Today we are going to talk about the basic requisite to verifying for ourselves the truths and realities contained within all religions. We are going to explain how to develop that within ourselves, how to become cognizant of what Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, really contain, because what draws us to spiritual studies is the desire, or the longing to experience for ourselves what divinity is, to know what is God, or what is our Buddha inside.
It is this longing that impels us to inquire. As the foundation to any religious practice, to experience divinity, to acquiring gnosis, knowledge divinity from experience, we talk about awareness as a foundation, a basic requisite for entering to the experience of divinity.
We state in a very clear way that divinity is not what modern religion has developed it to be. Usually, we think of it in Christianity as these anthropomorphic figures of an old man in the clouds or the external physical personality of Jesus, or as Buddha Shakyamuni in Buddhism, as some external figure outside that were the ones capable of achieving these great realizations and that we do not have that capacity.
Religions, in the exoteric public sense, have misconstrued the real foundations of attaining religion. It is important to realize that religion comes from the Latin word religare, which means to “reunite.” Likewise, yoga in Sanskrit comes from yug, which means “to unite.” Both Eastern and Western traditions have taught that we need to reunite with divinity. But in order to reunite with divinity, we need to throw away our misconceptions about who or what divinity is and to really go to what is practical, to really experiment, to really inquire within religious teachings, mystical traditions, as to what is divinity and how do we experience divinity.
All religions have taught in their unique languages and cultures the path that leads to that realization. Although this path was taught in different languages from different prophets, from different messengers, from different masters or buddhas, really this path is one in the same. As Jesus of Nazareth taught:
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto [spiritual] life, and few there be that find it. ―Matthew 7:14
Or as Krishna said:
Among a thousand who search for me, one finds me. Among a thousand who find me, one follows me. Among a thousand who follow me, one is mine. ―Bhagavad Gita
Religion or yoga, whatever name we give to this science of experiencing the divine, is our quest for developing our potential inside. Religion is not about adhering to a physical group and even attending lectures. The purpose is to verify inside: “Who is our inner divinity? Who is God within me?” Or as the Oracle of the Temple of Delphi, the Greek famous maxim, stated:
Man know thyself and you will know the universe and the gods. ―Oracle of Delphi
The basic requisite for verifying divinity in ourselves, experiencing the divine, is by becoming aware of who we are. We have many assumptions based of our culture, the way we have been raised, the religion we have been indoctrinated with, about who we are and where we come from. Really, our language, our name, our birthplace, our family, our friends, these things really belong to the physical. But as to what is spiritual or what is psychological is something that we are very ignorant about. This is a very challenging truth to confront within oneself, for as the Greeks said, “Man, know thyself, and you shall know the gods.” You will know the angels. You will know the buddhas. You will know divinity. You will know the universal light of divinity known as Christ amongst the Gnostics, Christos in Greek, God of Fire.
If we know ourselves, we will know divinity. If we do not know divinity, it means that we really do not know ourselves and our root. This is, really, the zero foundation we need to face, because by acknowledging the fact we do not know our divine Being, our divine force within us, the presence of divinity known as God, it is because we lack cognizance of all our psychological, emotional, physical processes.
The Sufis, the mystics of Islam, teach the same thing. They explain, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” In the esoteric tradition, divinity was known by the name Allah, “the God”; amongst the Gnostics, Christ; or amongst the Buddhists, Amitabha, the buddha of light.
So, what is this light? It is our pristine cognizance and awareness of divinity, directly, and it is this awareness of who we are psychologically, emotionally, and physically. That is how we open the gateway to accessing who we are spiritually, because the spirit is beyond that. Spirit is God, or buddha. We all have our inner buddha, which simply means “awakened one,” to be aware, to be fully cognizant of everything that is occurring psychologically inside, but also in the external universe, because “Man, know thyself, and you will know the gods and the buddhas.”
