This is a transcription of the audio lecture Bhavachakra 01 The Wheel of Becoming - AUDIO originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free. There is also an accompanying PDF: Bhavachakra 01 The Wheel of Becoming - PDF
Today we are going to talk about one of the most important symbols in Asian history, a symbol most known in the Buddhist traditions, but that has some relevance in all Asian philosophy. In fact, it is even present in western traditions, but under different faces and names. Commonly, publicly, this symbol is called the Wheel of Samsara, the Wheel of Life, the Wheel of Suffering, the Wheel of Destiny, etc. It has many names, but the real name is भावचक्र Bhavachakra. It is important for anyone that is very serious about their spiritual progress to understand that real name and what it implies, because to say “the Wheel of Samsara,” or “the wheel of cyclic existence,” or “the wheel of suffering” is actually inaccurate. Those names fail to point out the primary message of this important symbol.
Many people say that Buddha Shakyamuni invented this symbol as part of the teachings he gave around 2,500 years ago. Yet, he stated,
"I have seen an ancient Path, an ancient road traversed by the rightly enlightened ones of former times." - Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya ii.106
Therefore, the Buddha Shakyamuni did not invent anything. He only pointed out what had been lost and forgotten. Thus, the teaching of the Bhavachakra is much more ancient even then “Buddhism,” and it has great significance for us.
In this tradition, which we call the Gnostic tradition, we study the roots of all ancient religions, and we can see all religions in this symbol, that all religions correspond to it, that it is an universal symbol. It expresses universal truths, not religious doctrines, but truths, reality. In fact, the name Bhavachakra has a very important bearing on the concept or understanding of what is reality.
The first part of the word is भाव Bhava, which means “attitude, state, nature,” not nature outside with trees, plants, and animals, but the nature of a thing, its innate, intrinsic, inherent nature. The word Bhava comes from भू bhū, "to become." So, bhava implies an attitude or state of being that is “becoming” or in constant change.
The second part of Bhavachakra is चक्र chakra, which means “wheel.”
Therefore, Bhavachakra means “Wheel of Becoming.”
This symbol can be found inside the antechamber or the foyer of every Tibetan Buddhist temple in the world, and in many other temples, especially Mahayana temples such as in China, Japan, Korea, and countries like this; we can find variations of this teaching everywhere. It is commonly painted on a wall very big—as big as they have room for—with the purpose of reminding the public of the fundamentals of the psychological and philosophical doctrine that the Buddha taught. In other words, this symbol is not there to make people believe something; it is not there to scare people. It is there to remind people of its practical meaning, as a way for the lay people who are not yet in the higher aspects of the teaching to remember what they are learning and how it affects their personal lives. It is not their to make them believe and follow, or to make them loyal or to follow the commands given by their instructors. Instead, it is to remind them of the fundamental principles that affect their daily lives.
Most representations of Bhavachakra show a wrathful being, a ferocious and scary creature that holds in his grasp a great wheel. The word chakra is Sanskrit for “wheel,” something that rotates, repeats, a cycle, a flow, a movement of forces.
He has a terrifying appearance, but he is a god, not a demon. Different religions explain this creature in different ways. Commonly, it is named यम Yama, who is said to be the god of death, that aspect of divinity that manages the process of completion of cycles. When our body dies, there are divinities that are responsible for managing those processes for us. They are not devils or demons. They are divinities.
Yama appears wrathful, intense, because of the great intensity in which he has to focus and work; in his arms are every existing type of being. Imagine the responsibility of holding in your hands everything that lives. How much ferocious intensity must you have in your concentration, in your presence, in your compassion for all of the beings that rely on you? That is what he represents.
His open eyes see everything; moreover, he has a third eye which represents his spiritual insight, his vision of the true nature of existence. He comprehends the nature of reality. His five skulls on his head represent that all things are impermanent. The Buddhist philosophy presents that we are a combination of five aggregates (skandhas), five aspects of matter and energy that allow us to be. Those five aggregates are empty of inherent existence. That is why they are presented here as skulls. They are subject to death, which is his domain.
Beside his head is a cloud filled with Bodhisattvas. These images have variety, but you always see Bodhisattvas in the clouds and heavens, and you see a moon. In Buddhism, the moon represents the potential for liberation. The moon is a positive symbol. It is a celestial body that reflects the light of the sun and provides light in the darkness. That symbol represents the power of Christ (to use a Greek term), the power of Chenresig, Avalokitesvara, Quan Yin. The moon represents the power of a celestial divinity who is bringing light to the darkness to illuminate the path for those who wish to escape suffering. The Bodhisattvas are those who point the way.
The circle or wheel, which is the main point of the image, has many parts. I will briefly explain the commonly known meanings of these aspects, but that is not the purpose of today’s lecture. First, I am going to explain the common level, the public level for those who are not familiar with it. I am doing it to prepare you to go deeper, because the real importance of the symbol is only found when you go beyond the superficial meanings.
The outermost ring of this wheel has twelve parts, and these are called निदान nidanas (literally, "causes"). There are twelve nidanas. These represent the causality of action. Every action puts in motion a chain of events. That ring of twelve nidanas represents the chain of causality, and explain why we are are trapped in suffering. In the Buddhist teachings, this is called pratityasamutpada, which is difficult to translate into English; we do not have words that convey its precise meaning, but the most commonly used word nowadays is interdependence, or dependent origination, which basically states,
“This is, because that is.
This is not, because that is not.
This ceases to be, because that ceases to be.”
It is basically stating that everything is interdependent; nothing exists separately. Everything depends on everything else, and as such this is the cause of both suffering and liberation. The twelve nidanas explain interconnectedness of actions and their consequences. We have explained the twelve nidanas in a book called Karma is Negotiable. If you want to learn more about that you can read that book.
Pratityasamutpada is a very deep and profound teaching. So deep that the Buddha said,
“Who so understands the Pratityasamutpada understands the Dharma, and who so understands the Dharma understands the Pratityasamutpada.”
Most people do not understand the twelve Nidanas, which means we do not know anything about Dharma, a Sanskrit word:
Dharma: "Law or Justice personified, righteousness, duty, merit, statue, practice, religion, observance, relating to justice or virtue, law, thing, ceremony, good works, character, propriety of conduct, morality or ethics, virtue."
In synthesis, Dharma refers to the teachings that lead one out of suffering.
You need to study Pratityasamutpada if you do not know about the twelve nidanas already. Today’s lecture is not about that. We are going to talk about inside of those twelve links that form the outer ring of the wheel.
The Regions of Samsara
Inside the outer ring are six sections.
Exoterically, publicly, these six sections are called the realms or regions of Samsara. They are said to be worlds, literal regions or realms where various classes of beings live. The top three we can call heavens or superior types of worlds, and the bottom three we can call inferior types of worlds, hells. Strictly speaking, the bottommost region is called hell. When we look into the psychological content, you can probably agree that all of them are hell.
Inside the six regions of Samsara is depicted another ring, which has sections also. One half of that ring is light, and the other half is dark. That ring represents Karma: action and consequence. It is simply presents what the bible says:
“...whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” - Galatians 6:7
Actions that produce benefit create benefit for everyone. Actions that produce harm produce harm for everyone.
Then we arrive at the centermost part, the axle, that which causes the entire wheel to rotate. In that center part, we see three animals. Those three animals are said to be a rooster, a pig (or dog), and a snake. In the public level teachings they are said to be ignorance, hate, and passion / desire.
As mentioned, most people study all of this as something primarily external, related to other beings and dimensions. But the real meaning is psychological. All of this represents the state of our mind, our own Bhava.
We study all of that in a different way as the Tree of Life. In Kabbalah we study it as a series of spheres that are arranged in a pattern of triangles. The circles are called Sephiroth. They represent worlds and aspects of our psyche as well.
In this particular representation of the Tree of Life are three vast expansive spaces we can call the Absolute. In Hebrew, it is called the Ain, the Ain Soph, and the Ain Soph Aur. In Sanskrit, it is called Shunyata (शून्यता, "nothingness"), Brahma, etc. That is the root Bhava or state of being of all things. It is the absolute essence of all things. The inherent nature of everything that exists is “emptiness.” It is a type of void, but it is not nothing. It is a void of characteristics, void of definition, void of identity; it is void of measurement of heat, cold, temperature. It is void of concept, yet it is a type of beingness beyond what we can conceptualize.
“The Abstract Absolute Space is the causa causorum of everything that is, has been, and shall be.
“The profound and joyful space is certainly the incomprehensible “Seity,” which is the ineffable, mystical root of the seven cosmos. It is the mysterious origin of all that we know as Spirit, matter, universes, suns, worlds, etc.
“That,” which is divine, the space of happiness, is the tremendous reality beyond the universe and Gods.
“That” has no dimension, yet, indeed, it is what is, what always has been, and what always will be. It is the life that intensely palpitates within each atom and within each sun.
“Let us now refer to the great ocean of the Spirit: how can we define it? Certainly, He is Brahma, who is the first differentiation or modification of “That.” The Gods and humans tremble when before “That.”
“Is “That” Spirit? Indeed, I tell you that it is not. Is “That” matter? Truly, I tell you that it is not.
“That” is the root of the Spirit and of matter, yet it is neither Spirit nor matter.
“That” transcends the laws of numbers, measurement, and weight, it transcends quantity, any side, front, behind, above, below, etc.
“That” has reality beyond thought, word, and action.
“That” is not of time and it is beyond silence and sound, even beyond the ears to perceive it.
“That” is the immutable within a profound, divine abstraction. It is light that has never been created by any God, nor by any human. “That” is what has no name.
“Brahma is Spirit; yet “That” is not Spirit. The Absolute, the Unmanifested One, is uncreated light.” - Samael Aun Weor, Cosmic Teachings of a Lama
The understanding of Shunyata or the Absolute cannot be reached by the intellect. That is impossible. In order to comprehend the nature of the Absolute or existence itself it is only possible to do that with an awakened consciousness, to perceive it for oneself. And to reach that type of perception, you have to become liberated from anything that binds you to deluded perception: your sense of self, your sense that your body is you, your name, your thoughts, your desires, your longings, your fears: everything has to be abandoned. You retreat back into the core, innermost part that makes you a creature: your beingness, which is a form of pure perception that is absolutely unconditioned and free from any form of any kind of limitation, and from that perspective, you then can see the Absolute.
Why is this important?
