Death, a Free Online Course
Six Stages of the Life Cycle
- Written by Gnostic Instructor
This is a transcription of the audio lecture Death 03 Six Stages of the Life Cycle originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
To continue our talks about the reality of death and dying, it is good for us to take a moment and become aware of the physical body that we are all using in this moment, to feel ourselves in the body, in the present, here, not distracted, not somewhere else, not carried away by thoughts or feelings, longings, fears, but instead simply here, aware of the body, aware of oneself, aware of being aware. This simple awareness is the basis of all true spiritual development. It is a point of view, a simple moment to moment presence, from which one can advance deeper and discover the true mysteries of life and death.
If we continue from moment to moment being identified with illusions, being distracted, being easily confused, being tossed around by surging desires, thoughts, worries, and memories we will never understand life. If we never understand life, we will never understand death.
Presence, awareness, is an activity of consciousness. It is to be conscious, to be aware, to be present, to be here and now. This takes willpower. In us, it is not automatic to be present, it is not inherited or inborn, it is not mechanical. What is mechanical or automatic in us is a state of psychological sleep in which we are continually distracted, continually torn between desires, pulled by fears and anxieties, worries, longings, envy, lust. This is what is most common in us in our moment to moment existence: to be completely distracted, at the mercy of sensations, at the mercy of all of our perceptions. Whatever we perceive we react to, and the reactions are generated in our mindstream according to how the perceptions strike us. They bring up our fear, our longings, our envy, our lust. As such, from moment to moment we are distracted, we as a consciousness are not in control of our psyche. This is the basis for suffering. All suffering is caused by desire. Desire stimulates the senses. The senses entrance the consciousness. The consciousness sleeps, hypnotized. This is what is automatic and mechanical in us.
So here, I have positioned for you two fundamentally opposed states of being. The first is bright, active, cognizant, present, self-aware, self-luminous, self-generating, free of any discursive emotion or thought, naturally, spontaneously happy and content, lacking nothing, desiring nothing, present, complete, whole, at peace. This is consciousness in its natural state, unmodified. This is possible for anyone to experience, provided we know how to train ourselves to pay attention, to not be distracted.
The second state is the state of distraction in which we experience all of the fears, terrors, and so-called joys of the mechanical life, being caught constantly in the stream of suffering, craving and aversion, caught between conflicting desires, caught between the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. It is a state characterized by all of the sufferings we already know. Fear, anxiety, stress, lust, anger, pride. It is marked most characteristically by a state of complete distraction, a complete inability to hold attention, to relax, to concentrate. It is a state in which the mind is wild, and our life is a roller-coaster ride over which we have no control, and which takes us unexpectedly from the extremes of pleasure to the extremes of pain.
If anyone here has tried to learn to meditate, you know how wild the mind is and how hard to tame. The reason the mind is hard to tame is because we have allowed to be wild for so long. But with practice, with training, we can learn to calm the surging mind and it will relax and settle in its natural state; in that context you can experience the peace of an undistracted consciousness.
So these two fundamentally opposed states are the basis of everything in life and death, absolutely everything. In order to have a good life, the basis of all the spiritual teachings are the same: be content, learn to love, do not covet, do not steal, do not kill. In other words, every genuine religion is based on ethics, that when followed spontaneously and naturally in oneself, reduce discursive energies in the mindstream, in our life. Killing, stealing, lust, pride, envy, fear, all produce a great amount of discursive, disturbing energies. That is why our mind is disturbed, this is why our mind is unhappy, because of our actions in body and mind. Contrary to that, when we learn to apply ethics and live by them because we know they benefit ourselves and others, the mind naturally starts to calm and relax, and we gain the capacity to experience spontaneous joy and peace, which is the natural state of consciousness.
It is up to us which of these two fundamental positions are in our life. It is up to us how we use our attention from moment to moment. In other words, the result of our moment to moment life depends on how we use our attention from moment to moment. If our life is full of pain, suffering, doubt, stress, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, it is because of how we use attention from moment to moment, it is because of how we use our consciousness from moment to moment. Thus, the antidote is to learn about consciousness and the mind, to learn how to pay attention from moment to moment, to learn what it is that absorbs our attention from moment to moment and thereby produces suffering. That effort requires a moment to moment remembrance to pay attention, to watch oneself, to be present in the body, not distracted, not flying around in the mind, daydreaming.
When we are here and now, then we are simply here and now, aware of the body, aware of attention, and that is the beginning place where real change can begin. These teachings are a form of very rigorous training, not of the body, but of the consciousness, of attention. That training has a single purpose: to guide us out of suffering. That training has a single point of view which is backed up by experience: the cause of suffering is our own self, it is how we pay attention wrongly, what in Buddhism is called wrong view. It is, in other words, a state of Avidya, which is ignorance. This is at the root, the core, the heart of the Wheel of Samsara: ignorance, a lack of knowledge. That is not book knowledge, but knowledge of oneself, knowledge of attention, knowledge of consciousness, knowledge of how consciousness functions in nature.
This teaching is a training for consciousness to gain knowledge, to learn about itself, how it should function, how it functions in harmony with nature, and how it can create either suffering or liberation from suffering, what in Sanskrit is called Nirvana. The word Nirvana simply means "cessation." It does not mean heaven, it does not refer merely to a place. The word Nirvana literally translates as "cessation, ending" and it means "cessation of suffering," the cessation of pain. That is what our ultimate goal is as religious people, whatever religion we follow: it is to escape pain, to experience joy that lasts, real joy, not just the joy of getting something that we want, a new toy, a new dress, but real joy which does not need or want anything, that simply is happy. That is joy of consciousness. So this training has many levels.
This course that we are giving about death, the process of dying and how to take advantage of dying, will explain certain principles about death and dying and about levels of training that one can receive when one approaches death.We will not have the opportunity in this particular course to deal with the more advanced topics because, to be honest, probably most of us could not take advantage of them. We need a lot of training to use the higher techniques. Any of us are capable of reaching that level, but it is very rare for any of us to have the willpower to do it, and this is the difference. Any of us can if we have the willpower.
One of these techniques in the higher level is called transference of consciousness (phowa). It is a technique in which a person is instructed and then trains himself so that at the moment of death he can consciously direct his mindstream out of the physical body and in to another body. This is extremely difficult, but it is possible. It can be done and it has been done. But it requires very rigorous lifetime of training, which quite honestly, most of us do not have the willpower to do. What that technique illustrates is the potential that we have to manage life and death, and that potential is there if we chose to develop it. Nonetheless, these teachings can still help us, even if do not have the willpower to reach that level of training, even if our only intention is to avoid as much suffering as we can.
At the moment of death, no one here really would want to go to hell. I know that a lot of people love the concept of hell, they talk about it, and many listen to music filled with hellish messages, and many claim to be black magicians or vampires, and many love what they call "death [metal] music", but the simple truth is, if they experience the reality of hell, they will not want to be there. As grave as our suffering in the physical world can be, it is a thousand times sweeter then the suffering in the lower worlds.
As we explained in the previous lectures, hell and heaven exist, and we go to one or the other depending on the conditioning of our mind, according to the contents of our mind—in other words our karma: what we deserve. If we created a lifetime of suffering for ourselves and others, we belong in hell so hell can purify us of the mind that does that, because that is all hell is: it is nature recycling plant in which the soul is cleansed of all of its mistakes and given another chance after centuries and thousands of years of time. We all want to escape that process, so by application of this science, even if we cannot reach the higher level of training, if we at least learn to apply ethics to change for the better, to not be a bad person, to abandon selfishness, to learn to pay attention and be caring about others, to stop committing crimes whether in the mind or in the body, those simple actions—renouncing selfish, harmful behaviour—changes the trajectory of our evolutionary development.
We give this training for a broad spectrum of people. It might be enough to give us a chance to keep working, but it depends on our karma, it depends on the contents of our minds. Some are not so bad; some, by simply trying to be a good person, by trying to change their behavior for the better, can gradually and slowly change the trajectory up, to avoid suffering, little by little, day by day, moment by moment—and to be honest, this is the case for most of us.
Most people do not have the strong will and the circumstances of life to become a very advanced practitioner, it is a simple fact. It is rare that a person has so much willpower and is so sick of suffering that they renounce TV, movies, drinking, smoking and lust, and they give up all harmful behaviors in order to dedicate themselves today, everyday, exclusively to transforming their mind. If you are that kind of person, then you can learn the higher techniques, and chances are, if you have that type of daily, intense spiritual rigor, you will learn it.