In this tradition, we seek to actualize awareness. Different traditions give this name many different terms. In the Gnostic tradition we call it self-observation, to observe ourselves; to be aware of our body, our emotional states, our mood, our thoughts, our mind. In Buddhism, we call it mindfulness, to be aware as a type of perception beyond our current, common, everyday experience.
If you noticed by doing the Annapanna practice, by observing ourselves, usually what we find is that we get distracted from what we are trying to focus on, the concentration on the breath. Usually, we find that we start thinking of other things, or memories, preoccupations, the day, which takes us away from the moment. It is this fact that we are distracted, when we look inside, when we direct our attention inside, that verifies that our mind is not concentrated or developed to its genuine full potential. The fact that we are trying to focus on our breathing, a simple process of our body, and we veer off in our mind, distracted, shows that the psyche is not fully integrated. It is not completely perfected. In fact, it is distracted, split up, and unmindful.
Religion, yoga, teaches us that the beginning to real union with divinity is to become aware of that divinity.
The Bardo Thodol or Tibetan Book of the Dead
We are going to explain a teaching pertinent to Tibetan Buddhism. We study all religions in a didactic way to explain the traditions, how they relate to each other. Due to the depth and profundity of a certain scripture that I am going to relate to you, we are going to relate to you the teachings of awareness as given in the Highest Yoga Tantra within Tibetan Buddhism particularly. This is the scripture known as Bardo Thodol. It is called The Tibetan Book of the Dead. If you know anything about this scripture, this is a very controversial text and a very powerful one. It was written by a master by the name of Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha, due to his level of attainment and realization.
He wrote this scripture about the natural processes of becoming cognizant during physical death, but also how to become aware during one’s daily life, to be really aware of divinity here and now within ourselves―a type of psychological state that is very transcendent of our daily, mundane experience.
Padmasambhava, seeing that the Tibetan people were not prepared for the depth of the knowledge he was presenting, had the scripture buried under ground for centuries. It was later found by a certain monk by the name of Karma Lingpa, who received it and transmitted it to his sons. In our present day, we have this scripture, which is a very potent text and explanation about the need to become aware, to really know ourselves, who we are, and not to have preconceptions such as: “This is my name, my language, my religion, my culture that I grew up in.” These things are transitory and superfluous.
Our inner Being, in gnostic terms, is internal. These passing forms, this body, this hair, this manner of speaking, this personality, this terrestrial aspect of oneself, is like a leaf floating in the wind. It has its birth and its death, but what happens after? That is the question. This is something we can verify.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead explains how we need to become cognizant of all processes of our life, so that if we really want to know divinity, we have to develop a type of perception which is beyond thinking, beyond feeling, instincts, or sensations.
So, I am going to pause when I explain some of these Buddhist terms, to explain them in terms of gnostic commentary. We are going to perform an exegesis on this text. This is a section of this book which, traditionally, it is read at three or four in the morning before meditation for monks and it is also read on retreats. I invite you, when you listen and discuss this text in terms of gnostic psychology, that you listen with an open mind and seek to really verify what it teaches.
This is called: “Introduction to Awareness: Natural Liberation through Naked Perception, [which is an extract] from the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities: A Profound Sacred Teaching [entitled] Natural Liberation through Recognition of Enlightened Intention.”
Even in this title we find our intentions have to be enlightened by that spark, by that insight of something new. We have all had this when were children specifically, when we saw life in a way that was novel, new. When you look at a child, that child has a fascination with all things. The child is not conditioned by the perceptions or the obligations of a much more mature life. This is why Jesus said:
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ―Matthew 18:3
Become innocent in the mind.
The Reality and Need for Awareness
Through the single nature of mind which completely pervades both cyclic existence and nirvana, [heavenly states of consciousness]
In religion, whether in yoga exercises, in meditation, reflection, or mantra: vocalizing sacred sounds to work with energy in the body, none of these exercises work even outside an understanding the nature of awareness. These are tools that can help our perception, what we call, in gnostic terms, consciousness, Essence, in order to verify for ourselves the nature of religion, to experience that reunion directly.