“The Absolute Abstract Space, the Universal Spirit of Life, is absolute happiness, supreme peace, and abundance.” - Samael Aun Weor
“The Absolute is life free in its motion; it is the Supreme Reality, the Abstract Space that only expresses itself as Absolute Abstract Motion, happiness without limits, complete omniscience. The Absolute is Uncreated Light and perfect plenitude, absolute happiness, life free in its motion, life without conditions, without limits...
“Gods and humans are submitted to the suffering of conditioned life. Notwithstanding, in the Absolute we go beyond karma and the gods, beyond the law. The mind and the individual consciousness are only good for mortifying our lives. In the Absolute we do not have an individual mind or individual consciousness; there, we are the unconditioned, free and absolutely happy Being. The Absolute is life free in its movement, without conditions, limitless, without the mortifying fear of the law, life beyond spirit and matter, beyond karma and suffering, beyond thought, word and action, beyond silence and sound, beyond forms. The Absolute is abstract, absolute space, abstract absolute movement, absolute freedom, without conditions, without restrictions, absolute omniscience and absolute happiness.” - Samael Aun Weor, The Major Mysteries
Let me tell you something. The knowledge of reality—the Absolute—and the experience of it, is terrifying to the ego, to the personality, to our sense of self. That is partly why Yama, the creature that holds the wheel, has a ferocious aspect; he knows what reality is, and his knowledge is represented by the five skulls, a demonstration of the impermanence of compounded things.
The Tree of Life shows us levels of existence. At the topmost portion of this graphic we see the Absolute, the emptiness from which existence emerges. On the Tree of Life, manifested existence is shown as a series of Sephiroth, arranged in triangles. There is an upper triangle, a middle triangle, and a lower triangle, and a single sphere by itself, and then below, a reflection of the whole structure. That single sphere by itself is the physical world. The lower part that hangs below it are the hells, the inferior worlds.
Among all those levels abide all sentient beings, each living in the realm that corresponds to their level of being: their psychological, spiritual level. The gods lives in the heavens because they are pure enough to exist there. The demons are in hell because the weight of their psyche keeps them there. We are here in this world, caught in the middle, because of our psychological state: our level of Being, our bhava.
The Bhavachakra represents this with six symbolic "worlds."
- Gods (Sanskrit: Devas)
- Demi-gods (Sanskrit: Asura)
- Humans (Sanskrit: Manuṣya)
- Animals (Sanskrit: Tiryagyoni)
- Hungry ghosts (Sanskrit: Preta)
- Hells (Sanskrit: Naraka)
Sometimes, the realms of the gods and demigods are considered one realm.
So, whese two images, these two symbols—the Bhavachakra and the Tree of Life—represent the many levels of Being, the symbolism of this can be interpreted in many ways. They are very deep and very profound. They are not merely physical, literal.
The Outer Meaning
The first level of meaning is the public level; what we hear about Heavens and Hells, what is outside of us and where we fit into the universe. This is the most superficial and basic teaching given in religion. Every religion says there is heaven and there is hell, and we are in the middle, and what we do determines where we go when we die. This is a pretty consistent philosophical structure amongst religions. These symbols represent that. At this level of meaning, the heavens and hells are other dimensions where beings exist. We cannot see them with the physical senses, yet if we learn to use other senses we can become aware of them. Thus, the Bhavachakra can represent the world systems and dimensions throughout which exist many types of beings.
On an even more basic level, the structure and symbolism of the six realms can apply to how society functions here in the physical world. That is, the different classes of beings in the other dimensions have a sort of “reflection” here. We can see these six realms mirrored in society. There are people on this planet that have a life that is pretty much what we would call “heaven.” They have everything they want, and everything we want and do not have. We can relate them to the realm of the “gods.” Yes, they are “gods” in this materialistic society. Those are people who have everything humanity desires: money, power, fame, leisure, health, beauty, respect, admiration. People do not have those things, and people want them. So, from this point of view, people view the wealthy and the celebrities as “gods.” We are not saying that these people are spiritual gods, or that their inner Beings are gods—no. We are saying that from the point of view of society, humanity views the wealthy and the celebrities as gods, and worship them as such. In fact, on one occasion, a “highly educated” woman told me in all seriousness that most celebrities are “great bodhisattvas, angels” who are here to help humanity. Obviously, that woman has no idea what an angel or a bodhisattva actually is, nor does she have any knowledge of the level of being of anyone on the planet, even herself. Similarly, there are also people on this planet that we can call “demons.” These are people who have no conscience. People who suffer incredible pain and their only interests are violence, thievery, lying, stealing, taking advantage of others, making others suffer, etc. This planet is generating more and more such people every day. They are spreading like a disease, and overflowing from the prisons, and filling up the government offices and corporate offices and media production centers.
In the Gnostic tradition, our interest is not in the outer meaning. Knowing about beings in other dimensions does not contribute directly towards our own situation. We are in need of a profound change, thus we need to study this symbol in a deeper way.
The Inner Meaning
On the Tree of Life, that middle Sephiroth by itself (Malkuth) is the physical world, and below that are the hells, and above it are the heavens. How we behave, how we act, and the content of mind, heart, and soul determine where we go after death. That philosophical structure exists also in the Bhavachakra. The six realms represent the potential places where we can go when we die. That is determined by the central part core of the wheel, by action: how we act, how we behave. The consequences of what we do from moment to moment guide us in our progression from life to life.
So, our external place is created by our internal bhava. Therefore, this wheel must also apply to our internal, psychological state of being. That is the second level of meaning, the deeper level of meaning. The Bhavachakra represents what exists inside of us, psychologically. These six worlds are a reflection of our own psychology.
The innermost meaning is that all of these worlds all of these beings that exist in these worlds are inside of us too. We have many parts in our psyche. We are not one person. We contradict ourselves. We have many surging desires, thoughts, interests, wills, longings, and pains. Each of those is a psychollogical entity, symbolized in many ways throughout religion and mythology, yet which we can verify for ourselves through simple self-observation.
In the Tree of Life, the sphere between heaven and hell is called Malkuth in Hebrew, which means “the kingdom.” That Kingdom, Malkuth, represents the world outside of us, and it also represents our physical body. Our body is a kingdom, too. Our mind is a kingdom. In the world around us, we see that there are many types of people living in this kingdom, many types of beings, animals, plants, minerals, many types of people. There are subtle beings that we do not see with our eyes. There are many types of beings in the kingdom in the world around us, both in other dimensions and also in the immediate sense. Also in our personal Malkuth, there are many classes of beings. In popular culture in the west, we sometimes see that depiction of the Angel on one shoulder, and the devil on the other shoulder. And the Angel is saying, “Do the right thing, do the good thing,” and the devil is saying “No, you deserve to fulfill your desires, do it. Do it, who cares what other people say, no one will know. You can get away with it.” Well, there is not just one angel and one devil in us, there are millions inside of each of us, and they are constantly fighting to control “the kingdom.” There is a constant battle going on inside of heads, our hearts, and our souls to control our kingdom. Why? Because there is no king or queen in charge! We are not consistent. One day we are very serious about our spirituality, then a different desire emerges, whatever that desire is that seduces us. “Tomorrow we will renounce that desire, tomorrow we will stop doing that one thing we should not be doing.” We may have many of those. We are a great contradiction.
This is the level of meaning that we need to study: how the Bhavachakra teaches us about our mind.
The word भाव Bhava comes from the Sanskrit word भ bhu, which means “to become, to be.” It can be interpreted in many different ways depending on how it is utilized. In Hinduism, for example, many of the scriptures describe bhava, for example, and really what they are addressing is attitude. This is especially important in relation to Bhakti Yoga, which is one of the main teachings given in the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is a great teaching from Krishna about attitude, about the Bhava of the disciple of the Lord. The attitude that Krishna teaches to Arjuna is,
“Whoso performeth- diligent, content-
The work allotted him, whate'er it be,
Lays hold of perfectness! Hear how a man
Findeth perfection, being so content:
He findeth it through worship- wrought by work-
Of HIM that is the Source of all which lives,
Of HIM by Whom the universe was stretched.
"Better thine own work is, though done with fault,
Than doing others' work, ev'n excellently.
He shall not fall in sin who fronts the task
Set him by Nature's hand! Let no man leave
His natural duty, Prince! though it bear blame!
For every work hath blame, as every flame
Is wrapped in smoke! Only that man attains
Perfect surcease of work whose work was wrought
With mind unfettered, soul wholly subdued,
Desires for ever dead, results renounced.” - Bhagavad Gita ch.18
Everything you do, perform it without self interest, without chasing your desires, without satisfying your own interests, without beefing up your pride. Do everything as a service for humanity and as a service to divinity. Take yourself out of the equation. That is the Bhava or attitude of someone who is very sincere about their religious pursuit. It is not an external attitude or a face that you wear to show others. It is an internal attitude. It is a way of doing every action whether it is physical, emotional, or mental. It is an attitude of humility and devotion to God.
Bhava can also mean a state of being. It could mean a type of becoming that is emerging or growing or emerging anew. It can mean a state of mind.
This word is really important because even though it may seem simple to you in this context, once you get into the philosophy of meditation, this word becomes very challenging. Then you start to deal with, “Who is this in me who has this Bhava?”
When you understand the Bhava of existence, the true innate becoming of all things, then your relationship to that becomes very questionable. If everything is emerging from the Absolute, which is nothingness and is the root of all things, then, “Who am I? What of me is real? Especially if during my day to day life I am constantly tripping over my own feet and hurting myself all of the time and hurting people around me all of the time, who is that? Who is acting? Who is thinking? Who is feeling?”
Bhava is critical: the attitude, the state of being. Why? Because every action we perform has a consequence. This creates a flow of energy in nature. Our actions, feelings, and thoughts are deluded, mistaken. We create a continuity of existence that is flawed, and so we suffer.
“...birth is suffering, old age is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering. Union with unpleasant things is suffering, separation from pleasant things is suffering, not obtaining what we wish is suffering, in short the fivefold clinging to existence is suffering...” - Buddha
Is anyone not suffering? Has anyone ever met anyone that is not suffering? Look at that question seriously, because your mind tells you that nobody suffers like you do. Right? Isn’t it true that the mind is saying, “Look what they have. I want that.” You are longing for something you do not have, and are resenting the ones who have it. Suffering is not just physical pain or emotional anguish that causes you to break out in tears. Suffering is our state of being, right now, because we are disconnected from the truth, the true nature of reality, our very own Being who is united with the Absolute.
