"If you are eating, eat; if you are getting dressed, get dressed, and if you are walking on the street, walk, walk, walk, but do not think about anything else. Do only what you are doing. Do not run away from the facts; do not fill them with so many meanings, symbols, sermons and warnings. Live them without allegories, live them with a receptive mind from moment to moment." - Samael Aun Weor, The Elimination of Satan's Tail
"We, the Gnostics , are mathematicians when investigating, and precise in our expressions. We do not like such fantasies; we want facts, concrete and definite facts." - Samael Aun Weor, Gnostic Anthropology
This is an expanded transcription of an unscripted lecture. You can download the original audio file for free: Practical Spirituality 02 Spiritual Facts AUDIO. There is also an accompanying reference: Practical Spirituality 02 Spiritual Facts PDF.
Today we are going to continue the course about practical spirituality that we started in the previous lecture. In the first lecture, we discussed some basic theoretical and structural information at the core of Hinduism, specifically in relation to Yoga . In that lecture we discussed how this word Yoga is Sanskrit for “union.” It does not refer simply to postures for the physical body. The truth is that Yoga refers to the union of soul, or psyche, with divinity.
All forms of Yoga have this union as their goal. In Hinduism, this goal is called Atma Jnana (आत्मा ज्ञान). As we explained previously, while Atman Jnana is usually translated as “Self-realization,” the term literally means “knowledge of self.” It refers to a type of knowledge that we have acquired through our personal experience. So, self-realization means to experience the reality of the self, to know it from experience, which is what occurs when the individual soul is established in union ( Yoga ) with divinity. That is the core message and purpose of real Yoga . It is the core message of any genuine religion, and of course it is the core of the Gnostic tradition. The word Gnosis has the exact same implication: it means “knowledge from experience.” We are not concerned with knowledge in a materialistic or worldly sense; we are concerned with knowledge of the Consciousness, soul, for the soul to have experiential knowledge.
We titled this course “Practical Spirituality” to emphasize what Atman Jnana or Gnosis really means: it means the union of the awakening Consciousness with its source. That is a union that occurs on many levels, until that Consciousness becomes a unity that is singular, one, self-realized, and having absolute self-knowledge. This means knowledge of all the levels of the self. To have that kind of knowledge is to be a Buddha, a god, to be like Krishna, Jesus, and other great masters that we respect and follow. To be that type of soul, that type of entity, is to have experience of all the levels of the self, and to know oneself experientially from the very depths to the highest of heights. That is what we discussed in the first lecture. Today, we will go deeper into this subject.
Even though we talk about a lot of complicated and sophisticated things in this tradition, and we explain many mythologies, religions, hierarchies, and scriptures, the real point of it is to emphasize for us that there is a single path, and that path is inside of us. We have to walk that path here and now by knowing who we are and by learning to change. All the theories, diagrams, and explanations are useful and they have their place, but they are completely meaningless if we are not actually working from moment to moment to awaken and to know for ourselves for who we truly are. In this course we are focusing specifically on how we do that.
How do we acquire facts? Throughout all the books and courses we present many theories, structures, diagrams, explanations, words, and definitions but none of that is factual until we have confirmed it, experienced it, and known it. That is our primary need. This is underscored by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. He says in it, while teaching Arjuna:
“Even if one is the most sinful of all sinners, one shall yet cross over the ocean of sin by the raft of self-knowledge alone. As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes, similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all bonds of karma to ashes…" - Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 4:36-37
This is an incredibly empowering statement. It is very important to truly and deeply understand what it is telling us. It is not telling us that by believing in Krishna we will be saved. It is not telling us that by belonging to some group that worships Krishna we will be saved. It is not telling us to make a pledge or an oath. It is not telling us to make a donation or to change the way we dress or talk. It is telling us that by knowing ourselves completely, fully, deeply, and entirely, we can become liberated from suffering, even if we are the most sinful of all sinners. Liberation is one hundred percent a result of our efforts to know ourselves. It is not the work of any being outside of us. No one can be liberated by someone else. We are liberated by ourselves. This is an empowering phrase. It should be inspiring to us, because it tells us that by knowing ourselves fully and completely, we become free from karma, free from being bound to suffering of all types. It also tells us that we already have everything we need, within. We do not need someone else, or a group, or a so-called “guru” or “master” to follow. We already have the real Master within us: it is our Innermost.
This is the same teaching that every great master already gave. Jesus taught the same thing as Krishna, in his own words. But of course, over time all religions lose sight of the practical nature of the teachings, and just want you to believe and follow. That is not the real teaching.
The line we quoted above come from the Bhagavad Gita, which is an excerpt of a longer scripture called The Mahabharata [study a course on the Mahabharata]. The Mahabharata is a beautiful and very profound story that represents the spiritual work that each of us has to perform inside of ourselves.
The Bhagavad Gita, which means “The Song of the Lord,” is an account of a teaching that Krishna gave to Arjuna. Krishna represents the light of the Christ, the universal solar force that is at the heart of every illuminated master. It is the fire of life. It is the fire of being-ness. Krishna is an incarnation of that force. So is Jesus. So is Moses. So is Milarepa. So is Joan of Arc.
This story, the Bhagavad Gita, describes the moments preceding a great battle. Arjuna is a warrior who had to ride into battle against his own kin. All of his family and all of his relatives were gathered on the battlefield. He observed them, all of these people that he respected and felt bound to, and he faltered. He had doubt. He suddenly realized that he did not have it in him to kill these people that he had known for so long. He doubted himself and his purpose, and he doubted what he was doing there and he was quivering with uncertainty. This is how the Bhagavad Gita begins. Krishna, who was driving Arjuna’s chariot, then gave him a spiritual talk. That talk is the entirety of the Bhagavad Gita.
This scene is symbolic. Many people read the story and love the images and the depiction of the story because it is exciting. They treat it like any other mythology or tale. But in reality, this scene represents a state of Consciousness, a level of being, an aspect of spiritual work.
Arjuna represents our soul, specifically the human soul, which in Kabbalah is related with the sephirah Tiphereth. In Hebrew , Tiphereth means “beauty,” and relates to the potential of our soul to blossom with divinity, and reflect all the most beautiful qualities, virtues.
Krishna represents the Christ, specifically the sephirah Chokmah. In Hebrew , Chokmah means “wisdom.” It is part of the upper trinity of the Tree of Life. The trinity is universal, symbolized in every religion. In Hinduism, the trinity is represented by Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Chokmah corresponds to Vishnu, that part of divinity which incarnates in the world in order to redeem those who want liberation. In Hinduism, Vishnu is said to have many avatars (messengers), of which Krishna is the most famous. Therefore, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna represents Vishnu incarnated within an initiate (represented by Arjuna) to guide that initiate on the path.
Subsequently, this scene is related to a specific stage of initiation where the initiate has to face the entirety of his psyche, his own mind, facing that great battle, and knowing that it is his duty to kill all of his beloved habits, ways of thinking, ways of feeling, and ways of behaving. He must eliminate them because they are the obstacles that prevent him from being one with divinity. This is why he falters.
"Then Arjuna beheld there stationed, grandfathers and fathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons and friends, too.
27. (He saw) fathers-in-law and friends also in both armies. The son of Kunti—Arjuna—seeing all these kinsmen standing arrayed, spoke thus sorrowfully, filled with deep pity.
28. Seeing these, my kinsmen, O Krishna, arrayed, eager to fight,
29. My limbs fail and my mouth is parched up, my body quivers and my hairs stand on end!
30. The (bow) “Gandiva” slips from my hand and my skin burns all over; I am unable even to stand, my mind is reeling, as it were.
31. And I see adverse omens, O Kesava! I do not see any good in killing my kinsmen in battle." - Bhagavad Gita 1
This is Arjuna’s fear, his hesitation.
The horses have multiple levels of significance. Primarily, they relate to remaining the bodies of the soul, but they also relate to the senses.
The important thing here is that every student of mysticism and religion goes through this crisis again and again. We doubt the work, and are unwilling to face the things within ourselves that keep us in bondage. We forget the teaching of Krishna that says,
"As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes, similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all bonds of karma to ashes…" - Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 4:36-37
…if we but know what is binding us.
So this teaching on the battlefield is about self-knowledge. It is about Arjuna facing himself and being willing to comprehend himself. The whole Bhagavad Gita is an explanation of that.
The Tree of Life
All of this is represented in the Tree of Life. When we study the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, we are looking at a symbolic representation of ourselves. We often talk about it in relation with external worlds, but its primary significance is that it represents our internal worlds: who we are.
In simple terms, at the top is the ultimate, primordial level of existence, which is the Absolute, Brahma, emptiness, non-being-ness. That is prakriti, shunyata, the emptiness, the void. It has many different names in the various traditions. We call it in Bhrama in Hindu terms. In Buddhist terms we can call it Adibuddha or Samantabhadra.
The middle part, which has ten spheres, represents the heavens, the subtle regions of Consciousness, gradually becoming more dense down to physicality in the tenth sphere.
The bottommost of those ten represents the physical body and the physical world.
Below that are the hells, the avitchi.
Psychologically speaking, inside of our physicality exists all of what is represented on the tree. Everything that we experience psychologically is mapped on this tree. The problem is that we are unaware of it.
It is our duty, when we begin the spiritual path, to identify our psychological experiences and know them for what they are. Through that self-knowledge we start to burn the karma. This is not theoretical. It is something that happens in moment-to-moment experience through observation and through managing energy.