This type of cognizance has been present in us, but we are not aware of it. We call this consciousness, in Buddhist terms, buddha nature: the capacity to be fully awakened, to know God directly, to know all the different truths contained in religion, to know the heavens as the different buddhas taught and verify through experience.
We have many practices in this tradition, as we explained, in order to verify divinity, but none of these practices are effective without an understanding of the nature of awareness, paying attention, being aware of our mind, our heart, our body.
And even though there are inestimable volume of sacred writings, equally vast as the limits of space,
The Difference Between Intellect and Consciousness
There are many books on religion, many books of yoga. But how many have actually verified for themselves the nature of their tradition? You find that, in relation to the conflicts of religion, they do not understand the nature of their tradition because religion, yoga, should reunite people, not create conflict.
We want to be aware of ourselves, and in Buddhist terms, they use mind, but here we are talking about consciousness. Consciousness is a much more accurate term. Some of the translations into Western language is difficult, particularly because they use terms that are familiar to Westerners in a way that do not accurately convey the depth of language. Usually, when we speak of mind, we think of intellect, and like Descartes taught, “I think therefore I am.”
But this is a mistaken concept. We could say “I think, therefore I am not.” Descartes says the intellect is our true identity, but Buddhists, and as the Gnostic teachings also convey, our real identity is divinity and our consciousness. Our soul is what can unite us with divinity.
The mind in strict terms, in gnostic language, pertains to intellect. When we think of mind, we think of intellect. The type of experience the Buddhists are talking about is consciousness.
We want to clarify some of the translations of the terms.
Consciousness is what occurs before thought, occurs before feeling, occurs even before or between sensation. Our consciousness, our soul, our buddha nature, is the capacity to experience life without filter.
Question: Is that what the Buddhists refer to as a Zen state or something like that?
Instructor: It does relate to Zen. Zen is the Japanese derivative of Chan Buddhism. It relates to Dzogchen, the Tibetan Buddhist teaching particularly. Really, the highest form of thought is no thought. We say that consciousness is the capacity to not think, but to know, to perceive, to become cognizant. If you ever observe one’s state, to be aware of what happens between thoughts, usually we have a train of thinking all the time, or being identified with our mood, or identifying with what we eat, the sensations of our body.
If we really observe ourselves, we see that these things are constantly fluctuating. They are changing and never stable. So, where is the genuine identity that we carry in that? In one moment, we have a drink of water, feeling the sensations of the water, and other moments we think about our spouse, jobs, our career, and then the next moment we are in a different mood. Perhaps we are angry, sad, or frustrated about a situation. Then we can be happy again. Usually, we identify this as being one unique self from whom we identify as ourselves, failing to recognize that these are factors that are fluctuating and changing constantly, and that our psychological states are contingent upon the events of life and that there is always change. There is no stability.
Who has genuine existence inside? This relates to the Buddhist doctrine Anatman, which means “no self.” This does not mean obliteration, as if we are talking about nihilism, as if there is no existence. Instead, it is a perception that is clear, that is superior, not filtered by thought, feeling, sensation, instinct, by impulse. It is this type of perception that we want to strengthen and that we want to develop.
In the beginning it is very difficult to differentiate what is our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, when we begin to observe ourselves, as if we are watching a film, like the practice of Annapanna.
To state that this type of awareness is a dull state, or a neutral state, is incorrect, particularly because the soul, the consciousness, is beyond thought. It is beyond feeling, beyond sensation, and has great capacity for emotion of a superior type―not the common anger we may feel at a certain crisis of our life or difficulty.
If you listen to classical music, such as masters like Beethoven or Wagner, their music is very powerful. They were awakened and they were conveying music that was of superior type, giving a teaching of spiritual nature which we explain in different lectures. Their music is very powerful for inspiration in the heart, potency in the heart. If you look at the music of Beethoven, such as his choral pieces, his famous Ode to Joy, it is an expression of the soul in union with divinity. It is a superior emotion, but not the type of emotion we identify with and typically experience.
