This is a transcription of an audio lecture from Introduction to Gnostic Studies, originally given live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
Today we are going to be talking about karma. Karma has a Sanskrit root. It comes from the Sanskrit word karman, which means “to act.” Now, commonly many of us, especially in new spiritual circles toss this word around frequently, meaning karma is that people get what they are going to deserve, right? If you say something bad, it is going to be bad karma. Maybe you have seen the little tip jars that say, “If you leave money for your barista, you are going to get good karma.”
We hear the term karma quite a bit, but I think that karma should be taken very, very seriously for those of us who want to have mystical experiences and want to radically transform our life, want to achieve that self-knowledge and that mastery of self, which allows us to transform our experiences and our external situation by transforming our internal situation.
If you're looking for a road map to do just that, you need to comprehend karma. Karma, in its true comprehended state, is the key to helping us to get out of ignorance. Ignorance is known as one of the three poisons of Buddhism along with craving and aversion. It is said that if you can eliminate one of those three poisons, you can escape the wheel of suffering, the wheel of samsara: cyclic birth and death, the wheel of existence and escape to Nirvana, right? The heavenly realms, cessation of this cycle that we are stuck in.
But for that we need Gnosis. Gnosis is the opposite of ignorance. We see the same root there “gno.” Now, through true Gnosis and comprehension of karma, we can transform our own psychology quite a bit, and by transforming ourselves, we will see a consequence and transformation of our lives.
So it is very, very critical, and it is also very accessible, because if you are really waking up, if you have really been applying the practices that we have been teaching thus far in this course, like self-observation, retrospection meditation, observing the three brains, observing your internal states and your external states, then you should be able to see karma. You should be able to see very directly how when you say a certain word, it affects the people around you. It affects your own psychology. You should be able to see how one action you do may be a kind action for someone else. It leaves you feeling happy. Maybe you go home at the end of the day and you feel good. Whereas another action, maybe a cruel word, leaves you feeling unhappy, unsettled, frustrated, or angry. That is karma. That is seeing how a cause that you put into motion produces an effect.
The Perplexity and Reality of Karma
So we'll dive a little bit more into karma, but I wanted to start with a story from the Jewish tradition. This is a story about Moses after he died. He went to heaven and God gave Moses the opportunity to look down over the Earth at all of the events and situations and people, everything that was going on and to see it all from God's perspective. Moses was very pleased with this, and he saw that it was good. Its creation was good.
But there was one situation that Moses saw that really bewildered him. It perplexed Moses. He saw a soldier riding his horse along a hot dusty road. The soldier saw a shady tree next to a stream and he pulled over his horse, climbed down and got a drink out of the stream. He took a break. Now as he was climbing back on his horse, he didn't notice that he dropped his purse, a little bag of gold coins and he rode away. Not long after Moses saw that a young boy came walking down the road and next to the tree, he saw the purse full of gold coins. He opened it up and he was astonished to discover this. So he took the purse and he ran home in excitement.
Only a short while later, a very tired merchant came walking down the road and saw the shady tree next to the stream and decided to have a drink and rest for a while, under the tree, and he fell asleep. He awoke when the soldier had come back having realized that he had lost his purse. The soldier shook the merchant by the shoulders and yelled at him, asking where his money was. The merchant swore to the soldier that he had not stolen the coins, but the soldier did not believe him. So he took out his sword and slew the merchant down.
When Moses saw the situation, it really upset him. He went to God and he said, “I look at all of this creation that you show me and I see how all of it is orderly and good. But what is happening here in this situation with this merchant and the soldier? How could this merchant undergo such a tragic misfortune as to be killed by the soldier when he didn't steal the money?”
God showed Moses a scene from previously. The same merchant was in a busy marketplace when he saw a man walking with a bag full of gold coins looking at different items to buy, and this man had at his side his young son. Now the merchant was looking to get enough money to buy something that he needed, and so he went up and he struggled with a man to get the gold coins. But when the man wouldn't give up the coins, he killed the man and ran off with the money, leaving the young boy orphaned. God showed Moses how that same merchant was the one who was killed by the soldier who lost his purse, and how that young boy, whose father had been killed and who lost his inheritance that day, came to grab the purse of the gold coins that should have rightfully been his.
Now that is a nice story. But I think that this story is very relevant for what we are going to talk about today, because we often don't have that bird's eye view. More frequently, we find that we are in the situation of being down on the ground and being very frustrated with what we see, all kinds of horrible acts and all kinds of terrible tragedies that are happening in our world every day. And we wonder: how can it be that there is a just law, a conscious divinity organizing this world, this creation, when these types of terrible things happen? We might become frustrated. So as much as we liked the theory of karma as a belief system that things will turn out the way that they should, people get what they deserve, at the same time, we may have those moments of frustration in which we are not sure that we are able to make sense of them.