In very simple terms, the whole Tree of Life represents three fundamental parts of ourselves:
- First, our inner divinity, which in the Bhagavad Gita is represented by Krishna.
- Then we have our humanity, which is represented in the Bhagavad Gita by Arjuna.
- Then we have our impurity, which is represented by all of the warring factions on the battlefield.
Our inner divinity is not in conflict. We are in conflict. Krishna is there on the battlefield helping Arjuna, but he is not part of the battle. He is content, serene, and happy. He is not in conflict. He is not having doubt. He is not afraid. He sees things for what they are.
Only Arjuna is scared, afraid, worried, and confused. He is our humanity, caught between divinity and impurity, just the way we are. But, there is a difference between Arjuna and us: Arjuna is talking face to face with God. Have we done that? Most people hear that question and think, “That is impossible; no one can talk to God.” But that is not true. Without exception, in every scripture of every religion in the world, the initiates talk to divinity. If by following a religion our goal is to become an example of that religion, should we not also expect to be able to talk to divinity? Of course we should expect that. It is logical. So if we have not talked to divinity, why not? That is not the fault of God, because God is always within us. Therefore, the responsibility falls on us. Perhaps the reason is that we have lost the ability to see and hear divinity. Perhaps our attention has been completely absorbed by our impurity, and we have not managed to free it enough to turn away from it, and look the other direction to see and hear divinity? Is not that the most logical explanation of this issue? It seems that way to me, because I have observed my mind, and I know the impurities that are in my mind. This seems like common sense.
All those who have experienced divinity explain it in that way as well. They say that by changing bad habits and adopting good habits, we start to experience the truth of reality. This is what the previous lecture was all about. The first two steps of Yoga are yama and niyama, avoidances and precepts, things to not do and things to do. If we follow just the first two steps of the ashtanga Yoga path, the eightlimbed path, we will begin to experience divinity. This is just how cause and effect works. There is nothing magical about Yoga . It is scientific.
On the Tree of Life, the heavens and the more subtle levels are represented above the physical body. Below the physical body we see what are classically symbolized as demons or sins. In Hinduism, there are various ways of approaching and understanding these, such as samskaras, kleshas, vasanas, etc. In the west we call them sub-conciousness, unconsciousness, infra-Consciousness, sins, defects, egos, or aggregates. There are many terms for these elements in ourselves, that in simple terms we can call pride, anger, lust, envy, fear, gluttony, greed, avarice, and the list goes on. We are filled with these qualities. We are constantly at battle with these qualities, or constantly enslaved by them. In synthesis, this is why we do not see divinity. We are never free of the psychological cage that we made for ourselves. Yoga is about freeing ourselves from the cage by knowing the cage, observing the cage, and learning about it so that we can get out of it. That is what real Yoga is about.
Instruction in Yoga
That is why the first four lines of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali state,
"Now, instruction in union.
"Union is the suppression of the modifications of mind-stuff.
"Then the seer dwells in her own nature.
"Otherwise she is of the same form as those modifications." - Yoga Sutras 1:1-4
As we explained in a previous lecture, the Yoga sutras are regarded as the core texts for the practice of Yoga . They are not really that old. Scholars disagree on their age, but the teachings that they encode are very old. These are the first four lines of the Yoga sutras. They set up the entire scripture.
First line: “Now, instruction in union.” In many translations, they say, “Now, after being prepared, instruction in union.” This line tells us that originally this text was not given publicly. Nowadays, it is easy to get it and read it. But it was really designed for students who had already been prepared to put it into practical work. It was not something for debate or discussion or light reading at night when you are eating your meal and you just want to read something like a newspaper. That is not what this scripture is for. Moreover, it was not written for the average person to read. It was written for those who were already prepared. That is: you already had to know something in order to benefit from this scripture. In this course, we are teaching you what you need to know to benefit from this scripture.
The second line says, “union is the suppression of the modifications of mind-stuff.” These terms are quite specific. Union, of course, is Yoga . So this phrase is defining what real Yoga is. Modifications, in Sanskrit, is vritis. This word is subtle. We will talk more about it. Mind-stuff is the word citta. If you know the term bodhicitta, it is part of that important word. Citta, loosely translated, can mean mind.
So how can we understand this applied to our experience now? Yoga is the suppression of modifications of mind. You can experience union right now if you can extract Consciousness from how it is being modified or conditioned. That is the only limitation. It is a completely psychological action; it is an action of attention. If you can succeed in doing that, in extracting Consciousness or self from modifications in the psyche, in the mind, then “the seer dwells in her own nature.”
This word seer in Sanskrit is actually a masculine word, but in this presentation of the explanation I have translated it as feminine because I want to relate it to this image of Krishna with the gopis.
This is a very popular image in Hinduism: Krishna surrounded by all the village girls who are all very devoted to him and very much in love with him. Sadly, most people do not realize the symbolic importance of that image. It has become a cultural image that people simply take at face value. However, it has a very deep significance. Krishna represents the universal deity in all life, that compassionate and intelligent wisdom that descends into the world to guide souls to liberation. Krishna is that universal compassion. The gopis, the village girls, represent all of the beings that long for that liberation. They feel tremendous devotion and gratitude toward Krishna. That is what this symbol represents.
Most people think it means that the girls have a crush on him because he is so handsome, and they always follow him around trying to dance with him and play games and chase each other through the fields. That is not what it means. It symbolizes how your own inner divinity longs to be in the presence of Krishna, the ultimate divinity. It is a beautiful, subtle image.
If we, as the soul, as Arjuna, can taste that longing in our hearts, then that is bhakti Yoga . That is devotional Yoga . It is that longing for union. That is the experience of “the seer dwelling in her own nature,” because our own true nature is not in conflict; it is not in pain. Our true nature is perfect serenity, a brilliant intelligence, a radiating love that is unconditioned and unblemished. Every living thing has that as its true nature, but in us that light has become conditioned. This is what we call karma. Really, karma just means the effects of previous actions. Because we have made so many mistaken actions, we have conditioned the mind with layer upon layer of the results of our anger and pride and lust and greed and gluttony, etc. That is why we can’t easily experience our own nature. That is why line four says, “otherwise she is of the same form as the modifications.” When we observe ourselves now, we see the truth of that statement; we experience ourselves as the form of our mind.
When we are angry, we truly feel that we are nothing but anger. When we are afraid, we truly feel that we are nothing but that. In that moment, for us there is no God. There is no divinity. There is no hope. There is only fear, or the anger, or the lust we are experiencing. We become the modifications of the mind. But that experience is a lie. We are not the modifications. We are the Consciousness, but that Consciousness is trapped. That is why we need to learn Yoga . We become identified with the modifications.
The next two lines of the scripture state,
"The modifications are five; some painful and some not painful.
"Those five are: right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fantasy, sleep, and memory."
Vritis, loosely translated, means “thought wave.” Observe your thoughts and notice that they come in waves. They rise, sustain, and pass, seemingly coming from nowhere, seemingly sustained by nothing, and seemingly dissolving to nowhere. Those are vritis: waves on the waters of the mind.
As it explains here, some of those waves are painful and some of them are not. The problem is that we mistakenly think we are the waves. We think that those thoughts and feelings that flow through the mind from moment to moment constitute our “self.” Because of that, we are always thinking, “I am hungry, I feel despair, I am angry, I want to go outside, I want to go inside, I am cold, I am hot, I am young, I am old, I, I, I…” There is a constant process of thinking, “I am” this feeling, this sensation, or this thought. But all of that is a mistaken perception. Those are just waves that come and go. They have no inherent reality.
When you truly start to learn how to meditate, this is one of the first things that you discover. You start to observe that the mind is just projecting continuously, and it seems to come from no place and go to no place, and none of it seems to have any real importance or meaning. It is like a child that will not stop talking. At a certain age, some children talk incessantly and everything that comes out of their mouths is utter nonsense. Our mind is like that. The problem is that we do not realize it. We become hypnotized by the flow of the mind, and we think that flow is our self. It is not. Those are just waves on the waters of the mind.
These five types of modifications have importance.
The first two are right knowledge and wrong knowledge. These are waves on the mind; they are modifications.
"Right knowledge [Pramana] is direct knowledge or inference or testimony.
"Wrong knowledge [Viparyaya] is false perception, whose real form is not seen. "
Without exception, all of us think that what we think is right knowledge. None of us have any doubts that what we think and believe could possibly be wrong. This is our first and most tremendous mistake. We will come back to that after we look at wrong knowledge.
Wrong Knowledge (Viparyaya)
Wrong knowledge is information based on false perception. The example that is often given in Asian philosophy is that while walking we can suddenly think we see a snake and because of it we experience a moment of terror until we realize that what we are seeing is just a coiled rope.
We all experience this kind of misperception. This phenomenon is related to how sensations are interpreted and translated by the psyche. This example is very simple, and one might say it is superficial, but it serves to illustrate a problem that we have all of the time, twenty-four hours a day. The problem is that we do not know how to correctly perceive. We assume that the way our mind translates information is always accurate. However, the fact is that it is never accurate. Materialistic science is proving that now.
The physicists who are studying phenomena in nature are now proving that our perceptions lie. Those scientists and doctors who study the brain, Consciousness, the senses, quantum mechanics and many other topics are proving that all of us are the most insatiable liars; we lie to ourselves. We do not see what is actually in front us: instead, we only see how our mind interprets it.
