This is a transcription of a lecture originally given live and unscripted on Gnostic Radio. You can download the audio lecture here: Bhavachakra 03 Qualities of Samsara - AUDIO . There is also a reference PDF: Bhavachakra 03 Qualities of Samsara - PDF .
In recent lectures, we have been describing one of the most important symbols of Buddhism called the Bhavachakra, which means the “wheel of becoming,” yet it is commonly called “the wheel of Samsara,” which is a bit of a misnomer as we explained in the lecture Bhavachakra. Today, we want to go deeper into how we personally experience this wheel, specifically in relation to how this phenomenon of nature affects our moment to moment experience.
The Bhavachakra is not a teaching of mere theory. It is a teaching that points out to us exactly why we suffer, and that knowledge reveals to us how we can stop suffering; so, that underscores its importance.
In these times, we are experiencing the wheel of becoming moving in a very profound way. Suffering in this era is quite strong. We all have been witnesses in recent days of many tragic events, where the suffering of humanity seems to be intensifying, and it is important for us to understand why.
It is not helpful to curse God or to live in fear. It is better to understand the principles that are involved in nature and our lives: the cause and effect relationship of all things. Through that knowledge, we then know how to change.
So, this teaching is not something merely interesting to think about or something to discuss. It is something that can make a profound impact in your life, and the lives of those you come in contact with — if you put these principles into practice.
The Bhavachakra or wheel of becoming represents a fundamental axiom of nature, which commonly nowadays is just called “evolution,” but the popular usage of that term only describes one half of the equation, half of the cycle of existence. Everything in nature is subject to evolution and devolution. Life is a cycle, a circle, and that is what the wheel represents. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated
"The laws of evolution and devolution of life constitute the mechanical axis of all of Nature.” - Samael Aun Weor
This Wheel represents this function. Everything that is born evolves, is sustained because of cause and effect, and then declines and dies. There is no exception in the manifested worlds. Nothing is excepted from this law, except that which is unmanifested, that which is the Absolute.
So everything in manifestation is subject to birth, being sustained, and dying. The universe itself is subject to this law, and every existing thing in the universe, all the way down to the very smallest most microscopic existing element into the very atoms and the quanta. This wheel demonstrates that, it represents that fact.
We ourselves are subject to the laws of evolution and devolution. We are not an exception to the law. Yet, we forget that fact.
As mentioned previously, the tenth arcanum of the Tree of Life shows a wheel with two beings managing the flux of energy, matter, and consciousness, how everything evolves and devolves in nature. The tenth arcanum is called Retribution. This term “retribution” is used here as the equivalent of the term in physics “invariance,” which means that all things must be balanced and restored. This is not a law of punishment, but is a law of balance. Evolution and devolution balance energy, matter, and consciousness. Nature always seeks to maintain equilibrium, and whatever imbalances nature receives “retribution” — the force of nature pushing back towards balance.
For nature, a state of balance is achieved when the wheel of becoming turns harmoniously. That is all nature needs. This does not have anything to do with spiritual benefit, it is simply what sustains life. When anything impedes the basic function of nature, it receives “retribution.”
Nature itself is a repeating pattern, a circular motion. In Sanskrit, we call this function “samsara.” As we explained in the previous lectures, this word Samsara means “circling, to repeat, to recur, to recur again and again.” It is how nature processes energy.
Even in the minutest physical details of nature, from the gross to the microscopic, we see seasons that repeat, day and night, growth and death. The repetition of how life creates, sustains, and destroys everything is managed by Bhavachakra: the wheel of becoming.
Spiritually speaking, this law is also in complete control. Our spiritual life and experience is determined by this wheel. All manifested things repeat and circle unless there is a strong influence on the function of the wheel. The wheel does not stop, it continues to turn. So spiritually speaking we are all in Samsara, cycling, physically, psychologically, spiritually, circling, repeating… To change our experience of that requires incredible energy and precise knowledge.
“Life is a wheel turning mechanically with ever recurring pleasant and unpleasant circumstances.
“We cannot halt the wheel; good and bad circumstances always proceed mechanically; we can only change our attitude towards life’s events.” - Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Today we are going to examine some of the factors that affect that possibility: how to escape the repeating wheel.
￼"Samsara, ‘circling,’ is to spin from one place to another. Nirvana is to have cut through this circling." - Padmasambhava, The Cycle of Vital Points
So let me reemphasize that the word Nirvana means “cessation, extinction, ending, to cut.” We think of Nirvana as a place, yet it is only a place in the context of psychology: a state of being, a state of consciousness. A being only exists in Nirvana because their consciousness is established in a state in which it cuts Samsara. It is free of Samsara in itself.
“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). Samsara and Nirvana should be understood in this way. Realistically, they have nothing to do with physicality, dimensions, heavens and hells. Samsara and Nirvana have to do with one’s state of Being. We are in Samsara because our state of Being is one in which we repeat, we are asleep, identified, subject to craving, aversion, and ignorance. We do not see reality. Instead, we repeat our desires, fears; we repetitiously pursue our pride, lust, and envy, and we nourish our anger and fear. We do not cut through appearances, cut through our ego, cut through our mechanical habits physically and psychologically in order to perceive reality. Instead, we perceive illusions that we propagate. We are in Samsara because we created that repeating pattern (“circling,” Samsara) in ourselves psychologically, thus we live in Samsara, whether we are in a physical body or not.
Where we abide in the universe is determined by our state of being, not our physicality. We exist in one body or another because of our state of Being. It is not the other way around.
That is why is when we study the scriptures we find the Tree of Life, which represents levels of matter, energy, and consciousness, but its primary function is to reveal to us the infinite potential of consciousness, the infinite potential for its expression (upwards, to superior states of being). But also represented on the Tree of Life is the potential for its conditioning —that is, its potential to be trapped.
The Tree of Life represents the world outside of us and the world inside of us. We tend to think of heaven and hell in the physical world only in terms of outside, concrete, materialist. We think of heaven as something above our heads that is very vaporous and vague and light, while hell is something under our feet that is full of fire or ice. Those places exist, but our relationship with them is not determined by our beliefs, the clothes we wear, our heritage, birth, or wealth — rather, it is determined by our state of being, our level of consciousness. In other words, whether we have a physical body or not, our state of being determines the level in which we experience life.
“Nobody can deny the fact that there are different social levels. There are churchgoing people, people in brothels, farmers, businessmen, etc.
“In a like manner, there are different Levels of Being. Whatever we are internally, munificent or mean, generous or miserly, violent or peaceful, chaste or lustful, attracts the various circumstances of life.
“The lustful person will always attract scenes, dramas and even lascivious tragedies in which he will become involved.
“A drunkard will always attract drunkards and will always be seen in bars or taverns; this is obvious...
“What will the usurer attract? The selfish one? How many problems? Jail? Misfortunes?
“Nonetheless, frustrated people, tired of suffering, want to change, to turn the page of their history...
“Wretched people! They want to change and they do not know how; they do not know the methods; they are stuck in a blind alley.
“What happened to them yesterday happens to them today, and will happen to them again tomorrow; they always repeat the same errors and not even cannon shots will make them learn the lessons of life.
“All things repeat themselves in their life; they say the same things, do the same things and complain about the same things.
“This boring repetition of dramas, comedies, and tragedies will continue as long as we carry in our interior all the undesirable elements of anger, covetousness, lust, envy, pride, laziness, gluttony, etc.
“What is our moral level? Or better said, what is our Level of Being?
“The repetition of all our miseries, scenes, misfortunes, and mishaps will last as long as the Level of our Being does not radically change.
“All things, all circumstances that occur outside ourselves, on the stage of this world, are exclusively the reflection of what we carry within.
“With good reason then, we can solemnly declare that the “exterior is the reflection of the interior.”
“When someone changes internally and if that change is radical, then circumstances, life and the external also change.” - Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
If we are ruled in any given moment by a negative emotion (pride, anger, lust, envy), we are in hell in that moment.
When anger takes over your psychology, you become anger. Everything you perceive is filtered through anger. Everything you see you see only in relation to that anger. It says “everyone is to blame, no one understands me, I will have my revenge at any cost.” Anger abides in hell. Anger is a demonic quality. When you are conditioned by your anger, you are in Samsara in a very deep way, circling, conditioned in hell. This is true whether you have a physical body or not, whether you are in your physical body or out of it, dreaming or dead, really the physicality is irrelevant. What matters is your state of being.
The same is true of lust, envy, pride, fear.
Conversely, the virtues have a similar effect on us: they modify our experience, our level of Being.
When we really experience the beauty of cognizant, conscious generosity, when we truly give of ourselves to someone else, and expect nothing in return, as an expression of love, we experience that lightness of Being, the beauty of the heart that is inflamed with virtue. In that moment we experience Nirvana: cutting through Samsara, an experience of truth, something real, something that is not an illusion and something that benefits beings.
Similarly, when we experience the reality of chastity, happiness for others, diligence, humility, etc., we experience Nirvana, “cessation” of conditioning of consciousness. Those are heavenly states. You can experience them in your physical body or out of your physical body — the dimension you are in is not what matters. What matters is how we are managing our consciousness.
This is why the Seventh Dalai Lama stated:
“Samsara is one’s continuum of rebirth into the contaminated aggregates.”
Clearly, this applies to our rebirth into new physical bodies. Yet, it also applies to the continual becoming from moment to moment. Each moment is a birth, a becoming, yet we do not realize it, because we are hypnotized by appearances.
His statement is a beautiful phrase that contains a profound truth about Samsara and Nirvana, and about liberation. What is particularly interesting about it is it applies to everything. Everything that emerges out of the unmanifested (the Absolute) emerges into Samsara, into a continuum of rebirth, because of Karma, cause and effect, which is in its essence an expression of the contaminated aggregates. Then you might ask, what is that?
In Buddhism, aggregates are a specific term: skandas. We need to think about this not in context of universality or dimensionality, but in context of ourselves. Skanda means “a collection, a heap,” some different things that are gathered together. If you think of an aggregate of any other kind you can understand what this means. If you know anything about construction, you know that concrete is an aggregate. Different types of stones are aggregates. There are different mixes of different materials that are combined together in order to form something new, so when we create buildings or sidewalks or streets we are working with different aggregated materials to produce a hard surface. The skandhas are like that in us, psychologically. Our physical body is a skandha, an aggregate: it is a collection of many things, on many levels. As well, the ego is exactly like that: it is an aggregate of different densities of matter, energy, and consciousness.
So in Buddhism, the skandas are seen as having five fundamental aspects. These are completely interdependent and interrelated. We have given lectures about this before, and likely will again. Today I am just pointing at it to remind you, but we will not go deeply into this. The five Skandas are:
- rūpa: form / matter
- vedanā: sensation / feeling
- samjñā: perception / conception / apperception / cognition / discrimination
- samskāra: mental formations / impulses / volition / compositional factors
- vijñāna: consciousness / discernment
In synthesis, these are what we are. What you are, what you experience, what you think is your self is really just a collection of varying things: aggregates. These five collections give you the sense of being a person, a being, a self, with whatever name you give yourself, or whatever name your parents gave you. What you think you are is really just aggregated experiences, aggregated perceptions. The ultimate point of Buddhist philosophy and psychology is that perception is an illusion. What you perceive as self is not your self, it is not real, it is not permanent, it is not independently existing. It is temporary, transient illusion that seduces you into believing it is real. It is constituted primarily of desire, and it can never be satisfied. In short, that sense of self is all lies.