The Force and Energy of Action
Now up to this point, we have been talking a lot about energy, and the way that we use our energy is very directly related with karma, which is the law of cause and effect. So I am going to share a quote here from another Gnostic instructor that I think summarizes two very essential points. And the first he says this:
“In each moment of your life, you are creating. The human organism is a transformer of forces, and according to your will and your action, those forces are transformed, and those forces produce consequences, results. This is called karma in Sanskrit, from the word karman, which means “to act.” Karma is simply the Law of Cause and Effect.” —Gnostic Instructor
So we can imagine a crowded marketplace where you are standing in a long line, and it's hot and somebody shoves you. That is a cause, right? And you might turn and respond to them and shove them back, and that creates another cause. What kinds of effects arise from the initial cause and the responding cause? We can see in that very simple scenario a chain begin, a chain of cause and effect.
In this teaching we talk about recurrence, the law of return. That is, all of us as Essences return lifetime after lifetime, pulled by the very energy that we have put into motion. We create an imbalance in nature, a disharmony, and that disharmony will be equilibrated by this law of cause and effect. Every cause will produce an effect, and so this will follow us from lifetime to lifetime until all of those energies have been balanced again. That is why we can understand from previous studies about our human machine, our three brains, sexual transmutation, how energy becomes very important, especially very powerful energy like our sexual energy, because that is the energy with which we create.
In this present moment, we are creating consequences. Your thoughts are creating consequences. Your emotions are creating consequences. Your physical actions create consequences, your words. Everything is creating a consequence. But are we aware of it? Are we perceiving the effects of our actions? Are we perceiving the energies that come into us in each moment as we are stimulated by life, by all these difficult situations or happy situations, the varied experiences of life? Those energies strike us in a given way, strike our psychology, and produce an energetic reaction, a response from us.
We want that response to be conscious. We want it to be a virtuous response. We want it to be a very serene, peaceful, loving response from a place of wisdom, but many times, as you know, being where we are at, we react mechanically and we produce consequences that perhaps increase our suffering rather than diminish it.
Interdependence and Internal Responsibility
So when we look at these situations on life, which are very frustrating, it seems so removed from the small actions that we are taking day-to-day, but we really have to be aware of our small actions, because our society is a reflection of the individuals who live within it. We like to place the blame somewhere else. To say, “Oh, it's them, not us! It was this person's fault, not me.” We have to look very critically first at what is in our control.
What is our response to life? What are the things in our life that we can change?—because they are caused by us, the problems and the suffering caused by us. How can we change and address those problems first and then worry about larger problems that may seem unrelated to us? Although, of course, we know that everything is interdependent and related.
So I'll continue with the rest of this quote from the Gnostic instructor that I mentioned.
“We are not here on this planet to do whatever we want, to just do whatever we please, even though this is the philosophy that our media loves to promote. Our culture loves to tell us that life is just about enjoying all of the pleasures we can, as much as we can, until we die. This is a very convenient lie for those who are benefiting from us behaving in that way, but we do not benefit from this behavior, neither does God, neither does humanity. The evidence is all around us. Because of our behaviors we have created this society. Because of how each of us behaves individually on a day-to-day basis, we have created this world, not God. We have created starvation, poverty, rape, war, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons. We are the ones who created all kinds of cunning ways to cheat one another. We have made all of that because of desire. To change this planet, we have to change ourselves.” —Gnostic Instructor
Now I am not advocating for extremism by sharing this quote. Of course, you know, we might know that there are many pieces of technology, like your smartphone, that have negative effects on the other side of the planet, and yet to be able to function in society, it would be very hard not to support certain industries. We want to do the best that we can, but we also have to realize that the real problem that we need to be addressing is not, perhaps the material problems of life, but rather the problem of desire.
If we can't first understand that in ourselves and address that in ourselves, the root problem, the moral problem, and the spiritual problem which causes our own suffering, then we won't be able to truly address it in the most efficient ways in our world. We might be able to work on some of the symptoms, treat the symptoms, suppress the symptoms, but can we truly get to the root of the disease that is creating a society that is totally out of balance? That is disharmonious within itself and with nature.
So as many things as we as we look at in this world that seem very unjust and unfair, until we truly understand within ourselves how we create those types of imbalances, we can't seek a greater comprehension and understanding of all of the greater things that are happening in this world. Our own divinity can teach us all of the reasons for the different situations that are happening on this planet right now, whether good or negative. But before all of that, our inner divinity is going to ask us whether or not we have been sincere with ourselves: whether or not we have addressed the problems that we have the power to change in our current situation.