One person sees a dog and reacts with friendliness. Another person sees the same dog and reacts with disgust. Neither sees the dog for what it is. Each one only sees the response of their psychological filters.
Innumerable experiments have proven that none of us see reality. Tests have been given to rooms of hundreds of people, where all view the same video, and none see the actual content of the video. In one famous example, people are told to watch a video of a group of people tossing a ball. Everyone can watch that and see the ball being passed, but none see what else is happening in the video. (I wont spoil it for you in case you also get a chance to experience the test). Nevertheless, the fact remains —proven, repeatedly — that we only see through our psychological filters. We do not really perceive objectively, or even clearly.
Yet, humanity just does not get it. Religions and mystical traditions have been saying this for thousands of years. Now the scientists are saying it too, and we still do not believe it. We cannot imagine how our perception could possibly be wrong. But, the fact is that we do not see things accurately.
False perception does not refer only to mistaken perceptions of the eyes. It refers to how you, as a psyche, perceive all things. The type of mistaken perception that is the most significant cause of suffering is entirely in your mind. It is the perception of how you think and feel.
As an example, consider two best friends having a conversation where both people misunderstand what is being said, and this causes each one of them to generate negative feelings towards the other. Then suddenly, the friendship is in doubt. Do not we all experience that all the time? Yet, still we do not recognize that the problem is not with the spouse or the friend. The problem is in our mind.
We constantly reflect on “that thing that was said” and our mind extrapolates and starts adding to it. We invent scenes. We imagine conversations. We create events, occurrences, statements. None of it is real! We think, “he said this and I know he also meant this and this and this.” So we start adding lots of interpretations and additional meanings. Where does all of that come from? Who is interjecting the additional information into that event? Is it based on facts? No. Never. It is all projections of the mind. It is all modifications and “false perceptions whose real form is not seen.” We are not seeing the soul or the heart of the mind of the other person. We are only seeing the projections of our own mind, and yet we believe those projections are real. We do not know where they came from or what they are about. We do not question their reality. But they are not real! The problem is that we are doing this all of the time, with everything.
What about what others have told us? Depending on who said it, we may assume everything that said is absolutely true. Yet, how do we know? Do we ever really consider how reliable the information is?
Society, education, media, books, television, etc all feed us huge quantities of information that we accept as reliable knowledge. Yet, when we consider this in light of Yoga , we have to admit that most of what we have been told is really wrong knowledge, because it is based on beliefs, theories, assumptions, sales pitches, political slants, outright lies, sectarian conflicts, resentments, etc.
Even science, assumed to be so objective and reliable, reverses itself weekly! Last week, it stated definitely and without any doubt that “this is this way,” then a week later, “Actually, it is this way.” Scientists have been doing this for decades, and still do it without any loss of self-confidence! Really, it is astonishing to watch the scientists and doctors — how self-assured they are — and then see them reverse themselves shortly after, as if they never said things were the opposite. Of course, we see politicians and priests doing the same thing, and all of them as supposed to be leading society!
We cannot blame them, however, because they suffer exactly the same condition that we do. All of us suffer the condition of believing that what we think and feel is based on facts, and that what we perceive is really the full extent of what can be perceived. Sadly, that is dead wrong. We do not perceive even a tiny of fraction of what can be perceived. By awakening Consciousness, we start to perceive more.
In synthesis, wrong knowledge is a painful modification, and it is the type of modification that we experience for most of our lives.
Right Knowledge (Pramana)
Right knowledge is direct perception, something that we have seen for ourselves and can confirm.
Chief among this type of perception is right knowledge of divinity, direct experience of God. Since most of us have not had that experience, we do not have right knowledge of divinity; we have wrong knowledge; we have false perceptions; we have fantasies. We think, “God must be like this or God may be like that or I do not believe in God or God is not real.” All of that is wrong knowledge. Our beliefs and theories may be beautiful, but none of them is based on experience.
Right knowledge is direct perception. Nevertheless, right knowledge, called pramana in Sanskrit, is a modification of mind. Some people may question how this could be.
Someone who is self-realized does not have modifications of mind, vritis. His mind is liberated. He does not need right knowledge (pramana), because he is that. To say a liberated person needs pramana (right knowledge) is the same as saying that a flame needs to know that is a flame. It does not. It already is a flame, it does not need to think that it is a flame. There is a difference between having a thought or a mental idea of something and knowing one is that. That is the distinction. When you truly are something, the thought is irrelevant, unnecessary.
Right knowledge, pramana, is a modification of mind. It is a way of thought; it is a way of interpreting information. It may be accurate, but it is still an interpretation. It is not the thing itself, but it is based on a direct perception, or an inference, or a testimony. We know for ourselves that it is true. Most students have none of that about spirituality. This is an important thing to realize.
Do not lie to yourself. If you do not have right knowledge, if you do not have direct perception, admit it. Do not try to convince yourselves or others that you do, because you will condemn yourself to never acquire it. Be honest. If you have never been out of your body, if you have never talked face to face with your own Innermost, your Divine Mother, or an angel, or a guru-deva, good! Admit it, then work to have it, because you can. But do not lie to yourself or others. We need direct perception, but if we lie to ourselves with a false perception, then we will never have the real one.
Direct knowledge is what we ourselves have clearly perceived. Nevertheless, that does not mean that what we perceived is reality. All of us dream, and we can clearly recall what we saw, but that does not mean what we saw was real. Similarly, we can clearly observe our thoughts and feelings, but that does not make them real, reliable, or objective.
Inference is a way of knowing something is true because you have sufficient facts to support that knowledge. A simple, materialistic example would be, if you see smoke, you know there is a fire. In the same way, if you observe a negative emotion or a bad mood in yourself, you know that is not from God. That is from an ego, a defect. When you see that you are stressed or tense, that is not divinity producing that feeling. That is a conflict in your psyche between a desire and reality. That is all that stress is. You want something that you do not have. Conflict causes stress physically, emotionally, and mentally. When you recognize the desire and you deal with the desire and you disempower the desire then the stress goes away. it is really simple. That’s inference: knowing something by the evidence that surrounds it.
Testimony is knowing something by a reputable source.
So, again taking this from the spiritual point of view, what do we consider to be a reputable source? It is someone or something that does have right knowledge or is an awakened master or a perfectly developed being. In this tradition, we are very strict on this point. We are exceptionally strict, because we value the soul of every person. We consider valid testimony to be the teachings of the greatest masters: Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Abraham, Quetzalcoatl, Padmasambhava, Milarepa, the Dalai Lamas and all the types of teachers who are at the very pinnacle of development. Their teachings are what we consider valid testimony — teachers who fully exemplify what the teachings are guiding us to become. Thus, we are wary of those who are halfway, because they do not know everything, and easily make mistakes. We are very strict on that point.
There are many popular books, videos, theories, and teachings about spirituality. We are not interested in what is popular, modern, cutting edge. We are interested in the welfare of your very soul. Can you afford to take a risk on the teachings of someone who might be mistaken? In my opinion, we cannot. In my opinion, suffering is such a tremendous reality, and the potential for mistakes is so strong, that you have to be extraordinarily strict with yourself about what teachings you ingest, and believe, and follow, and act on. How can you gamble immortality, the chance to be liberated from suffering, on what is popular on the internet or in the bookstore? To me, that seems utterly ridiculous, foolish, and quite dangerous. Just because someone is skilled at selling books or making internet videos does not mean they know how to liberate you from suffering. Someone may be very charismatic, but that does not mean they are an awakened master who can help you as Krishna helps Arjuna.
Someone may have the best intentions in the world, but be completely wrong about what they teach others. That is why when it comes to our spiritual lives, we rely on Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and other very high masters. That is what we consider valid testimony.
We need to analyze all of these things in ourselves on a daily basis. That is why we point them out.
The next three modifications are vikalpa, nidra, and smriti. These are Sanskrit words.
"Fantasy follows mere words that have no basis in reality.
"Sleep is a modification of mind based on abhava.
"Memory is not allowing impressions to escape." - Yoga Sutras
The scripture says that “fantasy follows mere words that have no basis in reality.” This characterizes a huge percentage of the contents of our mind. An enormous majority of what is in our mind is absolute fantasy, and based on nothing. This includes all the TV shows and movies and celebrities and politics and all the things that we ingest from media. All of that is utter fantasy. I know we take it very seriously. We think that movies are very important, and celebrities and TV shows and sports are very important, but it is all lies, based on nothing. It has absolutely no importance in relation with the soul. It is a type of witchcraft, if you will, a type of black magic. It is a hypnotic influence. We watch these actors, movies, stories, and celebrities, and all they are doing is lying. They project themselves to be something that they are not. What is worse, we believe it and we imitate it. Have you noticed that when you watch something that really interests you, you start to imitate the actor, maybe in the way you stand, the way you talk, the way you dress, the words you use, or the way you look around? You think, “Maybe I am looking like that guy now.” We all do that. It is a consequence of being hypnotized. We watch that band that is so cool and we start dressing like them, acting like them, thinking like them, and their music runs through our heads all the time. That is a form of hypnosis. That is fantasy.