But the simple fact is, most of us are not that spiritually intense. Most of us "do what we can," but we are so afflicted with the hypnosis of life, so deluded by the comforts of life, so entranced by pleasure, that is very difficult for us to even meditate for a few moments, to even pay attention for a few moments. This is an honest truth. So for these levels of practitioners, there are techniques provided. Like most of us who are beginners, who do not have a lot of willpower, who are very distracted and having a very hard time staying focused on our spiritual effort, the practice that we need most, the work that we need most, is with ethics, to change our behaviors for the better, to do good, to help others.
This is complemented by a constant development of the awareness of death: to become deeply cognizant that we will die. This cognizance, that persistent awareness that the body that we are in right now will die, no matter how much we pamper it, as much as we perfume it, as much as try to give it every little morsel of food it wants and every little comfort it wants, at a given moment it will become that thing that we hate so much, called a corpse. It will become an object of revulsion to everyone. So as much as we love this body, and love for someone to touch it and stroke it, at some moment soon it will become an object that no one will want to touch; it will become a corpse, dead, disgusting. We need to develop awareness of that fact. Start to reduce your attachment to the body and become aware of its impermanence: it will die.
That awareness extends another step, into learning about cause and effect: karma. Learn about how the laws of nature function. When we do something selfish, such as act out of anger, or cultivate pride, lust, envy, we need to learn that all of these produce suffering for ourselves and for others. By simple analysis in our life of what happens when we do those things, we can, by observation and logical deduction, start to realize that hell is real and that one experiences it according to the conditioning of ones mind, so therefor, if I do not change, I will experience hell.
This set of parameters we have just outlined is the basic level of training that has many different forms in many different religions but it is the basic level, the first level. This is the type of training in its different forms that every religious person in the world goes through according to the particular characteristics of their own religion. They learn about ethics, hell, and how to be a good person. The heart of all that is learning to use attention properly. Some religions do it in different ways than others; some have decayed and do not have the complete instruction any longer, but in general this is what we see when we study comparative religions.
If our experience of life is so strong that we have become very sick of suffering and we want more than a life of suffering, then based on that foundation level (Sutrayana) teaching there is a greater level of training (Mahayana) we can receive. We have talked about these levels of training in other classes: the Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) and the Tantric Vehicle. So there are three levels of teachings in every religion, in every tradition.
- Introductory / Public / Exoteric
- Middle / Private / Mesoteric
- Advanced / Secret / Esoteric
In this course we are primarily focused on the first level because, to be honest, that is where most of us are. I know everyone like to think they are advanced practitioners, but in honest truth none of us are. If we think we are, we need to meditate on the defect of pride.
There is a simple test that we can apply to ourselves to discover if we are in fact advanced practitioners. The simple test is this: do we fall asleep, ever? If we fall asleep, we are not advanced. I mean falling asleep where the consciousness falls asleep, where we lose our concentration, we get distracted, start wandering around psychologically for a little while and then all the sudden we realize "Oh, I am supposed to be listening to this lecture. What has he been talking about for the last ten minutes? I have no idea." That is a state of sleep: whenever we slip into a daydream or distraction. Advanced practitioners do not lose awareness of themselves, whether in the body or out of the body.
It is necessary to know that humanity lives with its consciousness asleep. People work asleep. People walk through the streets asleep. People live and die asleep. When we come to the conclusion that the entire world lives asleep, then we comprehend the necessity of awakening.- Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
Another level of sleep is when the physical body sleeps and we lose complete cognizance of our consciousness. Minutes or hours later we suddenly realize we are in bed and we have been sleeping. Maybe there is a vague memory of a dream. Advanced practitioners do not sleep. They maintain a continual cognizance of their attention, even when the physical body is asleep.
So let us be honest about where we are in our development. It is important, because when we face death, this artificial notion of "being advanced" or a beginner means nothing. When death comes, the only thing that matters is: can you retain awareness? Most of us cannot retain awareness even if someone turns on the TV, and that is just a little square of images and sounds, but we get totally sucked into it and lose all cognizance of ourselves; we forget we are in the body, and we start to perceive as the actor perceives, we become the actor, we forget the body, we forget ourselves, we forget who we are, we start to feel what the actor is feeling. When the gunmen in coming to kill the actor our heart races, we get nervous, our hands get cold and clammy, we grip the chair, "What is going to happen?"... That is a state of psychological sleep. That is hypnotism. That state of consciousness is one hundred percent harmful to you as a consciousness. The same state of sleep happens in conversations with friends, at work, at church, at home, when we get so engaged memories, thoughts, feelings, an argument, a debate, a conversation, that we forget ourselves. We become totally identified with the surging desire to be right, respected, envied, accepted by others, to have security in our social environment, etc. In thousands of ways, we forget ourselves, we lose cognizance. That is a state of psychological sleep.
The same happens in sports when we are so focused on winning that we lose cognizance of our name, our attention, who we are, other people around us, our life in general and all our focus is on winning. It is a state of psychological sleep that is very instinctive.
This state of consciousness happens throughout our lifetime in many varieties, and individual to each of us according to our idiosyncrasy. Some of us are more intellectual, some are emotional, some are instinctive. We will experience these different states according to our idiosyncrasy. What does this mean? It means that as course of our life flows from birth towards death, we are continually cultivating a state of psychological sleep in which we have no self-awareness, constantly absorbed by the phenomena that are happening to us, constantly distracted by all our perceptions both internal and external, so that when death comes, we do not even realize it.
If you do develop into a serious practitioner, and you develop the skill to manage consciousness when you are out of the body, you can go in to the world of the dead and you can talk to them and you will discover that the dead do not know that they are dead. They continue with the same lives that had when in physical bodies, going to work, to church, putting gas in the car, trying to sell you something, trying to get you to buy their life insurance, not knowing that they are dead. Every one of us is destined to that exact state, because we do not even know that we are alive. That is how asleep we are.
"Life is but a dream." We all know the children song. For us, life is that: another dream. We have no cognizance of life, thus we cannot have cognizance of death.
This is why we study the Tree of Life, the Kabbalah. This map or glyph symbolizes structures in nature and in our consciousness. We have explained to you in many lectures about the sephirah Malkuth, which represents our physical body. The physical body is born and dies, but the energy that inhabits it does not die. That energy is our consciousness, our mindstream; that does not die. It progresses according to the trajectory of its karmic flow. That is, if from moment to moment we are cultivating more and more lust, pride, etc., our karmic flow will proceed according to that trajectory: to deepen pride, lust. In other words, our trajectory is going downwards to Hell (Klipoth) where we can be with all of those who are very proud and lustful, those we call "demons." That is the natural trajectory of that cause and effect relationship: action and consequence. But if instead in our life we are renouncing pride, lust, envy, gluttony, laziness, etc. then we are changing the trajectory of that mindstream towards those who are free of pride, lust, fear, envy, which we call "Angels" or "Masters." This is a moment to moment choice we make, according to how we handle our consciousness from moment to moment.
The glyph or symbol of the Tree of Life shows us all the levels of nature, superior levels and inferior levels, heavens and hells. It is all very interesting and, as beautiful and complicated as nature is physically, it is far more beautiful and complicated in all the other dimensions. This is not something easy to grasp. Do not think that you can study this symbol for a couple of years and understand it. You cannot. This map is only a symbol. Every one of this spheres is a world, but every one of these worlds has worlds in it.
For example, our physical world is very complicated. We can go to the macro scale and look around at the level of the universe, galaxies, solar systems, and it is totally overwhelming to the mind to see all of that, and that is just a physical point of view at one level of physical matter. We can change our view down to that scale all the way to the atoms, to quanta, and the laws there seem completely contradictory to everything else. Moreover, we cannot comprehend that these two extreme differences in view are the same physical world. So we see many dimensions, levels, in mere physical matter. So what about in the forth dimension, the fifth dimension, the sixth dimension? Every level is very complex, very beautiful, very sophisticated! No book, no graphic, can teach that to you. You have to experience it, to understand it. Nonetheless all of that, everything that exists, is empty! Everything!
Everything that manifests in every universe is in it heart emptiness. For us, this seems bewildering. To the intellect, it seems incomprehensible. The intellect tries to make it into something material, as if to say that emptiness must be a great non-existence and we relate this to our materialistic point of view about life and death. We think: "All I know is physical. I only believe only what my five senses tell me, thus when I die, I will cease to exist." This is our way of thinking in this era. And naturally, by extension we think, "If it is true as I believe that when I die I will cease to exist, then that means from now until then I can do whatever I want to get as much pleasure as I can, whether pleasure comes from sex, killing, stealing, lying, etc." This is what we see as "the way of the world" now. Materialism has become so powerful that now most people do not care at all about the effects of their actions. They only want to get everything they can get. They do not care who they hurt and how they get it. Every one of us if affected by this, even if we think we are a good person, because we are saturated with this philosophy through every TV show, book, internet, all the media is saturated with this point of view, "getting," this philosophy of materialism.
