The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Gnostic Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
I felt it would be good for the new year to really analyze what meditation is, and to really study it in a didactic manner. As we say in this tradition, meditation is the daily bread of the Gnostic. It is our daily practice. Without understanding how to meditate, how to experience the reality of our Being, we in turn cannot experience the reality of our Being. So, I wanted to really touch upon what this science is and how to really effectively practice. Because without meditation, we cannot attain anything.
Some people think that meditation is a means to have experiences, which is partially true, to be able to speak directly to God, our Being, such as in an astral experience or out of the body. But the truth is, as Samael Aun Weor stated, that when we meditate what we seek is information. We seek to know, to investigate, to discern our internal states, any scripture we are studying, and, more importantly, our defects. As he says in The Great Rebellion:
“In life the only thing of importance is a radical, total and definitive change. The rest frankly is of no importance at all. Meditation is fundamental when we sincerely yearn for such a change. In no way do we want any type of meditation that is insignificant, superficial, or in vain. We must become serious and abandon the nonsense that abounds in cheap pseudo-esotericism and pseudo-occultism. We must know how to take things seriously, how to change if what we really and truly want is not to fail in the esoteric work.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
This is probably for me one of the most poignant statements in that book. We have to learn how to really take things seriously, meaning we have to really dedicate our time and our effort to understand, what does it mean to meditate? It's a mysterious science that we cannot comprehend in its depth, without the balance of study and practice.
That is beautifully illustrated in this image. In the center we have Chenrezig, which is Christ, otherwise known as Avalokitesvara. To his right we see Manjushri wielding a sword, and in his left hand, he has his scripture. Typically in Tibetan Buddhist paintings, in the Mahayana or Vajrayana tradition, we find Manjushri wielding the sword of perception, in order to cut through delusion. So that sword, while representing the Kundalini, is really a representation of how with our perception we need to cut through illusion. As the Master Samael explained, we need to learn how to receive information. We need to learn how to perceive, to know ourselves. The fact that the sword represents Prajna, perception, wisdom, is really integral and emphatic of how we can experience our Being. Prajna in Sanskrit means wisdom, and wisdom comes from the etymological vis, dom, vision and dom, kingdom or power, the power to perceive.
What is important is that in his left hand, he also carries a scripture. So, on the right hand, he has practice, he has effort, daily exercises in meditation and practice, cutting through the illusions of self. Then in his left hand he has scripture, meaning we need to balance our knowledge and our being, as the master Samael explains I believe in either The Great Rebellion or Revolutionary Psychology.
“Now, it is completely impossible to experience the Being, the Innermost, the reality, without becoming true technical and scientific masters of that mysterious science called meditation. It is completely impossible to experience the Being, the Innermost, the reality, without having reached a true mastery of the quietude and silence of the mind.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
This is again beautifully emphasized in this image. For Manjushri, representing occult wisdom, we have Mahakala on the left of Chenrezig, surrounded by flames. In Tantra, he is known as a wrathful deity. Maha means great, kala reminds us of Kali, the goddess of death in Hinduism. He represents severity of the gods, a wrathful energy, which is directed towards the pulverization of the ego, and really demonstrates for us the type of willpower that we need if we want to really conquer ourselves.
In order to know Christ, even our inner Buddha, our inner Being, we need to cultivate wisdom, Prajna, perception, and work with the sexual energy. Because that fire illuminating Mahakala is representative of the Holy Spirit, the sexual power, which when we harness for our consciousness can pulverize our ego. For if we use that sexual energy in a chaste way, Mahakala then works in us to pulverize our defects. But if we are lustful and if we fornicate, Mahakala turns on us, because we are establishing and fortifying our ego.
Notice in the center of the image, we have Chenrezig holding a prayer bead. These are used for Japa meditation, mantra recitation, and represent remembrance. To know God, we need to really work with discernment, Prajna, wisdom, to perceive ourselves and to always cultivate the use of the sexual power.
Now, in this next image we have a Sufi master praying to his Innermost or his inner Christ, Allah, signified by the Arabic letters. We emphasize that when we meditate what we seek is to know and really extract information from any given object of concentration.
“To experience the truth is fundamental, and it is not by means of the exertion that we can experience the truth.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
Many people think when they sit to meditate that they have to strain their mind or that when they practice, it is like a checklist: first I need to concentrate, then I need to do this, then I need to do this. They make it a rigid system, when it is really a dynamic and fluidic process. We do not need exertion, do not need to exert the mind, to know God.
“The truth is not the result, the truth is not the product of exertion. The truth comes to us by means of profound comprehension.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
This is really what we seek is to comprehend, but we do not do it with the mind. Our mind is our chief obstacle. We typically have this assumption, and many Westerners assume, that when meditating, we take this habit of our Western society into our practice where we are thinking all the time or trying to resolve a problem with the intellect. Comprehension comes to us when we do not think, when we cease or exhaust the process of rationalization.
“We need to exert ourselves in order to work in the Great Work and to transmute our creative energies.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
We need to work with Mahakala, Binah, the Holy Spirit.
“We need to exert ourselves to live, to struggle and to tread the path of the integral revolution, but we do not need to exert ourselves in order to comprehend the truth.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
As we have explained many times, comprehension is that spark in which we see things in a completely new way. So when we sit to meditate, and we analyze what our state of mind is, if we do not taste that flavor of a new perception, it means that our mind is murky. It is diluted. However, actually this type of perception of Manjushri, the sword of perception, is very clear, pristine, cognizant, without filters. This of course comes in levels. Manjushri, you see, is holding the sword, and we think that, well, when someone goes to battle they need to exert themselves. Physically this is true. But when we go to war against ourselves, our ego, when we comprehend and self-observe our inner defects, we do not need to exert ourselves, because that is the mind. Comprehension is that intuitive insight which arrives when we see our defects or see a defect in action, and we do not rationalize, justify it or condemn it. We see it for what it is.