We follow a particular fashion or a particular culture or a particular political movement or any type of theory or doctrine that wants us to affirm that we are a certain way, we are “born again,” or we are “the chosen ones.” All of that is fantasy, because not one atom of it can be confirmed by direct perception, not a single particle. It is all just words, beliefs, nothing. That is fantasy.
You can see that our culture is completely and utterly hypnotized by fantasy, because when we point it out, people get angry. They say, “that’s my band, that’s my political party, my religion, my show, my style. How dare you contradict that?” We think it is something sacred, but we do not realize that it is utterly and completely meaningless, like an image in a mirror. There is nothing there. But that is the nature of our culture now. It is wrong knowledge.
Sleep is a vriti, a modification, based on abhava. This term abhava is really significant. I am sure all of you have memorized the course we gave on Bhavachakra so you know very well what bhava means. But some of you may not remember, so I will remind you. Bhava means “mind, being, becoming, or reality.” It is one’s state. It can imply many things. Abhava means “to not be” or “to lack being.” You could say that could mean nothingness or emptiness, but I didn’t use that in this translation because many people hear the word emptiness and they think of the Absolute. Many people misinterpret this passage because of that. That is wrong. The Sanskrit word is abhava. It is the opposite of bhava, it is to lack bhava. Bhava is a very significant word in Asian philosophy. The whole point of spirituality is “to become,” to create a real human being, to become perfect. That is bhava, “to be.” That’s why we use the word Being to represent our ultimate nature. We talk about experiencing our Being. It implies divinity. It also implies being here and now. Sleep is to not be here and now. It is to be utterly and completely hypnotized or distracted. That is our state all day and all night.
You do not believe me? Someone who is being perceives accurately and is conscious of what he or she perceives. When you are conscious of what you perceive, you remember what you perceive. Do you remember when you were in a car accident and you were suddenly shocked and you became very aware of everything that you saw and you can remember every little detail of that experience? Maybe it wasn’t a car accident, but you were almost run over by a bus or you experienced some other shocking thing that really woke you up? That was an experience of being, of really perceiving the moment.
Now, tell me where you were and what were you doing Friday, six weeks ago today at precisely this time? Where were you and what were you doing? Do not tell me, “I must have been at work or I must have been having lunch.” Tell me what you perceived. No memory of that? Let us make it easier. Seventy-two hours ago, tell me exactly what you were doing. No? Nothing? Let us make it easier. Ten hours ago?
No one here can remember, even from a few hours ago, because we are not being. We are not awake. We are asleep. When you are awake, you perceive clearly, thus later you can remember.
What about four hours ago? Now we might start remembering, getting a little more information. We might be able to piece together a couple of little memories: “I think I was in this place.” That is how weak the Consciousness is in us.
When you start to really develop the Consciousness, you can remember everything of those times you were awake.
The vriti “sleep” is significant in this regard because when you really start to awaken in the moment, from moment to moment, even when your physical body is asleep, your Consciousness is not. When your physical awakens again in your bed, you will remember all of your dreams.
Yes, you do dream. Many people say, “I never dream.” You do, you dream every night, for eight to ten hours: you just do not remember it. All of us dream all night long. Through the process of learning to become, to be in the moment, little by little you will remember everything you saw during the night.
The fifth type of modification is memory, which means not allowing impressions to escape. Have you noticed how thoughts, memories, scenes, keep repeating in your mind? For example, you went to the grocery store and they were playing an annoying song, and now it is stuck in your head. Or for some reason you just keep remembering a person that you saw on the train. For some reason, that memory just keeps coming into your mind. It could be something someone said that keeps repeating and repeating. That is this tendency of vritis, modifications of mind: to repeat. It is a sort of psychological indigestion where impressions get stuck, and they just keep cycling, spinning, rotating around in the cage of the mind, because we did not consciously transform them.
This region that we call memory, where impressions are most accessible to us, really does not have much capacity. It is like a little bowl. All day long we are constantly pouring new impressions into it, but we do not consciously control that process. That is why when we try to meditate, there is weird stuff in there. It is like indigestion. it is like when you have an upset stomach and you feel like you are not digesting your meals. It is the same thing in your mind. We have a constant state of psychological indigestion. That is this vriti, memory.
We point out these different facts because (1) they cause us to suffer, and (2) we can change them. This is the significant point.
In the first lecture, we explained that Yoga , or union, is a very sophisticated science. It has the inherent ability to take us all the way to complete development, to full self-knowledge. We can become completely self-realized like Krishna or Buddha. It is not inconceivable. It can be done. It has been done before. It will be done again. Why not by us? The only thing that stops us is our will. Therefore, in this tradition we emphasize methods for being practical and working with our will now, today, not to put it off for later, but to take advantage of our current circumstances and transform them as a vehicle for self-knowledge.
Four Aspects of Yoga
In the scripture, Krishna explains four aspects of Yoga . The first is karma Yoga , the path of work, action. This path is really about how to act, in every way, how to perform action. In my opinion, the Bhagavad Gita is the most beautiful scripture in the world that explains how one should act. I encourage you to study it. It is incredibly beautiful. In synthesis, he explains that we must learn to perform every moment as a devotional act toward divinity. We learn to do that on every level, with everything that we do. From the most distasteful and uncomfortable things to the things that we most enjoy doing, do all of them in the same way, as acts of devotion, without attachment to the results of the action. Just do it from love.
If we were to adopt that attitude, we would go to work not hating work, not hating our co-workers, not dragging our feet and resenting everyone. Instead, we would go there with a sense of urgency and inspiration, thinking, “now I have a chance to serve divinity.”
Put yourself in that perspective for a moment. What if your inner God, your inner Father, your inner Divine Mother came to you and said, “Today I want you to go to work, and everything that you do at work, do it for love of me, to serve me.” Wouldn’t you be thrilled to do that, to go to your terrible job that you may hate, but do it because you love God? Imagine how different your experience of that job would be! You might actually start to love it. Imagine all those annoying customers you have to deal with, and all those annoying coworkers. You actually might start to see the beauty, the humanity in them, to see their fragility, and do something good for them. That is karma Yoga . That means to work with your three brains with that sense of fragility, of devotion, and responsibility to others.
That is why the second path is bhakti Yoga , the path of devotion. (Krishna explains that you really cannot separate all those paths, but we talk about them individually in order to clarify it so that our weak minds can understand.) The path of devotion means to have that devotional approach in all things, in all ways, and at all times, but it goes even deeper. It means to constantly to have a prayer in our hearts. This means that when you are having an argument with your friend, you cannot become that anger. Instead, you are praying. Imagine how transformative that would be! Instead of being in pain, we would be in prayer. Wouldn’t that change every situation that we experience?
The third path is jnana Yoga , the path of self-analysis and knowledge. This refers to that vriti of right knowledge, pramana, to see things for what they are. But more than that, it means to be intellectually aware, and to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. It is to see oneself and to understand what one sees. For example, we teach self-observation, which is really all this is, how to observe oneself. But your self-observation is a lot more penetrating when you know that your thoughts are related to your intellectual brain. When you know that in an intellectual way, you are able to observe yourself with more accuracy. When you know that your emotions are related to your emotional brain, related to the heart, then you can observe yourself with more accuracy. That is jnana Yoga . When you know how the things that you observe in yourself relate to the scriptures, that is jnana Yoga . When you can identify each emotion that you feel: what it is it? Ah, it is anger! Anger is a defect and I know that because I am studying. That is jnana Yoga . That is analysis. You do not need to make big complicated diagrams of all of your defects. That is a waste of time. Jnana Yoga is to be in the moment, present, and ready to understand what you see and experience.
Ashtanga, the Eight-limbed Path
We explained in the previous lecture the eight limbs of Yoga .
- Yama: self-restraint
- Niyama: precepts
- Asana: posture; relaxation
- Pranayama: harnessing of life force
- Pratyahara: suspension of senses
- Dharana: concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: super-conscious state, blissfulness, ecstasy
Today, I want to emphasize the first three: Yama, Niyana, and Asana. To really make your spirituality practical and to really acquire right knowledge of divinity and of reality, these are the only three you need to perfect. There are many other steps in the path of Yoga , and you will work with all of them, but perfecting these three will radically change your self-knowledge. That is why in real Yoga schools, new students only learn these three. That is why people nowadays think that Yoga is easy and superficial. They learned these three, but they never learned how to use them, so they did not advance, and thus they never learned that these three steps lead to higher aspects, so they got bored and left.
People think, “I do not need to learn ethics or self restraint. I do not need to learn these precepts or learn how to do these poses and postures. That’s boring. I want to go have Samadhi.” They want to skip the first steps. That is how most people approach religion. They do not want to learn the ten commandments. They do not want to learn the precepts and the vows. They do not want to stop drinking and smoking and sleeping around. We want to keep our vices and at the same time have the experience of God. That is impossible. That is like trying to walk in two directions at the same time. You cannot do that. You can only walk in one direction at time. That is true both physically and spiritually. Physics does not allow it at any level.
So the most important thing is to learn these three steps. If you learn them, then all of the rest of the steps happen on their own.
This contradicts what most students think about spirituality. They think, “Well I have been studying for years, and I know the things I am not supposed to do and the things that I am supposed to do [yama and niyama]. I am trying to be relaxed [asana] and I am doing pranayamas but I still cannot meditate. I try and I try, but I cannot have any experiences in Meditation.”