Observe yourself consistently, deeply, with an inquisitive, cognizant perception. You will discover that this physical body is not your self. It is not your perception, it is not consciousness, it is just physicality. It is just rupa: a form, and aggregate of physical elements. If you examine sensations (vedana) deeply, you will find the same thing: like physical matter, sensations come and go; they are really illusory. If you observe perceptions (samjna) you will find the same thing; the sense that you have of perceiving things physically or internally is also illusory. Go deeper into mental formations(samskara) — ideas, concepts and memories — you also find that these are illusions, they are like clouds in this sky, they do not last, the come and go, they actually contain nothing real. Deeper into the actual process of discernment of perception (jijnana) also, where is the self? In all of that, you find there is no true self, no real continuity, no permanence. This is why the seventh Dalai Lama pointed out that, “Samsara is one continuum of rebirth into the contaminated aggregates.” Samsara is the circling; the repetition of a perception of being that is essentially a lie, an illusion.
In Hinduism, they call this perception “Maya.” Unfortunately, because Yoga, Hinduism, and Asian philosophy have been taught so badly in the West, people now think that Maya — which is also a name of the Divine Mother — is an intentional veil of illusion over us, as some kind of game played by divinity, or some king of punishment, and that we are suffering in the illusion of existence as some sort of joke. This is not the right way to understand Maya. Our state of being was made by our own actions. We did it to ourselves. We are doing ourselves to our everyday. We produce Maya, we create Maya, we sustain the illusion, because we are constantly engaged in it, hypnotized by our own mind: thinking that what we think, believe, and perceive is real, when it is not.
Let me give you an example — a crude example, but it illustrates the point. When we watch television, a movie, or play a video game, or we are really into a story — whatever kind of story we are really hooked on — we get so into it, we really are in another dimension; we forget our body. We forget ourselves. Sometimes that is briefly, sometimes it is for hours. We are in that story, not in our body. We are not aware of ourselves. We become the character we are watching. We feel what they feel. That world that we are perceiving becomes our world. We stop perceiving where our physical body is. We only see that image of the world in our imagination, we are the actor, we are the character — we sweat, we get tense, we cry, we get angry, we react, emotionally, intellectually, even physically, to the imaginary perception of that story. In other words, we are deeply asleep, completely hypnotized, deep in Samsara: willingly, willfully, craving it. That hypnotized state is an escape for us. We do that because we want to escape suffering, we want to be distracted from our problems, from our life. We want to experience being the hero or heroine, being in that romance or being in that action, being the one who is accomplishing whatever is that is being accomplished in the story, whatever it is that we are experiencing in that way. We do not realize that our aggregates are producing the Maya, the illusion. Nor do we realize that by hypnotizing ourselves we are deepening our suffering, identification, hypnosis. We are deepening the illusion. That is a simple example that illustrates what we are really doing all day long, in many other ways. All day long we do this in more subtle ways, in ways that we do not even notice. We are asleep.
The example I am giving you can easily observe because it is strong and we all do it. However, more profound, more significant, is the way we are hypnotized all day long: day dreaming, worrying, imagining this, imagining that, remembering that, always distracted, always dreaming about the future or remembering the past, or craving something we do not have, or wishing we did not have something we do. That is all Maya, it is all Samsara; it is all fantasy.
Tsongkhapa — who is a great teacher in Buddhism, maybe one of the greatest — stated:
"If one does not think hard about the drawbacks of suffering, one has not sufficient yearning for liberation. If one does not consider the source of all suffering —the gateway to samsara—one cannot properly know the eradication (nirvana) of samsara. Be moved to renounce this existence, weary of it, and cherish the knowledge of what binds ones to samsara.” - Tsongkhapa
This is an expression of the introductory levels of every genuine religion. In the Sutrayana levels — the beginning levels — of every religion, this is the primary goal of the instructors: to help the student become fully conscious of Samsara, of suffering: how it exists, why it exists, and how to stop it.
If we do not think about that, if we do not have cognizance of that, we will waste our time with these types of teachings, and we will accomplish nothing; in fact, we will just make problems, and we find that in many spiritual groups, where the people are just there to have a place to go. People go to church, temple, or school merely because they need a place to go. They find some community there, comfort, social engagement, or even some kind of power, and that is really all they are there for, so they are not only wasting their time, they are generally making problems. Nowadays, most spiritual groups are just social clubs, in which the people pose as spiritual, even believe they are spiritual, but really are not.
To be a sincere student is to begin with this: to really analyze suffering — our own and others — and to really analyze the drawbacks of it, what it is, where it starts, and ultimately how to stop it. The only way we can really do that is by being sincere in observing ourselves.
So we are going talk about six fundamental aspects of Samsara, how they work and their importance, so we can work on this aspect of our own spiritual development.
1. Continual uncertainty
In recent weeks, all of us have been observing the incredible uncertainty of life. There have been events unfolding that are teaching this in a very dramatic way, and these events will not be the last. Hurricanes, wars, political and economic changes, diseases, many types of problems that are emerging that point out for us the first of the six sufferings of Samsara, which is continual uncertainty.
We all suffer from one aspect of Maya or illusion, which is created by our ego and sustained by our ego and we very much want it to be true, so we believe in it and that is this: that one day, we will get to that place where everything will be just right. We will have the education, the money, the family, everything will be set up and it be just perfect, just the way that we imagined it should be. We will have the right amount of money in the bank, we will have a house, the kids and a job, and the whole situation will be “just right” (according to us). No matter how hard we work, how much we sacrifice, that “perfect situation” is alway just out of reach. As close as we get, we never acquire it. Those who are a little bit older may realize that this manner of thinking is a complete illusion, since they have had a lifetime of being disappointed by pursuing that illusion. The sooner you realize it, the happier you will become.
“Fathers, son, wives, and enemies can change: friends may become the opposite and change again; samsara holds no shred of certainty.” - Nagarjuna
The older you become, the more you experience the truth of this. People you rely on and trust suddenly become your betrayers. People you thought were your enemies suddenly become your friends. Families turn against one another. Everything is constantly changing. We would like to be able control it so that life would suit ourselves. But the reality is that we cannot even control ourselves, thus we have no hope of controlling anything in our environment: not our children, spouses, parents, co-workers, boss, government, property, possessions, employment, health — nothing.
The reality is that everything is uncertain. Everything is unreliable. Everything is impermanent, except your Being, your Innermost, that divinity that resides within you that is urging you to awaken.
If we develop the cognizance of the uncertainty of all things, we reduce the power of Samsara over our consciousness.
Right now, we are very much hypnotized by illusion of “the certainty of things.” We think, “In six months I am going to do this, and in a year I am going to do this, and in three years I am going to do this.” We have “a plan.” Such plans are a big lie that we tell ourselves, in order to give ourselves a false sense of security. We want to feel secure, because we sense that nothing in life is certain. Let me tell you something: security does not come from telling ourselves lies. Security comes from knowing the truth. Security does not come from an big bank account or social connections. The wealthy and well connected suffer and die as easily as the poor.
If you are really sincere and you really watch the process of your life, you recognize that everything you plan is wrong. Nothing ever goes the way you think it is going to go, and you are always surprised, and mostly disappointed. So, it is smarter, wiser, to not do that. Granted, in life we need a little bit of planning. When you are young, you need to prepare yourself to live life; you need an education, you need to be prepared, so you need to figure out school, a living situation, a job to cover your basic needs. All of that requires a little thought, there is no doubt. Parents need to have some strategy for raising their children successfully. People who have a job and some responsibility need to do some planning. But never, ever assume that things will go according to your plan, because they never will. Ultimately, the best plan is one that retains full knowledge of the uncertainty of life.
So, being prepared for uncertainty, comprehending uncertainty, helps to eliminate the power of Samsara over the consciousness.
2. Elusiveness of satisfaction
The second fundamental aspect of Samsara is emphasized in this quote:
"...if a person were to receive all celestial pleasures, all human pleasures, it would not be enough. They would seek even more." - The Great Play Sutra
In Samsara, you will never ever find satisfaction. No matter how much you gain, your desires will never be satisfied. Even if you were become the emperor of the world, you would want to conquer the other planets.
So, we have to really comprehend this in the moment, every time we feel a craving — every time we feel that we do not have something that we want — which, just in case if you have not realized it, is pretty much one hundred percent of the time, because we are pretty much one hundred percent of the time identified with one desire or another.
I know that each one of us likes to think that we are “serious, spiritual people,” and that we do not have desires or cravings, but you are fooling yourself. Our state as a humanity is characterized one hundred percent by desire. It is not always desire for hot dogs, chocolates, hamburgers, money, or sex, although those are some big ones. Sometimes our desire is for attention, respect, power, comfort, or love; sometimes we just want to be ignored, we want people to leave us alone, and they won’t. Even "spiritual" cravings can become serious obstacles. These are all different types of subtle or gross desires that prevent us from feeling and experiencing the natural state of the consciousness, which is a spontaneous, natural state of satisfaction and contentment.
The consciousness in itself, when it is unbound, is a state of contentment and peace. It a state of serenity, of lacking nothing, wanting nothing, just being, and being happy. In our current state we do not experience that, in fact many of us have no idea what that means.
Nowadays, our interpretation of the word “satisfaction” is related with the fulfillment of a desire and the experience of a sensation. We think, “I had that big meal; now I feel satisfied.” That is not satisfaction, that is drunkenness on a sensation. Some of us feel that after the sexual act; we feel “satisfied,” yet that is not satisfaction, that is expiation, depletion, being drained of vitality, that is to be tired. That is not satisfaction or contentment.
The contentment, the serenity of the consciousness does not crave, it simply is. The satisfaction of the consciousness does not depend on external circumstances. It does not depend on having or not having, feeling or not feeling, receiving or not receiving. The satisfaction of the consciousness is a beautiful experience, a beautiful quality that you can experience whether you are in the body or out of the body, but it can only be experienced when you are here and now, awake, and the consciousness is not conditioned by anything, but is bright, perceptive, aware, and that in experience its true nature blossoms, which is happiness, joy, with no need to change anything, not oneself, not others, not ones environment, able to just accept, even when one is suffering. How else do we explain those experiences of those true Masters who, even when abused, looked into the faces of their abusers with gratitude, love, compassion, patience, acceptance. The black magicians claim that no true initiate will allow that to happen to them. But the black magicians have no comprehension of the consciousness. They only comprehend pride and self-love. The consciousness has no pride, it has dignity; that is not pride. Dignity is the natural state of the consciousness, which is not above or below anyone. It just is. It loves. It is humble; it is satisfied.
3. Leaving bodies
"You could go again and again to upper realms and enjoy so much bliss. When you die, you fall to the suffering of the lower realms, where the suffering is unbearable and lasting." - Engaging in the Deeds of Bodhisattvas
This is a law of Samsara, driven by its very nature, which is cause and effect, and impermanence.
Samsara is a form of suffering that demands the circling of all things. No matter how beautiful your body is, no matter how much you work out, and how much organic food you eat, the body will get sick and die, and you will have to be born again. No matter your station in life, no matter how poor you are, or how rich you are, no matter how beautiful or uglyyou are, how well loved or how greatly hated, you will lose this body and take another, and you will lose that one too, and take another, as long as you are chained to the wheel of Samsara: that chain is your ego, your karma. No matter how great your station, whether physically or internally, so long as you owe a debt, you will pay it. You pay through losing your body, through being recycled by nature.
The wealthiest people on this planet, the most powerful, are still killed by microbes, viruses, cancers. They have no power over such little things, and will end the same as the poorest person, so why do we want to be like them? Why waste our life acquiring things that will not last?