Now what is wonderful for us as Gnostics is that when we take this kind of radical personal responsibility for the state of our life and for the state of the world, we are able to use karma for our own self-transformation. We are able to use karma to our benefit, not as a law which mercilessly punishes us for our ignorance and for our mistakes, but as a law that we can use consciously to understand how we can take better actions and achieve a better, higher state of life, a higher state of consciousness, a state of life with less worries.
Now, less worries doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to be rich. We might be, we might not be. It doesn't mean necessarily that we will have our dream job. We might, we might not. But it means that with harmonious actions we can create a harmonious state of being within ourselves and that means that whatever situation we find ourselves in, we are in a better position to experience that from a positive point of view and to respond to that situation from a positive point of view, rather than reacting negatively, unconsciously, and mechanically to situations in life and making problems even worse. We have a higher state of consciousness from which to comprehend our situation and respond to it.
The Four Certainties of Karma
I recommend a book that is sold through the Gnostic Store online. It is called Karma is Negotiable. These four rules or the four certainties of karma are extracted from that book, and you can definitely read a lot more about them in the book.
But to cover them simply, this is the road map that I was telling you about. This is what we need to investigate to see if it is true, if we are really experiencing this in our lives and if we find and validate these laws to work with them to our benefit, rather than being unconscious victims of the law of karma, to work with the law of karma—to become, in a sense, a magi, a magician who uses this law to his advantage to very quickly and expediently transform his or her life.
1. Actions produce related consequences
So the first certainty of karma or rule of action and consequence is that actions produce related consequences. Simply put, if you plant the seed of a pine tree, you are not going to grow an orange tree. So whatever you hope to be the consequences, you have to examine if you are taking the actions that are really going to produce those consequences.
Let's say that you really want to have a consequence of great relationship with one of your family members. But in your actions, if you really sit and meditate on your actions, you see that the seeds you are planting are seeds of discord. Maybe you are criticizing them, or you know, doing different actions that create disharmony in that relationship. So you have to analyze your actions and ask yourself: “Are these actions that I am taking in my family life, in my work life, in my relationships and in my personal life, going to produce the consequences that I really want? Are they going to create a higher level of being, a more harmonious lifestyle? Or are they going to create more problems, more complications, more suffering?” Because our actions will produce related consequences.
2. Consequences are greater than their cause
The second is that the consequences of our actions are greater than the actions themselves. So if we think about throwing a pebble into some water, we know that the water will be displaced. But what about all of the creatures that are living in that water? What about the plants in the water? Yes, we might see the superficial ripples of that water, but what about all the ripples that move down through the deeper parts of the water as that stone travels downward?
We know that a few words on Twitter can have enormous consequences, right? A few words spoken at the right time and the right place can move a nation to war, to rebellion, maybe even inspire them to peace.
At the same time, silence in just the right moment can have dramatic consequences. So when we do a small action, like maybe telling a white lie and we think it will have very small effects, we should really pay attention. We should really observe what those consequences are, not just physically, not just in our relationships with the people we have lied to, but also in our own heart, in our own mind, in our spiritual life. What are the consequences of that?
3. You cannot receive a consequence without committing its corresponding action
The third rule is that you cannot receive the consequence without committing its corresponding action. So if we hope to achieve a very high level of spiritual development and spiritual awakening, we have to commit their corresponding actions. You need to take the actions and invest the energy in order to receive receive that result.
If we are investing 99.9% of our time into a bunch of things that, in, perhaps, the spiritual view of things, are irrelevant, and only 0.01% percent of our time into our spiritual life, well, that is how much consequence we are going to get out of it. I am not saying that we should disregard our responsibilities. We absolutely need to live in a harmonious way in society. We need to take care of our family. We need to do our job. We need to be able to have the things to provide for ourselves to be able to live and have a good life and take care of ourselves, but at the same time, if we are over investing in certain areas of our life and yet expecting, you know, tremendous results in our spiritual growth, when we are not investing in that particular area, then we are kidding ourselves.
4. Once an action is performed, the consequence cannot be erased
The fourth law or fourth rule of the law of karma is that once an action is performed, the consequence cannot be erased. Once you pull the trigger, you cannot take the bullet back into the gun. Once you say that cruel word, you can never remove that from the other person's memory. The consequence and the effects of what we do are guaranteed.
So if we are performing good actions, we can have great joy in that because we know that those actions, those virtuous actions, selfless actions, that are not motivated by our own egotism, will produce positive results. But, if on the other hand, we are doing harmful actions, we will have to pay for that.
It said in the Bible, "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he shall reap” (Galatians 6:7). We see it in all traditions, that law of cause and effect.