That statement reveals the very problem of that student; he is ignoring the first three steps. They think they are doing them, but that is a wrong knowledge. They are not. Because if they are performing the first three steps, then the rest are easy; no effort is required for the rest of the steps. It is like riding a bicycle: the first pedal takes the most effort. Once you get going, the bike will glide along, and only takes guidance and light effort. Meditation practice is exactly like that. The initial pedals equate to the first three limbs of Yoga .
The instructors hear students constantly complaining, “I am doing everything you guys told me to do, and I am trying to meditate one or two hours a day, but I am not experiencing anything. This teaching does not work.” The problem is not the teaching. The teaching is ancient. It is proven. It works. The problem is the mind. The problem is that the student is not being honest with himself. He is skipping steps, avoiding changing bad habits. Usually, he is skipping the first step; he is not performing yama, self-restraint. Usually, he is still fornicating. He is still lying to himself and others. He is stealing from himself and others. Psychologically and physically, he is still acting the same way that he always has. He is not changing. That is why nothing else happens.
On the other hand, we have observed students who become very focused on just that first step, yama. They are very focused just on that step. For them, Meditation happens easily. It is simple. No effort is required.
If you want to understand where you are in your spiritual work, study yourself in relation with the first two limbs, especially. Study yourself from moment to moment and from day to day.
- Ahimsa: to not harm; kindness, compassion; love for all
- Satyam: truthfulness
- Asteya: to not steal
- Brahmacharya: Chastity; sexual purity
- Aparigraha: renunciation, non-avariciousness, freedom from desires
To remind you, yama begins with ahimsa, which means to not harm anyone, including one’s self. This means physically and psychologically. This means to show compassion and kindness at all times to everyone, even to people who we do not think deserve it. That is the very first step of Yoga . But how many people do it?
How many of us are really sincere and honest about trying to become an incarnation of ahimsa? If you can only do one thing that Yoga teaches, do that. If that is the only thing out of the entirety of the teachings that you can accomplish, then you have worked a miracle. Do not worry about all the complicated things, the theories and the symbols and the meanings and all of the complexities of the teaching. Set it all aside; symbols do not change you. What changes you is these steps: learning to live ahimsa, learning to live satyam (truthfulness), asteya (to not steal), bramacharya (to be chaste), and aparigraha (to be a renunciate). If you can do those, then there is no doubt that you can become a buddha. These are the basis of being an angel. If you want to be an angel, master these aspects. Start now.
Accompanying them are niyama.
- Saucha: internal and external purity; cleanliness; integrity
- Santosha: contentment; satisfaction; joy
- Tapas: austerity; penance
- Svadhyaya: study of religious books and repetition of mantras
- Ishvara-Pranidhana: Self-remembering; worship of Divinity and self-surrender
Shaucha is purity and cleanliness, not just physical but internal, to be pure in the mind. When you find an impure thought, be aware of it and overcome it. Replace it with something pure. Do not allow yourself to dwell in impure things. That includes all the impressions you take into your self through the shows you watch, the people you talk to, and the places you go. All of the impressions you take into your psyche change your psyche. If you are watching garbage on TV, you are filling your self with that garbage. You will have to deal with it later. It will be in you. it is better to not even put it in you. Why create a problem you will have to deal with later? Deal with it now. Do not take it in. It is like saying, “This filthy guy in the street is interesting, so I am going to let him in my house.” And you let people off the street come in, carrying bags of garbage, and you let them come in and dump it all over your house. That is the same thing you are doing in your mind when you watch garbage on tv, the internet, etc. You are letting those degenerated elements come into your mind and dump garbage everywhere. It is much easier to simply not let them in.
Santosha (contentment, satisfaction): be content with what you have.
Tapas (penance): be happy to pay what you owe. We all have karmic debts. Pay them with happiness. When you experience difficulties, when you are having ordeals, receive them happily because that is how you pay what you owe. That is tapas. To face problems with serenity, acceptance, happiness.
Svadhyaya: the study of religious books and religious mantras. Every day we should be studying the scriptures, so that we do not lose sight of the real path. Study scriptures, not internet forums, not popular new age theories. Study the real and proven masters, not “new masters.”
Ishvara Pranidhana: This is to remember one’s self and remember one’s Being at all times and at all places. Always be aware that with you and in you are your Divine Mother and your Being.
Anyone who is accomplishing these ten things every day rapidly experiences divinity, rapidly experiences the truth, rapidly acquires a huge amount of self-knowledge, and Meditation becomes very easy. Their path is accelerated rapidly. They do not need chemicals; they do not need drugs; they do not need to go to other countries to try to escape from their circumstances, or to read tens of thousands of books. They do not need any of that, because the self-knowledge of seeing how they are in relation with these ten facts transforms them radically every day. We do not need to go to India or Mexico. We do not need to find a teacher some place who is going to tell us how we are, because we see for ourselves how we are now in relation with these ten facts. That practice enflames your self-knowledge. That flame is what burns your karma up. When you are really acting ahimsa, you are not acting out of anger. You are transforming situations where you would be angry into situations that benefit everyone. You pay debts; you pay karma; you help others. Doesn’t that make sense? it is logical. It is simple. That is why we repeat:
What this statement is saying, in essence, is that we do not find Gnosis in any of the vritis, the modifications. We only find it being here and now, and dealing with facts.
So, let us deal with facts.
Second Practical Exercise of This Course:
Enquiry: “Is this [observable inner state] my Self?”
This is your practical exercise. I expect everyone here to be honest with himself or herself from now on, with no exceptions. Carry with you this inquiry: “Is this, that I am observing in myself, really me? Is it my Self, my Being? Is this bhava or abhava?”
From moment to moment, in every situation and circumstance, observe yourself impartially with this inquiry.
It is to have a question in your awareness. It is not an intellectual question. It is a conscious one. You have to become like a detective who is looking for facts. You are not dealing with a single thief, a single murderer, a single liar, but a horde of them. You as the soul, as Arjuna, have to face the battlefield, which is your own mind, your own life, and your own circumstances. That is why it is necessary to remember your inner Krishna. Your inner divinity is there with you always. When you face difficulties, remember and stimulate that devotion in your heart to give you strength.
Observe yourself, your thoughts, feelings, actions, impulses, desires, fears: “is this myself?”
When you are angry, you will know the answer, “No, it is not. This is anger. This is not divinity.”
When you are in real self-remembering and you feel that devotion, you will know the answer: “Yes, it is.”
When you feel the activation of your Consciousness in the moment, you will know it, and you will realize that this is what living is for. It is to be. Not to be in the past or in the future but to be now, to be clarifying and learning about oneself. You will come to know what it means to be Awake, and you will know that there is infinite potential to develop that, to awaken more and more. You will know what spirituality really is, and you will realize the very few people know what real spirituality is. Most are just losing themselves in beliefs and theories.
Daily exercise: Use a spiritual diary.
If you can do the first part of the exercise, to be aware and inquiring, you can now begin a very rich and promising exercise, which is to use a daily spiritual diary. This exercise is designed to inspire you to observe yourself objectively and to become responsible, to answer to yourself for each day.
This page lists a series of questions that you can answer at different stages of your day: Practical Spirituality 02 Spiritual Diary PDF
The first set of questions is for the morning, the second set is for the late afternoon, and the final set is for before going to bed. You can get any type of journal for recording your answers. You can use just a plain piece of paper, a little binder or a computer. It does not matter how you do it. What matters is that you do it every day.
Spend whatever amount of time you want each day on answering the diary questions. Some students like to make through and deep diaries. Others spend only a few minutes. It is entirely up to you.
I am asking only that you keep this diary it for at least one week. Just give it a week. After that week, I want to know if it helped you. (I already know the answer. But I’ll act like you can surprise me. Maybe you will surprise me.)
If you lie when you keep your diary, you are condemning yourself. Do not lie. This record is only for you to learn about yourself. Take advantage of it. This is a very common exercise. In almost every tradition, some type of diary is used. But I feel gratitude to Swami Sivananda for this specific approach. Regarding this method, he stated,
“The keeping up of a daily spiritual diary is an indispensable requisite and of paramount importance. Those who are already in the habit of keeping it know its incalculable advantages. Diary is a whip for goading the mind towards God. It shows the way to freedom and eternal bliss. It is your Guru. It is the eye-opener. It develops the Manana-Sakti or the power of reflection. It will help you to destroy all your evil qualities and to be regular in your spiritual practices. If you regularly maintain a diary, you will get solace, peace of mind and quick progress in the spiritual path. Those who desire to grow in morality and spirituality, those who wish to evolve rapidly must keep a daily record of their actions.
“All great men of the world keep diaries. The life of Benjamin Franklin is known to you all. He kept a daily diary. He noted down the number of untruths and wrong actions for which he was responsible during the course of the day. In course of time, he became a perfect man. He had perfect control over his mind. Mahatma Gandhi used to advise the students to keep a daily diary always.
“A big thief is hiding himself in your brain. He has snatched away your Atmic pearl. He is giving you immense worries and troubles. He is deluding you. The thief is your mind. You must not be lenient towards him. You must kill him ruthlessly. There is no other sword sharper than this diary to kill him. It checks his happy-go-lucky ways and destroys him eventually. All your daily mistakes will be corrected. A good time will come when you will be entirely free from anger, untruth, lust, etc. You will become a perfect Yogi.