Consciousness is dynamic. It has a range of experience, but we can only verify this by becoming aware, by observing ourselves and understanding that we are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. We are not our body. We are something much more profound. That soul, when it is awakened to its true nature, can really experience that bliss that all religions talk about, which all the prophets have spoken of.
All messengers have explained that union with divinity is real happiness, but the beginning is learning to separate from what we think, what we feel, what we identify with as ourselves. Religion teaches us that this self that we have is transitory, and through analysis we see that our self is changing moment by moment. There is no stable identity there: we have anger; we have happiness; we have joy; we have a memory, a preoccupation. All these things fluctuate.
In order to make any type of spiritual practice fruitful, it begins with this observation: becoming aware of ourselves and the fact that if we do not know divinity, it is because we do not know ourselves. We have to become more of that presence inside.
In our society today, we have many preconceptions of who we are as individuals or what a human being is, but if we examine this scripture, it points to us that the typical definition of mind, intellect, of our true self, is incipient. It lacks profundity. As predicted hundreds of years before us, Padmasambhava states the following:
Oh fortunate children, listen to these words! The term “mind” is commonplace and widely used,
Christianity had removed this teaching of reincarnation, which we work with and seek to verify for ourselves, this experience of having transmigrated as a soul through different lives, different bodies. When we learn to develop our consciousness, we can verify our past, where we come from, who we are, and where we are going. The Buddhist doctrine teaches, like Hinduism, that there is a transmigration of souls, which was removed by fanatics of Christianity.
We experience suffering and:
This is the fault of not understanding this intrinsic nature of mind. ―The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Existence and Causes of Suffering
When we approach religion or spiritual teaching, it is because we suffer. If we approach yoga or religion or traditions, it is because we want to overcome that suffering. Deep down it is the primary motive. But we have to recognize where that suffering comes from.
It is not our job, our spouse or our family, friends, or strangers in the street who make us suffer. We need to understand what inside us is provoked by the external circumstances. Usually, we identify with the external world as if these are the causes of our pain. Yet if we look at any of the masters, such as Jesus for example, he physically lived a drama in order to symbolically represent something we need to go through inside, to experience internally. The soul has to become purified through a type of Passion, through the way of the cross, as Jesus taught, by facing the causes of our suffering inside in order to eliminate them. All our impurities of our mind have to die on that cross, which we explain in different books, the symbolism of the cross.
Here we are explaining that Jesus physically lived a drama in which he led himself be physically persecuted, to teach us something symbolic. When he was being crucified, he said:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. ―Luke 23:34
He did not curse or condemn his attackers. He blessed them, and the fact that we do not have that psychology shows that we are imperfect. Whereas the Christ through Jesus taught, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In your patience possess ye your souls. ―Luke 21:19
Be purified as your Father, your inner divinity, is perfect. We need to have that perfection.
Where does it begin? By becoming aware, by developing cognizance of ourselves.
Many people talk about mind. There are many books in the world that will teach you how to fortify intellect. This is primarily what yogis, monks, rabbis, many practitioners of religions teach. But we need to have a mind that is simple, an intellect that is simple. This does not mean that we become ignorant, but as Jesus taught:
Unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ―Matthew 18:3
Become innocent. If we do not observe ourselves whenever we have a bout of frustration or hatred, or anger towards another person, we fail to realize that we are harming that person. We may know that a certain emotion is wrong, but still we act. We are impelled to act. That means that we do not have full control.
God does not have anger. Anger is a defect that we created. Those are elements that we need to remove and purify so that we can become perfect as our Father, our inner divinity―perfect inside. That Father in Christianity is the Buddha, really, the source of our buddha nature, our divine Being.