The Absolute is unconditioned. It is not bound by karma. Meaning, it is a pure state of being; that is the absolute state of happiness: Paranishpanna, a state of ecstasy, the likes of which we cannot even imagine, because it is not based on any kind of sensation. It is not based on physical sensation, emotional sensation, or mental sensation. It is a state of existence that is pure, unconditioned, and unlimited. It is the purity of the point of view or Bhava of God, Divinity. In that state of being (bhava), there is no pain, no karma, no limitation. Yet, there is absolute knowledge.
We do not have that, nothing even close to that. We might have physical security in the world right now, yet we remain in a state of suffering because we inevitably will lose our possessions and social status; we do not know when, or what will happen after that. We do not even know what will happen later today. We are in a state of ignorance regarding what will happen to us. Regarding everything, we know nothing. We have concepts of God, but we have never seen God. We have concepts of Buddha, but we have never seen Buddha. We have beliefs and ideas of religion, about mysticism, about other dimensions and other worlds, but we have no experience of them. We have no real knowledge (Jna, Gnosis, Da’ath), but a great deal of ignorance. Because of that, we are caught in cyclic existence: Samsara.
Samsara is a word in Sanskrit. Samsara literally means “to flow.” What flows? Energy that is propelled by action.
Our consciousness right now is being propelled by what we just did. The state of being you are experiencing right now is a direct consequence of your previous state of being. The way you will feel in the next moment is determined by how you feel now. That is: because we are asleep, unaware, our experience of life is determined by that, in the same way that the experience of the leaf on the wind is determined by being detached from the tree. We do not consciously direct our “flow.” We are carried by forces we do not even know exist.
“By oneself is evil done;
by oneself is one defiled.
By oneself is evil left undone;
by oneself is one made pure.
Purity and impurity depended on oneself;
no one can purify another.” - Dhammapada
Who are you blaming on how you feel when in reality you have created your life, your experience? We created our own everything, through our attitude. Parents often criticize and correct their children, saying, “You have a bad attitude! If you are going to get through school, through life, you need to have a better attitude.“ This is true. Spiritually, it is even more important. Our Bhava, state of being, attitude, determines everything.
If you really want to understand why you suffer, it is not hard to find out. It is very easy. All you have to do is open your eyes and look at yourself. What is your attitude, your Bhava, from moment to moment? Is it angry? Critical, stressed, anxious, fearful, arrogant, proud, passionate, indifferent, lethargic, lazy, all of the above depending on what time of day? Depending on whether you had a coffee or not? The truth is that we go through all those states and constantly go through all of those states with no willpower over those states. Things happen, we react. Things happen, again we react. Things keep happening, we react. We keep reacting; we do not exercise dominion over our kingdom psychologically. We do not take charge of our perspective or our attitude. Because of that, we are now trapped in a flow of energy that we have cultivated for centuries. Not just for a few days or a few hours, but for centuries... We are born, we grow, we repeat, we die... It is not an easy thing to change, but it can be done.
“Blind is the world;
here only a few possess insight.
Only a few,
like birds escaping from the net,
go to realms of bliss.” - Dhammapada 13
Cessation of the Cycle
Cessation is the meaning of the word Nirvana. I have explained to you that the Bhavachakra depicts the six realms of Samsara, and one of those realms is called the realm of the Gods. Many people say that is nirvana. Well, loosely speaking we can say that we can say the heavens are Nirvanas, yet that is not the actual meaning of the word. Nirvana means “cessation.” Of what? The cycle. Cessation of the flow that produces Samsara.
Nirvana is also a state of being. You see, both of these are Bhava. Samsara is the Bhava that is conditioned by desire. Not just desire for chocolate or hamburgers, the desire to go to Thailand, or whatever your desires may be. We also have desires for security, appreciation, or for love. Sometimes they are egotistical sometimes they are not. Those types of desires create the flow of satisfaction or pain, and more complicated problems like illness that are rooted in our psychology as well. To change our attitude means to change how we receive perceptions. Instead of responding to them mechanically, reacting with our egos or our desires, with our fears, we instead react consciously with wisdom, to see the truth in the given moment, the reality, then we maintain a cognizant point of view or a conscious attitude: we cause the cessation of the suffering. Suffering is not produced.
For example, if a person is saying. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.” How are you going to respond? If you are being how you normally are (that is, asleep, in a state of self-forgetting), you will get mad, you try to defend yourself verbally or physically. But if you are really paying attention, and are aware of yourself and are cognizant of the person, you will realize they are saying that because they are in pain. They are hurting, and you will have compassion for them, and their words will no hurt you, and you will be able to deal with them with love, patience. You will be able to deal with the cause of their suffering and help them. That is cessation. That is directly accurately using the word “nirvana.” It is the cessation of suffering for yourself and the other person.
Now, of course, we need that cessation in everything in our lives. We need to eliminate the causes of all of our suffering, so that the wheel stops.
I am explaining it in this way because all of us have had the typical training in religion where we are told there is a heaven and there is a hell and what you do is going to determine what you do when you die. The fact is that heaven and hell are right now. They are not in the future. Samsara and Nirvana are your Bhava, your state of being. Your state of consciousness determines if you are in Samsara or Nirvana. So, what state of being are you in?
“Those who are suffering or who fear suffering, think of Nirvana as an escape and a recompense. They imagine that Nirvana consists in the future annihilation of the senses and the sense-minds; they are not aware that Universal Mind and Nirvana are One, and that this life-and-death world and Nirvana are not to be separated. These ignorant ones, instead of meditating on the imagelessness of Nirvana, talk of different ways of emancipation. Being ignorant of, or not understanding, the teachings of the Tathagatas, they cling to the notion of Nirvana that is outside what is seen of the mind and, thus, go on rolling themselves along with the wheel of life and death.” - Buddha Shakyamuni, Lankavatara Sutra
It is your attitude, your conscious presence, that determines with willpower how you receive everything you see inside and outside. If you have the attitude of an awakened conscious that is receiving impressions and transforming them in order to benefit yourself and others, then you will experience for yourself directly in the moment the reality of Nirvana. Not in the future, but right now. That is what we call “heaven.” It is a cessation in the consciousness. It is a perspective, a point of view. What I am explaining was stated in a beautiful way by this teacher Padmasambhava (notice the end of his name? -bhava). He said this:
“Samsara and Nirvana have no difference than that between the moment of being unaware and aware, since we are not deluded by perception but by fixation.” - Padmasambhava, Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness
Samsara and Nirvana are experiences, differentiated by our attitude (bhava). The attitude of our desires of our ego, our anger, lust, pride and fear is one that is fixated on that psychological quality. When lust is in charge of our kingdom, it only wants to fulfill its desire at any cost. Thus, we are in Samsara. If we become aware of that, and our perception is freed from that fixation on that lust, then we can comprehend that each desire can only produce suffering, and it is up to me to liberate myself of that desire. Then, Nirvana, cessation, emerges. This awareness does not solve everything all at once, but it is the beginning.
“Liberation naturally occurs when we recognize that fixated thoughts are only mind grasping at its own empty manifestations.” - Padmasambhava, Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness
What we think, what we fantasize, what we project on the screen of our mind about ourselves and other people, is all empty, unreal. We do not realize it. Even when we have studied these philosophies, we continue with the projection, imagining that we know what we truly do not know. We think that what we project in our mind is real. That is why we are asleep. We are daydreamers, sleepwalkers. We are fantasizing. We are not seeing reality. When we awaken consciousness, we can then see that the projections of the mind, the stories we tell ourselves, the images we see over and over, are just illusions. They do not exist. In that clear awareness of the projections, we liberate consciousness. In that moment, in that instant, we liberate ourselves from cyclic state of perception. We can call that “liberation.”
The consciousness sees the reality. It says, “What am I doing? I am replaying that scene from work over and over and over again and all I am doing is generating more resentment; all I am doing is generating more blame on others, more justification for myself. It is just my mind...”
Unfortunately, we are asleep. We lack awareness of our self-generated illusion. We do not realize we are standing out on the street without our pants, because we got so distracted that we didn’t get dressed. Or we parked the car 20 blocks from where we were supposed to. Or we got on the wrong bus. We do things like this all of the time, and we think it is funny, and we think nonchalantly, “I wasn’t paying attention.” We do not realize how serious that is. It is extremely serious. The lack of being here and now is precisely why we are in so much trouble on this planet. Everyone around us is also distracted. Everybody. We cannot fix them; we cannot even fix ourselves, because we do not try.
We need this experience: to experience for ourselves the difference between Samsara and Nirvana. Now, in the moment, by learning to see the projections of the mind for what they are. That is the importance of the Bhavachakra. This teaching. This is the inner meaning. It does not matter if you believe heaven is forever, hell is forever, or if there are demons and angels, or no angels, or if there is god or no god. Belief is irrelevant. What matters is your attitude from moment to moment, and how you deal with reality. Your perspective, attitude, Bhava, matters. We in this tradition do not care if you believe in God or if you do not believe in God. We want to encourage you to believe in yourself, and believe in your experience, and learn to change for the better.
“The man who is without blind faith,
who knows the Uncreated (Absolute),
who has severed all links,
destroyed all causes (nidanas),
and thrown out all desires —
he, truly, is the most excellent of men.” - Dhammapada
This symbol of the Bhavachakra is also present in other traditions. An interesting place is in the Tenth Arcanum of the Tarot. Many people know about the Tarot; few realize that the Tarot encodes the same laws that you find in every tradition in the world, especially tantra.
The Tenth Arcanum is called the wheel of destiny, retribution... It has many names. This particular image shows an Egyptian representation of the cycle of transmigration. The term transmigration refers to how beings, driven by the flow of their actions and the consequences of those actions, migrate from world to world. You can experience this in your own life and in people you know and in things you observe. Someone that is performing harmful action will inevitably receive the consequences of those actions and their life will get harder. It depends on their karma, and the conditions that are present in their life.
