective; they are not real. By facts I mean: what is happening right now, what can you perceive and confirm is true? 

Now this becomes a profound question. The first thing it requires factually is: who is looking? Who is perceiving? Is it the body? Is it the eyes? Is it the ears? Is it the skin? Who is this? That is a very profound question, and really it should be the origin of our religious pursuit, of our spiritual interest, because that question points exactly where our suffering or happiness springs, where our problems or solutions originate. 

The fact is, we cannot answer the question with facts, because we have not confirmed the facts through our own experience. We have beliefs about who we are, about how we perceive. We believe we have a soul and that soul is our true identity, yet that is not a fact; the soul is a real thing that can be experienced, but it is not experienced through thoughts or belief. Many believe they are angels on earth, or chosen people, blessed by God for some great purpose — there is an infinitude of beliefs about the “self” and what in us perceives — but all the spiritual and religious beliefs and theories contradict each other, which tells us immediately that they are all illusions. Facts can be confirmed and proven.

So, we have abstract ideas about ourselves, we have theoretical knowledge, we have a lot of things that we have been told. But, truly we have very few facts about ourselves. This is what we need to change. What are the facts of our perceptions? What can we perceive and confirm? This approach originates a different way of approaching religion. 

To describe religious pursuits, some traditions use the phrase “self-realization.” But that English phrase is not accurate. It comes from Sanskrit, and the Sanskrit words are atma-jnana. Atma means self, while yana means knowledge, with the same meaning as gnosis: it is knowledge acquired through experience. So atma-jnana actually means self-knowledge. How did people change it to self-realization, and how did that phrase lose all real meaning? People now think “self-realization" is something easy, like getting on a plane and flying high in the sky. They really believe that reading our full and complete development is something easy that happens by itself, without any effort or struggle, or —more importantly — any need to change themselves. How wrong they are!

What is knowledge of self (atma jnana)? Let us begin here and now, and ask ourselves: who is this self? Who am I? Who is this this here? 

If we are willing to be superficial and say, “Well my name is this and that and I have this skin color and I am from this place,” that all is very superficial, and it does not lead to any understanding. That is not real knowledge. That is just appearances. We need to go deeper, and perceive the answer in facts. We need to look into ourselves and question ourselves: what is past the mask I wear? What is deeper than my superficial appearance? Where does the question itself originate? 

So, right at the start, we are doing a kind of introspection. Instead of looking outside and trying to ask, “What is God? What is Buddha? What is dharma?” We are looking inside, “What am I? What is this perception? Why does it change? What is mind? What is emotion?” 

These questions, when asked and watched and perceived, lead to real knowledge, real understanding. Yet, those questions, and the answers, are not resolvable through the intellect, through thoughts, or through beliefs. They can only be answered through perception, thus they must also be asked that way. So: instead of thinking about this, begin to look at it. Look at yourself, and everything you perceive, with this questioning perception. When you arrive to a new place, a new situation, you have a questioning perception, an “open mind,” some might say, but we are not talking about mind really, we are talking about how one sees. Thus we need to continually use a questioning perception, a way of seeing that is always looking at things as though they are totally new.

Consciousness as Enquiry

This type of enquiry is essential when we talk about the term consciousness. 

Consciousness is the ability to perceive. Consciousness is not thought, emotion, or sensation on the body. Consciousness is perception, but it is beyond the physical senses. 

Right now we are all perceiving through the senses, we are hearing with our ears, seeing through our eyes, we can sense with the feeling of touch — those perceptions are all being received in one place and that is the consciousness itself, it is the perceiver that is looking through the lenses of the senses. We can also call that awareness. 

Consciousness is the central point that religion rotates around, because it is the centre point of any experience of living, of existing. Our state of consciousness determines our experience of life. 

So, what is our state of consciousness? Moreover, what is our level of consciousness? We probably do not have a fact-based answer to that question, because none of us really study the consciousness, but we should. The whole of religion is about the state of our consciousness. We should know the state of our consciousness. 

So, we immediately need to analyze: what is consciousness? How does it work? What do I experience of consciousness and perception? If you are serious about that observation, you will discover that in the instant of enquiring, the consciousness changes. 

Naturally, we know from observation that our thoughts change, our emotions change. In this type of conscious enquiry, we learn to observe thoughts and feelings as though we are watching someone else, another person. 

We continually have lots of thoughts that happen, lots of emotion that happen, and we move the body. To some degree, we perceive all of that, but in the midst of it, our ability to perceive it changes. Sometimes we are not really aware, we are doing whatever we are doing and we have thoughts that are moving around in our heads and we have emotions that are moving around in our hearts, but we are not really aware of all of those things all of the time. That is, our limited perception is switching from one phenomenon to another. We have a little bit of awareness of what we are doing physically, but most of our awareness will be in our thoughts, then in emotions, then on the tv, etc. 

For example, when we are cooking, our awareness is supposedly on the cooking, but mostly we are thinking. So while we are cooking, we are thinking, “I have this problem, and I need to solve my problem, and I need to figure out what I am going to do.” So our hands are doing the cooking, but our attention is distracted. Our attention is bouncing from a thought to an emotion, then the phone rings and we take the phone call, and all the while we are still cooking; then someone is talking in the other room and we are halfway listening to that conversation because we want to know what they are talking about. So you see, our attention is dispersed, distracted, not very consistent or strong; instead, it leaps around. That is our state of consciousness. 