Those who are spiritually minded believe that by becoming a Buddha, an Angel — by creating the astral body, mental body, and causal body — we can escape samsara, and we can go and live in Nirvana, heaven, and be free of this world, and live there for a long time doing whatever we want, and have power and be beautiful, yet this manner of thinking is idiotic; that is also Maya, illusion. Instead of pursuing wealth and power on earth, they want wealth and power in heaven, so they can indulge in even more powerful desires, and be even more in love with themselves.
Even the Gods are subject to the cycle of samsara. Every manifested thing is subject to samsara. Yet, there is an exception to samsara, and we are going to get to that at the end of the lecture.
Every bodythat is created by nature, whether physical or more subtle, will be taken back by nature; this is invariance. There are no exceptions. The only way that you can transcend this law is to have a body that does not belong to nature, a body that was created outside of the wheel of samara based on other forces and laws, and thus is not subject to these laws. There is only one way to create such a body, and that is through death and resurrection. Very few accomplish it, because it is very difficult. Nonetheless, it can be done if you really want it; you can do it.
Even the gods are subject to samsara, even the Buddhas. Everything in every level of nature on the entire Tree of Life is managed by cause and effect. Those who live in the realms of the demigods or the gods were born into those realms because in their previous existences they had produced the causes that gave rise to that birth. They performed good deeds. They sacrificed for others. They gave of themselves, and their just reward was to be born in the higher realms. Unfortunately, things are so beautiful and pleasant in those places that once there they do not work on themselves anymore, nor are they able to perform more good deeds there, so they exhaust the benefits they had accumulated earlier. They use up the capital that gained them that birth. Since they do not produce any more good actions, when that time is expired, they fall, born into lower realms again, because they still owe karma, and they have not been able to pay it. So: if you have not paid one hundred percent of your karmic debts, even if you are born into a body of a god you will lose it.
On that note, let us point out that to leave a body is not pleasant. That is why in this part of the world all of us avoid the subject of death. No matter how dreadful the news, the media never shows us the dead bodies. People just cannot handle the reality of death; we want to continue in our illusions. We want to avoid seeing the reality of death, and this is really a disservice to us. It prevent us from comprehending the reality of death. Hiding the reality of death, emphasizes and encourages this illusion that we will not die, that somehow we will be an exception. Many of us have never seen a dead body, so our illusion is very strong, this illusion of “immortality” is very powerful. In other parts of the world, they see the dead, even on the streets. But here, as soon as someone dies, we cover them up, we hide them, no one is allowed to take pictures, no one is allowed to show pictures, especially in the news media. Death is hidden from us. Really, it is cruel to do that. We need to see death. We need to comprehend death; it is inevitable. It is unpleasant, it is painful. Because we do not comprehend that, we are deepening our suffering instead of improving on it. By avoiding seeing and understanding death, we are deepening our ignorance and therefore our suffering. If we comprehended death — our own, and every one else’s — we would not suffer so much when death arrives. We would be prepared. [Study our course about death].
4. Being born again and again
"You are gradually squeezed as hard as someone crushing sesame. Being born: is anything else like it?" - Nagarjuna
The fourth quality of Samsara is to be born again and again and again.
Culturally, we love to celebrate birth, and we think of birth as something very beautiful, and there is no doubt that birth provides a great opportunity for us to do the work. We need a physical body to succeed in this type of work. But, just like the process of death, we have cast an illusory veil over birth. We do not like to see how gruesome it is, so we hide the blood, the pain, the tearing of flesh, the sicknesses and pain that the pregnant woman goes through, and much suffering, and then there is the pain of the child. This photo shows you a screaming, pained face of a new born. It is a very, very painful process, for the mother, yes, but mostly for the baby.
We forgot — maybe willingly, maybe because it is something we do not want to remember — but it is very painful to be born. This is true not only just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally. When the soul is first placed into that small weak body, the consciousness has some degree of recollection of who it is, and its past, relevant to the level of conscious development. Coming back into this world is a horror, it is unthinkable, terrifying. It is not something that we welcome. It is not something that we want. It is awful. Then, to have the process of birth be what it is, and to come out and see how ugly all the people are, and how terrifying our parents look, and how everything smells terrible… Birth is a really a gruesome, gruesome process.
We forget that we repeat this process in each life. We repeat it again and again because of karma, because we owe debts here. We have to come here to pay what we owe to others, and to learn to become real human beings. Sadly, instead we live our lives trying to avoid paying — instead, we want to indulge in our desires even more, to become even more animalistic: attached to sensations and instincts. So, in each lifetime we do not pay; instead, we deepen our debts. We are born, and grow up with a sense of entitlement, like “the world owes me, and I want this and I want that, and I want all these things, and if I don’t get them, I am going to make all of you suffer, I am going to have a bad attitude, I am going to steal, I am going to lie, I am going to be grumpy because I did not get what I wanted.” Then we die disappointed with life, and are born again, and repeat the same mistakes, and make it worse, and we keep doing it. We need to wake up. We need to realize that that processes are very painful.
5. Moving high to low and back again
"All collections end up running out. The high end up falling. Meeting ends in separation. Living ends in death." - Transmission of the Vinaya
The fifth is to go from high to low and back again. This aspect of Samsara points out the impermanence of all things, and the cyclic or recurrent nature of all things. No matter how much you may acquire, you will lose it. No matter how high you many reach in society, whether it is political, spiritually or educational society, you will leave it; it is inevitable. Nothing can be sustained in Samsara; nothing.
The teacher Milarepa stated that every time he met a friend he remembered that they will become an enemy; every time he met someone with joy and gratitude, he remembered he will suffer the pain of separation. This is a way of training the consciousness to not be identified, and to not make assumptions; to always remember the cycle of things in Samsara.
Even though we may be gathered as a group, and we may be able to make plans together, the truth is our time together will be short — months, maybe years — and then we will be dispersed to different places, again cycling through different situations with different people, in different circumstances, constantly changing. Nothing is reliable, except the continuity of unpredictable change. We may build up a fortune, but we will lose it. We may get promoted, promoted, and promoted, but then we will lose the job, whether fired, or the company will sell, be closed; we will be out. We may acquire educational degrees and rise up in the educational system, and then find ourselves without any use for that education we worked so hard for. This is the nature of Samsara. We have to train the consciousness to comprehend, to not fall victim to the illusion of the ego that thinks like Íkaros (Ἴκαρος, Icarus): “I will take these wings and fly to the sun,” forgetting that the sun will melt the wax of our illusions, and we will fall back to the earth, to drown in the sea of suffering.
This applies spiritually as well. Many people enter into spiritual groups, learn the doctrine, and think that with this group they are on their way to heaven. Then, unexpectedly, they find themselves in a great conflict. Gossip and doubt flourish like weeds. Fingers point every which way. The churches, temples and schools are broken and dissolved. There is great criticism and controversy. They find themselves a subject of ridicule. Every spiritual group exists in samsara, and is subject to the cycles of rising and falling. Sadly, people mistake attending a group with genuine spiritual work.
Rather than joining groups, or seeking a supposed secure place in this unstable world, it is better to renounce wealth, to renounce fame, to not seek the respect of others, to not seek social elevation, to not seek to be satisfied in Samsara. Instead, seek to escape it.
This also applies to spiritual degrees that are required internally. Even if physically we live as a hermit, poor, unknown, anonymous, yet we awaken consciousness, we eliminate some ego, we develop the soul — but we still have pride, lust, we will fall. Even those who are gods internally fall because of pride, envy, lust, anger. These laws apply not just to our physical life, but our internal life as well. This is one of the sufferings of Samsara: it applies to everything below the state after resurrection.
6. Being alone
"When you are born, you are born alone. When you die, you are just as alone." - Engaging in the Deeds of Bodhisattvas
No matter what happens, we are always alone. We are born alone; we will die alone. There has never been any other way; there never will be any other way.
Many people seek to surround themselves with as many “friends” or “contacts” as possible, to cultivate a sense of security and importance, to feel needed, wanted, valued. Yet, this is an illusion.
Some of us do that with physical things. We shop a lot, we buy a lot, we fill ourselves, our environment with a lot of things that we purchase — new clothes, new gadgets — all to give us a sense of security that we are not alone, that we have something, that we accomplished something. This is an illusion.
Some of us do that with spiritual teachings, too: we pack ourselves with theories, books, classes, and communities, all in an effort to avoid that sense of loneliness in our heart. We waste enormous time and energy with frivolous distractions, avoidances of reality. We should instead turn and face it, look it in the eye. We are born alone. We die alone. Accept it, and prepare for it, and do not be bothered by it. If you are bothered by it, meditate! Meditate on the reality that this is the truth for every living thing. What in you is disturbed?
When we are sick, we want everyone’s sympathy. “Oh! I feel so bad, come and pat me on the head, come and give me some soup.” We want attention. We want others to feel what we feel. We do not want to feel alone. This ignorance, pride, and fear. We need to realize that is just the way it is, and not let it disturb our serenity, not let it disturb our consciousness.
We should remember God. When we really remember ourselves, we never feel alone. We feel alone because we forget God, we forget our Being, we have lost touch with sensing Divinity. That is why we feel alone, and why we fill our lives with meaningless distractions, because we forgot how to feel the presence of the Divine. When you feel that presence, and awaken consciousness to the degree that you never lose sight of that sense, you never feel alone. You never feel afraid. That presence vibrates from within your very core — which is the consciousness, not the aggregates — the consciousness is an extension of God, Divinity.
So ultimately, all six of these qualities of samsara affect every being in every level of existence according to their level, from the demons all the way up to the highest gods. The antidote to all of them is the same: awaken and comprehend. Acquire prajna, the knowledge of the beyond.
“Many things can damage your life: it’s more impermanent than a bubble on a river, tossed by the wind.” - Nagarjuna
Cognizance of this statement leads one to become very sensitive to the present moment. This is precisely what we need.
The ego is only sensitive to the present moment in order to compare everything with its illusions. Each ego glances briefly at the present only so that it feels dissatisfied, and with that dissatisfaction it hypnotizes the consciousness with the promise, “we can have much more.” So it sees that television commercial with all those beautiful people smiling and happy because they bought that new vacuum cleaner, then we feel, “I need that, too. If I don’t get that vacuum cleaner, I am not going to be happy,” so then we start planning, “How am I going to get the money to buy that vacuum cleaner, because it is really expensive, maybe I will get another job, maybe I will borrow some money from somebody, get in debt, or get a credit card…” We do this with material possessions, and even with a spouse: we dream of how to get the perfect spouse, and we modify ourselves to fit our illusory ideas.
This is how subtle, wrong transformations of impressions seduce us: by the illusions that our own mind is creating. This is happening all of the time, in everyone, and everyone willfully pursues these illusions, and the media willfully stimulates them to acquire our money.
If instead we learn to view all appearances for what they are — mere appearances — and we remember ourselves here, now, present, and remember Divinity, then we will clearly see that everything in life is impermanent, and the majority of what society is thinks is important is completely meaningless and utterly pointless to pursue. Then, instead of wasting time chasing fantasies, we can do something useful and constructive with our lives. We can change our experience of samsara, and learn to escape it.
Moreover, by seeing through appearances, we see that all of the aggregates that we experience here now are impermanent — our form, the sensations, the perceptions, the mental formations, and the discernment of them — all are impermanent, but there is something in the midst of them that does not die or change. It is our pure awareness, the consciousness itself. If you can learn the taste of it, and learn to sustain its presence, you can change everything.