This wheel is in motion on every level, and every aspect of existing things. Beneficial action produces a rise, to go up the wheel, and harmful actions cause us to descend down the wheel. In this Tarot image, we see a being who is monitoring the rising side and another being who is monitoring the descending side. This is the great cycle of nature that we can call evolution and devolution. This is quite simply what we observe in nature everywhere. Everything that is born grows, develops, then hits its peak, sustains briefly, then decays and dies. All of nature repeats this constantly. Our actions are no different. Everything that we do, everything that we experience, is subject to this cycle. The difference is, the part that is hard for people to grasp, is that the wheel does not stay in one place. The wheel is a spiral. For example, you are born, you live for a while, then you die. You do not stay in one place. You are constantly moving. From lifetime to lifetime, our circumstances can change dramatically. If all the actions we performed in a previous life are rotating in a particular level of nature, the sum of that can bring that wheel up to another level of nature, or down to another level of nature. If you imagine that wheel rotating as a spiral, and rising up, the actions cause us to rise higher, higher and higher. If we start to perform harmful action, we start to descend. Then, we think, “I am not doing one action, I am doing all kinds of things all of the time. Physically, I am doing different things, emotionally and mentally...” Then, you have to do a sum of all of that mathematical material—good actions and bad actions—and the sum of it is what drives actions upwards or downwards. It starts to get complicated. Then you have to add that together with all the people you interacted with. All the groups that you interacted with, the families, the places you lived, the experiences you have been caught up in... Then, you can see this wheel becomes very complex.
These two images show us life. I know they look simple. Use your imagination and try to realize that what is depicted upon these wheels is every existing being... How all of them have transmigrated from body to body for countless eons... Some rising, some falling...
“Thus deluded by ignorance, bewildered by many a fancy, covered by the meshes of delusion, addicted to the gratification of lust, they fall down into a foul hell.
“Self-conceited, haughty, filled with the pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifices in name, out of ostentation, disregarding ordinance;
“Possessed of egoism, power, insolence, lust and wrath, these malignant people hate Me (the Self within) in their own bodies and those of others.
“These malicious and cruel evildoers, most degraded of men, I hurl perpetually into the wombs of Asuras [demons] only, in these worlds.
“Obtaining the Asurika wombs, and deluded birth after birth, not attaining to Me, they thus fall, O son of Kunti, into a still lower condition.
“Triple is this gate of hell, destructive of the self,—lust, anger and greed; therefore one should forsake these three.
“The man who has got beyond these three gates of darkness, O son of Kunti, practises what is good for himself, and thus goes to the Goal Supreme.
“He who, setting aside the ordinance of the Shâstra, acts under the impulse of desire, attains not to perfection, nor happiness, nor the Goal Supreme.
“So let the Shâstra be thy authority in ascertaining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Having known what is said in the ordinance of the Shâstra, thou shouldst act here.” - Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita
You see, if we do the right things, we can rise to become Buddhas, masters. If we do harmful things, we can become demons, devils. That is true of every being that exists.
What is interesting to note here is that all of this depends on this little axis in the middle of the wheel. Everything that exists comes down to three things.
The Three Forces
We often talk about a trinity in nature. Most religions represent a trinity to us.
- Christianity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
- Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.
- Buddhism: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya.
In all religions, we find many trinities. In the Gnostic tradition, we talk about the Logos, which has three aspects. In Hebrew, it is Kether, Chokmah, and Binah.
There are three triangles in the Tree of Life. The upper triangle represents the three forces that create. On all levels, from the superior dimensions near the Absolute all the way down to the hells, all actions are produced by a union of three forces. Anything that happens, happens because three forces united and produced energy and a consequence.
You can put a man and a woman together and nothing will be created unless you have the third factor: sex. You can put fuel and ignition together, but nothing will happen unless the conditions are right. Match, wood, paper. You need three forces:
- positive, projective force
- receptive, negative force
- conciliating, equilibriating force
Whether you want to create something or destroy something, it always requires three forces, three factors.
These three forces are used by the gods to create. These three forces are used by the demons to destroy. Every action, in every level, utilizes the three forces.
In the center of the Bhavachakra, you see these three animals. Publicly, traditionally, these are explained as:
- a bird that represents craving
- a snake that represents aversion
- a pig or a dog that represents ignorance
So, these are the three forces as modified by our deluded perception.
These three forces in combination create suffering.
In concept it is quite simple, yet let me remind you that the previous image showed us every existing thing: every being, world, planet, animal, universe, angel, god, plant, animal, microbe, atom... spins on this wheel because of that axle. Thus, this wheel is not simple. Even the gods are bound by it.
When we go deeper we can see that these three forces are constantly influencing everything we do, and we have no perception of it, and that is why we suffer.
Not only do we lack perception, but also, how can you control something that you cannot even see? You cannot. How can you perform surgery if you cannot see what you are doing? How can you save the life of a dying person if you cannot see the illness or the cause of the suffering? You cannot, and if you try, you will probably kill them, or make their suffering worse. This is our cancer, our disease: these three symbolic animals. To be cured, we need to open our eyes.
At the base of our psyche, the pig represents a fundamental ignorance, a lack of knowledge of our true nature. They chose a pig to represent this because a pig is stupid. I know nowadays people think pigs are smart and they can do tricks, etc., but pigs sleep in the dirtiest places and will eat anything you give them. If you give them a rubber tire, they will eat it. They will eat trash, garbage, polluted things. If you fall down in their pen, they will eat you (yes, this has happened). They do not care. That is the reason why pigs represent ignorance. We have that as a basis of our deluded psyche; we pull so much garbage into our minds without any discrimination at all. We are pigs, psychologically.
That ignorance is a lack of knowledge of our own inner divinity. It is a lack of knowing that we inside have a Buddha nature, a Bhava, an inner nature that can become a Buddha, a God, a Deity. We have that, but we are burying it in trash, and in vomit, and in all the filthiness of this world that we happily ingest, adding it to the filthiness in our mind, without any discrimination. Primarily, this form of ignorance is a lack of knowing our true nature. We are asleep, and we have no knowledge.
The serpent represents the characteristic of aversion. It is also called hatred. If you look at hatred, it is something that pushes away, a form of aversion. Really, it is not an aversion against others. It is an aversion against things that our ignorance does not want. For example, some people when they hear these lectures, have a lot of aversion to the things we are saying. They do not want to hear it. We do not want to hear the truth. We want to think everything is going to be okay, and God is going to come down out of a cloud and say, “Bless you my child, everything you have done will be forgiven, come to heaven with me, and we are going to have a great time.” Life does not work like that. It never has, and never will. We do not want to hear that, because we have a lot of aversion for the truth. We have a lot of aversion to cleaning up our mess. We want someone else to do it. We want some divinity to take it away. We do not want to clean up our vomit and our filthiness. We just want to ignore it. You see, ignorance and aversion work hand in hand.
The third one is the bird that represents craving, thirst, attachment. That attachment is to all the projections that we have about ourselves. “I am like this, and I am like that,” and “I was wronged and I am justified in being the way that I am.” All of that is lies. All of that is craving towards a false identity. It is our the psychological song that we sing to ourselves all of the time about how much suffering we have, how much pain, “No one understands me.” At its base, this is what craving is.
“The Blessed One said: ‘And which craving is the ensnarer that has flowed along, spread out, and caught hold, with which this world is smothered and enveloped like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, and bad destinations? These eighteen things evaluated by craving dependent on what is internal and eighteen things evaluated by craving dependent on what is external.
“And which are the eighteen things evaluated by craving dependent on what is internal? There being 'I am,' there comes to be 'I am here,' there comes to be 'I am like this' ... 'I am otherwise' ... 'I am bad' ... 'I am good' ... 'I might be' ... 'I might be here' ... 'I might be like this' ... 'I might be otherwise' ... 'May I be' ... 'May I be here' ... 'May I be like this' ... 'May I be otherwise' ... 'I will be' ... 'I will be here' ... 'I will be like this' ... 'I will be otherwise.' These are the eighteen things evaluated by craving dependent on what is internal.
“And which are the eighteen things evaluated by craving dependent on what is external? There being 'I am because of this (or: by means of this),' there comes to be 'I am here because of this,' there comes to be 'I am like this because of this' ... 'I am otherwise because of this' ... 'I am bad because of this' ... 'I am good because of this' ... 'I might be because of this' ... 'I might be here because of this' ... 'I might be like this because of this' ... 'I might be otherwise because of this' ... 'May I be because of this' ... 'May I be here because of this' ... 'May I be like this because of this' ... 'May I be otherwise because of this' ... 'I will be because of this' ... 'I will be here because of this' ... 'I will be like this because of this' ... 'I will be otherwise because of this.’” - Buddha Shakyamuni, Tanha Sutta
At its base, all craving is about our false sense of self.
These three factors affect every single instinct because we are not aware of it. We are always craving and seeking something to make us feel secure and good and avoid the things that make us feel bad, doubtful, ashamed of ourselves, and of these, two depend on that fundamental ignorance of the truth.
"Monks, these three are causes for the origination of actions. Which three? Craving is a cause for the origination of actions. Aversion is a cause for the origination of actions. Ignorance is a cause for the origination of actions.
"Any action performed with craving — born of craving, caused by craving, originating from craving: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.
"Any action performed with aversion — born of aversion, caused by aversion, originating from aversion: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.
"Any action performed with ignorance — born of delusion, caused by ignorance, originating from ignorance: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.
“Just as when seeds are not broken, not rotten, not damaged by wind & heat, capable of sprouting, well-buried, planted in well-prepared soil, and the rain-god would offer good streams of rain. Those seeds would thus come to growth, increase, and abundance. In the same way, any action performed with craving... performed with aversion... performed with ignorance — born of ignorance, caused by ignorance, originating from ignorance: wherever one's selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence.
"These are three causes for the origination of actions...” - Buddha Shakyamuni, Nidana Sutta
That is the publicly given teaching. And that is deep and difficult to learn: to see craving, aversion, and ignorance in our every moment and action, and to stop facilitating the production of suffering.
If you want to go deeper into that, then you can also look and see that these three relate to the three brains, the protoplasmic body, etc. But on the deepest level, they relate to the three Gunas. Even someone who is a god, who has eliminated a large percentage of the ego, has created the soul, and lives in the Nirvanas, suffers because these three roots are still present in them. Do not think because you been studying Gnosis for a few weeks or a few years that you have got a handle on it. Even the gods in Nirvana do not! It is important to understand this, because three forces create.
The Tree of Life is a series of triangles.