So we should take these, and we should examine our actions and look at the consequences they produce. Try doing something kind for someone and observe, self-observe yourself. What are the consequences within yourself, within your heart, your mind, your body? What are the observations you have of the other person in that situation? And conversely, maybe you catch yourself doing something else, something that you have come to regret. Well, observe the consequences of that and consider these four certainties of karma, and investigate them for yourself. Don't take our word for it, but truly investigate them in your own life.
Now many of us might feel that it can be a heavy weight to think that we have had many previous lifetimes where we might have done bad things, good things, and we are not sure and now we can't erase the consequences of those actions. Well, the important thing is that we have this present moment and we have each moment after this to use it to our advantage.
This is where that line at the bottom of the screen becomes very important.
5. A superior law always overcomes an inferior one.
The law of karma is an infallible law. Actions produce consequences. We see that in physics. We all know that. But a superior law, a spiritual and divine law of mercy, perhaps, or the law of sacrifice, can be used by us consciously in order to overcome our karma. There is some karmas that we can't totally erase, certain karmas related with our sexual energy. Karmas related to adultery and fornication are crimes against the Holy Spirit, which, we have been taught especially in the Christian tradition, cannot be forgiven. But many of our actions that might have produced negative consequences for us or will produce negative consequences for us, can be overcome by working with superior laws like the law of sacrifice for others.
If we have done something wrong to hurt someone, if we said a cruel word, we can apologize. We can go and try to make it up to them. Now we can't erase the consequence of the previous action, the previous wrong that we have done, but if we are sincere in our action to make up for that or our apology, we may be able to overcome some of that damage. That would be working with a superior law in that case.
Personal Accountability and Causality
So let's talk about superior laws that we want to work with. Well, actually before we get to that, that's actually a few slides ahead, I want to talk first about how we usually respond to any situation. So this is a quote from Samael Aun Weor. He is talking about how many times we experience injustices or what we what we believe to be injustices, and it is very difficult for us to transform them. We, many times, feel like we are the victims of others’ cruelty. The victims of others’ criticisms. That it is other people's fault that we are suffering the way that we are and if other people, you know, would just understand us or respect us or do their share of the work better, then we wouldn't have these problems.
We very rarely want to look at ourselves. We very rarely want to assume that radical personal responsibility that I talked about earlier, where we accept that if something bad is happening to me, I have caused it in one way or another. I have contributed to causing this result.
That also means I have the power to change it. If I had the power to create this, I have the power to change it in a fundamental way. Perhaps not entirely, but I have some power in the situation.
We see here that many of the times, more in these situations where we are very upset, we feel overwhelmed by negative emotions and we complain. Rather than taking that type of responsibility for our lives, we rebel against our circumstances. We get mad at God. We get mad at karma. I think that this is a really powerful quote from Samael Aun Weor, so I'll share it with you.
“We ask for love when we have been merciless and cruel. We demand comprehension when we have never known how to comprehend anyone, when we have never learned to see the other person’s point of view. We long for immense good fortune when we have always been the origin of many misfortunes.We protest against persons who insult us when we have always insulted everyone who surrounds us. Slander annoys us terribly when we were always slanderers and filled the world with pain. Gossip upsets us, we do not want anyone to gossip about us, however we were always involved in gossip and backbiting, talking badly about our fellowmen, mortifying the lives of others. That is, we always demand what we have not given; we were evil and we deserve the worst, but we suppose that we should be given the best.” —Samael Aun Weor
So we should examine ourselves in the way that we respond to situations. When something bad happens to us, do we immediately criticize and gossip about the other people involved? When we are mad that somebody is not understanding our point of view and how much they are causing us to suffer, have we taken the time to meditate on their point of view and how they may be suffering? We want a ton of fortune for ourselves, but how much have we contributed to the well-being and good fortune of others? We make some very profound statement here, and I think it's worth meditating on and reflecting more.
When we respond to life in that way, we are not using our energy in a way that will produce positive results for us. We are actually making our situation worse. We're in a bad situation and we go and we say bad things about the other person, we are going to create more problems for ourselves. If we are in a bad situation and people are saying bad things about us and we learn to control ourselves, to recognize that what other people are saying. If it's not true, then it will pass away, and if it's true, then they are speaking the truth and why should we protest against that? If we learn to be calm and not react mechanically to life, soon enough people will be on talking about something else and we will have freed ourselves from the cycle of creating more and more problems in that situation. We will pay the karma and that situation will dissolve, eventually. Some situations take longer to resolve themselves than others.
But Samael Aun Weor taught us that the best way to get rid of a problem is to stop thinking about the problem. Many times we obsess about our problems and we put a lot of mental energy into that, and then the next time we see that person, we start screaming at them without them even saying anything, because we worked ourselves up over it. That might be an exaggerated example, but if we would merely let the problem be and move on to the other duties that we have to take care of, many times things resolve themselves. And when they can't resolve themselves, we should meditate on it, ask for guidance within.