That quality of consciousness we can call a “wild mind.” Some call it monkey-mind. It is a very distracted state, and it is one in which suffering is the primary quality, and is characterized by a lack of knowing, with the presence of uncertainty, anxiety, doubt, anger, envy, fear, and many other emotional qualities. It has a surging mind, with thoughts that constantly call for our attention, and different sensations on the body that constantly call for our attention. In other word, our internal state is a chaos, a random, constantly shifting, changing landscape, with no certainty and nothing reliable. That is the state of consciousness of most people, and most people are not aware of it. But that is exactly what has to change if we want to understand what gnosis is, what religion is.

We need to understand what is perception, what is awareness, what are all these things in myself. So really what we are talking about here is our psychology. 

In this tradition we talk about having three brains. That is, we have three centers of activity, three psychological aspects: our head, our heart, and our hands, body, action, movement. These are three realms of psychological functioning. 

three brains

Our Three Brains

In our current state of consciousness, each one tends to operate independently of the others, without our awareness. So while we are thinking about something, some other feelings are happening in us, and physically we are doing something altogether different. Our three brains are not integrated, and we are not aware of them. This leads us to problems. 

While we are distracted by thinking, and distracted by emotions, and doing different types of activities, we are not really aware of how they relate to each other. We are not aware that each one of them is using energy in its own way, usually excessively, and then we wonder why we are tired, why we have pain, why we have doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, and we do not have answers to the questions that we need answered. It is because of this: how is awareness, consciousness engaged in all of this from moment to moment? 

All the ancient religions presented to the followers a way of changing that in ourselves, and working on ourselves. Each one has their own term for it; in Buddhism they call it dharma, while in Hinduism they call it yoga. These words have a great deal of significance. Today I want to talk about how Hinduism presents this knowledge, because it is the oldest and it is also simple to understand and easy to apply. 

Most people when they hear this word “yoga” think of stretching and contorting the body in all kinds of strange looking positions. That type of yoga is really superficial; it is fine for exercising the body, but it has really nothing to do with awakening the consciousness or developing spiritually. 

  • yoga: union

Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “union.” It is describing the union of our experience with reality. It means that our individual perception becomes unified with facts, with what is real, with what is true, not what is merely illusion [maya] but what is real. So, that is really what yoga means: it is the experience of uniting with reality. From that perspective, you can see that doing different bodily positions is not going to have much impact on your perception or consciousness, it is only going to change the position of the physical body. We need to change the position of our perception. The word yoga is related to the Latin word religare, which means to reunite, and that is the root of the word religion. 

The main and most important teaching of yoga is in the scripture called The Bhagavad-gita. This is one of the most important books of Hinduism, and presents a teaching Krishna gave. If you do not know who Krishna is, then you should read this book. The Bhagavad-gita means “the song of the lord.” Krishna is an equivalent symbol to Jesus Christ, and the same as Avalokiteshvara / Chenrezig from Buddhism. These are all the same symbol, they represent the same thing. 

Vishnu the Supreme God

While Teaching Yoga to Arjuna, Krishna Displays His True Form: the Universal Christ

Three Yogas

Yoga is the method through which we as a consciousness, as a perceiver, can unite our perception with facts, with truth, with reality, so we can cut through the illusions, the obstacles, in order to understand something real, something true. The way yoga approaches this is exactly the way we just discussed, through these three aspects: mind, heart, body. 

The first teaching that Krishna gives in The Bhavagad-gita is how to act, how to use your skill, your energy, your body, to act; this is called karma yoga, which is simply how to behave, how to work, how to be engaged in the world, how to take care of responsibilities, how to perform any action — even mentally or emotionally, not just with the hands, the body. 

The second teaching that Krishna gives is called bhakti yoga, and this explains how to use the emotional brain, related with the heart. 

The third teaching that Krishna gives is called jnana yoga, which explains how to use the intellectual brain in your head, which is related with the intellect, the mind. 

Unfortunately many people who study yoga take these teachings superficially and literally, and they think that they should study only one of these. We find this literal interpretation in every religion, not just in Hinduism. 

The problem is that people only want to do what is comfortable to them: the intellectual types want to follow the intellectual approach to religion, while the devotional types want to approach religion devotionally. And the “action” types don't want to study or be devotional, they want to act: doing service, or pilgrimages, or exercises, etc. In each case, the result is that they do not change or grow. They do not balance their three brains. Instead, they just keep behaving as they always have, with the same weakness they have always had. Later, they blame the religion for not giving them what was promised. 

So, there are many intellectual people who only want read and study their scriptures. They really are only interested in jnana-yoga. They could be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim; they do not want to change the way they live their daily lives, how they act and engage with others, they do not want to do anything emotionally, like prayer, they are not interested in these things, but they just like the ideas, concepts, philosophies, etc. 

Likewise we find people who just want to go to church or temple to have that devotional, emotional connection, to sing songs and feel like they are getting something good from the church, temple, priest or lama; and they need emotional food. But they do not really want to study anything, and they do not really want to change how they behave. 

Similarly, we find those who just want to do a lot of rituals, they do a lot of prostrations, circumambulations — whatever type of physical actions their religion promotes — but they avoid the emotional and intellectual aspects.

Real Yoga is Union

"Yoga in a generic sense refers to karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga, hatha yoga, mantra yoga, laya yoga, or kundalini yoga. In a restricted sense, it means the ashtanga yoga or raja yoga of Patanjali Maharshi." - Swami Sivananda

The reality is that we need all three aspects in order to be a balanced person. If you only exercise one arm, that arm will get very strong, but the rest of your body will be very weak, and you will look really strange. It is better if you exercise the whole body. The same principle applies to our psyche, heart, soul, mind: when we exercise all the parts of ourselves, then we strengthen completely. The same is true with yoga. 