This is really the beginning, chastity and perception: sexual purity and Prajna, wisdom to perceive. Comprehension of any defect and meditation does not require that we exert ourselves in any way. When we stop thinking, when we are just open to the new, then insight comes. But willpower is necessary in these teachings too, so there is an interesting dynamic that this relates to, which is very beautifully explained in the Al-Risalah by a Sufi master, Al-Qushayri.
“Iradah, the will to find God, is the beginning of the path of spiritual travelers. The first title given of those who are determined to reach God Most High. This attribute is only called iradah, because will is the preface to every undertaking. When the servant does not will, he does not carry out. Since this is the start of the enterprise of one who travels the path of God Almighty and Glorious, it is called ‘will’ by analogy to the resolution involved at the beginning of everything else.” —Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
Now, Manjushri, it seems like he is using effort to cut through illusion. In the beginning for us when we sit to meditate, we need to exert efforts in our consciousness to pay attention, not the mind. Exertion is of the mind, but we need a type of conscious effort in order to restrain our thoughts and our mind in the moment. The type of willpower that the Sufis are talking here, relates to Tiphereth in Kabbalah, the Human Soul. The human soul has to exert herself to transmute and to remember the Being. But the more that we develop our consciousness, the less effort it takes.
I remember in the case of the Master Samael Aun Weor, who stated that in the beginning of his work, he had to exert tremendous efforts to remember himself and to travel out of his body to go to the superior worlds. Later, since his center of gravity shifted from Klipoth, having annihilated those defects, it was then placed in the superior worlds. So then he said, “Now it takes me tremendous effort to stay in my physical body because I always want to travel to other dimensions,” while he's talking and doing other things. But for him to be in the superior worlds does not take effort. And that's the type of development that we can all acquire, where it doesn't take effort to go out of our body. It isn't difficult.
Again, I emphasize, exertion is of the mind, but we need willpower. So there's a balance here and there's seemingly a contradiction, as the Sufis pointed out.
“According to etymology, the disciple is ‘he who possesses will,’ just as the knower is ‘he who possesses knowledge’ because the word belongs to the class of derived nouns. But in Sufi usage, the disciple is he who possesses no will at all! Here, one who does not abandon will cannot be called a disciple, just as, linguistically, one who does not possess will cannot be called a disciple.” —Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
The meaning of this is, if you think about the story of Jesus, he said, “Father, if it would be possible, take this cup of bitterness from me, but not my will, but Thine be done.” We need to do the will of our Being. That means that we have no will of our own. It is then our Innermost acting through us. But in the beginning, we need to have discipline, willpower to meditate and to practice every day if what we want to experience is the Being.
Remember that Christ in his crucifixion wore the crown of thorns, which is a representation of willpower: Christ's will. We don't need egotistical will; we need Christ's will. That's the explanation on this dichotomy. We need willpower, but we don't need willpower—we really need Christ's will, but we don't need egotistical exertions in our mind. We'll never know God that way.
Question: It's like we need a will to have no will?
Instructor: Exactly. We need willpower in our consciousness. Willpower in Kabbalah is Tiphereth, the center of the Tree of Life, the heart. It is by our heart that we are defined.
To know God, we need to cease thinking, but we need discipline in our consciousness. There is a saying in The Great Rebellion that “we can only awaken the consciousness based on conscious efforts and voluntary sufferings.” He says no matter how much you exert mechanical energy in your physical body, we will never awaken our soul. Neither if we transmute or work with vital energy extensively, that alone will not awaken our consciousness. Neither if we work with psychic energy, astral, emotional forces, that alone, even if we multiplied those forces to infinity, that won't awaken us. It is the same thing with mental energy, Netzach, mind. Even if we exert ourselves in mental disciplines of a very severe type, that won't awaken us. Neither if we multiply our willpower a million times, such as being like a fakir, sleeping on a bed of nails. Going back to the four ways, we find that the monk works with emotional energy singularly, exclusively, the yogi works with the mind, and the fakir works with willpower and mechanical energy. That alone will not awaken anything in us. But if we work with our consciousness, through conscious efforts and voluntary sufferings, meaning we work with our Being to exert our consciousness to work, that is how we will awaken and perceive something new. That is when all the other lower Sephiroth work in conjunction with the consciousness. Because the consciousness needs to know how to use willpower, Tiphereth, the mind, emotions, vitality, etc. So we need that type of discipline, which is not subjective but something that we can only verify by really practicing it.
Simplicity and Discernment
The foundations of this direct perception pertain to that sword of Manjushri, discernment. We find here that in this image the Christ holding a child. We emphasize many times that we need to have the mind of a child, to be really simple, and not constantly rationalizing or intellectualizing on a daily basis, on a moment-to-moment basis. Children don't argue, debate, theorize, believe—they simply know. Especially at a young age, many children are very clairvoyant before their ego integrates into their psyche as they develop their personality.
“The discernment is the direct perception of the truth about the process of conceptual selection. When the process of selection divides the mind in the battle of the antitheses, then the internal images are hidden like stars behind the stormy clouds of reasoning. You must learn to think with the heart and feel with the head.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
This is the wisdom of a heart, the heart doctrine, in which we will learn to become real masters of meditation. To think with the heart and not to let our mind ramble or label or identify things every moment. If we find meditation is difficult, it is because throughout our day we struggle with this problem where the intellect is too active. The way that we pacify the intellect is that we learn to think with the heart and to feel with the head.
“Our mind must become exquisitely sensitive and delicate. The mind must liberate itself from all types of bonds in order to comprehend life, free in its movement.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
The Master Samael emphasizes that thought should flow serenely like a river in the jungle. He doesn't mean that we necessarily stop thinking; it means that the ego does not abuse our intellectual center. If we are very observant, we will see how the ego really abuses the energies of the intellect, the mind. The only way that we can know that is by discerning that, how that ego functions in a given instant. It needs to be sensitive and delicate, so that it can be an instrument of God.