So let us go a little deeper into analyzing these forms of suffering. I know it is not pleasant to talk about suffering, but we need to. We all like to avoid this subject. We think it is suffering to talk about suffering, but let me tell you something: if you really want to go to the higher aspects of spirituality, if you really want to talk face to face with Divinity, this is how you will do it.You cannot leap ahead in the spiritual process, you have to start here now, and change what is preventing you from that experience. What is preventing you from it is yourself, your own mind. The way you perceive is flawed. We all need to change that about ourselves. So, this theoretical presentation leads us to a practical experience that opens the doors to genuine truth, prajna.
The six qualities of samsara that we just discussed are related to the six realms. All six realms have all six forms of suffering.
“All sentient beings are deluded by ignorance and hence have caused three kinds of action. Since various actions arise, [the sentient beings] go through six forms of life.” - Nagarjuna, Middle Treatise 26
- Gods (Sanskrit: Devas)
- Demi-gods (Sanskrit: Asura)
- Humans (Sanskrit: Manuṣya)
- Animals (Sanskrit: Tiryagyoni)
- Hungry ghosts (Sanskrit: Preta)
- Hells (Sanskrit: Naraka)
First, we will look at the lower realms.
Sufferings of Lower Realms
- Animals (Sanskrit: Tiryagyoni)
- Hungry ghosts (Sanskrit: Preta)
- Hells (Sanskrit: Naraka)
Suffering of Animals
We will start with the animals. We will start there, because we are all like animals, some of us more than others.
When we talk about the animal level, most people assume that we are only talking about physical animals, yet we pointed out in the previous lecture that that is not what we are emphasizing. The teachings use the symbol of physical animals in order to help us understand ourselves, because psychologically speaking, we are animals.
No one anywhere can prove that the so-called "human being" has transcended the animal state. There is too much evidence that proves that we so-called "human beings" are just animals with humanoid-shaped bodies. The only real difference between us and what we call animals is that we have the intellect, reasoning. Yet, only rarely has the intellect helped us in a positive manner. Most of the time, we simply use it to justify and pursue our animal tendencies. We are very instinctive, violent, destructive, driven by cravings and impulses that we cannot control.
In many ways, we are worse than animals. Most animals do not destroy they own habitat, yet we do. Most animals do not destroy their own food and water supply, yet we do. Most animals just follow their instincts, which on occasion may tend towards an act of violence; yet they do not have wars that last for years, they do not destroy countries or cities, they do not obsessively pursue desires at any cost. Really, we are worse than animals.
When we analyze the existence of animals physically, we can find characteristics of how Karma processes in our own lives, and see how we are subject to those laws at that level of existence.
The most simple example is to look at how animals suffer in our world, under us: what we do to them. What is the experience of the animals in this world? (I am not talking about your cat or dog that you pamper, that you think it is your pet or servant, because it is really the other way around; you pick up the animals poop, you serve food to the animal, thus you are the servant of the animal. I am not talking about those animals, they are spoiled). I am talking about the other animals in the world that we do not treat well, and that we never have.
We treat animals as servants and slaves, without any real regard for their wellbeing. Traditionally and historically, they have carried heavy huge burdens for long periods of time with no relief. They are fed the poorest quality food; they have access to the poorest quality water. They are given the worst of everything from us, such as places to live (observe the animals this humanity uses for food: they live in cages for their entire lives). At any given moment they can be killed or eaten without any hesitation and without any concern for their feelings. They are beaten and abused. They are killed cruelly.
Regarding wild animals, we treat them like any harvest: we take from them what we want, without regard for them or their future. That is why so many species have been wiped from the earth, often just because we enjoyed killing them.
Yet the worst situation is regarding those animals we raise for food. Even though the advertising and food labels want us to believe the animals live peacefully in green fields, that is a lie. Nowadays, we restrict all the animals to cages, we force feed them (using pumps and tubes), we inject them full of chemicals, we cut off their beaks and other body parts (to keep the "docile"), and we slaughter them by the billions to feed the millions of people that want the cheapest food possible from fast food places, restaurants, and grocery stores all over the world. Few of those people have any concern for the wellbeing of the animals they eat.
Those creatures, living in those bodies, suffer unimaginably from birth to death. They do not have an instant of contentment, not a moment of peace. It is a life of continual abuse and suffering without respite. Truly, it is a level of hell. This is not just amongst cows, but amongst pigs and chickens and ducks and many types of animals. This is all over the world, but especially in the West. In fact, in order to prevent Westerners from knowing about this, it is forbidden to photograph the places where the animals live and slaughtered. No one is allowed to see the condition of the animals.
Recently, a non-profit group tested raw chicken in the United States, and found that around 90% of the chicken — even the so-called organic — was filled with pathogens and drug-resistant bacteria. That has been caused by the overuse of chemicals and poisons; what they were trying to kill is now impossible for them to kill.
So, this situation that is happening physically with animals on this planet reflects a psychological level of existence that many so-called "human beings" live in now. We talked about this in the first lecture. Many of our so-called "human being" neighbors are living at an animal level. All over the world, people are living by instinct. They do not have access to clean food and water. What they do get is filled with chemicals; even the water supply is filled with chemicals. Yet, they have easy access to drugs and alcohol, which keeps them docile. They live with the constant threat of death, either from war, corrupt leaders, religious or political skirmishes, or natural disasters. They live at the whim of those who have power, and they are killed just to serve the selfish interest of those in power: they are sent off to war. They are subjected to all kinds of chemicals that they do not know even know about, and have no choice but to struggle to survive from day to day. In the end they die without ever having had a moment's peace. Many so-called "humans" on this planet are living at an animal level, impoverished, caged in poverty, always under threat, without access to a moment of peace. By percentage, we could say the majority of the humanoids creatures of the planet live at this level now, really at an animal level; it is very sad, but it is true.
Those who do not live in that situation have no cognizance of it at all. Some organizations have estimated that 1% of the population of the world holds 46% of the wealth. Another way to look at this is that if your household earns $50k per year or more, you are in the wealthiest 5% of humanity. The remaining 95% do not have access to what you have access to. Most of them cannot pick and choose what to eat, what to wear, where to go. They are caged.
Worse, we do not realize that tomorrow we could be living there. At any moment we could die, and in that moment we could be reborn into a body at the animal level, living in one of those places, suffering intensely, and we will regret the leisure that we just lost and the opportunity that we had to practice. When you are at the animal level, living that life, you cannot practice gnosis. You cannot learn to meditate when you are in constant pain and suffering. Your consciousness would have to be very powerful to overcome that, transform that, and awaken. Look at how weak we are now; we are so pampered. Anyone who has access to the internet, computers, cel phones, etc. is living in luxury, and even in the state we are now, with so much luxury, we are very weak. We get a little stomachache and we moan and cry, complain and cry, and go around complaining "my stomach aches." We do not know anything about the extent of suffering, not the first thing. We are so asleep.
Recently in the Eastern United States there was a big hurricane, and many people were suffering because of it; homes were lost, many were made homeless, and a few people died. It is sad, the suffering is sad, it is strong, but in comparison with what the rest of the world has faced, it is a mere fraction. In other places, people have suffered far, far more. Recent events in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Burma, the Philippines, China, in which thousands died, and left many more without anything at all; they have no insurance. They have nothing at all. And these events happen after years and years of suffering poverty, no clean food, no clean water, persecution from their government, local wars, threat of being killed every day. When Westerners have a hurricane or tornado, houses get knocked down, but not many people get killed or left without anything at all. Do you see how different it is? So far, tragedies in the West have been much less that those in the rest of the world, especially since the rest of the world lives with less security and more threats every day. So, we have compassion for everyone, but we have to put it into perspective.
In synthesis, most “people” on this planet are living like animals: every day is a struggle to survive. They live by instinct, and have no real chance to escape their cage.
Suffering of Hungry Ghosts
The next level downwards is the level of the hungry ghost. In Buddhism, this type of suffering is characterized by intense, constant craving that can never be satisfied. Most people who study Buddhism or this type of teaching think that literally hungry ghosts are in some other dimension. In truth, that does exist, but the reason this teaching is given is to us is to point out to us the psychological characteristics of that level of suffering. The real importance of the teaching is how it applies to us now. Just like the symbolic importance of the animal level, the hungry ghost level also applies to us here and now.
Hungry ghosts suffer more than animals, so imagine the animal state being even worse; that is the level of the hungry ghost. This type of creature has all of the suffering of the animal, but is even worse. Not only does the hungry ghost have no peace, no respite, and is constantly under threat, she is also consumed by such an overpowering thirst or hunger that she cannot think of anything else, not even for an instant. Such a being cannot think of spiritual work, even an instant, because the cravings, the needs and desires that they have, are so overpowering.
Symbolically, their desires are represented by a hunger for food or a thirst for water. Most of the time, they cannot find what they need or desire. Worse, when they finally find some liquid or some food to consume, it hurts them. So they are terribly thirsty, and when they find water and drink it, the water burns like fire. So not only are they never satisfied, they are pained; it is a constant process of suffering. This scenario exists in the hell realms, but it also exists physically here and now amongst addicts. A vast majority of our population is addicted to something.
When we think of addiction, we always think only of alcohol or drugs. These are powerful addictions and deadly, yet are not the only addictions.
Hungry ghosts are people who suffer very powerful additions, and can think of nothing else. Their lives are ruled by their cravings for the elements that cause their pain. Acquiring what they crave gives them the illusion of satisfaction; that illusion of satisfaction is sustained briefly, but when it goes away, the suffering is even more intense than before they took the substance. Then, their pain is worse, so they need more and more.
This type of addiction does not exist only in relation with physical substances. The root of addiction is psychological. Addiction occurs because of our psychology, not physicality. Our physicality becomes altered with the need for the physical substance because the psychological need modifies our physicality. Scientists think it is the other way around, but they have got it backwards.
Addiction is psychological. Addiction is caused by the mind, which then alters the body. We see physical signs of addiction because the mind corrupted the body. Children are born addicted because their mind was addicted in their previous life.
“They say that woman is an enticement.
No, No, she is not so.
They say that money is an enticement.
No, No, it is not so.
They say that landed property is an enticement.
No, No, it is not so.
The real enticement is the insatiable appetite of the mind…!” - Hinduism: Allama Prabhu, Vacana 91
Addiction is not just for physical substances. The most powerful addiction in the world today is lust. Nothing else compares to the power of lust over the mind. Lust is the single most potent and destructive addiction on the planet. It is the central reason why this planet is sinking into abyss very rapidly. All of the other addictions are clustered around lust; they are offshoots of lust. The core addiction is lust. Addiction to the orgasm, to fornication, to adultery, to being lusted after, addiction to the chase, to being chased, addiction to pornography, to sexual abuse of all forms… In their core, all of these are an addiction that is rooted in the psyche. It is a psychological addiction, not physical. Proof of this is that even if your physical capacity to have sex is removed, limited, or reduced, the psychological addiction remains, it is still there. The proof is that the addict finds that it is the mind that desires. The body only responds to the minds desires. The addict wants the psychological sensations more than the physical ones. The proof of this is in the experience of lust: if the psychological experience of lust is disturbed or interfered with, the physical experience is ruined.
Addictions correspond the level of hungry ghosts. Many people are addicted to profit. Many are addicted to stress. Many are addicted to shopping, or attention, or being abused. Addiction can be attached to anything at all, even to the very strange, such as eating hair or soap, or drinking gasoline. Addiction is a psychological imbalance, present in everyone who has the ego alive, which means all of us have addictions, unique to our desires and disposition.