The Three Considerations of Consciousness
How do we become aware of ourselves? How do we develop our connection with our divinity? We have three considerations in this scripture:
The following is the introduction to the means of experiencing this single nature of mind [consciousness]
Usually, in the West we have this tendency to fill ourselves with many occupations, to perform many activities, to be reading and using our intellect all day, particularly with certain jobs we may have. So, we are always moving, moving, moving―performing activities and actions. We still do not have time to just sit, relax, and really look inside. Usually, we may watch some television or movie as if it could remove our worries from what we are engaged with in our daily life. We seldom sit down to see what is really going on in our heart and our mind. Usually, we are focused in the external and fail to recognize that our psychological experience is transient. It is changing. We have to be aware of this process, and when we begin to realize that we do not have awareness, this can be very disconcerting. But it is a necessary step that any practitioner of religion has to face.
If you have seen images of The Temptation of St. Anthony by the Gnostic Master Hieronymus Bosch, he painted an image of a landscape with many demonic creatures attacking St. Anthony, who is trying to pray and focus on an image of Christ in the center of his temple in the middle of the image. All of those discombobulated creatures are in his mind, representing his own negativity, fear, his passion, his hatred, his lust. These are elements that he is trying to overcome by praying to divinity inside.
This is a difficult experience every person has to face when beginning to become aware of what is inside, and that we carry many elements that we thought we did not have. At the same time, we also see we do not have many elements that we thought we had. That begins by becoming aware of what are our obstacles inside, by observing the nature of our mind in this moment.
These three considerations―we need to recognize that past thoughts are traceless, clear, and empty. By observing the mind, we observe ourselves. We see that thoughts change and fluctuate. If we ever had the experience of falling asleep at night hearing, on that transition state, different voices in the emergence of dreams, this shows us the elements that we are not aware of. Even in dreams like nightmares, we can see certain things that are horrifying, which are not fantasy, but elements that are inside us that we are becoming aware of in dreams.
So, these past thoughts, those are traceless, clear, and empty. They do not have a foundation. They are like clouds. Observe yourself. In one moment, we are thinking about our spouse, or friend, and the next moment, we can think of a different thing. Usually we think this comes from one unique self without observing the fact of what is occurring inside.
We need to be aware. How does our mind function? Observe it. To know is one thing, but to observe is a completely different skill. Usually, we say “I know I am angry.” “Yeah, I know I am frustrated.” “Yes, I am tired.” But we are not really observing the fact. Knowledge is of the mind, and comprehension is of the heart. To observe is to understand, to develop this perception of the consciousness inside without being filtered.
Also, the fact that thoughts, future thoughts, are unproduced and fresh. Usually, we are not aware of how thoughts emerge. But if we observe, we see the elements that emerge as a result of some external cause, some impression in life, such as if we see a hamburger, we suddenly have the desire to eat. There is a constant barrage of external impressions that enter our psyche that we are reacting to all the time.
But we need to become aware of this factor. We need to realize that this present moment abides naturally and is unconstructed. As I said, we are always looking for things to do―occupations. We seldom sit in the moment and just be. We may if we go to the beach and relax from our worries. Just simply sit like a child sits, and become filled with awe of the beauty of nature, the beauty of creation of divinity. The fact that we are not in this state of awe, in reverence of divinity, shows that we re obscured in our perception. Usually, all we see is ourselves. But if we want to know divinity, we need to become aware of what is inside that prevents us from knowing divinity.
The moment needs to abide naturally and unconstructed, meaning, we are not trying to fill it with so many preoccupations or activities, but simply to sit, even just for ten minutes, to meditate, observe, relax the body, observe the mind, observe the heart, observe the experience of our physicality, and just be in the moment. It is this awareness of being in the moment that opens the gate to insight to the nature of divinity.
The Qualities of Awareness
We find that this type of awareness relates to, we say, light.
And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. ―Genesis 1:3
People think, in the book of Genesis, that this is the physical creation of the world. It is the creation of the true human being who is psychological, inside. It is not talking about the history of the world, the history of human beings, but how that psychological image, that pure awareness of divinity, is fully developed inside. Divinity says, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
That darkness is our fear, our detachment, our suffering. It is a chaos, a void. The divinity in us needs to fill that void and create light. That light is awareness, to see within. So, as the Buddhists teach:
When this ordinary, momentary consciousness is examined nakedly and directly by oneself,
I stated that we need to observe ourselves, to be aware of ourselves. But this type of perception, being unfiltered, beyond thought, beyond feeling, beyond the body, when we are observing, we find that there is no individual self, but a universal consciousness. Some people call it Christ-consciousness: a type of cognizance in which there is no individual, but there is only the universe, the Being, divinity.