The lowest triangle is related to us here and now. Here we are in our physical body. In our physical body, we have:
- energy (our vital body) Yesod
- emotions (the astral aspect) Hod
- thoughts (the mental aspect) Netzach
Energy, thoughts, emotion (three forces), put those together and you can change the world, for good or bad. The difference is determined by bhava. Energy, emotion, thought; Gandhi united those three forces within himself and changed a continent. Hitler did the same. Each put energy in motion: the force of three. How do you use it? What will result from your use of the three forces in yourself?
Spiritually speaking, there are:
- causal body (willpower) Tiphereth
- Buddhic body (consciousness, spiritual body) Geburah
- Atmic body (the Spirit) Gedulah / Chesed
If those three are united, you become a Christ, a Christified being, a very high master. From that bhava, you can change worlds on an even higher level.
Beyond that are:
- Kether: Dharmakaya
- Chokmah: Sambhogakaya
- Binah: Nirmanakaya
With these three, you become a self realized resurrected master, one of the highest types of beings that exist, like Jesus, a being that is so pure they are incomprehensible to us. With this bhava, one can create universes. One affects uncountable beings.
Each of these levels of Being, levels of Bhava, depend on the three forces.
Those forces in us that are acting in a harmful way must be converted into forces for benefit.
Think about that. Think of what will occur if you transform your ignorance into knowledge. By knowledge, we do not mean book knowledge. By knowledge we mean Gnosis what in Sanskrit is called Jna. In Tibetan it is called Rigpa. It is the light of this moment. It is experiential knowledge of an awakened consciousness here and now that sees reality, that is not confused. It is not in a state of ignorance, but in a state of knowing. It sees truth.
In the example I gave of the angry person, you would see that their anger is a state of suffering. Why would you be mad and respond in anger to a person who is suffering? That would be awful. If someone is suffering, you should respond with sweetness, kindness, gentleness, and a healing attitude. It takes knowledge to do that. That would be how this pig in us becomes converted into something that is not animal, but human.
Likewise, instead of aversion towards things and craving towards things, instead of aversion, we have equanimity. We should see things for what they are, neither craving nor avoiding, but having equanimity, able to act when we need to act, and pause when we need to pause.
“A person unknowing: the actions performed by him, born of craving, born of aversion, and born of ignorance, whether many or few, are experienced right here: no other ground is found.
“So a person, knowing, sheds craving, aversion, and ignorance; giving rise to clear knowledge, he sheds all bad destinations.” - Buddha Shakyamuni, Nidana Sutta
The three forces are psychological. When liberated from craving, aversion, and ignorance, they are the qualities that a Buddha has. Rather than ignorance of self-nature, a Buddha has knowledge of self-nature, and as such can see the truth. This knowledge provides even small things like knowing when to speak and act and knowing when not to. That sounds simple, but to do that is not simple for us, because we are asleep.
That is why we need to see the ring just outside of that inner axis of the wheel, that ring of karma. In the center are those three forces: craving, aversion, ignorance. If those three are ruling our psyche from moment to moment, and they are in charge of our kingdom, then our three traitors are ruling our psychological kingdom:
- the demon of the mind: Pilate
- the demon of the heart: Caiaphas
- the demon of desire: Judas
These three traitors make it seem that all of the actions we perform benefit us. These three demons (Mara’s daughters) delude us by feeding our false sense of self, by gratifying our desires. As we serve them, our actions create more and more suffering. Samsara.
On the other hand, if we convert those three forces from moment to moment into conscious knowledge, and knowing when to act and when not to act, then those actions whether physical, mental or emotional cause benefit, and we rise, raising our level of being to become more and more pure, and more and more knowledgeable, more and more helpful. A better being.
All of this is synthesized or depicted you see in the Bhavachakra here, in these six realms.
This is the rune Hagal. We gave a course about the runes. The rune Hagal is the root rune, the root symbol of all the other runes. To remind you, runes are not just from the Nordics. This rune in particular can be found in every part of the world. It is hidden in Chinese and in Japanese characters, it is hidden in the Aztec calendar, it is hidden everywhere. The rune Hagel is haaaaaaaaa, the primordial breath that emerges out of the Absolute. It is the creative beginning.
What do you see in this Hagal? Clearly, it defines and arranges six spaces. Do you see that those six spaces are defined by three lines, three forces that are crossed? It is the three forces: projective, receptive, balancing. This is a very profound symbol hidden there in plain sight.
Those six realms also relate to the Sixth Arcanum in the Tarot. In the Sixth Arcanum, we see a soul standing in between two women. The person represents you and me. Half of his body is in the dark waters, meaning he is in Samsara. His feet are submerged. He is between worlds. He is confused, because his body is turned one way and his head is turned the other way. He is not consistent, and is contradicting himself. Worse, he is looking back, at a seductive woman. In the Bible, she is called the great harlot, Babylon, Jezebel, Lilith, Delilah, the whore, who gives many promises of sensual pleasure, satisfaction, security, technology, all the things we want. Because he is confused by her image, he does not see the one directly in front of him, who is his own Divine Mother. She is nature, but the reality of nature.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the mother has many names, but the one that is most important is मय Maya. Most people in the West who have been badly taught about ancient mysticism have been taught that Maya just means “illusion.” It can mean that, but literally the term Maya means “not that.” Why? Because the Divine Mother is the Absolute. She is non-being. She is “not that.” She is not the twelve Nidanas. Remember I explained the twelve Nidanas saying,
“This is, because that is.
This is not, because that is not.
This ceases to be, because that ceases to be.”
She is “not that.” She is not bound by the twelve Nidanas. She is not bound by the six realms. She is not bound by the three forces, because she is the three forces. She is the three Gunas. She is the Prakriti. She is Svabhava, the ultimate inherent nature of all things.
Notice that Maya मय is the exact opposite of Yama यम. She is the Absolute. He is the manifestation that emerges from her. They are two parts of the same phenomenon.
The man represented in the Sixth Arcanum does not see Her. He is us. We want to go towards the light, but we want to take our iPod. We want to take our TV, and our car, our wife and children. We want to take that cool outfit we just bought, and all the things we get seduced by, materially, physically, intellectually, and emotionally. We have a lot of attachment to things that cause us to suffer, because they sustain our ignorance of reality. That is why the being sits above with the arrow of karma.
The Six Realms
In most cases, when you study the wheel, people think about it only in relation to external beings. People think about the Gods in their world, and the demigods their world of the demigods, and themselves in the human realm. That is all true relatively speaking, but that point of view is shallow. There is more to it. Now it is time for us to go deeper, for us to understand that this has more importance, and more meaning that we need to grasp, comprehend, and meditate on.
The six realms:
- Gods (Sanskrit: Devas)
- Demi-gods (Sanskrit: Asura)
- Humans (Sanskrit: Manuṣya)
- Animals (Sanskrit: Tiryagyoni)
- Hungry ghosts (Sanskrit: Preta)
- Hells (Sanskrit: Naraka)
Everybody who studies this immediately thinks, “I am in the human kingdom, so I do not need to worry. I am okay.” Let us revisit that and look at it from our own experience. Let us reflect on that from what we know and what we can see.
It may be true that there are gods in the world of the gods, so what? It may be true that if I do good things, maybe I will go to the world of the gods. Okay, maybe. Let us talk about what is going on right now. What we can see right now, then we will go deeper.
Who are gods? If we take this teaching and apply it to what we can perceive, we can see who are gods. Traditionally, the gods and the devas are described as a class of being who have everything that one could want: beauty, power, admiration, and respect. Anything material that they could want, they could have. They have all the food, all the wealth, they control vast economies. They have people who worship them and serve them; they can have anything they want with the snap of their fingers, and all they do with all of that is pursue meaningless distractions all of the time. Really, they are bored. All they do is pursue stupid things, they play games, they collect stuff, they have huge and beautiful jewels and fabrics, and whatever sensual pleasures they want, they get.
Who are the demigods? Traditionally, they are explained to be less powerful then the gods, but not with as much wealth and power. So the demigods are very jealous and want what the Gods have. The demigods in Greek Mythology are called Titans. The demigods want what the gods have, and have jealousy and envy and are always waging wars on the gods. They try to be friends with them on one hand, have wars with them on another, and pit them against each other, always creating conflicts and making a mess of things, and they always lose. In their arrogance, they always think that they can conquer the gods.
Who are the humans? Traditionally, humans are said to be those who suffer birth, sickness, cold, heat, weakness, and inability to be in charge of themselves. They are always being moved around by the forces of nature, then they get old and die. They do not have much when it comes to possessions. They suffer a lot from hunger and thirst, but they have a relative degree of freedom. They can hear about the teaching, they can practice the teaching, and have the longing to accomplish the teaching about liberation. Humans are said to be in a better situation then the gods and demigods, who do not want to become liberated. Human beings have suffering, but they have the potential to change it. The gods do not care about liberation. Why would they want to be liberated? They have everything they want. Liberated from what? Liberated from their gems, jewels, and palaces? Why? They have no interest. And the demigods only want what the gods have.
Animals are said to be that class of being that suffer under the hand of humans. Animals are those who are ignorant, stupid, always suffering, even more than the humans, from hunger, thirst, the weather, being eaten not only by humans but other animals. They are subject to diseases and illnesses and cannot do anything about them. The humans enslave them and force them to do labor for the rest of theirs lives. The humans put them in places that are cultivated just to be eaten. Animals have incredible suffering. They cannot do anything about it and cannot practice the dharma. They suffer, suffer, and suffer, and die. Then they are born again, and suffer some more.
Hungry ghosts suffer more then the animals. They are always craving. They are always fearful, and always running. They are hungry, because they are never satisfied. They see the thing that they want, and are so hungry and thirsty, and go to eat it, and painfully find it was just an illusion, a mirage, and it was not there. Then they see a buffet of food, and it is free, and they run to it, and their hunger is building and their mouth is watering, and they get there, and nothing is there. They made all that effort to go there, and there was nothing, and in that off occasion when they grasp a little something to drink to cool them, it ends up burning them, and they never satisfy their thirst. They suffer more than all these other beings.
Below that are the hells. In the hells you find all these types of beings who exhausted the causes that put them in those upper realms. The energy that was put in those realms were exhausted, and because those beings did not make the effort to liberate themselves from the wheel, they are drawn back down for the harmful actions they have not yet paid. There, they suffer the consequences of their harmful actions. They say that there are eighteen hells in the Buddhist philosophy, different numbers in other traditions, some nine some there are hundreds. They represent where the beings go who have done nothing good and have to pay their debts by suffering the consequences of their actions.