The hungry ghost constantly pursues its cravings, and when it finds what it craves, it suffers more. Desire fed only grows stronger.
“Desire never rests by enjoyment of lusts, as fire surely increases the more butter is offered to it.” - Laws of Manu 2:94
Unless addictions are transformed and destroyed, the addict will only sink deeper into suffering.
Suffering of Beings in Hell
In the hell realms we find all those beings who have processed through the other regions. Beings descend into hell simply by not changing. Simply being the victim of the desires, of continually believing in the illusion of the ego, of continually trying to find satisfaction in egotistical ways, through sensations physically and psychologically, through this we build up such a huge mass of cause and effect in oneself that nature has no other choice but to follow its own law, which is to process you through hell. Hell is simply that: cause and effect.
"The demonic do things they should avoid and avoid the things they should do. They have no sense of uprightness, purity, or truth.
"There is no God," they say, "no truth, no spiritual law, no moral order. The basis of life is sex; what else can it be?" Holding such distorted views, possessing scant discrimination, they become enemies of the world, causing suffering and destruction.
“Hypocritical, proud, and arrogant, living in delusion and clinging to deluded ideas, insatiable in their desires, they pursue their unclean ends. Although burdened with fears that end only with death, they still maintain with complete assurance, "Gratification of lust is the highest that life can offer."
“Bound on all sides by scheming and anxiety, driven by anger and greed, they amass by any means they can a hoard of money for the satisfaction of their cravings.
"I got this today," they say; "tomorrow I shall get that. This wealth is mine, and that will be mine too. I have destroyed my enemies. I shall destroy others too! Am I not like God? I enjoy what I want. I am successful. I am powerful. I am happy. I am rich and well-born. Who is equal to me? I will perform sacrifices and give gifts, and rejoice in my own generosity." This is how they go on, deluded by ignorance. Bound by their greed and entangled in a web of delusion, whirled about by a fragmented mind, they fall into a dark hell.” - Bhagavad Gita 16.7-16
What one suffers in hell is simply the effect of all one’s previous actions. All of our anger, lust, envy, pride, jealousy, gluttony, etc. manifest back to us like a mirror. This is the law of invariance. When we throw a stone into a pond, we see the stone hits the water, and water goes down, and the stone descends, but then the water pops up higher than its original level. Compare these two points, there is an equal flow: the water that goes down and the water that goes up high. That is invariance. Nature always balances forces. The same thing happens when we engage in anger, envy, lust, pride, jealousy, and gluttony. When we propel that energy out, it propels back to us; but the returned energy is not equal, it is magnified. This is a basic law of Karma. We have talked about it many times. That is what hell is: it is the condensation of forces upon our consciousness.
When the cumulative forces of our actions reaches a critical mass, nature has to balance it by recycling us through hell. That is what hell is: it was made to balance our harmful actions. The Divine made hell in order to preserve order in the universe.
Inscribed above the Gate to Hell:
“Through me the way to the infernal city:
Through me the way to eternal sadness:
Through me the way to the lost people.
“Justice moved my supreme maker:
I was shaped by divine power,
By highest wisdom, and by primal love.
“Before me, nothing was created,
That is not eternal: and eternal I endure.
Forsake all hope, all you that enter hell.” - The Divine Comedy, Inferno Canto III
When we study religion, most people get really tired of the fiery preachers who yell, “You are all going to hell! You better repent and say that you believe,” and they go on and on about all different types of suffering in hell. We get really impatient with that. We do not like to hear it, so we change the channel, we go to some other church or temple where they do not talk that way, where they talk really nice and sweet. Actually, we need to hear about the hell realms. We need to comprehend and understand that hell is real. We are already experiencing many aspects of hell now physically, because of the cause and effect that we already put in motion. If we do not change that cycling, that circling that Samsara, we will deepen our experience of that. Suffering will deepen. That is how nature works. So we need to study hell. We need to study the sufferings that come from wrong action. We need to understand what the beings in hell experience. We need to be scared of hell. We need to afraid of hell. If we are not, we are immense fools.
“He went from there to the east. There men were dismembering one another, cutting off each of their limbs, saying, "This to you, this to me!" He said: "O horrible! Men are here dismembering one another, cutting off each of their limbs!" They replied, "In this way they have treated us in the other world, and in the same way we now treat them in return." He asked, "Is there no expiation for this?" "Yes, there is." "What is it?" "Your Father knows it.” - Hinduism: Satapatha Brahmana 11.6.3
“As for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.” - Christianity: Revelation 21.8
“Then the man of unwholesome deeds boils in water infested with worms. He cannot stay still — the boiling pots, round and smooth like bowls, have no surfaces which he can get hold of. Then he is in the jungle of sword blades, limbs mangled and hacked, the tongue hauled by hooks, the body beaten and slashed. Then he is in Vetarani, a watery state difficult to get through, with its two streams that cut like razors. The poor beings fall into it, living out their unwholesome deeds of the past. Gnawed by hungry jackals, ravens and black dogs, and speckled vultures and crows, the sufferers groan. Such a state is experienced by the man of unwholesome deeds. It is a state of absolute suffering. So a sensible person in this world is as energetic and mindful as he can be.” - Buddhism: Sutta Nipata 672-76
Sufferings of Higher Realms
- Gods (Sanskrit: Devas)
- Demi-gods (Sanskrit: Asura)
- Humans (Sanskrit: Manuṣya)
We also need to understand the suffering of the higher realms.
Sufferings of Gods
Another great illusion that we have, which is propagated by many different types of religions and traditions — especially nowadays amongst “new age” theories — we all believe that if we somehow get to heaven, there will be no suffering there, and everything will be just perfect; we will be up there with our white robe, with all our friends and family members, eating ice cream, singing praises to God. This is a lovely dream, but it is only a dream. That place does not exist. There are heavens, but they are not what we think there are, not by any stretch of the imagination.
As strange as it may sound to those who have been indoctrinated by Judeo-Christian theories for the past 2,000 years, there is suffering amongst the gods. Of course, Judeo-Christian traditions do not call them gods; Jews and Christians call them angels. Greeks call them Titans, gods, demi-gods. Asians call them gods, djinns, devas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas, and by many different names. There are many types of beings that are awakened in the superior levels of life, but they are not perfect beings. They are more perfect than we are, but they are not Resurrected Masters. They are not free of the wheel of samsara. The gods — the angels — can fall from “heaven.” This is known in every religion.
The gods are not immortal, omniscient, all powerful. They are not all knowing. They are more powerful than us, they know more than us, they live a lot longer than we do, but not even beings in those levels are permanent. They are also impermanent, and subject to cause and effect. That is, even if one becomes such a god, that state does not last forever. It too is subject to the qualities of samsara, namely the uncertainty of change.
The gods suffer. They suffer in ways that are a little bit harder for us to understand. We all think if we pursue spirituality we will become a god (angel, buddha, master), and we will escape the suffering down here, and that could be true, in a relative sense. But actually, if you become one of these types of gods, in a sense your situation will become worse. How? Let us analyze by way of something we can relate to. What would happen to you if right now, all of sudden, you won the sweepstakes or the lottery, and won millions of dollars, and you no longer have to work, and can now have everything you ever desired? What would you do? Do you really think that you would keep pursuing Gnosis? Would you still have a reason to awaken consciousness? Do you really think that you will renounce all that, and go and meditate, and work on your ego? I do not think so. I think everyone us would buy the most expensive car, a big fancy house, and give money to the people you like, and laugh at the ones we do not. We would feed up our fat ego with all of our desires. Why not? We would enjoy the wealth, and forget all about “suffering” and “gnosis.” This is how humanity is. We might give some donations (out of guilt, or for tax purposes), but no longer would we seek to destroy our pride, lust, envy, etc. Instead, we would become worse. We might think that we are stronger than that, but we are not; that is why we do not have it. So, if we were to become a god all of a sudden, that is exactly what would happen: we would become fat on the satisfaction of pleasurable things. We would not spend an atom of energy trying to liberate ourselves from samsara, not an atom. Why would we? Why would we renounce pleasure? That is what happens to the Gods. Flush with pleasure and bliss, they love to live in that level of samsara, and they live in that level as long as their dharma allows it, but when their dharma is exhausted — that energy that sustained them at that level — suddenly they have to descend to the lower realms. It is very unpleasant to lose the blissfulness of those realms and fall into the lower worlds. They fall. They have to go back down. They suffer. They lose all of that pleasure and power. They come back down here, and have so much discouragement, pain, and resentment, and generally speaking, they become devils, because even they do not comprehend karma. They feel entitled to having “more.” They feel better than everyone else, and so they go around with a lot of arrogance. Sometimes they are in a spiritual groups, and they recover some of their powers, yet they retain their arrogance and sense of entitlement that they should be worshiped and others should follow them, and think, “I am such-and-such deity, I am Master such-and-such blah, blah, blah…” They suffer a deep sense of illusion because of all that. So the Gods have a level of suffering that is more subtle and more dangerous than most humanoids.
Sufferings of Demigods
Amongst the demigods, it is similar to the gods, but because they are less powerful, they envy the higher gods. Demigods are those who have acquired some degree of spiritual development, yet they envy the development of the higher gods, and want to be at those levels. So, they are always competing. This is why we hear of wars among the gods.
I pointed out earlier that these regions or realms do not apply simply to other worlds, they also apply here to our state of being, to our level of consciousness. Let me try to explain this in a simple sense.
Each of us has God within. Our Monad, our Spirit, is our inner God. Yet, among the Monads, there are many levels. Most are beginners, some are more developed, and fewer still are Cosmocreators: very high gods. This means that there are a few people who have a Monad who is very well developed.
After death, those who have sufficient inner purity earn vacations in the higher realms. Those vacations correspond to the level of being. Someone whose Monad is a demigod receives a vacation in that level, yet it does not last very long. Similarly, someone whose Monad is a god enjoys a period of time in that level, yet, because of karma, it does not last very long. The karma brings the soul back down.
No matter the level of the Monad, if we have ego, then we are degenerated, even if we occasionally have earned vacations in the higher worlds. The inner God always remains at its level, yet we are fallen. So, in all of us, there is a split internally. A being who is divided in this way is called a hasnamuss. All of us are hasnamussen. One stops being a hasnamuss when the ego is 100% removed.
So: one thing is the level of the inner being, and another thing is the world in which the human part is currently manifested. All of us have the good fortune to be in physical bodies right now. Yet, that will not last very long.
Any one of us could be one of those whose Monad has some degree of development from past lives, or this life, and we envy those with more development, and try to compete with them. We want to have a bigger group, a bigger school, more fame, more recognition, more titles, so we are always talking bad about the other guy, “You know he did this, I heard this rumour, that teacher is really bad, he did this and this and this, he is a homosexual, he is an adulterer, he is a fornicator, he is stealing money from the congregation,” etc. All this type of rumors are related to suffering among the demigods: gossip, competition, envy, arrogance, jealousy. When we say “demigods” we are talking about the level of being, and in that sense, that level is worse than we are now; it is more dangerous. It is more dangerous in this sense: if you have no power, then your actions will have no impact. Right? It is logical. Yet, if you have more power, your actions will have more impact. So if you use that power wrongly, the impact you create is far worse. The gods and demigods have a lot of power — maybe not physically, but spiritually — when they misuse it, there are huge consequences. And, since they each still have ego remaining, they will misuse it. So, their situation is not better than ours. Therefore, it is absurd for us to envy the gods or demigods.
Sufferings of Humans
The sixth and final kingdom we are going to look at is the human kingdom.