But let me explain something. This great emptiness, which we call the Ain Soph in Hebrew and which in Asian traditions is called Sunyata or Prakriti (it has different names depending on the tradition), that emptiness is not a lack of existence. It does not relate to that concept that "when we die we will cease to exist." That is a very deluded kind of logic and it does not relate to the true nature of emptiness. I am pointing this out because there are many people who study Kabbalah, mysticism, religion, and Buddhism and they state: "Buddhism says that everything is emptiness, which means that we do not exist, and in the end we can do whatever we want now." There are many so-called tantrics who teach that. But it is wrong; it is absolutely mistaken. Likewise, it is mistaken to say that we exist eternally, that after we die we go to heaven or hell forever. This is also a mistake.
Here we see two fundamentally opposing views about life after death: nihilism and eternalism. The nihilists believe that after we die we cease to exist, and that is it. They say, "We have one life to live, let us live fast, get everything we can, then we die." This is incorrect. It contradicts every law of nature. If we really study we will see how foolish that concept is, and then we will start to see that this concept is a very convenient philosophy for those who benefit from it, because there are people who benefit from that philosophy: they are taking advantage of the ones who believe in it.
On the other side are the eternalists, like many fundamentalists who think, "I simply believe in my religion and I am going to heaven forever." No genuine scripture in the world says that. Some fundamentalists say it, but no scriptures, no master, said that.
All of us have these two warring concepts in our mind. We may not be conscious of them, but these have been drummed into us in each lifetime by our culture. If we have grown up in a western culture, particularly those influenced by Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, we have been very influenced by eternalism, by the repeated statement that if we do not except the religion and be good and donate to the church we will go to hell. Even if we do not consciously think it, that fear is in us, inside, lurking. It is affecting us even if we are not aware of it.
And also, at the same time, we are being affected by our culture, which is pushing nihilism, telling us, "It does not matter what you do, you can do whatever you want, nothing will come of it, you are just going to die and in the end nothing will happen, so go ahead and pursue all your desires and pleasures, it does not matter." This is a war happening in our minds.
In order to comprehend the fallacy of these two opposing views, we need to understand the Tree of Life. Even if it looks complicated, the Tree of Life (Kabbalah) in essence states exactly what the Prajnaparamita Sutra (also called The Heart Sutra) states. It is probably the most famous Buddhist scripture. Quite simply, it states:
"Form is emptiness, emptiness is form; emptiness is not other than form, form too is not other than emptiness. Likewise, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are all empty. Therefore, Shariputra, all phenomena are emptiness..."
In other words, "All things that exist are in their heart devoid of existence. And all things that are devoid of existence also exist."
To the intellect this sound contradictory, but by conscious experience, through perception, one can validate and confirm it. That point of view is at the heart of liberation from suffering, and it begins here and now.
For example, let us analyze our physical body. According to our perception, the body exists. But even if we apply just a scientific model to it and start looking at the science of the body, we can see that really the body is mostly empty space. If you look in the atomic structure, most of the body is empty; most atoms are vast empty space. But that is not the meaning of the emptiness described in the scriptures. In our example, the real meaning of emptiness is that the body lacks inherent existence: that is, it is empty of independent existence. What is this mean? It means the body is dependent on other factors in order to be here; it is interdependent. It does not exist on its own, by itself. It is impermanent. The body depends on a huge collection of very complicated circumstances in order to be here and now, and yet we have no cognizance of that, none. In order for us to be in these bodies, all the laws of nature must be stable and in place, everything. It needs atmosphere, gravity, magnetism, electricity, it needs this planet, food, water, air, all the minerals and chemicals—in short, to sustain itself, the body requires a hugely complicated series of circumstances—and it needs a consciousness to work through it. It needs a mother, it needs a father—so many things! The more you analyze this, you realize it is truly a miracle that any of us is sitting here now. It is miraculous, and yet we take it for granted, and we abuse the body, and we only want to use it for pleasure, not for its true purpose.
The deeper we go into that type of analysis, according to this training, eventually we start to analyze: what is the ultimate root of my experience of the moment? It is not the body. The body is impermanent. I will cast it off and take a new one just like any other living thing does. What defines my experience is my consciousness. But what is that? When we start to inquire within, we start to see: can we find the mind? Can we really find "self"? Where is it? What characteristic does it have? What can you identify and point to as "self"? If you start to look inside for where your thoughts come from, where your feelings came from, where the potential and possibility of perception comes from, that type of analysis is an ancient tradition of meditation mostly known in Buddhism and Hinduism, but it also exists in the West. Descartes used this technique and it is how he arrived to his famous aphorism, "I think, therefore I am." That was his conclusion, that the basis of being a living being, a sentient being, was the capacity of thought. But he was mistaken; he did not go far enough.
When you inquire beyond thought, you can start to penetrate the root of real existence; that is what the Tree of Life shows us. The root of existing is not the physical body, it is not the vital body, it is not the emotional body, it is not the mental body, it is not the causal body, it is not the Buddhic body or the the Atmic body, it is not even the Trikaya—the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya or Dharmakaya. These are all bodies of the Being, yet none of those are the ultimate nature of the consciousness, the nature of Being. The ultimate nature of Being is the Absolute, the Emptiness. That is what the Prajnaparamita teaches us:
Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
This statement is illustrated on the glyph of the Tree of Life.
The Absolute is the primordial Emptiness, which is uncreated light, pure potentiality, unmodified by any state at all, a pure simple potentiality, that becomes what is, and what is, is that. That ultimate root is the emptiness in all things. It is something but it is not nothing, it is not anything that can be conceived with the mind, but it is something. In its heart, in its essence, it is purity, it is pure happiness, it is the ultimate state of existence, pure joy. If you can imagine what would be the ultimate expression of any Buddha, of any great Master like Jesus, Krishna, or Moses, what would be the ultimate synthesis of who they are, it is that. Nameless, faceless, pure love, pure knowledge, but beyond knowledge. It is indescribable. That is what we call the Absolute, the absolute state of all things, the abstractness of all things.
Why is that important? It is because we have lost touch with that, that we suffer. A Buddha has regained touch with it. There are many levels of Buddhas, Masters, or Angels—you can use whatever word you want—there are many levels, but even at the beginning level, a Buddha or Master has at least touched it, and that is what changes them, because they start to see the fundamental ignorance that all of us have. It is ignorance of that: our true nature. They work intensely to break the hypnotic ties to all matter so that in the end they are a pure expression of that. The purest levels of that are here in the Trikaya, the three bodies of the Buddha. These are different expressions of the highest levels of Gods in any universe, the highest, purest, most profound intelligence and love that we can possibly imagine. And they are simply vehicles or vessels that transmit that light.
The potential to reach that level is in us. This is the importance of death. Death provides an opportunity to realize it. To understand that, we need to understand these three parts of our psychology and train now to comprehend the difference between them.
This is what we talked about in the previous lecture.
Essence or consciousness is the purity of the conscious that is not trapped in desire (pride, anger, lust envy, etc.). Our essence is quite small because over the centuries, as we become identified with selfish feelings and thoughts, we have trapped our consciousness or essence into ego and that is where most of us is trapped. 97 percent of what we have as a being, as a soul, is trapped in lust, anger, pride, selfishness, desire. There are different names for this in different religions. We call it ego, which means "I," because that sense of "I" is that. In the Absolute, there is no sense of I. In a great Buddha, a great Master, there is no sense of I. They are a true individuals, but not selfish, not self-centered. All of their attention is on you, not themselves. In a truly great Master, the ego has been eliminated, and the Essence has been grown and perfected.
Acting as a vehicle for either the ego or the essence is personality, our mask (persona). We explained all that in the previous lecture, but we need to remember it because we are going a little more technical into what this means.
There are levels of density within us. The most dense part is our physical body and unfortunately most of us think that the physical body is our true identity, that is why we follow nihilism. We think the physical body is everything, and when we die we are done. That is our life; we are finished. Of course, that belief contradicts physics and nature.