“Your father and mother gave you this body. They gave you food and clothing. But this diary is superior to your parents. It shows the way to freedom and eternal bliss. It gives you solace, satisfaction and peace of mind. Turn the pages of your diary carefully once a week. If you can record your actions every hour, your growth will be rapid. Happy is the man who keeps a daily diary for he is very near to God. He has a strong will and he is free from defects and mistakes.
“By keeping a spiritual diary you can then and there rectify your mistakes. You can do more Sadhana and evolve quickly. There is no other best friend and faithful teacher or Guru than your diary. It will teach you the value of time. At the end of every month calculate the total number of hours you spent in Japa, study of religious books, Pranayama, Asanas, sleep, etc. Then you will be able to know how much time you are spending for religious purposes. You have got every chance to increase the period of Japa, Meditation, etc., gradually. If you maintain a daily diary properly, without any fault in any of the items, you will not like to waste even a single minute unnecessarily. Then alone will you understand the value of time and how it slips away.
“Compare the total of the last month with those of the previous months. Find out whether you have progressed in your Sadhana or not. If you have not progressed, increase your practice daily. You can do more Sadhana and evolve quickly.
“In maintaining a diary, you should not utter any falsehood anywhere. You are keeping it only for your own benefit. It is the diary of a religious aspirant who is treading the path of truth to realise Truth. Acknowledge your faults openly and endeavour to rectify yourself in future. You should not neglect to record everything in your diary. It is better if you compare the progress of your work of the present week with that of the previous week. If you are not able to do so once a week, you must at any cost compare it once a month. Then you will be able to make various adjustments in different items, increase the period of Japa and Meditation and decrease the time of sleep. […]
“Do not be ashamed to mention your mistakes, vices and failures. This is meant only for your own progress. Do not waste your precious hours. It is enough that you have wasted so many years in idle gossiping. Enough, enough of the troubles you had all these days in satisfying your senses. Do not say, "From tomorrow, I will be regular." That "tomorrow" will never come. Be sincere and start doing Sadhana from this moment. If you are really sincere, He is ever ready to help you and give you a push in your spiritual march.
“He who regulates his life on the above lines is sure to become a Jivanmukta or a Yogi in this very birth. Do it practically and see how you grow. Start maintaining a spiritual diary from this moment itself and realise the marvellous results.”
The spiritual diary is something that has to be maintained on a daily basis. It does not have to be a big deal, and you do not have to spend a lot of time on it. But if you answer the questions honestly, in a short period of time you will know, without any question, where you are in your spiritual work and why. Do not we all want to know that? Do not we want to know what stage we are at in our spiritual work? Of course we do. We need to know that. If we do not know that, then we are wasting our time.
We need to be conscious of ourselves; we need to know ourselves. If we claim to be spiritual people, then we should know our spiritual life more than anything else. The sad thing is that most so-called spiritual people have only vague statements to make about their spiritual life; they cannot speak in facts. It should not be like that, especially for gnostic students. A gnostic student knows that we only deal with facts. So, in your diary, write only facts. Do not speculate. Do not guess. Do not be vague. Do not imagine. Do no extrapolate. Only record the facts, the observable facts, or facts derived by inference. We have to rely on that explanation of vritis. That is your task for the next week.
- Self-observation: An exercise of attention, in which one learns to become an indifferent observer of one's own psychological process. True Self-observation is an active work of directed attention, without the interference of thought, emotion, or sensations.
"We need attention intentionally directed towards the interior of our own selves. This is not a passive attention. Indeed, dynamic attention proceeds from the side of the observer, while thoughts and emotions belong to the side which is observed." - Samael Aun Weor
Questions and Answers
Audience: Is Chastity a monk-type thing where you can never have sex in your whole life or are you saying do not fornicate, as in, you know, run around and have sex just for the physical pleasure of it? Is it ok if you’re in a loving relationship?
Instructor:In Yoga , the term for Chastity is brahmacharya, which implies purity, because the word Brahma is a name of God. Brahmacharya implies meaning in levels. In traditional religion, the beginners always learn to withhold their sexual energy and to refrain from sexual interaction. They call that “celibacy.” That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about learning to restrain that energy and not expel it from the body. Whether one has a sexual relationship or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that one is restraining the energy and transforming it inside, no longer indulging in the orgasm. Instead of experiencing that brief physical pleasure, we transform that power in order to have spiritual nourishment. It is a type of Tantra. The basis of it is to transform the impurities and to make them pure. If you want to know more about that, there are several books over that explain it. Specifically, we recommend The Perfect Matrimony.
Audience: Earlier you were using an analogy to talk about right knowledge. You were talking about a flame that is a flame but it does not have to think it is a flame. I was thinking about that in reference to what you were saying about […]. Originally I was confused because I was thinking that Consciousness is like our mind translates everything that we experience in life and I get confused about Consciousness. What’s that process of knowing? How do you get the point where you just know you’re the flame and it is not a thought?
Instructor: Consciousness sees through the senses but it is not the senses. It sees through the mind, through the body, through the tongue, through the nose, through the eyes, through the skin, but it is not any of those things. When we perceive something, it requires Consciousness. So we say that Consciousness is perception. But there are many levels of perception. In us, perception is filtered. It is filtered by the senses and it is filtered by the psyche. It is possible through development and strengthening of the Consciousness to learn to see without any filter. That is to have accurate, objective perception; it is to see the reality. In that case, you are the flame. You do not have to think you’re the flame; you do not have interpret the perceptions because you are that. That is to be. That is a state of being. That’s really the ultimate point of any real spiritual development; it is to develop that ability so that you have it all the time, to see without filters. Thoughts may happen, feelings may happen, and sensations may happen but the Consciousness is perceiving and not confused by all those layers. It sees right through them. It is really interesting. It is very scientific. Through the process of leaning to observe yourself, accompanied by the process of learning to meditate, you strengthen that ability. Gradually, if you learn to extract Consciousness from the body, from the senses, from feeling, from thought, you can see and experience what it is to be Consciousness. We call that samadhi. That is the final step of the stages of Yoga . Samadhi is that experience of seeing without any filter. That can be in your physical body or out of your physical body.
Audience: We have this tradition of fallen angels, spiritual beings coming down into matter to experience matter and then ascend back up later. I am assuming that in order to awaken to the experience of being the flame, we first have to experience the filters of matter in order to awaken to that… what’s the short cut, rather than getting trapped in it as we are?
Instructor: We are already trapped in it, so there is no short cut. Simply stated, we are already in the mess. The question there is, “Why is it this way, and does it have to be this way?” No, it does not have to be this way. This is the karma of this particular scenario. Speaking in general terms, when the great breath unfolds itself into manifestation, it does so to acquire self-knowledge. But it does not have to reach the state of degeneration that we have reached here. The scriptures say that on many world systems it does not happen this way; there, beings do not enter into the state of degeneration that we have. Here we have a unique circumstance that is extraordinarily painful for all the beings here. Our state is just a consequence of mistaken actions. So there is no short cut, but the good thing is that there is a path out. It is the same universal path, but here it has to be applied with a great deal of energy. In other systems, in other scenarios the path is more easily realized because the karma is not so heavy. For us here, the karma is extremely heavy, which requires a different application of energy to transform it. It makes sense right? (In terms of how the physics of it work.) Nevertheless, it can be done. We just need the lever to move the universe. That lever is inside of us.
Audience: So we can say that the self is just awareness of perception? If the self is without thought, how would you identify anything about yourself?
Instructor: Through perception. The real self: what is that? It is a great question. The exercise I assigned you is to ask, “what is this that I observe? Is it myself?” The question implies the answer. Who is perceiving? Who is the perceiver? That is where you need to look for the answer. How am I asking? How am I perceiving? In this moment, who is asking and what qualities does that who have? This is a process of philosophical inquiry, but actually it is very practical, and in this tradition we learn to work with it constantly. That is to always be asking the question, who is this? What of this is practical and real? What part of this can I confirm? What is this experience? Looking outward, you won’t get any answers, because you only see things that are constantly changing. Nothing in your external perception is inherently reliable. Everything that happens outside is constantly changing, and you can’t do anything about it. Everything that you perceive is going to go away; everything. Even the physical body, even those you love, all of them will go away. Every relationship, every situation, every scenario will go away. What remains constant? Perception. Self.
Here and now, look into yourself, and – knowing what you know about the Tree of Life, answer — where is my perception coming from? It really requires that you look inside. You have to look within, because you cannot find the answer outside.
If you persist in that inward inquiry —practically, from moment to moment — you will inevitably make certain steps. They include realizing that it is not the physical body that is seeing, because you can still perceive when you are not in your physical body. Any spiritual person can confirm that, if he or she knows how to work spiritually, because he knows how to be awake in his dreams, or to get out of his body either in Meditation or at night. He or she has had experiences either by will or by accident where he knows that he is perceiving, but is not in the physical body. So then who was perceiving? That inquiry, constantly maintained, leads one up the Tree of Life, not down. This is the critical point.
Right now, as we are, we are in our physical bodies, but we are constantly perceiving through all these filters in the subconsciousness. We feel afraid, we feel doubt, or we feel worried. Those feelings filter our perception, and we think we are that feeling, but when we ask the question: Is this myself? Is this where my perception originates? We are forced to realize that feeling is not the answer. Your anger sees, but what gives the ability to see to that anger? It is Consciousness. The Consciousness is trapped in the anger, but it is not the anger. Are you following what I am saying? That line of inquiry takes you deep, past the filters, past the body, past the vital body, past the Astral body, deeper and deeper.