We think that the human level includes you and me, yet we are mistaken. In this tradition we call each other “human” only out of politeness. Truthfully, we are not humans yet.
Strictly speaking, spiritually speaking, a human being is someone who has already created the soul.
“With patience will ye possess your souls.” - Jesus, Luke 21:19
A human being is someone who has some awakened consciousness, an astral body, a mental body, and a causal body; someone who knows from experience what Eden is, and experiences that — maybe not all the time, but they know how to experience it. So, we are not human beings yet. That state has to be earned.
Nevertheless, we are embryos of human beings. We have the shape, and we have the potential. So, we call ourselves “human beings” in honor of what we can become, with hope that we will achieve it.
Who are human beings? Genuine masters of varying levels, like the Apostles of Jesus and Buddha, the yogis on various steps of the path, etc. Observe how the real human beings are tempted, scourged, martyred, fought over, criticized, worshipped, hated, venerated: they are in the middle.
The highest gods, the Resurrected Masters, first achieved the human state. Then, they went beyond. While achieving their human state, they suffered being in the middle. Study the lives of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Milarepa, Joan of Arc, Padmasambhava. Each transcended being human; they went beyond.
Those who are human beings also have their types of suffering. One is they suffer being in the middle of the hells and heavens; they are pulled by both. Even we animals suffer that to some degree. We have all of our desires pulling us one way, and we have the longing towards God pulling us another way; so we are in the middle. The more you awaken, the stronger these two forces pull on you. The more you respond to the call of Divinity pulling you towards heaven, the more your ego fights against it. Do not think it will get easier. What gets easier is to understand, but the fight does not get easier; comprehension starts to come, and you need that, but the fight does not lesson; it gets stronger.
The humans also suffer from the flux of Samsara, from all those uncertainties, from impermanence, from aging, illness, weakness, having to eat and drink and work and deal with the family and deal with all the difficulties of being in life. The human beings are weak and have no power.
Worse, those who are more awakened are always trying to recruit the human beings into their battles. The gods and demigods call the humans to serve in their spiritual competitions. The animals call to join in instinctive living. The hungry ghosts call to addiction. The demons call to join in depravity and filth. Few human beings remain free of all the magnetic attractions that pull at them. Most succumb, and are lost.
“If we observe Nature, we see that not all seeds germinate. Millions of seeds are lost, and millions of creatures perish daily. A sad truth it is, but it is the truth.” - Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
There is a big advantage to the kingdom that we are all in now, to the level that we are all in right now. The advantages is exactly what you are doing right now. You can learn. You can study the doctrine. You can change. Beings who are already in hell are nearly impossible to change. Those who are already fully hungry ghosts are nearly impossible to change. Those who are already fully animals are nearly impossible to change. For those who are gods and demi gods, change remains very difficult, because the illusion of power and bliss is so strong. The humans beings, in the middle, can see both sides.
Although we suffer, we at least have this brief opportunity. Do not waste it. That is why we need to study suffering. We need to study heaven, we need to study hell. We need to study the doctrine. We need to understand that all things are impermanent, and that at any instant we can lose this chance.
Everyone in the East Coast in the United States just passed a powerful experience [a hurricane], and a handful of people leaned a powerful lesson: that nothing can be relied on, except constant change. You can rely on the fact that things will always change; you cannot rely on anything else except God.
“How could you not be afraid that you will be bound here, that there may be no end at all to the ocean of suffering in which you drown?” - Aryadeva
For me, this is an extraordinarily painful but insightful statement, and for myself, I feel incredible gratitude to Aryadevafor saying it, because it points out an essential truth about the illusion that the ego propagates: that somehow, someway, if we listen to the ego, we will escape suffering. That is a lie. It is so easy to see that it is a lie, yet we do not see it. The reason we do not see that it is a lie is because we do not want to see it, but we must. If we do not look directly square in the eyes of the lie the ego is propagating in ourselves, then we will continue to drown in Samsara, in this life, and the next, and the next, and the next. Do not expect that you will change in the future, because you may not have one. We do not know when we will die, and where we will be born. This might be it.
We need to understand that there are four paths. These paths can be seen in life if we know how to look.
“There are four paths:
1. The Direct Path
2. The Nirvanic Spiral Path
3. The path of those who are separate from the Cosmic Scenario, without having reached the level of Adept
4. The path of those who fail.” - Samael Aun Weor
One of the misconceptions that people have about spirituality is that all spiritually is essentially the same and leads to the same place. This is an illusion propagated by the ego; it is a bold lie. It is the same as saying all maps lead to the same place, when clearly they do not. A map is specific; it can only lead to the place it illustrates. Religions are exactly the same. If a religion is incomplete or flawed, it will lead you nowhere. If you have never been to the place you want to go, you will have no idea that the map is wrong. If you have never seen God face to face, how can you know that your chosen spirituality will lead you to that experience? Are you willing to risk your soul on a theory or interpretation invented by modern people? Wouldn't it be better to rely on a teaching that can be proven through your own experience?
Humanity is studying religions, analyzing religions, practicing religions, not having any idea of where they are going. People believe blindly. If you want to know where you are going, you have to awaken, then you will know.
These four paths encompass all spiritual paths, not only in this planet, but all planets. Every spiritual and religious tradition in existence correspondence to one of these paths.
We will study them from the bottom to the top.
The Path of Those Who Fail
The fourth is “the path of those who fail.” The vast majority of all beings are walking that path. They believe they are going somewhere, they might respect the gods, they might even follow a demon. They might be very well-intentioned. It does not matter what our intentions are, what our beliefs are, what the theories are. One is characterized as a failure as long as one remains bound to samsara, so that includes all of us. It sounds harsh, but it is a fact.
In our current state, we do not even know if God exists. Thus, we have no spiritual attainment. To be successful spiritually, to be walking the actual path, means to be awakening, to be experiencing reality. That is to be successful. It is not to memorize a doctrine or book, or to be able to teach it well, or to have a lot of followers. None of that means anything, because in samsara, everything is impermanent. As much as you memorize or acquire, you will lose it.
Most beings are on the path of those who fail, and that includes beings in all of the six realms. Amongst all those realms are those who fail.
To fail means to remain with the ego alive. To fail means to not become unified with the Absolute. To fail means to lack having God within.
Many of those who fail are very powerful. We, foolish animals, are very impressed by wealth, power, spiritual gifts, yet these are mere appearances that confuse us. Demons have powers. So what? We, mere animals, see someone displaying spiritual powers, and we become hypnotized, and assume that person is a God, when in fact, anyone who is displaying powers is a failure, either a fallen being or an awakened demon. Either way, they are dangerous, and use their powers to hypnotize animals for the slaughter.
The Path of Those Who Separate Themselves
The third path is those we see who separate themselves from the cosmic scenario without having reached the level of adept. This is fairly rare. This is a type of being who learns just enough of spiritual practice to clean just enough of the ego that they get a vacation on the wheel of samsara. Their consciousness reaches a relative degree of liberation, so they get a moment of respite, a vacation you could say, that is not permanent. They come back; they separate themselves briefly, but they come back. They did not reach the level of adept, meaning they did not create the soul. They are what we can call “an elemental Buddha.” Some people call them saints, pure souls, but really they are just animal souls who have reduced their animality, and have cleansed their consciousness of some of the negativity, but they are not gods, they are not masters, they are just “clean animals” spiritually speaking; beautiful souls, really they are beautiful, but their level of attainment in wisdom is very small. Many of them are respected saints and spiritual teachers on the planet today. We think that they are “great beings,” but really they are not. They are just a little cleaner than us spiritually and psychologically speaking.
The Nirvanic Spiral Path
The second path listed here is the Nirvanic spiral path. This is even more rare. Someone who is walking that path has created the soul. They have created the solar astral body, the solar mental body, the solar causal body. This means that they have created superior types of vehicles. These bodies are like the physical body, but they are not in the physical world; they are on the fifth and sixthdimensions. Such a person is able to access and utilize those bodies in the same way we use our physical bodies. They can go into the astral plane awake, and conduct their activities in the astral world. So they are buddhas, angels, masters, but beginners in those levels.
They are called “Nirvanic" because they have attained some degree of cessation of samsara in themselves psychologically; they have carved out a space in themselves of freedom of liberation from suffering. They have achieved some degree of Nirvana, cessation of Samsara. They are demigods. Sometimes they have physical bodies, sometime they do not. Some of them are anonymous in the world. Some of them run spiritual groups, and some are teachers, some are not. They are “angels” in the context of their level of their spiritual development.
They are starting up the path to liberation, but listen very clearly to this: they have just as much ego as us. Just because someone has created the soul does not mean that they have eliminated the ego; not at all. To create the soul only requires the elimination of a fraction of ego, just enough that enough energy can be harnessed and enough consciousness can be liberated in order to allow those bodies to be formed, but you do not have to eliminate your ego in order to create the solar bodies, that is not the requirement. The work to eliminate the ego is separate (the Second Mountain). So the Nirvanic buddhas (also be called Pratiyeka Buddhas) do not have to eliminate their ego, and often do not. That is why you can understand that the demigods are always fighting with each other, because they still have the ego, especially pride, jealousy, envy, lust.
The demigods form religions and spiritual groups. They attract followers. They have powers. They display their powers in order to impress others, to so they say “inspire them.”
So we who are just animals see these other humanoid creatures who have powers, like they can manifest things from the other worlds, they can go out of the body, they can levitate, they can float, and they can read your mind, see the future or past, etc. and we, mere animals, become very impressed and think they are fully developed Masters, yet they are not.
Many of those amongst the path of those who fail awaken the consciousness; they do not develop the Soul but they develop powers. They also awaken consciousness trapped in the ego. They also form spiritual groups. They love to show their “virtues” and powers. They read people’s minds. They give predictions that come true. They give “prophecies.” They show all kinds of tricks, levitation, showing up in people’s dreams or in their houses, telling people things that are supposedly “secret” to convince others that they are great master and a great soul, when in fact they are a demon, a black magician, sorcerers and witches, people who are on the path of failure, the path of hell.
Now complicating this further, all of us who are at the animal level, who are suffering in the midst of Samsara with our consciousness asleep, bewildered by all the forces that are in action around us, and confused and trying to find respite from our pain, seeking Divinity, see these beings that display powers, and think they are genuine and real, and we start to follow them and do what they say, not realizing that what they say is leading us into the path of demonhood or into the path of being a mere shravaka, a listener, a follower, someone who just worships someone else but does nothing to awaken.
99% of all human beings who call themselves “spiritual” are on one of those two paths: they are either following a demon or they are following a Nirvanic Buddha. Either way, they are gaining nothing. The only way to liberated from Samsara is to awaken your own consciousness. You do not have to follow anyone but your Inner Divinity. Do not be confused by anyone. Do not follow anyone. Follow your Innermost. Everyone is seeking a “Master,” not realizing that the Master they need is inside of their own heart. Your true Master is your Innermost.
Any of us are free to choose whatever path we want. God respects our will. Your Innermost wants its human soul to be reliant on itself, on Divinity, and to be strong: be a warrior, to not be weak, but to be capable of acting and doing what is right. That is why God, our Innermost, gives us the ability to choose for ourselves, and to define ourselves in the world. If we choose the path of being a demon, our Innermost says, “Okay go ahead, suffer the consequences, and you will learn. It might take you thousands of years to pay your debts from walking on that foolish path, but go ahead.” God is not a tyrannical dictator. God is love.
Our Innermost, our Inner Buddha, wants us to Become completely, to Become: not to imitate, not to be a slave, but to Be as He is.