The Six Realms in Malkuth
Externally, in this physical world, do we see these beings in our lives now? From my perspective, the gods are celebrities, politicians, and rich people who have everything physically, terrestrially, and have no interest in dharma. These are a small fraction of the population of this planet, but they control the wealth and power.
Below them are the demigods, those people who have some money or status, but they are so envious of the rich people that they are constantly causing lawsuits and wars to try to get more wealth and power. They do not care about the Dharma and they do not care about anyone else but themselves. There are more demigods than gods, but there numbers are still very few.
What about the humans? In this tradition we have explained that a real human is someone who created the soul. Someone who is not an animal. There are very few of them on this planet. True human beings are those who trapped in the middle between the upper and lower worlds, and who are working to liberate themselves from all of it.
Most “human beings” on this planet know nothing about liberation. Really, all of us are animals. Really, when we look at our lives, we can see that we are animals controlled by forces that we cannot change: cultural, political, economic, forces that push us from one place to another. We have to work constantly, and we are enslaved by the beings that have power. We have no freedom. Instead, everything we do is to help them get more money and more power. They drive us to work more and more, yet in the end we gain nothing. What we generally eat is poisonous and bad for us. We cannot get pure food on this planet anymore. We cannot get clean water or air on this planet anymore. Everything is polluted because of the wars between the gods and demigods. Worse, we are sent to fight in those wars, dying for ideas and concepts that hide the truth: wars are about money and power, neither of which are ever given to the animals. We are the animals. We are ruled by our instincts.
It is stated in tradition that:
- the gods are ruled by attachment
- demigods by envy
- the humans by passion and lust
- animals are ruled by aggression, instinct, fear
- hungry ghosts by thirst and gluttony
- the hells by everything negative
Really, we are in these lower classes. We are all at the animal level. I apologize, I do not mean that as an insult, but really, if you analyze our minds, and the way people behave on this planet now, we behave like animals. We do not behave like human beings. Human beings are gentle, kind, and someone who remembers god and acts to benefit everyone. Animals only want to survive. Animals are ruled by instinct, lust, anger, and envy. This human populace is not human not yet.
Even more people are hungry ghosts. These are the people who are suffering even more than the mere animals. Hungry ghosts truly have nothing. These beings are somewhere around 90-95% of the population of the world. Those of us who live in first world countries are in a small minority when we have a certain amount of money in the bank and buy pretty much buy what we want to buy, food, basic necessities. If you are able to get the things that you basically need, you are an exception. Most people on this planet cannot, and have to go without everyday. Most people are in the category of hungry ghosts. They go to sleep hungry, and they wake up hungry. They want something to eat, they go to get it, and it is not there. It is too expensive. It is poisoned. They cannot get clean water, clean food, everything is poisoned, they cannot get clothes, they have to go without. Most of them have one shirt, one pair of pants, and one pair of shoes. Not a closet full. Most people. They really do not have time or interest in dharma, Gnosis, because they only can think to survive and live another day. Many of them even give up on that. A large percentage of this earth’s population belongs in that level. We can call them hungry ghosts. They are ghosts, because they have not yet awakened anything inside. They are phantoms. In Hebrew, we call them klipa, “empty shells.”
Finally, there are the beings in the lowest hells. This is painful to talk about because most of the beings on this planet are already submerged in hell. Most of this planet is under the threat of death everyday. It seems to be getting worse. It goes in waves and it rises and falls and seems to be getting worse over the decades and years to be intensifying. There are more places in the world that are under the threat of violence than what there has been. And not just mild violence, but very extreme violence, and not just violence from each other, but also violence from nature. Everyone is witnessing the violence of nature. This is karmic. The scientists refuse to recognize that, because they want to put everything into terms that clear us of any responsibility. Nevertheless, everything that happens has a cause, and everything that happens has a cause in our psyche.
More and more beings are being subject to the hell level where the karma must be paid. We are paying, and every being is subject to that, and all the beings are affected by that.
The Six Realms in Ourselves
The most important way to understand the Bhavachakra is to see all of this is in our own minds.
All of us at some point will experience these aspects of existence in our own experience. Maybe not in a very dramatic way, but in some form. You may suddenly find yourself in some situation where you are being treated like God. Everyone respects you, everyone does what you want, and you have everything that you want. It may not last very long, but you really like it, and you want it to continue, and when it is taken away, you suffer incredibly. It is more common to experience the position of being a demigod, where you have some degree of power and comfort, and you will fight and lie and cheat to get more. You may experience times in life where you feel like an animal, and other times like a hungry ghost.
These elements are present in the continuity of our experience, but also in the contents of our psyche. We also have psychological elements that correspond to all of these aspects. Every single one of us has egos of pride that considers itself to be a god. We all have them. We all have egos that are with the attitude of the Bhava of the demigods, egos of dense envy that want what others have and will commit crimes to get it. We all have that. We all have egos that are so-called human that just want to get by and want some form of religion even to give us comfort; we want some security and some sense that everything will be okay in the end. Of course, we all have the animals of lust, pride, anger, fear, envy, laziness, and we have the egos of the hungry ghosts, and all of them are in the hells.
To put it bluntly, we need to change. The way we do that is learning how to turn this flow around. As I was explaining to you, the three forces that work through us and through our three brains—the body, heart, and mind—and through our three nervous systems—and through our three inner bodies—can be utilized to create the cessation of suffering. The way to do it is to be present here and now, all of the time, and transform your bhava.
“To avoid all evil, to cultivate good,
and to cleanse one's mind —
this is the teaching of the Buddhas.” - Dhammapada
You see, Samsara means “to flow.” The flowing through this wheel where all the beings are flowing from one life to another are constantly driven by the forces they themselves put into motion can be undone if at the axle we convert these three forces into a beneficial energy. We synthesize them in this way:
That is how these three forces at the center of the ring can instead cause this wheel of becoming to spin upwards in a spiral to higher levels of being. It is quite simple. Shantideva pointed out in Bodhicharyavatara:
“All suffering comes from serving oneself, and all happiness comes from serving others.”
That is a Bhava. That is the attitude of a Bodhisattva.
On the painting of the Bhavachakra, the bodhisattva’s are depicted above the wheel, in space. Did you notice that in those six classes of beings we did not talk about bodhisattvas? That is because the bodhisattvas have escaped the wheel. They experience Nirvana, cessation. By bodhisattvas we mean those who have eliminated the ego completely. These are very high masters. We can call them gods, but they are not gods that live in the nirvanic levels, in samsara. The gods that live in the six realms are attached. They are the tempting gods who have great power and great beauty. To anyone that wants to escape the wheel they say, “Why do you want to leave? Look at all you have? Come join us it is a lot of fun. Everybody will love you, and you will have everything you ever wanted. You will be totally happy. Why do you want to go up to the Absolute? There is nothing there. It is empty...” Truly, it is empty. Empty of suffering. It is full liberation. It is empty of attachment. Empty of ignorance. Empty of pain. Then, the bodhisattvas that overcome the tempting gods and achieve those heights, do you know what they do? They renounce it. They escape the wheel, and eliminate all of their desires, they convert these three forces purely for the benefit of others. They no longer produce suffering for themselves or for others. They are no longer chained by the twelve Nidanas. They are no longer under the grasp of Yama, and they escape the wheel completely and go to the Absolute, and say, Yes, it is very nice here, but look at all those who suffer...” So they renounce it and go back to help all of those beings who are suffering in ignorance. That is why when you look at many of the graphics in the temples, you will see bodhisattvas in each of the six realms teaching the dharma. How can someone do that? It is inconceivable to us, that a being can escape all of the suffering of existence, and then willingly come back to be surrounded by it. Anyone have an idea why they do it? Love.
Can anyone think of anything better than to be that level of being? To be that pure, to have that as your Bhava, your way of being? Pure love. No self. To be pure love for other beings, and to sacrifice yourself, to sacrifice everything, to help them come out of suffering, to see reality, to transform. That is what the bodhisattvas do. So, that is why I thought this lecture would be good to talk about.
Questions and Answers
Audience: Are there gods, and what constitutes their level of being?
Instructor: Yes, there are gods. The gods that live in those levels do not care about us at all. By the term gods, this is a relative word. Meaning, we are not referring to the one god, by which we mean the Absolute. We are not referring to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. This is not what we are referring to. By “gods” here, if you want to put it in western terms, we can say angels, archangels, we can say like the lower gods of other traditions and mythologies with a lot of gods. It would be the lower gods, not the upper ones. The highest gods in any hierarchal type of religion represent archetypes, aspects of our own Being. For example, Jesus is a master, a god. He represents Christ, which is an archetype in us that we have to develop. Moses is that, too. Odin is that, Quetzalcoatl is that, Buddha himself is that. He is a great god, but he is not one of these gods in this realm. The gods that we talk about here have many levels. That is why I showed you the image of the Tree of Life. It goes into more detail than the Bhavachakra does. In the Tree of Life, you see that the heavens depicted here have nine levels, some say seven, some say nine, some say more than nine. In all of those levels are different levels and classes of gods: Pratyekabuddhas, Shravakayanas... you have elemental Buddhas and different types of angels, all levels, from simple ones that are not well developed, to highly developed gods, but who nonetheless remain enslaved to the attachment to their position.
The gods are needed. They form the celestial hierarchy. They are necessary. They form a very important role for existence to be present. You see, out of the mouth of Yama emerges the worlds, and the first world that emerges here are the heavens. Similar in the Tree of Life: out of the Absolute emerges Kether, Chokmah, and Binah. This Atziluth. Then, those archetypes (Atziluth) become Briah, then Yetzirah, than Assiah. That unfolding of everything is a process in which gods make it happen and sustain it. They are needed. Nonetheless, they are not fully developed. There are gods at different levels, and are fulfilling their roles, and they remain attached to those places.
There are many classes of beings. There may be elemental Buddhas who are very pure, but have no solar bodies. They may have an astral body, mental body, causal body, they can have those developments and once they have the causal body we call them Pratyekas. There are beings who developed the soul, but did not eliminate all of the ego, did not enter the bodhisattva path, and are on the spiral path and developing over millennia, just fulfilling their role in nature, of being a great king over a certain region with lots of power and wealth. They exist, and they are very beautiful, and have a lot of knowledge that can benefit those who walk the path, but they are also tempting gods. For someone who is entering the path of the bodhisattva, they do not like that. If you studied the Pistis Sophia, or the Mahabharata and certain other classes of scripture, those teachings explain very clearly that the path to the Absolute has two aspects. Most people think there are many different religions, but they all pretty much go back up to god. It is not like that. All these classes of gods and demigods are in these regions of nature and the vast majority are on the spiral path, very slowly and gradually through many incarnations slowly rising.