What we want to learn is how to integrate all three yogas, and know from experience how to use them all simultaneously. The key is to be balanced in our daily practice, in our daily work, with whatever spiritual approach we are using. Make sure that everyday we are using the body, we are using the heart, we are using the mind, but mostly we are using all of them with attention, awareness. By doing that, we are working in the fourth path, or fourth way, and in yoga, in hinduism, this is called raja yoga; this means "the royal union," the royal path. 

Raja yoga teaches how to awaken conscious and integrate all three brains, and goes beyond them individually. So, in our tradition, this is what we study: we are studying and applying a complete system that strengthens all of us. We are not just studying with the mind, we are not just doing devotional practice, we are not just moving the physical body, we are using all of them, integrating them, using them together consciously

"Religion must educate and develop the whole man—his heart, intellect (head), and hand... Therefore, one should practice the four yogas." - Swami Sivananda

This unified approach can be found in every religion, but with different words. 

Eight Steps to Union

The main text of raja yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Raja yoga is also called ashtanga yoga, which means "eight-limbed," because it has eight fundamentals, eight aspects, which are in synthesis saying the same as the eightfold path of Buddhism. These are two ways of saying the same thing. 

The eight steps of raja yoga are the essential stages of reaching union with reality. In other words, if you want to experience reality, the truth, God, Allah, Brahma, you have to experience these eight steps. You can call them by other names, or no names, but these are not theoretical: they are scientific, exact, and precise, and refer to qualities of consciousness, or perception. If you learn what these are in your own experience, you will experience yoga, no matter what religion you follow. Stated another way, all saints, masters, buddhas, experienced reality, and they did so because their consciousness passed through these eight steps, even if they did not know these words.

So I want to give you an outline of these eight steps, and then we will talk more specifically about the first two. 

1. Yama: Restraint

The very basis and beginning of any approach to spirituality is described by this word Yama, which is a Sanskrit word. This word Yama has a lot of significance. Those of you who study studied our course called Bhavachakra: the Wheel of Becoming know that Yama is also a name of the god of the dead. That name has a lot of meaning, it is very deep and powerful word. In the context of yoga, it means restraint, forbearance, control. Really, the best way to translate this to English is with the word ethics: to be ethical. 

The first thing you have to learn in any religion is what behaviors to stop: do not smoke, do not drink, do not sleep around, do not do drugs, do not steal, do not kill — all these types of behaviors. You have to learn things that you should not be doing. Many people think, “Why are they telling me what to do?” There is a reason: cause and effect, action and consequences. 

Behaviors produce corresponding consequences. When you act one way, you get one result. No exceptions. When you are kind, when you smile, others smile; they cannot help it. Action and consequence. When you frown, when you are angry, you affect others. When you have a bad mood, you come into a place storming around, you affect everyone; action and consequence. Facts. 

Now you notice, just in these simple examples, we do not have any gnosis of that fact of action and consequence; none. That is true, because we still storm around angry, we gossip about others, we talk badly about others, we lie, we steal, we cheat, we do dishonest things — we may say we know we should not do it, but we continue to do things that we should not do. It shows that we do not have gnosis of those behaviors. If we did, we would not do them. We do not really understand how our behaviors produce consequences, not only for us, but for other people. 

2. Niyama: Observances

The second step is Niyama; this means observances, precepts. These are things that we should be doing. We will come back to this in a moment.

3. Asana: Relaxed Posture

The third step is Asana, and it refers to our use of the physical body. This word asana literally means posture. Most people think that Asana means hatha yoga postures, and that this step means you have to sit in hatha yoga postures, or that you have to learn the lotus position in order to advance spiritually. This is not true. This word asana really indicates that our posture needs to be a balance of relaxation and attentiveness. Believe it or not, relaxation is a spiritual requisite. A body and a mind that are tense are a body and mind that are resisting, that are in conflict, that are suffering. So to relax is to let that tension go, to not be engaged in a conflict, to be open. There is a great deal of significance in that. A large percentage of people who give up trying to learn to meditate simply failed at this step: they did not learn how to relax while being attentive.

Most students who enter any type of spirituality skip all three of these steps, because most students think, “These steps are too easy. I want to get to the good stuff,” so they ignore the first three steps, and attempt to start the subsequent levels where they find more interesting practices like Pranayama and Pratyahara. People do not even want to think about ethics. 

There is a reason why the author of the Yoga Sutras — Patanjali — taught these steps in this order: it is because every other religious founder also taught these steps in this order. The steps fit together according to cause and effect. Each step is founded on the one before it. For example, you cannot be successful in Pranayama and Pratyahara if you skip the first three steps; it will not happen. 

4. Pranayama: Control of Energy

Pranayama commonly interpreted as breath control or breathing exercises. It is really much more powerful than that; as Vivekananda said, breathing has very little to do with it. Pranayama is about controlling energy. Prana is life force, the vital energy; it is the root energy of being alive. When you learn Pranayama, you learn to control that energy and utilize it in your spiritual practice. 

You cannot move energy if you are tense (skipped step 3, asana) if you have been doing things you should not been doing (step 1, yama); it will not happen. Pranayama will be ineffective. The same is true with Pratyahara. 

5. Pratyahara: Withdrawl

Pratyahara is when you are withdrawing attention from the physical senses; it is preparation for meditation. But it has more usefulness than simply that. Pratyahara is a state of consciousness in which you withdraw from the physical world in order to turn inward, to work in your spiritual practice. Pratyahara is not just “turning inward.” It is a special state of consciousness that is different from simply looking within. It has certain characteristics by which it can be recognized.