Ethics: The Foundation of Spirituality
So the best way for us to work positively in any situation we are in life and to start cultivating a foundation for our own spiritual developments, the right environment for us to awaken, to be able to observe more, to be able to comprehend more, to have mystical experiences, is to work with ethics.
Here is another quote from gnosticteachings.org I am going to share:
“Ethics are not just mechanical laws that some external authority is trying to impose upon us. These rules, commandments, or vows have a very specific function, which must be clearly grasped, and that is this: If you perform actions that are harmful, you create disharmony not only in your environment but in your mind. Yet if you follow these ‘observances,’ or positive practices, you create positive energy, not only into your environment, but in your mind. So the purpose of Yama and Niyama or the Commandments of Moses is to stabilize our psychology so that we are no longer vibrating with so much negative emotion.” —Gnostic Instructor
How do we cultivate an energetic environment in which we can have a connection with divinity? Well, if we are going around all day lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, talking about nonsense, what is the quality of our mind? Our mind is filled with energetic garbage, so to speak. So we need a way, we need a method, in which we can harness positive energies and we can restrain negative energies. Working with energy is a form of magic, right? All of us wish that we could snap our fingers and have a better situation in life where we were happier, right? Well if you truly master ethics, if you truly learn how to work with the energy of your own psychology and to respond consciously and positively to the energies in your environment, you become a magician in that sense. This is the basis for magic, is to be conscious and to be controlling energies.
Now we talked in our last lecture about harnessing our sexual energy. That is an extremely tremendous force. And if we don't harness that energy alongside a tremendous effort of ethics and self-discipline, we will create a lot of problems for ourselves, because we will be working with a large, powerful force of energy and we will be pouring it into all of the directions that create more and more disharmony, more suffering for ourselves and for others. We need the Ten Commandments of Moses or Twelve Commandments Moses. We need teachings like Yama and Niyama to be our map, so that we can understand how to work with our own energy within us and the energy that we want to give into our environment. Because when we know how to master ourselves and become masters of the energy within ourselves and within our own psychology, then we have the foundation for becoming masters and kings and queens of nature.
The Eightfold Path of Yoga
I have taken the first two steps from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras of his Eightfold Path: Yama and Niyama. Yama means “restraint” and Niyama means “precepts.” So with Yama, we will be talking about what types of actions we want to restrain and with Niyama, we will be talking about what types of actions we want to put forward. We want to follow those precepts. We want to take those actions in order to produce the type of psychological and spiritual environment in which we can awaken and have a more harmonious lifestyle.
All of us know, if our life is very chaotic, if we have a lot of problems, it is very hard to calm down your heart, to calm down your mind, to calm down your body and to sit for meditation and try to communicate with God. It is very difficult if you have a very disharmonious environment or a very chaotic life with lots of problems. By following these steps little by little, getting control over our own actions, we will gradually be able to transform ourselves and transform our environment as a result. “As within, so without.” This is a very common Gnostic adage.
In Yama, restraint, the first principal is ahimsa, non-violence. Each one of these builds off of the previous one, so that means that before we can even go on to the next steps, we need to look at what mastering non-violence is within ourselves, to the best of our ability. Okay? So first we should have a good grasp on what non-violence means, and how we can restrain violence within ourselves and within our actions in order to then build on to the next one.
I want to point out that violence is not just physical violence, going and punching somebody or hurting someone physically. There are other levels of violence. We can have violence against ourselves. How do we talk to ourselves? Are we constantly saying negative things about ourselves? Because if we know that in our Essence we have divinity within, we shouldn't be performing those types of violent emotional actions against ourselves. In the same way, we shouldn't be criticizing others, whether we are saying those words out loud or whether we are thinking them mentally or emotionally, just having evil will towards others. Those are forms of violence. You can kill someone with a word, with a look, to a degree. You can emotionally wound people with your silence. Sarcasm is a tremendous example of violence on the mental plane. There are many times where people will use sarcasm as a way to criticize and mock others in a very cruel and demeaning way, but then to brush it aside and say that they were joking when all along, mentally, they meant it. And you can sense that. You can feel that disconnect in between somebody's words and what you feel is their intention behind them.
But before we look at it in others, we need to look at it in ourselves. So just becoming aware of what we are doing is the first step, and if we observe something in ourselves that we think is creating violence mentally, emotionally, physically, against someone else or against ourselves and our own inner divinity, then we should try to restrain that as best we can, because it's going to produce negative consequences. It is going to imbalance our mind, our heart, and our physical life, and our relationship with others.