There is a quick way, a direct way, that is far more difficult, and is absolutely does not correspond to that spiral path. It is the path of the middle, the direct path, the strait path, the path of the bodhisattva. The demons who are on the path of the left and the saints who are on the path of the right do not understand the ones who walk the path of the middle. Both of them cause problems for the one who is on the path of the middle. If you study the Mahabharata, it is a beautiful example of that, because you see that the Pandava brothers are trapped between the asuras (demons), the demigods, and the saints, and there is this big war going on, but they are taking the path of the middle, direct to God, serving Krishna, but no one understands them.
Answer: He is both. Firstly, Yama is symbolic. The main thing to grasp about him is that he is black; in Sanskrit, black is kala, which is the masculine blackness; that is a name of Shiva, who in Hebrew we call Jah. His wife or feminine counterpart is Kali, who in Hebrew is called CHavah. Together, they are Kala Kali, or in Hebrew, Jah-Chavah (Jehovah). Now, anybody who has studied Buddhism in some depth will immediately recall the Kalachakra. Kalachakra is one of the high Tantras in Tibetan Buddhism. It is the same thing that we see here but organized differently.
Kala can mean “blackness,” and it can also mean “time.” He represents Iod Havah, Kala Kali, Shiva Shakti. He is the body of forces that emerge out of the Absolute, of the dawning. The Absolute is beyond. It is that space that we do not see, the space around. The residual karma from the previous eon must express when the new age emerges, it is that HAAAAA, the Hagal, that rune that expresses out of his mouth. See the Hagal, the six regions formed by the three lines of the three forces. It is that breath of God that is coming through him. That is IOD Havah. The is how the forces in Absolute emerge into Atziluth into Briah and cause formation.
What is really important to realize is that it is happening in us. That is why we are here. We need to become cognizant of that in ourselves, and learn how to harness those forces in order to cause the wheel of becoming to be the becoming of a Master or a Buddha, not the becoming of a devil. We are right at the precipice, this humanity, of a really big mistake, a big problem, because desire has gotten so out of control and the karma is so heavy.
Audience: Is this not a snapshot of the past?
Instructor: This is not a snapshot of the past. This wheel is moving. It is always moving. What is causing it to move is the energies that are flowing through you. All of the time. That is the essence of the genuine teaching is: learn to be here and now and use your energy with wisdom and love for others. Restrain your harmful actions in your body, and in your heart, and in your mind. Kill them, and turn that energy in to actions to benefit others. To serve others. To give birth to virtue. That is how “the wheel of becoming” is a better name. What becomes: Samsara or Nirvana. The only difference between the two is what Padmasambhava said: Paying attention. Paying attention and seeing the delusions of the minds.
Let me tell you one more thing quickly. The demons, devils, black magicians, and sorcerers also know how to be present. They know how to use the consciousness. They know how to use energy to fulfill desires, to have sensations, and experience the things they want to experience. They want to have power. To have whatever it is they want to have. They forget God.
Audience: Are the Gods bound by karma?
Instructor: Everything that exists exists because of karma and is bound by it. There is only one place where cause and effect does not apply, and that is in the Absolute. The reason existence emerges out of the Absolute is because of residual karma that has not yet been completed. That is why we have rising cosmic days and nights like we have days and nights on this planet. The universes, the infinites, also go through days and nights, and they do that in this great cycle of Samsara because of unresolved karma. When the cosmic nights closes, everything goes in to repose, and in that realm there are no actions, so to speak. The residues are there, which cause a disequilibrium, and the cosmic day again and that breath of Hagel emerges, and everything comes back, including the gods.
Think about it this way. Who can create more of an impact? Who has more responsibility for their actions? A baby or an adult? Who will the law say is more responsible: a baby or an adult? Obviously, the adult will have more responsibility, so in this context, we can say the gods are the “adults.” They should know better. We are so to say we children, babies, we are ignorant.
Audience: Is it possible to be a collective emancipation from suffering, or is it individually binding?
Instructor: It is both, in the sense that karma works on many levels. Karma is individual binding, because every energy you put into motion is energy you put into motion. Only you can answer for that. Unless you perform an action that is superior to the first, you will answer for that first action.
In terms of a collective emancipation, it is possible for certain types of karma to be overridden or forgiven and can happen in a collective way, just like it can happen in an individual way. It depends on the nature of the situation, and the karma. If the questions is, can this humanity be liberated collectively by being forgiven? The answer is no, it cannot. Humanity has accrued too great a debt, and the law has already passed its judgment, and it is being enacted. Some karma has been forgiven already, and there are certain types of karma that are being forgiven. Put it this way, if in this moment the law demanded that we pay all of our karma, we would not be here anymore.
The more important thing is finding the nature of karma in your experience, your moment-to-moment experience, look at how it functions and watch for the consequences of it, and learn. Do not ignore things. See how things that you do cause consequences in yourself, in your family, in your workplace, in your school, and everywhere you go. Look closely; sometimes it is hard to see, because we have real blinders on. We do not want to see, even though we may be looking right at something, we won’t see it. We need to open our eyes and look at things that we say, things that we do, things that we do not say.
For example, one thing that is important to realize about this wheel is that it is a cycle that repeats, and we do that. It is part of our fundamental ignorance. We build habits psychologically, emotionally, and mentally, and repeat ourselves. We developed a way of being and doing things, and we think it is protecting us and helping us, but in fact it is enslaving us to the wheel. We have developed ways in dealing with each other, for example; some of us, when we talk, we yell. We have this habit of always yelling. Some of us, when we talk, we talk so low, that nobody can hear us. We talk so quietly that some say, “What?” It seems insignificant, but it is very significant, because every single conversation that you have is affected by how you talk. I know somebody that is skilled and talented, but is so habitual in the tendency to talk quietly that some people think he does not even speak English. Some people think that he doesn’t know anything, and it is simply because of that habit. I know other people that talk so loud that people have all these other impressions of that person that is not true.
Habits. Some of us when there is a conflict, we run away, thinking that there is a conflict, and we do not want to make things worse for them; we want to stay on the side, when actually we may be the one who can solve it, or the one that has the ability to solve the problem and by walking away we make it worse.
Another habit: we see a problem and think “I can fix this” and we go into it and make it worse.
We have all these different habits and tendencies, and we have to understand them. We repeat ourselves, and we are always seeking to repeat our experiences, and repeat pleasures and patterns. That is why we suffer.
Some of our instructors have given us a bit of advice by saying: everyday, do things different. When you drive to work, go a different way. When you walk to the store, walk a different way. When you have to do this or that, change it, do it differently. It is superficial, but causes you to look at things without the habit without being on autopilot; that is what we want: we want to shake up our perceptions, and start to see here and now as though we have never seen it before.
The habitual behaviors are why we suffer. We have to find our own habitual behaviors and break them. We all brush our teeth the same way, we comb our hair the same way, we shower the same way, we dry off the same way, and we dress the same way. Change it. Just to start encouraging yourself to realize that if you have these habits superficially, what kind of habits do you have deeper? How are you interpreting your perceptions of your family, spouse, and children? You are interpreting your perceptions in habitual ways, and you are not seeing reality, and that is why you suffer. To change patterns means to look for things that repeat, and break repetitions. Break them, change them, and do not repeat yourself. Always look for ways to change it. Master Samael would do this all of the time. He would change his behaviors; he would walk a different way, drive a different way, in order to keep himself from developing those animalistic behaviors. Notice how animals form trails, because they go the same way. We all have those trails in our mind.
Audience: You spoke of different levels of hells, 18, 19 etc. It is said that we have 108 lives; is this related? Also they all reduce to 9, Yesod, can you speak about that in relation to the levels of hell?
Instructor: The levels of hell that are given in every religion are symbolic. Hell is a psychological state, and we will each experience hell in accordance to the state of our psyche, according to our Bhava. All of us are different. We all have pride, anger, and lust. It is individual with each one of us, and our karma is individual in accordance to the actions we performed. That is why when we study the hells, we say in general there at nine hells as depicted in the Tree of Life, while in Buddhism we talk about 18 and different numbers depending on which school you study, the numbers are symbolic. We use the number nine here because of its importance in the tradition. It has a deep significance numerologically and Kabbalistically.
As the question stated, Yesod is the ninth sphere. The ninth sphere is just above Malkuth on the Tree of Life. Yesod is Eden. Eden in Hebrew means “bliss.” That is the level of energy that is in us that is a blissful form of energy that is the root of creation. If you superimpose this Tree of Life over the physical body, yesod relates to the sexual organs, which is how we create life. That is how these three forces creates through us most dramatically: through sex. We create life. People who misuse sex create incredible suffering for themselves and others, suffering which we have no idea yet because we are so asleep. Every psychological manifestation in us is powered by Yesod. It is that energy that is being utilized in the psyche. Liberation also depends on Yesod. Cessation from suffering depends on using those energies for benefit. That is why we say to descend to the ninth sphere. The number nine is symbolic. Our psyche is as deep as our ego is fat. Each of us has to see that for ourselves to understand that meaning.
We talk about 49 levels of the mind as well. That is also symbolic. Seven bodies times seven chakras equals 49 psychological faces of the same thing.
In relation to the 108 lives, this number is also symbolic. It represents nine cycles of twelve. You see, that number nine comes up a lot. That number nine always points back to sex. 108 (1+0+8=9), the ninth sphere, all points back to sexuality, that is the root and core of tantra: to harness the vital energies and turn them into something for benefit, not lust. This becomes more significant and has more meaning for you if we explained the twelve Nidanas. You see, the 108 lives relates to a repetition of twelve. If you repeat that twelve again and again, you will arrive at the number 108. When we look at these twelve Nidanas, they are sexual. The symbols that are hidden there are sexual. It is because again in those root forces of nature that I explained to you: masculine, feminine, crossed through sex creates. That is the Hagal. That rune that is hidden in these bars that form the six realms. That is the nature of Kala-Kali, Yab-Yum, IOD-Havah, Adam-Eve, male-female united as one. Sex, tantra, transmutation. The whole wheel depends on that.