You really need a kind of Pratyahara just to pray. As an example, you will notice that when you have done something harmful or you are in a bad state emotionally or mentally, it is very difficult to pray well, because the emotions surging. But when you are very peaceful, when you have not done anything wrong, when you feel calm and relaxed, prayer is completely different. There is an completely different impact, and that is because of how these steps work together. They are based upon one and other, they are levels. 

6. Dharana: Concentration

When one learns to withdraw attention from the senses, one can then enter into real concentration, which is called Dharana. Real concentration is the ability to place attention on something and not be distracted from it. 

In our current state, we do not have that ability; our attention is easily distracted. We try to concentrate on one thing, but there are so many thoughts, so many emotions, worries, fears, so much anxiety, so many things to think about, things we want to do, tv shows we are going to watch, that we do not really get any far with one activity. That has to change if you want to access other states of consciousness. You have to learn to concentrate very, very well. Concentration is necessary in order for us to reach the higher steps.

7. Dhyana: Meditation

Dhyana is actual meditation. This is a state in which we have suspended the senses (step 5), withdrawing the attention inward and focused on something specific (step 6) and then totally become concentrated and absorbed in that concentration (step 7). 

8. Samadhi: Experience of Reality

From Dhyana emerges this final state, which is called Samadhi. This is where we experience reality. Samadhi is union, yoga.

Now, this can sound a little overwhelming, so what is the point?

Here are the first three lines of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, in the chapter called Samadhi Pada:

अथ योगानुशासनम् atha yoga-anuśāsanam

Now, an exposition of raja yoga will be given.

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ 

Union is the suppression of the modifications of mind-stuff.

तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम् tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe-'vasthānam

Then, the seer rests in her own nature. 

It is here in Samadhi where you experience who you truly are, what you really are. This arises because you have set your body and your mind in a state of peace, and you have withdrawn perception from external things, so that the perceiver can perceive and experience itself. That is where we discover what we really are, our true nature. 

In Buddhism, our true nature is called Tathāgatagarbha, “Buddha Nature.” It is our true identity, the true nature of the mind, the true nature of perception. In that experience, there is no suffering, there is no anxiety, there is no pain, no doubt, there is a profound peace and that peace is accompanied by joy, and an all embracing love. That is why every founder of every religion has said these things: real religions are about kindness, love, compassion, generosity, all of the virtues are expressions of our true nature. None of this has anything to do with belief. It has to do with experiencing reality — our true nature — and then expressing that in each action.

Our true nature cannot be found outside of us, such as in a temple or a book, you cannot find it in a teacher. You can only find it inside, right now, in yourself, but you cannot perceive it because of the clouds in the mind. By learning these simple steps of Raja Yoga — basically, learning how to perceive properly — you learn to withdraw attention from everything outwards, place attention inwardly, and perceive yourself for what you truly are. Then, in that perception, you see that inner reality is more real that what you are seeing here physically. It may be hard for you to understand this with the intellect, but it is a truth. This is a fact that anyone of you can confirm, it is a type of gnosis. 

If you really study yourself and study meditation, you will experience all of this, you will confirm it. But you cannot skip any step. You cannot say “I am going to have that now; I am going to go to Samadhi right now. I am going to skip all these other stuff, because it is confusing, complicated. I am going to go straight there.” Good luck! It does not work like that. 

Every tradition has their own way of presenting these steps; I am just using this model from Patanjali because it is simple. Even if you do not think it is simple, it is actually very simple. And anyone can do it, it does not matter what you believe. It does not matter what your religious background is, it makes no difference. There has nothing to do with beliefs. It has to do with learning how to use consciousness in the right way, with awareness. 

Regarding this state Samadhi, we are talking about it now in the context of meditation because that is how we probably be first aware of experiencing it. But Samadhi is not restricted to meditation. Samadhi is simply a state of perception. And it is likely that many people have already experienced it, but did not know the name. 

Samadhi is an experience of perceiving reality without any filter, meaning that the mind does not change what you perceive. There is no anger present, there is no doubt, no fear, no lust, no envy, no jealousy — pure perception, unclouded, unfiltered. It may only last briefly. This type of perception can happen to us easily when we are children, when we are very young, because our karmic debts have not fully trapped the mind yet. You may remember childhood perceptual experiences that you cannot explain easily, but that moved you very deeply. It may be something simple, even though to the intellect it may appear to be meaningless. Those experiences can be related to a type of Samadhi, a type of perception that was very pure and were accompanied by a feeling of happiness, joy, and peacefulness. Samadhi is something that we know is real, because most of us have experienced it in some form. 

Samadhi can be our normal state of perception and experience, because it is the natural state of the consciousness. The state that we have now is unnatural, abnormal. The quality of consciousness that we have now, the quality of mind that we have, we made it through misperception. We suffer because we do not perceive the truths of ourselves. We are in pain and in doubt and in darkness, ignorance, because we do not perceive reality. We are confused by our thoughts, by our feelings, and by impulses in the body, and we do not see them for what they are. But when we learn how to use perception and learn how to use our energy, harnessing our energy, we can cut through those veils. 

If you know the Buddhist symbol of Manjushri, he holds a sword that represents the ability of awakened perception to cut through appearances, to cut through everything in order to see what is real. That reality is in us, always. But it takes courage, it takes energy. So the way we do that is by starting at the step one: Yama, restraint. 

Yama: Restraint

In the system of raja yoga, there are five aspects to Yama; these five are present in every religion as well. 

The first aspect of yama — and therefore the first step of yoga — is ahimsa. This term literally means “without harm.” Most people think Ahimsa just means “non-violence,” such as when you protest some injustice and you do not give anyone a beating. Some think ahimsa means one should be a pacifist. But that is not all ahimsa is. 