What allows us to have the physical body, what activates it, what gives it the possibility to move and to perceive, is the vital body. The vital body is the body of Chi or Ching, the body of energy. It is the energy in the physical body, it is the forth-dimensional aspect of the third-dimensional physical body. The vital body is just the superior part of the physical body. Really they are one, but we separate them because here, in the third dimension, most of us cannot perceive the forth dimension. We have lost that. We used to have it, but we have lost it. But in terms of nature law these are really one level, they are very closely related.
Inhabiting the physical / vital body is what we experience as our inner self: mind-heart. In Buddhism these are not separated; mind-heart are considered one. In Gnosticism we talk about mind-heart as astral body and mental body, which work through the heart and intellect. In most of us, these are protoplasmic bodies that nature creates for us, gives to us, and that we use for free until nature takes them back. These are what we experience as intellect and emotion. They are the vessels that we use when we dream. They are the vessels that we use right now, that reflect thoughts into the brain and feelings into the heart.
What is inside of those and give those the capacity to be is consciousness, Essence, or Buddha nature.
Now, this is where it gets a little more involved, and require some self-knowledge on our part.
What do we experience as our "self"? If our stream of existence is characterized exclusively by thoughts and feelings of selfishness: "I want this, I want that, I do not want this, I do not want that," then all we experience of life is mind-heart conditioned by desire, ego. That is all we experience: anger, lust, fear, envy, jealousy, gluttony, greed, laziness, etc. For most people, that is life.
When we were kids or when we really fall in love—truly in love—we can experience moments of unmodified consciousness, in which we perceive without desire, but just love, just giving not wanting, not taking, at peace, serene, happy. But it is rare, and that is because only three percent of consciousness (more or less) remains unmodified by ego, and only the three percent can experience true love, and other real virtues.
When you look at this graphic, do not think that these little bands of colors reflect the accurate proportions of these elements in our minds; they do not. This is just an illustration to aid our understanding.
At the heart of everything is the Absolute, the emptiness, the true nature of everything that exists. None of us have consciously experienced the Absolute. I can state that explicitly and bluntly, because if anyone of us had experienced that, none of would live life the way we do—not one.
The person who has experienced the void is not like other people. They do not waste time or energy on foolishness because they have experienced reality. One such person who experienced at young age was Samael Aun Weor. It transformed him radically. One experience changed his life forever. The same is true of Milarepa, Padmasambhava, the Buddha Shakyamuni, and other great Masters who experienced the Absolute and spent their lives teaching others how to experience it, because it transforms the mind, the heart, the soul.
The Absolute is in us. Do you see the striking fact here? Within us is the unmodified consciousness that we rarely experience because we do not know how to use it, and within us is the Absolute that we have never experienced because we do not know how to use our consciousness, which is the way to reach all the levels of nature.
When I said that we have never experienced the Absolute, I mean in our memory; we have no recollection of the Absolute. We have experienced the Absolute, because it is our natural state, but we do not remember.
As we are now, shat we experience is the mind-heart conditioned, not the mind-heart free of affliction, but conditioned by affliction. Our mental and astral bodies are afflicted or conditioned by pride, lust, gluttony, envy, and all of that: all egos are desire. From that point of view we perceive the impressions of life. The physical body interacts with matter, and acts as our interface with the external world. The vital body and its four ethers reflect and transmit the data that we receive through the senses. And in the midst each moment, between the physical /vital bodies and the mind-heart, is our personality, the false sense of self that we build in each life. It is our name, look, culture, language, tastes—everything that we are in the world now, all of that we have described in the previous lecture. We go through our life from moment to moment as this mind-heart filled with surging pride, envy, gluttony and lust, etc.
Then we die. The physical body, vital body, and personality are discarded. That mask of personality that has our name, our history, our culture is tossed aside. In the moment of death, what is projected out of the corpse is mind-heart: consciousness conditioned by karma, because the consciousness created the contents of the mind-heart. The consciousness interacted with nature in order to produce pride, lust, gluttony, envy, greed, and thus that mindstream—having created and initiated the projection of all that energy—has to receive the consequences of that, due to cause and effect. That collection of egos (desires / karmas) and complicated energies is projected into space at death. By the laws of nature it must be born in a new body, is drawn into a body by the contents or the vibration of the mind-heart. If we as a psychological entity are primarily experiencing in our life now lust, anger, and pride, those are the qualities that determine our next birth. It is not our good intentions, it is what we vibrate with inside.
Let us think about this for a moment. Imagine that you are running through a forest and you cannot see far ahead of you. You are just running, and you dodge every tree that is coming at you, and you react to your environment at best you can. Suddenly, there is a precipice—the earth drops away, and your body goes into the air. This is similar to what happens at death. In life we are like that—running in a forest. We are just running. We do not know where we are going or why we are running, we have only ideas about where we want to go, such as we want to get to age 65 and have a nice retirement package to be able to relax and play with our grandkids. This is our idea. Yet, it is an illusion. There are a lot of companies propagating this fantasy so they can get your money (so they can achieve their own fantasy). The reality is that you are running through the forest of your life and do not know where you are or where you are going.
The floor will suddenly drop out from under you. You will not be able put your feet on the ground anymore because you will be dead. Your consciousness will be projected in space. Not your physical body, but the trajectory of your life is what is projected there.
What determines the angle and the direction of that body that is moving through the air at that moment? Not only the speed which you were running and how you were directing yourself, but that last foot that you put on the ground! If you had seen the chasm, you could have prepared your body, aimed, and leapt. Make sense, doesn't it? The same thing happens at death. What you are trying to prepare and propel over the chasm is not the physical body, but the mind, the heart, the consciousness. Make sense? This is simple in concept, but very difficult to do in practice. Let me tell you why.
Let us imagine that you leave the lecture now, and you go back to your daily life. You are going to be enmeshed once again with all your habits, distracted by taking the train, by driving your car, distracted by all the activities you have to do today. Your friends are calling, your parents are calling, you have to do this, you have to do that ... [snaps] You are dead. You did not realize it. You have missed your chance. That is how it happens. Death will not tell you it is coming. You have to be watching for it, always.
We have to learn to train the mind the consciousness, the heart, the body—everything—to be constantly watching every perception that arises within us, so that when death comes we are not surprised.
That is why we study the betweens.
In real Tantra—not the popular garbage that you find in bookstores, but the real thing—there is an extremely important scripture that is memorized, prayed and studied throughout life by every practitioner of real tantra. It is called, "The Root Verses of the Six Betweens." It was composed by Padmasambhava, who brought tantra to Tibet. He is a very great Master. This teaching attempts to present to you his experience and guidelines for you to access the experience of what is real, which is the Absolute. It is beyond the astral body, the mental body, the causal body, beyond all the bodies, it is beyond all that is manifested. It is the unmanifested, it is reality. In everything that he taught he explained that if you learn to manage your consciousness, your awareness, you can perceive and experience the Absolute. That perception will dramatically change you, empower you to learn more, and to truly become a great vehicle of that force.
This scripture "The Root Verses of the Six Betweens" or the intermediate states is also the basis for a very famous book that all of us know about. Most people call it "The Tibetan Book of the Dead." That is not the actual name, but we call it that because somebody who translated the book more than a hundred years ago thought that name would be more commercial. The actual name is བར་དོ་ཐོས་གྲོལ Bardo Thodol in Tibetan, or more accurately "The Great Book of Natural Liberation through Understanding in the Between." It is a guide book primarily for people like us, who are not fully trained. It is a guide book that can be read and studied to prepare oneself for death, and is often read to someone who is dying or who has just died in order to help them navigate what is called the betweens, which in Tibetan is bardo; most of us probably heard of the bardo.
Usually when people say "the bardo" they are talking about the period between death and life. It is a period of time between; that is what bardo means, "between." Really, there are six bardos, six betweens.
The Vigil State
The first one—and for the moment, the most important—is the between that we are right now. It is that time, that space, between birth and death. During this between, we should be consciously present to it at all times, very aware of every moment, and everything that is happening to us in every moment. In other words, our life should be a true "vigil state," in which our consciousness is active, awake, observant, and thereby connecting us to our true nature, which is a state of happiness and compassionate awareness.
Unfortunately, all of us are in a state of being that we call "life" but really it is not living, because we are asleep. We are in a state of continual delusion, of hypnosis, where we are entranced and hypnotized by the contents of our own mindstream as it reacts to external and internal sensations. We are entranced by our envy, by wanting what others have, we are entranced by pride, by wanting to be better than others, we are entranced by fear of rejection, of loneliness, of hunger, of pain, we are entranced by lust, by anger, by gluttony, by laziness—we are asleep. We say that we are in a "vigil state" out of kindness, nut we really are not vigilant. We are dreaming our lives away. We avery rarely cognizant of the present, and experiencing our true nature.