To Become [bhava] that requires that we comprehend the nature of suffering, and know how to transform it. In order to do that you need incredible insight, self-reliance, powerful willpower, but the main characteristic that you need is compassion. The most important characteristic is compassion.
The Direct Path
These three lower paths — those who fail, those who separate themselves, and Nirvanic Buddhas — lack compassion. All of them lack compassion. All of them are concerned with themselves. That is why they are still in the wheel of samsara, circling, repeating, rising and falling, gaining and losing, being born and dying, going up, going down, again and again and again, from body to body, from kingdom to kingdom, from level to level, again and again, and again and again, and again and again. There is only one way out, and that is through compassion developed to its fullest degree.
A few beings showed us how to do it. The most important one of the era is called Aberamentho, who humanity knows as Yeshua Khristus, Jesus Christ, but he is not the only one. Padmasambhava, Milarepa, Buddha Shakyamuni, Samael Aun Weor, Quetzacoatl, Moshe (Moses),Joan of Ark —many Masters have done this highest work. It is a path of fully developing compassion.
Real compassion has no self-interest. The three lower paths are full of self-interest. They each retain the illusion of “me,” the aggregates, conditioned by Karma; that is the nature of Samsara. As long as our central interest is ourselves, we will be reborn again and again into the conditioned aggregates, the illusion of self. Whether you are a demon or a god, you remain subject to Karma and Samsara, repeating.
The only way out is through the direct path to the Absolute. The walker of the direct path renounces self-identification. The walker of the direct path renounces the ego in all of its aspects: comfort, satisfaction, pride, resentment, jealousy, envy, laziness, gluttony. The walker of the direct path perfects compassion, which recognizes the suffering of all beings in Samsara, and recognizes that those beings suffer there because they maintain an illusion of perception; they do not see reality. The demons do not see the truth, neither do the animals, the hungry ghosts, the demigods, the gods, or the human beings. None see reality. They only see through the filter of craving: craving this, craving that, never satisfied, being born again and again.
To enter the direct path, you have to first walk the Nirvanic path, in the sense that you have to create the soul. You have to awaken consciousness. You have to create the astral body. You have to create the mental body. You have to create the casual body. Having reached that level, you are given a choice by the cosmic Guardian who shows you two paths. “Do you want to take the easy way for a millennia, for a thousands of years, to take a spiral route through the cosmos, a gradual process? Or you want to go directly, now, no holding back, straight to the highest, but it is very painful because you have to pay all of the Karma from all of your lives, right now. You have to rectify all your deeds. You have to face retribution for every harmful action that you have ever performed. You have to answer for the illusion of your self-identification that you propagated for lifetimes, now. You have to pay your debts to every being that you ever harmed, that you ever lied to, stole from, hurt, to pay it now…” Very few make the choice to take the direct path, yet that is the only way off the wheel of Samsara. There is no other way.
All the other paths and teachings that exist only help you migrate from one level to another in the wheel of Samsara; they do not take you out of it. Thus, they are all more or less useless.
You can become a great adherent of a religion, perfect all their teachings in yourself, become a god, sustain that level for a little while, but once your dharma is exhausted (the sum of your previous good deeds), you will fall again to the worlds below, because you will still have unpaid debts there.
You can become a very powerful demon, awaken a lot of powers, grow your tail very long, and have many medals on your chest for all the harm that you committed, and all of the actions that you have done in order to enforce desire and encourage lust, anger, envy, and pride in people, but in the end it will all be stripped from you, and you will suffer aeons of pain for those actions. It will all be taken from you, and you will start again from zero.
Or you can try to avoid them both, and stay in in the humanoid level, but little by little, your selfishness, laziness, arrogance, and envy will catch up with you, and you will sink down; it is inevitable. It is impossible to maintain oneself in the humanoid level, because the mind is an aggregate of actions committed in all the other levels.
So, people do not like to hear all this, because it sounds pretty discouraging. We need to hear it. We need to understand that there is a way out, but to get out, you cannot waste an instant, not one moment.
"The keystone of the principle I practice is self-liberation from samsara. With this quintessence of all teachings, I clearly see Awareness, naked and unsubstantial. My confidence in the View is the transparency of flux; since I know the Illuminating Void, I fear not life or death.” - Milarepa, The Goddess Tserinma’s Attack
Very few people understand the teachings of Milarepa, a great Master of the Tibetan tradition. He is widely respected by the Tibetans because he was the first Tibetan to become publicly known as an awakened Buddha. He started out as black magician. He killed people for revenge; so, he started out like us, a common person who suffered misfortunes, who learned some spiritual practices, and in order to get revenge he killed a bunch of people. Then he realized, “What am I doing?” Then he sought to change, and he did, and he became a very highly awakened being, a great Bodhisattva.
The term Bodhisattva refers to someone who is walking the straight path, the direct path, someone who is going beyond the wheel of becoming. Milarepa achieved that. He is a very high master. Because of that, his teachings are very hard to understand. All of the Bodhisattvas give teachings that are very hard to understand. When we hear them, we dumb them down to our level, and thus we corrupt them. This is what we did with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus gave beautiful, profound teachings to humanity, and we destroyed them, we castrated them. We did it. We did that with the teachings of Krishna, and the teachings of Mohammed, and the teachings of Moshe, and all the Buddhists, because we do not understand them. Now it is happening with the teachings of Samael Aun Weor. People do not understand them, so they cut out all the parts they do not understand, and just keep the little bit they think they do understand. Because of that, they adulterate the teaching; they corrupt it. Not only do they divert themselves away from the path, but they divert everyone that they spread that infectious lie to. Obviously, this is a crime.
This passage from Milarepa states “The keystone of the principle I practice is self-liberation from samsara. With this quintessence of all teachings, I clearly see Awareness, naked and unsubstantial.” It is hard to understand that. It may seem easy to you, but the other hand, it seems incomprehensible, and that is because it is. It is something that has to be experienced.
“Self-liberation” implies that no one can liberate us but ourselves. In fact, it is stated quite clearly in all the great religions that we have to liberate ourselves through our own actions (cause and effect). We get help from divinity, spiritual friends, the doctrine, and the teachings; we get help from our community, but without us doing the work ourselves, nothing will happen.
“The keystone of the principle I practice is self-liberation.” This is a really important passage that is going to come up for you in the next lecture — not mine, but from the other instructor, so pay attention. We just found this connection after these two lectures were already made, so it was pretty surprising to us; we were both shocked. You will hear it in the next lecture (The Prayer of the Lord), so remember that term “keystone.”
“With this quintessence of all teachings, I clearly see Awareness.” In previous lectures I told you about quintessence;it means “the fifth essence” or “the fifth element.” That is a statement about Kundalini, about Prajna. Awareness is the purity of consciousness that is unfiltered, unconditioned, and it is that aspect that we use that helps perceive reality. We have to learn about that, yet no one can teach that to you; you have to teach yourself. Through experience you learn how to perceive without filters, how to see, to be here and now, awake. We teach many techniques to fuel that experience, to guide you towards it, to help you comprehend it, but unless you make the effort, you will never comprehend it. It is something that has to be felt, seen, tasted, touched through your perception — naked and unsubstantial is the nature of your Innermost consciousness; it is uncontrived, unconditioned, but all pervasive. It is perception in its purest form, consciousness in its purest form.
“My confidence in the view.” View is the first step of the eightfold path taught by Buddha Shakyamuni. Some people think “view” is a theory, “we see it like this” and that it is our “view.” That is wrong; that is not view, that is theory. Upright view, or right view as it is sometimes called, is not a theory, it is not a way of positioning your mind, it is not a belief, it is not something that can be written down or exposed in a teaching. Upright view is a way of perceiving right now. It is a way of seeing, it is a way of experiencing. Not merely seeing physically, but seeing with the consciousness.
“The view is an unbiased and vast pervasiveness, free from center and edge, so let your mind-essence be uncontrived.” - Padmasambhava, The Cycle of Vital Points
Right view in its developed form, in the perspective of a Bodhisattva like Milarepa, is to see the insubstantial nature of all things. That is what he means by “the transparency of flux.” Flux means change, the coming and going of everything, Samsara. Right view is to see the transparency, the illusion of all manifested activity. Right view is to see that everything that you see is an illusion, impermanent, unreliable, and inside of all of that, sustaining all of that, is the Absolute, the Void. Within that perception is great compassion for all those beings in the six realms who do not see reality, and therefore suffer. We think what we see is real, and think what we see will last, and think what we see can be relied upon, and think we can gain satisfaction from it. We are wrong on all counts. An awakened bodhisattva sees that is a lie, and has confidence in that perception, and wants to help us acquire the same perception.
Milarepa says, “Since I know the illuminating void, I fear not life or death.” The illuminating void is the Absolute, it is the Ain Soph, Shunyata,the emptiness, the abstract space within which everything exists. In that abstract space, there is no self, there is no I, but there is great love, compassion, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge. A Bodhisattva who fully develops becomes an expression of that, knows the emptiness, perceives the emptiness, and in that perception has great compassion for all beings, and wants to show them that experience so that they can liberate themselves from the illusion that causes suffering; that is what this passage is explaining. In that knowledge — which is a form of perception not intellectualism — is confidence: no fear of life, no fear death, no fear of rebirth, no fear of dissatisfaction , no fear of cycling in Samsara, because one has escaped it; whether one is born or one dies there is no fear. So this statement represents the perspective of a Being who escaped Samsara. It is hard for us to grasp, because it is quite far away from where we are now. But it is what we need to understand, and that is why we teach the way we teach. We teach you about the Absolute, we teach you about awakening, we teach you about the tools that can facilitate and empower that awakening, so that we can cut through appearances and see reality.
Questions and Answers
Audience: Our karma is so heavy — our egos — they return to the infradimensions? to animals or the realms of hell? That’s part of your consciousness; how do you get it back… in terms of working on it again?
Instructor: When we study the Tree of Life, we see many dimensions, levels of nature — matter, energy and consciousness — from very low levels to very high levels. Right in the middle of that, we see Malkuth, which is the sephirah that represents our physical presence. Our psychology is dispersed amongst many sephiroth; itis not integrated. We have the illusion of being integrated in our physical bodies because of how the brain functions and how the matter and energy has coalesced in this type of body, and the consciousness being inside of it. This gives us this illusion that we “are” this body, and we are this person such-and-such, and we are what we see, but that is not true; that is an illusion.
The reality is that our psyche — although we see reflections of it here physically — actually exists in these other levels of nature. If we gain the capacity to awaken consciousness in those levels of nature, we can perceive those aspects of our psyche directly.
A scary example of this: when you fall asleep, have you ever noticed voices in your mind? When falling asleep, if you pay attention, you can hear different voices. They do not sound like you. They may sound like people from another part of the world, sometimes they have accents, sometimes you hear a man or woman… and it is weird, those voices are not anywhere else, they are not coming from the next room or the TV or anyplace else, they are coming from inside of you. Those are your own egos. Those are psychological elements that you made at some point in your experience. What you are experiencing when you fall asleep is the reflection of the psychological content of those entities. Those entities exist in the fifth dimension. Usually your dreams are your consciousness involved with those entities. So if you are dreaming that you are on a bus and you are with different people, and there is a fight, all of the entities in that scene are your own egos. This is how you can gain perception of them. To change them you have to analyze not only what you experience physically, but in dreams and in meditations, to start understanding the psychological content and how it relates to what you are doing and have done.