Ahimsa is compassion, it is love. In this way, the Yoga Sutras is the same as the Buddhist Paramitas (perfections, meaning conscious attitudes). The first Paramita is generosity, so this is the same as ahimsa. It is to have the right attitude towards others. 

Ahimsa is part of yama, restraint, because to have an attitude of not harming we have to restrain our self-love, our selfishness, the ego. By restraining our selfish attitude, having awareness of it, we can then allow our true nature to begin to express itself, which is altruism, generosity, to be kind. 

The second restraint is satyam, which means truthfulness. This yama means that we have to be honest, truthful, not only with other people, but with ourselves. 

Asteya is to not steal. 

Brahmacharya is to have sexual purity, chastity. 

"By the establishment of continence (chastity), vigor is gained." - Yoga Sutras 2:38

Aparigraha is renunciation, freedom from desires. 

These five aspects of yama are difficult, especially in the modern era, because we are constantly being assailed with the encouragement to do the opposite of all them. 

Ahimsa, to not harm: every TV show is about himsa, cruelty, violence, not merely physical violence, but mental and emotional violence. Sarcasm is a type of mental violence; most “humor” is really just cruelty towards someone.

Satyam, truthfulness: most of what is displayed through television, magazines and newspapers is not true. The media present a very carefully crafted set of stories and images, based on a precise method to make money. Throughout the internet and all forms of media, there is a great deal of false information, a lot of lying. Worse, more and more people make their living being paid to lie; we should not fall into that. 

Asteya, to not steal: in the modern world, everyone is stealing from everyone else, trying to get whatever they can from nothing. The wealthy acquire their wealth by taking it from others. Everyone wants to steal the position above their own, to “get head” by any means. We also steal the ideas and creations of others and present them as our own. We steal credit. We steal energy. We steal time. We cut in line, or shoulder our way ahead of others, stealing their position in line, stealing their time. We steal in many, many ways.

Brahmacharya: obviously, this humanity has no interest in sexual purity; this is the sad truth. Most people are only interested in lust, pursuing desires, not realizing that lust is the polar opposite of what is required for any spiritual work. 

Aparigraha, renunciation: this is the big one in this world, everybody wants to have their spiritual life, and get all the material pleasures and circumstantial comforts, too. 

Really, the material aspect is irrelevant; whether we have something or do not have something is not what matters. What is important here is our attitude, our relationship with things and circumstances. Both a very poor man and a very wealthy man suffer from the same attachments, so the problem is not their material circumstances, it is the mind. Real renunciation is an attitude, which is to not be always focused on getting things. It does not mean just material things, it means circumstances, too. We are always obsessed with the idea of “I have to get this situation, I need to get into this other place to live,” or “I need to get married,” or get some concept or some belief that “if I have that [insert desire here], I will be happy.” We need to learn instead to not afflict ourselves with so many desires, but to be more simple. 

Niyama: Precepts

The second step of the eight-limbed yoga is Niyama, precepts. 

Saucha is to have purity, and this is not only physically but psychologically, to learn to be pure, to be clean. This is a really big one, and it is the first of these precepts. Some people think it is just keep your clothes clean and take a shower, and while this is part of it, to be clean physically, but the real meaning is to be psychologically clean, and that is not easy, especially nowadays. We are exposed to a lot of dirtiness, filthy things, on TV, in the movies, amongst friends, on the streets, at work — the topics of conversations and things that people are interested in are often really dirty. Not good, not healthy. This also implies to be, to have integrity, to be pure hearted, to not have cunning, not trying to cheat people, but to be honest. 

Santosha is to have contentment, to be happy with what you have, to see what you have and be grateful, not only material things but also the people in your life, the circumstances of your life, even when they are difficult. 

Tapas: austerity or penance. Traditionally, tapas is looked at as behaviors that you adopt in order to pay karma, therefore people will go on pilgrimages, they will do prostrations all the way to the temple and all the way home, or daily chant a certain mantra hundreds of thousands of times, or renounce certain foods or interests; these are a kind of tapas or austerity. While there is value in those approaches to spirituality, in this tradition we look at tapas in a deeper way. When you live these teachings in your life, on a daily basis, the tapas come automatically. You do not need to create penances for yourself. You do not need to make difficulties for yourself, because you will get them anyway; it is part of the work. Part of the spiritual path is that your inner Being will show you the things that you need to change, and those are revealed to you through difficulties. We call them ordeals, trials, challenges, difficulties. 

One of the chief skills that a student needs to learn is to perceive all circumstances as tapas, austerities, penance. So then when you have a problem, you do not immediately react with “oh not again, why me.” Then we go to our friends and say, “Can you believe that this is happening, this guy he did this and he did that,” and we complain. But really, the right attitude is to take that problem and say, “Thank you, because this problem is revealing to me a weakness, a shortcoming, now I can change it, this is my chance to change it, this is my chance to not behave in a poor way, but to reach another level.” And so we learn to take all difficulties as spiritual challenges, austerities that we overcome through virtue. 

The next one is Svadhyaya, which is the study of scriptures. Svadyaya has a lot to do with Jnana yoga, which is the cultivation of the mind, where we train ourselves about the tradition that we are studying, studying the scriptures, studying the teachings. It is not about memorization, it is about comprehension: to really understand what is being taught and make it practical. I am putting it that way because many people read this precept and they think it means they must have scripture memorized and that they can repeat it word for word, but it does not mean that. That is useless if they keep behaving the same way they were behaving before. What svadhyaya really means is to understand scripture and be able to act on it, especially without having to think about it. When you really comprehend a scripture, you know it in your heart; this is not intellectual. Comprehension is in the heart. 