So after that we have satya, which is truthfulness. Now this doesn't mean to go around just all honesty all the time in everyone's face, because sometimes that would be a form of violence. If we know that being bluntly honest would really hurt someone, then perhaps it is best to keep silence.
What we want to restrain is our inclination to deceive people. Maybe we are a secretive person and we take a lot of actions that are very deceptive. Are we living in a genuine, sincere way in our interactions with other people? Or are we being deceptive? Are we lying? Are we presenting ourselves as one sort of person so that we can win somebody's favors, so we can impress the people on the interview committee for a new job, so we can attract a partner that we want? Are we presenting ourselves in a false way or are we being genuine and humble and showing ourselves for who we truly are? Because it may be the case that you get that spouse or that job based on a false presentation of yourself, and sooner or later that will crumble, because you aren't actually meant to be in those situations. It is based on a lie.
So truthfulness goes beyond just what we say. It goes into the very way that we express ourselves in life, and it starts with honesty with ourselves, sincerity with ourselves. As long as we are pointing our fingers at everybody else and blaming them for our situation, and we refuse to take any personal responsibility for our situation, we are not being fully honest. Yes, there are systemic problems that exist in this world, but there are also many problems that we ourselves create in our lives, and we have to address those before we can address anything else.
After we have mastered, or I guess gotten the basics of non-violence and truthfulness, we move to asteya, non-stealing. So again, this isn't just stealing people's money and stealing other people's possessions, although of course, it includes those. How do we steal other people's time? How do we steal other people's attention or goodwill? Do we steal the credit for something when we weren't actually the person who put in the hard work and the effort to do it? Do we, through a false presentation of ourselves, steal a relationship from someone because we attracted them based on a lie, when they should have been perhaps with another partner?
Stealing hits on many levels, and again, all of these are working with energies. You know if we are violent against other people, that violence will come back and will strike us mentally, emotionally, physically. If we are deceiving others, how will we ever see the truth of God, the truth of reality, the truth of divinity, if within ourselves we are producing deception and lies? And if we were stealing from others, then that energy will again be stolen from us.
We say that people who practice black magic, because they don't get their energy from their own inner divinity, they steal energy from other people. They hypnotize other people through those people's desires, whether lust or greed or so on, and they feed their energy from those people.
So in this, we want to practice harmonious action, trusting that, you know, by performing good deeds, by doing our daily responsibilities, we will have what we need.
The next is brahmacharya, chastity. So in our previous lecture, we spoke about this at length. It is essential that we keep our energies pure, that we transform our energies and transmute them. If we are wasting those energies, if we are pouring those energies into harmful desires, into lust, which only seeks personal satisfaction at the expense of others, then how will we ever have peace and harmony within ourselves?
This is our root force, our creative power. Our sexual energy is directly related with our consciousness, our mind, our soul. If we don't have good control over that force, then our mind is going to be all over the place. Our conscious attention is going to be all over the place. Now if we can harness that force through purity, we will have sexuality, but a pure type of sexuality. We will transform that energy according to its divine archetype, rather than in a way that is against the laws of divinity.
We see this in a tree or a rose, which perfectly takes the energies of nature, its own sexual energies, and transforms those energies and follows its own archetype. It becomes something beautiful and harmonious. It does not have to steal from nature, because it's in balance with nature. That is what chastity is.
Many times people equate chastity with celibacy and they think, “Well, if I am not lustful, then I just won't have any sexual desire. Well, then I am just going to have nothing, right? I just won't feel anything.” Chastity is a form of sexuality. There is sexual impulse there, but it is pure. It is loving. It is about divinity. It is about what is best for others and not about selfish desire.
Now, building upon those foundations, we come to aparigraha, which is non-avariciousness, non-greediness: not trying to take more than what we need. This is restraining the part of the animal instinct that always wants to hoard and hoard and get more and get more. You know, it is accepting having enough, to be comfortable, to live a secure life, but not having to always be chasing more and more material things, or more and more emotional sensations.
Maybe we are somebody who is addicted to praise, and so we are always trying to put ourselves in situations where more and more people will praise us and think highly of us, dressing a certain way or making certain jokes or talking a certain way to get more attention. Well, are we stealing in that case? Shouldn't we be happy with enough? Why are we always seeking more? Why are we addicted to those sensations? So again, all of these go beyond just physicality. How are we emotionally using our energy, our sexual energy? How are we mentally using those energies?
Now once we have restrained these negative energies, we have tried to restrain our actions physically, emotionally, and mentally to a certain degree, we need to take actions that are positive physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. So these are Niyama, precepts. These are the positive actions which will produce positive results. The ones we talked about before will produce negative consequences for us. These will produce positive consequences for us and for others.