We can see that in this image Christ, here is Chenrezig, is holding the soul and it is on his lap, because Christ the being is the master and the child is our consciousness.
“We admire boldness,” meaning we need to really have a lot of willpower, again, to be bold, to really have the courage to go against the entire current that is swallowing this humanity, and which on a daily moment-to-moment basis, tempts us and pulls us to suffer and to go with the flow.
“Desires of all types are bonds for the mind. Prejudice and preconception are bonds for the understanding. Schools are cages where the mind remains a prisoner,” not only referring to physical schools, but spiritual groups.
The only purpose of a group is to teach you how to meditate, to really learn how to practice. Unfortunately, there's a tendency in many groups to feel that having a large number of students or a large group means that the people are successful, the practitioners are successful. But that is really a herd mentality, and typically, a lot of these individuals treat spiritual groups as a social club. The problem is everyone needs to learn how to meditate, otherwise flag, country, politics, beliefs, religion, groups, these structures limit our understanding of really investigating seriously our psyche.
“We must always learn to live in the present because life is always an internal instant. Our mind must convert itself into a flexible and delicate instrument for the Innermost. Our mind must convert itself into a child.” This is from Igneous Rose.
If we remember Jesus in the Gospels was riding on the donkey into the heavenly Jerusalem, it refers to how we need to dominate our mind. The way that we do so, how we develop esoteric discipline of mind is precisely in the practice of meditation, which is given in different ways, such as by Patanjali or in this more synthesized version by Samael Aun Weor.
“Oriental wisdom practices meditation in the following order:
“Asana, which is posture of the body,
“Pratyahara, thinking in nothing.
“Dharana, concentration on only one thing.
“Dhyana, profound meditation.
“Samadhi, ecstasy.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
Dhyana refers to when we are extracting information and perceiving something new about the object of our concentration. Samadhi is comprehension, to see, to perceive without the ego. Because the word ecstasy comes from ecstatuo in Latin, meaning to stand outside oneself, to stand outside one's subjective perception, the ego.
“It is necessary to place the body in the most comfortable position, asana. It is indispensable to blank the mind before concentrating, Pratyahara.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
Typically when most people begin meditation or have been attempting this for years, these are the two difficulties that everybody faces. First, the body is uncomfortable, we want to move, we want to adjust ourselves. Or if we do find a position that is comfortable, the mind continues to think and to talk and talk and to chatter. So we need to learn how to have a silent mind, which is one of the first steps to learning how to concentrate. Many people try to meditate without knowing how to concentrate, without knowing how to quiet their mind, without having any type of stability in that manner.
“It is urgent to know how to fix the mind on only one object, which is concentration, Dharana. Then we profoundly reflect in the content of the object itself, Dhyana. Thus, through this way we reach ecstasy, samadhi or comprehension. All of these esoteric disciplines of the mind must saturate our daily life.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
These practices have to be implemented in every second of our existence. We need to have a discipline of observing ourselves, moment by moment. Because if we don't, then when we sit to meditate, the mind is in chaos.
Now, here is a quote for you, a saying by Swami Sivananda, who was a great Resurrected Master in this tradition on the importance of following these steps:
“If you want samadhi you must know well the process of Dhyana, meditation. If you want Dhyana, meditation, you must know accurately the method of Dharana, concentration. If you want Dharana, concentration, you must know perfectly the method of Pratyahara, silence of mind. If you want Pratyahara, you must know Pranayama, sexual transmutation. If you want Pranayama, you must know asana well, posture. Before going to the practice of asana, you should have yama and niyama.” —Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
Yama means to do or yama can also mean precept, I believe. Precepts and to do or not to do, one's ethical discipline.
“There is no use jumping into Dhyana (meditation) without having the various preliminary practices.” —Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
Yama and niyama means good and bad action, meaning the ten commandments or the ten virtuous or the ten non-meritorious actions of Buddhism. Meaning, don't consume intoxicants, don't fornicate is the primary one, never abuse this sexual energy, never steal, commit adultery, kill—things on a physical level which are very basic but psychologically these are things that we do all the time. The only way to really access even having a body that is still, we need to have discipline in our daily life. Because there are many people who attend meditation, while continuing to fornicate. The problem with that is those energies are being expelled, the mind being turbulent, one can't even sit down to meditate. The body is easily agitated. So that is a preliminary step. If you want success in meditation, we need to really fulfill yama and niyama, precepts and restraints of one's mind.
The Foundations of Meditation
“The great ascetics of meditation are the great Sannyasin, the cosmic understanding, whose flames glow within the igneous rose of the universe. It is urgent to acquire absolute chastity, tenacity, serenity and patience in order to be a Sannyasin of the mind.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
This is the foundation. Physically we need to learn how to be chaste, we need to learn how to have tenacity in our practices, we need to learn how to be serene even in the most difficult circumstances. We need to learn how to be patient, to endure suffering as Master Aberamentho in this image represents in the garden of Gethsemane before the beginning of his passion.
It all begins by developing sexual purity, willpower, peace of heart and mind and the endurance to consciously suffer the consequences of our previous actions, meaning that we learn to endure suffering. It is a very enigmatic statement by the Master Samael, but something that we need to really come to know in depth, where he says, “Consciousness can only awaken through conscious efforts and voluntary sufferings.” It doesn't mean that we go looking for problems and we get ourselves in trouble. It means that in our particular circumstances in our daily life, we learn to suffer willingly when we get criticized or our pride is hurt, to feel that sense of discomfort, psychologically speaking, and to not run away from it, but as the Master Samael explains, “There is the need to remain indifferent before praise and slander, before triumph and failure.” Meaning, we see the impression of someone insulting us and our pride is hurt. We have to willingly suffer the consequences of having created that pride, that shame in our psyche and to extract our understanding from it, to see it in action. Our conscious efforts are when we are separating ourselves into observer and observed. We have to see ourselves for what we are.