During the "vigil state," every single day, we live a reflection of our whole life. In the esoteric tradition we state that each day reflects the contents of ones whole life. So, how you live today is an insight into the whole of your existence. Look at your life. How have I lived today? That will tell you how your whole life will boil down as a mathematical equation. Now, if today you have been distracted, asleep, anxious, worried, angry, rushed, stressed—in other words feeling a lot of discursive emotions—that will be the synthesis of you whole life. That is why we work to change today.
This teaching is about being in the moment and transforming the moment into something better, making that vigil state into true vigilance of ones own mindstream—truly vigilant, truly aware and watchful, and doing what we can with our willpower to be the best person we can in every interaction with everyone and in every interaction with ourselves.
Each day is a microcosm of our whole life, so at night, when we fall asleep, it is a reflection of when we will die. That is why the Tibetan Masters state: If you want to know what happens when you die, look at what happens when you go to sleep at night.
If you lose all the cognizance of yourself when you go to sleep at night you will lose cognizance of yourself when you die. That is why we train in Dream Yoga. In the west they call it Astral Projection. That is because the dream state is the second Between.
In the dream state we are experiencing exactly what we will experience when we are dead, because we leave the body. The mind-heart with the consciousness goes out of the body. The physical body and the vital body stay in the bed recharging, resting, healing. The consciousness is projected into the world of dreams (the fifth dimension), and our experience in that time and place is characterized by the conditioning of our mind. We dream what is in our mind. We dream according to our state of consciousness. If we are having nightmares, it is because our state of consciousness is in hell. If we dream with Angels, Buddhas, and Masters, our consciousness is not so low. If we are dreaming that we are at work and that we are chasing women or chasing men, or that we are having sex all night, or we are killing people, or that we are chased and pursued, then we are in hell. This is a reflection of what will happen to us when we die, the difference being with death, the connection between the mind-heart and the body is severed.
For many of us, we have no cognizance at all of the dream state. In the morning, we remember nothing, or only vague fragments. Thus, our consciousness is totally asleep.
Someone with awakened consciousness is awake during the dream state, just the same as they are awake in the vigil state. That is, they are totally aware of themselves and of being in the world of dreams. They are conscious of being out of the body, and are conscious of how to utilize the dream world for their growth, rather than for feeding desires.
The third Between is a state of meditation. Very few of us have experienced this. I know that everyone here has studied meditation and I know that everyone here thinks that they have some knowledge of meditation, but the Bardo of a meditation state is not concentration, it is not a physical sensation, it is not tingling in your spine, it is not heat, it is not your chakras, it is nothing to do with the body. The Bardo of a meditation state is a cognizant perception of reality, what in our tradition we call Samadhi. In Buddhism, it is called Dhyana. It is a state in which it is possible to perceive the Absolute, if we know how. Now, let me warn you that in some translations of these Betweens or Bardos, this is translated as "trance." Unfortunately, a lot of naive people have taken that word "trance" and corrupted it in the last decade or so, and now people have this idea that trance is what you get from listening certain kinds of music or taking drugs or having your iPod on for a long time. That is not what Dhyana means. This Between is not the state of inebriation that comes any kind of drug or alcohol.
By dhyana, what is implied here is a bright, active, very clear, very luminous perception that is not artificial, not induced by any chemical or external phenomena, but is a natural state of consciousness that one accesses when one knows how, and it flourishes spontaneously. That is why we learn meditation, to access the natural state of the mind.
The First Three
So in these three Bardos or Betweens we can see that most of us have not experienced any of them as they should be experienced. We live our "vigil state" totally entranced and hypnotized, and we rarely experience the free consciousness, the natural state of mind, in our daily life, that is naturally at ease and at peace and filled with love. We rarely feel that. We are usually feeling the need to pay bills and rush to work and what we are going to do to get that girls attention and all that kind of stuff. The dream state likewise, we usually do not even remember dreams, much less to be cognizant and aware in the dream state, able to be consciously direct ourselves at will in the world of dreams. Very few of us have had that experience. Likewise in meditation, most of us have never experienced a true state of Samadhi. Even if we studied meditation for ten or twenty years, we might have experienced some funny sensations, we might have had visions, but never really experienced a full Dhyana (Samadhi). These betweens are only the first three of six. So let us be honest with ourselves so that we can actually experience them, to learn how to do it.
The Next Three
The fourth Between is the phase that happens at death. Everyone have experienced that, but not cognizantly, not consciously.
The fifth Between is called reality, a state that can be accessed after the death phase.
The sixth Between is the rebirth phase.
So there are two groups of three Betweens. Vigil, dream, and meditation are states that we experience during so-called "life." The next three—death, reality and rebirth—happen between lives.
Consciousness as the Path
The reason Padmasambhava taught these six Betweens and explained them is because through training you can learn to take advantage of them. These are all moments at which, if you harness consciousness, you can learn something, you can transform your existence, but you have to know how to do it, it will not happen on its own. You have to know how, so he wrote this scripture, which begins,
"Hey, now when the intermediate state of living arises before me I will abandon laziness for which there is no time in this life unwavering into the path of learning, reflecting and meditating. And taking perceptual experience in the nature of consciousness as the path, I will actualize the three bodies of enlightenment. This once that I have obtained the human body is not the time to stay on the path of distractions."
This stanza is the instruction for the first Bardo, which is our physical life. It is only a short paragraph, but if you really contemplate it, study it, put it into practice, it will change everything for you. It is not complicated; it is not intellectual. Your intellect will say, "This is boring... " It is not for the intellect, it is for the consciousness. What it is saying is at first glance quite simple: do not be lazy, study yourself, reflect on yourself, meditate on yourself.
"Take perceptual experience in the nature of consciousness as the path."
That is the essence. Take perceptual experience, in another words, everything that you see and perceive, take that as your Gnosis, comprehend everything, do not be distracted. That is the essence of the entire scripture. Learn to be present at the gate of the senses, watching. This is what is explained in the Bhagavad Gita by Lord Krishna, to be a gatekeeper at the gate of the senses, continually, in charge of what comes into you, exercising your willpower, perceiving everything consciously.
"...consciousness as the path"
This is to not only take everything in consciously, but also be conscious of how you do it. In other words, observe the observer.
I know some of us are getting confused sometimes about this split or division of attention, and it can sound like we talk about in contradictory ways but it is really one thing. It is an all embracing cognizance, inside and outside. It is an embracing of cognizance that does not divide but embraces, that sees everything, and that takes training. This essentially continues and gets deeper as you read the scripture and go through all of the Bardos or Betweens.
The essential nature of preparation for death is to train the consciousness to be present, to take all perception and transform it consciously. This is what we call in this tradition transformation of impressions.
A first step is to learn to be cognizant, self-aware. We call it Self-observation. This is combined with a deep remembrance of being here and now, remembering that we are in the body, remembering God, a state we call Self-remembering. These are really two aspects of one act. We use these terms from the Fourth Way schools because they are very convenient.
This type of self-awareness has to be very persistent, continual, always ready and listening, observing, absorbing, taking in. Whatever arrives in us, we comprehend that, because we are consciously accepting it. This is the transformation that it has to continually happens in us.
You are not going to learn this in one day. You probably not going to learn it in one year. But think of the value of it. If you have studied this, reflect on it, you will see how valuable that is. How valuable would it be to reach the moment of death and to be able to pass through that gateway cognizantly and to have some will or influence over what happens when you die? This especially becomes valuable to you when you start to reflect on the nature of death, the nature of hell, the nature of heaven, and future existences. You start to realize, "I do not want to go to hell," especially when you have had experiences of it. Personally, I have experienced it. I do not want to go there; it is horrible. It is far more horrible than the Catholics, Christians, or Buddhists or anybody ever said. They always use terrible analogies to try to scare us, but let me tell you, the experience of hell is far worse. I am not saying that to scare you, but to motivate you to realize that this is real, it is not just belief. It is real. We need to learn that; we need to change. When you realize how valuable this knowledge is, that it can help you transition through these phases—death phase, reality phase and rebirth phase—you can have an influence there, you can pass through them consciously and thereby achieve a better birth.
In these phases—death, reality and rebirth—we as a mind-heart, as an essence or Ego, pass through these phases depending upon our karma and depending on our state of consciousness. If we pass through them in the way we are now—completely asleep—we will not have any cognizance of what happens, and whatever is surging in our mindstream during that transition is what will determine what birth we will take. It will have a huge impact, especially if our death is traumatic. If we die through violence, or through a strong illness, or if we die feeling a lot of attachment toward our spouse or our kids, that strong attachment, or pain, or fear, or violence that we experience will characterize our mind-heart as we pass through death, and that will have a great influence on our rebirth. It is terrifying; it is something to be taken very seriously.