Why do we suffer? Because Adam and Eve were seduced by the forbidden fruit and ate of it and were cast out of Nirvana and entered into Samsara. To return back to Eden, “blissfulness,” we have to rectify the mistake. That is a sexual process; it is a process of making our sexuality pure, divine, a form of ecstasy, of the gods. Not animal, but something that is filled with love untainted by craving, aversion, or ignorance. Instead, it is a reflection of virtue and sacrifice.
Audience: Weren’t the angels commanded by god to serve man and if that is true is not man above the angels?
Instructor: In certain traditions it is stated that angels were created to serve man. We need to understand that scripture in context. What it states there is that the Angels were created to serve Adam. We are not Adam. That primordial Adam is our original inner Bhava, our Being, our Atman, our Buddha, or in Tibetan terms our Yidam. It is the source of our Being before the ego, before the fall from Eden, before sin. The “Angels” in that context represent all those hierarchies that manage the forces of nature in order to create existence, which at that time was Edenic, the state of bliss. Adam was put there in order to create his soul. Unfortunately, his soul made a mistake, ate of the forbidden fruit, and fell. We see here two levels of Adam: the celestial and the terrestrial. This is what Paul was pointing out in his writings. We have the natural man, who is the heavenly man, the heavenly Adam, and we have the animal man, which is the sinning Adam. If we redeem ourselves from sin, the angels will serve us. The gods will serve us, in the sense that they will manage nature and nature will be here as an environment where we can attain greater levels of development.
Audience: Are angels malevolent or benevolent?
Instructor: Well, it depends, there are different classes of angels. We generally talk about two classes of angels. There are innocent angels, which are the elementals of nature. They are simple angels. They are pure and divine, but they are not well developed, so their level of being is more less the level of animals. Then there are the virtuous angels who have developed some degree of level of being. They have awakened consciousness. They have awakening development on some particular path in nature. They may have some level of the soul developed. They are not just elementals, they are human beings. Those types of angels are benevolent. They are there to help us according to our karma. We have to earn that help. We have to deserve it.
There are also beings who are related to the lower levels that try to impede our process. We call them black magicians. They are not angels, they are devils, and there are many of them. They will do their best to impede your progress. They often do this by manipulating the innocent angels against us. For example, they use plants and animals through magical procedures in order to cause harm, influence or otherwise pursue their desires. The key is not to become identified with them. Treat them in the same way that you treat every other being. Treat them with respect, with caution, but also with love.
Audience: Having discipline in our spiritual practice versus having habits?
Instructor: We need to have the discipline to do our practices. There is no question about that. What my statements were pointed towards is the habit of the mind to repeat itself mechanically. If you set the discipline for yourself that you will meditate everyday at a certain time, and you do that consciously, good. Do it. We need that discipline, no question about it; we are all very lazy. If we do it mechanically, just because we have to, and while meditating you are thinking about a TV show you were watching, or thinking about this or that problem, then you are wasting your time. You are doing a mechanical habit that will not benefit you at all. That is the difference. What you have to break is the mechanical tendency to repeat. Everyone is different in that way. We have to find our mechanical patterns and change them. The more important ones are the hardest ones to see. If you brush your teeth everyday at 7 o’clock and you change it to 7:15, you are not going to accomplish anything with that type of change. It is very superficial. If you start to realize that there is a person at work that you always deal with in the same way, and there is a dynamic in your relationship that is not good, and then you make the effort to change that by adopting a better attitude, that is very good, because you are breaking a mechanical pattern of behavior in how you relate to others. This is significant, more significant. We also have mechanical patterns in how we have an attitude towards our own divinity. That also must change. Many of us do not believe in God. We might like religion, we might like spirituality and study, but fundamentally and truly we just do not believe. In some ways, who can blame us? We never experienced God, we have no conscious knowledge of God, and no awakened experience of seeing reality. How can we believe in something we never experienced? It is understandable, nevertheless that tendency, the mechanical tendency of doubt, of disillusionment, of the way of critically thinking that “I do not believe in that, or it wont happen to me anyway,” or “I do not deserve it,” or “God does not listen to me,” is all very negative and very harmful. We need to cultivate a hopeful attitude, an open mind to awaken. If you work sincerely with techniques that we teach, the practices that we teach, but more specifically with awakening from moment to moment, it is inevitable when the conditions and karma allow, you will see reality. It is up to your efforts, compared to your karma, when you will achieve it. Some achieve it the first day, some it takes 10-20 years, and most of us will be in the middle. It will take time to develop equilibrium until one day you will have an experience, then you will have a new surge of enthusiasm from that. It is a very useful experience.
Audience: What does the prefix sa-, samsara, sambhogakaya, and how does that relate to sambhava from his name Padmasambhava?
Instructor: There are a variety of different letters in Sanskrit with that Sa sound; they are all different.
Earlier in the lecture I mentioned briefly the term Svabhava. This term was mistranscribed by the person who transcribed the lecture from Samael Aun Weor that he gave many years ago in Spanish. Someone wrote the lecture down, but did not write the word down properly, and it has been that way for 20-30 years. The word was written as if it was Hebrew, but the word does not exist in Hebrew. We were always wondering, “What did he say?” Finally, we found it was the word svabhava, which is a word that appears in many scriptures related with Mahayana Buddhism, particularly with the higher schools that deal with the philosophy of emptiness and Śūnyatā. It also appears in some Sanskrit scriptures. The term means our “innate nature.” Sva स्व means "own."
Sa can be ष or स, and mean many things depending on the context: “Excellent, bestowing, equality, similarity, sleep, nipple, bird, snake, heaven, paradise, destruction, teacher, learned man, end, loss, rest, wind, loss of knowledge, air, meditation, embryo, fence, knowledge.....”
Audience: What is Sambhava?
Instructor: Padmasambhava literally means “born from the lotus.” Bha, Bhava is “becoming.” Padme is the lotus, and sa is from the embryo, born from.
Audience: I want to pester you about something you repeated several times. You keep saying that Karma does not work or does not apply in the Absolute and yet the Absolute does not just magic itself by its own self consciousness it has to go through its own becoming in order to make that happen. It is like what you were saying before and what the other previous speaker said this cosmic day came into manifestation because there was a type of contamination of the atmosphere that caused things to spit out. It seems like there is a law, a cause and effect that applies to the Absolute it is not independent of the Law of Cause in affect.
Instructor: The difference is this Karma itself in the manifested level is the duality of cause and effect. In the Absolute it is unity.
The effect is always present inside the cause. In the Absolute they are not separate.
As he explained and as Gurdjieff talked about, there was a corruption, which is a very deep and philosophical point. In my perspective, it is part of the root conflict amongst certain schools that debate the nature of emptiness. They cannot agree, and it seems to me it is because of that corruption that happened. It is very difficult to grasp.
Audience: I think you might be alluding to the cause of causes, the first cause of everything.
Instructor: The cause of causes, yes.
It is stated in certain treatises that whether the universe is in a state of rest, or a state of manifestation, three things are always there:
What is not explained there is the state of those three, because that changes. In one state it is unmanifested, in the the other it is manifested. That is the difference. They are always existing, but in a state of non-existence, in a state of unity. The oneness, the Absolute, are the same thing.
Audience: I would like to go back to the six states of samsaric beings and the discussion about angels. In The Secret Doctrine by H.P.B. which is based on a Tibetan Buddhist text, there is a doctrine that she talks about that at one time we were all angels and that there were two groups. There was one group that was totally fine with the state that they were at, and the other group that wanted to move forward and the only way to move forward was to come to this three dimensional world of Malkuth and undergo all the experiences and manipulate matter. So and the primal force of that is this striving to move forward. How is that striving different then the desires that we are trying to kill off?
Instructor: It is important for us to clarify what we mean by desire. In Buddhism and in Hebrew and in Christian traditions, we have different words that describe different psychological qualities. In English, we call it desire. The English word is terrible, because it only implies for us mostly sex. We hear the word “desire” and we only think of sex. That is partly due to the nature of our psyche, because our psyche is with that Bhava, that animalistic tendency that everything is sexual. By desire in philosophy we do not mean merely sexual desire, and there are different classes of desire that are broken down into different classes. Generally speaking, what we need to understand that is this: there is a difference between the necessity of the soul to realize its unified nature with the Absolute. We can call that a desire for God. In English it is fine, but that is not what we are talking about desire in the form of corruption. Desire in the form of corruption is what in Hebrew is called rah, which means pollution, sin, evil. The desire to unify with god is tob, goodness. These are two aspects of the same force: Daath, knowledge. So, the center forces of the Bhavachakra manifest in different ways. When Adam and Eve fell, they were seduced by the desire to know God, which is on the Tree of Knowledge of Tob ve Rah: goodness and impurity. They were given the instructions. That longing to take that fruit, to smell that fruit, is that longing of the soul to experience something beyond our being, to rise, to know, to have knowledge. That is why it is called the Tree of Knowledge, Daath. Unfortunately, because of Lucifer, the temptation through sensation, Eve (the sexual organs) abused that experience of energy, of matter, of consciousness and that force of knowledge was converted into rah (impurity), desire; it became selfish. It became egotistical. If they would have followed the rules, which are the rules given in tantra and other traditions, they would have taken that energy, but not indulged in it in an egotistical way, not with ignorance; it would have been a force of Bhava, of becoming. To become like the Elohim, to know the two, but not be victimized, and to not be corrupted. In each tradition it is presented in that way, but in different ways. The Buddha himself also used different technical terms to explain the different types of desire. Most people do not get that deep into it to know the technical terms. You also find that in Hinduism.
Audience: So you say unfortunately, but really it is fortunately for us that Lucifer did that?
Instructor: The temptation is necessary, but the failure to overcome it is not. Unfortunately, we fail everyday facing a temptation. This again like you pointed out before, this is not a photograph of the past, this is happening right now in all of us, everyday. Everything we perceive is a moment in which we need to transform and overcome temptation, which comes in many ways. Our pride is tempted, our lust is tempted, our fear, envy, jealously, laziness, our gluttony is always being tempted. We are always being tempted. We have to choose. Choose hope, goodness, virtue, or choose to pollute yourself. Your actions psychologically determine whether you will rise or sink. Only you can decide. That is Daath. Knowledge. Do you see the three there in the animals?
- Daath, knowledge
- Tob, goodness
- Rah, impurity
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