The last of the precepts is Ishvara-Pranidhana. Usually this is translated as “surrendering to God,” but here we call it Self-remembering. That difference is important, because the Sanskrit word Ishvara is a reference to the Innermost, to the divinity that is inside each of us. The word Pranidhana means “to remember, to perceive, to pay attention.” The translation “surrendering to God” does not convey the active, perception component of this precept. Self-remembering is a moment to moment action. It is not passive or just a belief. The phrase “surrendering to God” is passive. It implies that one should let God take over. That is not what this precept is about. It is about actively being aware of the presence of divinity in each moment.

Whatever our approach, whatever our decision, whatever we do with ourselves from moment to moment and day to day, if we can make these ten restraints and precepts into guidelines for our behavior we will be spiritual, whether we believe in spirituality or not, whether we believe in a religion or not. If we can adopt this kind of ethical way of perceiving, we start to change, not only changing our life, but changing what we see and what we experience. This is how someone starts to really understand what gnosis and religion are in facts. 

All of it is summarized in observing yourself: to be mindful, to be aware. That is the beginning of meditation, that is the beginning of Samadhi. All of the steps that we went over are simply that. We broke it in to a lot of pieces to analyze it in detail, but really the synthesis is to observe yourself, all the time. That observation should not be one of judgement, it should be one that is impartial. Look at yourself as though you do not know yourself. This is a different attitude. 

We usually do not really look at ourselves, we are usually looking out and comparing what is out there with what we want or do not want. That is why we suffer, that is why we are tense, that is why we are stressed. Stress and tension are a disagreement between reality and a desire. If you throw the desire out, then you see the reality, there is nothing to be tense about. 

When we look at the facts, it is nothing to be tense about. If you have a problem, you look at the problem; if it has a solution, you can solve it. If it does not have a solution, you cannot solve it. Either way, there is no reason to be upset. The Dalai Lama told us that. It is simple, but we do not know it (gnosis), because we still get tense. 

All these steps need to become practical for us, something that we work with on a daily basis. The study of scripture is important, the study of the doctrines are important, and understanding the terminology is important, to know about the structures of the mysticism and how all the pieces fit together, this is all important, but it all means nothing if we are really not actively working with changing our perception. That begins with how we perceive ourselves. 

First Practical Exercise of This Course:

Learn to observe yourself impartially, continually, from moment to moment. Specifically: every day, compare your thoughts, emotions, and actions with yama and niyama.

  • Self-observation: An exercise of attention, in which one learns to become an indifferent observer of one's own psychological process. True Self-observation is an active work of directed attention, without the interference of thought, emotion, or sensations.

"We need attention intentionally directed towards the interior of our own selves. This is not a passive attention. Indeed, dynamic attention proceeds from the side of the observer, while thoughts and emotions belong to the side which is observed." - Samael Aun Weor

Helpful resources:

Yoga of Synthesis

The Great Rebellion
Karma is Negotiable
Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology

Beginning Here and Now
Bhavachakra, the Wheel of Becoming

Questions and Answers

Audience: If there are some toxins in our environment which causes [...] pineal gland which is fluoride. Is it worthwhile to try you know [...] did you have any thoughts on that?

Instructor: Yes, the health of the body is really important. Throughout the body we have a lot of physical issues and energetic problems, many of which are caused by environmental problems like toxins and impurities, chemicals. So the first thing is to try to eat and drink the purest food and water that you can. That itself does a lot to clean the glands. Drink clean water, do not drink sodas, and do not drink all those substances that you can buy in bottles at the stores; they are filled with impurities. Drink water. That alone does a lot to clean the body on every level. 

Secondly, when you start working with energetic practices like pranayama, those exercises stimulate and cleanse the channels of energy throughout the body, particularly around the glands, the pineal gland being a main one. That gland is atrophied in all of us; we need it to be strengthened and awakened so that we can develop our capacities. Daily circulation of energy cleanses and restores that gland as well. That energy is more powerful than fluoride. 

There is some scientific evidence that shows that fluoride has a negative impact on the endocrine system, so personally I try to avoid it. But there are places where you cannot avoid it, since they have put it in everything. Do your best, try not to ingest it, but I would not stress over it; the main thing is, understand that inferior substances are always overcome by  superior ones. If you are eating food that is not that good, which is the case for everybody on this planet right now, if we are really engaged in our spiritual work and transforming energy, from that we are getting superior forms of energy that will nourish us and sustain us. That does not mean we should use this as an excuse to keep eating and drinking garbage, however.

Audience: My meditation has a lot to do with breath and breath control. What I do is meditate and shower with a nice hot shower, and then turn the water on to freezing cold without trying to lose the flow of my breath, first it is like oooohh kind of gasp is it worthwhile or is it like pushing something craziness over the edge. And these are just things I have heard from other people so you know I just want to get re..

Instructor: There are types of pranayamas that utilize the changing of temperature, but they do not have much application in the approach that we take here. What we are trying to here is to relax the body and stimulate the consciousness so that we focus all of our attention internally, therefore we do not want to stimulate the body or shock the body. We want the body to be fully relaxed, and let the body rest while the consciousness becomes active internally. 

Audience: That brings me to a third question, meditation in a sensory deprivation tank, I do not know if you are familiar with that… 

Instructor: Yes, I am familiar with them. When you learn how to relax properly, you do not need a sensory deprivation tank, it is unnecessary. Learning to relax, learning to work with energy in the body, you automatically learn to extract attention from the senses, and the body rests on its own, perfectly at ease, without the difficulty or the expense of one of those tanks. The benefit then is that you can meditate anywhere, anytime. The tanks are interesting, but they are not necessary, and in fact they can become a crutch that you become dependent upon it. Here, our goal is to remove dependency on all external things. We aim to become fully independent.