But on the other hand, if in life, in the vigil state we are constantly training to be present and aware, not surprised by anything but taking in every impression and transforming it, conscious, relaxed, self-aware, then we are learning to do that in the dream state as well, through learning Dream Yoga, then through the process of dreaming we are training ourselves to be aware in the death state. Also by meditating everyday we are deepening that training even more, getting the mind-heart to relax, the consciousness very sharp, concentrated, natural. These three nourish each other: moment to moment awareness, dream yoga, and meditation. Some people try to practice one and not the others, but their progress will be much slower. But if you train in all three at the same time, you progress very rapidly, you will learn a lot, fast. It is not easy, but you can do it.
By training in the three states—vigil, dream and meditation—when the moment of death comes you have the possibility to retain that training, to have the tools at your disposal. There is no guarantee, it depends on how good your training is, how well you have trained yourself. That does not depending on me, or any school, or any book: it is up to you. We provide the instruction, but you have to implement it.
If in the moment that death comes you are capable of transforming that impression without attachment, fear, resistance, craving, then you can harness that energy. This is the basis of Tantra: to harness the flow of existence and transform it to a source of benefit.
In the phase of death, there is a period of time when the consciousness is severed from the body, and the duration of the phase is different for everyone. It can be as quick as a moment, it can also last for days. It is called the after-death phase. Most scriptures say it averages three days, but it really depends on the person and the nature of their mindstream. During that phase, the consciousness that is free from the body and has the potential to learn a lot about itself, to establish itself cognizantly in the state of death, and to harness that. It is not you with your name now, it is you who you really are. That is part of the difficulty. What we have to learn in the first three stages—vigil, dream and meditation—is to learn who we really are, to disassociate our attachment to the body, to the personality. Really, we are not "such and such a person" with "such and such name," we are not from whichever country, with our language, tastes, and interests. That is all personality. That will all die, but we do not know it. That is the first part: training ourselves to be cognizant of who we really are. That reality of who we are is also not the astral body, not the mental body, not the causal body. Our reality is that which is in the deepest part of us. That is what is this teaching here states at the fourth paragraph, talking about the time of death:
"Now when the intermediate state of the time of death arises before me I will renounce all attachment, yearning and subjective apprehension in every respect. I must undistractedly enter the path on which the oral teachings are clearly understood, and project my consciousness into the uncreated expanse of space. About to lose this compounded body of flesh and blood, I will realize to be impermanent illusion."
That uncreated expanse of space is the Absolute. It is not a space with stars and galaxies, it is the space of the Absolute, which is inside. In other words, in these three phases that occur after death there is a strong opportunity to experience the nature of the Absolute. Why? Because we are freed of the physical body, the personality, and the vital body. Reflect on that. The physical body is a cage. If anyone here wants to leave the physical body right now and go into the Absolute, could we do it? If we want to go consciously out of the body in the astral plane, right now, could we do it at will? Samael Aun Weor told us that to be an actual magician, a theurgist, a tantric, you must have that ability. Most of us do not. We try and try, and cannot really do it at will, because we are very lazy about how we manage our psychology. Many of those who claim to be esotericists, Gnostics, Tantrics, etc. do not have this ability to leave the body at will, thus they are not what they claim to be.
"The Theurgist has to acquire a practical, infallible capacity to consciously project himself in the Astral Body. This capacity must be established as a habit that can be exercised voluntarily at any given moment and under any circumstance; it does not matter if one is alone or before witnesses. Otherwise, one is not a Theurgist." - Samael Aun Weor
If we cannot project ourselves from our body when we are healthy, at peace and serene, at home, then unquestionably we will not be able to do it when we die, at a time when we may be very sick, weak, injured, afraid, in an unfamiliar or dangerous place, or afflicted with other difficulties. That means we are in trouble. If you expect to be able to consciously leave your body at death, then you should be able to do it right now. This is how serious the training it is, that why I said there are levels of training.
We start where we are; we are beginners. We start working on improving our vigil state, improving our dream state, and learning to meditate. Those abilities provide us the foundation to start learning to project the consciousness out, at will, and then we can begin learning to manage ourselves and navigate in other dimensions.
That skill it is not so we can spy our neighbors, or investigate certain temples that we happen to be interested in, or try to acquire powers; that is not the point. The reason we need to develop the skill, the ability to navigate the consciousness out of the body in other dimensions is so we can do it when we are dead. Because chances are, as serious as we we may be about our spiritual development, chances are we will not reach full liberation in this life. I am sorry to put it to you that bluntly, but when you analyze the facts of your life until now, do you think you are that serious that you are going to achieve full liberation in this life? Just look at how you have lived until now. As I said in the first lecture, when you take life and divide it, half of our life is spent in sleep, 25% is lost due to illness, sickness, afflictions, and worries, etc. and at the end of the equation we only have a few moments remaining win which we can engage in serious spiritual practice, but unfortunately most of us squander that time. We would rather watch football. So let us be honest with ourselves.
Chances are, we will need another body. According to our karma, according to how lazy we are, we will probably need another body to work. But if we squander that chance and at death we are totally absorbed in our pride, our ambition, thinking we are a big shot spiritual practitioner when we are really not, we will waste it. We will be born somewhere where there is no teaching, we will not get it. We will be born with afflictions that will impede our progress. But if we get advantage of life and death, train ourselves properly, sincerely, honestly, then these three phases—death, reality and rebirth—can energize the transition into a new body and we can take a much better birth, cognizant.
Rebirth, Reincarnation, and Return
Now let me explain something important: there is a very big difference between reincarnation and return. We are not talking about reincarnation here. Reincarnation is something that only a Master can do, a Buddha. A reincarnation is an incarnation of the Being, which is a conscious act. That is why in Asia, true reincarnations are always celebrated with great festivals, because it is rare. The vast majority of us do not have the ability to die, go consciously into that world, and then consciously choose when, where, and how to be reborn. None of us have that. Instead, we "return," mechanically, propelled by karma. That is, we die, unconsciously, and are projected through that space by our karma and injected into a womb by our karma, the cause and effect that we established. Then we are in a new body, and that whole process is very traumatic for us. Our death is usually traumatic, because we have a lot of attachment to the body, to family, to our things, to our wealth, to our name, to our social status. Very attached to all that, we die filled with anguish and attachment, and our consciousness is projected through space filled with anguish and attachment, and is tossed around by its dreams, its fears, its anxieties. Suddenly it is born again, which is very traumatic, painful; the baby is screaming because the consciousness is again trapped in a body. Even if it has retained some memories of the previous life, those memories are quickly lost because of the traumas, the difficulties and pains of the new life, such as these new parents that we do not know, this new environment, "I used to be white, now I am black, I used to be a man, now I am a woman, what is going on? Where is my money, my status, my wife? All gone..."
Soon, we forget everything from the past existence, in the same way that we cannot even remember what we were doing yesterday.
To a Master, that does not happen. A Master navigates these phases consciously, takes a birth consciously, where he wants, when he wants, according to the needs of humanity, according to where he or she will be able to serve them the best. That is reincarnation. This is very clearly explained in the Bhaghavad Gita by Lord Krishna who is a great, Christified, Resurrected Master. He explains very clearly: only great Masters reincarnate. The rest of us are carried away by karma. We are reborn, but that is not reincarnation. So the distinction needs to be clear.
I have a lot more to say, but I better stop here.
Questions and Answers
Audience: You said [that if you take] the straight path [you have to] renounce Nirvana and you [also] said Nirvana is a state of cessation. I do not understand ...
Instructor: The word Nirvana is like many other words that we use in this tradition: it has different applications depending on the context. Strictly translated, nirvana means "cessation." So, the primary meaning of Nirvana is psychological, but, like the word heaven, that psychological meaning has a correspondence to matter. What that means is that you cannot enter the place Nirvana unless your mind vibrates at that level. That means you have to achieve Nirvana psychologically, to have the cessation of suffering in yourself, in order to be a being who lives in the place Nirvana. So it is both: it is a psychological state, it is a place, but they are intimately related.