“It is necessary to change the process of reasoning for the beauty of comprehension.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
The more that we develop Pratyahara, silence of mind, comprehension is spontaneous. It comes without any exertion, any effort. It comes to us when we cease thinking, but the only way that we can cease thinking or over-rationalizing is working with sexual power. Because before Pratyahara we work with Pranayama, mantra. Before that, we have to maintain our vow of chastity.
“In order to become a Master of Samadhi, it is urgent to cultivate a rich interior life.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
It sounds pessimistic if we are really honest, and we observe our psychology throughout the day. What does it mean to have a rich interior life? To be rich psychologically is when we are comprehending ourselves, when we are filled with understanding of the causes of our suffering. If we go throughout a day not perceiving what in us makes us suffer, it means that we are poor. This is not the meaning of the “poor in spirit” who are blessed. Instead, to be rich psychologically speaking is to be working in our selves.
“The Gnostic who does not know how to smile has less control of himself like the one who only knows the guffaw of Aristophanes.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
I know many people, they enjoy these studies and they think that because this teaching is very potent and strong, one has no sense of humor. But there are many people who enter these types of studies and who don't know how to enjoy life, which is completely against the point. It is ironic that we need to learn how to consciously suffer, but at the same time that produces our happiness. Meaning the more that we separate from our ego, the more joy we spontaneously and naturally develop. As Samael Aun Weor says, “The greatest joy of the Gnostic is the discovery of one of his defects.”
Even though there is suffering in that moment if someone condemns us or really hurts our self-esteem, if we observe that self-esteem in action and we see it for what it is and understand it for what it is, there is a sense of liberation in saying, “Okay, now I'm going to go home and I'm going to meditate on this defect that came up, so that my Divine Mother will annihilate it.” There is tremendous peace and joy in that. For me, there is no greater happiness than to catch my mind in the moment that it is suffering and to extract my soul and to see my defects in action, and to really perceive that I have a choice or that we have a choice to follow our own will or the will of our Being. That produces genuine happiness, that makes us peaceful. But the opposite is those who would laugh like the guffaw of Aristophanes, who are saturated with desire.
“There is the need to achieve complete control of ourselves. An initiate can feel happiness, but he will never fall into the frenzy of madness. An initiate can feel sadness, but he will never reach desperation. He who is desperate about the death of a beloved being still does not serve as an initiate, because death is the crown of everyone.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
This pertains to our ethical discipline.
This is an image of Shiva meditating behind the mountain of initiation, the Holy Spirit sitting upon the cloth or the fur of a tiger, which is the animal ego that has been annihilated in meditation. Swami Sivananda gives some very thorough advice in his book Kundalini Yoga about what we need to do for our Asana.
“When you sit in a posture, think, ‘I am as firm as a rock.’ Give the suggestion to the mind half a dozen times, then the Asana will become steady soon. (Meaning we won't shift or try to adjust our posture.) You must become as a living statue when you sit for Dhyana.” —Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
Don't move. If you're moving, you're not meditating, if you're scratching an itch, getting discomfort, we're not meditating. As Samael Aun Weor explains, we need to be absolutely still, and people ignore this instruction, typically, because the thing is he's referring not only to mental silence but physical stillness. We can't be mentally in equipoise if we are moving our body.
“Then only there will be real steadiness in your Asana. In one year by regular practice, you will have success and will be able to sit for three hours at a stretch. Start with half an hour and gradually increase the period. When you sit in the Asana, keep your head, neck and trunk in one straight line. Stick to one Asana and make it quite steady and perfect by repeated attempts. Never change the Asana. Adhere to one tenaciously (as the Master Samael emphasized, we need to tenacity in our practice). Realize the full benefits of one Asana.” —Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
For me it is sitting in a chair or in my home. I use my bed. I sit against the wall, my legs out. For me, that is the most comfortable posture where I can concentrate without getting distracted or letting myself fall asleep. When we pick an Asana, it can be lying down, it could be sitting in a chair, it can be sitting in the full lotus. What matters is we pick a position and are consistent with that.
“Realize the full benefits of one Asana. Asana gives Dridhata (strength). Mudra gives Sthirata (steadiness). Pratyahara gives Dhairya (boldness). (As Samael says, we admire boldness.) Pranayama gives Laghima (lightness). Dhyana gives Pratyakshatva (perception) of Self and Samadhi gives Kaivalya (isolation) which is verily the freedom or final beatitude.” —Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
Pratyakshatva is perception or the sword of Manjushri, in which we cut through illusion. What is interesting is that with Samadhi, we have isolation. When we are diligent in our practice, we may have the grace and experience of a Samadhi, in which we are united with our Being, meaning our consciousness gets absorbed in our Innermost or in our inner Christ and this produces isolation. Usually in the West we think isolation is that “he is not feeling well” and “he is antisocial.” But isolation in this sense means hermetic silence, meaning one is not influenced by external phenomena, but is completely focused internally, that is what it means to be isolated. The way that we attain this type of comprehension is that throughout the day, we are psychologically isolated, meaning we don't identify with any circumstance. We don't waste our energies, we become hermetically sealed. Which is the science of mercury, the science of mind, the angel Raphael.
Swami Sivananda continues, “He who has gained Pratyahara, withdrawing the senses from the objects, will have a good concentration. He will have to march in the spiritual path step by step, stage by stage. Lay the foundation of yama, niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara to start with. The superstructure of Dharana and Dhyana will be successful only then.” —Kundalini Yoga
Silence, Concentration, and the Mind in Kabbalah
Here, we are explaining the gradual steps of this process or the stages of meditation. Pratyahara means to withdraw your senses from objects. Now, we included here a quote from the Katha Upanishad, Hindu scripture, emphasizing the nature of Kabbalah in our psychology. This can help us to understand more about the nature of Pratyahara, Dharana, silence of mind and concentration.