Now what is important about that: the same is true for all the different aspects of our psychology
Spiritually, we have aspects that are not egotistical. We all have virtues — maybe not a lot but we do have some virtues — and we can experience those also. Sometimes we experience them as though they are another person, and they are also in the internal worlds, with matter and energy. So the point I am trying to draw out is: pay attention, not only physically, but in dreams, meditations, and visions. All of what you perceive is an illusion, but it is an illusion that reflects something psychological that you need to understand. That begins physically.
Everything in your life now without any exception is a reflection of what you are psychologically — everything: the way you dress, talk, your interests, where you work, your family, friends, spouse, girlfriends, boyfriends, children — all are reflective of your level of Being, of your karma, of your psyche. Nothing is accidental. Nothing is coincidental. Everything has a correspondence to who you are and what you have done — without exception.
So, staring you in the face is the very map of your psyche. Every day, everything that you see, that you experience, is a reflection of who you are.
If you want change, and to escape your suffering, comprehend that reflection. Study it every day. For that, you have to meditate.
When something bothers you, it is because an element in you is impure. When something causes you to be craving or longing for something, it is because something in you is impure, and you need to analyze it. When you have dissatisfaction or satisfaction, you need to analyze it. All of your experience is all reflective of who you are.
Now the question specifically was how do we work on those submerged elements that we may not be able to perceive. I think from the example that I just gave you can see that there is an awful lot that you can perceive right now that you can work on. We all get bothered by stupid things all the time — at least I do; but maybe I am worse than everybody else. I get bothered by ridiculous things all the time, so I have plenty of material to work on. I do not need to go looking in the nine circles of hell for some ego, because I have a long list of things that are bothering me here in this level. My ego likes to say “What is bothering me is this child, this spouse, this co-worker, this neighbor, this friend, etc,” and each ego wants blame them, but really, all they are doing is acting as mirrors for my pride, anger, envy, jealousy, laziness, gluttony… so if one of them does something that bothers me, instead of blaming them or reacting, I should say, “Thank you very much, you just showed me something that I need to work on. It is causing pain for me and causing me to act in a wrong way towards everyone else.” There is my material for meditation. It is right here, right now, in physical life.
Sometimes you need to go deeper into those other realms, and that is why we need to awaken internally. To eliminate egos, to comprehend their roots, we need to meditate and go deep into our psyche in the internal worlds. Nevertheless, it seems to me that for many year at least most of us will find what we need to work on showing up in our physical life, and will find enormous volume content to work on. Later, when we find that nothing bothers us in the physical world, we can then dive deep in the internal worlds to find the hidden egos we cannot see from here.
Audience: Should we regard the existence as Bhavachakra as purposeful by the Divine or accidental, or is all this for some reason or is there some sort of trap…
Instructor: The reality is that everything that everything exists, exists because of karma. Karma put everything into motion. Causes from the past caused all this to be. Whether the intentions were one way or the other is irrelevant. You cannot trace back to find an ultimate beginning, nor can you go forward to find an ultimate end. Everything continues, and will always continue. The real question is: what is our relationship to that? Do we continue to be a victim of our own mistaken actions? Or will we transcend the identification with self and replace that with compassion for others in order to escape the wheel and move this cosmic scenario to a higher vibration? It can be done. It has been done. It will be done.
How many of us will do it? How long will it take? How much suffering will be experienced along the way? Our relationship with existence can be changed.
There are a lot of theories about why things started, and is this a cosmic joke, or is it a trap; those questions are irrelevant. Let us deal in facts: we are suffering. The ones we love are suffering. There is a way to change it. So, let us change it. Let us get off the wheel. Then we can understand those philosophical questions. But as long we are trapped in the cage, we can never understand the cage, no matter how beautifully it may be explained to us, as long as we are encaged, the explanation has no point or purpose. If you get shot, do you want someone to explain how or why guns were invented? No: you want the pain to stop, the bullet removed, and you want to be healed. So: we have to get out of the cage. We have to help our loved ones get out. After that we can debate.
The Dayspring of Youth is the title of the book by Master M. It refers to a cosmic current that is in motion now in this cosmic scenario. It is the motion of the cosmic Christ. It is a great energy flowing in all of nature. It is always flowing in nature, but it has a flux and reflux, just like any other force that moves in waves. Right now that force is very powerful. It is moving in a very strong way because of compassion for us. The suffering in our scenario is so intense. Not only that, because the Dayspring [Christ] emerges from the heart of the Absolute and has all knowledge, it perceives that our suffering here is going to intensify, so it is making enormous effort to inspire us to awaken from the illusion, and to incarnate its energy so that we can help others.
The Dayspring of Youth is simply the cosmic Christ. The Bodhisattva is the only one who can incarnate that. All the other beings talk about it, even the demons talk about love, honor, dignity, and truth, they even can talk about Christ, and the ones who separate themselves talk about it, the Nirvani Buddhas talk about Christ, they talk about Divine Mother, but none of them have sufficient purity or sufficient vessels to incarnate the energy of the Dayspring of Youth.
That energy is the very root force of creation. In order for you to understand the nature of that force just on a physical level, contemplate for just one moment what happens when we spilt an atom: the amount of energy that is released from a single atom. It is an enormous quantity of energy that emerges out of that atom. That energy is a Christic force; it is not the root of it, but it is related to Christ. Yet, when released in that way, it is inverted, negative, destructive. Nevertheless, this example shows how much energy is in a simple atom. Well, your physicality, your vital body, your astral body, your mental body, your causal body, are all made of atoms also, and all of those atoms have energy inside of them, and convey energy, but they are all impure. So, if you can imagine what would happen if an atom were made pure, not like the impure atoms that we have on the physical world. If you split an impure, merely physical atom, much energy is released. Imagine if an atom were pure, made by Christ instead of made by mechanical nature — a perfect atom — how much energy would it have? An unthinkable, unimaginable amount.
The causal, mental, and astral solar bodies are made from Christic atoms. Those bodies can transmit orders of magnitude more energy than any mechanical body can, such as our psyche and our physicality. If the pure Christic energy tried to pass through us as we are now, we would be completely obliterated, much like what would happen of an atomic bomb were to explode here; there would be no trace of us left. That is how strong the Dayspring of Youth is.
Now, at the beginning level of her path, the Bodhisattva creates the Soul, the solar bodies, in order to receive that energy and give it to others, on whatever mission that bodhisattva is pursuing. But the Bodhisattva who first enters that straight path is very different from the Bodhisattva who completes it. The Bodhisattva at the beginning of that path creates those bodies, but they are not perfect; that bodhisattva still has all of their egos and all of their karma. They work through the ten bhumis (levels) of Becoming, which we call the Second Mountain. In that process they eliminate the entire ego, all of their mechanical residue, all of the karma. At the end of that process they die. Then they resurrect. In that process, they create a body of liberation. That is an entirely new body that is far beyond the solar bodies. It is made entirely of Christic atoms. It has an incredible amount of power to transmit energy. They become a Resurrected Master, immortal, far beyond the wheel of Becoming. They can transmit an unimaginable amount of energy. These are beings at the level of Krishna, Moses, Jesus — very high. They are capable of maintaining and guiding the life in entire systems of worlds. But even at that level, they have more to go; they have to then establish Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya. Those are the bodies of the Inner Buddha, which are even greater. All of that, level by level, is a process of managing the forces of the Dayspring of Youth to benefit others. It is a process in which that being becomes a more and more pure reflection of the Dayspring of the cosmic Christ: less I, less self, more about you, and more about you, and more about you, and more and more compassion, more and more light. The light that these beings transmit is painful to us, it is too bright.
Audience: For a beginner, since in meditation it is very difficult to find anything to rely on, such as impressions or cravings or sensations, is it more reliable to look for relief from suffering through experiences in the internal worlds, or through experiences in meditation?
Instructor: It seems to me from my experience that this is what naturally happens to most meditators. As we develop an understanding that we will not find satisfaction in the physical world and we want relief from that, we turn to meditation naturally, and we turn to prayer;, this is natural, normal. We need it; it is important. The problem is that most people simply transfer the egotistical reliance on physical sensations to an egotistical reliance on spiritual sensations. It will inevitably result in suffering. If you start to feel reliant on having astral experiences to have relief from suffering, you will be disappointed, I guarantee it. If you have an astral experience or two, you will feel so happy, but then you will not have experiences for a while and you will feel so disappointed. So, it is better to not rely on those experiences as your source of happiness. It is better to have the attitude: if they happen, they happen; if they do not, they do not. We have spiritual days and we have spiritual nights. Sometimes we have experiences, sometimes we do not have experiences. We have to be equally serene, in either case.
If you want to know how to find genuine relief from suffering and sustain yourself in the path, find your relief here and now by being awake, by remembering God, by being indifferent to success or failure, to pleasure or pain, to praise or to blame. Be indifferent. Remember your Being. Pray to your God. Be here and now. In that, if you are sincerely remaining present and watchful, you will start to experience the true nature of the consciousness, which is as Milarepa stated, is naked and insubstantial, uncontrived but bright, pure, happy. You will not need to seek in caffeine, food, companionship, sexuality, alcohol, spiritual experiences, or in any other place for relief from suffering, you will only have to look into yourself here and now, and relax, simple as that.
The antidote to suffering is Nirvana, the cessation of cycling, cessation of craving. The very craving for relief is samsara. Let go of craving. Let go of seeking relief from suffering. just be here now and you will relieve it, simple as that.
One of the scriptures of Buddhism states, “As long as you have craving you will have karma.” Craving for anything, even craving relief from suffering, is a form of suffering. It is craving for something that you do not have.
Usually we want relief in the form of sensation, maybe a physical sensation, maybe emotional, maybe spiritual, but it is a kind of craving for something that you do not have, so you suffer.
There are many who read and study spirituality, and who really want to experience God and really want to experience going in the astral plane, so they suffer intensely, but it is suffering that they are creating for themselves, they did not have that suffering before they read the book or before they heard the lecture. Before you heard about astral experiences, you did not suffer from craving from it. Is it not true? You suffered from other things. Then you start hearing about waking up in the astral plane, then you start suffering, “I want that!” You are creating suffering for yourself by thinking about it, by dreaming about it, by imagining it — you are creating that suffering. So, do not think about it. Do not crave. Be here and now. Analyze your experience. Relax. From that simple shift in attitude comes the cessation of that suffering. This applies to everything; learn to observe yourself.
Let us look at an example: let us say that there has been a big storm or battle in your region, yet you need fuel in your car. You discover that the line at the station is many blocks long because there is very little fuel, yet you really need fuel. How are you going to feel? Very irritated, very annoyed. Your mind is going to race, “I have to find a way out of this, maybe I have to get somebody to do it for me.” Your attitude creates suffering. You become tense, anxious, angry, upset. Your pride is inflamed, your anger is inflamed. You are envious of those who filled up their tanks before the storm came. Worse, from here, you will infect others with your negative emotions. You will yell, scowl, snap at people, make rude comments, etc. If instead you do not think about the problem, if instead you just do what you have to do, you can proceed without emotion. It is really simple: if you can act, then do so. If you cannot, then there is nothing you can do. If there is something you can do, there is no reason to be upset. If there is nothing you can do, there is no reason to be upset. We get upset because of the ego. We have to change our attitude towards lives events.
This form of psychology points out to us — and I cannot emphasize this enough — most of our suffering is completely unnecessary. We needlessly create most of our suffering. We create suffering all the time because we have bad habits. If you can learn to shift your attitude, and be here now, be present, be patient, then a lot of that suffering will go away, and you can deal effectively with more fundamental problems, the ones that are really at the root of the problems in the world.