[It is] Manifestly stark and clear,
This is talking about how conscious experience is dynamic. It is always changing with our states. Awareness is something that is profound and has many qualities. If you study Sufism, you see this is very evident in their discussion of the nature of different states of consciousness. Buddhism is, really, pointing towards the same thing: how there are many superior emotional qualities which are divine.
We listen to great music like by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky or Frederic Chopin, Mozart. They are expressing very beautiful conscious states of a superior type. That is why we say these masters of music are prophets, teaching how to unite the soul with divinity through music.
This type of awareness is not mere nothingness. It sounds as if, “Well, if there is no ‘I,’ if there is no ‘self,’ then nothing will exist.” This is not the case. This is a very subtle teaching of Buddhist doctrine and Gnostic psychology. The one who observes is the soul. All of the different thoughts, feelings, emotions, transient psychological states, pertain to subjective elements in our psyche, what we call ego. Ego in Latin means “I,” “Self.” So, there are many different egos, selves, different states which produce suffering inside of us.
Question: And personality too?
Instructor: Yes, personality too. The fact that we have changing elements that when we observe, we realize we do not have control over them.
Question: What I mean is that some or many people have many personalities inside.
Instructor: Yes, people have been diagnosed with split personality disorder have that to a much more pronounced degree. In strict language, what really religions teach us, we find that all of us have these elements. We may be sane physically, but deep down we do have elements which are disjointed. This is represented by the man Jesus confronted, who is possessed by demons. Those demons are egos, defects. We say that ego is lust, is pride, greed, gluttony, laziness, hate, etc. The seven deadly sins, or it is also legion. As Jesus asked:
What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. ―Mark 5:9
People think that this is just one crazy many that Jesus healed. But this is a symbol of how our divinity, which we can call Christ, needs to create unity inside of us, create light, awareness, by freeing the soul that is trapped in all those elements.
We say that ego is like a shell that traps consciousness. It conditions our perception. So, we want to free our soul from those elements by developing awareness. We state that it is the soul that can experience divinity. We all understand that―usually, we say ―that person has ego, meaning, has a strong sense of self. We like to apply that term to people we think are very cocky, so to speak. Anyone who has anger, vanity, pride, or feels negativity at some point, that is ego. That is conditioning of the mind. It obscures the genuine light of reality inside. So, we need to learn how to separate light from that darkness. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” That is becoming aware of ourselves. The fact that this awareness is not a single entity, but is dynamic, is fluctuating, is something we really need to reflect on from experience.
This intrinsic awareness, which is not extraneously derived
Christianity talks about the Trinity. We think these are three figures in the clouds: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are really referring to energies, forces in nature, or in strict gnostic psychological terms, we say that the Father is the force of affirmation. We have the force of negation relating to the Son, and the force of reconciliation in the Holy Spirit. The universe is governed by three forces: Affirmation, Negation, Reconciliation. It creates balance and harmony in nature. That energy or divinity creates harmony in the cosmos, and also needs to create that harmony within us. This intrinsic awareness is that light. We say Christ, referring to those forces inside of us, our divinity inside, which we need to actualize.
Talking about gnostic psychology, we explain that we have different elements that obscure our realization of that light. It Is necessary to confront this fact in ourselves, because the reason why people do not experience divinity, why people do not know who God is inside, what is our genuine buddha nature inside, is because we have certain elements in our mind. This is a painful fact to recognize, but fundamental if we do not know divinity. We need to understand what we are doing that is preventing us from knowing that energy that force, that presence, that experience. Logically it makes sense that if we are not perceiving divinity, as the prophets say, it is because we are not fulfilling the necessary requirements, conditions, causes, to experience that divinity.