“Know the self, Atman (or Chesed in Kabbalah), as one sitting in the chariot, a body is the chariot, the intellect (the translation really is Buddhi or should be translated to Buddhi, the consciousness, divine consciousness), the charioteer and the mind, the reins. The senses they say are the horses, the objects of the senses their path. When he, Atman, is in union with the body, the senses and the mind, then wise people call him the enjoyer (meaning when we allow our inner Being to act through us, then we are filled with joy and remembering the flow of life, moment by moment, in this instant). He who has no understanding and whose mind, the rein, is never firmly held, his senses, the horses, are unmanageable, like vicious horses of a charioteer. But he who has understanding and whose mind is always firmly held, his senses are under control, like good horses of a charioteer. He who has no understanding, who is unmindful and always impure, (meaning fornicating, unchaste,) never reaches that place but enters into the round of births.” —Kaṭha Upaniṣad
Samael Aun Weor was more specific in saying, “Woe to the coachman who loses control of his chariot,” meaning that chariot will fall off the cliff into the abyss. Meaning if we're impure physically, psychologically, and we don't control and restrain our mind, then that will take us into successive incarnations into lower animal states, as we explained in Transmigration of Souls, until finally entering the abyss or disintegrating in the inferior dimensions.
“But he who has understanding, who is mindful and always pure, reaches indeed that place from whence he is not born again. But he who makes understanding his charioteer, (understanding his Binah, the Holy Spirit,) and who holds the reins of the mind, he reaches the end of his journey. And that is the highest place, the all-pervading self (or Brahman, you could say the Absolute).” –Kaṭha Upaniṣad
In this image we have the Lord Krishna with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna represents Prajna, the Innermost, or better we say Christ our Lord. Arjuna is Tiphereth, the human soul of which we are a fraction. So Tiphereth is willpower, who is united here under the guidance of the Being. We find this image of four horses and a chariot. Specifically within Krishna we could say we find Atman and Buddhi, the Divine Soul and Innermost as well. The master is Christ and the Human Soul is identified as Arjuna.
“The mind must be united with this divine triad (meaning Atman-Buddhi-Manas, the Spirit, the Divine Consciousness, and the Human Soul), together with the psychic extractions of the astral, vital and physical vehicles.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
We find the horses, we have four, which is the physical, vital, astral and mental bodies. We need to learn to integrate those four horses in the service of our Being. Typically in us, the horses are going in different directions and are leading us on a rugged path. Instead, we need to discipline our mind, precisely through these stages of practice.
“The interior Manas together with the Kamas, astral body, Prana, vital body and Linga, the physical body, enforce the divine triad by means of fire.” —Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
Going back to the image of Mahakala, the flames surrounding this being. We unite our four lower Sephiroth, physical body, vital body, astral body, mental body with our inner Being by means of Kundalini, by means of the sacred fire. In single practitioners, we can make sparks, but those who are married and are working with their partner and maintaining chastity, that energy can awaken and unite one with Atman. We need sexual fire if we want to unite our lower Sephiroth with our Being. That's how the mind is restrained. Without that force, we can't control the chariot.
A means to help us with this, we find in the Sufi scriptures. So this is sama, which is a spiritual concert of Sufi initiates. Again, this is a quote from Al-Risalah, translated as Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri, where he explains the way that we develop discernment is through Self-remembering and through mantra recitation. To develop strong concentration, we work with Pranayama or we can work with mantra. As you remember in the image of Chenrezig, he is holding prayer beads in his hand, signifying the step of remembrance.
“Remembrance is a powerful support on the path to God, Glorious and Majestic. Indeed it is the very foundation of the Sufi path. No one reaches God save by continual remembrance of Him. There are two kinds of remembrance: that of the tongue and that of the heart. The servant attains perpetual remembrance of the heart by making vocal remembrance. It is remembrance of the heart, however, that yields true effect. When a person makes remembrance with his tongue and his heart simultaneously, he attains perfection in his wayfaring.” -Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
Because that mantra along with concentration and prayer to our Being takes that fire and unites it with our divine triad, so that we help our Being, as sacrilegious as that might sound, for Him to help us, to control our mind.
“A group of wayfarers complained to Abu Uthman, we make vocal remembrance of God Most High, but we experience no sweetness in our hearts.” —Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
This is what many practitioners experience, who will be mantralizing, but don't feel that rich, intuitive insight or inspiration from the practice. It means that if we are doing it mechanically, we don't feel that sweetness in our hearts. So this master advised, “Give thanks to God Most High for joining at least your limbs with obedience.” Meaning, yeah, you may not have deeper insight or experience with this mantra that you're working with, but give thanks to God that he has inspired you to practice, so that through consistency every day, we can develop that sweetness and to really feel the energies present in Pranayama or mantra.
We find the following later stated, “Part of the conduct proper to supplication is that it is presence of heart, that you are not inattentive while you supplicate. It is related that the Prophet said, ‘God the Most High will not answer the supplication of a servant whose heart is heedless.’” —Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So if we pray mechanically, we won't receive anything, but if we are sincere, then our supplications, our practices will have fruit. This is also beautifully exemplified in Shakespeare, in Hamlet, where King Claudius who just murdered his brother, is praying in a church for his sins. But he doesn't really feel remorse for what he did. So he says, “My words fly up to heaven, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” So the same thing as the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.
Preliminaries of Meditation
We are using a lot of images from Bhagavad Gita. Again, we have Krishna talking to Arjuna and the Bhagavad Gita really explains for us the foundations of our practice. These are other examples of what we need to do, to really be successful in meditation, as stipulated within the Bhagavad-Gita: Yoga of Meditation, the Sixth Discourse:
“Let the yogi try constantly to keep the mind steady, remaining in solitude, alone with the mind and the body controlled and free from hope and greed.”
Here, we're practicing as a group, usually we will practice alone. But the type of solitude they're referring to is psychological, meaning we don't let ourselves identify with any circumstance throughout the day. We need that hermetic silence in our consciousness.