We can visit Nirvana by managing and modifying our consciousness, our attention, if we learn these techniques. For example, let us go on a retreat. Let us eat really good food, become really relaxed, be around people that we like, not be in any danger, be in nature, a beautiful place, not be worried about bills or about our jobs, about anything. We will be just present and attentive, and then at a certain moment, we will start to experience bliss. Then we will say, "I wish I could be like this all the time. Why not live here? Why not open our own retreat center? I want to feel like this all the time!" We are experiencing the delight of a state of cessation, Nirvana. It is the cessation of our day to day suffering. So, on retreats we can get a little vacation from our suffering, but it is not our reality. Nirvana is like that. Nirvana is in the heart and mind. The danger is we can become attached to it.
Audience: On the website I read a quote of Master Samael Aun Weor; roughly he said: "We can continue the Great Work after death." Obviously it means if we retain consciousness at the moment of death. Is he referring to the [continual] destruction of the ego after life, or he is referring to continuing the work in the next life at the level we left off in this life?
Instructor: Excellent question. The Master Samael stated very clearly that we can continue the work on ourselves after death. So the question is, do we have the ability to do that? It depends on our karma. It is really up to us. When he stated that we can continue our work after death, he meant that if we are capable of retaining cognizance while out of the body, separated from the body, then when the body is dead, we can keep working, in the same way we can work now in the astral plane. What is the nature of that work? It is to gain self-knowledge. When you are working on yourself out of your body this is the primary work: to examine and understand yourself, your mind, why you suffer, what is your karma, how did you get here, etc. We need to comprehend all of that. It is the most important work. That work can continue after one is dead, if you are cognizant of yourself in the world of the dead.
Likewise, if you have that skill and you have the karma—in other words you have the capital with which to pay for it—you can take a new body that will give the chance to continue that work physically. But if, for example, you may have had the training but you did not help anyone in your life, you did a lot of work on yourself but you did not any sacrifice for others, you probably do not get that new opportunity. Everything costs something. That is why we study three factors:
- death of the Ego
- birth of the soul
- sacrifice for others
These three need to be in very powerful equilibrium with each other in every day of our life.
Sacrifice is extremely important. Sacrifice is not giving a dollar for a lecture or giving some Bibles to somebody that need Bibles; that is nice, but that is not sacrifice. Think about the word "sacrifice." When you sacrifice something, it is painful. Sacrifice means you give a lot. It does not need to be money or goods, it can be energy, it can be time, it can be attention. It is to give what is needed—not to get something back, not to get praised, but because it is needed by someone else. This is the whole clue of the Mahayana path, which is Gnosis. This is a Mahayana teaching, a Greater Vehicle teaching. The basis of that path is Bodhicitta, the awakening mind, which is the essence of Christ, whose nature is to give, to sacrifice. A great example of that is this event that is coming up soon, which we call Good Friday and Easter. That whole holiday, if you study it carefully, you will understand more of what we are talking about today. Read the Gospel and study what happened to Jesus, a great Master who represented Christ in the cosmic drama. The factor of death is not only death of all is impure, the death of sin, is also the death of self as an act of sacrifice for others. Everything that Jesus did, everything he said, was for others. That is sacrifice. He did not do it with money, he did it with his energy, his love. That is sacrifice. So through that, through that type of death, he earned a type of birth that is incomprehensible, which we celebrate on Easter, and we celebrate on Christmas. So we need to study those symbols as they apply to ourselves. But to be more specific with the question, it comes down to what we earn, and that is between us and the Law of Karma. If we earn it, it is possible, yes.
Audience: In the lecture you said that the most of us will not receive another physical body. If we do not get another [and we go to] the Abyss to be purified, it is the work we did up until now pointless or will be use the next time when we will get another human body?
Instructor: That is also a great question. In previous lectures I explained what Master Samael explained, which is that most of us are on our last or next to last existence in a humanoid body. This is because of the natural stages of evolution that this human race is passing through. We are at the end of an era.
Humanity has a collective mind. We all like to think we are individuals, but really we are animals with intellect, and animals move in groups. This whole humanity is a group that has become very sick psychologically, very sick. The only way nature can help us now is to purify us through what we call hell. That is why these teachings are given freely and openly to anyone who wants to take advantage of the last chance to use them and escape that process of passing through the suffering of the lower worlds. So it is true that most of us are on our last existence.
It is also true that many of the humanoid bodies on this planet now do not have a human soul in them. They are what we call klipoth, Hebrew for "empty shells." They are "people" without conscience who live to hurt others and cause suffering. They are here only to fulfill the karma: to make everyone suffer. That is why we have so much suffering spreading in the world and getting worse everyday.
Will our work be wasted if we do not earn another life? No, your work is never wasted if it is cognizant work, truly conscious work. What that means is that if you truly learn something in your soul, that knowledge will be part of you for eternity, forever. But if you are learning just through your personality or your intellect, you will lose that. When your physical body dies, everything superficial in us dies, the personality and all of its habits. So we could have been a good Catholic, memorized the Gospels, gone to every church service—Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays—and went to every christening and every event we were supposed to attend, but if that was all mechanical—which it generally is—we will not retain any of that. But, if we take one scripture and truly comprehend it in our soul so that it changes our very way of perceiving life from now on, you will never lose that. This is the value of what is stated in the first line in the scripture I gave you today:
I will abandon laziness for which there is no time in this life unwavering into the path of learning, reflecting and meditating.
Study, reflect, meditate: comprehend things very deeply, and you will never lose that.
So if it happens that some of us die and do not earn another body—which will probably happen to some of us—then unfortunately that consciousness will have to pass through the great recycling of nature as long as the karma demands it, and they will suffer. Those we escaped that suffering will have compassion on those souls—on us, because probably we will pass through it together!—and in the end that soul will emerge out of that process, called the Second Death, purified, but retaining whatever knowledge it had acquired—conscious knowledge that is part of the soul.
That happens even with bodhisattvas, great Masters who fall. There are great Masters who get identified and made mistakes—usually because of sex—and they fall and lose their status, and the ego reemerges in them and they become hypnotized once more with the illusion of life, and get sucked back into the Abyss and processed by nature. For them, the suffering is million times worse than it is for the rest of us, because they have already built something inside that does not belong to mechanical nature. They have built the bodies of the soul. They have committed a grave crime because they have broken the trust that was given to them by the Conscious Circle of Humanity. They have enormous karmic debts to pay from that type of failure. So they will process through that region over million of years, whereas for most of us will be thousands, depending on the debts we have. They will suffer a lot more. But in the end, when that soul is finally cleansed, it retains the knowledge it had acquired. But it has to suffer a lot.
Audience: It is possible to split the consciousness and to leave a little consciousness here to live this life and to take another birth before we die and to be conscious of both?
Instructor: Our consciousness is already divided. It is dispersed and divided amongst all of the fighting desires that afflict us now. Even when freed, it is then integrated, natural, happy, so why would you want to divide it again? What one has to do is to learn how to work with the laws of nature. Instead of trying to break the laws or trick the laws, we have to learn to work with them. You cannot trick Divine Mother Nature or your inner Being. They are the ones who apply the laws to you. If you want to advance yourself into the next level, then follow their guidance. What they will tell you is simple: behave better, wake up, transform your energy, be a better person, stop making the mistakes you have been repeating for centuries. If you follow their guidance, you will not need any kind of trick, dividing yourself like some comic books try to tell us we can do.
Audience: What is the relation between Essence and sexual energy?
Instructor: That is a very interesting question and the answer depends on the level of teaching that you are receiving. Since this is a class about Tantra and specifically about tantric methodology, I will give you the answer according to Tantra.
According to Tantra, sexual energy is the same thing as consciousness. That is why in Tantra if you read any scripture from Tibetan Buddhism or from real Hindu Tantra, they use terminology, words that can be translated either way.
Virya in Sanskrit is strength, the vital essence, the energy that relates to the mind and also to sex. Also in Hinduism is the term Ojas, which has psychological and physical meanings related with sexual energy and mind. There are a few other terms like that in Sanskrit.
In Tibetan, the term byansems means mind and also means semen.
In Buddhism, the most important term related to this is Bodhicitta. We have talked about this term a lot and it has levels of meaning. At the tantric level, Bodhicitta means sexual energy.
Strictly translated, Bodhicitta means "awakening mind," similar to Ojas in Sanskrit. Bodhicitta refers to a Christ-like kind of mind; it is a type of consciousness that seeks to serve others, and it is very cognizant, bright, and awake. Its key characteristic has two aspects. The first is compassion, conscious love. That conscious love is empowered by the second aspect, which is wisdom, knowledge of the emptiness, prajna. That is the meaning of Bodhicitta. So that is psychological, but Bodhicitta itself as matter in the body is sexual energy. This is why when you study tantric scriptures they state that the Bodhicitta must be retained, transformed, brought up the spine to the brain.