Audience: For instance, I know that I have showed up here and that I have desire to seek out spiritual truths through logic and inference and also through rigorous experience. I also know that there are certain emotions that conditioned me, through trauma in my life when I was younger, that likely predispose me to do such things, like my desire to seek truth in a spiritual fashion and to perceive my physical reality in a certain way. But I could also say that about my desire to have an advanced degree, which is not necessarily evil or wrong or [motivated by] avarice. When I think about my desire to seek out spirituality, is that my spiritual self or is that somehow still locked in the physical, biological framework of my life through biological mechanisms?
Instructor: The only way you can ever answer that question is to dive within it in yourself in the moment, not with the intellect, but to sit still and quiet, withdraw from your senses, bring up that inquiry, and look into the heart of that inquiry inside. Look at where the inquiry comes from and follow it back inside. This is not an intellectual exercise; it is a perceptive exercise. It does not make sense when I explain it in words. It is actually a way to sit and meditate...
Audience: What if the way I see is differently or I want to have this advanced degree because I can identify that with certain human events that happened when I was younger but I do get the sense that I can’t tell where or why I’ve always been drawn to the spiritual. I get the sense sometimes that it originated when I was so young that I didn’t […] Is that something where you can identify it more…
Instructor: This is what I am explaining. When you try to find the answer in memory or in supposition or in possibilities, it is only guesswork. You cannot arrive at a reliable answer that way. That’s the limit of the intellect. That’s a vriti called wrong perception. It is how the mind tries to say, “maybe it was this or maybe it was that,” but that approach is not based on a real perception of something that you experienced. It is based on fantasy.
The way you find a reliable answer is through Meditation.
Audience: You cycle through hypotheses…
Instructor: Hypotheses are just that: guesses. But they have to be proven. Here, we take a scientific approach. Let me explain this in a simple way for you. Through Meditation, one can learn to sift memories and see what was real in them. You can learn to look back at your past and recover what actually happened and look at the facts of that thing rather than what your mind tells you happened. When you develop Consciousness, it has the ability to perceive the facts physically or in the internal worlds. That means that if you follow the process I explained, looking into that inquiry, and you extract yourself from the physical body and you extract yourself from your energetic body and your emotional and intellectual bodies, and just become that pure perception in a state of Meditation, you can learn to perceive the images reflected in any of these dimensions. This includes the memories of the past. So rather than seeing those memories through the filters of your personality and your traumas, you see them like a scientist or a detective who sees them for what they are. Then you can know, “why is this this way? Why is that this way?”
Let me give you an example. Recently I was meditating on a troubling emotion and it was bothering me a lot. My logic could not find the answer. I couldn’t find it through inference. I couldn’t find it through testimony in the scriptures. So I was trying to use right knowledge, yet I couldn’t find it through direct perception. I knew that if I just relied on my own theoretical explanation that it would just be subjective guess. So I meditated, trying to meditate on that actual experience, concentrating on the emotion. Meditating on the emotion, extracting my attention from everything else. Then I had this experience. I captured and recovered a memory from when I was a little child and something happened in my house that caused a reaction in me emotionally that is still affecting me today. It was an undigested impression. As a child, I wasn’t equipped to deal with it.
When I came out of that Meditation, I felt completely different because I understood. I comprehended something important about myself. I knew it. I didn’t have to think about it. I did not need to think, “The situation is because of this and that.” I did not need to think anything at all. I just knew. Comprehension is not thought. It is a type of knowing that is intuitive, emotional, conscious; it can be accompanied by thought or logic, but it is not defined by them. That’s the difference between knowing that you are the flame or thinking you are. Speaking of having the right knowledge, I had that, but more than that, I knew it. I didn’t have to think about it. That was a way of acquiring Gnosis about that experience. I was able to see how the present emotion was rooted in the past experience. This just happened recently; it is nice that I was able to explain it for you.
That is how this process works. I learned that from this tradition, knowing: “I am not the body, I am not energy, I am not the emotion, I am not intellect, I am Arjuna. My own Arjuna, Consciousness, the human soul.” I know how to experience that; I know how to access that because I learned it here. This tradition has given me that ability, which is the most precious thing I have. That is why I am explaining it to you.
It can be done. But to do it, you have to shut off the theorizing and guessing. That is why this diary is so important.
Start training yourself to only look at observable facts and along the way, find the proof of who you really are: self-knowledge. Find proof of who you are in what you have of divinity, humanity, and impurity. No guesswork. You have to be able to clearly identify these things in yourself in the moment, not to explain it to someone else, but to be able to identify it directly.
Audience: It seems to me that awareness in itself is empty.
Instructor: It is. Padmasambhava gave very beautiful teachings about that. In a text called “Natural Liberation through the Introduction to Awareness” he explains that. Study it. We have a lecture about it on our website, and you can find that text in many places. It explains simply that when you look into awareness you can’t find any thing, but still it is there. That is the self. In Buddhism they do not use the term self, they use the term tathagatagarbha, which means “the Buddha nature.” That tradition does not use the term self, because self implies something that has a body or some material aspect. Many people think “self” and they imagine that their self must be a bearded guy in some other dimension, atman. That exists, but that is not the ultimate explanation of what our true nature is.
Audience: You can’t have attention by itself. It has to be awareness of some thing, [right]?
Instructor: No. It can be just attention, just awareness by itself. Awareness naturally has a presence. That is its primordial state. It does not have to be directed out at any other thing. It is just a simple recognition: “I am.” In Sanskrit that is “So ham.” That is related ultimately to how the absolute is and is not. It is That.
Audience: So to remember yourself is to be a perfect reflection of what is, in the moment?
Instructor: It is to be. In being, there does not have to be any thought. It is just being-ness. The intellect will never grasp that. The intellect only compares. The intellect completely depends on A and B, observer and observed. The intellect cannot comprehend being-ness, which is a state of unity, of oneness.
Audience: So then if you ask that question, is this emotion or is this observable thing myself? Wouldn’t the answer always be no?
Audience: Because if it is observable then it must be an entity.
Instructor: Yes, but it implies the question, who is observing? That’s the value of it. You have to experience that distinction consciously, but we do not. We are always going through every experience feeling like, “This is me and I am doing this and I am thinking this and I am feeling this.” That’s all a lie. This is explained in the Gita, but it is very difficult to understand the way it is written there. It is explained but if you do not meditate, you cannot understand what Krishna is explaining. He explains about “the watcher” and how the watcher is related with our Purusha, our Atman, our Innermost. Many people fall into confusion, especially related with Advaita, which is the philosophical branch of Hinduism. They think that that I Am is how we are now, here and now. That’s absolutely dead wrong.
Audience: So emptiness is also a type of perception?
Instructor: Yes. It is a being-ness, which implies perception. Within the emptiness is the ultimate perception.
Audience: It is no-thing. So when there is anything that is a thing, it is outside of that. So basically anything that happens is not the self. The only thing that is the self is what experiences it?
Instructor: That is the crux, at the heart of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. It is exactly that question. That is why there are so many schools in different traditions that approach that question in different ways. All of them have validity. All of them point out certain aspects of that perception that are valid but you cannot debate about it philosophically. It has to be experienced to be understood, because it is so far beyond the mind.
Let us put this in perspective. Let us look at the Tree of Life again. All of us are here in our physical bodies, the sephirah Malkuth. This sephirah, Yesod, is the energy in that body. Here in Hod is the emotion. Here in Netzach is the mind. Look how far that is from the Absolute, which is at the very top of the tree.
Even here physically in Malkuth, we are only hazily aware of thinking [Netzach] because we do not actively observe it.It is just happening, and we just go along and thinking and feeling happen. It is so subtle to our perception. Compare that with trying to comprehend the Causal body (Tiphereth), the buddhic body (Geburah), the atmic body (Chesed) and the trikaya of the Buddha. They are here with us. All of us have all those subtleties here and now, but we haven’t strengthened our perception enough to know them, even though they are here.
The questions you are asking point towards that. That, at the top of the Tree, is where the root of perception lies. The heart of all existing things is that ray of light that comes out of the Absolute, which we call Christ, Krishna. It is that fire that gives everything the potential to be. It, itself, is the root of perception, but we are so far from comprehending that because we are so dense in these low levels. So we have to become much more subtle in how our perception works. Then, you can perceive it, but that requires a lot of development.
Audience: I can see my thoughts, and I review them at a very intense level. I do see it as another part of my brain, perhaps, someone that is watching, someone that is a […] there. I detect the thoughts. I’ve been able to undo certain habits by watching the thoughts occur and seeing the feelings. Yes, I feel like there is a separate self that is watching myself do these things. But is that watcher something that needs to be watched or is that myself?
Instructor: That’s something that depends on the process of your development. It is possible to become a watcher of thoughts but to do it strictly within the intellectual sphere.
Audience: I kind of feel like, yeah, I see what you’re saying there.
Instructor: The more effective way to learn to watch thoughts is from a distance, not being in them, but seeing them as something foreign; to watch them without analysis.
When we study the Tree of Life, this is how we look at it: the lower sephiroth are the physical body, energy in the body, emotion, and thought. Netzach relates to concrete thought. These are thoughts that have some psychological struggle: “I am really hoping I get to watch that game” - thought. That is a concrete type of thought, related with intellect.