In religion, people think it is enough to simply raise your hand and say “I believe in Jesus,” or “I believe in Buddha,” “I believe in the Prophet Muhammad,” or “I believe in Krishna.” Many people approach religion in this way, failing to recognize that which obscures our light inside is the darkness or moon of our mind. The sun of our Being or divinity could shine in us with profound light and awareness, but our common every day mundane experience, our fluctuating psychological states, is like the moon that is eclipsing the sun.
If we honestly reflect on our previous experience in life, as I mentioned when we were young, we experience life in a much more different way. Time did not exist. A single moment brought us happiness of nature that we fail to explain. We can identify, but we do not really know what was that joy, or where did this joy come from, seemingly without any cause. This is a type of peace we had which we need to cultivate in our adult, mature life.
From Where is Our Awareness Derived?
We find that logically it makes sense that if we are not in a conscious state and do not have awareness of divinity, it is because our soul is asleep. All religions teach us the need for practice, and this is something we emphasize in this teaching. We explain in this doctrine the science of meditation, becoming aware of ourselves and to really confront in us what elements produce our pain. As the Buddhist Master Shantideva taught:
How many enemies, as unending as space, can I kill [from my anger]? When the mind state of anger is slain, all my enemies are slain likewise. ―Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva
Usually, we have this tendency to approach things from the outside and not be aware of what is going on inside. To cover the entire surface of the earth with leather? It is impossible. But with leather soles beneath my feet, we can go anywhere. It's as if the whole world has been covered, said Shantideva.
This is an interesting demarcation of the psychology of our times with the psychology of an individual who is working to unite with divinity. Usually, we think the external causes are the result of our suffering, external events like loss of job, conflict with a family member or spouse. We fail to realize the internal sates that are provoking these experiences. Symbolically we want to put leather all over the world so that we can walk anywhere. That is ludicrous. We have this tendency to always look outside, or not becoming aware inside. If we cover our feet, if we discipline our mind, and we eliminate anger, we develop genuine joy, peace, and love for others. In that sense, we do not have conflicts.
Heaven is inside. Nirvana, bliss, cessation of suffering is an internal state. Certainly, there are internal states of awareness, and experiences we can have when we physically go to sleep, and we can access through dream yoga: awakening within dreams, becoming aware in dreams. But if we fail to control our mind, we will necessarily not have that experience.
The superior dimensions pertain to places we can investigate, verify and know by awakening this awareness in our daily life, which will translate into our dream state.
Heaven is really a state of being. It is not necessarily found by going to Tibet or pilgrimage or looking outside, but looking inside.
If any of you have read Paradise Lost by John Milton, a very famous poet, he wrote the greatest English epic about the story of creation in Genesis. He said:
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. ―John Milton, Paradise Lost
Heaven is being united with divinity, or hell is our problems, our psychological states. So, we teach how to meditate, how to understand our mind, how to understand our psychology. We explain this awareness in relation to our daily experience. There is nothing that is separate from the experience of this moment. There is no future. There is no past. We need to understand that everything we seek is inside.
If we do not know the different dimensions of nature and the different levels of the cosmos, as represented in the Hebrew Kabbalah known as the Tree of Life in the Bible, a map of the universe and divinity, it is because we need to know ourselves. Likewise, if we know ourselves, we become aware of the presence and experience of divinity in our daily life.
We stop thinking. We can be washing dishes and we are concentrated in the moment, and we experience the new, a Zen state, awareness that is beyond intellect, no thought. Just peace, a joy that is somber and solemn, but profound.
Though one were to scan the entire external universe,
Modern religion emphasizes that if you belong to this group and pray with this community, you are saved. Liberation is not like that. Liberation is cognizance of the divine. It is inside. It does not belong anywhere.
This is like a fool, for example, who, when finding himself amidst a crowed of people,
We have to really become profound, to have the courage to investigate things and to verify for ourselves our spiritual nature, which is to become present, cognizant, to approach ourselves from the perspective that if we do not know divinity, it is because we do not know ourselves fundamentally.