“In a clean spot having established a firm seat of his own, neither too high nor too low, made of a cloth as skin and kusha grass, one over the other. There, having made the mind one pointed (which is Pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses so as to concentrate, silence of mind, or Dharana, to have one point of concentration as well). With the actions of the mind the senses controlled, let him, seated on the seat practice, yoga for the purification of the self.”
This is known as retrospection meditation in this tradition, in which we analyze our defects and annihilate them through comprehension and prayer to our Divine Mother.
“Let him firmly hold his body, head and neck erect and perfectly still, (meaning our Asana, we don't move) gazing at the tip of his nose without looking around. Serene-minded, fearless, firm in the vow of Brahmacharya, (Brahmacharya meaning chastity,) having controlled the mind, thinking of me in balance and mine, let him sit having me as his supreme goal.”
When we observe ourselves, we find that we are usually not serene-minded; we are typically filled with fear. Our mind is not chaste, full of lust, but chastity begins physically. We cannot learn to meditate at all if we are not firm in our vow of Brahmacharya. Which means never to fornicate, ever.
“Thus, always keeping the mind balanced, the yogi with the mind controlled attains to the peace abiding in Me, which culminates in the liberation. Verily, yoga is not possible for him who eats too much, nor for him who does not eat at all, nor for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who is always awake, O Arjuna.”
So we need balance in our daily life.
“Yoga becomes the destroyer of pain for him who is always moderate in eating and recreation, (such as walking, etc.) who is moderate in exertion and actions, who is moderate in sleep and wakefulness. When the perfectly controlled mind rests in the Self only, free from longing, from the objects of desire, then it is said he is united.”
Meaning as soon as we are free from any psychological obscuration in our mind, then Samadhi emerges.
“As a lamp placed in the windless spot does not flicker, to such is compared the yogi of controlled mind, practicing yoga in the Self (or absorbed in the yoga of the Self).”
As Samael Aun Weor stated, our esoteric discipline practices should saturate our daily life.
Concentration and Meditation in The Odyssey
Here I'm going to emphasize, in relation to concentration, a Greek myth, given in the Odyssey by Homer. He provided a very beautiful psychological teaching in this epic poem. Previously, we explained Pratyahara, withdrawal from the sense perceptions and silence of mind. Now we're explaining more about Dharana, concentration.
In the poem, Menelaus is a king of Sparta, returning with Odysseus and other Achaeans after the war against Troy. He was stranded on an island without wind on his way home to Sparta, in which he needed to investigate what gods were responsible for deterring him from his passage home. Eidothea, which is like a sea goddess, daughter of Proteus on the right, explained to Menelaus that her father would be the one to explain how to get home. Proteus is referred to as the prophet and as a sea creature that can transform into any shape or animal, tree, object. What's interesting about Proteus, this is where we get the word protean or something that shape changes or changes object or form.
So Eidothea advises Menelaus, and Menelaus says, “Show me the trick to trap this ancient power or he'll see and send me first and slip away. It's hard for a mortal man to force a god.”
Samael Aun Weor states that one must be very demanding with their inner Being. This is emphasized in The Odyssey. It is hard for a mortal man to force a god, but still we need to force our God to help us, and I don't mean this in the sense of controlling our Being, but I mean this in the sense that when we are meditating, we are so disciplined that we don't let our mind distract us in any circumstance. So the mind changes shape, distractions are merged in our thoughts, our emotions, our body, constantly surging in our perception and we still do not let any of those elements deter us from the object of our concentration. In order to receive teachings from our being, we need to be very demanding with our God, as the Master Samael explains. And this is emphasized in the myth of Proteus.
Menelaus and I believe two other men prepare to lay ambush to Proteus, who is bathing at the sea with his seals. “Now, there was an ambush they would have overpowered us all, overpowering true, the awful reek of all those sea-fed brutes. Who’d dream of bedding down with a monster of the deep?” Meaning they are preparing to attack Proteus, but really someone is preparing to meditate, and we see all these sea creatures in our mind, our defects, which smell with lust and are filthy, and it is overpowering. And we feel like we can't really sit to meditate because we have so many discursive psychological elements or defects in our mind, which are filled with lust, specifically.
“But the goddess Eidothea sped to our rescue, found the cure with ambrosia, daubing it under each man's nose. That lovely scent, it drowned the creatures' stench.”
So, how do we overcome lust? It is by being chaste, meaning we work with transmutation. The nose relates to the sexual energetic currents, Ida, Pingala, in our spine, which go up intertwining to our brain. This is the symbol of the caduceus of Mercury. When we transmute, we're bringing that energy up the two channels in our spine through our nostrils. So Eidothea, the sea goddess, the goddess of chastity places this ambrosia, the transmuted sexual energy under the nose, so that Menelaus does not get overpowered by the stench of his own lust, so he doesn't get petrified like by Medusa, as I believe in the myth of Perseus against Medusa.
In order to really develop concentration, we need to again, the emphasis is chastity, to transmute when we sit to practice, sublimate our energies, so that when we work on our lust, we don't get overpowered by it.
“But we with a battle cry, we rushed him (Proteus), flung our arms around him. He lost nothing, the old rascal, none of his cunning quick techniques. First, he shifted into a great bearded lion and then a serpent, a panther, a ramping wild boar, a torrent of water, a tree with soaring branch tops, but we held on for dear life, braving it out until at last, that quick-change artist, the old wizard began to weary of all this.” —The Odyssey, IV, ll. 509-517
Our Being is like that. First the mind is full of distractions and we're continuing to concentrate on our Innermost. So that through the silence and quietude of the mind, our Being will concur to our call. It will come to our aid. But again, if Menelaus didn't have that ambrosia under his nose, then he could not have even attempted this. Because it would have been overpowered by his lust, but instead by being chaste, like David and Goliath, where David, the soul takes the stone of Yesod, the sexual power and with that little stone, he kills the giant. This is the same myth, the same meaning. Menelaus is able to conquer his mind, the shape-shifting nature of his mind in order to communicate with the prophet Proteus. Then Proteus says now I'll explain to you how to get home, and Proteus provides him a lot of help, but only if we are very demanding. We have to force a god, according to this passage that Homer was explaining.