The first saucha is purity from desire. So again, purity is not just the absence of impurities. Purity is not just having nothing in it that makes it dirty, the way that many times we think of it. Purity itself is virtue. It is beauty. It is harmony. It is divinity in a pure form. Divinity has an energy, has a presence, a very powerful presence, but it is not seeking something. It exists. It has will, but it is not motivated by egotistical desires. Having purity from egotism is what this principle is all about. It is about being in harmony with the energy and the will of our inner divinity, cultivating that connection, and when other things come up to pollute that energy, we choose to hold true to our conscience rather than following egotism.
Next we have santosha, contentment with what one has. So this is pretty much the opposite of aparigraha, non-avariciousness. In non-avariciousness, it is non-attachment. It is non-grasping. It is about not seeking more. Santosha is about the quality of just being genuinely happy with what you have.
Unfortunately, this is becoming rarer and rarer. You see people on the street. Often they don't look very happy. Many people are often looking stressed or worried, but if we were at peace, if we were like a child connected with our inner divinity and fully conscious of everything that is happening in life, we would have this contentment, this peace and serenity with what we have. We would feel joy to be alive, to be in a beautiful world like this, to have the relationships we have with people. So it is quality in itself, but of course, as I mentioned before, we can't often reach these states and so we have at least a basic grasp on Yama, on restraint.
Tapas are austerities, spiritual practices. So we have many practices in Gnosis, which work with energy, and produce very positive and harmonious results for us—to cultivate a lot of energy, a lot of will power, a lot of joy in connection to divinity, and gives us the energy that we need for mystical experiences.
These are things that many times beginning practitioners complain about, having to sit to meditate or do runes or different yogic exercises. We will actually talk about them in a forthcoming lecture, but when you have worked with these and you truly see energetic results that come from them, you understand the value. These practices awaken consciousness, awaken the compassion of the heart, the wisdom of the mind, strength and vitality in the body. So we work with those practices daily in order to produce positive effects for ourselves and for others.
Svadhyaya: Scriptural Study
Next is svadhyaya, the study of scriptures. No matter which tradition you have a relationship with, studying the root scriptures from the highest teachers in those traditions is important, not the modern commentaries that are watered down, but actually going to those roots scriptures, reading a verse, sitting and reflecting on it, meditating on it, praying to divinity, “God, help me understand what is meant by this verse.” Maybe you read a passage and one line sticks out to you. Taking that one line and sitting down praying, praying for guidance and then meditating on it for 15 or 20 minutes, writing down the results that you got from your meditation—that is a great way to study the scriptures, not just on an intellectual level, but emotionally and spiritually engage with them.
Ishvarapranidhana: Remembrance of Divinity
And finally, Ishvarapranidhana, continual remembrance of God. This is our shield. If we are in remembrance of God, deeply and profoundly feeling the presence of our own inner divinity, how can we steal from others? How can we lie, or be violent, or be greedy, or be lustful? If we feel God within us, if we feel this contentment with what we have, if we feel energized by our spiritual practice, inspired by the wisdom of scriptures, and we feel pure in our heart like a child, innocent like a child, well then, why would we want to harm others? Why would we want to do these egotistical actions, which we know from our own study of our life and of karma, produce harmful effects for us and for others.
Working with these steps is the foundation for being able to manage your own energy, and as a result, transform your life, to create a lifestyle that is harmonious for spiritual practice. This might mean giving up, temporarily or for a time, distancing yourself from certain people or certain environments: not going out to bars or places where you know there are many lustful people, places where there is violence, but staying in environments and with people who you know cultivate positive energetic responses in you.
Especially at the beginning, this is really critical, because we kind of have a bandwidth, energetically, of how much we can transform before we become overwhelmed and hypnotized and fall asleep and just get sucked in again—like turning on a really really powerful engaging TV show and just becoming immediately hypnotized.
Now, maybe a master could do that and have no problems staying awake and maintaining themselves, but for many of us, we might get sucked in. So maybe we need to take a break from those types of TV shows and just focus on calming down our mind, calming down our heart. Stop taking in tons of impressions and energy that is disharmonious and actually let our mind set a little bit so that we can see: “Why am I suffering? What is hurting in me?” rather than running away and distracting ourselves, really looking at our suffering, looking it in the face because it's there. Whether we choose to see it or ignore it, it's there. By looking at our suffering, we will be able perhaps to see what has caused it and then perhaps to understand what actions we can take, such as these positive ethical actions, to resolve it. So we work with that energy daily.