Audience: My next question is about DMT, is that something that is beneficial or are the experiences of reality?

Instructor: What we are trying to do in this tradition is strengthen the consciousness so that it can perceive reality without any filters, without any external conditioning. As we are now, our consciousness is conditioned. It is conditioned by the state of being we have created, and that is our misperception of reality, and our misperceptions of ourselves. By injecting substances into the body that afflict the consciousness, we only condition it further. You do not perceive reality in that way. To see reality, you have to remove all conditioning, and that is why we meditate. We extract the consciousness from the body, since the body is a type of conditioning. We extract consciousness from physical sight, from hearing, from smell, from touch, from taste, we extract it from anger, pride and envy and greed and gluttony and all forms of desire. The result is that we reach what is called Samadhi. It is a state in which we perceive without any condition, and that is how we experience our true nature. This is not merely a philosophy, a theory or a game; it is a terrific reality confirmed millions of times by followers of every religion and tradition. 

There are many types of perceptions that you can have, they may be pleasant of unpleasant, yet perceiving something does not make it real. There are uncountable numbers of ways of modifying and conditioning consciousness, such as through chemicals, drugs, machines, etc., and all the people who follow all those ways say that they are seeing reality, and say they are getting blissful experiences, etc. but the proof is in the fact of things. It is simple: does it free your consciousness permanently from anger, lust, fear, pride, envy, etc.? Does it increase your serenity, wisdom, generosity, diligence, patience? Or does it increase your dependency, fear, attachment, lust, pride, resentment, envy?

Here is how Krishna explains what proper techniques lead us toward:

"When one is completely free from all desires of the mind and is satisfied with the Supreme Being by the joy of Supreme Being, then one is called an enlightened person, O Arjuna. 

"A person whose mind is unperturbed by sorrow, who does not crave pleasures, and who is completely free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called an enlightened sage of steady intellect. 

"The mind and intellect of a person become steady who is not attached to anything, who is neither elated by getting desired results, nor perturbed by undesired results. 

"When one can completely withdraw the senses from the sense objects as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into the shell for protection from calamity, then the intellect of such a person is considered steady. 

"The desire for sensual pleasures fades away if one abstains from sense enjoyment, but the craving for sense enjoyment remains in a very subtle form. This subtle craving also completely disappears from the one who knows the Supreme Being." - Bhagavad-gita 2

We want to experience reality without any dependency on anything other than our true nature. So in this tradition we do not relay on any external influence like chemicals, drugs, plants, machines, audio recordings that are supposed to produce certain types of brainwaves, or music that you are supposed to listen to, or some teacher that are supposed to sit near by you and do certain mantras or whatever people invent as a shortcut to liberation. 

It is not complicated: self-realization, self-knowledge, liberation, are only inside of us. We do not need anything outside. The truth is inside, liberation is inside, freedom is inside, so we are very much purists in that way.

Audience: .. How true is that, one of my friends [went into] a basic meditation and you have to count the breathing from inhale and exhale that is the warm up basic meditation, and do not know how true is that.

Instructor: Counting the breath is a preliminary exercise. 

Audience: So not a type of meditation though? 

Instructor: Some people call it meditation, in the same way that you can call doing a warm up before workout as part of the workout. Counting the breath (annapanna), or doing pranayamas, or chanting mantras, all these exercises are preliminary, they are warm ups, but they are not actual meditation (dhyana). Some people do never go beyond the warm up, which is fine. Each of us is at our own level, and we need to work at that level. But properly spoken, properly defined, meditation is a state of perception, it is not a practice or exercise. Someone who is highly skilled can be in meditation while still active physically. Meditation (dhyana) is a state of perception, not a physical posture or behavior.

I have outlined for the steps for you. Meditation begins with Dharana and Dhyana. It is where the consciousness begins to focus entirely on whatever it is concentrating on. While the external perception is closed, we are not distracted by the senses. Instead, the consciousness expands inside. This is an important point, because our consciousness the way that it is now is very heavily conditioned and weak. 

Now when we try to place attention to something, it really takes a lot of interest in that thing for us to pay attention to it. We do have concentration, but generally we are really not that interested in what we are doing, unless we are watching some television and it is at the climax at the story and we really want to know what is going to happen, we can be very concentrated on that show; or while watching sports, you may be very concentrated on the game. That degree of concentration is what we need when we meditate. You can be so concentrated on something that you do not even hear people. Someone can be saying, “I asked you three times, you are not listening to me.” So we do have the ability to concentrate, we just need to train it to focus through spiritual practice. 

When concentration is trained, it deepens, and we separate the consciousness from disturbing influences and are no longer distracted by them, concentration goes deeper and deeper and deeper. It reaches a certain threshold beyond which we enter something new, a whole other type of perception, where we no longer feel like the person who has this physical body and this appearance, we realize we are something else. This is where we start to experience our true nature; that is real meditation. It is that perception. 

Sometimes we use the term meditation in a loose way to refer to practices that help us reach that state, but truthfully meditation refers to a state of consciousness, not a practice or posture.  You may have the appearance of meditating, but to really be meditating, your physical posture is irrelevant. A master can be meditating while they are walking down the street having a conversation. Their attention, their perception, is in a state of meditation. That is very different from us, but it is easy for someone who has developed that skill. 