That's the nature of Dharana, to concentrate. Here is the thing, when we focus in meditation, we don't want to let our mind get distracted by other things, but we want to maintain the purpose of our practice. When we're alone, it is good that we sit, we determine for ourselves what we're going to meditate on. Then when we're meditating, we stick to that practice and not shift and let ourselves waver. We need to be very demanding. If we have a certain point in our exercise, whether it is to meditate and annihilate our ego or to understand the meaning of a scripture or to understand the nature of a teaching, we have to be firm with our resolve and what we are going to do.
Or to communicate with our Being, to have a mind that's open and serene. Because usually if we sit to practice, our mind drifts and we forget what we're doing. The way to resolve that is when you sit to practice, determine for yourself what is it that you want to meditate on, whether it is your Being or to remember events throughout the day. That way, as we are really courageous in conquering our mind, Proteus will answer us, “Okay, you've caught me, you've controlled your mind. Now in the silence of your mind and heart, I'm going to teach you.” Sometimes this can occur if we are meditating, we fall asleep, we go out of our body and then our Being will instruct us.
Again, this is a Sufi teaching from Al-Risalah, emphasizing the nature of how to develop willpower, conscious will, Christ's will, and it reiterates many of the points that we made.
“Through the whole night and day, the aspirant does not slack in his endeavors. Outwardly, he has the characteristics of struggle, (meaning jihad, to strive,) inwardly, the attributes of endurance. He has separated himself from his bed and bound himself to concentration,” for as Prophet Muhammad taught, it is good to lose sleep over prayer. We didn't meditate in the day, we go home and we're tired and we want to simply knock out. If we take a few minutes, which is what I do, I sit myself against my bed and I force myself to meditate. And this is the meaning of: ‘he has separated himself from his bed and bound himself to concentration.’ We don't let life swallow us whole, but we really dedicate our time to actually practice every day.
“He bears difficulties and defies pains.” -Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
People think it really means physically, but it's psychological, to endure psychological pain when we are facing our difficulties.
“He treats the ills of his character and applies himself to problems. He embraces terrors and leaves outward appearances.” —Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
What does it mean to embrace terror? Master Samael explains that the Divine Mother is the terror of love and law. So to embrace the terror of facing the nothingness, meaning our ego feels that terror before the majesty of our Being, as we are learning to separate from our defects through self-observation. The ego is terrified and wants to hold on, make us identify so that it could continue living. But instead we need to leave all outward appearances, illusions, so that we can embrace our Divine Mother and overcome that terror in our mind.
“As it is said, then I passed the night in a desert, fearing neither wolf nor lion, overcome by desire (or better said longing). I travel the night quickly. The one who desires (or longs) continues overwhelmed.” —Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So, I passed the night in the desert. All of us are in the desert. If we are working in chastity, we enter our own wasteland. As it says in Isaiah, “A voice that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” So by working in our discipline, we enter the desert where we face the difficulties associated with maintaining our chastity and working psychologically.
‘I passed the night in the desert, fearing neither wolf nor lion.’ These are symbols of karma. In the internal planes, we can experience or see a wolf or a lion. A wolf really pertains to regular karma, daily karma for regular persons, everyday persons, but the lion represents a superior type of karma, which we will discuss later, pertaining to initiates and gods. ‘I passed the night in the desert, fearing neither wolf nor lion.’ The karma in my life or in my circumstances. ‘Overcome with longing, I traveled the spiritual night quickly,’ meaning, getting through the darkness of not having that illumination that we all long for.
The one who longs for God continues ‘overwhelmed.’ Meaning to strive, to continue practicing, no matter what. We don't have experiences, we keep practicing. It's like brushing our teeth, we do it because we know it's good for us, even if it's uncomfortable and difficult. But we do it as a force of habit until eventually that sweetness enters our hearts. As it says in the Al-Risalah, you may not feel sweetness in your heart when you practice, but that develops the more you practice.
I'll conclude with a teaching by Rumi. “A new moon teaches gradualness and deliberation in how one gives birth to oneself slowly. Patience with small details makes perfect a large work, like the universe.” By patience and establishing ourselves in yama, niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, that will aid us in developing or really understanding and practicing meditation. First develop ethics, chastity, transmutation, silence of mind. When we lay that foundation, we will enter meditation effectively.
“What nine months of attention does for an embryo, forty early mornings will do for your gradually growing wholeness.” So if we get up early in the morning, which is difficult. Imagine nine months, nine represents Yesod in Kabbalah, sexual transmutation. We are born for the number nine, physically, nine months in the mother's womb, but also nine relates to initiation. What nine months of attention does for an embryo, meaning our consciousness, forty early mornings will do for your gradually growing wholeness. So we see that our consciousness is an embryo at this state, it can develop into a full human being by working with chastity, by working with our Divine Mother in the womb of Her care.
Questions and Answers
Question: That previous quote when it said the traveler will remain overwhelmed, I don't understand that. Does it say that overwhelming is a bad thing?
Instructor: In Al-Risalah, there is another quote or saying that Gnosis develops tranquility of heart. The more one’s Gnosis of God, one's direct experience of God increases, his tranquility increases. Likewise, the more that one knows our Being, the more we know God, the more awe and reverence we feel. So the type of overwhelmed feeling is not like egotistically, we have a problem with work that we have to resolve, but overwhelmed in this sense means to really experience our Being and to feel that awe and reverence for our own particular light. Which the more one knows God, the more overwhelmed or the more awe and reverence one feels as a result of that. That is something we develop little by little the more we practice.