"With the pride of vajra holder,
the vajra with lotus enters the lotus.
With lingam placed into the bhaga,
the yogi performs hum phat;
the bodhichitta [sexual energy] is not emitted.
One's own secret-area five-pointed vajra [male sexual organ] marked with a lotus enters the consort's lotus [female sexual organ]. Within that state the yogi holds the pride of being the vajra-holder main deity Kakalchakra, he utters the syllables hum phat, and dwells within the activity of union arising from placing the father's lingum into the mother's bhaga. This brings the elemental bodhichitta [sexual energy] down to the tip of the jewel, where it is not to be emitted. - Quoted from Ornament of Stainless Light, an Exposition of Kalachakra Tantra, by Khedrug Norsang Gyatso (15th century AD).
That is not talking about the intention to save others, that is about sexual energy. So what that means in essence is if you waste your sexual energy, you are throwing away the way to awaken consciousness. This is why the black magicians, the demons, the black tantrics, use the orgasm as a method to awaken consciousness negatively. There is a polarity. You can awaken positively, or you can awaken negatively. Both methods—which are sexual techniques—affect consciousness. When you follow the method of black tantra which utilizes the orgasm, you take that power of orgasm, which is psychological and material, and you condition consciousness with lust, envy, gluttony, greed, and that person awakens powers, but they awaken consciousness in hell. The white tantric retains the sexual energy, purifies the mind and uses that power to awaken consciousness unmodified by lust, greed, gluttony, fear, and they become an Angel, a Buddha, a Master. So this is the difference. Both depend on sexual energy. That is not only the energy used in the sexual act, but the sexual energy used from moment to moment, in how we use our mind-heart.
Sexual energy is the most powerful energy in us. It is not just in the glands. That energy affects our entire organism, our entire psychology. The root modifier of sexual energy is the pineal gland which is in the center of the brain. That demonstrates and proves the psychological component. Notice when sexual energy is active, your mind cannot think of anything else because the sexual energy and the mind can never be separated. Thus if you want to free your mind from suffering, you have to free your sexual energy from lust.
Audience: If someone has taken their own life years ago and as a result of that someone has awaken the consciousness, can that be seen as sacrifice in some cosmic sense? [...free her since our true nature is timeless...] Can a person who awakens the consciousness go there and free the dead one, since our true nature is timeless?
Instructor: I will try to answer the best I can.
Once someone has died, the physical body is separated from the consciousness and the vast majority of cases the dead person has no cognizance of being dead. Furthermore, they are not the person who they think they are, because the personality is no longer connected to them.
So if it was our friend named Mary who we grew up knowing in school, who has her ways of talking, thinking, believing, and acting, then after death, "Mary" is gone; the personality is dead. What is in the world of the dead is the mind-heart, which has another name, and a totally different way of perceiving. We may not even recognize them.
Also, that Mary is not one person. None of us are individuals. If any of us were to really see ourselves in the fifth dimension as we truly are, we will not see one person, we will see a multiplicity of competing desires. We may experience this in our dreams when we look different, act different, have different names, different ways of behaving; we are not the person we think we are. What we experience here is the personality, the mask for those competing wills. In the astral plane we are a multiplicity, we are not one person.
So it becomes very difficult to say, "I want to go in the world of the dead and talk to my mother or talk to my wife who died." This is not easy. It depends on which aspect of that person you want to approach. If the personality has not fully decayed yet, if the person was buried not cremated, the personality may still be around. You may go to talk to the personality, but that is not really their true identity. Or you can go in the astral plane to talk to their pride, lust, or their attachment to you, but that is also not really them. So it is a tricky question.
Furthermore, are you capable of helping them? Yes, because in the heart of all of that is a consciousness, but it is asleep. In order to awaken that consciousness and bring them out of there, it takes an enormous amount of energy and effort, and generally will fail because the person does not have the training sufficient to keep their consciousness awake. Samael Aun Weor told many examples of this type of experience where he tried to help people who died; he eventually gave up trying to help them. He is a very high Master, and he could not help them. He said it is pointless. They are dead, they do not know they are dead, they do not want to know they are dead, they do not want help, they want to keep going to work every day in the land of the dead. So the best thing to do is to have love and compassion for them, but they are going to go through their process. Nonetheless, in that world there are Angels and Masters who are there attempting to help those who have died. We can help them by sending them our prayers, by sending them our good intentions, there are even certain rituals we can do to help the dead, but generally speaking this is extremely difficult and this is because the nature of our psychology.
There is a chance to help a dead person if the person who died actually has done work on themselves to awaken their consciousness. If they had training of some kind, then you can help them. As an example, in pretty much every religion, especially in Gnosis and other forms of tantra, there are rituals one can perform for the one who is dying or who has died. Generally those need to be done within forty days of death, depending on the specific ritual. Those rituals can help the dead person a lot, but this requires that they had training. They must have the ability to maintain cognizance; the dead person, their consciousness, need the ability to receive the help. But this is rare.
Audience: Can you lose the chance to awaken consciousness in this life if you have masturbated too much?
Instructor: You have always a chance to use consciousness and awareness just by remembering yourself. We lose the chance to use consciousness when we forget ourselves. Any time that we forget ourselves, we have lost it. We forget ourselves all the time, all day long. Most of us go days, even having receive this training, we can go days, even weeks and months, and all the sudden remember, "Oh I need to be observing myself!" It takes a lot of training to be consistent and to establish consciousness as our way of living. Expect that it will takes years to learn it. Just that expect that. Do not expect to become skilled in this in a few days or a few weeks. You might. But if you expect, "This might take me twenty years to learn," it is worth it, even if it takes forty years, it is worth it, it will make a difference.
However, if you are masturbating, if you are having orgasmic sex, mechanical animal sex, then you are directly contradicting your efforts to awaken unmodified consciousness. Animal sexuality directly contradicts positive awakening. You are taking the very power that gives you the ability to do this and throwing it away. Not only that, you are feeding lust and making it stronger. Any desire that you feed, you strengthen it. Just imagine that you have discovered that inside of your mind is a big gorilla, and he is hungry for whatever you have been feeding him: lust, the orgasm, pride, gluttony, he loves junk food, he loves pornography, he loves whatever you love to eat psychologically, and he is very lazy. He is a collection of all those characteristics that you have within that are harmful, but the main one is lust, in all of us. So you have heard this teaching and you say, "I really want to try this, I want to stop wasting my energy, feeding that gorilla. I want to save that sexual energy for divine purposes. I am tired of suffering. I want to awaken and experience reality, I want to see the truth, I want to talk to God, I want to talk to a Master. I want to see the real thing. I am tired of this." Well, I will tell you, the gorilla is going to get really mad—really mad—and really hungry, and he will do anything in his power for you to feed him.
It is very difficult to control lust, especially in the beginning. This is why is so important in the first place, as the scriptures stated: "Study, reflect and meditate." Study the teaching a lot. You need to learn to train yourself, to really understand it, to have deep conviction about it. This cannot be something superficial. If it is superficial in you, you will not stick to it, I guarantee it. You need to understand it with your heart not the intellect. When you get it in your heart, and you know it, then you look at that gorilla and say, "Why would I feed you? You are an animal, a beast in my mind, who only makes me and everyone else suffer. Why would I make you stronger? Why would I gave you that energy that you want me to give you?" This includes the orgasm, porn, movies, chocolate cake, or whatever it is we indulge in, we are gluttonous about, or we want to feed and nourish in ourselves egotistically. You can eat chocolate cake—I am not trying to take you away from your favorite sweet, unless it is gluttonous, and then you should consider it. The point is: any behavior that you engage in and you feel in your heart "I know it is wrong," you need to stop. Wouldn't it be nice to have a life in which you did not feel regret? Don't you wish you could look around in your life, in your mind, and say "I truly have done my best. I was tempted, but I did not give in." Well, it is up to you! It is your choice, in every event and choice in your life, it is your choice. Nobody forces you to have the orgasm. Nobody forces you to be angry, arrogant, envious, gluttonous, and lazy. You choose. That is what is all about. It is your choice. You are free to do what you like, just understand the consequences. Guilt, remorse, are up to you. Those happen because the consciousness is in pain when we do something we should not do. We hurt ourselves, and that is regret, that feeling in the heart, "Ah, I should not have done that!" But you did. Learn from it; do not repeat it. If you are repeating a habit, it is because you do not understand it. Study, reflect, and meditate. If you are feeling doubt, regret, pain, study the cause of that, find out why it happened, and do not repeat the mistake. This is the essence of it: cognizance, knowledge, and making good choices.