Some people have the impression that if one abandons thought, feeling or the body, one is like a zombie or a soulless state, that there is nothing dynamic about that person. But when we develop this sense of awareness, it is genuine joy and cognizance of reality that cuts through illusion. It cuts through transitory sense, and it is something we learn to taste and verify through experience.
Questions and Answers
Question: If I can truly observe myself as in noticing my internal state, how long is it going to take?
Instructor: It does not take any time because time, past, and future, do not exist. To access that state of divinity, it happens now. It is a result of our discipline, of being mindful through out the day. The truth does not come to us in the future. We have this idea that in the future, maybe “I’ll become a great meditator, or a great yogi sitting under a bodhi tree or a bush meditating for twenty years, and I will finally have that moment―Oh, I have got it!’”
The Sufis call it [the present moment] waqt in Arabic. To be aware of that presence, hudur, the presence of divinity, happens now through awareness, muhadarah. Awareness, the experience of divinity, has nothing to do with time. We think that “With time I will change, with time I will do this,” but that is delusional, because all religions teach that realization begins in the moment. The thing that will become developed in the future is a mistake. It happens moment by moment. We can say in conventional time, students who have been practicing for many years may have more experiences, but the realization of those truths does not occur in some remote future, but now.
Question: What I am trying to say is that it takes time to get better?
Instructor: Conventionally, it is true. With practice we get better at it. But the realization of insight or the truth occurs when we are being present in this moment. With time, the more you become acculturated with that state, the more it becomes your reality, and the more that divinity guides you in your daily experiences with life to help confront those problems. So, yes, students have been practicing for twenty, thirty years seriously will have more insight, but that insight does not come in the future. We develop it in each instant. That is my emphasis because we have this conception that with time, we will get better, which conventionally it is true, but to get better we need to work in the moment. So, two truths, the ultimate and the conventional, which coincide, if that makes sense.
Comment: I am a spiritual being, and I am connected with this whole world, and I think what religion, at least my experience, is you are not a spiritual being until after death and that is when we are spiritual beings and that is when we are connected to God. But I feel I am already connected to God. I do not know what God is but I know what he is not, and I know it is not an after life that is right here right now. That is how I feel.
Instructor: In strict esoteric teaching, we say that only the Being is. Only divinity can say that “I am,” because the soul as the expression of divinity is not the divinity. It is apart of divinity, and we as the soul can learn to follow will of the divine or follow our own selfish will.
To really know divinity, the highest expression in divinity, is taught in a structure of Kabbalah specifically―the structure of the divine and the soul. This image, as I will show you, is really a map of who God is and where we are in the universe. As a symbol represented in the Bible, the Tree of Life is ten spheres, representing the highest forces of the spirit and Christ above, and how that energy descends down into different energies of matter and consciousness. At bottom of this Tree of life we have a sphere called Malkuth, which means the physical body. Above that we have Yesod, which is our energy, our vitality; Hod, which is our emotion; Netzach, which is our mind; Tiphereth, which is our will. Above that we have the divine soul, the spirit, and then we have the Trinity. To really know God, to be really fully connected with that energy, with that force, is to know the entire Tree of Life in this moment. That is something that very elevated masters, such as Jesus or Buddha, were cognizant of all these spheres in themselves and knew the dimensions of nature simultaneously.
A person that is fully connected, in strict esoteric language, is one who is aware of this entire constitution, this multidimensionality of the psyche.
Question: All spheres [of the Tree of Life] are connected?
Instructor: Yes, and we study them individually such as through teachings of Kabbalah, which is associated with the mystical science of Judaism, but is truly a map for any religion. It helps is in studying any pantheon or faith. It can help us understand different scriptures. It is also a map of the soul, of divinity, the Being and what we need to develop inside.
Awareness really pertains to, in fuller sense, having all those elements fully developed inside and integrated, which is what we study in Hebraic teachings, the foundation in Judaism and Christianity. But also, it can help us understand Buddhism particularly.
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