Question: My other question was I looked at the meditation course, and I was under the idea that mantra and concentration is what comes first to have silence of mind. And then you are saying it is the opposite actually.
Instructor: They're integral, we could say. When we develop concentration, silence of mind and concentration are so closely interconnected that they're really two aspects of the same thing. And with these stages of meditation, as Swami Sivananda pointed out, there are certain progressions that we can make. But the truth is they are principles that integrate and complement.
If we want Dhyana, we have to really learn how to concentrate our mind. We develop concentration in levels. So these are not set stages or plateaus: we reach one level, it goes flat for a while. Instead, it's a fluctuating, constantly dynamic thing and if we develop more silence of mind, we develop better concentration. We develop better concentration, it means that we're developing greater serenity of thought, meaning that we develop a certain level of equilibrium in our consciousness in which it is different degrees, that I can't say is quantifiable, but it is qualitative. It is a quality in your mind that you'll perceive as a result of practice.
We can say that Pratyahara and Dharana are so closely linked that sometimes in many schools, they are considered the same thing. They are so closely related that sometimes they have been confused too. They really complement one another. If you have more concentration, it's because the mind is more silent. Think of concentration like you're on a boat in the middle of a storm. That storm is the mind and with our willpower, we're holding on to the mast of the ship so that we don't fall overboard. That mast is our concentration, it's our willpower. But silence of the mind also develops in degrees little by little as the storm passes, when the waters begin to become serene and silent. That mast also represents your spine and how you work with your sexual fire. Because it is the staff of Moses that he wielded to conquer the Egyptians, the egos that we carry inside. The more we concentrate and focus on our Being, moment by moment, the less control our mind has over us. Concentration helps us to develop serenity as well. So they feed off each other, they integrate and they complement.
The way that Swami Sivananda emphasizes that a typical transmission of teaching given in yoga schools, Buddhism as well I believe, in which explaining the main principles, the main relationship between principles. But it's really one system; we explain it as elements that complement each other.
Question: The thing I'm confused by is you had a quote from Sivananda where he says you must do the preliminary stuff before there's even a point in meditating. There's also quotes I think from Sivananda where he says do not delay the practice of meditation. I don't really understand how people are expected to do the preliminary stuff if they're not meditating. Does it have to happen together? Because I had another Gnostic school say the same thing to me. I wanted to learn about meditation, they said when you do the right thing, one day the door will just open for you. But in my experience, you have to meditate to be improving in your actions, psychologically.
Instructor: The reason is, it feeds off each other. Sivananda also explained later, he said establish yourself in the preliminaries, but also meditate. Because he emphasized that if you want to have good meditation, you got to learn how to concentrate, have silence of mind and develop that together with your own ethical discipline. He says you should develop ethics in conjunction with your meditation practice and it's better if we get established by learning to develop some level of equanimity and ability to concentrate. But it doesn't mean that we stop there, as you know. It means that we have to develop concentration, develop serenity of mind and then work in meditation, strive for that. Even though he says you want to start with the preliminaries, he also says elsewhere when you are meditating, you have to also develop ethical discipline too. So work with the preliminaries while you're meditating and understand that again, these are not set stages, but it's fluidic and it's more about acquiring a degree of stability in the mind, in order to meditate, in order to receive new information. That can come to us when we're working in a concentration practice. We get some understanding, that comes to our mind like a spark. And that's meditation. When we receive information of something new, that's Dhyana. It may happen in an instant and then suddenly the mind is chaotic again.
The more we practice with our ethics, with transmutation, with prayer, then the higher elements of our discipline will manifest in degrees. It's good in the beginning that we really dedicate ourselves to establishing those elements, but it doesn't mean that we wait there. We could be doing a mantra practice and then suddenly we understand something intuitively. That's Dhyana, so that's opening the door. We need to do both, but typically you want to get the beginnings set up to be really firm in that, so that when we meditate then Dhyana becomes something more stable, it doesn't come in just flashes, but it comes in a consistent, in a persistent way.
Question: What I was thinking when I saw that quote from Sivananda is for certain mistakes people are making, could it be dangerous to meditate?
Instructor: The only danger I know or the only danger I know is trying to meditate while fornicating.
Question: That's what I was wondering. If you're fornicating and you're also trying to meditate, it must be very confusing.
Instructor: Here's the thing, if we're trying to meditate then, basically the mind is a storm and imagine that boat we're on, trying to meditate is like holding on to the mast for a few moments and then the next moment, punching holes in the deck to let the water in. And so you can't do both. We have to decide how to be consistent with practice. Because I know people try to meditate for 20 or 30 years, meanwhile they're fornicating. And they don't get anything developed.
Question: Would you recommend to those people to transmute before meditating?
Instructor: Typically, yeah, and to really meditate on lust and meditate on those defects, because the problem is with trying to meditate while having no energy is that the mind is just going to be chaotic and destructive. If you're trying to do practice, where you're trying to transmute with no energy, meaning if we are trying to pump energy up our spine to our brain, meanwhile there's no water to pump, nothing happens. Just further chaos in the mind. The solution for that is to really reflect on chastity and the beauty and the splendor of purity, what it means to be sexually pure, psychologically.
But going back your original point, if we want to be successful in meditation, we should have some degree of stability in our Asana, our posture, some level of serenity of mind, a level of concentration. The more we develop those, the easier it is to meditate, but it doesn't mean that we're closed off from experiencing those higher degrees or higher stages. Because samadhi can happen when we begin meditating for the first time. It doesn't happen as a result of exertion, like “okay, checklist, I did my Asana, I did my Pratyahara, I did this, okay, come.” Usually we have that type of expectation in our mind, and nothing happens. If we're just doing our practices indifferently, then that insight can come to us spontaneously. And that's meditation. We receive new information. But again, if we want to be successful in meditation, the foundation is purity, yama, niyama, basically.
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