More subtle is abstract thought, which is not concrete in that form. That abstract level of mind can see the concrete level. Abstract thought is related to Tiphereth.
But there is more than that. There is also buddhi, which is where the Consciousness really is first showing itself in this process of unfolding. In Sanskrit it is called buddhi, which roughly translates as mind but it really implies a type of cognizant perception that is thought-less. So, buddhi relates to thought as well, but is even more abstract, more subtle, and therefore deeper.
Audience: So I’ve probably gotten to the second part, where the abstract [part of the intellectual mind sees] the spontaneous thoughts occurring like waves […] I suppose that those emotions are actually random. Sometimes I see layers underneath that: I think this, I feel this, but there’s also a subconscious picture that comes up and I think, oh this is why it is happening. That would be that abstract [layer of the intellectual mind]. But there’s another place…
Instructor:…that’s even more abstract. We all have all of these.
Audience: There’s a third place that you’re talking about?
Instructor: Yes, it is even more abstract than the abstract thoughts. it is objective. it is not conditioned or filtered at all. From the Causal body, Tiphereth, downwards, everything is conditioned by our karma, by the psyche that we have. That is why whatever we perceive in those levels is flawed and cannot be trusted.
Meditation is the key. When you learn to extract attention from all of these conditioned levels, and to perceive from buddhi, which is the sephirah Geburah, you see without conditions, without filters; you see objectively.
Audience: […] one step away from Geburah; that’s where I want to go.
Instructor: That’s where we all want to go. Exactly. To do that is possible for anyone. But we need energy. The Consciousness needs a lot of energy. That’s why we save the sexual energy. That energy directly fuels the development of the Consciousness. That energy saturates the entire psyche when we save it. When we restrain that energy, when we transform that energy, it nourishes the body, it nourishes the vital body, it nourishes the emotional body, it nourishes the intellectual body, but most of all, it nourishes the Consciousness; it enflames the Consciousness. That’s the very power that we need to transform the mind.
The people who do not save that energy are constantly failing to achieve what they are trying to achieve. They know it can be done but they do not realize that they are their own worst enemy. The chief way is to energize the Consciousness. All of the things that I explained in the lecture about yama and niyama are really also the same thing.
For example: ahimsa, the first one. When you produce harm for yourself or others, you expend energy to do that and you produce a consequence, which is harmful. When you restrain yourself and you do not produce harm, but you produce something loving and compassionate for someone else, you use that energy in a higher way. That energy is transformed and it produces a good result. That nourishes the Consciousness rather than conditioning it. Do you see the difference? Ahimsa, harmful action, conditions the Consciousness with more karma. Himsa, loving action, liberates the Consciousness and gives it energy.
This is true of all those ten steps. One of those is brahmacharya. When you conserve the sexual energy and not use it through desire, that very powerful energy, instead of conditioning the Consciousness with lust, liberates the Consciousness from lust. All of that energy is then available for the Consciousness to use it for good.
The chief way is through self-knowledge. So where the mind and the heart and the body were depleted by the previous waste of energy, they now become energized and saturated with rejuvenating energy and they give you more energy to perceive deeper and deeper.
Audience: You talked about the four bodies of sin. When you have a defect that arises, such as an emotional defect, if you are not identified with the defect and if you are aware of it then that awareness is not filtered because that awareness is beyond the defect. Do you see what I am saying?
Instructor: One hopes that it is beyond the defect but there is no guarantee. Unless you can confirm and know for a fact that you are in a state of Samadhi, you have to assume that there are filters.
Audience: If you are aware of the emotional body, what could be the filter between the Consciousness and the emotional body?
Instructor: You can be very aware that you are angry and still act in anger.
Audience: But not if you are aware of it as in watching it…
Instructor: It is the same. I can be very aware that I am mad at you and I can punch you and be aware of it. You know what I am saying? [To a student:] She knows exactly what I am talking about. [Laughing]
Audience: But that s not real awareness, right?
Instructor: Yes it is. Of course, it is awareness. It is the awareness of Consciousness that is trapped in that anger. To be aware does not mean to be liberated. Awareness is just the activity of Consciousness. Our Consciousness is filtered, conditioned. It is aware, but through filters. That is to be awake negatively. We all do it.
Audience: So then how can you ever really observe yourself?
Instructor: You start where you are. Observe yourself and seek always to liberate the perception from all its filters. In our state, that is not easy. That is why Meditation is so important. But that can only come when you have worked through those other stages of Yoga . That is why Meditation is so important. You have to start liberating perception from all the things that are happening all day long before Meditation can become a reality. It means, quite frankly, that in the first years you are just in the battlefield, never knowing for sure if what you are seeing and experiencing is objective. You have to say, “No, it is not, because I am not awake. I am not in Samadhi. I am not in a state where I can confirm with one hundred percent certainty that I am seeing objectively.”
Audience: In that scripture, why does Padmasambhava mention ordinary awareness?
Instructor: He is talking about ordinary awareness that is unfiltered, which you can experience in this moment. If you have no conditioning factors afflicting you at this instant, that ordinary awareness is similar in this moment to Samadhi, in the sense that it is not filtered by any defect. It is filtered by the body. It is filtered by the senses. But if you are cognizant of those things, then you can see something more or less objectively. Maybe you cannot see it with penetrating insight, but you see it without a filter. In other words, what he is calling “ordinary awareness” is the original, unfiltered awareness that is natural and “ordinary” in any living thing. There is nothing special about it. It is simple perception. Sadly, we rarely experience that, because our Consciousness is so very conditioned.
The problem is that our personality and our senses have hypnotized us so deeply, especially in the type of lifestyle that we have now where we are constantly running from thing to thing, it is very difficult to have experience of even ordinary awareness.
Audience: Well, you almost feel like you’re not being responsible if you’re not doing something; it is like you’re being a bad person. So that’s how this…
Instructor: Exactly right. Let me ask you something. If I said, “Let’s all just go to a field and hang out there for eight hours and not do anything,.” To people today, that sounds like hell, right? Like, “Oh my God! Eight hours sitting in the grass doing nothing? Not even checking my phone???” Nobody here would agree to that. But in that experience of going there and not having any thing, you will experience ordinary awareness; just being. You do not have to go anywhere, do not have to do anything, no boss, no spouse, no kids, no TV, no internet, no cell phone, no nothing. You would be free of all those conditions, and could just be. In such a case, one can experience ordinary awareness that can be more or less objective. That is what I am pointing out.
Audience: So when you develop this type of awareness and you cultivate the type of energy that raises it to the level that is necessary for that liberation, will you also then find a divine purpose?
Audience: I’ve always felt that there’s a purpose that I’ve not found. That’s the driving force that’s bothering me.
Instructor: Yes. You will. Undoubtedly. We all have a purpose. We call that a spiritual inquietude. It is that urgency to discover spirituality. We know and we sense that there is something there. That comes from your Being, your Innermost, your Divine Mother. That divinity in you is pushing you that way in your heart. That’s why you have that urgency. The first purpose is to realize that and then act on it. Then, in the process of the work, gradually little by little you find more of that purpose. You learn how you can reflect the light of that divinity through your daily activities.
Audience: Then the physical unites with the inner purpose.
Instructor: Yes. The first way that we do that is by acting on those ten steps in our daily lives: being truthful, being compassionate, being loving, not lying, not stealing, all of those ten yama and nima. When we act on those, we immediately open ourselves to our being guiding us to our purpose.
Audience: So the last thing I want to say is that, you didn’t really mean when you said that… let’s say we have a job that we hate, right? And let’s say that we really do love everyone but we really do not like the job. We probably shouldn’t stay in the job and suffer forever because that’s probably not our purpose if we honestly do not like it, but we do come at it with a loving heart.
Instructor: Well, one of those aspects that I mentioned is tapas, which is part of niyama. Tapas means “penances.” In this tradition, we learn that when we really dedicate ourselves to our spiritual development we have to put all of our longings into the hands of our Innermost. We say, “I really do not like my circumstances and my life but, thy will be done.” That i’s why Jesus prays,
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” - Luke 22:42
So, in that sense, we say, “I do not like my job or I do not like my house or I do not like the city I live in but I am going to do what you guide me to do. I am going to take the circumstances you give me and do my best with them.”
The reason we approach it that way is that we know something about psychology and karma: our external circumstances are simply a reflection of our internal circumstances. When we change inside, everything outside changes. We are where we are physically because we belong there, because we have, by karma, by our own action, put ourselves in that position. If we adopt superior action, better ways of behaving, better ways of being, then everything else changes automatically. You see how we, in modern life, do it the opposite way?
Audience: I see a lot of people who seem fatalistic like they are doing penance forever. They think they are supposed to be here and […] but it is not about that. We can be dissatisfied but we know that changing the inside will change the outside. it is not that we should sit there and think that we’re in penance for the rest of our lives so we’re just going to sit there and…
Instructor: Right, it is unrealistic because nothing lasts forever. If we take our attention and turn it inside, good will definitely come of it. If we focus our attention on the outside, we can’t say that. We can’t say that good will always come of it.
Instructor: Not at all. It does not mean, “hands off, I am going to do anything.” It means, “hands on, I am going to do my best with what you’ve given me, but please give me something better.”
Audience: We could take action though, intuitively, if we felt like we had to take it.
Instructor: Absolutely. Like they say, pray to catch the bus, but run fast!