Now finally, I want to conclude with sacrifice, because sacrifice is the ultimate tool that we use to negotiate our karma. Previously, the instructor mentions that we have three factors in Gnosis that are very commonly talked about. The first being death, psychological death, which we gave a lecture on. The second being spiritual birth, which was the previous lecture. And the third is sacrifice for humanity, conscious, willing sacrifice for humanity.
If you have ever done something and then you felt remorse for it, genuine remorse, you wish that there was a way you could take back that deed. You wish that there was a way you could go and make it up to that person. That is the type of longing that the sincere spiritual aspirant has.
When we look at ourselves, when we look at the problems that we have created for ourselves and the pain that we have caused others, we have a longing to do something positive to resolve that. Not just so that we won't have to have those negative consequences, but because we genuinely, deeply comprehend the harm that we have produced and no longer being ignorant of that. Now having the knowledge of how much good we could have done instead, we wish to take actions to produce that amount of good, to achieve our potential as a spiritual being.
We follow the guidance of our inner divinity and we find the best way that we can sacrifice for others. Sometimes that means going to the soup kitchen or donating money, or donating clothes. Those are good acts, but many times sacrifice goes beyond mere service for others. It is a sacrifice to practice the ethics that we just talked about. For many of us, that is a tremendous sacrifice to change our lifestyle, our way of thinking, our way of talking and acting and feeling, to try to transform our lives down to a more ethical lifestyle. But the results of doing that for the people in our lives and for everyone we may meet in the future, the results of that for ourselves, are extremely positive. So whether or not we have money to donate or time to go volunteer, or perhaps opportunities to teach spiritual teachings to others, we can all make a tremendous sacrifice by working on ourselves to become better people.
People who follow their own inner divinity, who live a harmonious lifestyle, feel sincere compassion and act on that compassion in intelligent and wise ways for the benefit of others. If we can't create that environment for ourselves, it becomes very hard to truly create it for others many times. We think we are helping someone, and really we are just adding more trouble to the situation.
Many times we want to help someone else so that we don't have to look at our own problems and deal with our own problems. So in the beginning, let's not get confused with over-sacrificing ourselves and giving up everything to take care of others, so that then we have no energy left to take care of ourselves. We need to be able to take care of our own responsibilities, to manage our own energy, to be living a harmonious life ourselves. By doing that, we are producing a tremendously good effect for others, everybody around us and for humanity as a whole. And then from that state, we might be able to know what is intelligent action, to be able to help others whether spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, whatever ways we have a unique vocation or calling to do so.
But we should not be sacrificing for others to the extent that we ourselves are getting burnt out, and then have no energy left to work on ourselves spiritually. That would be counter-productive.
Sacrifice builds upon birth and death. We need the death of our own egotism. We need that work on our own psychology and our own defects related with Yama, restraint. And we need the birth of our soul related with Niyama, those spiritual precepts that we can follow, those positive actions that we can take. But in addition to that, we need to also have a mindset which values the benefit of others as well, which hopes for the good benefit of those around us, of our family members, our friends, of all of humanity and all beings.
As our teacher Samael Aun Weor stated:
"Those who only preoccupy themselves with their own spiritual progress and do not work for others achieve absolutely nothing. Whosoever wants to progress must sacrifice the self for others." —Samael Aun a Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
We know, as we talked about at length, that to sacrifice the self is to sacrifice our egotism. That doesn't mean that we run ourselves dry trying to run here and there and do favors for everybody. We sacrifice our self-interest, our selfish desires, our desire for more attention, for more pleasant sensations, for more praise—whatever these desires are that are beyond what we actually need to survive and to be able to take care of ourselves and our duties. We sacrifice those egotistical desires and instead spend some time reflecting on how we can be a source of benefit to the people around us.
We all have jobs. Many of these jobs are focused on service, customer service. How can we transform our job and make it a place where we don't just drag our feet and try to get the next paycheck, but really try to do a good job so that our customers or our clients or our co-workers benefit from from having us in that environment, from speaking with us from the work that we do? That is a great place to start, working with this factor sacrifice.
But in addition to that, we need to be conserving our energies, putting them into positive actions, positive spiritual actions, and we need to be restraining our own egotism, our own negative habits, our own negativity, and trying to replace that negativity through meditation with positive insight and comprehension from our inner divinity. If we have a negative thought, it's not just repress it and push it down, but to truly investigate, “Why am I so angry?” To go, to pray, to sit and to meditate on your anger and look at it. Maybe meditate on the other person's point of view whom you are angry with and see how they are suffering, and to truly work at it until you gain some comprehension that helps you to feel a positive state, a virtuous state, a compassionate state. Then you have achieved Gnosis. You have achieved a bit of Gnosis about yourself in that situation, and when we know ourselves, we come to understand others much, much better. When we understand others, then we know what we can truly do to help them.
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