Audience: You were saying beliefs do not affects our reality? But when somebody has a belief like the ego, that can be a belief. Like if we have an ego and that tells us "I am a bad person" or that I believe, that like, I can never do this or I believe that this is impossible. Is not that actually affecting the reality? Like they are not going to be able to do that thing, because that is their beliefs?

Instructor: The belief influences us, but what changes things is action. So if you are listening to that belief, that thought that says “I am hopeless, I am no good, I cannot do it,” then you act on it (in this case, you give up, you don't even try because you believe you will fail), that action does change things. It is the action that changes things. There is a distinction: the belief is one thing, the action is another. 

It is the same distinction we make between having good intentions and how you actually behave. We may have really good intentions, but if our actions produces suffering we accrue the consequences of that. There is no exception. You may have meant to do something good, but if you do something harmful, it is the action that makes the difference. So beliefs are just like vapor, smoke; someone can believe in Satan and call themselves a Satan worshipper, a black magician, or a devil, but if they are help someone in need, feed the hungry, and do charitable works, they will receive benefit. You see? The belief is irrelevant, it is the action that counts. 

Audience: Why is it that Christianity and Judaism somehow came to the like, that God is outside of them?  How does that come about, if religion is all about just knowing your own nature? 

Instructor: That happens in every religion, even in Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddha Shakyamuni came to reform Hinduism; he did not come to throw it out or to disagree with it. One of the things that he taught was that the Hinduism had fallen into idol worship, assuming that all gods were outside of us and different from us. He was pointed out was everything that you need for liberation is inside of you. That is what Jesus taught as well. That happens in every tradition. Even now in the Gnostic tradition it is happening; people are making the tradition something to be worshipped and believed in, and they do not actually live it and act upon it, they do not engage in the practical aspects on the daily basis. For them, it is just a belief. They just want something to follow and believe in. They just want to believe they will be saved, but they are not doing anything inside of themselves about it each day. 

That is part of the reason I wanted to give this lecture. It is really important that the instructors emphasis this all the time. Believing in this tradition is completely meaningless. It does not benefit anyone. It is when one acts upon it, lives it, that it has value. 

In the West, the practical application of the teachings was set aside because of the interest in power. The ones who are responsible for guiding humanity were fighting to retain power. The way they did that was by changing the teaching, taking the power away from the individual and telling the individual, “You are powerless, and you can only advance with our help.” That is wrong. Yet, every religion degenerates into that. That is also happening with the Gnostics: some instructors are saying that the students must belong to their group, otherwise they will not be saved. That is a lie. You do not need to belong to a group to be saved. To be saved depends only on the condition of your consciousness. Liberate it from your ego, and you will be saved from the lower worlds.

Audience: If we can remember some of the experiences that we had, as an instance you said that [if we have that] state of consciousness, should we meditate on those [experiences].

Instructor: Absolutely, we should meditate on all of our experiences. Especially those that we can remember where we experienced real joy, freedom, peace, because those experiences have causes and conditions; they arise because of cause and effect. So by meditating on those things we can understand cause and effect and learn to apply them and put those forces into motion in our lives now. It is definitely of value. 

Audience: ... 

Instructor: I understand your question. Well, these eight stages do not represent everything that can happen. These are just the stages that you need if you want to reach Samadhi. Anywhere along this way it is possible to leave the body if the circumstances allow it. So even if you get relaxed, you have done your ethical work, and you get relaxed, you can go out of your body right there. You can be doing pranayama and go out of your body, you can be doing pratyahara and go out of your body. Do you understand? 

Audience: Yes.

Instructor: Samadhi, however, can only be reached through this process. Now, the thing is that Samadhi can happen so quickly that you may not realized that these other steps happened. When you get very relaxed and concentrated, you can go right through all of them in an instant, and then go right back to the beginning, in an instant. These are not slow, laboring stages, where we have to make a lot of effort to get through each part; it does not work like that. These are qualities of consciousness. 

To be out of the body is in some sense irrelevant to the conversation, because Samadhi, being a state of consciousness, can happen in any dimension. You can have Samadhi while you are still in your body; I was explaining that during the lecture. A master can be having a conversation with you and be in a state of Samadhi; this is not an unusual thing. It is simply a state of perception that is unfiltered. Likewise, from any of these steps you can go out of your body and experience being out of the body, and you can have Samadhi or not. Because again, Samadhi is just a state of consciousness.

Audience: So then just because you are able to leave your body does not necessarily mean you reach a state of Samadhi. 

Instructor: No, not at all. Every time you dream, you go out of your body. The dreaming state has many qualities, many levels of consciousness, from very inferior levels to very superior levels. But that does not equate samadhi.

Audience: Being conscious when you are out of the body or conscious while you are dreaming does not mean samadhi, either?

Instructor: That is right. You can be out of your body but still the consciousness is filtered. Being out of the body is not samadhi.

Audience: So if I find myself in a place where I can leave my body should I do it or should I just try, no trying to see around [...which] direction to reaches samadhi, [no more] would be beneficial to leave the body and then try to meditate from there.

Instructor: That would be my advice. The body is a type of conditioning. As you see on the tree of life, the physical body is quite low. If you have the ability or have the experience to get out of that body, do it, because by doing so you have removed a whole set of veils, a whole set of conditioned circumstances, and you are getting closer and closer to a pure experience. Does that make sense? 

Audience: Yes, absolutely.

Instructor: There are practices in tantra where you learn to extract perception from all of the veils, sheaths, or koshas — bodies — until you are left with the consciousness in its pure state without any filter. This type of technique is common in all forms of tantra. That is ultimately what we need: to perceive without any filter, to see the reality.